I was sitting at my desk one day, doing my normal work stuff, and the phrase,”first life, then change,” popped into my mind. Most thoughts I have during a day race through my head and then quickly disappear. This one stuck. It turned out to be one of those “aha” moments for me.
First life, then change is the process God works in our lives.
So many of us short circuit the process. We leave the life part out of the equation, and focus merely on the change we hope and pray God can bring to our lives. In other words, we view Christianity as a self-improvement program. God is there to help us better our lives. At least that was the way I viewed Christianity. Like so many, I cried out to God time and time again for His help, but nothing changed. If anything, my feeble efforts made matters worse. I didn’t know that I needed life.
However, Scripture is very clear. I was dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1). Not just me, you too were dead in sin. This is the spiritual condition that was passed on to you by your mom and dad. This ancestry trail traces back to Adam and Eve. They forfeited spiritual life in exchange for the chance to be like God. The decision plunged them and all of mankind into the realm of sin and death.
We hear the echoes of this reality at times. We sense deep down that something is terribly wrong, or feel emptiness inside, or experience an unexplained restlessness. All of these are symptoms of spiritual death. Some ignore these indicators. Others charge out to find that one thing to fill the void. But money, power, prestige, fame or anything else the world may offer are never enough. They leave us still wanting. Death needs to be turned to life.
Calvin spent much of his life trying to fill the emptiness of his heart. He had tried almost everything imaginable, but nothing worked. He turned to drugs and alcohol to mask the underlying pain and emptiness. Even then, he could hear the echoes. Something was wrong. All his prayers seemed to go unanswered. His struggle to change led him to a point of desperation. He turned on his radio hoping to find answers. Scanning the dial, he landed on the station that airs our program in his area. Something caught his attention. He picked up his phone and called our toll-free number.
You could hear the weariness in his voice. “I’ve tried to do the right things. I pray for God’s help night and day, but I keep going back to my old ways. Is there hope?”
I had the privilege of sharing with Calvin God’s process, first life, then change. It struck a chord with him. Thousands listened in as he expressed his heart of faith through prayer. That day, God raised Calvin spiritually so that he could live in the newness of life. I could hear the power of what was happening in his voice. Calvin, just minutes before was dead in sin. But now he was alive in Christ.
The offer of the Gospel is life. Jesus made this abundantly clear throughout His teaching ministry. Listen to His words: I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Once we are alive in Him, the change begins.