CROSSING OVER ♦ THE CHANGE
Something major has happened within you and you know it. It is deeply internal. You feel it. At times you’ve felt as if you might float away. Whatever it is, it’s revolutionary. Your outlook and perspectives are shifting. Sometimes you don’t seem to understand your own actions because they are so different from what they used to be. And it all began when you said ‘Yes’ to God—but what exactly happened to you? You weren’t prepared for the explosive release of energy and freedom you’ve felt overtake you.
Let’s use one scripture and deal with this topic. Let it idle in the background for now. The text is 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Isn’t this good news? I cannot know from what circumstances you have come to Christ, but it’s good to know that God sees you now as a new creation. Your situations may not have changed—and we’re going to deal with that—but clearly something within you has. So keep that verse in mind. Let it be the lens through which you read this lesson.
The Origins of Our Dealings with Sin
The Bible opens with the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2 and 3). For a period of time they shared open fellowship with God until one day, through their disobedience, that fellowship was broken. The curse of sin came upon the earth and the human race, radically affecting humans’ spiritual condition, emotional stability, and bodily well-being.
Humans were created as a spirit-body unit. The body and its senses, the outermost part, allow humans to understand and relate with the world in which they live. The spirit component is thought to be comprised of a soul and a spirit. The soul features a person’s mind, will, emotions, personality, and other faculties that cause one to understand him or herself. Messages from both the body and the spirit are collected and interpreted in the soul. The spirit is the part of humankind that no other living thing possesses. It gives the human creature the ability to relate with its Creator, God.
When humans disobeyed God in the Garden, sin plunged the race into immorality. You may have heard it termed the “Fall.” Further, whereas Adam and Eve once were alive in their fellowship with God, now they died—immediately in their spirits, in a chronic way in their souls, and eventually in body. This explains why humans display a natural rebellion toward God. In fact, apart from God we do not have the ability to desire him and godly things because our spirits are dead and our minds are darkened.
The Breadth of God’s Love
Let’s pause for a moment. God is omniscient. This means that he knows all things, and he knew before he ever created humankind that it would disappoint him. But this never stopped him from creating humans, which is amazing to consider. He already had a plan to restore his creation from the ravaging effects of sin.
The gods in other religions and mythologies take revenge on disobedient mortals, but this was not God’s manner of dealing with the creation he loved. As I stated in Lesson 1, God gets glory by restoring what is broken. He himself is love. In fact, he only loves us and wishes for our total restoration. What is sobering is how rich a salvation and fellowship he must offer to go to such lengths to save before he ever created.
Awaking From Dark Slumber
Christ broke the curse of sin over humankind and created for us a way back into God’s fellowship. (How he did that is salvation history that you’ll learn by carefully studying the scriptures; and it will become increasingly clearer for you in the years to come.) Now the Holy Spirit beckons our lost souls to return to God, and this occurs as a process of faith coming alive in the heart. Let’s discuss it.
Consider yourself for a moment: What were your ideas about God and living by his principles before you became a Christian? Do you see better how you were dead in spirit and unable to reach God? Now do you understand why just being a good person doesn’t cut it?
Something happened in you one day. For some people it occurred over time, for others it came suddenly. But you took an interest in spiritual things, not necessarily religious things, like Jesus and the Bible. You became thoughtful about your life: What did it mean? Where was it headed? What kind of significance did it bear? How was significance even measured? You wondered what was true.
Spiritual gurus and televangelists made you pause, just for a moment, because their subject matter was now the subject of your heart. Perhaps you were raised with strong Christian beliefs, but you wanted no part of Jesus and church. Maybe some other belief appealed to you. What was the right way? Or could you serve God without religion, just you and him?
My friend, this is what the Holy Spirit awaking a person from their spiritually dead condition looks like. It is eye-opening because it describes the state of so many people in the world today seeking significance that only God can give.
