Summary: The Christian life is about changing and growing. A process of the "before" becoming the "after."

A. Today, I want to spend a few minutes thinking about the difference that God has made in our lives.

1. We’ve all seen “before and after” pictures used in advertising.

2. For instance, here’s a typical picture of a guy who needed a little help with his hair loss.

3. Here’s a picture of a lady who has gotten amazing results from some kind of skin care product.

4. This is an interesting picture of students at Purdue University who are in the drama department and have used make up to age themselves. How will you and I look 30 years from now? Could be scary!

5. Here’s a picture of a guy you probably recognize. It’s Jared Fogle. He’s the guy who lost the huge amount of weight eating only Subway sandwiches. His little experiment has not only made him thinner, it has made him richer!

6. My final picture is just for fun. It’s the before and after picture of some cute dogs after taking a bath. Wet dogs look like drowned rats, don’t they?

B. I think we’ve all come to realize that most of the “before and after” pictures we see are not realistic and sometimes they are fake or false.

1. Whether it’s ads for weight-loss products, exercise programs, or hair replacement procedures, most people’s results are less than was advertised.

2. Usually somewhere in the fine print is a qualifying statement that says, “Results may vary.”

3. In some cases, the results vary because the product or program is not very good or helpful, and regardless of how faithfully or how much effort is expended, there is no improvement.

4. In other cases, the product or program is fine, but the person using the product or program doesn’t follow through with it.

C. Now let’s turn our attention to the Christian life and the effect of God’s power and work in our lives.

1. Using the same language we have been using, there is no doubt that the “product” and the “program” are the very best.

2. God is all-powerful, and all-knowing, and perfect.

3. As Paul put it in Ephesians 3:21, “God can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.”

4. So, when there is a breakdown in our Christians lives and a failure to experience the best results, it is not God’s fault, but our own.

5. But to get the best results, so to speak, we have to work with God and work God’s program according to God’s plan and principles.

6. And so, when we do our part and God does His part, then we experience the kind of transforming results that are promised.

D. Today, what I want to do is to encourage us by the promises and possibilities that God has given.

1. Rather than discourage us by our own failures or the failures of people in the Bible, I want us to be encouraged by the difference that God has made in our lives and in the lives of people in Scripture.

2. So, let’s look at a two before and after pictures of people in the Bible.

I. Picture #1 – Mary Magdalene

A. The most prominent of the women who accompanied Jesus is Mary Magdalene.

1. She is named in all four Gospels as a witness to Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

2. She came from Magdala, a town located on the Sea of Galilee, just north of Tiberius.

3. Mary Magdalene and several other women had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities.

4. Luke tells us in Luke 8:2 that Mary had had seven demons exercised from her.

5. But these three ladies mentioned in Luke 8, including Mary, were women of some wealth and were able to provide for Jesus and the 12 apostles “out of their own means.” (Lk. 8:3)

B. Many over the years have identified Mary Magdalene as the “woman who had lived a sinful life” (Lk. 7:37), a sinner who came to Jesus while he was dining at the home of a Pharisee and anointed his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.

1. But since Luke does not give the name of the woman in that story at the end of Luke 7, and then introduces Mary Magdalene almost immediately at the beginning of Luke 8, is it not likely that he considered them to be the same person.

2. A more plausible conclusion is that Mary Magdalene was a person of means and as a companion of the wife of Herod’s steward, was a woman of high social status and not the prostitute she was said to have been.

C. But even though Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute with little means, she still needed Spiritual transformation.

1. She may have been a wealthy self-absorbed woman, and she certainly was one who had somehow come under the control of seven demons.

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