(Good News Series – Part 3)
By Lauren M.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…” (2 Cor. 5:17, ESV)
Suggested activity for the day: The Poker Face Challenge.
Step 1: Wash your feet (this part is optional but you might have a hard time getting a volunteer for Step 3 if you skip Step 1).
Step 2: Find a feather duster.
Step 3: Ask a family member or friend to tickle your feet with a feather duster for two minutes.
Step 4: Try to maintain a poker face even while your family member of friend is tickling you. No laughing or smiling allowed.
How did you do? Congratulations to everyone who successfully completed the Poker Face Challenge! In case you giggled or grinned during the tickling session, don’t worry. Even if you have a strong willpower, it’s really not that easy to control one’s laughter (unless perhaps you’re not ticklish at all).
As we can see from this activity, it can be difficult at times to change the way we act. Yet as hard as controlling one’s actions is, it’s even more impossible to change who we are.
No matter what sins we are struggling with – whether it be obvious ones such as stealing, cursing or drug abuse or the supposedly “respectable” but equally deadly ones such as anger, bitterness or pride – it’s much more conceivable to avoid acts of sin than to suddenly become someone who is not attracted to that sin at all. For instance, someone with a temper problem could avoid people for the rest of his life so he can avoid shouting at others. But even if he stays in the middle of the Sahara desert, he still remains an angry person, with anger seething in his being.
But the good news is that Jesus didn’t just reform people, He actually transformed them. Let’s revisit three people whom we met in our previous virtual trip to ancient Israel and see what happened after they spent time with Jesus.
Matthew, as we already know, was shunned by the Jews (Matt. 9:9-11). Yet because of his encounter with Jesus, not only did he stop being an enemy of Israel, he actually even wrote the Gospel of Matthew – which out of the four gospels is the one that is specifically directed towards other Jews! We may not be sure why he decided to become a tax collector in the first place, whether it was because he was disillusioned due to the hypocrisy of the leaders of Israel or simply because he had urgent financial needs. But what we do know for certain is that Jesus transformed Matthew from a traitor to his country into a true Israelite.
Peter, on the other hand, was too emotional by nature. He made rash promises that he could not keep (Matt. 36:35) and he made impulsive decisions that could cause harm to him and others (John 18:10). Yet Jesus changed Peter from a man who could not control his own temper and curb his own tongue into a reliable and dependable leader of the early church (see Acts). He also transformed Peter from someone who was cowardly enough to deny his Master (Luke 22:55-62) into someone who was brave enough to give his life for his Lord (it is traditionally believed that Peter was martyred for the sake of the gospel).
Paul used to be such a well-known persecutor of Christians that other believers felt hesitant to welcome him at first even after he became a Christian himself (Acts 9:11-14). But later on, he actually risked his own life again and again because of his faith (see Acts). And he was able to share the good news with others, not just during his lifetime but even beyond his lifetime, because the personal letters that he left behind are now part of the Bible. Paul was transformed from an official enemy of Christ and of Christians into a faithful lover of Jesus.
To be honest, I almost decided earlier not to post what I wrote above. I never was a mild and meek sweetie pie girl, even after I became a believer. And I acted especially worse these past several days. But I decided to just go ahead and post this anyway because, after all, transformation in Christ is real, even if I’m not exactly a poster child for it.
Whether we are trying to change for the better in our own strength or we are Christians who feel frustrated because we still struggle a lot with sin, Jesus can do for us what we cannot do on our own. He can help us to change not just how we act but our very being as well. And even if we are already new beings in Christ, I still believe that He can continue to work in us so that our true nature will gradually be revealed to others and to our doubting selves.
Thanks be to Jesus, who was willing to shed His blood on the cross to take away our sin and to give us His own righteousness.