Scripture Statement: Conversion to Christ demands a radical change in one’s behavior.
Scripture Reading: Mark 1:17-18
CHANGE IN ONE’S DAILY WALK
Conversion to Christ demands a radical change in one’s life. Conversion implies a turning point in one’s commitment. When one reflects upon conversion to Christ, one is cognizant that regeneration, or rebirth, has occurred. When one experiences the new birth, one observes a change in one’s character. In other words, there is a change in one’s heart. Conversion implies reformation in one’s way of life. In one’s conversion, one experiences a change in one’s daily walk—a walk that seeks to bring his or her behavior in harmony with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). In Paul’s second Epistle to Corinth, he expresses the new life in Christ as a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
What does conversion mean to you? What does it mean to commit your life to Jesus? What does it mean to say a “new creation” in Christ? Is there a difference in your priorities since your acceptance of Christ as your Savior? Do you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Or do you seek first your own desires? What difference has Christ made in your life? Is Christ first, second, third, and so on, in your life? Do you say “yes” to the hope that God gives to you in and through Jesus? Has your conversion to Christ resulted in a new way of life—a life with new horizons? This new life can only continue by a conscious decision to follow Christ.
Commitment to Christ
Even though God in conversion takes the initiative, nevertheless, each person who responds in faith to God’s gift of His Son Jesus must make his or her personal affirmation to God. It is only through personal commitment that one continues in his or her decision to follow Christ. Paul, in writing to the Philippians, bemoaned the actions of some believers who failed in their commitment: “For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21). God wants each individual to commit himself or herself to work to accomplish God’s objective—salvation of souls and good works, “which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Once more, pay attention to Paul as he seeks to capture God’s part in redemption and God’s desire for the redeemed: “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
God takes the initiative in salvation, but, at the same time, He expects each individual to continue to work out his or her salvation with fear and trembling (2:12). Are you acting “according to his good purpose” (2:13)? Are you continuing to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (2:12)? God wishes every saint to “shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” (2:16). How do Christians “shine like stars in the universe”? If one fails in living an exemplary life, he or she weakens one’s influence as one holds out the Gospel of God. Paul addresses the conduct of Christians that should exhibit a radical change of direction following one’s acceptance of Jesus as Lord. Listen to Paul as he stresses the kind of behavior that honors God and wins individuals to Christ:
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.a Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”b says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”c 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:9-21).
When one becomes a part of the New Social Order of Jesus Christ, this necessitates a radical change of direction of one’s ethical behavior and a radical change of one’s focus—the kingdom of God. The Church has a mission to the whole community—those with God and those without God. In Christ, one becomes an organic instrument of Jesus Christ. Christians are to carry the testimony of God’s Good News of salvation to bear upon the whole world. One observes this kind of behavior in the original calling of the apostles. Mark records the preaching of Jesus in Galilee (Mark 1:14) and the beginning of His disciples for ministry. While going about “proclaiming the good news of God,” Jesus saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their net into the sea, “for they were fisherman” (1:16). In addition to these two men, He also saw James and his brother John (1:19). He called upon these four to leave their employment and follow Him—“Come follow me” (1:17, 20). Mark captures in very succinct words this call of Jesus: “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (1:17).
Surely these four men were acquainted with Jesus and His mission prior to their call as reported by Mark. For example, John, brother of James, relates an event concerning Jesus’ first disciples, which incident occurred prior to the call in Mark. He writes that two of these men were Andrew and Peter (John 1:35-42). One of the two disciples of John the Baptist heard John refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God (1:35). One of these disciples is named—Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. After talking with Jesus, Andrew realized that Jesus was the One that the prophets had foretold would come. Immediately following this revelation, he went and found his brother Peter. Apparently, some time later, Jesus, while preaching in Galilee, looked up these two men and requested that they follow Him. Jesus wanted them to change their occupation of regular fishermen to become fishermen of men (1:17). The words, “Come and follow me” should still ring loud and clear in the hearts of God’s people today. He gave them an invitation and they said yes. They made a decision for Christ. Have you made a decision for Christ?
