Many preachers today focus almost exclusively on behaviour change. They are always telling us what we have to do to be blessed, to overcome our failures and to achieve the favour of God. we have to pray more, repent more, give more, do more, and so on. while behaviour and lifestyle do matter, the problem with moralistic preaching is that it simply does not work. People are soon discouraged when complex life issues are met with simplistic action based solutions. In the end, these are never effective and only leave us burnt out, feeling like inadequate failures.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18
There is absolutely no doubt that the New Testament calls us to extraordinary levels of holiness, purity and Christ-like obedience. But, it also makes clear that this supernatural lifestyle is totally impossible through our own efforts and can only happen through the power of God.
In the New Testament, every command about what we should do is always preceded by the revelation of who we are in Christ. Identity comes before activity, love before obedience, belief before behaviour and transformation of heart before transformation of life.
Before Jesus ever tells you to change the way you live, he gives you new life. Before he calls you to tackle any specific expression of sin in your life, he fills you with his love, his grace and his peace. He lets you know that in him you are totally and unconditionally loved and completely accepted by the Father. In fact, he ministers to you personally all the benefits of his perfect work on the cross before he calls you to lift one finger relating to behavioural change.
The woman caught in the act of adultery is a brilliant example of the way Jesus interacts with you. The story is simple. A sinful woman was brought to Jesus and he forgave her all her sin instantaneously, totally and freely. She had absolutely no preconditions to fulfil, no prior agreements to enter into, no good behaviour pledges to make before Jesus would forgive her. All she had to do was to look to Jesus and hear his final verdict on her life: I do not condemn you! That’s grace! Pure, 100% grace. And, she received it by simple faith. She just looked to Jesus and believed.
Jesus took upon himself all your sin, all your law breaking – every wrong thing that you have ever committed or ever could commit. he died in your place on the cross and, in exchange for your sin, gave you his own perfect righteousness.
The mob was about to stone her for her adultery, but Jesus forgave her! Imagine the impact of that. Jesus, the judge of all the earth gives his final verdict over her life – not guilty! No condemnation! There is no higher court of appeal that could ever overturn that verdict. Nothing could ever change her standing before God. She is forever free from all guilt, judgement and condemnation. It had absolutely nothing to do with her actions or behaviour. If that were the case, she would have been condemned as a guilty sinner along with the rest of us. Those who wanted to judge her (the mob) couldn’t and the only one who could judge her (Jesus), acquitted her. This is exactly what Jesus has done for you if you simply, like this woman, have trusted in him. As a believer in Christ, you stand 100% righteous before a holy God, by his grace – not by your efforts or by what you deserve in yourself. Jesus took upon himself all your sin, all your law-breaking – every wrong thing that you have ever committed or ever could commit. He died in your place on the cross and, in exchange for your sin, gave you his own perfect righteousness.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
From the moment you first believed in Jesus, you became the righteousness of God in Christ. This is God’s perfect righteousness that can never be spoiled or destroyed. It has nothing to do with anything you have ever done, or anything you could ever do – good or bad. But it is everything to do with what Jesus has done for you. He has given you the free gift of his perfect righteousness.
This means that never again do you need to fear God’s judgement or punishment for your sin. Never again will you have to work at getting God’s approval or blessing. You are already blessed and highly favoured in God’s beloved – Jesus Christ.
Do you sometimes feel guilty that you have not done what you should have done? Are you sometimes burdened by the fact that you have let the Lord down? Well, remember God’s attitude towards you is constant and unchanging. He has already made up his mind about you – he loves you and wants to do good to you and to bless you – not because you deserve it or ever could deserve it, but because Jesus has paid the highest price imaginable so that you could be set free. You have been redeemed by Christ’s own precious blood.
The greater glory of the new covenant
Now, in the New Covenant we have boldness to enter the presence of God and live there! We look on God’s glory in the face of Christ and are being changed from glory to glory. We have left the repelling, feeble and fading glory of the old and we embrace the welcoming, energising and transforming glory of the new. We leave aside the old way of trying to please God and constantly failing. Now we take up our position in Christ and believe his declaration over our lives – “you are accepted in the wellbeloved.” One of the greatest blessings in a believer’s life is that we are new creations in Christ. Old things have passed away and everything has become new! This means that a dramatic, creative and lasting change has taken place. This is the glory of the relationship we have with God in New Covenant.
The glory of the New Covenant is permanent, the old passes away. It is a greater glory than anything the Old Covenant could produce. Christ lives in us. They never knew the indwelling Spirit of God in the Old Covenant. The New Covenant is sufficient for all our needs empowering us to live in the presence of God. The old leaves us outside the blessing of God, struggling to enter into it through our own merits. In the New Covenant, we live by the merits of Christ. The Old Covenant brings bondage leading to death because it locks us into the downward spiral of defeat and despair. But, the New Covenant gives us life and freedom through the Spirit who lives in us. The Old Covenant, at best, modified people’s external behaviour because the law only judges and condemns. But, the New Covenant gives grace and forgiveness leading to a new life based on heart transformation, not behaviour modification.
Changed by looking at Jesus
Stop trying to change yourself, trying be different, to become what you are not. This is fleshly human self-effort. It is totally useless and absolutely unnecessary! You are already being transformed from within. You are not what you were because you are now in Christ. This has nothing to do with your efforts or your actions. It is totally and 100% the work of God. He has totally re-created you in Christ. Now, you are a new creation.
The secret lies in learning to be conscious of Jesus and his glory in you. Everything that Jesus has accomplished belongs to you. In him you have wisdom, righteousness, holiness and redemption. Christ is your life because your life in now hidden with Christ in God. That means you are acceptable to God at all times, no matter what is going on in your life. You do not fall in and out of favour with God depending on how well you are doing as a Christian each day.
One of the greatest blessings in a believer’s life is that we are new creations in Christ. Old things have passed away and everything has become new! This means that a dramatic, creative and asting change has taken place.
Always focus on Christ and his righteousness, never on yourself. You are complete in him. You are righteous in him. You are perfect in him. Stop trying to add to the perfection of Christ’s work on the cross as if it was an incomplete work that has to be supplemented by your own efforts. The more you see who you are in Christ and the more you meditate on all that he has done for you and in you – the more you will be transformed into his image. Understanding who you are in him will lead you into the breathtaking levels of conformity to Christ in your daily life. Get ready for a Gospel revolution, a Grace awakening!