Before And After :: By Nathele Graham

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

We all are born into this world as babies…then the fight begins. It’s a spiritual battle played out in the physical dimension. A baby has physical needs and can only make those needs known by crying. A loving parent changes the diaper or eases the hunger pains. The child soon learns to be selfish and demands their own way. This is the beginning of the spiritual battle for the soul of a person. Toys become idols and cookies aren’t to be shared. As they grow older, lusts become more sinful. If the child is born into a Christian household, there’s a solid foundation on which to build a life, and the lust of the flesh isn’t tolerated.

No matter what teaching a young person receives, there are always choices to be made every day. Do I engage in sin or do I resist temptation? The most important choice in life is whether or not to accept Christ for salvation. A wise person chooses Christ. When Christ is chosen, that person becomes a new creation…they are born again.

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Before that point, sin ruled. By God’s standards we all fall short of His expectations. Our only hope is Jesus. Without Him we are forever lost.

Before we accepted Christ, we had no moral guidance. Right and wrong were whatever was right in your own eyes. After coming to Christ, our moral guide is found in Scripture. If we don’t allow Him to change our moral outlook, there’s a problem. That’s when you need to question whether or not you truly gave your life to Christ who gave His life for you.

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

As you read through that list, you might not see yourself in it, but you are there. You may never have stolen anything, but if you’ve ever thought about taking something that wasn’t yours, then by God’s standards you’re a thief. Jesus said that even the thought of sin is just like actually committing the sin. Any sexual activity outside of a one man/one woman marriage is sin, but before you were a Christian, you probably didn’t see anything wrong with it. After giving your life to Christ, that should change.

“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

The blood of Christ changes everything. Before we came to know Jesus, sin wasn’t something we fought. After accepting Christ for salvation, our attitude should change. Before you came to Christ, sin was seen as a normal and acceptable part of life…now it isn’t.

Disobedience to God isn’t anything new, but it’s never acceptable to Him. We choose sin and disobedience, and we also choose to reject Jesus. By doing so, we choose eternal death.

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

Adam had one rule: Don’t eat the forbidden fruit. His disobedience to God caused the sin and death we see around us today. Satan lied, and that liar is still working his evil in the world today. Many people seek after the sinful lust of the flesh but don’t recognize lust as sin. There’s no hope in sin.

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).

Only Jesus Christ can deliver you from eternal death. Before you came to Christ, you were lost in sin and death. After you accepted Christ for salvation, you were justified. Now it’s time to live for Him.

Sin separates us from God, so we cannot possibly be good enough to get to Heaven by our own merit. Jesus paid for our redemption.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:23-26). 

Salvation through Jesus Christ is a free gift. If you’ve accepted this gift, your sins are forgiven and you’re a new creation through Him.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

When you realized that you were dying in sin and accepted Christ’s shed blood for salvation, you were justified. That means He forgave your sin; and instead of eternal death, you gained eternal life. Instead of seeing the blackness and ugliness of the sin that separated you from Him, God now views you through the righteous shed blood of Jesus. Now it’s time to grow. You were a sinner bound for eternal damnation, but now you’re a sinner saved by grace. That inner change should be evident by outer action.

There’s no possible way for a new believer to know every sin ever committed or every stumbling block to come, but there should be repentance over past sin and a desire to please God in the future.

“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).

Works cannot add to our salvation. We are saved by the grace of God; but out of love and gratitude for what Jesus did, we need to begin working for Him. Scripture is our guide. Before you came to Christ you probably never studied Scripture. What about now? How can you know how to live for Him if you don’t study His guide book? We know the unhappiness that lustful living and sin can bring, but the joy of salvation is something only a life lived for Christ can bring. You were once ruled by sin, but now be ruled by Christ.

After you’ve turned to Christ for salvation, you need to stop making excuses for the sin in your own life, but you need to also stop accepting sin in those around you. There’s a fine line between loving the sinner and condoning the sin. Christian congregations shouldn’t be filled with people who are comfortable in their sin or with people who take pleasure in the sin of others.

“Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:32).

Using Scripture as the standard by which we judge isn’t wrong. We can’t expect people who reject Christ to live by His laws, but within our congregations if sin is embraced and the congregation takes pleasure in it, then there’s a problem. There’s a difference between a person who recognizes their sin and is fighting to change and one who happily continues in sin. God isn’t pleased when we take pleasure in the sin of people who claim to be Christians but don’t follow Christ. We are all in the ministry of reconciliation and need to help each other to come away from sin.

“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

You ignore an important responsibility of your salvation if you don’t care if others are reconciled to Christ.

A question that many ask is how much sin can I continue to commit and still be saved? If you’re still living with one foot in the world, a better question is how sincere you were when you asked Christ to forgive your sin. We have freedom in Christ, but we aren’t free to continue to take pleasure in sin.

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

The Holy Spirit resides in all who have truly accepted Christ’s shed blood for salvation. Whatever we do, we take Him with us. We are to walk in the spirit and allow Him to guide us.

“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:16-17).

Christians aren’t to be double-minded, but are to turn away from the lusts of the flesh. Temptations will come our way, but that’s when we go to the Lord in prayer.

Scripture will help a new Christian to grow in the Lord, and will help an older Christian to walk the narrow path. To fight temptation, we need to take control of our thoughts and let God’s light lead us.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).

Christians are in a spiritual fight. That fight manifests in the physical world, but our weapons of war are spiritual. When temptation comes along, fight with spiritual weapons. Continual prayer will keep God in your thoughts, and Scripture will keep Him in your heart. Jesus fought the temptations Satan put before Him by quoting Scripture. If you take time to memorize Scripture, it will be there when you need to fight a Spiritual battle. Start by memorizing the Ten Commandments. Before you gave your life to Christ, you didn’t care about fighting sin. Now it should matter a lot.

Before you gave your life to Christ, you were lost and without hope.

“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).

After accepting Christ for salvation, you are a new creation of God, bound for eternal life.

“That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). 

Live for Christ today.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

twotug@embarqmail.com

www.straitandnarrowministry.com

ron@straitandnarrowministry.com

Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html

All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God breathed.

If you’d like to be on my mailing list to receive the commentaries, just drop me an email and let me know.