Christians have been talking about what happens when you give your life to Jesus for a long time, but what do they really mean? What does “conversion” really look like? […]
Christians have been talking about what happens when you give your life to Jesus for a long time, but what do they really mean? What does “conversion” really look like? What really changes when you become a “believer”?
This message is from my Twitch channel’s Devos & Chill series where, on Thursdays, I give a short message before we get into the gaming. Please join us!
I’ve already said a bunch of times that the letter we’re going through from the Apostle Paul to the Philippian church is a love letter from a pastor to his church family. They want the best for each other, and they’ve shown that in words and in how they take care of one another – especially the Philippian church taking care of Paul.
Let me read the section we’re in again, and while I do, notice how it starts with Paul saying he prays for them and he loves them. Then he explains a bit of his love for them, and at the end, what he prays for.
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:3–11)
So, let’s break down verses 9-11 for a moment and figure out what Paul asks God for when he thinks about these people that he loves so much.
First, he prays that this new form of Christlike love, would grow more and more.
Second, he wants that love to be connected to knowledge and discernment, what we might call wisdom.
Third, that their ever expanding, wise, miraculous love, would bear the fruit of being able to figure out what in this world is excellent, discern what actions are best, differentiate right and wrong, good and bad, healthy and dangerous, important and unimportant.
And then fourth, that their expanding, wise, love would help them live a good, pure, holy, blameless life. The Greek word means “ray of the sun”, or judged by sunlight. A life that has no shadows, secrets, darkness, or skeletons in the closet.
And fifth, that this kind of life, the good life, the Christian life, would bear “the fruits of righteousness”, meaning that the seed of love Jesus plants within them doesn’t just stay there, but blossoms into something beautiful, and then comes out of them in practical ways. It doesn’t stop with a “pure life”, but continues into connecting that loving and pure life into actions that change the world around them in positive ways. A beautiful love that spills all over people – just like Jesus’ did for us.
And sixth, that this expanding, wise, miraculous, pure, fruitful, practical love would cause them and others to give all the credit to God, and to praise Him for what He has done among them.
Reading this gave me two important thoughts: First, this is the life that God offers us through Jesus Christ. And second, that my prayers for others are way too small.
Think about it. When we talk about the Christian life, what God has done for us, what forgivness through Jesus Christ, and a new relationship with our Creator has done for us — or we’re trying to explain to our friends or family why being a Christian is such a big deal to us, why we follow Jesus and pray and worship and all that other Christian stuff – do we cover all these bases? I know I don’t.
A lot of times our summary of Christianity has all the faith and forgiveness and heaven and love stuff – which are all great, of course – but what is happening inside us is so much more! Think about it. We were enemies of God, stuck in our sin, prideful, miserable, afraid, callous, broken creatures doomed to hell because of our love for ourselves and for sin.
And then God, in His mercy, looks at our pitiful situation and offers to trade His Son’s life for ours, to give our punishment to Jesus, and that if we would simply believe, that we could be adopted into His family. And that’s awesome, but it doesn’t end there!
This passage is such a great summary of what happens when God gets a hold of our heart. Suddenly, feelings that we’d never felt before, love we’d never experienced, starts to enter our hearts. We suddenly care for people we never thought of, we are moved by situations we used to mock, we are drawn to people that used to repel us, we suddenly want to be around people we never wanted to be around… in other words, God’s love starts to abound more and more.
And then, as the feelings grow, so does our discernment, knowledge, and wisdom for how to express that love. Our feelings used to get us into big trouble, or we would be manipulated with them, or they would cause us to do dumb stuff – but as we read God’s word, listen to mature believers, and as the Holy Spirit communicates with us, it’s like our sunglasses are taken off and we’re able to see the real world for the first time! We see spiritual realities we never saw before, and have priorities we never had, and a humility that causes us to seek out wise counsel we never had before.
And then, as we see the world as it really is, suddenly right and wrong become much easier than they were before. Our gut feelings, our perception of reality, or ability to feel out what’s really happening – becomes honed by God and makes it way easier to figure out what is excellent. The things around our house, our habits, our entertainment, our friends, what we put in our mouth, and eyes, and hands – we see it in a new light, and those things start to change because we realize some of them are actually doing us harm.
And then, as our life changes, as our priorities change, as our perception grows – so does our purity, our blamelessness, our holiness. Now, as we walk in the world, guilt and shame are no more. Fear of man goes away. No more sneaking, or trying to remember what lies we told, or feeling dumb for falling for the same temptations over and over. Now, when we talk to people, it’s the real us, not some fake version, and it feels amazing!
Then, that life, that new life, starts affecting the people around us. It’s like we have an aura that affects the world. Our words have more effect. Our generosity goes farther. Our acts of service mean more. Our friendships and marriages deepen. Our community starts to change for the better. Why? Because God is bearing fruit in our lives that we couldn’t bear before. Sure, there’s spiritual opposition, but there is also a lot of good happening. When we tried to do good without God, it wasn’t great. Now, just living our lives, going about our day, and doing it with a connection to God has more positive effect than we could have ever imagined!
And then, as we see all this happening – we see the glory of God, the presence of God, in this world and the people around us, and our heart fills with praise and thanksgiving. The misery, fear, shame, guilt, and pessimism evaporate – and what’s left is a life lived in the sunlight of the presence of God.
I love being a Christian. It’s tough, but it’s also a miracle. I should be more thankful for all that God has done in and through me. And I should be praying this prayer for my family and friends. Because that’s the kind of life that God offers to those who are willing to come to Jesus for forgiveness, and make Him the most important person in their lives.