To think a new way
The massive paradigm shift referred to in 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 is the focus of this life-changing study.

 

TO THINK A NEW WAY ...

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2004

The term 'paradigm shift' has become common in secular motivational material. It is a powerful concept with far-reaching implications that could well be applied to Biblical repentance. Indeed, the repentance urged upon us by God's Word is the ultimate paradigm shift, a change of thinking and outlook far more radical than any recommended by secular writers seeking to help us to maximize our potential.

 

[1] The meaning of 'repentance'

One difficulty confronting and confusing Christians here is the watered-down concept of repentance that we have been handed by our churches. At worst, we understand repentance to mean saying 'sorry God' for our sins; at best we understand it to mean that we are turning away from sin and committing ourselves to follow God. Neither of these comprehensively expresses the Biblical meaning of the word.

Repentance - metanoia in the Greek text - means a change of mind, a radical re-orientation of the way we think.

The call to repentance, the command to repent, confronts us with the option of a total mental refurnishing. In it we face the possibility and the necessity not only to turn from sin to God, but to change our mindset from the mindset of one who is alienated from God by sin to the mindset of one who is reconciled to God through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

This re-orientation of our whole mindset is so massive and awesome a paradigm shift that in 2 Corinthians 5:17 God tells us it's a whole new ball-game, a whole new set-up. A literal translation of this verse reads: 'therefore if anyone (is) in Christ - new creation'. Not 'he is a new creature', but simply, incredibly, 'new creation.' The verse continues with those words vibrant with liberation: 'the old has gone, the new has come!'

[2] What is the 'old' which has 'gone' for the Christian?

In the 'old' reality, that reality in which we must relate to God standing on our own two feet, the following are true:

  1. We are disqualified from living in the presence of God (Romans 3:19,20).
  2. It is impossible to attain acquittal on the basis of our own performance (Romans 3:19 20).
  3. The performance necessary for acceptance is 100% obedience to 100% of the law 100% of the time (Galatians 3:10).
  4. We are alienated from God by our sin (Isaiah 59:2).
  5. We are God's enemies (Romans 5:10).
  6. We are held accountable for every sin both active and passive (Romans 3:19).
  7. We are under God's condemnation and curse (Romans 5:16,18; Galatians 3:10).
  8. We are under the rule or reign of the law of sin and death (Romans 5:17,21; 8:2).
  9. We are under the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13).
Read and discuss or meditate on each of the above verses.

This old reality is described as living 'according to the flesh' or 'in the flesh' (in the KJV; but repeatedly mistranslated 'according to the sinful nature' or 'sinful man' in the NIV). In this old reality we are in ourselves, apart from Christ. It is not necessarily an overtly sinful reality, humanly speaking; indeed many people living in this reality are very good as the world counts goodness, but it is a reality of separation from God, it is a reality of spiritual death.

[3] What is the new reality which has 'come' for those who have faith in Christ?

The new reality which kicks in when we are reunited to God through genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is radically opposite to the old reality at every point:

  1. God has qualified us to live in his presence (Colossians 1:12, 22; Hebrews 10:14).
  2. God has pronounced legal acquittal ('justified') concerning all our sin (Romans 3:21-26).
  3. We are given, freely, the righteousness of Christ and are described as 'complete in him' (1Corinthians 1:30; 2Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 2:10 KJV).
  4. We are reconciled to God (Romans 5:9-11; 2Corinthians 5:17-21; Colossians 1:20-22).
  5. We have peace with God (Romans 5:1; Colossians 1:20).
  6. We have forgiveness for every sin (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 2:13).
  7. There is no condemnation and the curse has been borne by Another (Romans 8:1; Galatians 3:13).
  8. We are under the rule and reign of grace and life (Romans 5:17,21; 8:2).
  9. We are in the kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Colossians 1:13).
Read and meditate on each of the above verses, contrasting them with those in the previous list.

