The Exchanged Life

Great article by my friend Dan Gallagher

Most Christians rejoice when they learn that through Jesus’ sacrificial death they receive the complete forgiveness of their sins. At the moment anyone confesses Jesus as his Lord and believes in his resurrection he receives the gift of holy spirit and a great exchange takes place. The essence of this remarkable exchange is that a person’s sins are transferred to Christ, and in return his righteousness, which is the righteousness of God, is transferred to the person.

2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him [Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God.

God established that the consequence of sin is death, and since we have all sinned we all deserve to die. Death is the righteous or just outcome of our actions, but Jesus died in our place. He not only exchanged our sins for his righteousness, he also willingly died a brutal death on the cross in our stead. As the authors Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington state in their book, The Great Exchange:

“Once [we] are in Christ, sinners become the righteousness of God, because God credits (imputes) Christ’s perfect righteousness to them. In the eyes of God, these sinners have fulfilled the requirement of the law because the Sinless One fulfilled the law on their behalf by his perfect life and obedient death on the cross; they are in effect, clothed in Christ’s righteousness.”

“Thus, the Great Exchange that results from the death of the perfect sacrifice is a twofold substitution: the charging of the believer’s sin to Christ results in God’s forgiveness, and the crediting of Christ’s righteousness to the believer results in his justification.”

This exchange takes place at the moment of the person’s new birth and it is the greatest gift one could ever receive.

Colossians 2:12-14
(12) having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
(13) When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,
(14) having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

Living on a different level

Despite having received such a wonderful gift from God, far too many Christians fail to thrive in the new realities of God’s forgiveness and grace. The reality is that on the spiritual level, every unsaved person is walking around with a death sentence on his or her head and is merely awaiting execution. Once they accept Christ, that sentence is not only pardoned, they are viewed by The Righteous Judge as being completely free of any wrongdoing and then, amazingly, released to a place even better than anything they ever could have achieved on their own merit. That is grace upon grace!

It is as if we are standing on the gallows, noose around our neck and the executioner’s hand readied to pull the lever. A herald yells, “STOP, the Judge pardons that man, let him go free!” We are ushered down from the place of execution, given gifts, and sent on our way with one instruction, “Go and live up to the grace you have been given.”

There are three responses that we can have to God’s gift of forgiveness and salvation. When the prison doors of death row are opened to us we can show our thankfulness by going out and living a life of thankfulness and obedience to Christ. The second option is that we can run from the jail cell yelling, whooping, hollering and “partying hard,” continuing in our old ways. And the last option is to stay in jail, pulling the door closed, choosing the rules and regulations of the prison regime instead of walking in the light of our freedom in Christ. Sadly, as we look around we see that far too few believers make the first choice.

For example, today, it is common for single Christian men and women to live together as if they were married when they are not, ignoring the commands of God for righteous and holy living. Furthermore, far too many Christians drink in excess; use intoxicants like marijuana and other illegal drugs, and engage in many other types of unholy behavior. The fact that there is no measurable difference between the divorce rate among Christians and non-Christians[4] is a blemish on the Body of Christ. Also, the use of pornography is rampant in the male Christian community, some studies indicating that 50 percent of the men are involved with it and the numbers may even run as high as 70%. Disturbingly, in many cases the world seems to be having a greater effect on Christians than Christians do on the world. Carnal Christians, those who practice worldly behavior, is nothing new. The apostle Paul addressed similar issues with the first century saints of Corinth.

1 Corinthians 3:1 and 3
(1) Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ.
(3) You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?

And then, there are others who fall back into the false security of rules and regulations, just like the Galatians did in the first-century church.

Galatians 5:1
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

In spite of what could be a discouraging picture for Christians, we can praise God that in every generation there are always some who respond to God’s grace by living for Christ. Responding the way God wants us to is not about being a “holier than thou” kind of person. The godly man or woman recognizes that they are still very much a sinner, bearing the burden of the flesh and an “old man” sin nature. They are not perfect but they have a deep relationship with the one who is, Jesus Christ their savior. Whether publically known or not, these Christians live their faith at a remarkably high level, because they are living the Exchanged Life.

