ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (BP) — How long has it been since you stopped to consider the glorious transformation of your rebirth?
In his letter to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul declared, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.” That verse, 2 Corinthians 5:17, served as a life verse for me when I first became a follower of Jesus. It was probably the first verse I ever memorized. Even after quoting the King James Version thousands of times, it still rings with power and passion for me today.
Six simple words outline my Christian experience.
It began with woe.
I vividly remember as a little boy experiencing the conviction of sin. The Holy Spirit was at work in my life before I had any understanding of God’s powerful call to receive the Gospel. On occasion, I remember seeing the terrors of hell in a bad dream that, to me, seemed more real than any other dream.
As a young adult, working as a firefighter for the city of Clovis, N.M., I remember feeling the grip of fear whenever I considered the possibility of dying in a fire. The realization that dying in a fire would only mark the beginning of an eternity in fire horrified me more than dying in the fire itself. The thought of hell and the realization of my sin brought a sense of woe into my life.
My woe turned to wow on a December evening when God, amid my conviction, blessed me with grace.
I don’t know another way to say it, other than to state that I was wowed by the amazing grace of Almighty God. It amazed me that He loved me so much that He would do something for me that only He could do. Paul also said that Jesus, the only person who knew no sin, became sin for us so that we might experience and receive God’s righteousness through Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). After more than four decades of following Jesus, I can honestly say that I have never gotten over the wow.
In my life’s journey, the woe led to wow, and the wow led to what.
What is it that God would desire or expect from me? Also in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, Paul explained the “what.” God expected me to join Him in the ministry of reconciliation and for my life’s work to revolve around sharing the message of Christ with others. Candidly, I can say that I am still as excited today as I was the first time that I understood my identity and purpose in Jesus. When I consider all that God has done for me and in me, I am simply overwhelmed
And when the woe led to wow, and the wow led to what, the what led to walk. I realized that God promised me that I am now a new creation in Christ.
My new identity is wrapped in mercy and grace. I am no longer held captive by guilt and shame. I can now boldly proclaim that I am a child of the King. I can walk in the fullness of His grace with my head held high, not because of anything that I have done but because I look up to Jesus, who has done more for me than I could ever dream or imagine.
The woe led to wow; the wow led to what; the what led to walk; and the walk leads me to watch and wait.
Life prompts many sobering thoughts. But, perhaps, the most sobering is the understanding that life on earth is temporary. God calls us to watch and wait, anticipating that day when this earthly house will be destroyed (as the early verses of 2 Corinthians 5 explain).
I think of my friend, pastor and author Calvin Miller, who is now in heaven. Prior to his death, he said that the thought of death did not grip him with fear. In fact, death was a journey for which he had prepared throughout his life.
Stemming from my Christian experience outlined in the six simple words — woe, wow, what, walk, watch and wait — two simple statements now sum up my life mission: serve others and share Jesus. Still today, the foundation bedrock for those two statements lies in that first text of Scripture I ever memorized: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.”