BEFORE AND AFTER

By John R. Funk

Like many, I was required to take sociology, psychology and philosophy courses when I was in college.  In general, these were entry level courses which were supposed to make us “well rounded” and “analytical” even if they were not specifically related to our chosen field of study.  To be honest, I couldn’t see how these courses would help me in getting my accounting degree or even my law degree.  I considered them to be interesting at the time and I did not question whether these courses were worth the money that my parents (and my scholarship) were contributing to the cause of higher learning.  However, questions which arose when I was taking these courses were:  Who am I?  Where did I come from?  Who am I going to be?

I was never one to buy into many of the theories propounded in these courses but I did learn to regurgitate the required answers so that I always scored well on tests.  Despite the failure of my post-secondary education to convert me to a life grounded in something other than my core belief system, I still considered these questions as I went through college and even later in life.  I believe that I probably share this life experience with most other people.

 

Have you ever considered who you really are, where you came from and who you are going to be?  When I ask these questions, I do not consider them in the physical sense but rather in the philosophical or more to the point, the spiritual sense.  Do you ever look upon your life and contemplate the answers to these questions?  How did I get here (in my belief system)?  If I am a Christian, who was I before I became a Christian?  If I am a Christian, where does this eventually lead?  If I am not a Christian, where will this path take me? 

 

Are these questions important or are they simply an intellectual exercise?  It seems that many people go through life on a day by day basis never worrying about anything other than getting a paycheck, making plans to watch next weekend’s football game or buying a six pack on the way home from work.  I suspect that many would believe that spending any time thinking about these issues is a waste.  Does it really matter?  Shouldn’t I dedicate my time to more concrete issues such as taking care of my job, my car, my hobby, my house, my spouse or my kids (in that order)?  What is the point anyway?  Live and let live.  Don’t bother me with these things because life is too short.  Can’t we all just get along?

 

The fact of the matter is that life is too short and that is exactly the reason why we should contemplate these questions of life.  When given proper consideration, it becomes clear that the answers to these questions define one’s life and more importantly, determine one’s afterlife.  And while I know that there are those out there who believe that there is no afterlife, I believe that the evidence is to the contrary.  Just because you believe that it is so does not make it so.  Before you write off the possibility of an eternal existence, you might want to make absolutely sure because the bet that you are making with this assumption has unfathomable consequences if you are wrong.

 

I can tell you one thing after all of those courses – the Bible as the divine Word of God contains the answers.  Through the years as I dealt with these issues in my life, I turned to the Bible again and again to find the answers I needed and it seemed that this one book was the source for ultimate understanding.  If I really wanted to know who I had been in God’s eyes, I merely had to read His Word.

 

Also, like many, I have those books in the Bible that are my favorites.  While every verse in the Bible is God-breathed and all of God’s Word is beneficial for one purpose or another, there are still those books that seem to speak to me specifically.  Perhaps it is the subject matter, perhaps it is the author or perhaps it is my current situation in life but nonetheless, I find that I turn to certain books more than others.  The Book of Romans in the New Testament is such a book and it is one book that speaks to this issue for me.

 

Romans 3:9-18

** New American Standard Bible

King James Version

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10as it is written,

“There is none righteous, not even one;

11 There Is none who understands,

 There is none who seeks for God;

12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;

    There is none who does good,

    There is not even one.”

13    “Their throat is an open grave,

    With their tongues they keep deceiving,”

    “The poison of asps is under their lips”;

14    “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;

15    “Their feet are swift to shed blood,

16    Destruction and misery are in their paths,

17    And the path of peace they have not known.”

18    “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

9What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17And the way of peace have they not known: 18There is no fear of God before their eyes.

 

In this passage the apostle Paul is talking about the difference between Jews and Gentiles as it concerns the Kingdom of God.  Keep in mind that anything you read in the Bible needs to be read in sociological and historical context.  Therefore, at this point in time in Church history, Jews were looking upon themselves as being more deserving of God’s grace than were Gentiles.  Gentiles were the equivalent of dogs in Jewish society and therefore only deserving of the “crumbs that fell from their master’s table.”  Paul was trying to dispel that belief and here he wants the listener to understand their spiritual condition absent acceptance of the gift of salvation through belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  This description is just as applicable to us today as it was to the Jew in the First Century Church.

 

Who are you before accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and repenting of your sin?  What is your spiritual condition?  This is the description that Paul provides:

Unrighteous; not understanding; not seeking God; turning aside; useless; not doing good, not even one; lying and deceiving to the extent that their very speech is poisonous; cursing and bitterness proceed out of their mouths; murderous to the extent that they are swift in their want to shed the blood of others; spreading destruction and misery are their purpose; peace is not a part of their lives; and, they have no fear of God.

