When someone becomes a Christian, a transformation takes place: they move from death to life—from darkness to light. This entails a shift in how they live their life, no longer walking as they previously did before knowing Jesus.
But what does this transformation entail? How does it happen? When should it happen? Is it instantaneous or is it a process? Is it something one does themselves, or is it done for them?
In this episode, Chase Kuhn interviews Caroline Clark about the transformation that came to her life as a result of following Jesus and about the place of transformation in all of our lives as Christians.
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Runtime: 47:32 min.
Chase Kuhn: When someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ, there is a transformation that’s expected in their life. This expectation in biblical terms is called “repentance”: one turns from their old, dead ways and turns instead to live in the newness of life that they enjoy in Christ.
Sometimes this transformation is subtle, and other times it’s noticeably dramatic. But either way, it is profound. Today on the podcast, we’ll hear a testimony of a life transformed by the gospel, and explore what is helpful in the process of transformation. What sorts of expectations should we have as we turn to this newness of life? What sorts of challenges do we face in being transformed? Is transformation something that happens to us or something that we participate in? And as we think about our own transformation, we’re also going to consider how we can walk beside others in our churches as we all seek to live according to the newness of life that we have in Christ by the Spirit.
CK: Hello, and welcome to the Centre for Christian Living podcast. My name is Chase Kuhn. I’m coming to you from Moore College in Sydney, Australia. The Centre for Christian Living exists to bring biblical ethics to everyday issues, and today I’m very glad to have Caroline Clark with me as my guest.
Caroline’s a friend of mine and we go to church together. We also serve on the staff here at Moore College together: she works as a chaplain, looking after a number of women here as they’re growing in their theological program. Caroline has worked in the business sector, she’s been a missionary overseas, and currently serves alongside of her husband raising their four children and pastorally caring for the church at St Thomas’s in North Sydney. Caroline, thanks for being with me today.
Caroline Clark: Thanks for having me, Chase!
CK: It’s a pleasure. Today we’re talking about transformation and transformation that comes to us through the gospel. One of the things I’ve appreciated, Caroline, is being able to hear your story a number of times in different contexts. And I guess we hear many different testimonies from people in Christian circles, but you’ve always expressed yours with great candour, and I’ve really loved that. And I’m glad that we can have a chance today, hopefully, to hear about your story as well as talk about the topic of transformation and what we can expect—
CK: —for people. So thank you.
CK: Maybe we’ll just begin. I’d love to hear a bit about where it all began for you. What was life like for you before you became a Christian?
CC: Yeah. So I grew up in the UK. And I grew up in a quite a middle class town, and Dad used to say, “Caroline, there’s two working class people in this house and three middle class people,” and he was meaning I was working class with him. But it meant I grew up with this sense of disillusionment and a sense I didn’t quite fit into that town. So I went to church until I was about 11, and then—it was a church where it kind of would say, “Jesus was good. Be like Jesus” every week. And so I—at age 11, I said, “I don’t—I get it, Dad. I don’t need to go anymore.” And they didn’t go to church, Mum and Dad, anyway, so they were fine about it. They just wanted to give us the option.
But I think I always had this sense that there was something bigger, ’cause this wasn’t all there was. You know. I think I just felt like I didn’t fit in this middle class town, and there was more to it. There must—there is a real world out there. And so it kind of got me going on a journey of studying theology. I did RE A Level and then I studied theology at Uni as my minor; I did politics as a major and theology as a minor. And each time I’d study something, I’d go and try and get a summer job in the place, like, that had religion—whether it is Islam or Baha’ism or Sufism or whatever—and just try and check it out. I was like a real kind of truth-seeker, and I think at each time, it was a genuine search; I wanted each one to be right each time.
So I didn’t investigate Christianity ’cause I assumed I already knew what it was, based on my 11-year-old Sunday School experience, and thought that that, you know, was pretty basic, I guess. And so, I enjoyed going on this spiritual journey. I got the closest, probably, to becoming a Buddhist, but the thing that stopped me, I think, was the idea of an afterlife, and if you look at the original Theravadan Buddhism, then, you’re literally extinguished like a candle at the end of it. And that’s what you’re going for—that’s the goal. And I’m like, “There’s got to be more.” And then I could understand why these corruptions of Buddhism had all sprung up around that, like with Pure Land/heaven-type things. I’m thinking, “But the pure one—the original one—like, didn’t have any sense of hope.” I thought, “This is a religion to live by, but not one to die by.” So I hadn’t settled on any particular spiritual truth. But I think I felt I was a spiritual person.
CK: Interesting. I’m just wondering about your childhood, just coming back for a moment. I mean, feeling like a round peg in a square hole, or whatever it is, in this town, like you felt really out of place, what was it that jarred you and made you feel out of place, besides the whole class divide or whatever it may be that was felt?
CC: I think I just found everything was pretty culturally shallow. Like, women were going out to lunch and tennis all the time, and hadn’t got anything to talk about, and that’s fine; that was probably me being a judgemental kid and a judgemental teenager—just thinking, “But there’s got to be more than this!”
CC: “Is this what I’m aspiring to become?”
CC: Like that kind of thing. And at the time when I grew up, there were more millionaires in my town than any town in England; I learned that from David Robertson recently.
CC: But that’s the kind of place that I was growing up in, do you know?
CC: It was very aspirational. And so, these were the people at the top of the food chain and I didn’t really want to be like that.
CC: So, yeah.
