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I was recently listening to an audio recording of a talk that was given by Dr. Jay Strack at a conference for pastors. You can click on his link for more information about Dr. Strack. In brief, he is one of the leading experts today in the world of communicating with teenagers and young adults within the church world.
So, during his talk to these pastors, Dr. Strack said one brief phrase that really grabbed my attention: "Let me tell you how Jesus changed me." Honestly, I don't remember the exact context in which he said it, if he was getting ready to tell his own personal testimony, or what.
I guess my ears perked up when I heard it, because I could relate to it. Over the last few years, through the trials and tribulations of this life, I could definitely identify with this statement. You see, Jesus has changed me. He allowed the circumstances of my life, in essence, to force me to change. Sure, I had choices. I could have kept on doing the same stupid stuff I had always been doing, but through the challenging times, I stepped back and re-evaluated my life and my relationship with the Lord. I allowed Him to mold me and make me a new creation - "The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17b).
Am I saying that I'm perfect and don't struggle with the "old" still? Heck no, even after major life changes happen, we all still struggle with the flesh and sin nature. All I know is that I'm not the same person that I was, praise God. Jesus did change me through His life-changing power.
Jesus Really Does Changes Lives
A true encounter with Jesus really can and should change your life. But, many in the evangelical Christian world, so fearful of espousing a works-based salvation, steer clear of the works component of salvation. No, I'm not saying that works save, but what I am saying that once we have been saved through the resurrection power of Jesus, our lives should look radically different. We should have "good works" or "fruit," if you will, that demonstrate a transformed life. At the very least, we should be in the process of life change. Of course, some changes take longer than others.
When I think of a Bible story, a Biblical character whose life radically changed as a result of an encounter with Jesus, I always think of Zacchaeus. And, when I think of Zacchaeus, I can't help but recall the old song we always used to sing as kids in Sunday School..."Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he...." But I digress. Check out Zach's story in Luke 19:1-10:
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
In Zacchaeus' life, he apparently had money issues in his fleshly, fallen state. The Bible says that he was the chief tax collector and very wealthy. Back in those times, tax collectors were the scum of the earth. They were constantly cheating people out of their hard-earned money. Hmmm, not much has really changed in modern times, has it?
But, as soon as the lives of Zacchaeus and Jesus intersect in Jericho, a remarkable transformation takes place in the life of Zacchaeus. Jesus changes him, and the evidence is in his greatest struggle - money. He tells the Lord that he is going to give half of his stuff over to the poor and anyone he has ever cheated will get back four times the amount of money that he cheated them out of. Wow, talk about a major change! Zacchaeus moves from a life of wealth and selfishness to one of extreme generosity.
Has Jesus Really Changed Your Life?
There are a lot of so-called Christians out there who say that their lives have been transformed by the saving power of Jesus. But, if we were to compare their lives to the unbelievers around them, there wouldn't be a whole lot of difference between them.
Sure we all have challenges living the Christian life in a fallen world. I'll be the first to admit that. All of us have certain areas of our lives, though, that we haven't completely handed over to the Lord for total transformation. But, when we have a real and powerful encounter with Jesus, we have choices to make. Am I going to stay stuck in my old ways and my sin nature, or am I going to allow Jesus to change me?
So, how about you? Has Jesus really changed your life? If so, I'd love to hear your story of transformation.
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