Something I think most of us can relate to is remembering when we last looked at a "before" and "after" picture. It could be of anything of course, a restored car or a remodeled house, but often when we think of this we remember the pictures of people who have lost a great deal of weight. It is certainly not surprising either considering we are a society which somehow has become obsessed with how we look. We even have shows on television now that chronicle the journey of overweight people as they attempt to lose weight. Understand I have no objection to people trying to lose weight if they feel it is a matter of health, and I for one try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. What I want to talk about today, though, is one more step in what we have been talking about the last few weeks which is the state of our "spiritual" fitness. This step is probably one of the most important ones we can take in order to evaluate our "progress", and that is to compare where we are now to where we were in the past. I call it "dare to compare".
Examine yourselves [as to] whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5 NKJV
Paul tells us here it is part of the believers responsibility to examine themselves in the sense that we should be able to look at our lives and see a change. So as opposed to just living day to day trying to live the life, we also need to look back, compare our lives today with our lives in the past, and see a change. Are we praying more, studying more, doing more than we did in the past? A believers life should show progress, a visible change from how we were in the past just as someone on a diet and exercise routine should be able to look at a picture of himself from the past and see change for the better.
Therefore, if anyone [is] in Christ, [he is] a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2Corinthians 5:17 NKJV
Change, and growth, is something that is not only expected but a natural result from any believer serious about his or her faith. It is something visible that we can see if we are willing to look at our lives honestly, and compare them with where we were in the past. Paul is one of the best in drawing comparisons about where we used to be, and where we should be. Most often it is by using the words "old" and "new" when talking about our changed lives. Look carefully at the following passage from his letter to the Ephesians.
..that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 NKJV
As someone who has worked to "transform" his physical body, I can assure you an important part of that process is to compare what you are with what you were. Usually that is done by keeping track of vital statistics like weight and body fat percentage, along with measurements of certain body areas and muscle groups. Many even take pictures of themselves at the beginning of their program in order to be able to see the changes as they occur.
I believe that Paul is, in his own way, instructing us to do the same by drawing comparisons to what our lives should look like now, as opposed to what they looked like in the past. If you read carefully verses 25-32 of Ephesians 4, I believe Paul tells us at least three areas where we should be able to see our changes.
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Ephesians 4:29 NKJV
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. Ephesians 4:31 NKJV
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Ephesians 4:32-5:2 NKJV
If you look honestly at your life as it is today, do you see a difference in how you talk, how you think, and how you relate to others as opposed to your life before Christ? Dare to compare your life now with what it was in the past, and be willing to submit to God those shortcomings you may find. Be willing to write down areas where you feel a change is necessary and keep track of your progress. Truthfully, we should see changes as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, not only should we see it, but the world around us as well. I pray we all will have the courage to honestly evaluate where we are, and make the necessary changes that will show the world that Christ lives within us. Dare to Compare!