Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Rayola Kelley

This is the time of year for exchanging those Christmas gifts that do not properly fit into our lifestyles and making resolutions for the New Year. Both exchange and resolution cause us to think about some type of modification taking place in our lives. Change can be frightening in some cases and a blessing in others.

As I have observed the struggles of people, I realize the one aspect that plagues people are unresolved issues. These issues consist of the matters of life we cannot change or resolve in our minds. Such matters are attached to loses, personal failures, emotional wounds, and so forth.

Sadly, unresolved issues often cause people to make resolutions in the will area that can be destructive. Resolutions such as, “I will never trust again,” “I am unlovable,” or “I will come out on top no matter what,” can set people up in destructive patterns. The reality is that we cannot control life, our environment or others. Therefore, these types of resolutions create anger, isolation, loneliness, and misery.

The great struggles in life cannot be resolved with resolutions. Rather, they must be exchanged. Just like the article of clothing that doesn’t really fit or the object that fails to serve any real purpose must be exchanged, Christianity is about the great exchange of something that does not fit the Christian’s attitude and lifestyle.

This brings us down to what needs to be exchanged. Christianity is about changing the old with the new. The old is destructive, while the new is eternal in nature and purpose. The exchange has to do with our disposition. It is darkened by selfishness. It is inclined towards the world, and it is prone to justify itself regardless of the fruits and the results. The problem many Christians have is they are trying to rehabilitate the sinful disposition with resolutions, good intentions and religious activity.

Granted, the selfish disposition can take on an appearance of righteousness, but it will lack power like so many of our New Year’s resolutions do (2 Timothy 3:5). To try rehabilitating something that is contrary to the very décor of your life in Christ is a disaster. The Bible talks about sewing a new piece of cloth onto an old piece of cloth (Matthew 9:16). Both will be destroyed.

Obviously, we must come to terms with the great exchange. Since it is a New Year let us cease from trying to figure out what we need to resolve, and let us consider what really needs to be exchanged in our lives to reach our potential in the kingdom of God. After all, aren’t our resolutions about reaching some goal or potential in our lives? And, how many of our past resolutions prove we did not have the power, inspiration or stamina to see them through?

Since Christianity is about the great exchange, we need to understand what does not fit in our life in Christ. Most people have a tendency to tack Christ onto a matter, rather than exchange different aspects of their old lives to gain the life the Bible advocates for those who believe.

Let us now consider this exchange. Remember it is about becoming a new creation where the “old” passes away and the “new” becomes a visible reality (2 Corinthians 5:17). This brings us to the first part of this great exchange. It is about letting go of the old life to embrace the new life. The life we are exchanging for is the very life of Jesus.

The first reality of this life is found at an unlikely place, the cross of Christ. It is important to point out that the cross has two sides to it. The great exchange is realized after one stands before the cross in humility to receive eternal life. Such exchange actually occurs on the other side of the cross.  However, to find the new life on the other side of the cross, one must give up his or her rights to the old life. This means a person will not experience life on his or her terms. For example, people naturally believe they have a right to be happy, a right to have the best life can offer; and they have a right to experience the many different joys of life. In essence these rights have to do with the self-life.

Behind the rights of the self-life is pride. Pride insists that it deserves to be honored, adored and considered. The only way one can exchange the self-life with the life of Jesus is by humbling self before the cross. Once a person exchanges the robe of arrogance with the clothing of humility, he or she can be lifted up to consider matters from the point of self-denial and death (1 Peter 5:5-6).

A position of humility becomes a point of identification. Identification points to agreement. Agreement in spirit and truth with Jesus not only lifts us up above our pathetic position, but it places us on the other side of the cross where we can begin to experience the abundant life.

The biggest struggle remains the same for many Christians; the self-life is still very much alive. It is claiming its rights to experience life on its terms. This creates the conflict between the Spirit and the flesh that Paul speaks about in Galatians 5. You can conclude that if such a battle exists, the great exchange has not really taken place.

