For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.
I’ve been doing some research on a project I’m working on and it has been quite rewarding, yet tragically revealing at the same time. In the process I have been reading quite a few testimonies and stories of people’s lives as they have become Christians. Nothing is more powerful than a personal testimony of the life changing event in one’s being as the Holy Spirit takes control.
A fundamental understanding of Christianity is ‘conversion’. The conversion is seen and understood in a great many different ways by individuals and denominations. What exactly constitutes a conversion? What should it look like? What are the (if in fact there are any at all) tell-tale signs that manifest themselves at the time of conversion? There is much discussion in this area, but the one thing that all can agree on is this: conversion requires change.
I know that my confession of Christ and my submission to Him did bring change in my life. Habits change, desires change, needs change and perspective changes. But to think that at the time of confession and submission to Jesus that all the changes that will manifest themselves in your life as a saved sinner will happen instantly will bring disappointment. What happens instantly at that moment is eternal salvation, not temporal perfection.
A process called sanctification begins to occur in your life. Sanctification simply means ‘to make holy’. Christians are not holy, they are forgiven. That’s the instant change. Forgiveness. It will take God as long as He sees fit to bring you through your sanctification process in each area of your life. It will go on, growing more and more like Christ all the time, for your entire life.
But, sanctification can be a frustrating process. Many people think (or at least hope) that Christian life will be easy. That the change to be at least the Christian you want to be, will be easy because well, God is doing the work. Well, you have a part in this as well, and our part is to die to ourselves. Something we all find difficult. Getting right down to it, wouldn’t we all like to see instant and powerful change in our life from the power of God? I know I would.
I want a change to happen in my life that is so huge, so big, and so miraculous that people look at it and know that it cannot be of me or my strength, but that the change had to have come from God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Francis Chan, in his recent book, “The Forgotten God” had this to say, “I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit”. What a great testimony that would be. That would be an awesome epitaph to be carved on my head stone, “Changed By the Holy Spirit”. Wow.
The work of the Holy Spirit is real. Few as Christians would deny that (although some denominations say that the work of the Holy Spirit was only for the apostolic age – I’ve got one word for them: phooey). It has been real since the beginning of time. Moses, Elijah, Samuel, Daniel and so many other biblical characters saw the Holy Spirit working through them and in their lives.
Francis Chan uses Elijah for his example. After the events on Mt. Carmel where the god Baal was shown to be a fraud and the priests of Baal were destroyed right there on the mountain, he reminds us what the reaction f the people was. “The Lord, He is God!’ (I Kings 18:39). They did not say, ‘Elijah is a great speaker’ or “Elijah sure knows how to connect with God”… The power that was manifested at that moment was so powerful, so awesome, so great , so authoritative that they knew that it had to have come from God, not from Elijah.
C.S. Lewis, author of the wildly famous Narnia series, and books like Mere Christianity, was not always Christian. He converted from agnosticism. William J. Murray, author and son of atheist activist Madalyn Murray O’Hare who was pivotal in the SCOTUS ruling striking down school prayer converted from atheism. Jeffrey Dahmer was not only a cannibalistic serial killing homosexual pedophile, but a Satanist as well, and he converted to Christianity under the tutelage of Watergate convicted felon and now Christian speaker and author Chuck Colson. God works miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit all the time. While some conversions may not seem as dramatic or unbelievable as some of the ones I just listed, all of our salvation is just as miraculous.
I long for a testimony that shouts that the Holy Spirit is at work in my life. I desire such a life that people look at it and say that change can only have come from God. Not for profit or recognition, but for the Glory of God!
I think my wife sees this work in me. I cleaned the ‘stuff’ pile that lingers eternal by the side of my bed. But more than anything, I pray that God the Father and Christ Himself see the work happening in me and say, “Thank you Holy Spirit, we know that change is from you”. I want all the glory to be theirs. Change has to start somewhere. Growth has to start somewhere. I am simply praying that it starts with me.