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God created men and women in his image.
Bible scholars have discussed what that means for centuries, but one thing it definitely means is that God created us with the ability to choose. He gave us a free will. He wants us to choose to have a friendship with Him. He wants us to choose to enjoy His company forever. Adam and Eve, the very first couple He created, experienced happiness and joy in life because they walked and talked with God on a daily basis.
With freedom, however, comes risk and responsibility. It's true for a nation. It's true for a business. It's true in raising teenagers. And it's true for us as individuals. Because God gave us freedom to choose, we can freely choose to live independently of God. That's what Adam and Eve did. They signed on their own "declaration of independence," and in doing so, declared themselves to be "King of the Mountain."
Because you and I (and everyone else) are descendents of Adam and Eve, the Bible says we...
Talk about bad news! You may try to be a good person, but the heart of the problem is not only that you do bad things. The main issue is that you were born with an identity problem. You were born a sinner because you descended from Adam.
Even though God's heart aches to be close and enjoy a relationship with you, your sinner identity prevents you from having a relationship with God. It is a wall standing between you and God, keeping you from knowing and experiencing true life.
But God's pursuing love would not give up. God came to earth in the form of a baby named Jesus Christ. Jesus was God wearing an earthsuit. He lived a perfect sin-free life then took upon himself every wrongdoing that you and I have ever or will ever commit. Our shame, our guilt, our condemnation, our punishment was placed on his shoulders.
He willingly allowed Himself to be arrested and sentenced to death in our place. This was no ordinary execution, however. Crucifixion was the ugliest, most heinous, torturous means of execution. You know, that should have been you and me on that cross, but God loves us so much He was willing to die for us.
Jesus was resurrected three days after His death. He spent a little more time on earth giving final instructions to His followers, and then He ascended back into Heaven to reign in the glory He deserved. He looked forward to the day when you and I would believe in Him and get to know Him, and that would make it worth all the intense suffering He underwent.
So where does that leave us?
Well, because of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross, we can experience a different identity than the "sinner" identity we inherited from Adam and Eve. Instead of being "in Adam" we now have the option of choosing to be "in Christ." What are the benefits of being "in Christ?"
Through faith in Jesus Christ, all these things plus many more wonderful changes too numerous to include here can be true of you. You may have heard evangelists and perhaps street corner preachers use the term "repent." That term basically means to change your mind. It means that you reject your old "King-of-the-Mountain" life. By faith, you believe that your old life was crucified with Christ on the cross nearly 2000 years ago.
There is nothing magical or mystical about the words. It's not a formula but belief that matters:
Please pray this:
Jesus, I'm sorry for the way I have treated you. Please forgive me. I reject my "King of the Mountain" life of rebellion against you. I believe you are the Son of God who came to this earth to save me from a life that I have lived apart from You. Please save me from this "sinner" identity and give me a new identity that is holy, acceptable, and (as unbelievable as it may seem) saintly. I believe that I am now in You, and You are now in me. Change me from the inside out. I mean this. Though I will surely fail at some point, I believe that You will never fail in me. Thank you. Amen.
Immediately you are spiritually reborn. You have new life. You have every reason to celebrate. You may not feel any different yet, but faith and feelings don't always agree with each other. It's okay if fireworks don't go off or you don't hear God's audible voice or you don't hear a choir singing "Hallelujah." You still have a new life. Believe it by faith. Faith is living like God is telling the truth.
So what's so different then about this new life?
Are you sitting down because this is huge? (Of course you're sitting down. Who surfs the net standing up?) Your life has been exchanged. You may have exchanged a Christmas gift or two, but you've never exchanged anything like this. You have actually exchanged your old self-centered, self-serving, sinner life with the life of Christ. The Holy Spirit has now moved in and taken up residence within you. Didn't you notice the big U-Haul? It is the Spirit of God that now lives in you that causes Christ's life to be expressed through you. This happens by daily learning to depend on Christ.
Branches do not produce fruit, branches only bear fruit. It's the life inside the vine that actually produces the fruit. In the same way, Christ's life will produce your love for God, through you, by faith.
You have a new spiritual identity in Christ. You can stop thinking of yourself as a sinner because that's not who you are. You are a saint! It's not that you don't sin; it's just that when you do, your behavior isn't matching up to who you really are. What you believe about yourself determines how you live and behave. Believe that you are an accepted, deeply loved, child of God, and gradually your behavior will begin to reflect that. Just be patient.
Experiencing this life in Christ is the way life was meant to be lived. You've got life! You have just won the spiritual lottery. Now go spend it hilariously!
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