Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.
(1 Cor. 5:17a)
At the age of 30, Howard Ball was a successful business man—not wealthy, but moving steadily towards his career goals. He was happily married and had a family. But in the process of moving up the ladder, he had closed the door on God. As an agnostic he considered God to be irrelevant and unknowable. Nonetheless, he still went to church, taught a Sunday School class and served on the stewardship committee of a church of 1800+ people. Ball played it safe. He was making the right moves, getting good connections. His world was coming together, but what he didn't know was that his life was about to take on a new dimension. The God of whom he was so skeptical became real in his life as a friend introduced him personally to Jesus Christ.

"If a person is in Christ, he is a new person" wrote Paul to the Corinthians, and though Howard didn't completely understand what was happening to him, he knew his attitudes were changing. There was one person, in particular, whose office was near Howard's whom he absolutely could not stand. He disliked the man with a passion and avoided him if at all possible.

One day shortly after his conversion, Howard ran into the man. They stood and talked. Then as the conversation ended, he thought, "I actually love that man. Something sure is different." Thinking of the change in him, he said to himself, "So this is what it is like to have a nervous breakdown!" But it wasn't, really. His changing attitudes were an indication of God's working with his heart, as the image of Christ began to leave its mark on his relationships with others.

Soon after his conversion, Howard read that the fruit of God's Spirit working in our lives brings love, joy, peace and other God-like qualities. Then he understood clearly what was happening to him. "That explains why I'm different," he thought. But two years later, he almost gave up on the whole business. What caused his disappointment?

He explains it like this. When he first found Jesus Christ, he was short on knowledge and long on joy. He knew practically nothing about the Bible or God's plan for his life. He only knew that he had found an intense joy and satisfaction in living which he had never had before. Then things gradually began to change. He began to study the Word and got deeply involved in activities. Two years later, he was up on knowledge but down on joy. He had gotten so busy doing things, serving on boards and committees, doing things for God that He had little time to be with God, to nurture his relationship with Him and to walk with Him day by day.

A lot of folks are like that—perhaps you, too. Working for God—activities, committee meetings, church functions and so forth, things which are well and good in themselves—can become a trap, a kind of entrapment that keeps the main thing from being the main thing.

The Christian life is a relationship which can be as lively and vibrant as a friendship with your best friend, or it can become a ritual, a routine, a lifestyle without much life. There's nothing wrong with serving on boards and committees and going to meetings, but we must never forget that what counts is the ongoing, day by day relationship with a living person, Jesus Christ. Howard Ball didn't give up and for more than 30 years served with an international organization known as Campus Crusade, but he had to learn to keep the main thing the main thing. Paul was right. When a person is in Christ, he or she is a new person. God's purpose is for you to keep that joy for the rest of your life.

Resource reading: John 3

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