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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Before and After Pictures

I lost 35 lbs. within the last year. I weighed over 200 lbs. in the picture for my profile. Obviously, I need to change the picture. Maybe I should put a before and after picture.

Before and after pictures are common for physical attributes. They show the difference a diet and/or an exercise program makes. They are common for the cosmetic industry. How many times have you seen an ad where the wrinkles disappear as the screen shows before and after pictures of a certain product? You wonder if it is really that effective. You can do a lot with photography these days.

Television has done wonders with before and after pictures. Many reality tv programs are really before and after shots. They take the house that is incredibly cluttered and clean it. They take the house that is run down and renovate it. They take a person and do an "extreme makeover." All of these include before and after pictures. Everyone loves to see what can happen to a house, a yard or a person. Maybe people are thinking that things aren't hopeless for themselves when they see what can be done for those who appear to be hopeless.

Wouldn't it be amazing to see the "after" the "after" photos? What would we see if the tv cameras came back a year after the makeovers? Would we see people who have gained back their weight and re-cluttered their houses? I think it is very likely. An outward change does not last.

You can see this with predictable frequency in those who have won the lottery. So many times you see that they are bankrupt and wishing they had never won the lottery. Winning the lottery does not change the person on the inside. It merely changes the outside. Many people did not handle their money responsibly when they were poor. Does anyone really believe they will be responsible when they are rich?

This is one of the reasons I like "The Biggest Loser." At least, this program tries to teach these overweight people how to lose the weight and maintain a healthy diet. They try to change the person on the inside.

However, people really can't be changed. They can change but they cannot be changed. Something must happen on the inside before there will be a lasting change on the outside.

I have heard there are only three things that can cause change. They are: brain surgery, deep psychotherapy and religious conversion. Who doubts what a lobotomy will do? Surely, people must go to psychotherapist because it works. And many of us who know Jesus Christ can attest that we have been changed.

Christians should be walking before and after pictures. We should be able to explain how we were and how we are by what we have become. Those who show no difference must admit that there was nothing that happened on the inside. They should doubt whether or not they are believers. Christ comes to live in a believer. He will clean the house He resides in. He will change your life from the inside out. If there is no change on the inside, there will truly be no change in you.

Do you have a before and after picture of your life? Can you look back at who you were and see how Christ has changed you? Can you see how He has given you forgiveness for people you normally would not have forgiven? Can you see how He has given you grace toward people whom you would normally despise? Can you see how your language, your habits and your work has changed because of Christ?

I served in a church once where the Chairman of Deacons was a real snake in the grass. He was known for his underhanded dealings in the community. The pastor of the church told me that he was really a very kind man when he came to church. I said, "I don't really care. Jesus didn't save us so that we would be kind when we get to church. Salvation is an all-the-time thing or it isn't anything at all."

The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde must not be the testimony of the Christian. The way we act at church must be consistent with the way we act out of church or we are merely putting on a performance. We may have convinced the audience we have become the character we are playing. This is not the Christian life. Christians become like Jesus not because we have acted our way into His characteristics but because we have surrendered our way into His way. The result is a change within.

Do you have a before and after picture of your Christian life? You should. It is called your testimony.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

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