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The Exchanged Life

 

God’s Provision for our Relationship in Christ

by Bill Rose

 

 

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by Bill Rose, www.gracedrivenpeople.com

 



   
When we became Christians someone was miraculously imparted into our lives. There was a change because of an exhange that came about at the point of being “born again.” Do you remember Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus in the Gospel of John where he identifies the need for a change? Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the evening wanting some answers as to why Jesus was there and what He was offering. Sensing Nicodemus was unsure of what to ask; Jesus strikes to the heart of his need and fills in the blanks.

He answered and said to him, 3 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but so not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:3-8) 

If you are reading this as an observer of Christianity and you are in the same place as Nicodemus, wondering what Jesus has to offer, then you will discover answers to your questions. It won’t be religious but it will be spiritual, because the “wind of the Spirit” will be faithfully blowing all around your life offering answers to questions that matter most. 

For those of us who are “born again” (1 Peter 1:3), have you thought about the change that took place in your life and the impact of that change? Yes, you discovered your sins were forgiven. Jesus entered your life and there was a future kingdom established and waiting your arrival after this life was finished. But what about this life on earth? What is it about being a Christian that gives you joy, appreciation and thankfulness every moment of the day? May I offer the answer to that last question? Your daily joy, appreciation and thankfulness will be derived from your understanding of what Christ has finished in your life--which others and I have called, “the exchanged life.”

The Problem Started in the Garden

Before I begin explaining the exchanged life, I would like to set the stage for how God designed this life to become the solution for our spiritual problems that started a long time ago. 

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve encountered temptation and a lack of resistance to sin. Immediately afterwards they noticed a change that took place in their lives and the need to address the problem they invited upon themselves. Let us revisit the story in those early chapters in Genesis. The sin: “When the woman saw that the tree (tree of the knowledge of good and evil) was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6)

The Results of Sin: 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord called to the man, and said to him, Where are you?”
10 And he said, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

The Humor: 12 And the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree and I ate.”  As soon as sin entered the world, man lacked the ability to be held personally accountable. This invites the joke, why did God create Eve? Answer: Obviously Adam would need someone to blame his troubles on when God caught him hiding in the garden. Let’s move on.

Now, when we look back in time, we can easily see the problems Adam and Eve generated from their mistake and how those consequences have been passed on through every generation since then. Allow me to highlight the changes and propose the spiritual problems that resulted after the fall. The first change, they broke the only command they had to live by while living in the garden. From there God needed to begin designing a plan for reconciliation and redemption. Second, they found themselves “naked” and they quickly began to cover their nakedness with their own designer clothing (fig leaves). Their awareness of their nakedness became both a physical and spiritual issue. Third, they heard the Lord God walking in the garden and decided to “hide” themselves. Their attempt to “hide” and remain hidden was not only because of their physical condition but it was also because of their sin and embarrassment over it. And lastly, they found that they were now “afraid” of God. They were fearful of their present condition and they were afraid of what God would do with them in the future. Thus, every person standing on the outside of Christianity has had to face these four challenges and seek solutions for them. Unfortunately, many believers have never come face to face with God’s perfect solution for healing the problem. Oddly, they are the ones standing on the inside of Christianity trying to love and fear God at the same time! Sadly for them, this is a no-win situation for peace with Him.

The Solution to the Problem: These four predicaments needed to have a remedy. Therefore, God designed a plan to solve mankind’s spiritual problems of redemption and reconciliation, nakedness and lack of sufficient clothing, ineffective hiding, and the fear and lack of security with God. The answer to this problem was and is the exchanged life offered through Jesus Christ.   


What is the Exchanged Life?

The concept of the exchanged life, as applied to the Christian life, is a relatively under used term in the church today. That’s unfortunate as I find it a simple way to define the change that took place and describe the renewal from something of no value to something of tremendous worth. In fact, we can attach renewal to exchange from Isaiah 40:31.  Isaiah points out that those who “wait on” or “hope in the Lord” will “renew” their strength. Hebrew commentaries point out that the word “renew” can also be translated as “exchange.” So, those who “exchange” their strength for the Lord’s will be given His strength!  

