I’m not sure where would be right now if it was not for receiving the Exchanged Life message. That’s just being honest. Jenny and I have been married for 33 years – 34 this July, God willing.
If we just look at the last 10 years and just look at the cancer surgeries, the chemo, the radiation, the bills, the constant doctor and hospital visits and the consultations with medical professionals and alternative care givers, all the travel and even the hard conversations with each other about the possibilities, and consider walking through that apart from Jesus Christ? – let’s just be honest – it would not have ended well or even been a conversation today.
Now add in all the other parts of life – making ends meet, kids graduating going off to college, getting married, changes in jobs and career. Just the day to day grind and changes that come with growing into our fifties. Apart from Jesus, we’ve seen the fall out-it’s evidenced all around us. Who would say, “No struggle here.” Really?
But, I grew up in church from the time I was two weeks old. It helped, but it didn’t change living. Like most church or even pastor families, we had our junk in the trunk and did our best to deal with it-did church, prayed at meals, served at youth group, choir, special events and managed our image.
When I met Jenny, I knew she was the one I had been looking for. Expressing our faith in Jesus Christ was the foundation of our marriage and vows, but after 13 years of marriage and growing a family and not even making it from pay check to pay check, church-going was only one of the things keeping us afloat. Occasionally a really good message would give us hope, which was followed by a really bad message of living up to God’s expectations that would crush even the veteran believer.
Jenny had tried to share this message with me; I just had too much church background to listen.
Lots of people do! Oh, I’ve heard that grace stuff. I listen to Christian radio – I know all about grace. I’ve known about Amazing Grace for 85 years son, you can’t show me anything new. And yet, they are just living from day to day out of their own sufficiency, trying to do better, and fix their messes and failing.
I recently told a friend, as we talked about our faith, “If I hear any message in a church, and it does not speak the transforming Life of Jesus Christ, it is empty!”
So what’s the difference. In this nutshell…it’s this: Most of us can point to a time, a season, a month, day or even moment when we either came to salvation or considered it. “That’s when I gave my life to Jesus.” Yet, the only thing that happened after that was… church-going and/or church activities (and trying to live a better life). Some decided that they could do that without it all on their own. Life went on, marriages ended, the unexpected became the expected and hopes for an extraordinary life were lost in the bleak reality of the carnal existence.
But the Exchanged Life recognizes that the life we grew up with and the one we planned around and then tried to sustain has no real life in it, even though we think of our life as real. We never bend ourselves to read in scripture, or are led by most church pastors to examine that the Eternal Life we are promised does not begin “SOMEDAY – When we die” but occurs when we give up on our life (co-crucifixion) and begin living IN His Life, transformatively (Romans 6:6 and 8:9 and 2 Corinthians 3, and 2 Corinthians 5:17 to name a few).
Some would argue the point that Eternal Life begins at salvation – it does – but it isn’t experienced if that saved person doesn’t realize their new position IN CHRIST or what happened to them! In that state, they are living their life exactly as an unsaved person is – doing the best they can to manage their own affairs. And whether they succeed in that and achieve gold medal, rock star, headline status, or wind up on the street, beaten and bruised, THERE IS NO LIFE in what they have created (Read the book of John).
When I finally came face to face with this reality, all that Jenny tried to share that she had learned began to make sense; scripture stop contradicting itself; I began EXPERIENCING the Life that Jesus promised, and the language/ the conversation/ the perspective on reality changed in our home, our marriage, our family, our kids and our lives.
Romans 12:1-2 talks about our lives being a living sacrifice. How? By the transformation that occurs inn renewing our minds. To what? To the truth that Christ is our Life – if He was removed from a believer’s life, we would stop breathing!
If by now, you feel like I’m ranting, it’s because of the urgency we feel to share this with others, who are seeking so much more, but are lost in the shallows of typical Christian messages. There is a new operating system (See verses already mentioned). If we do not acknowledge that, learn it and find a way to live it out-we never get to experience the fullness/abundance that Jesus speaks of, when He clarifies the battle lines that have been drawn (John 10:10).
Paul powerfully compresses all these thoughts this way:
Colossians 1:9-12 English Standard Version (ESV)
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;11 being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[b] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.