CK: And what was driving them? I mean, their engagement with religion. Your parents sent you to Sunday School for some reason; what was it in the culture around you that was giving people any place for religion in their life?
CC: Like I—again, I think, probably just doing the right thing by people. And it’s a community: it was like a club. I think people would go along and they’d catch up with friends and they’d, you know—they would just—it was just like a club, I guess.
CK: Yeah. I had lunch with a man in the UK some months back. Clearly not a Christian, and yet he was on the parish council of the tiny village church, because that’s just what you do: you love the community.
CC: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
CK: Really interesting.
CC: And they’re your dearest friends, and—
CC: I think, we’ve been seeing in—recently in the media, how great the English are at community, haven’t we—in the way that they’ve all been looking out for each other and all the clever and creative ways that they do that, and I think the weather’s so dismal that you find the warmth in people’s homes and in the pubs and things—like, you need—
CC: —you need that!
CK: Yeah. So you obviously had a drive towards truth—somewhere, somehow—and were searching, and you—you were studying theology, and by “theology”, you mean lower “t” theology—any world religion that’s—
CC: Yeah, yeah.
CK: —going to present a philosophy of life to live by.
CC: Yes. Yeah.
CK: Yeah. So how did you then ultimately come into Christianity? Obviously you found the others dissatisfying for one way or another—one reason or another.
CC: When I moved to London with work, then I moved in with a flatmate who had become a Christian. She’s called Holly and she used to say to me, “Caroline, I’m just scared you’re going to go to hell!” And I’d say, “Holly, don’t worry! I’m not going to hell.” And when it came to Lent, then, she’d suggest I give something up and I’m like, “I don’t have any vices, Holly, like, what do I do?” Like, yeah. She suggested I give up boys for Lent. That was my thing, [Laughter] she suggested.
But anyway, she was going along to a church that was running a course that she was going to go along to, and the course was called “Bedrock” and it was kind of like a theology course, and I thought, “Cool, I haven’t studied anything spiritually for a little while.” By that point, I was working as a legal recruiter/headhunter in London, probably been out of Uni for about three years, and so I thought, “Yeah, okay, look, I’ll go along to that course with you.” And her friends around her were going, “Why don’t you take her to Christianity Explained?” and she’s like, “She doesn’t want to go to Christianity Explained, but she’ll come to this.”
But though I think that put me in contact with a couple of people who got praying for me. There was a guy who, on the first week I was there, noticed I switched off and shut the Bible halfway through, and he moved onto my table and thought, “Let’s see what’s going on with that person there who doesn’t come to church with us, obviously.” And he became a good friend. And then from my side of things, I feel like I became a Christian completely out of the blue and by accident, and I think that God used all of my dumb mistakes to just put me where he wanted me to be, really.
So I got offered two jobs in Australia in one week. At that point in my life, I actually, if I had stopped and thought about it, like, “Do I move to Australia or stay in London?”, I’d have probably stayed in London. I’d bought a flat—it was a lovely flat in a lovely part of London—I was working three days in London, two days in Bristol, like, in the southwest, and yeah, it was a pretty good life, actually.
But then when I got offered these two jobs in Australia, I ended up thinking, “Well, which one do I take?” and somehow bypassed that thought, and ended up taking one, and ended up in Australia, thinking, “What am I doing here? Why am I in this place where I care for no one and nothing, having left everyone I care for and everything I love? Like, what am I doing?” And so … and then I kind of thought, “Oh, look, I guess I’m here for the job. Better get on with the job.” But I really was quite disillusioned even with the job. And I think, yeah.
I was looking for a carol service—just something a bit English-y. I’d arrived in October, it was coming up to Christmas, and in that search, then, I had a disastrous experience. I took my flatmate along, and it was—it’s too wacky to go into, but it’s quite hilarious, so I’ll tell you about it another time.
CK: Sure. I would like to another time!
CC: But, my flat—yeah, like, my flatmate’s like, “Can we go?” I mean, I said, “Can we go?” And he’s like, “No, you—I’ve never seen anything like this before!” Anyway, it was like—and the preacher said that there were no good churches in Sydney and he’d felt called to set up a true church. And so when I went to work on the Monday, my secretary said, “What’d you do on the weekend?” and I told her and I said, “And if that’s the only good church in Sydney, I’m never going to church! And that’s a shame, because I wanted to go to a carol service.” And she didn’t say, “I’m a Christian” or anything that I might have found unusual. At that point, she just said, “Oh, I’ve got a couple of friends who live near you and they’re quite normal. How ’bout I give you their number and you go to their church?” And I thought, “Okay. I can do that.” So I gave them a ring and went their church. And that was quite underwhelming for a different reason in that there was no choir, no orchestra, no candles, no atmosphere, no Christmas tree. It was just a talk with, like, strip lights and a few songs and things, and I was like, “Oh, okay.” But, you know, everything’s different; it’s not the same country.
But what that did do is it put me in touch with knowing where a local church was, and then I went to Brazil for Christmas, nearly—met a bloke, nearly didn’t come back, ended up coming back, partly ’cause my parents made me come back to Australia, and then one weekend, I’d been out drinking with my old boss, who had offered me a job and I’d turned his job down, and in recruitment and headhunting, you’re drinking a lot, but he was my boss and he could drink better than I could. So I ended being hungover all day Saturday and most of Sunday, and when it got to Sunday when my flatmate was going back to the pub, I was filthy at myself ’cause it was a beautiful sunny day, lived on Bondi Beach, and it was the kind of day that you get once, like, every five years in England. So I was just thinking, “You idiot”—like—“what are you doing wasting days like this?”