The Exchanged Life: the source of powerful Christian living

The Christians who live the Exchanged Life almost seem to have tapped into a secret knowledge, or maybe relatively unknown power source, that only those with a TOP SECRET clearance can have. The truth is there is no “secret knowledge,” but rather believers who live daily in the power of God have responded to the Great Exchange by living the “Exchanged Life.” The essence of the “Exchanged Life” is summed up in the words of the Apostle Paul.

1 Corinthians 6:19 and 20
(19) Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
(20) you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Seeing Christ’s great act of love for us, his completely unselfish act of dying for us, should compel us to live completely for him. Those who live “extra-ordinary” Christian lives do so because they have given their lives over to him, not only by confessing him as Lord, but also by living in accordance with his lordship. The essence of the Exchanged Life is, “His life for mine, now my life for his.” Many Christians get the first part of that statement, but stop short of the second half.

2 Corinthians 5:15
(15) And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Christ died but now lives. Not only is he seated at the right hand of the Father but, because of the nature of the gift of holy spirit he has given us, he can now live on earth through us. In the book of Colossians we learn that the gift of holy spirit is “Christ in you, the hope of glory .” The holy spirit in us is not a sentient being,[8] meaning it does not think or act on it’s own. Rather, it speaks to us only what it hears from our Lord, allowing us to communicate on a spiritual level. It also has the capacity for tremendous spiritual power, which we are charged to use in obedience to Christ’s directions and in keeping with his character. This is why it is so important to “no longer live for ourselves but for him.”

We can be his agents, doing his bidding and works just as if he were personally here. When we live in obedience to him as Lord, his desires become the desires of our hearts, and his ways our ways. Instead of being our normal worldly selves: selfish, self-centered, and self-focused, we strive to live according to our new spiritual nature: selfless, Christ-centered, and other-focused. Jesus showed us that living this way means that, like him in the Garden of Gethsemane, our heart’s desire becomes, “…not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus’ love for the Father was the fuel that fired his passion. When we live the Exchanged Life, it becomes ours too.

The power of the Exchanged Life is that no matter where we are, no matter what situation we are in, it can be just as if Jesus is there. Literally wherever we go, he goes too. We are truly his ambassadors, acting as divine agents of light in a dark and evil world. When we are with someone who is in pain or suffering, we can reach out to them with all the love and compassion of Christ himself because he is there with us via the gift of holy spirit. Sometimes we have no idea what a person needs or what we should say, but Jesus knows. Just like when his words pierced the heart of the woman at the well, we too can do the same for people when we allow him to be expressed through us.

The devil must have trembled the day he realized that every born again believer had the potential of being a “Christ” on earth. He would have greatly preferred to deal with one Jesus than the millions of him that are anywhere a follower of Christ is. This is spiritually such a big deal that God even tells us that had he and his henchmen known this, they never would have killed Jesus.

Satan is not threatened much by weak or compromising Christians. Every believer in Christ has great potential spiritual power, but potential matters little unless it is activated.

A fully loaded gun has the potential for self-defense, but if the owner will not pull the trigger the potential really does not matter. Similarly, Christians who will not “pull the trigger” on their spiritual power are not too much of a threat to the Devil. In Contrast, Christians who are spiritually minded and put the things of God first are powerful threats against God’s arch nemesis, the Devil, and he knows it. Every Christian living the Exchanged Life sends shivers down Satan’s spine because they walk with genuine spiritual power and authority.

The problem of the “Old Man”

As much as we may desire to be like Christ, there still remains for all of us one big obstacle standing in our way. God calls this obstruction “old man,” and it is our responsibility to discipline ourselves to ignore him and his sinful desires. The “old man” can be very strong, but we can choose to either feed and nourish him, or starve him. The more we resist his calls and cravings, the more we can weaken him and diminish his power. He is a strong force within us, but he can be resisted and beaten down greatly.

