In Times Past
In considering our transformation we must begin by looking back, because in times past, before we began to be acquainted with the ways of GOD, we were in essence dead, as death in scripture is often no more than an individual simply being separated from GOD. In times past, we were not able to seriously consider and ponder GOD's ways nor understand the mysteries of HIS kingdom, nor could we fathom the reality of our dilemma. In times past we had not GOD's spirit to guide us. In those days we were driven only by our carnal passions, our worldly desires, and could not understand a GOD who's ways were hidden from us. We were like a pin ball, knocked around from bumper to bumper till we were ready to find that hole wherein we would eventually drop. We moved with the herd along a course which the world had already laid out before us.
EPHESIANS 2:1-3 And you...who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation [lifestyle] in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
As children of disobedience by nature, we also walked according to the ways of the world. That which the world taught us, we believed. Whatever they set before us, we greedily swallowed up. What they described as exciting, that we sought after. What they said was fulfilling, that we applied ourselves to obtain. What they proclaimed as right, and just, and good we devoted ourselves unto. It was their entertainments, their patriotisms, their worships. These we readily accepted. We embraced their prejudices, their justifications, their morals. We sought self gratification and self esteem. We too often became like them, right in our own eyes.
Being "in times past" dead, we didn't consider that the ways of the world were actually the snares which bound us tight. We didn't ponder where this path would lead, we just blindly followed it. We didn't question our role, we just played our part. We didn't realize that the ways of the world are designed to steer us away from the ways of GOD. We didn't even know there was another way, an alternative course. We just continued moving with the herd. We were lost, we were blind, we were perishing. Like the multitudes who were led before us, we were being conformed to the ways of the world.
Remembering his own times past, the apostle Paul wrote, "For we also once were foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another" (TITUS 3:3 ASV). In times past we ourselves were also "alienated from the life of God" (EPHESIANS 4:18), thus we were dead. Alienated from HIS ways, we went the only way we knew, the way of strife and lust and greed. We were destined to repeat, even continue the cycle began by our first parents. We were to fight and scratch and claw our way to the top of something. We were destined to hate and lie and cheat and envy so as to "build greater" barns. Ours was to achieve success, so we thought, by dominating as many of our fellow men as time and space would allow. We learned it on the playground and perfected it around the conference table. We were building our castles in the sand.
What we know now we couldn't possibly have known then, for in times past we were without "hope, and without GOD" (EPHESIANS 2:12). We were everyday becoming more entangled in this world's ways and we didn't even know it. We had not yet received the spirit of "power, and of love, and of a sound mind [self control]" (2 TIMOTHY 1:7) to help guide us into the "path of life".
In times past we loved the ways of the world. We loved their cars, their clothes, their look. We loved their lifestyle, their luxuries, their portfolios. Our routines revolved around their holidays, their weekends, their special occasions. It was their Mardi-gras, their New Year's Eve celebrations, their Monday Night Football that we scheduled our lives around. We knew not yet that "all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 JOHN 2:16).
In times past we hadn't learned that the way of the world is at cross purposes with the way of the Father. The world's way is the one we all chose because we knew of no other. We made the world our friend because we feared the dreaded world of solitude. We didn't realize that this friend was destined to be our ruin, so we ran with the herd. In times past we knew not that the "friendship of the world is enmity with God" (JAMES 4:4). Our logic and reason were at odds with GOD's (ROMANS 8:7). We may have thought we knew our Maker but we could not have, for "flesh and blood" cannot reveal unto us HIS hidden way. In times past we had been born only of water, not yet of spirit. Our being was still only carnal, not yet spiritual.
In times past, "when we were enemies", what awaited us at the end of the way we traveled was the wrath of GOD (JOHN 3:36). We didn't know that our doom was fast approaching, but it was, all the same. Because we were deceived and deluded, the only end of the path we followed could be destruction. Paul writes the believers at Thessalonica of the two ways and there respective ends. From the one way there is rest on account of revelation. From the other way there is vengeance on account of ignorance.
