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My wife Joan and I have about 12 family photo albums, along with probably a few hundred more photos to be organized and filed. Those in the albums are filed chronologically. Some photos date back to the 1890’s. There are photos of family pets and automobiles from years long gone. We have some unmarked photos of some people we can’t identify. One in particular comes to mind. It’s a photo of a guy wearing a Nazi Swastika armband. He is seated in front of a large portrait of Hitler. It was apparently taken during or before World War II. I hate to say it, but since it was found among boxes of stuff inherited from my mother, I can only assume this man must have been a relative of some sort.
There are also a lot of photos of myself, starting with my baptism photo, when I was only a few weeks old, taken 73 years ago. When I look through those photos and see how my physical appearance has changed in various stages of life, I find myself saying, “the person in those old photos doesn’t look like the person I see in the mirror today”. It’s just amazing to me how people physically change over the years.
Even more amazing is how we can change and grow spiritually. How we can actually become the Christ-like people God created us to be. Of course, there is a difference between physical and spiritual aging. On the one hand, you can to some extent take steps to keep yourself looking young (or younger than you really are), for the most part what you look like as you grow older is not up to you. Like it or not, your physical appearance will change as time goes by.
On the other hand, you can do something to enhance your spiritual aging. That is, you can move in the direction of becoming the Christ-like person God created you to be. No, you won’t get to physically look like Jesus. But you can come closer and closer to thinking, speaking, and acting like him. You can come closer to being made perfect in love. Which means loving God and your fellow human beings. But you can’t do any of this without God. God will do all kinds of things to convince you that you need to let him change you so as to grow spiritually.
For example, remember how, about 2,000 years ago, a man named Saul was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus, for the purpose of persecuting the people of the newly formed Christian church? He had what we might call, “a close encounter with God”. God blinded this man with a flash of lightning and knocked him to his knees. Jesus then appeared to him and made it known to him that God’s plan for him was to be changed spiritually, so that instead of persecuting the church and its people, he would become one of them. More than that, he became one of the most effective and influential Christian leaders of all time. We know him as the Apostle Paul.
God could make all this happen. But God doesn’t force anyone to become Christ-like. Each person has to decide whether or not to say “yes” to God. That means accepting and using all the grace needed to cooperate and work with God in helping others to become the Christ-like people they were created to be.
Some people who are faithful Christians, particularly if they have had some sort of “close encounter with God”, and they have said “yes” to whatever God wants to do with them, feel that takes care of everything. That’s the way it was with me. Over the past 48 years I have had a few “close encounter with God”. Nothing like what happened to Paul, but clearly experiences of God telling me what he wanted to do with my life. In one case it took me about ten years before I said “yes” to God. Other times I thought that once I said “yes” to God, that would finally satisfy God. That’s what I thought when I finally became a full-time United Methodist pastor. I was sure that was what my whole previous life had been leading to. But as I was serving in that capacity, God began to make it clear to me that while he was pleased with my spiritual growth over the years, he was not yet satisfied with me. Spiritually I was no longer the person I used to be, but I was not yet the Christ-like person God created me to be. That is still true today. I know that as long as I live on this earth, while God might be pleased with my spiritual growth, he will never be satisfied. And if God is not satisfied, then if I really love and trust God, then neither can I be satisfied. So I have to continue asking God to work in my life to change me and help me continue to grow spiritually, as long as I live on this earth. And after that, he will make whatever final spiritual changes are needed for me to become the Christ-like person I was created to be.
To become the Christ-like person God created me – and you – to be. A person who is made perfect in love. A person who loves God and fellow human beings. A person who expresses that love by discerning God’s will for him or her, who says “yes to God”, and who uses all the grace that God provides to in order to participate and cooperate with God. As we continue in the season of Easter, that’s the ultimate hope I have for all of us. I believe that hope will be fulfilled. In God’s time and in God’s way.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray