When I was in high school my youth group attended a regional youth event. A moment that still stands out was the change in the life of Mark, one of my good friends. Mark had been living far from God, going through the motions at church while struggling with alcohol, sexual desires, and depression. During an altar call, Mark went to the front and gave his life to Christ. Later, in our group’s nightly devotion, he passionately confessed his sins and promised to change his life. Praise God! This was a powerful moment not only for Mark but for our entire group. It was amazing to see how God had convicted and changed him. Over the next few years, Mark continued to be an active member of our church, and I attended several other events with him. The above story was repeated in similar ways at every event. Mark kept having these encounters with God, but just could not change his life when he returned to “the real world.” Mark’s story illustrates a reality many of us face. Of all the powers of the world, one of the hardest to develop is the power to change.
Ever since Jesus’s sacrificial death, His followers have struggled with what it means to be new creations in Christ Jesus: to truly change their lives to follow Him. How can we really change our lives and live the life of righteousness Christ calls us to?
5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him, there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:5-9
This passage makes it clear that when we surrender our lives to Christ, we are called to follow Him in an entirely new way. We are called to change who we are, to fully commit to following His ways. We don’t get to maintain aspects of our sinful life (which was not working anyway) but are called to a life of righteousness. Now, is God calling us to live perfectly and, if we sin even once, threatening to throw us out of His Kingdom? By no means. 1 John 1:9 tells us that God forgives every sin we confess. What God is calling us to is a life of righteousness: a life that will be better for us, those around us, and God’s Kingdom. No matter if you’ve been following Christ for 60 years or 60 minutes, have you really and truly changed your life? Are you living the life of righteousness you have been called to?