2 THESSALONIANS 1:7-8 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In times past we were among those who "know not" and "obey not", thus we also were "children of disobedience". Not necessarily because we were evil, but because we were ignorant, and our ignorance resulted in our disobedience, and our disobedience made us the "children of wrath". Not yet acquiring a love of the truth we believed the lies of the world and learned to love its promises. Knowing not GOD and obeying not the gospel we were destined to perish. Thus writing, Paul continued his letter.
2 THESSALONIANS 2:10-12 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned [judged] who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
These are indeed the two ways. The trajectory of the one is the love of the world. The trajectory of the other is the love of the truth. And so the two ways diverge. A few find the exit ramp and discover a new and better way, while the rest continue on with the herd. Some answer HIS call, the rest make excuse for not answering it. Some believe while others believe not. This is the point upon which our destiny turned.
In times past we were deceived, we were deluded, we were beguiled. We believed not the truth but instead loved and believed the ways of the world. We thought we were free but we were only lost, wandering in a fog that hid the true light from us. As Peter wrote, "While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption" (2 PETER 2:19). The world promised us liberty also, but in the new world order only serfdom to acquisition was found. In times past we blindly followed those of whom it was written of in the Book of JOB.
JOB 21:7-15 Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power? Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them...They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?
Here is the grand summary of the way of the world! They reject HIS rod, HIS correction, HIS calling. "Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways". When HE called unto them, they stopped their ears. They were content to dwell in the darkness and desired not the light of HIS way. And so GOD left them to their own devices. They traded eternal treasures in heaven for that which moth and rust corrupts. They have allowed the deceitfulness of riches to choke the word sown in their hearts. They chose the "pleasures of sin for a season" over the true riches in the kingdom of GOD. Howbeit, in times past, before we received a love of the truth, this was the course we also followed.
And yet, through the thick darkness in which we wandered, a light appeared. Out of the dark night a voice called unto us. For those who would answer that call, GOD prearranged events to initiate their transformation. But to those who were content to dwell in the darkness, who remained disobedient to the "wisdom that is from above", they simply continued to abide in death, in the comfort and shelter of the tomb.
Yet GOD desires all men to turn from the way of the world unto HIM (1 TIMOTHY 2:4). If they choose to receive and believe HIS word they too can "come forth" from their graves and be risen with HIS Son. GOD sends HIS word to be heard. HE sends HIS light to guide our feet that we might see and be delivered from this present darkness, from the course of this world. Thus, HIS whisperings are words of life.
EZEKIEL 18:32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.
To turn is to convert. It is to turn from the course of death to the narrow way which leads unto life. At predetermined occasions in one's life, GOD may very likely offer HIS word to be believed. Upon these occasions one's destiny can turn. GOD desires that all those who are called answer, but HE doesn't strong arm them. Each decides for himself if he will answer the call and receive "the love of the truth" or if he will "obey not" and "believe not" and "turn not". All that is required to find the path of life is for us to turn at HIS reproof and then to exercise our hearts to obey that truth. The way is simple, and if hid it is hid only by the razzle dazzle and shuck and jive of the world's way. As Paul warned the believers in Corinth,
2 CORINTHIANS 4:3-4 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
To "believe not" that glorious gospel of Christ, is to allow our minds to be blinded by this world. Thus the true way is hid. Hid so effectively, that those so blinded see only one way, the broad way unto destruction. GOD can lead us out of the darkness, but it requires our continued obedience to HIS word. The world can blind us only if we neglect to believe the bits and pieces of truth which are routinely sowed in our hearts. However, if we do turn and continue to follow GOD's way by remaining obedient to the unfolding truth sown in our hearts, the light of the gospel will radiate within us, achieving in us our transformation.
Let us always assume the mindset of the psalmist, when he prayed, "Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me" (PSALM 119:133). To become transformed, our steps must follow GOD's word along the path of life. We must not allow desires from the world to rule over us. GOD leads us with HIS word, and we follow by believing. By our decisions our trajectory is determined.
The reason we are given a few short years on this planet is that we might learn to obey GOD. Some learn, others do not. A few find life while many do not. Some learn to walk in liberty while others continue to serve the desires of the flesh. Over the course of our lives, we are all fashioned into something. Some by GOD into vessels of honor and some by the world into vessels of dishonor. But though both ways are before all men, each must choose for himself which way he will go, the way of the world or the way of GOD. The way of conformation or the way of transformation.