So… this post was supposed to come out yesterday, you know, on Easter. But my mouse ran out of batteries. Seriously. So here’s some post-resurrection reading for you.
It’s Easter, and Easter at church means salvations. Every year hundreds of non or semi-Christians visit our churches and hear the message of salvation and redemption and come to the altar to receive Christ. We rejoice in this, because we love sharing our faith with others. We love adding new family members. We love the joy that comes from receiving the redemptive work of Christ and we rejoice with those who rejoice.
But there are plenty of people on Easter who are skeptical about all these salvations. They wonder if an ‘altar call’ is a genuine experience. They doubt the sincerity of those who feel a need for Christ when they’ve never felt that need themselves.
Coming to faith in Christ is like having a child. Before I became a parent I had an intellectual understanding of why people loved their kids. I knew that their love for their children was real, and I thought it was nice for them. I recognized that they felt so strongly they would lay down their lives for their children, but I had never experienced that feeling myself.
Then I had a child of my own. Suddenly the entire world was new. I experienced joys and sorrows of which I had been wholly unaware. I was seized with a passion for my child. Suddenly I could easily see myself laying down my life for her. I wouldn’t even hesitate; the pain of losing my child would so far outweigh the pain of death that thought wouldn’t be necessary, putting myself in harm’s way would be effortless. I now understood what real terror was – it was the thought of being separated from my child. Everything I did was for her benefit and when I failed her I felt ashamed – not because she, a tiny infant, made me feel ashamed, but because of my deep desire to do only what was good and right by her.
This is what happens to us when we come into relationship with God. He changes our very souls. We experience things that we had no idea existed. Our priorities and motives change. We are made new.
And the change is irrevocable. Much like having a child, we never go back to the way we were. If my children were all to pass away I wouldn’t go back to being a childless woman, I would always be their mother. I can’t undo the soul change that happened when each of them was born anymore than I can regain the 20 year old body I had before it housed them. I’m wrecked.
Which means that, like parenthood, Christianity isn’t something we can try on for size. Childless people might babysit for their friends as a way to see if they’re ready for children, and they’ll gain some understanding of the practical elements of caring for a child. But they’ll never experience the true nature of parenthood until they have fully committed; until they’ve conceived and carried and borne a child of their own. And by that time it’s too late to go back.
So it is with God. We can visit churches and read books to ‘try on’ Christianity to see if it fits, but we’ll never experience the immensity and power of newness in Christ until we are fully committed. And by that time it’s too late to go back. We will have been wrecked.
Simcha Fisher makes this observation about God’s mercy.
“The mercy of God comes in like a flood. Not a warm bath: a flood.”
“You can go back and salvage some of your stuff, but you will not be living in that house again.”
Today, on Good Friday, I find myself meditating on the old house of mine that God flooded. Because, again like childbirth, the entry into God’s family is sometimes painful. Certainly it was painful for Him. Dear God. And for us as well there will be things that are left behind. There will be things that we are required to surrender and things that we willingly and joyfully surrender. We place ourselves into a new category of people, with new priorities and requirements.
It is not a small thing, this conversion. It isn’t small at all.