Summary: We please God as we allow God to make us “new creatures in Christ.”
A few weeks ago I said, “We are always learning – formally and informally. We never stop learning something each and every day of our lives.” A key part of learning is thinking.
One of the things that we do when we think is to create opinions about people, places, events, and even ourselves. We also form opinions about God, Jesus, the Bible, and the Church.
As we continue in this series, “How Do We Please God?” we come to a passage of scripture that tells us some important things about thinking and a change in our thinking. I want to read the passage one more time,
“So we have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks of them. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now! What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!”
Another way that we please God is by becoming “new persons in Christ!” Becoming a new person in Christ means that our entire life changes. This means that we are “born-again.” Paul’s statements illustrate how we please God in this way as we notice a progression of change in Paul’s thinking and reasoning.
First Paul says, “I have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks of them.” Prior to this verse Paul addressed the issue of motives and the physical threats that he has faced during his ministry. His point is to remind the Corinthian Christians that his ministry is to honor God and help others come to Christ and not to glorify himself. This is emphasized in verses 12 - 14 where he says, “Are we trying to pat ourselves on the back again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so that you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart before God. If is seems that we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for everyone, we also believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live.”
There were always people around Paul who debated him, questioned his motives, were jealous of him, thought their ministry was a better ministry, and tried to discredit his ministry anyway they could.
Paul refused to debate them on any grounds, except as it related to faithfulness to Christ and the gospel story. He also refused to engage in a smear campaign other than to challenge the people, to whom he wrote the letters that form a large part of the New Testament, to compare their ministry to his ministry specifically as to the content of their preaching – is the gospel being preached – and the results of that preaching.
This passage reveals that Paul had once evaluated (judged?) people by a common cultural standard just as everyone else was doing. But, because he then began to “believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live,” he stopped that measure of evaluation and focused on the new life that Christ had given him.
Now not only did Paul evaluate people based on how his society did as well, he also evaluated Christ in the same way, “Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being.”
“Who do the people say I am?” was a question pointed by Jesus to the disciples. “Some say that you are Elijah or one of the prophets,” was one answer they gave. Then Jesus turned the question on them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”
As we read in Acts 9 Paul dramatically encountered Jesus while on his self-proclaimed mission to “destroy the Lord’s followers.” Struck down and temporarily blinded by the experience he underwent a deep and thorough change of heart and life that caused him to change his thinking as well.
A second point to notice in this progression of change in Paul’s thinking is how he views those who profess faith in Christ and proclaim to be Christians. Verse 17, “They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!
The radical change in life that Paul experienced was a spiritual one that affected his attitudes toward everyone and everything. It left him a different person. It truly was a conversion experience!
Paul no longer looked at Jesus or humans the same way after that experience on the Damascus Road. Paul did not look at himself or his life in the same way as well. He had been changed! He was different!