Friday, October 08, 2010

Remember To Breathe, Q & A

After posting “Remember To Breathe” on Wednesday, I received the following question:

Hey Ralph, I am loving this note. I have read it three times just so I can try and soak it all in. I was wondering if you could rephrase the following paragraph so I might understand better? And thanks for writing this stuff down so I can come back to it. - Jeremy

And here’s the cited paragraph:

“In truth, new Christians aren’t first trying to change and behave better because they’ve got a lot to do, they’re getting their bearings because they’ve got a lot to believe. Get that order wrong, and, well, it’s going to be a mess.”

So here’s a re-write, and then I’ll write more to clarify further: “The first need of a new Christian is to believe he has become a new creation, an actual alien in this world because he belongs and fits with the heavenly one more than he does with the earthly one. That’s a lot to believe, and it will likely take a while for him to grasp the magnitude of the change made to him. As he grows in faith, his behavior will begin to change in keeping with who he has become. If he tries to change his behavior before believing that he has been changed already, he will make a mess of things and grow tired of the attempt.”

And now to clarify.

Many new Christians are not adequately taught about what happened to them when they received Christ. They don’t know that the life they had before being born again was not life; it was something else. The Bible identifies it (and them) as “dead.” (Ephesians 2:1-6) Picture for them something like zombie life, and you’ve helped them get a glimpse of how bad off they were, especially in comparison with now.

Now they have life because they “have” God! He lives in Christians and has made them a perfect place for Himself. Unlike during the former covenant, when God did not dwell in man but only amongst man in a tabernacle meticulously and perfectly made, God changed the very nature of believing man to His own, and made them holy, blameless, and forgiven new creations—a perfect place in which to live and influence the world.

If new believers do not know this, if they’re not taught the truth of what happened and who they are now, then often they’ll think of themselves as something just a little better than zombies. . .and set about to change themselves—as if God had not yet. Am I being clear? They won’t believe they’ve been changed already, and if the Christian life is all about faith in God and in what He says is true, then they will be frustrated because they won’t believe Him about themselves. Further, they won’t really believe that God lives in them—in all of His glory and ability—so they won’t look for Him to produce the fruit of His presence; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Question: Do you know more Christians who obviously believe that God lives in them and has made them actual sons of His, or more who believe they’ve got a lot of changing and work to do? Do you see more Christians who actually believe the gospel is fantastic news—Oh, what God will do for you!—or more who evidently believe the gospel means you have to change and get to work?

Do you see what’s happened?

We’ve been induced to skip over growing in our faith in God (who He is and what He has done and what He will do), for growing in a style of behavior we think He will like. If you were a car(!), this is like trying to also be the fuel. Behavior is important, but how we get to it is more so.

Really, what I do is produce materials and books and sermons and posts that are remedial in nature. I offer the grades or courses many Christians missed in their formative years. I’m thrilled when I get to talk with new believers too, but it seems I mostly work with the church.

I hope this helps, Jeremy. Thanks for your question.

- Ralph

1 comment:

  1. Stephanie Park Mendrala11:54 PM

    Thank you Ralph. Before I heard the Exchanged Life Message, I was one of those Christians that worked hard at making those "changes." Now, I realize that He has done the work in me, and I can rejoice in the change that lives in me; the new life that lives in me.