And—and I wanted to go out of the flat. I’d been in the flat all weekend and thought, “Oh, look I’ll go to that church again,” and they were recruiting at that church for a weekend away the following weekend, saying, “Last chance to register! It’s in the Blue Mountains. Like, there’ll be bush walking,” and all this kind of stuff, and I thought, “Never been to the Blue Mountains, there’ll be fresh air, there’ll be all these clean people, there’ll be no alcohol. Okay. Yeah.” And so I signed up for that weekend away, thinking, “Yeah, this is what you need” and I guess in kind of a penance-y sort of way. “Sort yourself out. Go on a detox if you can.”
So I ended up going up to this—I nearly didn’t go ’cause I was an hour late for my lift, but my lift was an hour and a half late—and ended up going to this thing that, actually, was a Katoomba Christian Convention, so there was like three thousand people there. And the first thing that struck me is that—it—the theme was eternity, and everyone to my right and my left had a different understanding of eternity to me; they had a sense that they were eternity now. And the other thing that struck me as odd was that they were—wanted to be dead—like, that was better: they were longing—longing!—to be dead, and I was like, “Why do I feel like I’m in the minority here?” you know? Like, “This is something that you’d think about when you have to—when you’re faced with it at the end, and then you sort it out.”
But I think that tapped into my longing for the afterlife that I hadn’t had when I was studying theology. And so that kind of caught my interest. And then on that weekend, I just got a really clear picture of who Jesus is and what he’d done for us. So shifting from an understanding that he was a teacher who taught us to be good to realising that wasn’t his mission at all—that he’d come to save us; and that he wasn’t just a man—that he was God; and then that his death wasn’t just that this historic miscarriage of justice like so many historic miscarriages of justice—that it was personal and that he’d died for me and I needed to respond to this.
I was just devastated, actually. I was just devastated that God has gone to that length. There was a verse that was read: “You killed the author of life” (Acts 3:15) and I was just like, “How did this happen? How would the author of life die for me?” So I went up the front and gave my life to Christ at that point and prayed a prayer. At that point, seeing as you’re—the topic is Christian transformation, I recognised at that point that Jesus had given everything up for us and that that meant that for me, I had to change everything at that point. But I just thought that’s way hard to do.
CC: Like, I had an ex-boyfriend turning up in the country two weeks later and we were thinking at that point, we’d get back to together again. We’d been together for four years and then, you know—all that kind of stuff. And I remember talking to this person, she’s like, “Well, you might have to marry him”—this—my—this kind of poor counsellor person—me. And then just saying, [Laughter] “Look, if I give my life to Jesus, I’d have to change everything. What do I do?” But I understood at that point that my life was no longer my own: I’d given it to the Lord, because he’d given his to me. And this understanding that he didn’t die for me because I’m a good person; like, it was the opposite—it was because I’d fallen short, and he—he’s merciful. It is only out of his mercy that he’s done this.
CC: Like, there’s nothing that I’m bringing in this. And so, why would I want to do anything that would be hurting him after he’s done this for me? That kind of make—that’s kind of like—
CC: —how I was feeling. But it turned out the great, great provision was my secretary was a Christian. Her surname would have given that away if I’d have known—like, if I’d have been in Christian circles—’cause her father-in-law was quite a well-known Sydney Anglican. But she was the most beautiful provision. She sat directly opposite me and I’d get so passionate about the wrong bits of the Bible and ask dumb questions, and she was incredibly patient with me and, yeah. She’s just brilliant. She’s just brilliant. And she was the one who’d given me the phone number in the first place. So she was like secretly very excited at that point.
So the dilemma that I faced was I know that Jesus is asking me to give everything up that I know, and to be a new creation, but that’s going to be really hard to do that all at once. So maybe if I just try to control it and do it a bit at a time, then maybe I can just do it—give up a bit as I choose—as I go along.
CC: And I think, in hindsight, that’s so much the hard way. I just wish that I’d had just—
CK: Cold turkey.
CC: Cold turkey just done the whole hog. ’Cause things like I cut down on drinking, ’cause I was drinking way too much, but as soon as you cut down on drinking, your threshold goes through the floor and you’re in more trouble than you were when you’re drinking loads. Like, your body isn’t programmed for that kind of thing. And, yeah, and so, I remember just kind of, I guess, do deals with God—like, “If I do this, then will you do this?” and “If I do—”
But it wasn’t what he was asking of me. I wasn’t—I remember a boyfriend staying over and crying in the shower—like, ’cause he’d stayed over—and thinking, “What on earth’s going on with me? What’s going—what’s happ—why am I sad about this? This is normal. Like, what’s upsetting me?” And then as time went on, I stopped crying and thought, “This is worse” and panicked. I didn’t know why I—I knew that this was something that was wrong going on in my heart that was hardened or something, like—I wasn’t getting upset about something—and I didn’t at that point know what the Holy Spirit was. And so, to me it was completely mystifying. [Laughter] Like, “What’s going on with me?”
I remember going along to church and hearing a sermon on sex: it should be just within marriage. And I thought, “I don’t know anyone in my whole world that believes that. But you sound like you really mean it. And you believe that that’s true.” And I remember it sticking with me and just thinking, “I need to rethink this and I need to look into this,” and that kind of thing. And—so I think, really, for the first year, my life was more of a mess than it was before I was a Christian—just ’cause I was trying to control alcohol—and certainly the first six months.
