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“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ (1 Pet. 1:14-16).
Have you ever been to an animal shelter to look for a pet? There are many cute and cuddly dogs and cats, who are well-trained and would make excellent pets found there. There are others, however, for whatever reason, that bark and may try to bite you, who exhibit anti-social behavior. Most people usually pass them by, but there can be potential in them, if you look past what they are and think of what they can become. Cleaning them up and training them not to be a menace to themselves and humans, some can go through a transformation that offers company and enjoyment for years to come.
Sometimes this is a good analogy to what we are before God. Sin is a hideous thing, changing us from reflecting the image of God to that of the world around us. It can cultivate hateful attitudes, hurtful words, and damaging actions to ourselves and others. Paul described this process of sin to the church in Ephesus. “Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their thoughts. They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more” (Eph. 4:17-19). The deceptive nature of sin blinds one to what it does and what one becomes under its influence.
Isn’t it wonderful to realize that God loves us too much to let us stay in that condition? The end of that kind of life is condemnation, but God doesn’t want any to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). The gospel is to be a positive, life-changing experience. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:17-18). What else reminds us we are created in the image of God and can reflect that image? Instead of being under the destructive power of sin we are made beautiful by the transformational power of God. Instead of facing destruction we have the promise of deliverance. Rather than being consumed by hate we can conquer through love. The gospel truly is life-altering, in the most positive sense imaginable.
Our lives can be a testimony to what God can do, even at our worst, to help us be our best. It can offer hope to others, seeing the difference Christ makes in us, and can make for them. Paul viewed his earlier life as the worst possible, but could thank God for shaping him into a loving child of His, knowing His grace and mercy, and hopeful for eternity. He can do the same for us, if we let Him. “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:15-16).
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”
Robert Johnson is a minister in Longview, Texas, where he has been a preacher for over 40 years. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Bible and Biblical Languages, and a Masters is in Liberal Studies from the University of Oklahoma. He loves sharing the gospel with others and ministering to people’s needs.
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