Before we can make a spiritual difference in the lives of others, Christ must make the difference in us. We must be born again. We must be regenerated. We must be saved! Until then, we are spiritually dead in our sins. We must be made alive again. It is salvation that sets the captive free.
There must be a conversion from lost sinner to born again saint! Then God can begin working IN us and THROUGH us. This conversion should lead us to a changed life that is obvious to others. People need to see what Christ has done for us and what He has done in us. We cannot make A DIFFERENCE if people cannot see THE DIFFERENCE that Christ has made in us. Christ wants to save us and transform us into vessels of honor, living testimonies of His power and His grace. That is what He wants to do, but how many of His people are allowing that transforming process to work itself out in their lives?
John Newton was born in 1725 to a godly mother and a sea captain father. His mother taught him to pray but died when he was seven years old. Over his years at sea he lived a wicked life and was both a slave for a time and the captain of a slave ship. One night in a terrible storm, John Newton remembered the prayers of his mother and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ to save his soul. His tombstone in Olney reads,
John Newton, Clerk; once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.
This converted sea captain became a preacher of the gospel and was used to write what is perhaps the most famous English hymn, a song that has blessed saints and sinners for centuries, Amazing Grace.
Billy Sunday was a baseball player from 1883 to 1891, playing for Chicago, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia clubs. During those years, his lightning speed and athleticism allowed him to steal 246 bases. One Sunday, he and some friends from his baseball team walked out a saloon and stopped to listen to a musical group outside of the Pacific Garden Mission. Sunday recognized some of the hymns as those his mother used to sing around their home in his childhood. The music literally moved Sunday to tears. In his own words:
“I sobbed and sobbed and a young man stepped out and said, ‘We are going down to the Pacific Garden Mission. Won’t you come down to the mission? I am sure you will enjoy it. You can hear drunkards tell how they have been saved and girls tell how they have been saved from the red-light district.’
“I arose and said to the boys, ‘I’m through. I am going to Jesus Christ. We’ve come to the parting of the ways,’ and I turned my back on them. Some of them laughed and some of them mocked me; one of them gave me encouragement; others never said a word.”
Sunday turned his back on a lucrative baseball career and began serving the Lord. The Lord made the difference in his life and then used him to make a difference in the lives of millions.
One day in 1855, a shy but determined Sunday School teacher named Ed Kimball, became concerned for an eighteen-year-old who attended his Sunday School class. Nervously, Kimball set out to try to win young D.L. Moody to Christ. He became fearful of embarrassing the lad at work; he worried that he might not know what to say; he almost walked past the store without entering! The devil surely works overtime to keep us from witnessing for Jesus Christ! Finally, Kimball dashed into the store, placed a hand on Moody’s shoulder, and gave what he considered a very weak plea for the young man to be saved. To his great surprise, Moody wanted to be saved and was gloriously converted there in the back of a boot shop in Boston. The Lord made a difference in Moody’s life, and then used him to reach millions in America and Europe.
Mel Trotter was a drunkard, the son of a bartender who “drank as much as he served.” One day he returned from a drunken period of carousing to find out that his two-year-old son had died. He stood beside the coffin and vowed that he would never drink again – a vow he immediately broke. Stealing the shoes off his own dead son, he sold them for a few coins to buy more liquor. Hating himself, he was staggering towards Lake Michigan, where he was going to commit suicide, when he staggered into the Pacific Garden Mission, where Henry Monroe prayed for his salvation and preached the gospel to him. Incidentally, Henry Monroe was also the street preacher that preached the gospel to Billy Sunday! Trotter could never overcome liquor by himself. However, when the Lord made the difference in his life, he could turn around and make a difference in the lives of countless others through the rescue mission he founded in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Thank God, our Saviour specializes in saving old sinners! But not all conversions are so famous or “dramatic.” For every Billy Sunday or D.L. Moody, there are thousands of boys and girls who turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and are saved at an early age. These are the best testimonies of all! Regardless of when or how a person gets saved, the key is that they MUST get saved. Then they must let the Lord make the difference in their lives. Billy Sunday did not go back into the bar and then win over a million people to Christ. There was a difference in his life that allowed him to make a difference in the lives of others!
Charles Spurgeon was converted at age fifteen and gave his whole life to Jesus Christ. Desperately searching for truth, he was trying to attend church during a Sunday morning snowstorm. He was diverted by the storm to a little Primitive Methodist chapel. Even the minister did not show up. However, a faithful layman stood to preach, and stammered along for about ten minutes when he saw Spurgeon under the gallery. In Spurgeon’s own words:
‘Young man, you look very miserable.’ Well, I did; but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made on my personal appearance from the pulpit before. However, it was a good blow struck. He continued: ‘And you will always be miserable — miserable in life and miserable in death — if you do not obey my text. But if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.’
“Then he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist can, ‘Young man, look to Jesus Christ.’ There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that moment and sung with the most enthusiastic of them of the Precious Blood of Christ.”
Spurgeon went on to become one of the most famous and mightily used preachers in history. It all began when Christ made the difference in his heart.
Over 200,000 people were converted to Christ through the ministry of Oliver B. Greene. Over seven thousand were converted in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, during a meeting. Thousands more were influenced through his radio broadcasts and books. Yet in his youth, he was as wicked as a young man could be, despite coming from a good family. At age twenty, he attended a revival meeting just to be with a girl, but he came under conviction from the message on Romans 6:23. That night, he was saved! Gone were the old ways. His testimony later was “from disgrace to grace.” Christ made the difference in his life and then made a difference through his life.
What difference has Christ made in your life? Is that difference making a difference in the lives of others? Perhaps you will never be a John Newton. Could you be the parent that teaches your little child to pray? Perhaps you will never be a Billy Sunday. Could you go witnessing on the streets, or play an instrument, or sing a hymn, or be the young man that invited him in, or be a Henry Monroe preaching in a mission to the down-and-out? You may never be a D.L. Moody. Could you be a faithful Sunday School teacher making a soul-winning visit to lead that class member to the Lord? You may never be a Mel Trotter, but perhaps you could find one at the end of his rope. You may never be a Charles Spurgeon, but can you be a faithful witness that boldly points someone to the Lamb of God? You may never be an Oliver B. Greene, but could you be that unnamed preacher who holds the revival meeting or faithfully preaches from Romans 6:23?
Has Christ made the difference in YOUR life? Have you been saved? If you have been saved, is there a noticeable difference between yourself and the world around you? If not, in what area are you resisting the Spirit of God? Before Christ can make a difference through your life, He needs to make the difference in your life.