Life Rebooted - Change Has Happened Here
Change has definitively taken place in the grace of Jesus Christ for us who believe.
Think about any goal you have had, and accomplished, or you have right now. Will you need to change, in order to achieve it? Or, did you change, in achieving it?
I know I have begun to go to bed early, as a committed course of change. I have a time I'm committed to, and barring one lapse in the last fortnight, I have successfully fulfilled my commitment. Prior to this, my lights out patterns were all over the place. But have I had to change in order to fulfil this aim? You bet! My whole approach to my evenings has been reshaped accordingly.
I have the goal of becoming more rested. Getting my sleeping patterns in good shape is what I have deemed as my essential first step. But the hope of being more rested has required genuine change of me.
What Has Jesus Begun in Me?
So whatever we look forward to in life requires change of us. Each of us, no matter what has happened this year, have things we're looking forward to ahead. Whatever these hopes and aims are, by definition they require us to change. So when we turn to our biblical faith, what resources can we find for the journey ahead?
From previous weeks, we have seen that change is challenging, messy and complex, and hard to come by. But it is promised us in and through Jesus Christ. The bible, however, goes even further than declaring that change is a hope in the future.
The bible, most importantly for you and I, declares that change has already definitely happened for us who believe in Jesus. Check these declarations of scripture out:
"Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." [1 Corinthians 6:9–11]
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [Titus 3:4–7]
"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire." [2 Peter 1:3-4]
Let's take these three powerful examples of what the Bible teaches us about our own personal change in light of God's work in us. The 1 Corinthians passage describes a change of identity that is effected by Jesus and the Spirit in a believers heart. Such that old lifestyles can be described as what the Corinthians were and used to practice - but not any longer. The Titus passage declares we have already experienced a washing and renewal of the Holy Spirit. And 2 Peter teaches us that we can participate in the divine nature of God Himself, now. These are fundamental, identity-level, and definitive changes that God works in us through Jesus Christ.
We have, in our whole person, from the level of our identity up, been changed by the grace of God. And we've got the promise from God of changing to become nothing less than more like Him, in whose image we have all been originally made.
Take time to meditate on any one of these passages - choose the one that most encourages you. Allow God's word to speak to you afresh of the change that has truly taken place, already, by God's grace alone, at your core. The type of life we lead, and the state of our existence, has been fundamentally shifted by Jesus loving work in us.
Change HAS Happened Here
We are those who have been fundamentally changed by God's grace and loving power. So is this change total, and achieved right here and right now? And how do we live this change out?
To answer the first question, I cannot help but think of the Exodus narrative in the Old Testament. In Exodus, the ancient people of Israel were stuck in the condition of slavery for centuries. And then, at a time of God's merciful and loving choosing, He moves rather quickly through Moses and Aaron to liberate the people of Israel. They are shortly no longer slaves, but by the miraculous intervention of God moving out of Egypt, out of 100's of years of slavery, and moving on to the Promised Land of God's choosing. This works out well for a day or two. And then Israel starts freaking out about their new state of affairs. Feeling vulnerable, defenceless, and homesick (strange when their slavery got so bad towards the end), they pine to return to Egypt - as slaves. But God is faithful to lead them on into the Promised Land as His sons and daughters, even as they struggle to fit on this new identity that He has miraculously brought about for them.
It is powerful to think - ancient Israel were always God's Sons and Daughters. They had just had such tough life experiences for generations that had formed in them a totally different way of living and thus believing. They had grown to live like slaves, and believe they were slaves. God's leadership, and mercy, was crucial for them to shift from living and believing themselves to be slaves, to them become sons.
So whilst the New Testament makes wonderful declarations of how we have changed, it is a process that requires the ongoing leadership and mercy of the Lord in our lives. And the bible is also clear that this change will not be fully realised in this lifetime. For example, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul helps the Corinthian believers understand what will happen as we finally enter into eternity:
"I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed." [1 Cor. 15:50–52]
So whilst we have been definitively changed by the grace available to us in Jesus Christ, we are still going to be finally and completely changed at the time of the "last trumpet" - when Jesus returns to usher in eternal life for all who have trusted in and followed Him in this life.
So what to do?
Answering the second question, based in what we've talked about above, here are three important things you and I can do to walk out the change God is working in us:
Have yourself in right perspective - everything starts with understanding who we are. Israel lived and believed for some time after their slavery as slaves. But they were, in God's eyes, His Sons and Daughters. The difference comes when we see ourselves in right perspective. And there is no more accurate perspective on our lives, and our identities, than God's. So how strong are you in your God-given identity? What exercises in scriptural reflection and prayer can you begin today to build even greater strength at the level of you self-understanding and perception in light of God's truth about you?
Check who is lead - For Israel, change was tied to the ongoing lead of the Lord out of slavery and into their Promised Land. Likewise for us, it is no less the case. Are you following the active leading of the Lord in your days and weeks? How do you know? Do you have trusted voices in your life who also clearly follow the Lord who you check-in with regularly to make sure you are on the Lord's track, and not going down your own rabbit trail?
Build strength in the grace of God - Paul reminds the much younger Timothy: "You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 2:1) Why? At the end of the day, we have been changed, we change, and we will be surely changed by God's grace alone. How do you build strength here? Practice "lifting" the grace of God. You build muscular strength in a gym. You build grace strength in everyday life by regularly "lifting" it up as your reliance: in the boardroom, in the kitchen, in the personal, relational, and professional opportunities of your life. Lift grace.
As we continue to move into the season of life we're in now, post-lockdown, let's get moving in the grace of God that has effected change in us, will continue to effect change in us, and will one day soon fully and completely finish that change in us. All by the grace of God in the end.
Next week, we'll connect the change God is working in us with the changes that we see we need to or could make in our lives. How does God's wonderful work in Jesus Christ relate to the change initiatives we have in mind?
Pressing on in this change journey with you.
Written by Ps. Rob.