When I became a Christian in my senior year of college, I was bewildered from the beginning about how I would go from “me” to something else. In other words, I wasn’t able to see how I was supposed to move from Point A to Point B.
To be clear, Point A wasn’t exactly the campus party animal, but my becoming a Christian shocked more than one person who knew me. What I instinctively grasped was that one thing – one very important thing but only one thing had actually changed – and that was my identity in my head and my heart. I was different, profoundly different, but I was also the same person – with the same weaknesses, sins, and attitudes. I might have become a Christian, but I was still the guy who had (literally) danced the heel off his shoe at a fraternity party.
What I also realized was that I had not been suddenly transformed into Joe Christian. No one waved a magic wand over my head to make me perfect.
In the meetings I had afterward, the path became clearer. There was this process called sanctification, which would last the rest of my life. Transformation would happen, and it would happen gradually. And the key point was that it might never be finished.
And I had baggage. A lot of baggage. And it wasn’t only things I had done but things I had thought and things I had believed. I wasn’t a living example of secular culture at its worst, but it often appeared that that’s what I had aspired to be.
The process of transformation started with reading the Gospel of John. And writing down questions that occurred to me as I read. Then I met with the guy who had led me to Christ and we talked. Eventually I joined a small Bible study group led by one of my fraternity brothers. I went to a spring break outreach program. I started attending church services.
Those were big changes from what I had been doing, but they were small steps in hindsight. Gradually I came to understand that it wasn’t only things that I did but also things that I thought and said. This process has lasted a lifetime, and it is far from finished.
In The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges says that “the practice of putting off sinful attitudes and actions and putting on Christlike character involves a constant series of choices. We choose in every situation which direction we will go.”
Some of these choices are obvious. Some aren’t. And some are downright difficult, like when you’re faced with doing the right thing or the expected thing at work, the thing that everyone else does without a second thought.
Choices can be hard. Very hard. But you still have to make them.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges. To see what others had to say on this chapter, “The Discipline of Choices,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.
Photograph by Karen Arnold via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.
Oh, yes, Glynn, those choices can be very hard. And our transformations are, indeed, gradual ones; as you said and I paraphrase, they do cover a lifetime and are far from finished. Everyday, new choices present themselves, and we must make them based upon not who we are, but whose we are.
Glynn, what has amazed me over past months/years as God has dealt with me on these things is how often I made a decision without realizing it was a decision. I would get to the end of my rope and ask God how I got there, and the Holy Spirit would show me. It was never a devious or covert decision. Usually it just involved not taking captive a stray thought when it struck. I don't know if any of this makes sense, but I hear what you're saying. Decisions are made every day--sometimes every second--and each one has the power to draw us into the Father or push us away. Thanks Glynn.
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