Making the adjustment from the ways of the world to the ways of the kingdom is hard. But guilt is a poor motivator. Some people think keeping rules is the right way, and use guilt to enforce them. This is simply not helpful to me.
Being an apprentice of Jesus is not about rules and laws, it is about identity and place. The Christian life is not an if-then obligation – “If I do this, then God will do that”. It is a because-therefore opportunity – “Because I am one in whom Christ dwells, therefore I will….”
The better way to encourage change is to remind people who they are now in contrast to who they once were. That’s what Paul does in his letters to new Christians. Christ lives in us, and our life is in him. Instead of applying guilt, we should say to ourselves: I am a Christ-inhabited person. What does that look like in the world I live in?
Put simply, I am called to live differently because I am not the person I once was. For example, I once lied because I thought it helped me get what I want. In truth it made me feel ashamed and it fractured relationships. Now I tell the truth because God provides what I need, and I respect people and I value my relationships enough not to lie to them.
Now I have a new nature. It no longer needs to sin, and in fact, it cannot run on sin as it once did when it knew no better. I am different from the person I once was. It is possible to have a good time without sinning. And to be honest, the only way we can genuinely have a good time is without sinning. I once was blind to this, but now I see.
I am a new creature in Christ – the old has passed, the new has come. Today I will let my identity – not trying to keep rules – shape my behaviour.
Gracious Abba, it is hard at times to shake off who I once was. Help me to focus not on behaviour but on identity. You have made me a new creation. Help me to see that and to live accordingly. Amen.
If you could change one thing about your behaviour, what would it be? How can your identity as one in whom Christ dwells affect that behaviour?