And so at that point, then, I had had to stop drinking completely. And that was a weird thing, because a lot of people were, like, saying—including my dad, was like, “Yeah, but it’s just a phase, isn’t it, Caroline. You’ll start drinking again soon.” And I’m like, “I don’t know, Dad. I might never drink again. Like, you don’t know what it’s been doing to me.” And as soon as I made the decision to stop drinking, then my relationship with God just got so much better. I just got so much more joy from knowing him. It was just like this massive leap—as if this thing had been stuck in the way. Yeah, and then I was—I guess I was just thinking, like I was saying to you before, Chase, God’s given everything up for us; why would I be struggling and messing around with giving up something as trivial as alcohol? Like—
CC: —in the big scheme of things, that’s pathetic, to be holding onto that kind of thing.
CK: With that, I mean, it’s really interesting, Caroline—thank you for sharing all that—I mean, when you’re talking about this change, I’m a bit surprised and glad to hear that from Day #1—from Go—there was an automatic understanding something’s gotta give. I mean, something’s gotta change. But nobody was sitting there telling you that. Am I right? I mean—
CK: —no one’s saying, “Now, Caroline, you understand, this is going to mean these things for your life.” I mean, these were almost intuitive to you. Is that right?
CC: I think it was a conviction. Like, I think I was convicted. And I think the way that I came to know Jesus, I had a really clear picture of the beauty of Jesus and how—just how incredible he was. And the idea that I could come to him as my brother and tell him anything, and that he was with me and he is helping me. But at the same time, it wasn’t my call to try to do those things. I knew straight away, “This is the author of life. He has made me. He’s designed me. He knows what’s best for me. But it’s sounds too hard—sounds too hard.”
CC: “I’m just going to try and manage it myself.” Which is ridiculous.
CK: It is ridiculous. [Laughter] And it’s a—it’s a struggle that too many of us go through, isn’t it, because we automatically assume, in one sense, “Okay, now I’ve got the key—that is, I’ve got salvation—so now I’ll show God what I can do with it and I’ll manage my life still.” So we keep seeking some sort of control over our circumstances, rather than actually giving our lives up—
CK: —to him.
CC: I think that’s true. And I think the whole thing about sitting under the word of God, like, as well, was just really convicting and powerful. Because I got converted at a Katoomba Convention, I checked into every single Katoomba Convention that was going for the next couple of years. I think within two years, I’d been to 13 Katoomba Conventions. [Laughter]
CK: That’s right!
CC: I was often going on my own, not knowing anyone at all, just checking in on my—and thinking, “Why isn’t everyone here? This is brilliant!” and, yeah. And I’d go to church and I’d go to Bible Study. My frustration was, though, the people at church didn’t want to talk about the sermon and things, and they didn’t understand that I didn’t have any Christian friends. This is my only chance to talk about God—
CC: —and talk through these things, and they’re often like, “I like jacket. Hey, where’d you get your shirt?” [Laughter] And I’m like, “That’s not what we’re here for. That’s too much, like, the place I grew up in, do you know what I mean?”
CC: “Let’s talk about what the sermon was on.”
CK: Something substantial.
CC: Yeah, yeah.
CK: Yeah, something substantial.
CC: Yeah, yeah. Like, “What’s challenged you from this?” Like—
CC: —“What have you learned about yourself from that sermon? What have you learned about God?”
CC: You know? Like, I mean—
CK: What a rebuke for us that have been well-seasoned Christians—I mean, yourself included now, right? I mean, we often forget how shocking the news can be and how good the news can be when it is heard on fresh ears. And when you’ve not been immersed in it for so long, everything is new. And everything is earth-shattering, really. I mean, it’s turning your whole world upside down.
CK: It is such a contrast to everything you’ve known: suddenly you’ve been in the dark and you walk into the light, and it’s almost blinding, because you’re just—
CC: Yeah. Yeah.
CK: —you know. I don’t—I—I love the light: it’s much better—it’s much warmer out here. But I just don’t know where to look and I don’t know how to be out here.
CC: Yeah. Yeah.
CK: It’s very interesting.
CC: Yeah, and so, I think that was where that hunger for sermons came from, and, like, I was just going along to every single talk that I could, and I was—I remember David Jackman came to the first Easter convention—this lovely English creature, and I’ve got letters from him still—
CC: —’cause after the sermon, I got to sat down and talk to him about things.
CC: So people were so generous with me at time as well, and—and I had no sense of, “Oh my goodness, they’re a Christian guru” or anything like that. I’m like, “They seem to know a few things. I’ll go and ask them.” So, yeah, like, they’re the right people to task. And they were the right people to ask.
CK: They’re lovely people.
CC: Lovely servant-hearted—
CK: —aren’t they. David Jackman’s lovely.
CC: —beautiful, yeah.
CK: But isn’t that great that people take care and interest in you.
CC: I know. Yeah. Which is amazing.
CK: Which is so crucial to our formation, isn’t it.
CK: I mean, I’ll ask you about that in a second, but I want to go back to your staging, because you were saying how you were trying to manage the transformation in your life—that is, “I’ll give up the little in the hope that God will kind of meet me halfway” and that didn’t work, and for you, I mean, we recognise that alcohol is not the sin of all sins or anything. But in your life, that was a real hindrance to your growth in the gospel—
CK: —and so was clearly something that needed to go.
