I often say, “If you knew me before Jesus, you would not recognize me at all.” Sometimes, I change it a little to, “If you knew me before Jesus, you would not like me at all.”
I recognize myself more with the repentant robber on the cross than with Paul. At least Paul thought he was doing God’s will when he fought against Christians. I fought against God, on purpose. I don’t know if it is some psychological issue I have or the Holy Spirit, but whenever I begin to feel puffed up, the memories of my life before Jesus come rushing over me. It’s OK, though. I don’t mind it. I am happy to be reminded of how much God can change a person.
4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:4-7)
I suppose that I’ve erected 12 stones of my own. Memorials to the work God did in me. They stand as constant reminders of the power of Grace, the reach of Perfect Love. I am happy for these stones that remind me of the beautiful work my Jesus did on the cross. I am happy to take people on tours of these stones – perhaps they can know the same Grace that erected these memorials.
There is a temptation of which I am becoming increasingly aware – the temptation to define myself by those stones. Joshua did not have the people erect those stones in order to worship them. Their purpose was to serve as a road-marker – a point in the journey where God did something amazing. My identity is not in the stones – it is in the work of God, continuously being wrought in me.