 

That is certainly not a pretty picture, is it?  But this is how God sees us.  More to the point, this is what our lives look like absent conversion by faith.  This is description of the “natural man” and unlike what many behavioral scientists would have us believe, man is not inherently good.  Man is a fallen creature corrupted by original sin and absent God’s intervention, this description is apt.  Okay, I know that there are those who will vehemently disagree with this assessment but in support of this premise, let me submit the following:  Have you ever encountered an uncontrolled and undisciplined two year old?  As the father of three, I feel more than qualified to answer the question.  It is nerve-wracking.  This is an example of the “natural man” running wild.  And this example is not limited to two year olds.  Have you ever encountered any person who believes that they are “entitled” or “deserving”?  Do you know anyone who thinks that the world revolves around them, so to speak, or that it, at least, should all be about them?  This is the topic of more teen movies than I can count.  However, in the end, this is how people will act if left to their own devices.  The reason is that there is no ultimate accountability, no ultimate price to pay, no eternal consequence for the unbeliever.  And this makes perfect sense because if I do not have accountability, then why shouldn’t it all be about me (or them)? 

 

I used to have a friend like this but I did not realize it before it was too late and he took advantage of me and others for a very large sum of money.  The greatest loss was not the money but instead, was the relationship and I fear, his eternal security.  After reflecting upon his actions and the way he looked at life, I now believe that he is lost.  I hope I am wrong but I do not believe that this is the case.  And Paul’s description, to some extent, is accurate when I think about my former friend.

 

That is who we were but after accepting the love of God expressed through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross, that is not who we should be.  The life of the believer is a life of repentance or a turning away from the old life and a conversion or rebirth thereby becoming a new person before God. 

 

Galatians 4:4-7

** New American Standard Bible

King James Version

4But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

 

 

Previously, we were slaves to our own desires and the things of this world but with acceptance of the gift of salvation, we are adopted as sons, an “heir of God through Christ.”  This distinction is important because, once again, we have to read this passage according to its context.  We are adopted or given the same legal status as sons of God.  Adopted children are viewed in the eyes of the law as being the same as natural born children.  Sons were allowed to inherit in this day and time; daughters were considered to be less than equal.  Therefore, we will stand before God with the same legal standing as a son capable of inheriting.  We cry out to God, “Abba”, or in the vernacular, “Daddy.”  He redeems us or buys us thereby setting us free from the bonds of slavery.

 

Back in the Book of Romans, Paul then paints a picture of our lives following salvation.  That life is a direct contrast to the picture provided in Chapter 3 of Romans.

 

Romans 5:1-5

** New American Standard Bible

King James Version

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

 

 

What a difference!  Once we have been “justified” or found just because of our faith, our condition completely changes.  This miracle of salvation renders us just or deserving of God’s grace.  It is not something that we did to deserve it; it is simply something that is given to us because we come to God in faith.  It is a gift so that no man can boast.  (Ephesians 2:8-10). 

 

That choice then provides us a sense of peace with God.  Before in Chapter 3, it seemed that we are everything that God does not want us to be but with this step of faith, everything changes.  Peace now comes, not necessarily in life, but peace with God.  We no longer have to live in fear; instead, we can live knowing that this life is but a step we take before entering into eternity with God the Father or “Abba, Father”.  We can now experience the grace or unmerited favor of God.  God’s favor that we do not deserve but it is something that He just gives us because of who we now are – adopted sons and heirs of the Father in heaven, the Creator of the universe, Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.  We exult or glory in this hope that we now have knowing that we will one day stand in the presence of Almighty God.

 

Does this mean that life is now a free ride?  Does it mean that there will no more trouble, no more obstacles?  Does it mean that only good is coming my way or that bad things will never happen to me again?  No, it doesn’t mean this at all.  Keeping an eternal view of existence and not a temporal view is very important as a Christian; in fact, this is something that many immature Christians struggle with.

 

There will still be struggles and trials in life.  However, Paul now says that when these troubles comes our way, we can glory in them because of what we now know.  We now know that when tribulations come, we will learn perseverance.  With that perseverance, character develops.  As our character develops, hope arises.  With that hope, we will never be disappointed because through it all, the love of God is poured into our hearts through the workings of the Holy Spirit or God’s Presence.  The Holy Spirit is the Comforter that Jesus promised prior to His death.  He spent His time with the twelve equipping them for service but now, we have the Holy Spirit as a part of us.  Do you ever remember anyone telling you that God always knows what you say, think or do?  They weren’t lying because as believer, He is actually a part of you, always there, never forsaking you. 

 

In the end, that is who we are.  We are the adopted children of God, indwelled by the Holy Spirit.

 

Romans 8:28-30

** New American Standard Bible

King James Version

And we know that £God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

 

 

So now we know who we are supposed to be after our salvation by faith in the Son of God – conformed to His image, called by God for His purposes and predestined for such a calling, one amongst the many following Jesus Christ as the firstborn, justified by faith and glorified through God the Father.  An easy life?  No, but one worth living, for now and for all eternity.

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Published in: on January 30, 2008 at 3:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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