By Brooke Holt
“For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we have among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10
When pagans become Christ worshippers, people notice! Recently, I read of a NDE (near death experience) in which a young man, who had been quite rebellious and cruel, came face to face with Jesus. Instead of seeing all his sins displayed before his eyes, the Lord revealed the ways in which his actions had impacted people. From that perspective, the young man was undone and repentant for the ways in which he had behaved. When he received a second lot on life, he was a completely different man. He became known for his godly transformation. Due to this NDE, the man has lived his life completely sold out for Jesus and intent upon building his kingdom. The man’s friends and those whom he had hurt experienced a very different man!
In Philippi, the church was filled with converted Jews, God-fearing Greeks, and then people who had turned from the pagan worship of idols to serving the Lord Jesus Christ. Imagine the shock of the pagan friends who saw this change in orientation, worship, and behavior. People in Philippi were talking about what was happening at this new church. That kind of talk often draws others to come and see. What could compel pagans to become Christians?
More significantly, what would compel these new Christians to radically change their lifestyles? They did not do the things they used to do (pagan practices at that time were perverse and gruesome); they spent their time differently; and their attitudes and opinions would have changed. These converts became walking billboards for the power of the Gospel. People marveled and talked about these conversions. As those people came to the church to see and hear the Gospel for themselves, many more were likely converted as well.
Jesus accepts people just as they are, but he does not leave them that way. His love, grace, and goodness challenge them and invite them to receive and then to give. Receive love, grace, and goodness then share those with others. Jesus’ holiness compels people to give up ways of living that are contrary to his will. When the tax collectors and prostitutes hung up with Jesus, they changed their lifestyles and their means of income.
How has Jesus changed your life? Do you allow his Word to challenge and convict you? Do you daily receive his love, grace, and goodness so that you can’t help but overflow those same gifts onto others? Have people noticed your spiritual growth and transformation and asked you what was different and why?
Jesus loves you as you are, but he longs to see you become all that he created you to be. He wants you daily to look more and more like him. Pray for that transformation today and watch the Lord do his holy work in you and then through you.
How might the Lord want to begin this divine transformation in you today? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Advent is like celebrating a national holiday in a foreign land — like observing the 4th of July as an expatriate. Locals do not understand the fuss. Advent is equal parts cherishing and missing home. AND it’s a mix of loving this world while getting ready to leave it behind. This makes Advent the most human and most complex celebration we have. Isaiah the prophet, David the psalmist, Paul the apostle, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus all lived in one world and longed for the next. They loved this world and loved the world to come even more. In these 28 devotions in Face the Dawn, join them in wearing the paradox of Christianity- this world may be our home, but that world is HOME.
See all our Advent Devotionals and Studies here.
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