Summary: Jesus has not only washed us clean from our sins, he energizes us for continual service.
You’ve seen these pictures in newspapers and in magazines advertising some procedure to make you look younger. They’re “before” and “after” pictures. But to tell you the truth, the only difference I see between some “before” and “after” pictures is that in the “before” picture the individual is scowling while in the “after” picture she is smiling. Otherwise, as far as I can tell, there has been no change to the individual, which makes me wonder about the product they are pushing.
Is the same true for Christians? If we were to look at spiritual “before” and “after” pictures of ourselves, would we see any difference? I mean it’s not like you can go to the farmers’ market and pick out the Christians just by the way they look. There is a difference between Christians and non-Christians assures the Apostle Paul. Let’s find out what those differences are as we ponder our spiritual “before” and “after” pictures.
Paul’s Holy Spirit-inspired “before” picture of us begins with this description: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” (Colossians 1:21). It’s not a pretty picture but is Paul exaggerating? Those of you who can remember a time when you were not a follower of Jesus may insist that you were never an enemy of God; you just didn’t think he was very important. It’s a bit like how I feel about the Oilers. I’m not against the Oilers but I’m not exactly a fan either. I just think there are more important things to do with my time than to follow that team.
But this attitude, that there is something more important than God and his Word is exactly what makes us his enemies, for this self-centered attitude will show in our thoughts and actions. Later in his letter to the Colossian Christians Paul defined evil thoughts and actions like this: “…sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:5b-9).
Let’s just pick out two of those sins: greed and filthy language. The sin of greed is no stranger to boardrooms because it’s well practiced in toy rooms. Children whose toy boxes are bursting with playthings think nothing of insisting that a visiting friend hand over the one toy he brought. If greed doesn’t manifest itself there, it will at snack time when Mom has to carefully count out the number of crackers each child gets lest there be a wail of protest over the extra one another received. Greed. It’s a sin because it shows lack of love for others and only concern with oneself. But this world thinks nothing of that sin. Oh, they say that greed is not a virtue but they often excuse it by calling greed: “Getting what I have coming to me.” Do we Christians too struggle with this “entitlement” mentality?