So when I was setting up my website, it asked me to put a few words that could summarize my blog. That's hilarious...a few words...rarely do just a few words come out when I have a thought ;), but only by the power of God (truly), in an instant, it became so simple...
Jesus changes everything.
And He absolutely does. I believe there is a culture created around Christianity that places Jesus as an addition to our life, a supplication to make our life better. (I just attended a conference that dove into the false stories we believe...this general idea being one of them). So this culture places Jesus to the side ready to consult us on moral issues, answer us in times of desperation, check the box of "going to heaven." We keep him in this role of "there when we need Him" and often "without the things I don't want from Him". We often pick and choose how we want to experience Jesus in our lives - to varying degrees for many people who claim the Christian faith. If that is who Jesus is to you, dare I say, you have missed the point. He is not an added element to your life. He IS life. He changes everything when He enters it. He radically transforms, renews, awakens His children in a way that impacts every fiber of our being.
My question is: does He have this impact on you?
Here are *some* ways He has very tangibly changed my life, and I pray it is an encouragement to you as grow in the Lord:
As we read and study scripture, we do not merely learn good or better morals, gain more information or facts about theology; rather, we are transformed by the renewal of our mind.
"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." Romans 12:2
Jesus changes the way we think. Learning His purpose for the entire creation changes the way we see everything and think about everything in our lives. We exist for His glory. Our salvation, our redemption, our sanctification is for our joy, yes and amen, but ultimately to glorify Him. Learning who He is and who we truly are gives us a new song of praise in our mouths (Psalm 40:3), and perspective that allows us to - with His power in us - discern this world, our circumstances, filter our thoughts and actions through a real knowledge of the standard of a Holy God.
As we learn how Jesus walks in compassion, learn of the great commandment (Mark 12:28-34), we don't simply incrementally increase our capacity to love, work to add a level of spirituality to the way we love people, strive to be better at caring; rather, we are given a new heart.
"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 36:26
We are given a heart that desires the things of God. That desires God Himself. Desires to walk in obedience - not begrudgingly or out of obligation, but because our new heart delights in God's law. (Romans 7:22, Psalm 1:2-4). Our new heart is nourished by Him, flourishes through His word; it now breaks at the things that breaks His heart because we know what sin has done to our Savior, the price it cost Him. Our heart aches when we see injustice, not for morality sake or personal stance, but because our heart is aligned with the One who created all things and called it good. Our new heart loves because of a love we know only through Him.
As we learn God's design, we see His boundaries He has placed with purpose and in love, and how He calls us to live as set apart from others for His namesake. As we are revealed these things, we don't simply tack on these good characteristics, clean up some acts we knew weren't right. We are not better versions of ourselves; rather, we are to die to ourselves.
"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." Galatians 2:20.
Dying to yourself sounds extreme, but when we discover the LIFE we have in Christ - by surrendering to His authority over everything in our life - we find this new freedom we didn't know was even there. We find He is the rest from the restlessness of our heart. (Matthew 11:28-30). Dying to ourselves means realizing the grip of our sin; our desire to be authority for ourselves and letting that go...letting go of passions, desires and wicked ways that our sinful nature and the enemy want to tell us are better. It means unpacking those bricks we carry that are full of shame or regret. A lot of us are in need of putting off things we thought were good, that are actually causing great distress in our souls. They are keeping us weighed down, when someone else entirely wants to carry it.
As we fully grasp the gravity of our sin, as we truly realize our need for a savior in our place - because we cannot earn our way into the presence of a Holy God...because we simply cannot be enough. As we fully digest and mourn the effect of humanity's sin - the result of it being that our loving Savior hung innocently on a tree, bearing the full wrath for our rebellion in our place. Fully understanding this means we don't simply walk away from that realization, give a "hallelujah" and "amen", now back to what I want to do...rather; we are a new creation in Christ.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17
This scripture not only reminds me of our righteousness before the Father (we are seen as perfect and unstained as Jesus took our sin and credited us His perfect life), it also points me to our new birth: our spirit given life by God's grace alone. And as a new creation, every aspect of our lives is seen through a new, fresh lens! Our finances, our time, our marriage, our friends, our work, our church, our community, our children...every aspect.
Jesus didn’t defeat sin and death so we could sit here and say “this is nice”. He didn’t sacrifice his life, take on the wrath of God and rise from the dead so that we could just float around saying “whew, I’m going to heaven”. What he did was radical, and it should overwhelm us; it should drive us in every aspect of our lives because we are simply not the same person. We were dead and are now alive.
Jesus isn't a tack-on to our life. He is not an added bonus to the life we were already living. Jesus comes in and radically changes it. There is truly something in our hearts that is changed supernaturally. He flips the world on its head when we come to saving faith in Him. Jesus is not religion, or a list of to-do's or a club we belong to or a side car. He is the driver. He is everything. And we are to follow Him every day. (Luke 9:23)
He is changing everything about me, and I just pray there is more of Him and less of me in every step I take because in every tiny change (day-by-day, moment-by-moment) He is making, I find more purpose, greater joy and more praise to the One who is changing me. And He is still working...oh there is so. much. work. left on my heart. God intends for me to look like Jesus, and the Lord has been using this undercurrent message and my witness of His radical change to reveal to me that there are areas of my life I like to hold on to that He is still chiseling at...that there are areas in my life that I may have thought I surrendered to Him, but still have a firm grip on...and He knows this. He wants my whole heart. He wants your whole heart. He knows if we live in a place where we want to have Jesus, but also "this" or "that", we aren't yet fully experiencing the freedom and joy He has planned for us. Jesus is enough. Jesus is better than what we think we want to hold on to; what we think we have planned. Jesus changes everything.