CK: And so, for you, even trying to stage and manage things that were obvious hindrances to you, you were able to identify those things. How did you shift from sort of a gradual change to giving it over? What was it that—
CK: —that tipped you over to that point?
CC: I think that, at the time, like, in hindsight, you can always see it easier from this point—that they were idols. So I think if I had a good day, I’d go and have a drink; if I had a bad day, I’d go and have a drink; if nothing happened, I’d go and have a drink; if too much happened, I’d go and have a drink. And, like, this is something that I was just turning to every day, and I think that was in the place of if you had a good day, praise God! If you had a bad day, tell God. Like, do you know what I mean? It was that kind of, yeah, turning—
CK: A shift of dependency.
CC: —turning to. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. A shift—that’s a—that’s a good way of putting it: “a shift of dependency”. And then with this guy in England—this old boyfriend, who I’d known since I was 17, then—I met up with him and he said, “Look, Caroline, you were always going to do some kind of charitable work and so, I’m in IT and if you want to become a missionary, I’ll support you financially, and we can just go and do that together, and I don’t need to buy into all of the things that you do, but I love you and I’ll support you.” But as we’d talk, then, he’d say, “All of that passion and all of that love that you have for Jesus—that you used to belong to me.” And he kind of was jealous of the passion that I have for Jesus now.
And to me, at that point, then, it made it clear that I had idolised him—that he was in the place of Jesus—and however much I could explain to him, “But this is who Jesus is and he can be that to you as well”, he’d just say, “Look, I don’t see it like that.” So that was actually really hard—actually, that was very hard to let go of each other in that sense, and very sad. But what it did mean is that I had no inclination to get involved with any unbelieving boys ever again, because, again, it had been so clarifying—like, they will want from me what belongs to God. And to do that is to murder my soul, because I belong to God! And so there’s this real kind of [Laughter] “I’m not going anywhere near you!” If I was going to get involved with an unbeliever, it would have been with him. So I’m not—
CC: —I’m not going there. I mean, and it is a struggle: it’s still a struggle when I go back to England, I’d want to pick up the phone and check in—like, it was always like it’s—
CC: —there and a temptation, I—I remember asking David Cook, “Just give me a verse to hang on to. Just tell me something that says I shouldn’t go there.” And he said, “The trouble is, Caroline, it’s right through the Bible.” He said, “Every time Israel got involved with anyone who wasn’t, you know, Israel, then look at what happened—in every sense—whether it’s a treaty, whether it’s anything—like, look at what happens.” So, yeah. That’s—
CK: That’s fascinating, because there you met both what you felt the Spirit was convicting in you—in your heart—which was quite rational, actually. I mean, you recognise that “This was something that was in my way of God; I was actually looking to him—depending on him—idolising him—and actually my affection needs to be turned to Christ.” And then you go and actually you look for a law of some sort to actually kind of pin that on.
CK: And David says, “No, you have to understand, it’s sort of the sum total of our faith—”
CC: Yes! [Laughter]
CK: “—that everything is God’s.”
CC: I know!
CK: But it’s also what you rationalise. Like, it was what was true in your heart as well. And it’s the testimony all throughout Scripture—which, I guess, must have solidified those things in your mind.
CC: Yeah, it really did. I mean, I think, we are transformed by the renewal of our minds, and that’s a battle—that’s a battle to keep renewing our minds and keep being conformed to Jesus’ likeness. And I know this ’cause I made friends with some guys who dealt drugs in our area: they ran the café around the corner. But two out of the three brothers also came to Christ—
CC: —and one of them had, like, a big dependence on drugs themselves. And I remember him just saying, “Look, Caroline, the Holy Spirit’s not coming through for me,” and I’m like, “It’s not just the Holy Spirit; you’ve got to sit under the word of God and you’ve got to know Jesus and you’ve got to be convicted by who he is and all that he’s done for you.”
CC: “And you need to pursue Jesus. It just doesn’t just work that the Holy Spirit’s going to fix all this up for you.” But I also am very aware that with addictions, then, it’s really hard.
CK: Of course it is.
CC: It’s really really hard, and actually you just want someone to take the problem away.
CK: Yeah, I’m sure.
CC: You just want the Spirit to take the problem away. So I think watching these friends, they’re both Christians—they’re both still going to Bible studies—they’re—they’re going great, like I talked to one of the brothers just a few months ago. And, yeah, but I kind of was aware that the difference between this guy and me was that I just wanted to sit with Jesus: I just wanted to sit with him. I just wanted to hear his voice and I just wanted to listen to him, and as I was doing that, then, he would convict me and he would show me who I was, who he was and how to get through this life. And—
CK: That’s great!
CC: Yeah, that was kind of the real difference. So I think at that point, I should have just kept pointing him to Jesus—“Okay, keep getting to know him, keep—” Yeah, I can’t remember what advice I was giving him, apart from, you know, “It’s not—doesn’t work like that!” [Laughter]
CK: Well, you’ve made a good point, because you—I mean, you’ve said here both—you’ve drawn out something both the active and the passive responsibility that we have. That is, passively, we receive transformation as the Spirit renews us: he brings us into the newness of life that we have in Christ.
CK: And yet actively, we seek after those things as we submit ourselves to God’s word—
CK: —and as we draw near to him in his word.
