A new Christian recently wrote me to ask about the relationship between the person they were before they were saved, and the person they are now.
"How dramatic a break do I have to make between my old life as a non-Christian," he wrote, "and my new life as a believer saved by Jesus Christ? Do I have to throw out all my non-Christian CD's, and get rid of my non-Christian friends? How do I know where to draw the line?"
My answer to him (which he encouraged me to here share) ran about like this:
How big a break it is between your former life and your new one depends primarily upon the nature of your old life. If you were a drug-abusing criminal, then it’s safe to say that becoming a Christian would mean making a pretty definitive break from your old life. If you were a normal, kind person who for the previous three years had been attending church with your best friend, that break might not be so radical.
The important thing is to listen to the Holy Spirit within you, who will guide you toward those things that encourage the deepening of your relationship with God, and away from those things that hinder that relationship. Let the Spirit be your guide, and your step will always be true. That is a truth you can always trust.
What you do want to be aware of, though, is the tendency that some novice Christians have of too dramatically severing from their “new” lives their old. Sometimes, when people become converts to Christianity, they get so thrilled about their new lives that they hasten to severe themselves from anything and anybody that they feel is “unclean,” that doesn’t fit with their new understanding of who they are. And in the rush to essentially establish a whole new life for themselves, they sometimes end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Back before I was a Christian, for example, I had a friend named Brendan. Though not a Christian, Brendan sometimes went to church with a Christian friend of his, and in general enjoyed participating in a lot of the stuff put on by that friend’s church: the cook-outs, dances, game nights, etc.
One time Brendan went away for a four-day Christian camping retreat with his Christian friend and a bunch of folks from his friend’s church---and when he returned from the trip, he was as Christian as Christian gets! He’d been saved! He’d found the Lord!
I was genuinely happy for Brendan. I could see how happy being saved made him; I'd known that this was a place toward which for a long time he'd been gravitating. I was pleased by this happy culmination of my friend’s personal spiritual quest.
Except, guess what? After he returned from his trip, Brendan didn’t want anything to do with me anymore! He came home, declared tome his Christianity, and asked me if I wanted to be saved. When I said I didn't think Christianity was quite right for me, he simply dropped him from his life.
And of course that sort of thing is understandable. One of the things Brendan had learned while at the Christian retreat where he had been saved---and one of the things new Christians are often taught---is that part of being a new Christian is cleansing from your life anything and anyone that doesn’t directly enhance or improve your relationship with Christ. Thus did Brendan, in fact, give away all his “Satanic” rock albums, throw away all his books that weren’t “Christian,” remove from his walls any pictures that weren’t properly “Christian”---and, alas, stop answering or returnign my phone calls.
This hurt my feelings, of course; Brendan and I had been true friends. And I actually wanted to know more about the change he had undergone. But his refusal to socialize with me meant that I couldn’t learn of those changes firsthand.
Not good. He and I both missed out.
The point is: use your judgment about what things and people do and don’t fit into your new life. Ask God to help direct you in each and every one of those calls. He will. If you listen to him, God will let you know exactly how to shape your new life with him. That new ongoing conversation with Him is certain to become the new joy of your life.
God bless---and congratulations on your new (eternal!) life!
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. -- Romans 12:2
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