It is a basic human need to want to fit in with a group of people. We want to be accepted as a part of our group and be looked upon favorably by the world. Yet, Christ came to save us from the world and set us apart from the image and values it tries to bestow on us. The world and our flesh lead to sin and sin leads to death. As we come to Christ, we choose to set ourselves apart from the world. We become a pariah to all the things we once did and sought before we became disciples of Christ. Where we once sought only to fit in, we opt instead to be set apart and in some ways ostracized from the world because we have been made new and turned our back on the old.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
– 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, NIV
Paul presents a juxtaposition of the old life and the new life. When we come to Christ, our life starts over and we get a new beginning born as children and heirs of God. Our life purpose changes from pursuing the flesh because Jesus Christ died for our sins. The punishment that was rightfully ours was placed on Jesus Christ by grace in order that we could have a new purposes. We will stand out, be different, be a pariah, but we will do so as we step into the rebirth of our new life with Christ.
The Old Life is Gone
With our first spiritual breath, our old life is gone. It is the end of our previous life that sought after the desires of the flesh, that craved out of selfish greed and ambition. One would think that we would be willing to let these things go. Yet, everyone who has ever gone through this process understands full well that this process of releasing the old life is burdensome. We want to keep our old life and the things we did because they felt good even if deep down, we know that life is bad for us.
Simple put, we will become a pariah to our old life. The things we once did, we no longer can do. I cannot choose to follow the desires of the flesh and simultaneously follow God. The two are tacitly incompatible. In making the decision to follow Christ I also made the decision to stop following sin. God in His Holiness and Righteousness cannot continue to abide with my sin and still pursue my Heavenly Father. In claiming to be a follower of Christ there are simply things I can no longer do.
The New Life Is Here
That is okay, though. There may be things we can no longer do, but we recognize what those things are; death. As the Holy Spirit is gradually working the process of sanctification with us, we will not feel comfortable living a life in pursuit of the flesh. As Paul told the church in Corinth, by following Christ, we become ambassadors of Christ in the world. Ambassadors, by their very nature, do not belong in the place they reside. The live in a place that is not their home, under a different set of rules, because their allegiance is to a higher calling. They stand out as different from the place they reside.
You will stand out because of your faith. As an ambassador of Christ to this world, you will be inherently different. From that, some things will push you away. Sins you won’t felt comfortable doing will loose their appeal yet oddly maintain their tempting and alluring nature. You will crave what you know to be bad for you. You will feel like a pariah for the things that you once indulged in shamelessly. Do you trust God? Then step into the new life that He has set apart for you. Turn your back on the old life and alienate yourself from its desires. In doing so, you will stand out from the world but step into the fullness of life that God has offered for you.
Disclaimer: If you haven’t done so, go back and read the Series on Hope. Grab a few friends, go get coffee, and work through the questions together, and when you are ready, return to this series.