The next exchange has to do with our will. Our will is resolved to give way to that which we serve. Granted, some people have strong wills. However, most of us have the desire to do something, but lack the power to do it. In such a state, we are declaring that one lacks the necessary willpower. However, this is not quite true.

Once again, our will finds its power and resolve in what we serve. Desire is a matter of the flesh. We know the flesh is weak. However, what we serve determines our inclination. Inclination means we are bent a certain way. This is where people find the conflict in the area of the will. The will naturally goes with a person’s inclination, especially if it is fleshly in nature.

Inclination is influenced by spirit and inspired by personal agendas and priorities. However, spirit will determine how we view and approach personal agendas and priorities. For example, if our spirit is wrong, it does not matter how noble our agendas and priorities may be, they will become perverted and destructive under the influence of a wrong spirit.

As we consider Jesus in His humanity, we realize that Jesus’ will was to do the will of the Father. To line His will up to the Father in His humanity, He had to take on the disposition of a servant, thereby aligning personal agenda and priorities to the plan of the Father. Obviously, as man, Jesus exposed Himself to the throne of God as He sought the Father’s will to carry out His plan for redemption. Clearly, Jesus did not lay any claim to His self-life. And, lining up His will to the Father made Him subject to the Father, consecrating Him as the Lamb of God.

How many of you need to exchange your rights for the cross, and your will for the will of God? Such an exchange means you must take on a new disposition to change your inclination in light of the true Master, and to align agendas and priorities to the One who needs to be your Lord.

Next we must exchange our way of thinking with the very mind of Christ. Exchanging our mind for Christ’s mind takes a process. It must be transformed. In other words, it will come out totally thinking different to the point that it will not be recognized.

The process of transformation is a must. After all, we are told the carnal mind is at enmity with God, and that it cannot discern the matters of the Spirit. We must take on the mind of Christ (Romans 8:5-13; 1 Corinthians 2:13-1; Philippians 2:5). This means we will be lowly in disposition and meek in attitude. Clearly, such a mind will be inclined towards doing the will of God.

To possess the mind of Christ will not necessarily require us to resolve a matter, but it will allow us to know what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God. It will also ensure that we possess the power, desire and initiative to carry out His will.

The final exchange has to do with the heart. We are told that God will give His people a new heart and spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Once again, we are reminded that an exchange is necessary to ensure that the new man or the life of Christ will come forth in power for the glory of God.

However, it is not enough to have a new heart, we must exchange our earthly focus with a heavenly perspective. This has to do with changing what we value. The concept of value points to treasures. Therefore, what we value or treasure will determine the source of our devotion and the direction of our affections (Matthew 6:21).

Our treasures must be of a heavenly nature. Once our devotion is heavenward, then our affections will naturally follow. To set our affections to the right source, our values or treasure must be redefined to ensure a devotion towards God that is pure, good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:1-3).

As we consider the types of changes that are required, we cannot help but see how complete a change it will be. No wonder the Apostle Paul stated the old passes away. Behold, all things become new as we become a different creation in light of the life of Jesus in us. The identity of the old man (self-life) has ceased to call the shots, the mind has taken on the disposition of Jesus, and the affections are set upon heavenly things.

Let me encourage you that for the New Year of 2007, do not make resolutions. Rather, humble yourself to consider if there needs to be the exchange of the old with the new at any point of your Christian life. After all, Christianity is not about changing the outward, but transforming the inward to become the expression of the life of Jesus in this dark world. Let’s face it—the world is becoming darker as time and history wind down on the dispensation of grace. As a result, this present world desperately needs to see the light of Christ, the beacon of hope in this present darkness, to know that there is the promise of hope and life beyond this present age.

Have a blessed New Year as you grow in the knowledge of Jesus.

If you would like to consider this exchange further, watch for Rayola’s upcoming e-book titled, “THE ISSUES OF LIFE.”