CK: I—you made reference to this, and I’ll read out this passage, which is one of the passages about transformation in the Bible: it comes from Romans chapter 12: Paul says that
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Rom 12:1)
And he continues and he says:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)
I think it’s really interesting that you talk about this in the context of your friend that’s an addict, because I think often addicts—or—or so many people that are trapped in sin of various kinds are longing for release, but they want somebody to do it for them. And of course, there is that promise for us in Scripture—that everything is done for us in Christ—
CK: —and yet now, as we carry on in the newness of life—
CK: —there is an actual call for us to be active.
CK: And I just was interested—
CK: —in another passage here, if that’s okay: Ephesians 4 brings out a lot about our minds as well.
CK: And I’m just playing on the theme that you’ve gone with here—Paul, again, is writing, but he’s writing in a different context now to the Ephesians, and he’s saying that “you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do”—this is in chapter 4 verse 17: they do this “in the futility of their minds”. Notice again the mental image here: “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance”—again, a mental picture here of what we know—“that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” (Eph 4:18-19). It’s a, I think, a real summary of sin in all kinds of different ways.
But he says, “that is not the way you learned Christ!” (Eph 4:20). And again, learning is—something about submitting ourselves to the word—there is something we know in the gospel, and he says,
assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires (Eph 4:21-22)
And again, he says now here in verse 23:
and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
CK: As we take a quick break from our program today, I’d like to tell you about a couple of resources that might help you in your own Christian life. First of all, you’ll find our 2019 annualis now available on our website. For the past few years, we’ve drawn together some of the highlights of resources made available through the Centre for Christian Living, and compiled them into an annual e-book. You can find out more information at ccl.moore.edu.au or download the annual from either the Kindle or Apple store .
Another resource that I’d like to encourage you to check out is the Moore College Preliminary Theological Certificate or “PTC” as we call it for short. This is a course with more than 18 different units that helps Christians to better understand the biblical, theological and historical foundations of their faith. This is a course that I’ve been plugging a lot lately, and I’ve been so excited to hear that over a thousand people have enrolled in the last month. This is just a fantastic resource for you or people in your church to be checking out, and I cannot recommend it more highly. Please check it out at distance.moore.edu.au.
Now let’s get back to our conversation.
CK: There’s such a really important balance, isn’t there: the component of sitting under the truth all the while entrusting yourself to the new life that comes in the Spirit alone.
CC: Yeah. Yeah.
CK: So how—I want to just transition here from your story a minute—I actually—going from your story into where I want to be landing in a moment here, who walked with you and how did they walk with you—
CK: —to sit under the Bible and grow in—as you were transformed as a Christian?
CC: Yes. So I was very blessed: at the next Katoomba Convention I went to, I managed to talk a girl from church into going with me, and she said, “Look, I’ll go with you if we can camp next to this couple that I know.” And then we got flooded out and we ended up sleeping on the floor of their caravan. And this couple were kind of the—roughly the same age as my parents. They were just incredibly godly, warm-hearted, practical people, and they said, “Why are you going to church over there and living in Kirribilli? You should come to our church, which is just up the road. I’ll pick you up at 9 o’clock or whatever and bring you up to the service and—” and then often they’d have me back for lunch afterwards.
Now, initially, I found that a bit confronting, because sometimes the mum of this would have people back to lunch with me and say, “Hey, Caroline’s worried that this is just a phase that she’s going through, and it’s just like—so what does everyone think about—?” You know, she just would raise it with people [Laughter]
CK: And just throw you under the bus! Totally.
CC: And I would like—and then like, “I was just talking about that to you in the kitchen—just to you!” [Laughter] kind of thing.
But, look, it meant that I got to know a lot of people quite quickly, ’cause they all of a sudden knew a lot more about me than even I was thinking that I was willing to share! [Laughter]
And they took an active interest in me. They really did take—like—and good care of me, and I ended up staying over at their house if I was helping with youth group or Sunday School and that kind of stuff as—as things went down—as time rolled on. But, yeah, they took a really active interest in me. And what—I think what was significant was that they really loved me. The mum had had chronic fatigue for nine years, and they’d pretty much listened to the Bible on tape solidly for those nine years. And people used to drop into their house all the time, and sit at the end of her bed, or sit in the lounge room and just want—and just ask her questions, and she’s like this fount of wisdom that people would just come from far and wide to listen to. And so, it was such a blessing that she was inviting me into—
CK: It’s very special.
CC: —friendship with her. And also, the great thing about them is that they’d tell me off. [Laughter]
CK: They were just honest with you.
CC: Like, she was a mum! She was a mum! And, like, I remember her being furious at me that I was potentially leading a bloke on, whereas it hadn’t occurred to me that I was leading him on; he was just giving me a lift back to college every week. Do you know what I mean? But she’d be annoyed and she’d sit me down and she’d explain what this would do and things.
And she was very instructive and intentional—more than she actually realised, I think, as well. I told her recently that on that first weekend that I met her, then, she told me, “Caroline, how much do you earn?” And I told her how much, and she—“And how much is your rent? And how much is your food budget?” And—and she worked it all out. And then she said, “Okay: this is what the Lord has generously provided for you so that you can live. And the rest, it all belongs to the Lord. So how are you going to use it for the Lord?” [Laughter] And I was like, “That’s the money that I’ve earned. Hands off my money!” But she was completely right, and that was, like, a very kind of confronting exercise to go through. And I’d been a Christian for, like, three months at that point. [Laughter]And—but she was just showing to me that everything I am and everything I have belongs to the Lord. And I think, again, she was showing me from Scripture, she was explaining it to me in a practical way, and she was, like, “This is what you need to do.” So they were an incredible blessing.
