There’s a picture in my mind. It’s a picture of a picture, and I’m sure it’s there to stay. The picture was taken just a few months before I was introduced to Grant*. It’s a picture of him on the day of his baptism. A friend took a photo of the exact moment when Grant came up out of the water. He’s looking up with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on a man! If I were to title his picture, I would definitely call it “Born Again,” because that’s what I see—a man leaving behind his old life and coming up out of the water free—having his sins washed away.
The way Grant lived his life after his baptism is proof his life had changed. He made some deliberate life changes, and with God’s help, his behaviours changed. He was careful about what he read and watched. He now saw women differently—as daughters of God—and became faithful to his wife. He stopped partying and with that came an end to the harmful things he was putting into his body. And instead of feeling depressed, he experienced true joy every day.
To me, Grant became a poster child for 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
I’ve seen it happen again and again. I’ve watched men, women and young people accept Jesus as their Saviour and invite Him to come into their lives. And every time, I watch a miracle unfold. They become changed—new people. The change is evident in their behaviour. The bad, negative behaviour is gone, replaced by a new one that’s positive and good—and you can too.
If you look in the mirror and see that the person looking back at you is joyless, Jesus can bring you joy; if you see someone full of impure thoughts and actions, Jesus can make you pure. And if you see people who are harming their bodies through addictive habits and lifestyles, assure them that Jesus can help them deal with those bad habits.
An infant doesn’t have the mental capacity to make choices of right and wrong. However, somewhere along the way—and because we’re all born with sinful natures—we will make wrong choices and commit our first sin.
Fortunately, God knew there was the likelihood that we would sin and He planned a salvation alternative through Jesus’ life and death. But that doesn’t mean we can behave any way we want, knowing that we can always ask for forgiveness.
When Allison was a young woman, she talked herself into believing that whatever struck her fancy was an acceptable way to live. Because she was so unhappy, she began making choices according to her desires instead of according to what she knew was best. There were no rules, no boundaries. She told me, “I started taking advantage of God. I would say to myself, ‘He’ll forgive me.’ It’s sad for me now that I have to look back on this year of my life and not be proud of my choices. There are so many things I wish I could change, and so many people to whom I need to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ But what’s done is done. I can’t change the past.”
She’s right. We can’t change the past. But we can change the future! And we do that by following Jesus’ example. And how do you decide what to read, watch and listen to for entertainment? A good text to live by is this one: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
Jesus changes people from the inside out. When you give your life to Him, you’re not transformed into a person who has no temptations. Resisting these is something you have to work at.
When Carl became a Christian, he knew right away he wanted to throw out his bad health habits. He’d smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for years and had drunk socially.
“What was your incentive?” I asked him.
“I read in the Bible that my body is God’s temple,” he replied. “I did it to honour Him.”
Carl was talking about this text in the Bible: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).
You were bought at a price! And that price was Jesus dying in your place.
When you look at your physical body that way—when you see that Jesus thinks you’re valuable enough to pay the ultimate price for you—it makes you want to care for your body. Since you’re worth so much to Him, why would you ever want to harm yourself?
People who don’t struggle with substance abuse may think they treat their bodies just fine. But there are other ways we’re harming ourselves. Eating junk food, lack of exercise, lack of sleep and too much stress are other issues that all of us have to deal with. And the result can be dangerous.
Why put substances into your body or mistreat it in ways that can cause cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes? The Bible counsels, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). You’re worth taking care of! And the only person who can take care of you is you.
But you’re not alone. God can help you gain the victory over your bad habits. Sometimes He uses doctors, counsellors and rehab facilities to help. So don’t feel like you have no resources.
As my dad says, “Christians should be the happiest people in the world!” If anyone has something to be happy about, it should be us! We not only have Jesus to help us through the struggles in this life, we have the promise of heaven, followed by the new earth, where we’ll live forever! It’s so great that we can’t even imagine it: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). That text alone brings me joy! If that were the only text in the Bible that talks about our future hope, it would be enough for me.
Does life have disappointments, heartaches and pain? Yes. But even when facing these, there can be a sense of peaceful joy.
When I became a Christian, I decided I wanted to change my behaviour. Even though I was a preteen, my family and I made some changes. My sister and I tossed out our girly romance novels. My big brother trashed his rock music. We quit watching suspense movies with crime and even movies that seemed innocent. And we began taking better care of our health. Mum learned how to cook vegetarian meals. (Her first attempt at a vegetarian casserole was so bad our dog wouldn’t eat it!) And the joy? Well, that came without even trying. It came by knowing our sins were forgiven. It came by sharing Jesus with others. It came by worshipping Him each week in church. It came by reading our Bibles and praying every day.
We made all these changes, not because we had to but because we wanted to, for the One who loved us enough to die for us. We wanted to please Him—by being on our best behaviour.