A look in the mirror will tell nothing. Except for perhaps a softer, more peaceful expression on one’s face, there is no noticeable difference in physical appearance after baptism than before. No one can publish any drastic before and after pictures, when it comes to conversion. No one sprouts wings. No halo appears. No special light or aura surrounds a new Christian’s body. We look the same.
But if one has obeyed the gospel according to the New Testament, something real and profound has occurred. God has acted, the old order has been damaged and diminished, the Spirit has breathed life into a soul, and the new life has appeared where before there was only death and the destiny of destruction.
“So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away—look, what is new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5.17.
The great premise of all appeals to living for Christ is based upon this truth of the new that has already come. The total transformation has already occurred. God “delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” Colossians 1.13-14. The transferral process is 100% complete.
So now we must live in Christ in accordance with our new status. To use a military metaphor, the victory has been assured, now it’s a matter of mopping up. What does that entail? Paul provides some clues in 2 Corinthians 5.
First, Christ controls us.
“For the love of Christ controls us, since we have concluded this, that Christ died for all; therefore all have died” 2 Corinthians 5.14.
Paul speaks in the context of his work among the Corinthians, about both his motivations and his ministry. Our goals and even our reactions to others are not controlled by what we want to get from others, but from what we want to give to them.
Second, we live for Christ.
“And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised” 2 Corinthians 5.15.
The self is no longer the center of our existence, because Christ has replaced it. As that center which gives our existence meaning, he also provides our example as the one who died and was raised. His experience and objective are ours as well.
Third, perspective changes.
“So then from now on we acknowledge no one from an outward human point of view. Even though we have known Christ from such a human point of view, now we do not know him in that way any longer” 2 Corinthians 5. 16.
The human point of view judges by appearance and deals with others in terms of what advantage may be gained. Jesus is no longer scorned, but worshiped.
Fourth, our work is clearly defined.
“And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5.18.
“Ministry” is a fancy, churchy word. This is our service, defined as a “message” v. 19. It’s what we do. This is not Job 1, like the old Ford commercial, but the only job. We don’t work for a living, we live to glorify God in this work.
Take all the selfies you want, but you still won’t see the difference. It won’t be in the color of your eyes, in the shine of your hair, or in the freckles on your nose.
It will be the Spirit of God residing in the heart, the process of holiness spreading light into every corner of the soul, the joy of spiritual transport into the presence of God, from which there need be no return.