“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds.”Ephesians 4:22-23
You would have to live in a secluded cave in a remote part of the world to not understand that one of the largest and fastest-growing business segments in our society belongs to the weight loss and dieting industry. Even with the current “body positivity” movement affecting sales, the valuation of this market segment is approaching $75 billion. As a nation, we are obsessed with how we look.
One of the most powerful and compelling tactics this industry employs is a before and after photo. We all know what that looks like: the not-so-desirable before picture placed right next to the slimmer, more attractive version of the same person. Obviously, this method works, as you would be hard-pressed to find a company in this industry that doesn’t employ this type of marketing. There is something about a changed life that draws people into an advertisement. We all want to have that type of transformation.
The gospel is full of transformations. From an immoral woman in Luke 7 to Zaccheus in Luke 19, and even the demon-possessed man, written off as beyond hope. All of them, at one point in their time on earth, had a life-changing encounter with the Savior. Prior to meeting Jesus, they lived for themselves. They were money-hungry tax collectors, or prostitutes, or just generally disliked and self-serving members of society. After meeting Jesus, they became generous restitution-makers, loving followers, and in many cases were willing to leave their entire existence behind to follow Him. All were powerful examples of lives that were changed.
But perhaps no example is more powerful of the life-changing gospel of Christ than the apostle Paul. Formerly, he was the greatest antagonist and opponent to the message of Jesus. Zealous in his persecution of Christians, Saul watched the coats during the stoning of Stephen. Then he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. His life, and the whole world, was forever changed. It was evident in everything he said and did. This living picture of his new life was a tangible testimony of the power of God to create something new where there was previously sin and death.
As believers, our lives can be that same before and after picture. The image we present can either be that of Christ-likeness or of living like the rest of the world. How we live can stand in stark contrast to a lost world, or it can be a reflection of the culture and ignored. How we live is a testimony to a changed life. We may be the only Bible some people ever read, and we may be the only Jesus some people see. When we live a life that is truly changed, we become a living tract that our friends and neighbors can read. Think of the before and after pictures we are presenting as we are living in the mission field of our daily lives.
First Dallas Sunday School Teacher
Jason Atkinson is the teacher of the Homebuilders Sunday School class. He is a father of four, graduate of Dallas Baptist University, native Texan, and he and his wife Diane reside in Coppell, TX.