I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:20–21)
Transformation comes by taking Jesus’ yoke—by saying, and believing, “I am yours.” We can hear it, and say, “Yeah, that sounds right,” but we need to learn to see it—really see it—as the reality of our lives.
Some of this can sound pretty abstract. But we need it to become as real to us as our salvation has become to us . . . just as God himself has become real to us, and continues to become more real to us. It’s OK to nod your head in agreement right now, but pursue it with God, and don’t stop. Be able to say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8), and mean it.
There is no question as to whether God wants to see revival. Every word here backs that up—God wants us to draw closer to him, and more often than not that’s going to require our hard hearts to be re-broken so that they might also be reopened to him.
The question is: Are we committed to seeing the Spirit bring this? Are we willing to be obedient to what God has called us to, and to who God has called us to be? Are we willing set aside our own self-image, good or bad, and believe that God has something better for us, no matter what package it might initially come in? Most of all, are we willing to obey this command of Jesus, given to us as new creations in him, “that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35)?
I believe Jesus is talking directly to the church here. Literally, he’s talking to the first apostles, but with the knowledge of what the Spirit would create in their midst only weeks later. Of course this commandment also applies outside the walls of the church, but I fear many of us treat the church (at least in its current state) as a bad idea to be given up on. I get that. Boy, do I get that. But Jesus has not given us that option. We not only have been given new life, but are part of a bigger new life—the body of Christ.
Given how we’ve done with this commandment inside the church, it’s painfully apparent that we’ll never get it right outside the church until we take off the polite faces and begin truly relating to our fellow Christians in love. Besides: Who’d want to come inside the church until we do?
Those within the church have the same problems as those outside the church. We have the same temptations, and the same sins—a fact the world has no trouble pointing out to us. You’ve read this, probably as a believer, and I’ll bet you’ve identified with a lot of what I’ve talked about here. Well, guess what? Nonbelievers struggle with (or, go on blissfully unaware of) all the same things we do.
The only difference between “us” and “them” . . . is Jesus. That’s it, but that’s everything. Jesus is the only reason we have a new life to talk about. It’s literally all the difference in the world, and beyond.
One way other people will begin seeing that difference is when we actually love those other annoying, flawed—and yes, sinful—Christians. In other words: those people who are like us. If we can pull that one off, how will we fail to love someone with the same problems who doesn’t know Jesus? We want those people to know Jesus, after all. But without love, they’ll never see Jesus in us or through us, let alone beyond us.
Just as we’re here because we’ve recognized Christ as our eternal Savior, we need to recognize him as our Savior, and our life, from moment to moment. Paul David Tripp, in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, observes, “[I]t is impossible to celebrate God’s work of transformation without confessing your need for more. No one is more ready to communicate God’s grace that someone who has faced his own desperate need for it.”
Let God’s work of transformation begin here. And let it spread to the ends of the earth. We have a job to finish. Let’s begin living our new lives in full and get it done.
Lay It Down Today
Look inside your church today—or at least at the Christians you’re still in relation with. How can you serve them in love today, or in the coming week? I’m not asking for a long-term commitment here (although that’d be great); just come up with one thing that breaks your routine, gets you outside your own life, and gets your sharing your new life in Jesus with someone else who has that new life—especially if it’s someone you don’t normally do it with. And watch what the Spirit does with it.