This morning, I sat quietly while my mother was on the phone with my aunt up in Oregon. (We’re in California.) Most of the conversation was casual chatter. But as the conversation went on, my aunt began to fill us in on some of the things that have been going on in my Oregon hometown. Among family issues, there has been one situation that I have only been vaguely aware of concerning one of the girls I grew up in youth with. And as I listened to how bad things had gotten with her – the rebellion, the lies, the manipulation – it broke my heart. How could this girl that I’ve known all her life have become this person? She’s gone from a fun, giggly, lighthearted child to this broken, dark young woman with nothing in her heart but contempt for her family, her friends, her church, and Jesus.
I’ve witnessed many of these situations. And I’ve heard even more stories that saturate our churches’ (our home church in Oregon and the one we currently pastor in California) intertwined histories. Stories of lies, slander, moral failure, and others too numerous to divulge.
I began to remember all these stories this morning. And I began to meditate on how so often we think of the stories people have told where the Lord has transformed them from death to life. But those aren’t the only stories being written. I realized all-too potently this morning that there are powerful stories of how former believers have been transformed from life to death (whether by their own doing, or the tactics of the enemy).
I have watched as people who have walked away from the Lord become the absolute darkest version of themselves. The kindest have become the coldest. The gentlest have become the cruelest. The honest have become liars. The selfless have become manipulators. The pure have become immoral. The hopeful have become consumed by darkness and hate. The faithful have become rebellious. The moral have become tangled in every sort of sin and stronghold; drugs, alcohol, foul language, sexual immorality, slander, gossip, betrayal, dishonor, manipulation, accusations, rebellion, and much more.
I was reminded this morning of this Scripture: “Those who escape the corrupting forces of this world system through the experience of knowing about our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Messiah, then go back into entanglement with them and are defeated by them, becoming worse off than they were to start with. It would have been much better for them never to have experienced the way of righteousness than to know it and then turn away from the sacred obligation that was given to them.” (2 Peter 2:20-21, The Passion Translation)
This revelation settled deeply within my spirit. There’s a reason those who walk away from the Lord end up in worse darkness and sin than before. There’s a reason the return of the prodigals – those who openly reject Jesus, even having already known Him for themselves – is so rare. There’s a reason.
Because just as the transformation from death to life is powerful, so also is the backwards transformation from life to death. Rejection of life, freedom, hope, joy, peace, and love everlasting shifts something in a person’s spirit. Because in their rejection of all things they’ve previously known in Christ, they become the complete opposite. Where before they were ignorant of the Truth, they now know the Truth, refuse it, and deliberately walk opposed to it. Ignorant disobedience is far less powerful than intentional disobedience. It actively cultivates a spirit of rebellion within.
Back to the phone conversation I had this morning: My aunt said something to my mother that I found spiritually illuminating. She said there was one Sunday last year where my grandfather had preached a particularly powerful message about resolving to follow Christ. She said she left after that Sunday morning and as the congregants gathered again that evening, she passed that one young girl and immediately sensed the shifting in her spirit. She referred to it as the “Jezebel spirit.” It’s that spirit of open rebellion, open deception, open manipulation that we see in the story of Jezebel and King Ahab in 1st & 2nd Kings.
When a person openly and willingly allows that kind of darkness into their lives… tragically, something shifts inside them. They become cold, hard, distant, isolated, bitter, angry, dishonest, manipulative, etc…
But the reason I’m blogging about this is not because I want to focus on the transformation from life to death, but because in this revelation I realized just how real the transformation from death to life is. The work of the cross is so strong and amazing and powerful and rich that to walk away from it would make us the absolute worst version of ourselves. Nothing is lost if something has not first been gained.
That is why I wanted share this revelation, this story. Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves of what it is we have gained in this life with Christ. It’s so easy to forget about all that He has done in, through, and for us when we wrap ourselves in everyday, ordinary life. But when we remember all the things that we would lose, all the things that we would become or fall back into, we remember to be thankful for the work of Christ.
So, this morning, let’s remember who we once were and all that He has saved us from. And let’s no longer forget to remember.