And also they were just really kind of cruisy. And again, so those friends that I mentioned who had those drug issues, they hung ’round with them—they’d come ’round to their house all the time—and now that they’re not living in Sydney anymore, but I know that she’s made good friends with this guy who just got out of jail and, you know, helping him to settle back into life again and, they have this gift of just taking people where they are and pointing them to Jesus from where they are.
CC: Like, yeah. So that—they were great. They were really helpful.
CK: That’s a really helpful point that I want to draw out for a moment. I mean, as we think about people coming to faith, they obviously come from somewhere and are heading somewhere else now.
CK: That is, we turn from death to life.
CK: And as we begin to walk in the newness of life, I mean, that’s a radical shift.
CK: We’re going from one direction, we repent; we turn the other.
CK: I think sometimes mistaken understanding about what we should be expecting of people in that moment—
CK: —and I think what you’ve just said to me from the testimony about these people is they demonstrated a remarkable charity and a gracious—
CK: —maybe, patience.
CK: But also a real frankness about the truth—
CK: —about what does and doesn’t belong in your life.
CC: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
CK: I mean, how would you be advising people that are beginning to explore what it looks like to see transformation or perhaps maybe are walking with somebody through transformation, and obviously we’re all being transformed.
CK: How do we think about what are the realistic expectations?
CC: I think what they did really well is they take me as they find me. And they start from where I am. So they’re not starting from where they are; they’re starting from where I am. The great thing was that they spoke the truth in love, so it was actually less loving if they didn’t speak the truth to me. But whilst they were loving me, they could speak the truth to me, and I’d listen to them, because I knew they loved me. I just think that’s a gift that only God can give—that we can speak the truth in love.
But I actually think the temptation in our people pleasing nature is sometimes not to speak the truth and to recognise that that’s really unloving. There was a girl who was in real trouble with sin—sexual sin—in a really harmful way, and she said the first time that she knew it was a problem was her unbelieving friend who’s a lesbian, who’s a good friend, said, “That is really harmful behaviour. You need to get out of that habit.” And she said all of her Christian friends had just said, “Oh, that’s so hard. It’s so hard being a Christian, isn’t it. I’m so sorry you’re struggling with all this.”
CC: And kind of had left her in this state where she was causing herself harm. And I just … what a thing! What a thing for God to use her friend who’s—
CC: —so far from him to speak truth into her life. “This is harming you! This is really damaging you. It’s not good for you. You’ve got to do stop doing it.”
CK: Yeah, and why not the Christian friends?
CC: I know!
CK: Why couldn’t we—yeah, why couldn’t they have spoken in love to her?
CC: Yeah, and so—
CK: What a shame!
CC: But I think it’s hard to get right, isn’t it. Like, I think, we don’t want to upset people, but we do need to love them, and sometimes loving them will mean speaking truth, but speaking truth in humility with graciousness, and in that context of love—like, I was speaking about with this couple. If—if they know that you love them and you’re all for them, then it’s actually okay to show them—
CC: —you—the truth at that point. And that’s the most loving thing you can do. And to not speak truth is a lot less loving. So this is what I was talking to you about before, Chase, like, to not read your Bible means that you’re less of a good friend, ’cause the Bible shows us how to love the Lord and how to love others, and it keeps convicting us of truth and shows us. And so, all of the examples from the Bible of the way that Jesus loved people convict us of how he wants us to love others. So we need to be reading our Bibles if we want to be a good friend.
CK: Yeah, because—
CC: If you want to be a good wife—if you want to be a—if you want to be loving the Lord properly, you need to be … yeah.
CK: It’s so true. The passage we read a moment ago about not walking any longer with the Gentiles do, right before that, talks about how much we need to be speaking the truth in love. In fact—
CC: Oh. Yeah.
CK: —chapter 4 verses 15 and 16 talks about speaking the truth in love and how we build each other up in the truth, because of that: we grow up together in Christ. I think it’s crucial: one of the main moments of repentance in my life came actually as I was reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer—his Life Together—which I’ve read a number of times now and—and have been challenged each time afresh. And he talks about the only way that we can properly relate as Christians is when we relate according to the grace that we’ve received. In other words, it’s kind of a mediated relationship: I can’t just relate to you directly, Caroline, because if I do relate just directly to you, I will try to make you into my image or I’ll bring my preconceived ideas of what’s best for your life to you.
CK: But if I recognise I am only a recipient of grace and therefore only who I am because I’ve received grace—and recognise that same grace’s on offer to you in Christ—well then it’s levelled the playing field: there’s no jealousy, rivalry, bitterness—
CC: Yeah, yeah.
CK: —whatever else. There’s no other motivations—no ulterior motive, actually, other than for us to be sitting under the grace of Christ together and being growing up into Christ together. Which I think, as you said with your friends, they didn’t start with where they are and make you come to their level.
CK: They started with where you are—
CK: —and allowed the grace of Christ to speak to you—
CK: —in your circumstance.