Romans 8:5
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Romans 8:11 and 12
(11) And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
(12) Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.

Whenever God tells us to do something, He always gives us the ability to do it. He tells us not to live according to the “sinful nature” and to set our minds on what the Spirit desires. Those who practice the Exchanged Life do not live perfect lives. Rather, they are honest in acknowledging their sinful weaknesses and they never quit in their attempts to crucify the “old man.” Unfortunately, no matter how often we do so, the sin nature tries to resurrect itself anew every day. Over and over again we reaffirm the spiritual reality that he is dead and that “greater is he that is in me, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). What a wonderful day it will be when we receive our new glorious bodies, bodies that will be just like his, free of the “old man” sin nature (Phil. 3:20, 21).

Not by our power, but his

Until the Rapture, we must continue to train ourselves in godliness, to put off the sin nature, and to live in obedience to the new nature of the spirit of Christ in us. The way to do that is not by relying upon our strength, but upon Christ’s. Paul describes for us how he struggled against great opposition. He pleaded with the Lord for help. Jesus replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” In essence, Jesus said, “It’s not by your power that you will overcome Paul, but by mine. My grace has already accomplished the Great Exchange, now, get out of the way Paul and let me live through you.” Paul responds, saying, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor.12:9 and10). Paul was strong because it was Christ’s strength coming through him. Wow, that is Exchanged Living!

The difference between the way the average Christian lives and those who live the Exchanged Life is similar to the difference between riding a bicycle versus a motorcycle. We can have the fanciest bike, all cleaned and polished, yet in order to go anywhere we have to provide the pedal power. It is easy to ride down hill because we can coast and just follow the road. Likewise, coasting downhill spiritually, following the well-paved way of the world is not a good way to go. When we do not “put on Christ”[11] we are always limited by our own strength, most especially when we are faced with hills and the road gets tough.

On the other hand, when we “put on Christ,” which is Exchanged Living, it is like riding a motorcycle. We control the throttle and rely on Christ to be the power source. Initially, we start out only tapping into a small portion of the engine, but as we gain experience we become more confident in the ability of the motorcycle. The steepest of hills are no problem for this spiritual power plant. It is our responsibility to follow “the Road,” staying in our lane and avoiding the hazards on the shoulders. As advantageous as it is to ride the motorcycle and not the bicycle, and live the Exchanged Life, the choice is always ours.

Communion keeps us reminded of the “Exchanged Life”

On the night of Jesus’ arrest he established a memorial to remind us of his sacrifice and all that it accomplished.

Matthew 26:26-28
(26) While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
(27) Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.
(28) This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

The bread is symbolic of Jesus’ broken body and the cup of wine symbolizes the shedding of his blood. Earlier in his ministry Jesus challenged his followers, telling them that any one who truly wanted to follow him had to “eat his body and drink his blood” (John 6:53-54). Communion is a sacred meal symbolizing the exchange of his life for ours, but in this memorial we are also acknowledging that our life is now his. There is a common saying, “You are what you eat,” and this is certainly very true when it comes to eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ. When we participate in the communion service we are in effect saying, “Jesus, your body and blood for mine, and mine for yours.” This is an aspect to the memorial he established that few seem to comprehend.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul warns them not to take this memorial too lightly. Eating it in an unworthy manner means the person is “sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 11:27-29
(27) Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.
(28) A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.
(29) For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.

We are to examine our hearts and consciences so we remind ourselves of the Great Exchange that occurred when Jesus sacrificed his body and blood, dying in our place. The question we should ask is, “how am I living in response to his sacrifice?”

God’s desire is that we respond to His great gift of mercy and grace by living “…up to what we have already attained” (Phil. 3:16). How absolutely amazing it would be if Christian men and women everywhere began to live the Exchanged Life!

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