[4] The liberating impact of this paradigm shift

This new reality in which every Christian lives is described as living 'according to the Spirit' or being 'in Christ'. We now belong to a different kingdom, with different operating principles, in a different relationship with God. When a person becomes a Christian, everything concerning their relationship with God changes. Because we are united to Christ through genuine faith, that is, because we are 'in Christ', God no longer relates to us are we are in ourselves, he no longer relates to us 'according to the flesh' - cursed, condemned, alienated, accountable. Rather, we have, we possess, peace with God, reconciliation, forgiveness. We live in Christ's kingdom where grace reigns, where life reigns. We are set free, rescued, redeemed, from that law of sin and death under which our every sin cut us of from the life and the presence of God.

This new reality is real. God's word states it as a fact for all those who truly believe in Jesus Christ. But our minds so often continue to operate in line with the principles of the old reality, perceiving our relationship with God to be as fragile and unstable as our ability to conform to various sets of rules, rituals and regulations, perceiving our relationship with God to still depends on us, rather than on Christ.

It is here that we need to realize and apply the truth of this massive paradigm shift to which God calls us through the Gospel.

Repent, he commands.

Stop thinking the way the world thinks.

Stop thinking the way the religions of men think.

Have done with the mentality that keeps score of merits and demerits, which vainly hopes that by its own puny, imperfect efforts it maintains access with the Almighty, but all the time fears that the least wrong action throws acceptance with God out the window. That is all part of the old reality where we tried to stand in the presence of God as we are, on our own two feet, in our own name.

In this new reality we are commanded to 'approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need' (Hebrews 4:16); we are warned against failing to believe and rest in its promises (Hebrews 4:1,2); we are told that 'we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way' and that therefore we should 'draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith' (Hebrews 10:19-22).

These verses from Hebrews show us that this new reality in which the Christian lives, although spiritual and unseen, is extremely relevant and practical. It embraces and empowers us right at our deepest and most intimate point of need: that of on-going, moment by moment, unqualified, unrestricted acceptance with God.

Here, in this new reality, here, in Christ our Saviour, every one of us who trusts in Christ, at this very moment stands free in the presence of God.

  • We do not have to defend or explain ourselves.
  • We do not have to justify ourselves.
  • We do not have to maintain our right of access by our own performance.
  • We do not stand burdened down by a guilt stricken conscience.
  • For we believe the good news of salvation, and rest in the peace of its words: 'we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all' (Hebrews 10:10).
  • God, by his own will and decision, has made us his own: precious, blood-bought, treasured, safe.
Write out these verses:

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

 

1 Peter 1:18,19

 

1 Peter 2:9,10

 

John 10:28,29

 

In this freedom we rejoice 'with an inexpressible and glorious joy' (1Peter 1:8), because the focus and object of our faith is not ourselves and our performance, but the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:1-11; 4:4). In this freedom we can worship the Father 'in spirit and truth' (John 4:23,24), because in this freedom we stand before him focused on him, liberated from the necessity to earn his acceptance, to earn our right of access, to somehow manipulate him and make him amenable to us. In this freedom our worship is pure worship, unsullied by self-interest, uninhibited by our unworthiness.

This pure worship which is facilitated by this new, Christian mindset, embraces our every moment.

Right now, at this very moment that you are reading this study, if you have put your trust in Jesus Christ, you stand free in the presence of God.

  • Reconciled.
  • Forgiven.
  • At peace.

God no longer relates to you as you are in yourself, in your flesh. He relates to you, always, only and ever, as you are in Christ. This moment, and every moment, whether in times of prayer or the practicalities of life, whether in private or in public, is potentially a moment of pure worship, as you, free from the need to justify and promote yourself, live in the presence of God, and cry 'O Lord my God how great you are!' overcome by his love and grace, over-awed by his forgiveness and mercy, revelling in the overwhelming peace and joy of this new reality of life in the Kingdom of his Son.

Let us then 'be transformed by the renewing of (our) minds' (Romans 12:2) as we embrace this ultimate and radical paradigm shift, liberating our hearts to soar unhampered in a life of praise and adoration of our God who has given us freely, unmerited and undeserved, this amazing gift of 'salvation in Christ'.