Welcome to FaithTrack where you will find ways to apply your faith to your daily life.
What is the exchanged life? What does this mean for us to be a "New Creation"? Find out in this FaithTrack. Pastor Sam shows us from his own life examples and Biblical principles how he was able to renew his life to one that engages with Jesus in a much more deeper way.
Hi, and welcome to Faith Track. We’ve been exploring what it means to be a disciple and how the term disciple is just another word for dedicated student. So as we seek to follow Jesus with intention and dedication, we become His disciples. In our times together, we will look at a good number of passages from the Bible. I will encourage you to take what we discuss in the conversations with others. You can access the notes page at the link shown on the screen or in the chat to get access to those Bible verses and questions.
In our last session, we looked at the importance of our testimony and being ready to share our personal faith story with others. In this session, we are going to be looking at another important aspect of being a disciple, the exchanged life, our identity in Christ.
What is the exchanged life? In second Corinthians 5:17, the apostle Paul describes it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come.” For those of us who have a past that is marked with brokenness or choices, behaviors, and situations that hinder or haunt us in different ways, this is amazing. It is part of the good news that we are welcomed into with Jesus. We, in essence, exchange our old life for a new life with Him.
I remember hearing second Corinthians 5:17 for the first time. I mean really hearing it in a way that affected me. I was in a men’s group here at Cornerstone. It was some time in 2004. That particular group was digging into areas of brokenness and sin. I had given my life to the Lord in prayer a number of years before that, but lacking any guidance in what that meant I just went back to life as usual. I had the same patterns of brokenness in my life. My understanding of church and what it meant to be a Christian didn’t necessitate any change other than asking God for forgiveness when I felt guilty.
So in 2004, I was wanting to see something different, different in my faith life and how I was living. I wanted to grow closer to the Lord and break out of patterns of sin, but I couldn’t do it in my own strength. So I joined this men’s group for help, encouragement, and accountability. Then the invitation from second Corinthians 5:17 to become a new creation in Christ was what I needed to hear. God didn’t desire for me to be just a slightly improved version of myself with a little less sin. He wanted to remake me as a new creation in Him. I had to die in my old life so that I could live into this new life with Him. As disciples, we must exchange our old lives for a new life with Christ.
I wanted to figure out how to do this. How do we become a new creation in Him? How do we invite God to start changing our lives? In Acts 2, Peter was talking with a crowd of people about how their lives had gone astray and what Jesus did through the cross. The people were moved with conviction by the truth and asked Peter what they should do. In Acts 2:38 and 39, and Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promises for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord, our God calls to himself.” Peter guides those who are wishing to change their lives to repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. As disciples, our exchanged life with Jesus begins when we repent, get baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit.
Repent is derived from a Greek word that literally means to change or alter one’s mind, usually tied to regret or lament. As we recognize the brokenness of our lives caused by sin, we change our mind and turn away from that which is causing brokenness and turn toward God. Repenting is often likened to a military term that means to change direction like performing an about-face. Turning from sin and brokenness to turning toward the things of God. We are given a new identity in and from Christ, which changes how we think.
Paul’s letter to the church in Rome describes this transformation of our minds in Romans 12:2, “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.” As disciples, we must think differently than the world by allowing God to change our minds.
The exchanged life in Christ stands against conformity with the ways of the world. If the only difference in our lives and the lives of those around us who don’t know Jesus or don’t follow Jesus is where we spend part of our Sunday. We may not be living fully into the change that He wants to bring in us. For me, this meant taking inventory of my life.
I had things from my past keepsakes from old relationships, CDs, and movies that I knew were not good or beneficial in their content. Even ways that I spent my time that just served as an escape from life. I even took inventory of my friendships, looked at the people I spent time with, and whether those relationships helped me draw near to God and which ones might be more likely to pull me away. In that season, I got rid of a lot of stuff like the keepsakes from unhealthy dating relationships, even deleting the numbers and email addresses from my phone and contacts. I threw away things that were crude or unwholesome in their humor. I purged anything that might trip me up in my desire to prioritize my relationship with the Lord.
While I was doing some soul searching, I intentionally stayed connected in the church community and I pulled back temporarily from the friendships that tended to pull me in directions that I didn’t want to go and wasn’t strong enough to attempt to change how I acted while with them. Such as friends that I went out drinking and dancing with. I still cared for these friends, but I knew I needed to figure out who this new me as a new creation in Christ was before I could re-engage and not just slip back into old patterns.
As I reorganized my life, I started considering the next part of what Peter said in Acts 2:38, baptism. My parents had baptized me in the Catholic church as an infant. As I attended classes and studied the Bible, I was made aware that all the examples of baptism in the scriptures were done as adults, or at least after some personal acknowledgment of belief and faith in Jesus. So after some prayer, talking to the pastors, and describing or deciding really that I wanted to go all in, I got baptized. For some of us, this may be our next step. If that’s you, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can chat about being baptized soon.
The final piece of what Peter described in Acts 2:38 was receiving the Holy Spirit. God does not leave us on our own. We are given His very spirit as a helper to live in us and teach and guide us.
