First Life, Then Change

I grew up reciting the Apostle’s Creed every Sunday. “The third day He arose again from the dead”; I affirmed this statement with reverential gusto. But outside the confines of the sanctuary it had little meaning to me. I had never reasoned that God actually had power over death, my spiritual death. Quite frankly, I didn’t even know that I was dead in sin.

The summer before my seventh grade year, the death of Jesus overwhelmed me. It was the last night of church youth camp. The pastor graphically portrayed the crucifixion. My heart ached and tears rolled down my cheeks as I realized Christ died for me. Right then and there, I knew I needed Jesus. I prayed and thanked Him for dying for me.

I asked Him to come into my life to help me become the best person I could be. The irony is that my life got worse. Temptations and peer pressures got the best of me. I wanted to be God’s guy. I tried valiantly, but life kept spiraling out of control. The things I wanted to do, I couldn’t. The things I didn’t want to do, I did. I wondered, “Why isn’t God helping me be a better person?

Jesus wasn’t interested in making me a little better. He was not marketing the latest self-improvement program. That is what I was looking for, but self-improvement is not what I needed. Jesus’ work is this: to take someone dead in sin and make him eternally alive.

News that a close friend had taken a drug overdose stirred a sense of desperation in me. I was on the same path. Something had to change.

I started attending a Bible study in Atlanta. Dan DeHann was the teacher. I liked him, and I listened to what he had to say. His message on Colossians 2 answered my heart’s cry. It was so clear that I wondered why I had never seen it before. Here was the verse that connected: “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins” (Colossians 2:13).

What this verse taught me boggled my mind. And it still does. God made me alive together with Christ. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, God directed toward me. I was raised spiritually to walk in the newness of life. Until that moment, Paul’s words to the Colossians were meaningless to me. I had made mistakes, committed sins, but still I was basically okay — a good kid, just off track. My hope was that Jesus could help me get back on track and make me the person I wanted to be. The problem was that the “me” I wanted to improve was actually dead in sin.

Admitting my spiritual death lifted a huge burden. I no longer had to try to fix something that was unfixable. However, this admission was frightful. Death is final, the end. It is unchangeable. No amount of human effort or ingenuity can reverse this sinister state. Mankind has tried, but to no avail. Dead is dead, and that is what I was spiritually. Control of my destiny was out of my hands. Life had to come from another source.

The Bible declares that God has power over death. That first Easter was a glorious, earth-shaking demonstration. This truth authored a belief inside of me that God could raise me to life. And He did. Resurrection is Jesus’ story, and through faith in the resurrected One it became my story.

Change wasn’t what I needed. I needed life. In my mind, it was first change, then life. God’s ways are not ours. With Him, it is first life then change.

You may be tired of the struggle to improve, to make your life better. You’ve asked God a thousand times or more for help, but nothing changes. Perhaps it’s time to step into the faith of Abraham and experience the reality of resurrection.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

35 thoughts on “First Life, Then Change

  1. Hi Bob,
    Thanks for sharing your testimony with us. The phrase “First life, then Change” really stood out to me for the last few weeks. It’s basic, truth, and no-nonsense that is the “bottom line” of salvation. Like so many others, I, too, had be raised to “behave better” and that since I “got saved”, Jesus would help me behave. I’d read the “life” verses most of my church life, but it never dawned on me that the life was for HERE and NOW, not simply when I “died and went to heaven”. Over in Heaven is where the Eternal Life was going to start. Jesus was simply my ticket.
    Thanks again for sharing your heart. Life first, here and now–change will come after Life.
    Lisa

    • ‘Great thread Bob, great blog- know it’s going to continue to be 🙂 Lisa –loved this:”..life was for HERE and NOW, not simply when I “died and went to heaven”.”

  2. Hey Lisa and Stella, thanks for commenting. Through this blog, we will be exploring the work of God in our lives, not only in salvation, but also in the transformation of our souls. Look forward to reading your thoughts and insights.