Hudson Taylor thought it was important as it applied nicely to being “born again” from an “old man” into a “new man” and from an “old creation into a “new creation” (From his book, Spiritual Secret; Chapter 14). The substance of our “new creation” is rooted in the reception of our new “identities in Christ” which are connected to His crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection and ascension. We will find, as we look further into these ideas, how other terms can expand our horizon as to the meaning of the Christian life. Definitions like “The Christ Life”, the “Grace Life”, “Union Life” and the “New Covenant Life” all become synonyms for the exchanged life.


Crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20)

Paul approached the exchanged life with a number of different metaphors. We will begin with his first in the book of Galatians. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Paul noticed a change in his life when he became a Christian. He found the foundation of his Christian faith and life was the result of living in Christ. How was that created for him? Something old died so that something new could live and take its place. He identified this experience as having started when he realized he had been “crucified with Christ.” The word “crucified” is placed in the Greek perfect tense to remind us that what was fully accomplished in the past continues for us moment by moment in the present. In other words, our identification with Him is not dependent on what we are doing but who is living within us and what He has accomplished.

It is hard to imagine, but somehow we were in attendance, identifying and being united with the mission of Christ on the cross. We witnessed, and in some way participated with Him in His death for all of our sins so that we could be freed from them. This prompted Paul to write, “And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14) Before we move on from here, I would like to emphasize Paul’s belief that all of our sins were forgiven, which would include those in the past, present and future.  Knowing this fact gives us a greater appreciation of God’s grace and the exchanged life.

With Adam and Eve’s failure to keep God’s commandment and the consequence of their sin in mind, reconciliation with God was completed through the work of Christ and the undeserved gift of His grace. Paul describes this transaction with these words. “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”  (2 Corinthians 5:18-19) 

Reconciliation and redemption were established through our intimate unification with the riches of Christ. His death for sin became the believer’s death; His resurrection became (in one sense) ours; When He ascended, (mysteriously) so did we; and when we think about our new life and where it presently exists, somehow we are “seated with Him” and enjoying His eternal presence. “(God) raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6) From here we move from being crucified with Christ to be clothed in Him.


Clothed in Christ (Galatians 3:27)

Adam and Eve discovered a need to cover their nakedness with clothes after their decision to disobey God. Thus, clothes became important to cover their physical and spiritual shame. Every generation inherited their failure and need for covering to hide their unrighteousness from the righteousness of God. Paul picks up on this need and addresses if with a clothing metaphor to make his point. “For you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27) Have you pictured your life being literally clothed in the essence of Jesus Christ? For many, they have never thought of themselves in this way because it naturally doesn’t make sense. But, thankfully we’re not dealing with the “natural life” as Christians, because the “supernatural life” of Christ was fused into our own.

When you were a child, playing with other kids in the family or with friends, did you ever dress up in your mom or dad’s clothes? Suits, farm dresses, shoes and socks were pulled out and utilized for playtime. We had lots of laughs wearing clothes that were too big, too adult and too mature. We were swimming in them, right? Yet, even though we didn’t understand it at the time, part of the interest in dressing up forecasted our future and what we would eventually look like when we became grown ups.

The “grown up” concept is what I want to highlight. As believers we have a need to experience maturity within the Christian life. In other words, we need to believe we have arrived at a place where we know God is continually pleased with us. Perhaps that is why Paul wrote, “Accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7) And you ask, “How and why has He been able to accept us?” The writer of Hebrews points out the reason; it is because of the supernatural life of Christ. “For by one offering He has perfected for all times those who are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)  

The organizational church usually fails in addressing this need in knowing where we consistently stand with God. Their focus is primarily aimed at highlighting our immaturity instead of our maturity as being identified in Christ. As a result, we always feel like we are on the treadmill desperately trying to cross the finish line, and as you know, a treadmill doesn’t have a finish line. Or to illustrate the point further, it is like walking on a path that seems to have no end because it is not clear how many steppingstones we will need to negotiate while staying on the path of becoming complete and mature. When there is no end in sight, people become exhausted with the demands of Christianity instead of enjoying a life of just living in the abundance of Jesus Christ. The strategy of keeping people guilt-driven usually guarantees church membership, volunteerism, tithing and an over dependence on professional staff because, after all, they’re the only ones who are successfully making it in our eyes. 