God or Things?
A decision for Christ demands a radical change in one’s direction. This commitment requires one to become totally involved in the things of God. The “things” of God involve a specific stand for the kingdom of God. It requires dedication to the Person, Jesus Christ the Savior of the world. It could necessitate exposure and risk of one’s physical life. For instance, shortly before Christ’s crucifixion, He asked His disciple about His identity (Luke 9:18). Jesus inquired as to what the people thought about His person, and He also inquired about His personal disciples’ viewpoint. Following this probe, He informed the disciples about His impending death in Jerusalem (9:21-22). Listen to the words of Jesus: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (9:22).
But Jesus did not stop with His Cross; He also informed His disciples about commitment—a commitment that involves denial of one’s self and taking up one’s own cross daily in his or her following Christ. Listen to Jesus as He drives home this point forcefully: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (9:23). Mark, too, records this saying of Jesus, but his saying does not include the word daily, as found in Luke: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). What is Jesus saying? Jesus is referring to the initial and fundamental change in one’s life at the time of conversion—a complete denial of self through asserting the priority of God in one’s life. One can say that this is the negative form of the positive command to love God with all of one’s heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:34-40).
One may interpret the word Cross as having reference to the physical cross, but the wording of Luke does not limit the word Cross to the crucifixion, that is to say, physical death. Apparently, Jesus’ makes use of this particular word in a metaphorical sense. For instance, as noted above, Luke includes the word daily (kaqj hJmevran kaq Jhmeran). Luke writes that one must “take up his cross daily.” The word daily speaks, not of death, but of a life that is continuous for the things of God. In this earth shaking statement, one hears an echo of the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). One can hardly reflect upon these two sayings of the Master without reflection upon the priceless value of God’s kingdom. Thus, it is with urgency that Jesus illustrates the importance of receiving and entering into this kingdom of God’s dear Son with a life of commitment. One should not allow anything to stand in his or her way of following Christ.
This urgency of the kingdom is found in a drastic remedy for a particular case—a case where money stood between this person and God’s kingdom. Listen to the words of Jesus as he goes right to the heart of covetousness: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (19:21). Money as an idol is just one side of the coin, so to speak. This urgency of the kingdom is found in a drastic remedy for a particular case—a case where money stood between this person and God’s kingdom. Listen to the words of Jesus as he goes right to the heart of covetousness: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (19:21). Money as an idol is just one side of the coin, so to speak
God or Parents?
One’s obstacle to the kingdom of heaven, as mentioned above, may not be money, but rather, one’s hindrances may be found in one’s devotion to one’s husband or wife, one’s mother or father, one’s sons or daughters, and so on. Self-denial calls for continuous subordination of self-interest to the kingdom of God. Is God first in your life? Do you allow your spouse to keep you from serving the Lord? Do you allow your mother or father to keep you from serving the Lord? Do you allow your children to keep you from serving the Lord? Do you allow your job to keep you from serving the Lord? Do you allow money to keep you from serving the Lord? What does the words of Jesus convey to you in Luke 9:23?
Who would put others or things before the Lord? “Not me!” cries someone. Do you say, “If you want me to serve the Lord, you will have to get my mother’s approval”? Do you meet with the people of God on Sundays? If not, why not? Do you not attend because of your spouse, children, or parents? Should one choose Christ first? Should one place his or her mother before Christ? Should one place his or her son or daughter before Christ? Should one place money before Christ? Should one rank material possession before God? Jesus says, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). After these comments, Jesus tells a parable of the rich fool:
The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (12:16-21).
Are you rich toward God? Is money first in your life or is God number one in your life? Are your parents foremost in your life? Who or what is paramount? Listen to the words of Jesus once more: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (9:23). What does this mean to you? Matthew, too, records the words of Jesus: “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38). Can one apply this saying to family relationships? Yes! As one consults the context of Matthew 10:38, one discovers this discussion in the context of family ties:
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’e 37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (10:34-39).
