Conformed to His Image!
This was the most pivotal year of my life. I was at a crossroads and the direction that I took from here would either mean continued years of drifting aimlessly with no sense of direction or initiative, or it could mean the beginning of a brand new way of life for me. Read on…
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,”
The words of Jesus in John 6:37 are especially intriguing to me in light of the fact that I have had two earthly families. I was given up (cast out) by one family for whatever the reason, and taken in by another when I was 7 years old. Although the circumstances surrounding my adoption are oblivious to me, the simple fact of the matter remains that I was rejected. Albeit for good cause it may have been, the reality is that a decision was made by my biological mother & father that I had to be given up for adoption. In the interim between the time that the paperwork was signed giving the America Home Finding Association legal guardianship of my three siblings and me and the time that my adoptive parents took me into their home, I was aware of ‘rejection’ and later in life realized the impact that it had on me. Not only the effect that it had on my psyche as a youth but also how it followed me into adulthood. I cannot really relate to the feelings that a ‘natural’ born child has for their family because I was robbed of that experience. Let me be clear, I am not bitter about it nor do I hold ill-will toward anyone because of it. What happened…. happened, and there was nothing that I could have done to prevent it. I had to adjust…..
Adjustment is an interesting concept because for me it ran the course of anti-social behavior, disobedience to my parents, acting out to get attention, and consenting to activities that I knew were wrong. I allowed myself to consent to bad behavior simply because it offered me an opportunity to be ‘accepted’ by someone. I liked the crowd that I ran with, but I did not necessarily agree with the behavior that it lead me into. I agreed to a lot of the behavior, but not all, there were limits to how far I would go……you get the picture. I really wanted to be accepted by the next higher level of social interaction, but was rejected by that group because of my own bad behavior. I was their friend up until the point that someone they liked better came along, then I found them ‘hiding’ from me when I went to their house to play.
A couple of instances of my anti-social behavior come immediately to mind. On one occasion I got mad at an upper class girl that I ran into at the local post office and punched her in the stomach. It wasn’t too long before she returned the favor and boy did she let the air out of me! I certainly had it coming. There were many times that I would become so angry inside that I would lash out by destroying things. For instance, I once slashed the new curtains in my bedroom with a knife. I had to look at those curtains for a very long time, my adoptive mother made sure of that. And yet there were other times that I became so angry that I would just begin running up & down the streets in my hometown with all of my might, up until I could no longer run due to fatigue. There are other instances, but they are too numerous to list here now.
Because of that bad behavior my new parents talked of taking me back to the ‘home’. My maternal grandmother pulled me aside once and told me that if I didn’t change my ways that my mother (her daughter) was going to have a nervous breakdown. After that conversation I recall laying in bed at night and tearing up thinking ‘here I go again’. I began contemplating running away from home. My dad owned 10 acres of land just north of town that had a small timber attached to it (next to the city landfill). Dad owned a few chickens and I thought that I could live off of the eggs and scrounge up enough food to live on. That idea was fleeting, I wasn’t stupid. None-the-less, I did consider it…. It wasn’t until I was in my late teen’s that I truly understood WHY I behaved the way that I did. It was because I inherited bad behavior at birth. It was only magnified because of my particular circumstances in life.
I have said all of that to say this, life for me CHANGED once I responded to the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At the age of 18, after hearing about the life-changing power of surrendering my life to Jesus, I made the commitment to truly follow him. I was SERIOUS about that. I will post more about that in the coming days.
I know from the natural standpoint what it is to have been associated with two families. One that rejected me and the other that took me in. Now I know that there are two spiritual families that I was acquainted with as well.
Spiritually speaking, there are only two families on earth. The family of Satan and the family of God. You belong to either one or the other. There is no other option. Now I don’t want to risk getting too theological with this, but I want you to understand the basis for my thinking here. The scripture below states my point very well.
