I Must Live it First
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5
While struggling with my drug addiction, though my faith suffered, I still occasionally went to church, read Christian books, and listened to Christian speakers. I was seeking a way out of my mess, and I believed the answer lay in my faith. So, whenever I heard someone explain how God changes us, my ears perked up, hoping to learn the secret. What I heard was often discouraging. Usually, the speaker would describe transformation in vague terms, never offering any personal experience. It appeared that he or she had some theoretical knowledge, without having been through the process personally. I don’t know that they had some big, horrible addiction, and maybe that was the problem. They’d yet to allow God to radically change them. And so, they couldn’t help me.
I’ve been guilty of doing something similar. In my own addiction, while pretending to be sober, I did try to help others occasionally. I was seeking recovery, and I tried to point others to it. I’d yet to find transformation myself though, so it was profound hypocrisy to pretend to know what anyone else should do, while still wallowing in my own addiction. I was lost. How could I point the way to others?
In today’s passage, Paul reminded his audience that when he brought the gospel to them, it was as a changed man. God first transformed Paul, so that he could carry the transforming message of the gospel. Paul didn’t come as one preaching something he didn’t live. First, he was changed. Then, God used him to change others.
That’s how God’s message of redemption is supposed to work. We hear it. We believe it. And then, we are to be transformed by it. That’s the step we’re often stuck on though. Yes, we believe in God, but we still live our way. We believe one set of things, but we live in a manner that really isn’t compatible with those beliefs. And so, we never get the point where God uses us to change others.
If we claim to follow Christ, then daily, we must go to him, asking where we still require transformation. We don’t have to be perfect, but daily, we do need to abandon our lust, greed, addictions, anger, selfishness, and pride. Daily, we must seek God and his will. Then, as we are being transformed, he will use us as part of his plan to transform those around us.