Changing Sides (The Story of Salvation and Santification)
A few years ago I met with a gifted athlete and student, not yet a believer. He was raised in the church, so he knows the storyline, but he’s not yet committed his life to Jesus and he knows it. The good news is, like many young people, he finds Jesus compelling and wants to believe, but is wary of religious Christianity.
Perhaps you too, have a son, or daughter, or grandchild who believes Jesus is the son of God and has an interest in being more like him, but just doesn’t know what it means to step over the line and follow him.
The following is a presentation I’ve used of what it means to leave your old life and commit yourself to another life and lifestyle. Please cut me some slack. This isn’t a presentation of the gospel but once a person has been presented with the basic facts of the gospel story, is convicted of their sin and their need for Jesus, what does it mean to “commit your life to Jesus Christ?”
Imagine yourself at a stadium and you're playing for your school on a team made up of guys you’ve been friends with for many years. As you sit on the bench on the sidelines, their talk is familiar and friendly. You belong! You’re proud to wear the jersey of your team.
Nevertheless, lately you’ve been having doubts. You’ve had doubts about their life, your life. Does it really have purpose and meaning? The coach could care less about character or behavior on or off the field as long as you win. The things your team does to win sometimes makes you wince. The bravado, the egos and the arrogance have replaced sportsmanship and the honor of representing your school. It’s all about each man, trying to best the other or impress the girls. But it's never enough.
However, for many seasons you’ve been watching the other team across the field. They’re different. (There are some dorks and odd-balls on their team – but whatever!) But, their coach is kind, and encouraging. You’ve heard rumors off the field, that he cares about his players. When they screw up, he’s quick to forgive and encourage. He insists his players play by the rules. The whole team understands that honor and teamwork are more important than every win – but they do seem to win the most important games!
As you’ve watched them, you find yourself attracted to whatever it is that they have. And now, you find yourself wanting what they have desperately, but are scared to death of leaving the familiar. And you’re not even sure if the other coach and the other team will even accept you.
The Call: from across the field, you notice something. The coach is staring directly at you. Something in his eyes tell you he’s read your mind, understands your struggles and cares about you. As your eyes lock, you see him mouthing these words, “I want you. Take off your team’s jersey and come.” You’re stunned that he even noticed you and wants you. You’re not one of the super-stars, but no matter- he wants you!
You find his gaze so compelling that you stand, staring and to your surprise you find yourself removing your old jersey. As you walk away from your team, they call you names and urge you back, but their voices are drowned out by those of your new teammates across the field cheering you on.
As you approach the coach, he has a new jersey for you. And, as you put it on, you feel accepted immediately. The coach shakes your hand, puts his arm over your shoulder and says, “I’ll see you at practice tomorrow. I’m going to teach you how we play the game. It will take a while to lose the bad habits you’ve learned, but I’ll teach you and you’ll love it. Welcome to the team!”
The Christians New Uniform“… You have taken off your old self, with its practices and have put on the new self… Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly beloved, cloth yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:9b and 12
What it means to “surrender your life to Christ,” is to understand that you have faith enough in Jesus divinity and message to answer his call to come follow me. Jesus doesn’t require “super-faith,” but enough to consciously leave your old allegiances and lifestyle. That means there are some ways you’ve defined yourself that you will have to renounce – walk away from. Sanctification is the process after salvation whereby true Christians, by the power of the Holy Spirit willingly adopt the virtues of Christ over time. It rarely happens all at once. However, every true Christian should long to imitate Christ in their behavior, privately and publicaly. "By their fruits you will know them."
Personally, for me 40 years ago, almost immediately after I surrendered to Christ I felt compelled to “put off” filthy talk, and obsession with success and material things and “put on” purity, humility and contentment. This wasn’t legalism! No human told me what I had to do, but the Holy Spirit, (my new life coach) helped me understand that if I'm on his team he expects me to act like it, thereby identify publically as a member of his team, by virtues of my virtues. The outward uniform of his team were the virtues of the Christian faith. Because I wanted to imitate Jesus, more than anything, I asked the Holy Spirit to help me take off my old identity, and put on the virtues that demonstrated I now belonged to Team Jesus. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’m still working on staying fully surrendered and in uniform. I'm ashamed how often I can slip out of uniform.)
So, here’s my question – how would you improve my illustration? Do you have one of your own describing what it means to follow Jesus, you’d like to share with us?