CC: That’s right! And I think the grace of God is so overwhelming, it’s like a flood and I could see that in their lives and had no hesitation at all that they loved me abundantly and that was the context in which I was receiving this truth. So there was really no problem with that. And I—I was unlearning and relearning all the way, if that makes sense. And so, even with friendship: unlearning what friendship was and relearning what friendship is. And just by their loving instruction, really—
And it isn’t just that; it was also the sermons. Like—
CK: Of course.
CC: —I was sitting under Simon’s sermons and he preaches in a—such a packaged way, I could remember the sermon at least under Wednesday! [Laughter] Like, there was a—
CK: That’s impressive!
CC: And then I’d—and like, lose it—the main points—and then I’d go to Bible Study and that would tide me over ’til Sunday. So all the time, then, I was churning over different Bible verses and thinking them through and looking at how they worked and—what fun! Like, actually [Laughter] Like it was—such a fun time as well, just as that point when everything was new.
CC: Just thinking it all through.
CK: Well now you—you’re obviously a mature Christian woman now: you’ve been a Christian for a number of years and you are serving as a chaplain to women who are growing in their faith now, you’re looking after so many women pastorally at our church, how do you actually now come alongside Christians that are—are starting out or even well-seasoned in their faith—
CK: —and keep trying to enact transformation or help them go through transformation and continue in the journey of transformation at this stage in your own Christian life?
CC: Yeah. I think with prayer, because—I was reassured by a comment that my sister said after I’d been a Christian few years: she kept ringing me for advice and then doing the opposite. And I was like, “Why do you ring me for advice and then do the opposite?” And she said, “Oh, ’cause I know that, like, it’s God talking. I know that that’s not you, because I know you, Caroline. So [Laughter] I just want to know what the thing I should have done was after I haven’t—you know, when I haven’t done it.” And so, she—there was this kind of like garbled kind of comment, which was kind of saying, “It’s not your wisdom, ’cause I know it cannot come from you, Caroline!”
CK: That’s a good backhanded compliment—it’s like—
CC: Yeah—I know! I know! [Laughter]
CK: Yeah, that’s right!
CC: So, it just—again, that was like a helpful reminder that any sense that’s coming out of my mouth is the wisdom of God; it’s not mine. And so that’s the way we go forwards, isn’t it, and that’s—any sense that we speak to the people that we’re ministering to has to be dependent on the Lord to use us at that time. So I’ve just been con—reconvicted recently about sometimes how quickly God answers prayers. Just this morning, I got a text from one of the girls from—today is Friday; yesterday I was working here; this was something we prayed about which we thought would take months—maybe even years to resolve. It was pretty much resolved overnight, and we’re [Laughter]
CK: That’s just incredible.
CC: Just a great surprise!
CK: That’s incredible!
CC: It was like—but, yeah! Lord—the Lord is so merciful. He’s amazing. So we kind of prayerfully go on together. Like, I think it’s really—it’s only through him and the words that he gives us. So we need to know—again, we need to know what he wants us to talk about.
CK: Well, the nice thing is, once we do talk about him—
CK: —as we’ve been steeped in his word and we keep seeing the word enacting that change, all glory is given to Christ. As it is in your life already, I mean, the testimony of your life is that Christ is—you’ve been saved by Christ and the Spirit has been leading you in the newness of life you possess. And you’ve been motivated by a real gratitude for what God has given: the gift of his Son. And I guess in the same way, then, we can be prayerfully pursuing change in our lives still—
CK: —recognising that God brings it—
CK: —and we can be hopeful for change in others.
CK: In other words, no one’s too far gone. And I guess as I—
CK: —listen to your story, you converted as an adult—
CK: —and I guess being able to hear testimony of transformation like this surely must give hope to us all that people can come to Christ at any time—
CK: —and he can bring radical transformation even to drug addicts like your friend—
CK: —or whatever it may be.
CC: Yeah. Yeah. And he does.
CC: He can and he does.
CK: And you.
CC: Yeah. And—
CK: That’s what’s remarkable.
CC: Yeah, yeah, it is what’s remarkable. And then he places in our heart a desire to know his Son and promises that his Son will lead us to this life and into eternity. And we can know him all the way through and spend time with him forever. And I just think this is something profound that the Lord has done. And whilst we are still darkened in our understanding, then we’re driven to know more—to know him more. ’Cause—
CC: —yeah: he’s who—who is with us now and he’s who we will be with.
CK: So it’s not just an empty encouragement: read your Bible and pray more. There’s a lot more to that kind of basic application is actually, “Taste and see that the Lord is good”—
CC: Yeah. Yep.
CK: —in one sense, and know that it is.
CK: I’ll finish with this Psalm, then: this is what I read this morning: “Taste and see that the LORD is good”—this is Psalm 34:8:
Blessed is the man [or the woman] who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
There’s something so satisfying in knowing God, and we find him in his word. And when we know him in his word, he works real change in our lives.
CK: And that’s to the praise of his glorious grace.
CK: Caroline, I’m so thankful that you’ve shared with us today and I hope that what we’ve talked about today will be helpful to others as they journey in their own transformation and as they try to lead others in their discipleship. Thank you so much for the time.
CC: Thank you, Chase!
CK: To benefit from more resources from the Centre for Christian Living, please subscribe to our podcast and also be sure to visit ccl.moore.edu.au, where you can discover many articles, past podcasts and video materials.
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As always, I’d like to thank Moore College for making the ministry of the Centre for Christian Living possible, and to extend thanks to my assistant, Karen Beilharz, for audio editing and transcribing. Music provided by James West.