We were therefore buried with Jesus through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4)
Eden Chen Was Converted
Eden Chen was a teenage shoplifter and competitive gamer. When God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) brought him to faith in Christ, Eden found meaning, value, purpose, and a whole new life in his connection to Jesus.1 Eden grew up near Washington, DC and his parents raised him in church. But in his teens he stopped worshiping the Lord. Eden was obsessed with four things: video games, sports, material things, and chasing women. Soon he began shoplifting regularly, competing with friends to see who could steal the most.
Eden never doubted God as Creator of the world, who was wise and powerful. But he feared that the righteous Lord of the Bible would interrupt his pursuit of pleasure and doing as he pleased. Later he met inner-city missionaries in a rough part of Nashville, Tennessee, and was surprised that they were the most joyful people he had ever met. He began seeking God, researching Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. He found C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, to be the most logical. All of a sudden, it struck him that running away from Christ was harder than running toward Him. Jesus’ gospel offered the most compelling answers to life’s most important questions: Where does all of the good in the world come from? Where does all the evil come from? How do I deal with personal guilt over the way I have lived my life? How can I be happy?
In Ezekiel, God says: I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.2
Eden came to understand God’s fascinating solution. God makes us righteous, not because of anything we are or have or do, but because of what Jesus did in His sinless life, His atoning death, and His mighty resurrection. In Christ, God is able to punish sin without condemning us.
Jesus’ Transforms People
In the Four Gospels of the New Testament, Christ healed a paralyzed man, Peter’s mother-in-law, and a woman with severe bleeding. He calmed the storm, fed more than 5,000 people one time, more than 4,000 another time, and turned water into wine. He raised Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son, and Lazarus. The Lord did these and many more miracles to demonstrate that He is the Son of God, fully God and fully human in one person. And Jesus calls people to trust Him for salvation and new life. It is also a miracle of God’s grace when He turns His former enemies into His sons and daughters.3 The Lord not only forgives us, He changes our hearts and turns us to obedience by His Spirit.
The contrasts below describe what happens in Jesus’ miracle of conversion. I number items for ease of discussion. Surely you can think of more.
|1||Eph 2:1 You were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit (Satan) who is now at work in those who are disobedient.||Eph 2:4 But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ….It is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ….John 5:24 Whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged, but has crossed over from death to life.|
|2||John 3:18 Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.||Rom 8:1 There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Holy Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.|
|3||1 Peter 2:10 Once you were not a people; once you had not received mercy.||1 Peter 2:10 But but now you are the people of God. Now you have received mercy.|
|4||Jeremiah 50:6 My people have been lost sheep.||Luke 15:32 We were lost and are found….Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.|
|5||Isaiah 53:6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.||1 Peter 2:25 But now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.|
|6||Eph 2:12 You were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.||Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.|
|7||Rom 8:7 The sinful mind is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.||1 Cor 2:16 But we have the mind of Christ. Col 3:10 You have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of our Creator.|
|8||John 8:34 Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.||Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Also Rom 6:15-23.|
|9||Rom 3:10 There is none righteous, no, not one.||2 Cor 5:21 God made Christ who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.|
|10||Rom 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people.||Rom 5:1 Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.|
A transformed life is the greatest of all miracles. Every time a person is born again by the Holy Spirit and repents of their sin and trusts in Jesus Christ, the miracle of regeneration is performed. (Billy Graham)
Notes (various Bible translations used): 1 “A Former Shoplifter Takes Stock,” CT Magazine (May, 2017). 2 Ezekiel 36:25-27. 3 See John 20:30-31.