I love the idea of the acronym SHAPE. Rick Warren introduced the acronym in his book, Purpose Driven Life. Here is what it represents:

  • Spiritual Gifts - A set of special abilities that God has given to you to share his love and serve others.
  • Heart (Passion) - The special passions God has given you so that you can glorify him on earth.
  • Abilities (Skills) - The set of talents that God instilled in which he wants you to use to make an impact for him.
  • Personality - The special way God wired you to navigate life and fulfill your unique Kingdom purpose.
  • Experiences - Those parts of your past, both positive and painful, which God intends to use in great ways.

The E, representing Experiences, is particularly important, especially if you have had a “salvation experience” – that moment that you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior – after which, “all things became new.”

Often, people refer to their life as BC and AC, meaning “before Christ” and “after Christ.” Everything that was BC, they view as wasted time and of no value. They quote Philippians 3, where Paul seems to imply that his past was “rubbish.” The belief is that BC experiences are to be forgotten and left behind, separated from our new life in Christ, “as far as the east is from the west.”

I don’t agree.

Paul was referring to those things that he thought made him righteous, which really only served to make him self-righteous, and so were “rubbish” compared to the path to true holiness through Christ. He was not disparaging his past. In fact, Paul’s past education and experience was supercharged when he came into relationship with Christ.

Paul’s entire life, from beginning to end, was redeemed, and so he could also write, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

When we come to Christ, our sins are forgiven and we are accepted – wholly made holy – in Christ, in whom we continue to grow and mature. The past, before Christ, is as much a part of who we are as is our present and future in Him.

Who we are today, in Christ, is the result of a long God-driven process that still has a long way to go; it did not start or end at the point of salvation. Eugene Peterson, author of The Message paraphrase of the Bible, referred to it as “a long obedience in the same direction.”

From before we were born, there has been a continuous involvement of God in our lives over time. This is what leads us to repentance and is part of our working out our own salvation.

While it’s good to throw out or put off sinful behaviors, grieve over wrong decisions, and turn away from ungodly lifestyles, we don’t need to walk away from all of who we were before we became a follower of Jesus.

If you were a painter or sculptor or accountant or teacher before you accepted Christ, you can continue in these roles now. The content of what you do through your role will be different, but you don’t need to toss out your skills.

On the other hand, if you were a prostitute, liar, embezzler, drug addict, or something along these lines, you will need to drop these lifestyles and behaviors.

But now you can use your past experiences in your redeemed life to reach out to others who are still trapped in destructive lifestyles. You can use your knowledge to help your new Christ-following brothers and sisters understand how to minister to people doing what you once did.

If you were abused, you are now able to more effectively help those who are still being abused. If you have gone through divorce, you are the one best equipped to comfort those going through divorce now.

Even if you’ve committed sin “after Christ,” once you’ve confessed and been restored, you are the best one to minister to other believers who fall and fail in their walk with Jesus as you do.

The point is this: Your life, past and present, is not a waste. We have no reason to fear our past just as we have no reason to doubt our eternity.

Jesus doesn’t throw the baby out with the baptism water. God loved you then, He loves you now, and He will love you tomorrow. The difference is that now, you have access to the Holy Spirit and are alive in Christ, able to fulfill the calling for which He created you.

And that’s why I like that acronym, SHAPE. The E comes last because our redeemed experience is the foundation for all the rest.


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