Under Spiritual Arrest
So now open to spiritual things, possibly after a period of wandering and experimentation, you decided to give church a try. Maybe you attended church regularly earlier in your life, but stopped going; then, you may have always gone. But something about it now was different and, although you were undercover, you were searching.
You listened intently to the preacher, and what he said made more sense to you. Faith had come into your heart. In fact, you felt spotlighted. This was the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Whether it was in a church or on your couch at home, your feeling out of place and in-the-wrong with life and with God troubled you.
You wondered about the deep devotion you witnessed in the faithful on your job, at home, and in church. There was something different about them, and now you wanted what they had. If God was that knowable and the claims of Christian religion about his goodness and joy were true, Christ was worth trying. Suddenly, you could see how all your actions to this point were ways of satisfying an inner, spiritual craving that apparently only God could satisfy. Nothing else had worked for you, and now you were staring in the face of Jesus.
That’s a strange feeling—about to become what you once may have vowed to never be. You may have once ridiculed Christianity and scorned devout people. Now whatever it was you hated about them had you gripped and unable to make another step without total surrender.
The Roles of Grace and Faith
Maybe that isn’t exactly the way your story goes, but I’m sure it is something like it. So what happened in you when you believed on Christ? Ephesians 2:8 explains, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” The grace of God is his kindness toward us. Our salvation comes to us not based on any of our own merits because we have none in God’s eyes. It is all based on his love and generous character.
This verse explains that we are saved from God’s wrath by his free choice of us on the grounds of our faith. Our faith is not a formula of believing that Jesus lived, died, and was raised again any more than our loving God is merely the actions we do for him. The faith that saves us is our confidence that God is who he says he is, that he is the sufficient remedy to our sin problem, and that we were made to enjoy him and our lives don’t work well without our intimate connection—and that connection comes through Jesus Christ.
To understand this in one’s heart comes by the Holy Spirit. When Jesus heard rumors about who the public thought he might have been, he cornered his disciples about his identity. Peter didn’t hesitate to acknowledge him as the Messiah and very Son of God, to which Jesus explained that he couldn’t believe that in his heart except it was revealed to him by the Father.
The moment we accept this revelation of Jesus in our hearts, God no longer holds our sinful, offensive condition against us. Instead, he transfers the virtue of Jesus to us—and that’s the way he looks at us. Think on it: Jesus took our sin upon himself and brought its power to an end; we gain his righteousness and start again by his power.
The Effects of Salvation
So think back for a moment to our human makeup: What is the effect of salvation? First, our spirits become fully alive to God, and we regain the fellowship that was lost in the Garden. This is the part of us that is truly “saved.” Just as it was the spirit that immediately died when the curse came, so it is the spirit that is born anew. In fact, the Bible tells us that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that awakens our spirits to God and that will one day raise our bodies from death, just as it happened for Jesus.
Yet salvation in the soul and body are a process for us now. These continue to deal with sin in this life. Christ’s work effectually removed sin’s domination over humanity, which means you and I can live free from sin’s tyranny, or guilt and condemnation. Thus, he gives us the ability to contend with and overcome bad habits and addictions and still be called his children. Christ’s power is life to us. With time and certain practices we will discuss, we are able to largely uproot sin from our souls.
Our souls are like many of our car trunks: filled with junk. Some of it is sinful—hatred, arrogance, deviance—and much of it is clutter—distraction, impulsiveness, depression. We lived our whole lives with this stuff in our hearts and acted it out; but God has now shown us a path to freedom.
Our bodies obey the soul. If the soul goes the way it always has, the body will continue to embody any impure or questionable behavior that may be in a person’s life. If the soul yields to godliness, however, the body will follow with wholesome conduct given to restraint. Our bodies will one day die, and this is the final consequence of sin. But Christ has caused death to be the final blow to sin, and we will go on to live eternally free in the joy and service of God. One day our bodies will be refashioned and glorified, just as it happened for Christ.