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
After the fall of man in the Garden of Eden because of disobedience to God, we ALL died spiritually and every person born from that time forward was born(conceived) in sin, or if you will, was a child of Satan. Stay with me now…
1 Corinthians 15:22
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
God’s Word says that ‘in Adam all die, but if you are in Christ, you will be made alive’. Anyone that accepts God’s free gift of life in Jesus Christ, can be ‘born-again’ into the Family of God. All that is necessary for that to happen is to BELIEVE that God sent His Son to the earth to ‘undo’ what Adam had done in the beginning. Jesus lived a PERFECT LIFE, without sin (unlike Adam), and offered Himself up to be our substitute. He suffered the wrath of God that was meant for us due to our fallen state so that we would would not have to experience eternal separation from God. If we will surrender our lives to Him and believe that He is who He says that He is, then we can be translated from the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of light. There is NO OTHER POWER on the face of this earth that can do that, except by the Spirit of God.
“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:”
1 Corinthians 15:22
“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.”
That is why, as I read the main scripture from above in John 6:37, I know that by responding to the Gospel and turning to Jesus, I will be accepted by God and ‘taken in’. I will never be REJECTED!!
Since that day, my entire perspective on life has changed. I HAVE CHANGED!! It didn’t happen over-night, but it is STILL HAPPENING.
2 Corithians 5:14-15
“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again”
A friend of mine that owned the filling station that I used to ‘hang-out’ in would encourage me every now and then to surrender my life to Jesus. My reply to him was that I was young, and not ready to make that decision. I had a lot of ‘living’ to do and I wanted to have fun! His reply to me at one point was ‘don’t wait too long’ because you never know how long your life is going to be on the earth. As a spring-board into that comment he used the illustration of 14 year old boy that was instantly killed when he rode his 3-wheeler out of a ditch into the path of an on-coming automobile. This was a young man that attended his church and was part of the youth group. That conversation alone was not the reason that I decided to follow Jesus. The real reason was that I KNEW that God’s Word clearly stated that if I refused to accept Jesus as my Savior, that when I died I would spend eternity in hell. My heart confirmed the fact that I was LOST and without HOPE unless I made a decision to turn my life around.
I would never commit to going to church unless I fully intended to go. My dad had always taught me to be a ‘man of my word‘ and I tried to pattern my decisions after that advice. Finally, as time went on I had time to really contemplate whether I really wanted to surrender my will to God’s Will. Finally one particular afternoon after entering once again into a conversation with Jim, I told him that I would go to church on that coming Sunday. After making that commitment to my friend I spent several DAYS mulling it over in my mind, knowing that I had made this commitment I was determined to keep my word. I was a cigarette smoker then and knew that I intended to give that up when I accepted Jesus as Lord of my life. I instantly was a ‘chain’ smoker and drove around town smoking as many cigarettes as I could because in my heart I had already MADE THE DECISION to follow Jesus and knew that once I went to church I would ‘seal the deal’ and my life would be changed.
As Wednesday night of that particular week rolled around I thought to myself, why should I wait until Sunday? So after getting off of work that day I attended the mid-week service at Jim’s church. I fully intended to surrender my life to Jesus that evening, but the pastor didn’t give an ‘altar call’, so I left and went back to the filling station to ‘hang-out’ with Jim. Shortly after arriving at the station the telephone rang and Jim answered. I could only hear one side of the conversation, but it went something like this: ‘yes, I know, he’s standing’ right here with me’. Well it didn’t require a great deal of awareness on my part to realize that the call was from the pastor of that church who was ‘excited’ that I had come to church!
Well, Sunday FINALLY came. I kept my word and went to church. I haven’t a clue what the pastor preached that morning, I was just waiting for the altar call. The pastor offered an invitation to accept Jesus as Lord. I was to designate my intent to do so by raising my hand for the pastor to see. I raised mine and as I was ready to walk to the altar the pastor said to ‘nudge’ the one standing next me and have them come to the altar with me. I did, but they didn’t ‘budge’ with the ‘nudge’, so I knew at that point that I was on my own. I walked to the altar and prayed a simple prayer according to Romans 10:8-10 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” and made Jesus the Lord of my life. I KNEW that I was saved!
I don’t know about you, but after I made the decision to follow Jesus, I ‘intended‘ to FOLLOW JESUS! My decision was not one that was made irresponsibly or as the result of a momentary emotion. I took this decision very seriously. I had taken the FIRST STEP, but the next step was the one that I struggled with. That step is recorded in Romans 12:1,2.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”