Did you pick up on the piercing words of Jesus? Can members of one’s own household become one’s own enemies as a result of Christ? Do you put your father or mother first in your relationship to God? Do you put your son or daughter first in your relationship to God? A daughter may have to choose—God or mother, which? A man may have to choose—God or father, which? But this decision also includes husbands and wives. On another occasion, Jesus discoursed on the cost of being a disciple. Luke records this message:
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. 34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Luke 14:26-34).
What does this saying of Jesus mean to you: “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple”? In Luke 14, one witnesses a vivid hyperbole—“hate his father”—which means that one must love Jesus more than his or her immediate family. Once again, Jesus warns His disciples that discipleship involves complete surrender to him—“Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Christianity is about a relationship with the Father through the Atonement of Jesus upon Calvary. The collective Body of Christ is “God’s household” with “Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).
Relationship With Other Believers
In Christ there is a radical change of direction in one’s relationship with other Christians. This new relationship with God demands that Christians “bear (ing) with one another in love” (4:2). This radical change necessitates the desire for unity among God’s people: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:3). In 4:1, Paul encourages Christians to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” In this admonition, Paul uses a word that is frequently passed over without due reflection. This word is “meekness” (prau?" praus), which conveys the idea of “Do not press your rights.” Scott continues his remarks by calling attention to the waiving of one’s rights for the sake of the other person. Jesus, too, applies this word meek to Himself: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle (prau?" praus, “meek,” KJV) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). This attitude and characteristic of Jesus is also to be true of each believer (Ephesians 4:1-3). It is in this vein that Paul speaks to the Corinthians:
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
When one becomes a Christian, there is a radical change of direction in one’s relationship to God and to his or her fellow believers. It is not uncommon for Christians to insist that it is my way or no way. Paul addresses this mindset in the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. As stated above, Paul waived his rights in order to win others to Christ. Paul details this mindset in the eighth chapter of this same epistle (8:1-13). Listen once more to Paul as he drives home the very heart of Christian unity: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7). Jesus has accepted every believer with “warts and all.” Just as Christ has accepted believers with imperfection in their lives and imperfection in their knowledge, so Christians are to accept one another. This attitude of Paul is found in Paul’s joining in with four men in the custom of the Jews concerning purification. In fact, Paul paid the expenses involved in the purification rites at the Temple for himself and the four men, which was suggested by James, the Lord’s brother (Acts 21:17-26). This religious action was not set forth as a condition of salvation, otherwise Paul would have objected (see Galatians 2:1-21 for an example of opposition).
The most classic example in the New Covenant writings about waiving one’s rights is found in the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17). John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4); nevertheless, Jesus came to John the Baptist for baptism. Yet, repentance was impossible and unnecessary for Jesus. John’s baptism was for the forgiveness of sins and symbolized induction into the community of the coming Messiah. Repentance involved sorrow over the past; yet, with Jesus, one observes that, in this action, there could be no consciousness of repentance, except vicariously in that He identified Himself with humanity. Also, He needed no initiation into this Messianic kingdom, because He is King. Yet, He did not remain aloof; He waived His rights—“He too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14). In the words of Paul: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
When one accepts Christ, there must be a radical change in one’s reaction toward other believers. Just recently, this author received a call from a Christian in Texas. In his conversation, he related to me that a certain brother had gone into a tirade against me. He warned individuals about reading my essays and visiting my website. He stated that I am trying to destroy the Lord’s Church—by that he means the one-cup and nonSunday school fellowship—,which is not true. His remarks were rather bitter and blasphemous, according to this brother who is also of the one cup and nonSunday school. I am told that this episode was an angry assault against me as an individual. I do not doubt the sincerity of this brother—who is my second cousin—but one must be careful about an attack against another brother or sister in Christ over doctrinal creeds, especially creeds of opinions.
