We’re all looking for the easiest way to change things about ourselves – our weight, our wrinkles, our temper, our energy level, our children, our neighbors … OK, maybe those last couple aren’t about ourselves.
In the great tradition of self-help books and magazines, here’s a radical new plan for transforming yourself into the person you were meant to be.
It’s called the Gospel.
Not a new plan, you say? OK, maybe not. But it’s always been radical. Here’s how it can change your life.
Step 1: Understand that God made you, knows you and loves you.
The Bible’s pretty clear about this. The Psalmist prays:
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; … Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:13-14,16)
When God saw your “unformed substance,” he knew you better than you could possibly have known yourself. And he still does. As your Creator, he has a perfect vantage point to know the whole makeup of your body and personality.
God wants you to be in his presence forever because he loves you. And he loves you not because of what you can do for him but because he chose to. “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)
Step 2: Accept your fallen and helpless condition.
As uncomfortable as it can be to accept it, we all know we fall short of the standard, even our own standard. How often have we heard, and said, “Nobody’s perfect”?
It gets worse. God’s standard is utter and complete perfection: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (James 2:10)
Ever since the first man, Adam, broke God’s command and sinned, humans have followed the same pattern. “[T]hrough one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
Ultimately, we will do what it takes to get what we want, from relatively mild forms of manipulation to the atrocities we see on the news every day. Everything that puts ourselves in the place of God, that makes our desires the priority rather than the purposes he created us for, is sin and disqualifies us from being in God’s presence. And we’ve all done those things.
Thank God the good part comes next! “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:1)
Step 3: Get to know who Jesus is.
There’s no way to describe all that Jesus is and has done for you in one blog post. The Apostle John, who spent years with Jesus on earth, wrote at the end of his 21-chapter record of Jesus’ life and ministry: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”
But there are a few essentials that will help you understand why He is the key to making you a new person.
- He is the Son of God, equal with God. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself.” (Philippians 2:5-6)
- He became fully human for your sake. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” (Romans 8:3-4)
- He surrendered himself to die, taking the penalty for your sin, because he loves you. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
- He rose from the dead and has authority over death. Jesus says in Revelation 1:17-18, “I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”
The more you get to know about Jesus, his great love and mercy toward you, the easier it will be to take the next step.
Step 4: Entrust yourself to Jesus.
Using the word “believe” about 100 times, the Apostle John makes it clear in his book what Jesus wanted people to do: Believe in him. But he clearly means more than just understand that Jesus exists. He means for you to place your faith, your trust, your hope, in Jesus.
Jesus often urged people to “repent” – which basically means, “turn around!” Trusting in God and in his Son is certainly a 180-degree turn from trusting in ourselves, our goodness, our skills and abilities, our strengths, our money. In turning from this, we also repent of our sin, what we have been doing and thinking that isn’t pleasing to God.
When you repent and put your faith in Jesus, he does an astounding miracle: He lives in you! He replaces your spirit that was dead from sin with his own Spirit and enables you to live for him and not yourself.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
“He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. … Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 15,17)
Step 5: Live in the freedom Jesus gives.
Because you are now united with Jesus and he lives in you, you can live without fear or shame, confident that you are accepted, loved, cherished. Jesus’ own ability to “do everything perfectly” has been credited to you!
“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. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Galatians 2: 20-21)
Righteousness – acceptance in God’s sight and right standing as a part of his family – is yours because of Jesus and for no other reason. You can’t do enough good things (“through the law”) to wipe out your sin. Even when you become a Christian and you come to desire to do what God wants, His acceptance of you isn’t based on your ability to do that – it is based on what Christ did! Your failures cannot separate you from him, so you don’t have to be afraid of failing.
On Easter – or as many believers prefer to call it, Resurrection Day – we celebrate the climax of this amazing plan of God to save sinful humans for everlasting joy in his presence. Jesus’ willing sacrifice on the cross paid the price of our sin, and the risen Christ shows us that even death is not the end of the story.
So really, there’s only one step to the “new you”: Trust in Jesus. He has already done the rest.