In John 14:26, Jesus said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I’ve said to you.” As disciples, the Holy Spirit teaches us what the new life is meant to look like and reminds us what Jesus said. We are in this transformative process. If allowed, God will help us go from being comfortably self-focused and limited to become a person who is filled with and equipped, and guided by His spirit inside of us. This affects how we live in community as well.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he notes in 3:27-28, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there’s no male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” As we take on our identity in Christ and as we engage in community with others who are taking on their identities in Christ, there should be no discrimination by race or nationality in past areas of bondage or station in life or in the treatment towards men and women. Please note that we will go deeper with this when we dig into the discipleship initiative on engaging our culture, godly justice in one another’s. But in this we see as disciples, we find our identity in Christ first. This transcends how we see ourselves based on any other aspect of our identity.
This obviously doesn’t change who we are physically. Men are still men and women are still women. Visually, we still look as different from a person from another ethnic or racial background as we did before. Our station in life and careers don’t necessarily change. However, we are not greater or less in God’s eyes because of these things. Therefore, we should not see ourselves as greater or less than anyone else as well. Throughout the Bible, and especially in Jesus’ teachings, we see the call for adjusting our values, drivers, and priorities from the things of the world to the things of God. Beyond that, we are called to live completely different and transformed lives.
One of the most difficult adjustments that we are instructed to make has to do with our motivation. What do we live for? What guides our decisions? In Jesus’ teaching referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, He describes the kingdom that He came to create, the kingdom of heaven, and how those who would follow Him should seek to live.
In Matthew 6, Jesus addresses what should motivate his disciples. In verse one, “Be aware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving may be in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
One of the dominant themes in the Sermon on the Mount is the idea of living for the audience of one. Jesus describes a number of situations in which a person forsakes what others think in order to please God alone. As disciples, we exchange trying to please others for living a life that pleases the audience of one. We are to seek a reward from God and not from people.
I remember as part of my undergraduate work in psychology, discussing the topic of altruism. Practically speaking, altruism has to do with doing good. From a social psychology perspective, the motivation for why someone does good matters. Most social psychologists seem to suggest that there’s virtually always some personal self-benefiting motivation for doing good for others. True altruism or pure altruism would be doing good for someone else without any concern for whether I would get anything out of it.
In one of my psychology courses, the professors challenged us students to try to do a truly altruistic and selfless act and then report back. As a student of psychology and someone who liked doing kind things for others, I struggled with this. Surely I could give just for the sake of giving without self-serving motives. The more I thought about the kinds of things I would do, the better I felt about myself in doing them. I thought about being accidentally discovered as the source and humbly shrugging off, “Oh, it was nothing.” However, the more I sat with it and tried to come up with a truly altruistic action, I couldn’t. The challenge itself made this somewhat impossible. If I succeeded in giving something or doing some kindness without any thought to the effect it would have on me, I would have to report back, which ultimately was my motivation and which would give me credit and I’d feel good about it. Finally, I begrudgingly consented that I couldn’t do it.
Sometimes people do good for others to demonstrate and validate self-worth and values. Much of the time, people do good for the acknowledgment of others so that others can see their generosity, kindness, awareness, compassion, understanding, wokeness, et cetera. This is one area where I think the social psychologists have it right. Whatever good a person is capable of doing, it is done with some motivation for oneself. However, what drives this is of great importance.
Jesus was describing something different. What if we intentionally shifted our priority from doing what would make someone else feel good to doing what God says is good? Oftentimes a result on the other is virtually the same. We might feed someone because Jesus said whatever we did to the least of these we did for Him. Since we were doing it in a way that we would want to serve Jesus, hopefully we are going all out. We might take a stand against discrimination and injustice because of what Paul said in Galatians 3:27-28. But in doing so, we see the other as a brother or sister in Christ, and so we work with compassion and love. We might serve at a church or in the community because Jesus said just as He did not come to be served, but to serve so we are to serve as well. And as we serve, we have His sacrificial love to guide us.
When we exchange the goal of our lives from being about our purposes to being about God’s, what people see and through our actions, changes. Matthew 5:14-16 describes what the exchanged life can look like. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand. It gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” As disciples, the exchanged life takes the focus off of our goodness and refocuses on God’s goodness. May we exchange our old lives for new vibrant lives in Christ. May we turn toward God and let Him transform our minds. May we be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. May our identity and motivation be in Him as audience of one whom we serve, and may whatever good we do be done in such a way that it causes others to see Christ at work in us.
Now I’d love to pray and then we’ll hop over to our Zoom conversation. But before that, I just want you to know if you are watching this after the original airing, or if you’re unable to join us for the conversation part of the night, this is meant to be gone through in community. Faith trackers, disciples always walk things out, at least in pairs. So join us for the conversation if you can or find another person or group of people to embark on this journey together. Our primary goal is that these teachings would be a tool that can help us dig into these key areas of growth as disciples of Jesus, but also be a place in which we can ask questions and grow as we move together as a community. I’ll pray and then hopefully, I’ll see you on Zoom.
Lord, we thank you that you invite us into this new life in you, that we get to exchange our old life for a life that’s built on something strong and sound. Lord, thank you that you invite us to turn from ways that lead to brokenness and turn towards you, to repent, to allow our minds to be changed. You invite us to be baptized as we put our identity in you. You give us the gift of your Holy Spirit so that he can remind us of all the things that you taught, commanded, and did. So Lord, we ask that you would be in our conversations. Guide us, Lord. Help us to apply these truths to our lives so that we can love well and serve well. As we do things of kindness and love, Lord, that they would be done in a way that people see you at work in us, not just us trying to be good people. So we thank you. We pray your blessing over this week as we talk about these things. In Jesus’ name, amen.
If you can join us on Zoom, please do. Otherwise, have a great week. Let’s keep talking and let’s keep growing in him. God bless.