Paul wants us to know that when we accepted Christ into our lives, He accepted us as well! At that point, we exchanged the “old” for the “new creation” thus giving us maturity in relationship because we were dressed in Him. As Christ is mature, holy, righteous and blameless—so have we become! “But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” (Colossians 1:22) Being unable to accomplish something on this scale on our own, God does this for us through His efforts called the exchanged life. We took off our old clothes that represented an old lifestyle and put on His clothes identifying a new heavenly lifestyle. We are figuratively swimming in the clothes of Jesus Christ. On a human scale, they may seem too big and mature for us, but I believe He is also the Tailor, fitting and equipping us into His body (the Church). Having been clothed in Christ, we are also hidden with Him.

 

Hidden With Christ (Colossians 3:3)

“For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Colossian 3:3-4)

Paul, and the fact that we are “hidden with Christ,” introduces another metaphor. Have you thought of your spiritual life as being “hidden with Christ?” Strange as it might seem, your “old man” was left behind in this world so that you could inherit a “new man” concealed in an invisible realm. And what is this invisible realm? The Apostle Paul explains that it is the life of Christ.

Do you remember playing hide and seek as kids? Summer nights, while on vacation from school, brought out some of the best memories. What was the goal if you were the one hiding from the one who was seeking you out? Was it not your desire to blend into your environment and conceal yourself into those elements? Success always came when you would settle in and camouflage your body into your surroundings. Paul’s metaphor reminds us of those days as kids playing hide and seek but having far greater consequences. 

When God looks upon our lives He no longer sees the old life but the new, because the old life has been put to death. As He looks at us, He continually sees His Son in all of His righteousness. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Now, why would God do this for us? Wasn’t it done so that we could have an on going “right relationship with Him?” Did He not do this because it was something we couldn’t do for ourselves no matter how hard we tried? The last analogy informs us that we are sealed in Christ.

 

Sealed in Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14)

13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Having been crucified, clothed, and hidden in Christ, we discover yet another metaphor of the Apostle Paul; we are sealed in Christ. Paul borrows a couple of Greek words from the commercial world of his day. When possessions were sold and shipped, the stamped seal referred to ownership, which protected the goods from theft while authenticating the goods in transit as being genuine. The seal was regarded as a signature and when the goods arrived, the addressee was the only one authorized to open them. Paul firms up his thought on being sealed in Christ with another business analogy that guaranteed the investment of Christ; the Holy Spirit was pledged to our inheritance. This word described the terms of the agreement, which indicated the funds of purchase were a deposit or first installment. Thus, it was a down payment assuring the vendor that the amount would be paid in full. If you’ve been in the position of buying a home you will recognize the similarities of the contract process when it needs to be notarized. The purchaser is obligated to sign and date; the Notary signs as a witness and stamps the contract with a seal to legally bind the contract for the company distributing the funds for the loan.

Paul instructs that we have a guaranteed contract of ownership with God. He has taken possession of our lives through the investment of Jesus Christ. He gives the Holy Spirit as a down payment (pledge) as the means for permanently securing the relationship. 

Adam and Eve, after they sinned, had an enormous need in their lives to feel secure with God again. This condition is in all of us, pushing us to discover answers so that we can live assured of our relationship with God whether Christian or not.  To use another business term, we need to be “rendered certain.” 

The exchanged life renders certain our relationship with God. There is never any doubt about His unconditional love and acceptance. That is to say, we are not left trying to keep short accounts with God, begging Him for forgiveness of sins and wondering if He is going to inflict His punishment on us for the sins we've overlooked or did not take seriously. Many sincere Christians have a distorted mindset about God thinking He loves them both conditionally and unconditionally. Is it any wonder that some eventually believe they can lose their salvation over their failures? And is it equally amazing that they can believe God will distance Himself from them because of sin? 

All of this crazy thinking is the result of believing there is nothing complete in our spiritual lives. And so we go down the road of purpose-driven living, thinking more commitment, more goals, more discipline and more involvement will please God and reduce His displeasure. We’re reassured with these words, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete.” (Colossians 2:9-10)
 

The exchanged life is God’s solution for sin and broken relationships. When we come to grips with our unconditional forgiveness, acceptance, reconciliation, love and completeness in Christ, our joy, appreciation and thankfulness will be unending.


Cheers to His grace!


 

**Also see article: “What Was Exchanged-Contrasting Pre and Post Conversion"