What If You’ve Already Been Changed?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17
How would you live if you knew you didn’t have to change?
Five years ago that question would have baffled me. After all, I could never reach the dangling carrot of “changing myself for the better.”
Truth be told, for a time, I said the heck with it and stopped trying to change myself into being a better person. Licentiousness and debauchery was the result. But even then, God was renewing my mind to who I already was, I just didn’t get it.
Then I fell off the cliff into the opposite direction. Legalism, pastoral approval, great-comissionism and self-righteousness ruled and ruined my days. I became uber-competitive in ministry and wanted to iron out everyone’s incorrect theology. What madness. What unrest.
“I gotta change all these sinners and false teachers! I gotta change myself! The work is never done!”
In the midst of this confusion God’s Holy Spirit would speak to my spirit, “Matthew, it’s not your job to change anyone and you don’t need to change either. You need to learn who I’ve already changed you into, and live.”
This made no sense to me so I ignored it.
“That’s too easy, and nobody teaches that in church.”
Then it happened. I can remember the moment it hit me and where I was when I finally realized the second half of the gospel, “I’VE BEEN CHANGED!”
I was laying in bed, reading, before I went to sleep. “There’s no more changing to be had! I am complete! My identity is final!”
This brought another question to mind, “When exactly did this happen?”
The answer was: from the moment of my salvation. From the millisecond I believed Jesus forgave me in the mid-1980’s! My mind immediately backtracked! This twist ending caused me to see my entire life differently! I had a brand new perspective about my past!
“I WAS CHANGED THIS WHOLE TIME?! WOW!”
It’s like when you first see the ending of the movie, The Sixth Sense. Your brain instantly tries to replay the film from the beginning to the end, now that you know Bruce Willis was dead the entire time!
“So that’s why nobody ever talked to him or looked at him but only the boy! The boy was counseling another dead person, but the dead person thought he was counseling the boy! Crazy!”
In regard to my newly-discovered, heaven-ready identity, the same thing happened.
“I’ve been a new creation since I was eating pudding cups and playing with ninja turtle figurines! That’s why sinning never felt right permanently! That’s why trying to earn God’s approval never made any sense! That’s why getting drunk all the time never fulfilled me! That’s why legalism never set right in my soul! That’s why going to a building to feel better, calling down God’s Spirit, praising a pastor, or reading a book to become a better person was weird!”
I had been a child of God the whole time! I didn’t need to change! I HAD ALREADY BEEN CHANGED! Instead, I needed to know more about my righteousness! I needed to be educated on what the Cross had not just done for me but to me! I had been reborn! I didn’t need to keep getting reborn! I NEEDED TO LEARN AND GROW–I NEEDED TO MATURE–NOT BE BORN AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN BY WHAT I DO OR DON’T DO!
“Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!” I wanted to shout about this freedom from the rooftops!
…My spiritual rebirth was final, a long time ago. I wish I believed this truth sooner. Just like we can’t be reborn physically once it’s happened, we can’t be reborn spiritually once it’s happened. Birth is unchangeable, unsustainable, and unimprovable. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus–a devout, religious man–“You must be born again” (see John 3:1-8).
A long time ago, this happened to me. As I sat on that cold, hard pew, my spirit had been killed, buried, and reborn. I was resurrected, forever connected to God’s Spirit through Jesus Christ (see John 1:12, Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:6-10, Colossians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 6:17).
My gosh how awesome is this? I didn’t have to change–me, as in, my identity. Sure, my actions and attitudes would always be a work in progress, but not me. WHO I AM. No more changing was to be had from the time I knew Jesus saved me. The reality is, no Christian needs to change. We need to be ourselves and renew our thinking to who we are (see Romans 12:2, Philippians 1:6, 4:8, Colossians 1:22, 1 John 4:17,18).
What does this look like practically? Friend, think about it. If you knew Jesus took all your punishment, for every mistake–past, present, and future–you’d stop being afraid of God and you’d let Him love you. If you knew you were one of God’s own kids, and you knew God is a good Father–not an abusive legalist–you’d stop hiding from Him and enjoy Him. You’d stop flinching. You’d let Him hug you more often, especially when you’re hard on yourself. You’d stop with all the false humility each time He, or someone else, gives you an amazing compliment. You’d say, “Thank you,” instead. You’d forgive those who hurt you a lot quicker because you’d know that you, yourself, are completely forgiven forever.
You’d let Him push up and out your stinking thinking, like splinters, rather than think He’s changing you all the time. You’d listen more often when He corrects you because you’d know He only wants the best for you. But even when you don’t, you’d still know He makes your crooked paths straight because He uses grace on you like He uses rain on flowers.
You’d look at all Scripture differently–with confidence–from Genesis to Revelation. You’d sin a lot less because you’d know that when you sin it’s not natural, because you’re a saint. You’d know you’re a holy person by new birth–and nothing more.
You’d also know that no amount of unnatural choices—sinning—could cause the Father and Son to break their promise to each other. When you are faithless they remain faithful for you. You’d feel secure no matter what season of life you’re going through, which would inspire you to live authentically, gracefully. Even in the pain.
If you knew you didn’t have to change, you’d take the pressure off others because you’d know behavior does not define them either. You’d love them better, because you’d love yourself better, because you’d know God loves you, better.
You’d be comfortable in your own skin. You’d understand your righteousness. You’d understand your glory. Not a separate or conditional righteousness and glory, but yours (see 2 Corinthians 5:21, John 17:22).
You’d remove your masks. Those feeble coverings of posturing and addictions to achieve satisfaction and validation would fall away left and right. You’d know God is always well-pleased with who you are. You’re His baby, no matter your age.
Mistakes would never define you, nor would achievements, nor would people. Only God.
If you knew you didn’t have to change and that you’ve been changed, you’d enjoy the abundant life Christ has already given you, which is Himself.
So today, my friends, know this: Don’t change, Christian, be yourself. You can’t change anyway. God has already changed you into a whole new creation, a creation with whom He’s immeasurably infatuated.
A prayer for you: Dad, when I think about how far you’ve brought me in my thinking, I get choked up. I could write about this subject for days. When I think back on all those years you were renewing my mind to the truth of what you did to me when I first believed…I don’t know what to say. Just, thank you. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. I understand, for many, what they’ve just read might have their heads spinning–I get it. I’ve been there and we both know it. You were with me as I sat through countless church services and in front of guest speakers where the emphasis was on getting ME to change. Do this, do that, start this, stop that, go there, be more, do more–on and on, but the focus was never on the Cross alone. Thank you for teaching me that the same Cross which crucified Jesus crucified me too. The same tomb in which He was buried, I was buried, and on that same Sunday He arose, I arose. I was made new, just like Him, in my spirit. No more changing was necessary but only the renewing of my mind into who you caused me to become. Please expose these truths in even greater ways to these wonderful people. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from my upcoming book, The Christian Identity, Volume 2. Check out my other bestselling books here!