  3. Like Jesus told Nicodemus, “you must be born again”! Christ in you first, then comes the change!…wonderful post Bob!!

  4. Hi Bob,

    My wife Jane and I met you, Bob & Amy George, Bob Christopher, Ed and the whole gang many years ago at a People to People teaching weekend in Dallas. We still have the group photo of all of us.

    We are looking forward to your blog. This teaching about total forgiveness changed my life forever. Thank y’all for teaching me how to allow the Lord to live His life in me and through me. It is so nice to rest from my works.

    Talk soon,

    Jim
    <

  5. Hey Bob this message is real and in my heart,my spirit totally agrees with what has been taught, first life then change, i did it the other way around and it crushed me,i’m 29 yrs of age and since i was 12 yrs i had always known that accepting the lord was the right thing to do,and i did, well i thought i did, the mentality i had was breath taking, i would do what the bible says if it kills me cuz its the right thing to do,but it left me dead. Thank you guys for your programme,it really is helping me,im looking forward for more enlightment from u guys.. : )

  6. Hey Jahlyn, I certainly identify with your story. Trying to be God’s guy sounds noble, its just impossible when you are dead in sin. Thank goodness Jesus came that we might have life.

  7. I always wonder who the Lord is going to send to continue a great work. Thanks for being available. I like many others have discovered the life that lives as Major Ian Thomas always put it. As a good Baptist that was elected to represent our church every year at the Southern Baptist Convention I was “doing” instead of living. A Baptist of Baptists.Then the Lord worked on my pride issue with His word using the teaching of our departed brother Ian Thomas. I met him in 1991 at one of his teaching stops in Florida and heard the message of “the centrality of Christ” in the life of the Believer and forced to rethink my walk. Since then I have learned what it is to really live. I have been using Bob George’s book, Classic Christianity, to reach many other well intended Christians and even reach a whole congregation including a pastor. It is a wonderful thing watching Christians be set free from the bondage of self to walk in Him. I am thankful that God is using this ministry also to lead bound believers to freedon in Him. Tim

    • Hey Tim, thanks for joining the conversation. Major Thomas’s phrase hits the nail on the head — the life that lives. His life truly does set us free.

  8. Hi Bob. It’s a wonderful venue and I hope it blesses as many people as does People to People broadcasts. My favorite verse in the Bible is “Galatians 2:20” and fits what you’re saying. We have to die first (as a seed is planted) then comes life…Christs’ life, in and through us. Amen. Love and blessings Frank
    (Alumnus Mt Herman 1991).

    • Hey Frank, it is nice to hear from you. Galatians 2:20 is one my favorite verses as well.

  9. I to was a “Apostle’s Creed every Sunday” kind of guy growing up. Since this religious vain repetion did zero for my incomplete state, I gave up on church and tried other things looking for that something that would bring meaning and purpose to my life.

    At age 25 I was convicted to make a decision to receive Christ which brought significant change. However, it wasn’t until I was 48, in 1993, when I tuned in to the People to People radio program driving home that the mystery began to unfold. This is where I heard and came to understand the mystery of Godliness–Christ in you, the hope of Glory. Ian Thomas’s book, The Mystery of Godliness, and Classic Christanity, both helped me know my hope of glory–Christ Jesus. What a wonderful rest and peace it is to know He is my evetything and that my availability to Him, minute by minute, is honored as he uses me for His purpose, when, where, and how He wants to use me. Col 2: 6-10
    +

    • Hey Dave, something happens inside of us when we realize and embrace the truth of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Rest and peace for the soul. Thanks for the great comments.

  10. Hello again Bob, very glad to see that you and the fellows are more accessable. Brett and I cannot wait to see you all again here in El Paso. I’m sure you guys Go Braves!!!

    Question: Do you guys have any books that are related to tithing for new testament Christians? It is a huge issue that my wife and I are working through? Thanks

    • Hey Brett, thanks for the encouraging words. I hope the site will serve as another venue for people to connect around the grace of God. By the way, I enjoy your tweets. Keep up the good work.