Also, this author witnessed one sister in Christ leaving the fellowship of God’s people over the way a sister stood while singing a solo during a public gathering of God’s people. She was very unkind in her remarks toward the sister who stood because of artificial leg. As a result of this blasphemy (slander, or outburst of anger) against this sister, the accuser’s entire family no longer serves the Lord. One wonders about the commandment to love others in the household of faith. Nevertheless, in both cases, I suspect that both parties were sincere. Jesus warns against “slander,” or “blasphemy” (blasfhmiva, blasfhmia, “injurious speech”) against others. Normally, one associates “blasphemy” as injurious speech against God, but Jesus also employs this word as “injurious speech” against another person:
17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”). 20 He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’” (Mark 7:17-23).
These two examples—listed above—are not given to castigate their motives, but rather to call attention to the lack of love in God’s community toward other believers. The words of John the apostle seem to fly over the heads of many Christians. About three years ago, this author received a call from a church in Mobile, Alabama about a problem in Russia. Some congregations had been established using individual cups in the Lord’s Supper. Later, when the missionary returned to the congregations previously established, he found division over the one cup versus individual cups. He also related to me that many of these Christians would no longer speak to one another. He also shared with me that the one-cup Christians act as if they hate the ones employing individual cups in the Lord’s Supper.
This negative reaction toward those who do not conform to a particular doctrinal stance is sometimes devastating to Christian fellowship. But this mindset is true of other fellowships within the Churches of Christ dealing with instrumental music and a host of other issues, not just some among the one-cup Christians. One cannot lump all one-cup Christians into this mold of hate, for many within this movement do not hold to this kind of philosophy. There are many godly men and women in this movement—many of whom are now with the Lord. My prayer is for those who are alive: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7). One should pay close attention to the words of John:
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in himd to make him stumble. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him (1 John 2:9-11).
These words of John remind one of the words of Jesus: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Division within the eyes of Jesus is fatal to the life of His new humanity (John 17). Christianity is not a doctrinal creed, even though most fellowships spell out their written or unwritten creed as a means of acceptance or excommunication. Many fellowships regard themselves as the one “true Church” by insisting that those who wish union must enter into their own realm. For many believers, the Bible has become a law-book. Out of this philosophy, one discovers that these Christians frequently deify the traditional religious institution of which they are a part. It is not uncommon for sincere preachers in one of these movements to speak ex cathedra, that is, his or her pronouncements are infallible. Many truthful Christians act as if they are God’s Vicar upon earth. This position is in direct opposition of Paul’s words to the Romans: “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5), or, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” (14:4).
Christianity is about a Person and what that Person has done for humanity. One can also say that Christianity is not a code of ethics, even though Christians practice the will of God in their lives as a testimony of their faith. Christianity is Christocentric. Christ is the very heart of the Christian faith. Christianity is about a personal relationship with Him. This relationship requires total commitment to Him as Lord and Christ in one’s life. In one’s decision to follow Christ, there must be a radical change of directions in one’s life.
Reflection Upon One’s Life in Christ
As you reflect upon your life, do you witness any permanent effect of Christ in your life? Are you back and forth in your devotion? Are you on fire for the Lord for a while and then experience a cooling off period? What is wrong? Do you read the Word of God regularly—day and night? Do you pray? Do you attend Bible studies? Do you attend the public assembly of the church on a regularly basis? The Christian life without God’s people is an impossible task. One’s decision for Christ must lead into growth. It is in this vein that Peter encourages God’s people to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3:18). The words of the psalmist in Psalm 1 sets the tone for spiritual growth: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).
Is the Cross of Jesus the center of your Christian life? If not, then, in due time, Christianity loses its energy in your moral life. The Cross of Christ draws attention to the public righteousness of God. Christians are to grow in their holiness daily. One’s daily walk with God will not alter until one comes to understand Christ. There can be no growth until there is a radical decision in your life to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. There can be no Christian growth until one makes a decision to follow Jesus. Have you made that decision? Many Christian have no spiritual history, that is to say, at age sixty-five, they are where they were at age twenty-five. Within the lives of many of God’s children, one frequently witnesses arrested development. When one enters into a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ, this spiritual life in Him demands growth. Christians are called to grow. It is in this vein that Paul writes to the people of God in Ephesus:
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:11-14).
