You used to walk in these ways in the life you once lived. (Colossians 3:7)
Once. Once upon a time. Used to. Past tense.
I’ve heard a lot of dramatic conversion stories: folks who’ve killed others or been destitute, deep in drug addiction, radically changed by God in an instant. It happens. All the time. Praise God.
For me, it wasn’t that dramatic. I had tried virtually everything to try to satisfy the emptiness in my heart that only God can fill. I had used almost every kind of drug available during my formative years. I had been with women. I was motivated to climb the ladder of success and would do most anything to get there. Been there, done that. I used to walk in those ways in the life I once lived.
Then one day in a church service, I heard an old man’s story about what it meant to live in a community of followers of Jesus. I heard about the things that God hates and I was guilty of them all. I gave my life to Christ that day.
I was changed but I wasn’t sure how or why. I didn’t long for the things I once did. I had a different mindset toward life and people. It wasn’t because I decided to be different, turned over a new leaf, or decided to follow a set of rules or guidelines. I was different. Period.
As I was memorizing my verses in Colossians 3 this morning and reading the accompanying devotional, the author, James Bryan Smith said,
“Being an apprentice of Jesus is not about rules and laws, it is about identity and place. Christian life is not an if-then obligation (‘If I do this, then God will do that.’) It is a because-therefore opportunity (Because I am one in whom Christ dwells, therefore I will…”). The better way to encourage change is to remind people who they are now, in contrast to who they once were… we should say to ourselves, ‘I am a Christ-inhabited person. What does that look like in the world I live in?’… Simply put, I am called to live differently because I am not the person I once was… It is not a matter of salvation. It is a matter of being authentically who we are.”
I used to follow my own indulgent, selfish desires. But now I’m not the same person. It’s the lifestyle I used to walk in. Not anymore. Don’t get me wrong; I still struggle just like you.
But I know who I am and I know whose I am. Currently. Present tense. Now and forever.