When someone is converted, there is an immediate and radical change. From the inner man outward, everything changes. For some people, perhaps converted from a more openly wicked life, that shift has effects that are obvious to others. Like the Gadarene demoniac, the sinner is now found clothed and in his right mind, and everyone can tell the difference. For others, although the inward shift is equally radical and equally absolute, the outward evidence is not so marked. Perhaps they had lived a more moral life or were brought up under the healthy restraint of a gospel home.

But either way, conversion is only the beginning. From that point on, the believer—typically within the fellowship of a faithful church and under the care of godly undershepherds—should be growing “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

After those first striking moments in which, now that the believer is joined to Christ, there is a breach with sin, a process of maturation goes on. By degrees, sometimes faster and sometimes slower, the believer is conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). Paul labored in birth for his “little children” in Galatia until Christ was formed in them (Gal. 4:19). God’s obedient children are not to conform themselves to their former lusts, as they did in their ignorance, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14–16).

Have you known that reality of growing in grace? Do you experience it now? What might it look like and feel like? Perhaps you remember a friend you used to know, and you get a chance to meet up again. You get together, and after a few minutes you feel a disconnect—you are speaking past each other. You are referring to the same events but no longer looking with the same eyes. The old jokes aren’t so funny, the old memories are not quite shared any longer, the old perspectives don’t sit with you as they once did. It’s not that you don’t have any affection for your old friend, but you have moved on. There’s less common ground, and there is a marked bump in the road when you speak to your friend about your Savior.

Truly, the old has gone, and it is gone for good. Behold, all things are becoming new.

Or you find an old book and start reading through it again, perhaps with fond memories of your first time through. Then within a few pages, you’re surprised, even horrified. It’s more than a flaky memory; it’s a different set of responses. There are scenes, there is language, there are attitudes woven into the text that are now alien to you. You are reading through different eyes, responding with a more mature sense. Before too long, you put down the book.

Or you relax with a film or television program you remember enjoying while younger. It was funny; it was stimulating; it was engaging. You start watching, and within a few minutes, you are stunned. Perhaps you try to keep watching—surely, it’s not like this all the way through. Maybe it’s just a fluke of memory. But no. The humor is coarse—at least, coarser than anything you would now indulge. The language is uglier than you can take—there are blasphemies and vulgarities you did not remember, but now they hit hard and you cannot stomach them. The jokes are just not funny, as they play off the cruel and the crass. The outlook is carnal—the worldly attitudes, the deliberate godlessness, the casual deceit and unfaithfulness, the misrepresentations of masculinity and femininity, the hypersexuality, the pushing of a perverse agenda. You genuinely don’t remember this from before; truth be told, you probably didn’t recognize it at the time, or you recognized it just barely. Maybe you experienced a slight stirring of conscience, but not enough to bother you too much. Now, though, you cannot get through much of it at all. Within a few minutes, you have switched it off. You don’t switch it on again.

Again, the shock, the sense of distance, may be greater depending on where you began, what you first left behind, how much time has passed, and what kind of teaching and example you have enjoyed. But the distance is real. What has happened to you? You have grown in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You are not the man or woman you once were. You are more mature than once you were—more like Christ, more in tune with your heavenly Father, more manifestly a child of His care. Your delight in righteousness has developed. Your sensitivity to sin has increased. Your wish to please God is fuller and more finely developed.

It’s not just growing up. That cannot account for it all. It is growing up in all things into Him who is the Head, Jesus Christ. It is an increasing heavenly mindedness. You have been raised with Christ. You are accustomed now to seeking those things that are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God—and it shows. Now you set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth, for you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:1–3). It is not just the immediate reality of the new creation in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the fruit, over time, of the Spirit’s work in you, bringing about increasing likeness to Christ. Since He took up residence in your heart, He has been overhauling all the rooms, digging out the junk, renovating and redecorating, making all increasingly fit for His indwelling and marked by His holy tastes. Truly, the old has gone, and it is gone for good. Behold, all things are becoming new.

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