When you look at all the trouble in the world or in your own life, remember that we need more than external changes to our social and political circumstances.
Deep inner change is necessary if we hope to address our deepest needs.
But can we produce this inner change in ourselves or in others?
According to Scripture, we need a divine recreation or a new creation – by the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) — for the restoring of the image of God in us.
We need the God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” to “make his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6).
We need to be reconciled to God to become a “new creation” in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17). And it follows that, “all this is from God” (II Corinthians 5:18), because it cannot be from us.
But what does this new creation look like?
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person” (II Corinthians 5:17). Then we learn that, “The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (II Corithians 5:17b, NLT).
- What does this involve?
- What does the “new life” look like?
We know how we become a new creation in Christ. This is explained clearly for us. “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. … For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:19,21).
- But what does this change look like in my life?
- Or, What should it look like?
Radical reorientation of life
Perhaps the best way to explain the change is through the previous verse – “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them” (II Corinthians 5:15).
This is a radical re-orientation of life because of our relentless compulsion to live for ourselves.
When Jesus called people to follow him, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23, NLT). The words “turn from your selfish ways” are very strong. Jesus was not saying that we just need to think of others a little more. These words point to self-renunciation. And this fits with the imagery of daily taking up your cross. This is an abandonment of self; a renouncing of self or death to self. Radical? Yes. But also liberating!
My greatest challenge in life — ME.
Me, myself and mine! This new person in Christ (where the old life is gone and a new life has begun) is observed when I “no longer live for myself but for Christ, who died and was raised for me.” I am tempted to live for myself on three levels. I can find myself alternating between them when I make life about me.
A life lived for self is a prison – not freedom. The message of our culture is the opposite. The path that seems so fulfilling but leads to despair is the self-centered or self-absorbed life. The new person in Christ is distinguished by the opposite. And in this life of “death to self” and self-giving devotion to the Lord of life, we find the joy of restoration to the image of the One who created us and humbled himself for us so that we may live.
Mediate on these words
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”
“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
“Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:3-11)
Lean deeply into these provisions and promises
- “And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (II Corinthians 3:18).
- “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (II Corinthians 1:21-22).
- “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires (Galatians 5:16-17, NLT).
- “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Galatians 5:24-25).