To Act Changed Or Really Be Changed

Scripture to meditate on: Acts 3:19, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from The Lord.

The following is an excerpt from Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own by Ryan and Josh Shook.

There is the myth of the “happily ever after” Christian life that’s common in some religious circles. The weird thing is, some people want that myth to be true so badly that they act as if they really are living “happily ever after,” as if they’ve got it all together and everything is completely perfect in their little Christian worlds.

One of our favorite parables in the Bible cuts right through that superficiality. Jesus used this parable to teach some religious leaders about the difference between real firsthand change and fake secondhand religion. Here’s how it starts:

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” (Luke 18:10–12)

The Pharisee felt that he was a changed person because he could easily appear changed on the outside. He compared himself to the tax collector and was proud that people thought he was better than tax collectors and sinners. The truth, however, was that the Pharisee desperately needed to be changed on the inside.

It’s the same today, isn’t it? We can fool the people around us because they look at the outside of our lives. But Jesus Christ looks right through the surface-level appearance and straight into our messy, dark, and sinful hearts.

The Pharisee was in a more desperate situation than the tax collector, because the Pharisee didn’t realize how desperate his situation really was. The tax collector, on the other hand, knew he needed change: “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ ” (verse 13).

Jesus went on to make His point perfectly clear to His listeners: “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (verse 14).

The Pharisee settled for appearing changed, while the tax collector wouldn’t settle for anything but real change.

We have to decide, moment by moment, if we want to act changed or be changed. You know by now which option goes with having firsthand faith. The essence of a secondhand faith handed down from a Christian family, church, or friends is just to act changed. Having a firsthand faith requires the real thing when it comes to change. And that’s why firsthand faith doesn’t come easy or all at once.

We hope you feel like us and you’re worn out from trying to keep up appearances. If you are, we want you to know something very important: you are in a very promising place! Nothing gets in God’s way more than our false pride and smug religiosity. Putting down your efforts to be someone you’re not and then asking God to work in your life will be one of the most important change moments of your whole life. You’ll never regret it.