Growth is imperative on every level of life—physical, mental, and spiritual. Unfortunately, one witnesses the spiritual lives of many saints that frequently ignore spiritual growth. At the beginning of one’s rebirth, one observes an eagerness to grow through devotion and study and prayer, but, in time, one often observes that the heightened sense of emotional response to God fades.
Even though one does not become a mature Christian overnight, nevertheless, one can mature through an intense yearning for the things of God. Peter writes about sins that should not dominate the life of the believer, but, in writing about sins of the flesh, he goes right to the heart of spiritual growth—a growth that results in a radical change of direction: “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:1-3). Do you intensively yearn for the Word of God as a baby hungers for its mother’s milk from her breast? Do you “crave pure spiritual milk”? This passion for God’s Word is the means of development in one’s salvation. The author of Hebrews bemoans the sad condition of many Christians who stagnated in their walk with God:
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 4:11-14).
Many Christian men and women have been going around with Jesus for years without ever having made a commitment to His service. Have you made a promise of steadfastness to God’s kingdom? What does a choice for Christ mean to you? Does it mean an immediate or extreme change in your lifestyle? What does a radical change after conversion convey to you? Does it mean a new direction? A radical change of direction is like going the wrong way on a one-way street with a sudden consciousness of the error and then a complete turn around to correct the error. A classic illustration of this kind of revolutionary switch is found in Jesus’ story of the Lost Son or, as is commonly called, the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).
As one reflects upon this Parable of the Prodigal Son, one is conscious of his turnaround—repentance. Jesus, in his preaching, placed repentance as necessary for one’s acceptance of His Gospel: “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). What does repentance mean to you? It should convey the idea of a change of mind, a transformation of heart, and a revision of will toward spiritual things. In other word, repentance simply means to take a new direction in one’s spiritual walk with God, with Christ, and with the Holy Spirit. For individuals who have joined in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, they understand the word repentance. In this association, an alcoholic makes an abrupt change of direction. He repents by making a hasty change in the practice that enslaved him. He turns from one kind of lifestyle to another kind of lifestyle.
Is God first in your life? Is your mother or father first in your life? Is your husband or wife first in your life? Are your children first in your life? Are material blessings first in your life? Where does God really stand in your devotion? As you reflect upon your spiritual journey with the Lord, you should reexamine your loyalty to God. Are you still seeking to serve God and the world at the same time? Are you seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness in your life? Are you zealous for the Gospel of God’s kingdom? Paul writes with commitment when he says: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). Has your life changed since you accepted Christ as Lord and Savior? Are you cold or hot for spiritual matters? Do you seek things above? Listen to Jesus as He gives notice to one of the seven churches of Asia:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see (Revelation 3:14-18).
In order for Christians to experience a radical change of direction, there must be a consciousness of the import of the Gospel. In other words, the Gospel is about the doctrine of justification by faith, that is to say, salvation is shifted from humanity to God. When one understands the cost of redemption, one will experience a sweeping change of direction in his or her life for the things of God. One will put God first in his or her life. If there is to be a radical change in one’s direction, there must be a sense of awe about God’s holiness. This holiness of God is the very foundation of Christianity. In the Atonement, one witnesses an act of God and God’s holiness. Paul’s words to Timothy sets forth the reason for dedication to Christ in one’s daily walk with Him:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:11-14).
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life” (Luke 18:29-30).
All Scripture citations are from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), unless stated otherwise.
a Or willing to do menial work
b Deut. 32:35
c Prov. 25:21,22
e Micah 7:6
 C. A. Anderson, New Testament Ethics (Great Britain: University Press, 1930 ; reprint, (London, Cambridge and Bentley House, 1948), 58.
d Or it