      • Thanks! I was wondering if you ever saw
        those tweets! Twitter is really something –
        allowing us to reach lost people, as well as
        those resting in Christ all over the world!

  11. Hey Bob,

    A gentleman posted earlier, “I always wonder who the Lord is going to send to continue a great work.” The answer is the Lord send all of us. “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6).” The life of God, you so eloquently spoke of in your post, has made us all alive to God in Christ. And because of that life we are all ministers of the New Covenant. He has made us “competent as ministers” because it is His ministry and Him working through all of us. My prayer is that we are all out there proclaiming the truth about the finished work and the reality of the resurrection on an individual basis. It was Paul’s desire. “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers… (Hebrews 5:12).” Let us all desire to be a teacher of this great Gospel of Jesus Christ that so many need, but don’t know is available.

    Grace and Peace!

    • Hey Ian, great comments here. The fact we are all ministers of this New Covenant will be a recurring theme here. My prayer, and our desire as a ministry is that many will rise up and boldly proclaim the saving life of Christ Jesus. Ian, I am always encouraged by you and your boldness in proclaiming Jesus.

      • Thanks Bob,

        I appreciate you saying that. I owe, in no small part, my desire to proclaim Jesus to the work of you, Bob George and the ministry of People to People. You guys, definitely spoke truth and light into the heart of a hungry baby in Christ years ago. Continued blessings my friend.

  12. Bob,
    Great new blog page. Same here, sort of. I am grateful for Bob George and People to People as well as Major Thomas in understanding Life in Christ. As a teen I had enough convincing evidence to believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God died on a cross for me long ago. It was not until in my thirties that I learned what that means for me today and the power of the resurrection for life, through People to People. This is gospel or good news worth sharing. Romans 5:10 Saved by His life. Saved from empty religion, among everything else.

  13. Bob
    This reminds me of the VW commercial “Drive then sign”. Seriously though salvation is a life-changing event. We are changed from the inside out (spirit, soul, body) by the indwelling life of Jesus Christ. His Holy spirit vitally united with our spirit imparts new life, his very life into us. He teaches our mind, directs our will, controls our emotions, and governs our behavior. Yes Bob, there can be nor will there be any change without his resurrected life in us. We are changed from worm into butterfly.
    Chris

  14. Bob, forgot this part… While Bob and Ian where instrumental in my own understanding of God, which led to change, I am continually growing in grace and understanding through you, Richard and the rest of the People to People staff who continue this ministry of the New Covenant that Bob and Ian participated in proclaiming. I too am a witness of “life then change.” it was not a Savior Who died for me that resulted in transformation, rather a risen, living, indwelling Savior Who’s grace led me to repentance. Thank you for reaching out with The New Covenant in various venues.

  15. Great testimony, Bob! Someone once said, “You can’t have a changed life without an exchanged life.” I find this to be so true every day. Thanks so much for sharing. Looking forward to reading more posts from you.

  16. Hi Bob, I have been saved for many years now, and the majority of my experience has been in the “Baptist Tradition”. Through the years I have felt a real disconnect with the body of Christ for 2 reasons that I can think of right away: First I felt inadequate because of the teachings I received at church. I was always looking for a way to make myself more acceptable to the LORD, and secondly, the things I was being taught always seemed to contradict what I read in the Word. It always looked as though the fundamental teachings were to explain those contradictions. I thought that this Christianity was a really hard thing to understand and serving the LORD under these circumstances was difficult at best.
    Then I heard a “People to People” broadcast earlier this year, ordered “Drive a stake” and experienced what I can only describe as my own personal “Reformation”. Now as I return to bible teachings that I am familiar with, they make so much more sense. I’ve finally discovered what it means to Rest in the LORD. Thank You & God Bless You. Tim Strong

    • Dan was an amazing teacher. I attended Metro Bible Study during my college years. Dan’s study through the book of Colossians rocked my world. I connected with Pat Terry on Facebook recently, which brought great memories to mind. Thanks for commenting Sheryl, and please give my regards to your husband.

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