Do You Have to Clean Up Your Act to Become a Christian?
By Linda Jewell
If we mean forming new habits, making amends, or doing something on our own to become good enough for God, the answer is "No." If we really mean recognizing the truth of who Jesus is and who we are, the answer is "Yes."
On the cross, Jesus hung between two thieves. When the first thief insulted Jesus, the second thief admonished him for doing so, because they deserved their punishment but Jesus had done nothing wrong. The second thief then recognized Jesus for who He was and asked Jesus to remember him when he came into His kingdom. Read it for yourself in Luke 23:39-43.
The thief had only hours to live. He had no time to change bad habits and form good ones to lead a long, productive life. He had no way of cleaning up his actions and the resulting consequences, and he had no means of forgiving or asking for forgiveness from his family, friends or victims. He had no opportunity to become good enough by his own imperfect power to come into the presence of Jesus, a perfect man and a holy God.
However, there on his own cross, he did have the time and the opportunity to take responsibility for the consequences of his destructive habits that hurt himself and others, his sins and imperfections. The second thief bowed his will to Jesus and recognized Him for who He is. In response, Jesus told the second thief the truth – that he would be with Jesus in paradise that very day.
If the second thief had been able to crawl off his cross and live longer, he would have had more time to love Jesus and face life as a different person with a changed attitude that resulted in different actions. He would have been able to ask the Holy Spirit for the strength and perseverance to battle destructive habits and to handle life situations and broken relationships that he could not handle on his own. He would never have become perfect, but he would have had the opportunity to become a better man than he was.
For a more recent example, a young man accepted Christ all alone in his living room while listening to Billy Graham on the television. At the time the young man did drugs. He plugged into a local church and began attending Bible studies. In his excitement about Jesus, he told his friends they didn't have to give up drugs to become a Christian. Yet, as the weeks and months passed, he and some of his former drug-using friends who accepted Jesus began the process of kicking their drug habits. They grew to love the comfort, excitement and freedom of trusting Jesus more than the heartaches and hassles of being dependent on drugs.
Like the second thief on the cross and every other person who ever became a Christian, you too do not have to clean up your act by forming new habits, making amends, or becoming good enough on your own strength before you accept Jesus for who He is. Jesus accepts you as you are at this very moment. And when you make the choice and say "Yes" to Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have the hope of the freedom of a new life that you've never experienced before.
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