This is part of a blog series on Spiritual Leadership.
October 15, 1974.
As an elementary student I went to the Good News Club after school, and through the story of the Wordless Book, I prayed and invited Jesus into my heart. Today I celebrate 40 years of being a follower of Jesus.
July 27, 1972.
I was a teenager on a destructive path. On this day Jesus radically changed my life.
April 6, 2000.
I was a college student that thought he knew everything. I was a philosophy major, after all. But then someone shared Jesus with me and I surrendered my life to the One who is THE way, the truth, and the life. My life would never be the same after this day.
Like these situations above, how many of you have a specific date that you mark on your calendars that draws the line in the sand from when you crossed from your old life to your new life in Christ?
On the other hand, how many of you are like me?
That is, you can’t really pinpoint an exact date but you know in your heart of hearts that you’ve embraced Jesus as your Lord and Savior?
I was 7 years old. I think. I’m sure my mom can remember it better than I can. Maybe I was just “asking Jesus into my heart” because that’s what my brother was doing. I’m not sure how much I even understood 4 years later when I was baptized. I remember making a clear decision when I was 15 to make Jesus the Lord of my life, and then again when I was 20, when really He had been that for me all along. If I be honest, I think I tell people “saved at 7, baptized at 11” like a rhyming limerick because that’s what my tradition says I’m supposed to say. Truth it, I’m not sure exactly when I crossed from the old life to the new life. I just know that I did.
This first stream of Spiritual Formation – the New Life Stream – emphasizes the necessity of personal conversion to Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures. Being a disciple requires more than church attendance, religious activity, the partaking of sacraments, or the agreement with a creed. Without denying the importance of these disciplines, this stream prioritizes the conversion of the whole of one’s life to God. It involves repentance (initial and continual turning from sin) and exclusive trust in Jesus as the only way to eternal life.
Like many before and after me, the first verse I was taught to memorize was John 3:16. This comes during Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus in which He tells Nicodemus that he must be “born again.” We love this verse. We crochet this verse and hang it on our walls, we tattoo this verse on our arms, and hand this verse out on the streets.
But Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus wasn’t a cookie-cutter approach for all time. In fact, this is the only time in the Scriptures Jesus talks about being “born again.”
So, could there be a different experience?
“Today salvation has come to this house,” He said of Zacchaeus, who He specifically called out of a sycamore tree and into a changed life. This changed life then sees Zacchaeus as giving back four-fold, holding nothing back.
Rather than wait for Jesus to come to him, the Roman centurion shows genuine concern for his dying slave- so much so that he sends his people to Jesus to plead for mercy on behalf of someone beneath him in status. Even Jesus expresses his amazement for the faith of this official.
“I know the Messiah called Christ is coming”, she says of the Living Water being offered. He then shockingly revealed Himself as the Messiah, which caused this previously shamed woman-of-five-husbands to run out into the streets to anyone who could hear, proclaiming with new boldness and faith, “Come and see!”
To the woman caught in adultery Jesus boldly proclaimed, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin.”
When the Pharisees see a man healed on the Sabbath they start investigating a miraculous healing because it was an encroachment on their traditions. With dried mud still caked on his eyes and Jesus nowhere in sight, the man at the Pool of Siloam answers the Pharisees’ interrogating questions with, “I don’t know. But one thing I do know: I was blind, but now I see!”
And what about those last days?
Even in the thief’s final moments on this Earth, Jesus invited the man on the adjacent cross to join Him in the next life.
For each of these people, Jesus worked differently. You see, God doesn’t work in everyone’s life in just the same way.
For each of these people, Jesus worked differently. But what was the same is how Jesus called them to something completely new. As the old saying goes, “God loves you just as you are, but refuses to let you stay that way.” As an even older saying goes, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…” So, if that is true, how does this new creation look different from the old life?
But before we get to John’s Story, what is your story?
Do you have an exact date that you remember as the time you became a follower of Jesus?
Do you think this “date” is necessary in order to have the assurance of New Life?