A Great Exchange
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor [perpetual animosity, resentment, strife, fault-finding] and slander be put away from you, along with every kind of malice [all spitefulness, verbal abuse, malevolence]. Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave you.
All of us live on an emotional watershed. One one side, if anger builds and festers, it turns to resentment and bitterness, souring every relationship. On the other side, if forgiveness becomes a way of life, we grow in love, compassion, and a deeper appreciation for God’s forgiveness of our own sins.
No matter how much we’ve been hurt, and no matter how much we’ve used our resentment to give us a sense of identity as the one who was wronged, we can experience a great exchange- one that will revolutionize our lives. The key, Paul explains, is to focus first on forgiveness we’ve experienced in Christ. The more deeply we grasp our sinfulness and God’s grace, the more we’ll be able and willing to forgive those who hurt us.
The warmth of God’s grace melts our resentment, cools our tongues, and replaces our anger with love. It doesn’t mean the wound didn’t happen or that it doesn’t hurt, but it means we choose to focus on God’s grace instead of our wounds and live In thankfulness instead of demanding justice.
Living on the side of forgiveness, love, and kindness is a decision and a process. We recognize the damage resentment causes and we choose to forgive, but if the wound is deep, God often takes us through the layers of pain, grief, and forgiveness until the vat of bitterness is drained dry.
Things you say in a matter of seconds are never forgotten in a lifetime.
God has given us the opportunity to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and He alone has the power to redirect our attitudes and actions. The Bible tells us that “to whom we yield our members to obey, that’s whose servants we are.” The choice really comes down to choosing who we will follow. Many of us try to manage our hearts, minds, and tongues only to discover that quite often our old sin nature prevails and once again we find ourselves giving in to ungodly behavior. We may know what we should do or what we should not do, but to actually follow through is another thing altogether. We read that even when the disciples were physically present with Christ they often fell back into some of their old ways. So Jesus gathers them together and says, “I won’t leave you on your own to try to live this life. I’m sending you a Comforter, Helper, the Holy Spirit and He will be with you and in you and through Him you will become and you will accomplish everything that I have given you to do.
Learning to live the way God wishes us to live if really a matter of receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to fill our hearts and lives with His fruit.
Paul in Galatians compares the actions of those who live “in the flesh” with those who have allowed the Holy Spirit to “bear fruit” in them.
“Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
When we invite Christ to be our Savior and then we receive His incredible gift of eternal life, we also have the opportunity to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Look for a moment at the list that Paul has given us. They are almost total opposites. Notice the source of each: the first stems from our sinful nature and while we may not necessarily practice every work of the flesh, most of us battle more than one of these, the second comes by the work of the Holy Spirit and each portion of fruit is produced and ripened through the work of the Holy Spirit upon a yielded life. As a side note: when we receive the fullness of the gift of the Holy Spirit, we also receive every portion of the fruit of the Spirit. You will note that fruit is in the singular form rather than the plural that many use. This means that none of the portions may be separated from any of the other portions. When the Holy Spirit produces love, He also produces joy. When He produces peace He also produces patience and kindness and goodness and so forth. All of this is produced through and by the Holy Spirit as He transforms our old nature into the nature of a “new creation in Christ Jesus.”
In Galatians, Paul gives us instructions to help us make the great exchange:
“But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts].”
We begin by making it our habit to seek God consistently. Our prayer life must become one of habitual desire, discipline and delight. When we move to the place where we look forward to our time with God daily and count the seconds until we come into the meeting place with Him and every opportunity to be with Him becomes a delight, then we will begin to see the fruit of the Spirit growing and the works of the flesh begin to wither. As we seek God consistently we will also be responsive to His guidance. We won’t act impulsively for most impulsive reactions lead to carrying out the desires of our old sin nature. When we act without consulting God first, most of us default to our old habits and sinful responses. When we are hurt or wronged and we act impulsively we will most time give way to anger, envy, jealousy, immortality or intoxication to mitigate the pain. But when we habitually make seeking God our first priority, when we’re hurt, disappointed, harmed, we bring the whole matter to God and receive instruction from Him as how we respond. Sometimes He instructs us to quietly forgive, at others He may instruct us to confront but in neither case will our sin nature be given free reign. We don’t just bury it so that we quietly allow resentment, bitterness, and separation to control us. We don’t confront with anger or disputes or build factions. Instead we speak truth in love and we dare not let our emotions rule the day.
Paul continues with these instructions:
“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites.”
That’s a powerful analogy. Paul isn’t saying that we lock up our sinful nature and give it a life sentence of incarceration. Instead he says that our sin nature must be judged and sentenced to be executed. He uses the very same form of death that Christ experienced for us. He is saying literally that if Christ was crucified for our sins then we are to crucify our sinful nature for Him. An exchange of a life for a life. Far too many Christians wish to have the life of Christ given for them without ever giving their lives for Him but that’s not in keeping with what the Bible teaches. We can’t make the exchange and still keep what we have. To fully receive Christ and His gifts, we must give fully all that we are. As long as we hold out something of our old sin nature, it will always find a way to raise up and make its ugly self known. Only when we bring it to the cross and hand it over to Christ and let Him nail it to the cross will it die and we become liberated.
Finally Paul has this to say about the great exchange:
If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. We must not become conceited, challenging or provoking one another, envying one another.
In other words when we take our worn out car to the dealer and trade it in for a new one, we don’t keep going back and getting the old one to drive around in. We enjoy the new ride. When we walk in the Spirt, we don’t go to the graveyard where our old sin nature was buried and dig it up and put it on again and let it once again rule our lives.
We have been crucified with Christ and we have been resurrected with Him into a new and living way. All the old has passed away(died) and every thing has become new. We are truly new creatures in Christ Jesus and therefore are no longer bound to yield to the old sin nature for it has been put to death and has lost its power over us. Those whom the Son has made free are free indeed! Let us so live!
Dr. John Thompson