If you were to take a few minutes here to look back let’s say, five years ago in your life, the person that you were in Christ at that time, would you recognize that individual. Of course we must presume that you were saved more than five years ago, but for those of you that are new to the family, pick the day that you came to know Him as Lord. When you’re looking at the life of this person who you once were, what would you say are the most obvious differences, what stands out immediately in your mind as some of the attributes that were once within you that are either completely gone, slightly modified, or are new, that were never a part of that person.
There are three distinct areas that you should be looking at here, the spiritual, the emotional, and what we will call the materialistic, the worldly. What you are looking for as you look back is change, something in each of these parts of you that when compared to who you are now has been changed, has been modified, has been transformed more into the image of Christ. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20) What you are looking for here my friends are the parts of you that have died, and in that contemplation you are accessing within yourself, when, and hopefully you recognize these changes, whether or not you miss these attributes that once describe who you were.
Let’s start with the materialistic you, the you that lives in the world still, how do you feel today about things that surround you every day, the items that you own, so to speak, what value do they hold today and how would you compare that worth with the time in the past that you are relating to the things of this world that attract us, have a grip on us so to speak, in a relative way, your bed is not as important as your family and friends, for yes, we must count people in this equation, although they fit into all three of our categories. Think now on these items of the world, the “then and now” value that you place on them, can you see a difference in yourself, do they hold a looser grip on you than they once did, or are there still some, if not many, that you would not leave at a moment’s notice if Christ was to call you today to serve apart from them. Would you ask of Him if you could test my oxen first, (Luke 14:19) or perhaps bury a loved one (Luke 9:59) before you followed Him, or would you get up immediately, leave the nets, leave the boat, leave your father (Matt. 4:22) and go with Him. Can you see the you of yesterday still residing in the you of today.
Let’s look at the emotional side here for a few moments, your feelings, as it were. These are of course tied closely to those items of the world, the materialistic which include the people in your life, but go well beyond that. How does the person you are today compare in his emotional state towards who you were in that time frame in the past that you have set for yourself, what would you say about your emotions to that past you if you had a chance. Faith has absolutely nothing to do with feelings, although we are emotion-based beings, and even the Lord God expresses emotions in His word, but we are not to be ruled by them, they are to be kept under subjection. (1 Cor. 9:27) Let’s pick one here, love, has your love for Christ grown exponentially since that time, have you grown past the infatuation stage that we all felt at the moment of our salvation, is that love deeper, more abiding, more trustful.
Trust in itself is a type of emotion, for without it we doubt, we fear, are your fears and doubts less than what they were, has He proven Himself enough to you that you no longer need Him to prove to you that He is trustworthy, are all the doubts gone, or do some still linger. Praise also in a way is part of our emotional makeup, have you learned to praise Him well, is your heart lifted up is song even when the trials and tribulations are upon you, can you sing in the blackest night as Paul and Silas did, (Acts 16:25) can you praise His name in complete honesty and with a cheerful heart at the birth of a child as well as at the gravesite. “Perfect love casteth out fear,” (1 John 4:18) all doubt, all concerns, all worries, every negative emotion is cast out from us not because of our love for Jesus, but because of the fact that He loves us, can you see growth in your emotions.
The most prevalent of these three, materialism, emotions and the spiritual is of course our spiritual walk, the inner man, the us that desires above all other things to live in perfect harmony and union with the Holy Spirit of God within us. How would you compare the you of yesterday with who you are today in your walk with Christ, are you submissive to His will, or do you still pray for your own desires, are you trying to modify the will of God for your life to fit what you want it to be. Are you listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit more than you use to, not only listening, but hearing and obeying, not questioning as much, testing the spirits, (1 John 4:1) of course, using more spiritual discernment than you ever thought possible within yourself. Are you walking with more confidence amongst your fellow man, do you know a surety, the fact that your Redeemer lives, that absolutely nothing will happen to you unless the Lord God allows it to happen. Are you rejoicing in trials, are you praising His name more than you did before for the chastisement He sends, knowing for a fact that to every son he sends these chastisements, (Heb. 12:6) and so without a doubt you are truly a child of His. Do your eyes well up at the thoughts of the cross, at the image of the nails piercing His hands, does your heart leap for joy at the visage of the empty tomb, does your spirit long for nothing more than to be in His presence, are you resting only in Him.
These are the three ways, the three areas that we must look back on in our lives on a regular basis, this must be done in the life of every born-again believer occasionally, apart from everyone, in your closet, (Matt. 6:6) if you will. But there is something more important, something that must enter your thoughts as you contemplate these areas of your life in Christ, you must look at yourself in truth and see if those around you have also been able to see this growth, has Jesus Christ been glorified only in you, but never in the eyes of those you know, never in the eyes of those you meet. If that is true my friends, then you have some serious contemplating to do, for faith without works is a dead faith. (James 2:26) If the people in your life cannot look at you and say, “You’re not the same person that you used to be,” then you are still the same person you were, you have taken your candle and hidden it, (Luke 11:33) you have hid His word in your heart, (Psalm 119:11) only for your advantages.
We are a called out people, (1 Peter 2:9) and we are a sent people, (Romans 10:15) and those who are growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord are to be doing just that, growing, not trying to make themselves better, but submitting continuously to the will of God, whatever He determines that will to be. We are blessed beyond measure, and we are to share these blessings with all that will listen, encouraging the brethren, (1 Thess. 5:11) and seeking the lost. Your friends and family, do they see you drawing away from them as you draw closer to Christ, do the things of this world mean little to nothing to you, are your emotions in check and focused on Christ, are you becoming spiritually mature, standing firmly on the rock of our salvation, is Jesus Christ more beloved by you today than He was yesterday.
You should be able to see the growth within yourself, growth that was enabled by the Holy Spirit, everyone around you should recognize you less and less each day, and they should see Christ in you more and more. It is not us that lives anymore, but Christ that lives in us, (Gal. 2:20) we died a long time ago at the foot of the cross.