Let me offer one word of caution. Be careful of the teaching you may hear concerning the body. There are those who explain that the body is evil and, of its own power, capable of drawing you into all kinds of sin. This is bad teaching. Although the Fall of the human race did mar God’s creation, it did not wipe out the wonder God placed in it. The angels in the prophet Isaiah’s vision cried, “The whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isa. 6:3). That includes the human body. We were made terrestrial, or to live as human creatures—not spirits or angels—on this earth. Our bodies and our world are our glory, and we were put here to enjoy them. Do not view your body as merely an “earth suit” or “house” where the “real you” dwells. We are incomplete without our bodies. When Christ returns to the earth to gather his people, our souls will be reunited with a glorious body.
Salvation One Day at a Time
Remember that scripture I asked you to keep in mind? It is 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” The verse means that the person who finds all of his or her strength and nourishment in Christ, the one who completely relies on him—God makes that person new. And because the change is so radical a difference to our former state, since we are morally renewed and spiritually quickened, the apostle Paul, the writer of the scripture, equated the transformation with the creation of the universe! So you are not just new but you’re a new creation. It is the life of the kingdom to come made a present reality in you.
The old things about you—the love of sin, attachments to idols, bad relationships, dishonorable opinions and prejudices—are passing away from you and everything is becoming new. Notice how I said that—“are passing away” and “is becoming new.” I place it in the present progressive tense because this is how the scripture describes our life in Christ and a reality that you will learn for yourself. Yes, your spirit is saved from eternal death this very moment, but your soul and body are being saved. Still, we can thank God that the work of Christ is pervasive and provides healing for our souls and bodies now.
There is no contradiction here. Your spirit is new and some things about your soul changed when you let Christ move in; but there is more work you must do in this area. You will never be perfectly free from sin in this life. Your transformation is a lifelong process that ends in Heaven. It is now your responsibility to allow the Holy Spirit to gain ground in you and help you remove sin from your life.
Lastly, let me follow up on something I hinted at earlier. You will encounter many people that can tell you the time and date of their conversion. You may know your own stats. I think we do this because coming to faith is a momentous event for us; however, I encourage you not to think this way. In God’s eyes our dates mean little because, truthfully, only he knows when pardon came to your spirit. Further, just because we may have said ‘Yes’ to Christ on a certain date doesn’t mean that was the moment we first truly believed. As I have said, pardon comes for some quickly, but for most of us it is gradual as the spirit awakens more and more and then discovers Christ. It would be fitting to view this inner change as an experience rather than an event.
Sadly, it stands to reason that there are people around us that have faith in their hearts, but they don’t know it or believe it because someone has told them that they must go to church and walk down the aisle or receive Jesus in some prescribed way. I’ll say it again: coming to Christ is not a formula. It’s not even about saying a “sinner’s prayer,” but ‘Yes, Lord’ in the pit of our hearts where only God can hear. Wrong teaching will always keep us living off-course, and that only leads to frustration. Let us not impose standards for God where he has granted us freedom.
God’s Purpose & Your Responsibility
God’s purpose for you is that you live in freedom, which includes your spiritual transformation and ongoing, intimate fellowship with him. His purpose is that his power will impact every part of your life. Your responsibility is to freely receive the grace of God and know that there is nothing you can do to earn his love and acceptance. Now you must rely on God’s power to help you reform the components of your soul. Understand that your faith will lead you from this life to Heaven. Therefore, your Christian lifestyle is a lifelong process of transformation.
INPUT: Meditate on a seed. Consider its process: how it germinates, grows, and evolves. Relate that to your new Christian life. OUTPUT: You will watch yourself become a new creation in Christ. Your life will increasingly enhance in quality and productivity as it grows in God.
Daily Bread: New Creation
2 Corinthians 5:17—“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (ESV).
Ephesians 2:8—“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
Genesis 2 and 3; Matthew 16:13-17; John 6:44; Romans 5; 10:9-10; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 5:1-20; Hebrews 10:14