I have a confession: I tend to tune out when sermons refer to life Before and After coming to Christ: "Remember when you used to do ____ on Friday nights and now you attend church meetings?" Umm, not really. I guess I have two problems with this illustration. 1) I didn't have a radical "before" lifestyle, as I became a Christian as a child. 2) Non-Christians don't necessarily have a "wild" lifestyle. I have friends of other faiths with whom I can enjoy good, clean entertainment.
To expand on the first point, a further argument is given that we have a "false" conversion experience by repeating the "sinner's prayer," and true repentance may come at another time. This is said especially in reference to children, or others, who...may be taken advantage of, I guess? Pressured into responding to an altar call? Well, that wasn't me, either. I accepted the Gospel as truth, and I'm sure I must have prayed in my heart something like the Sinner's Prayer. It wasn't the prayer that saved me, because I wouldn't have been able to even utter the words if I hadn't already believed. But that moment certainly becomes fixed as the moment of conscious repentance.
Things I DO affirm:
-a changed lifestyle is a testimony to one's faith and to God's goodness
-while being saved, we are being refined, and undergo "mini-conversions" along the path...that is, new sin issues may come up and we may surrender them and be changed (hence experiencing a Before and After)
Meanwhile, I tried to search for MY story in the Bible. I'm not a Nicodemus, nor a Matthew, nor a Woman at the Well. The image that came to me was that of the Lost Sheep, something I've been thinking a lot about lately. The thing is that I was His from the beginning. I belonged to His flock. Maybe I was lost at one time, maybe even now I wander. But He chose to find me and call me.