When you were born again you were probably told a lot of wonderful things about your future. “God has a wonderful plan for your life.”
You may have also been told some wonderful things about your present. “We’re living in the kingdom now!”
But you probably didn’t hear too many wonderful things about your past. “It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from or what you’ve come out of.”
If anything, you probably heard unpleasant things and warnings about your history. “Don’t go back to Egypt!”
But you know what? God is not only the Lord of your present and future, he is also the Lord of your past.
When you were born again, he gave you a brand new life complete with a brand new past. You have a completely new history. And it begins at the cross:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. (Gal 2:20a)
Elsewhere I have asked the question, What happened to me at the cross? The short answer is, You died.
This is one of the most important things that ever happened to you, yet many Christians are ignorant of it. Just once I would like to hear a believer testify about their past like this: I was born, I did some stuff, then I died. I was crucified with Christ and that old self no longer lives.
That’s basically what Paul was saying in Galatians 2. He also said that the basis of our new life with Christ is the revelation that we died with him:
This is a faithful saying: For if we died with him, We shall also live with him. (2 Tim 2:11)
If you want to live with him, you need to know the answer to three questions: (1) What did I lose at the cross? (2) What did I gain at the cross? (3) What did I retain after the cross?
1. What did I lose at the cross?
At the cross your old self was crucified (Rom 6:6). The person you used to be apart from God – your “old man” – is dead so there’s no point trying to reform him. If your old man gave you a bitter and painful past, then go dance on his grave because he’s gone and he’s not coming back.
Do you know what else is gone? All your sin (Ps 103:12). Sin had a death grip on you but Christ cut him loose (Col 2:11). You may still be wrestling with some old habits, but you do so from a place of freedom (Gal 5:1). You are no longer sin’s slave (Rm 6:6).
Your natural inability to please God has also gone (Rom 8:8), as is any relationship you might have had with the law (Rom 7:6). God is pleased with you on account of Jesus so you can say goodbye to guilt and condemnation. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1).
Rejection is also gone and if you can wrap your mind around the awesome love revealed to you through the cross, then you will find all fear of punishment has gone as well (1 John 4:18).
Finally, the world as you knew it is no more (Gal 6:14). Your old sources of identity and security have been replaced with something far better. Any performance anxiety you may have about the future leaves when you realize that you are in him and he has already overcome the world (John 16:33, Rev 3:5).
2. What did I gain after the cross?
At the cross, and before you did a single thing, you received peace with God and complete forgiveness (2 Cor 5:19, Col 2:13). When you were placed in Jesus, you gained his acceptance (Eph 1:6), his righteousness (Rms 1:17), his holiness (1 Cor 1:3), indeed, his eternal perfection (Heb 10:4). You don’t act holy to become holy; you act holy because in him you are holy. Isn’t that wonderful?
But wait – it gets better!
As a result of the cross he gave you his life: Christ is your life (Col 3:4). You now stand on his faith (Gal 2:20), are filled with his Spirit (Rom 8:11), and think the thoughts of his mind (1 Cor 2:16).
When you were born again you were made into a brand new creature (2 Cor 5:17). As he is so are you in this world (1 John 4:17).
So obviously you do not have a sinful nature. You are not one person on Sunday and another on Monday.
Sure, you can still walk after the flesh, but you are not defined by what you do. And when you sin, you have a mighty Advocate who speaks to the Father on your behalf (1 John 2:1).
But here’s something; you no longer want to sin. Because of the cross you have new desires and new aspirations. You used to be driven by the flesh but now you are led by the spirit (Gal 5:18). You used to work to prove yourself but now you are compelled by the love of Christ (2 Cor 5:14). Strangely, you are both more rested and more fruitful than you have ever been before.
Best of all, you gained a new Father (1 Jn 3:1) and now enjoy the full rights of sonship (Gal 3:26).
Before the cross you feared God from a distance, but now you approach his throne of grace with confidence (Heb 4:16).
Before the cross you were a beggar living off scraps from the king’s table. But because of the cross your every need has been supplied according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Php 4:19).
You are now an ambassador and a royal priest of the Most High King (1 Pet 2:9). As his representative you have his authority over sickness and demons. You shall lay hands on the sick and they will recover.
3. What did I retain after the cross?
As we have seen, you lost a lot and gained a lot at the cross. But on the day that you were born again, there were two things that you retained unchanged.
First, your physical body did not change. You may have been healed, but your body is still subject to the effects of the fall. Although you personally were saved, your earthsuit is still getting older one year at a time. We are still waiting eagerly for “the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23).
Second, beyond repenting and deciding to trust Jesus with your life, your way of thinking probably did not change. If you liked chocolate and drove badly before you were saved, then you probably liked chocolate and drove badly after you were saved.
The beginning of your new story
God’s intention is for you to reign in this life (Rom 5:17). His plan is for you to be the head and not the tail, to be on top of your circumstances and not under them. However, this will not be your experience, either now or in the future, until you appreciate what God has done in your past.
Every believer knows what happened to Jesus on the cross, but not every believer knows what happened to them. Because of this they’re striving to become someone they already are and they’re fighting to obtain something they already have. They pray like beggars instead of commanders and they see themselves as servants instead of sons.
The instant you were born again, God did an amazing work in your life. He gave you a glorious new past and a completely new life. He changed just about everything about you. But one thing God left unchanged was your mind, your way of thinking. Only you can change that.
Given that there is one part of you that did not change at the cross, what do you think is the key to living the victorious life that God wants you to live? That’s right, you need to change the way you think…
…and be renewed in the spirit of your mind. (Eph 4:23)
Our thought patterns are shaped by our past. Which past are you identifying with? Your old man history or your new man history? Everything we need pertaining to life and godliness comes through our knowledge of him who called us (2 Pet 1:13). If you want to see breakthrough in your life, look to Jesus, look to the cross, and change the way you think.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… (Rom 12:2a)
Now repeat after me: “On the cross I died and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”
This is the glorious beginning of your new story!
Image: “A Bush Burial” by Frederick McCubbin