Before And After

Several years ago, I joined a group of people from our church on a mission trip to Honduras. One evening, we were all loaded up on a rickety old bus and transported to another village about half an hour away from where we were holding daily medical clinics and helping paint what would become a facility for medical care in a very rural community.

That night, our destination was a local church, where we would gather with the Honduran believers. My husband, who was leading the trip, asked for a volunteer to give a testimony. Now you have to remember, everything shared had to be translated so the people could understand. This would mean however long you spoke, it would take twice as long as each phrase was repeated after you in Spanish, so my husband gave strict instructions that the testimony should be limited to five minutes.

Our friend (we’ll call him Johnny) accepted the challenge. Later he would tell us his mind was racing through all that the Lord had done for him throughout his life and wondering how in the world he could communicate an effective testimony in just five minutes. He finally decided to simply to skip over much of his past and summarize it in one brief statement.

He took the microphone from my husband and said boldly, “I was living a life of sin!”

The look on the translator’s face was priceless. I suppose he expected our friend to begin with an introduction of himself, to tell a little background information, and then lead into the heart of his testimony. He looked over at Johnny and said, “What?”

Undeterred, Johnny repeated, loudly and clearly, “I was living a life of sin!”

We all laughed later about this abrupt beginning, but if you think about it, isn’t that where all our stories of salvation and life change begin? Whatever we’ve done before we met Jesus, whether it’s a long list of good deeds and pious acts of surface devotion to an impersonal god, or, like the demoniac in Mark 5, a life that has led to exclusion from society because we’ve descended into madness…it can all be summed up in “a life of sin.”

When our lives intersect with Jesus, there’s a clear “before” and “after.” With his rather abrupt beginning, our friend caused everyone listening to immediately consider on which side of the cross they were living.

The demoniac’s story in Mark 5 is such a clear picture of what happens when Jesus comes into our lives and changes our story. We don’t know what led to multiple demons invading his mind and body, but it surely had a beginning. Babies are born with a fallen nature, but they aren’t possessed. At some point in his life, he had opened his heart to allow evil to rule and reign. I’m sure it was in small areas at first. A secret sin. A hidden habit. A giving into a fleshly desire. Soon, the lure of turning his back on all that was good and completely giving himself over to the desires of sin and rebellion let the master of deception take over. I’m positive he never intended for it to lead to a cave of madness. Despite all that Satan promises he will give us, the father of lies will always lead us downward into depravity as he steals away the life God intended us to have.

Thankfully, there’s an “after” to the demoniac’s story. Once the encounter with Jesus is over, the demons that held him captive are gone. He is no longer naked but clothed. He is no longer raving and raging and breaking chains but sitting calmly in his right mind. And the most important piece of evidence that he has been granted spiritual, eternal life, is his spoken desire to leave his old life behind and follow Jesus.

Mark 5:18-20 – As He [Jesus] was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

Do you have a “before” and “after,” or are you still living a life of sin?

Jesus came to release us from the chains of sin that bind us as surely as those physical restraints shackled the man possessed by demons. He wants to wipe away all our past, relegating it to one statement with an important verb tense: “I was living a life of sin.”

No matter how dim or dismal your life might be today as a result of sinful choices, it can all become your “before.” Run to Jesus. Bow down and worship the Savior, and see what amazing things He can do with your “after.”

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