August 20: Change Part 10: Spirit, Imputation, and Participation.

2 Corinthians 3:18. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Today we bring to a conclusion our mini-series on Change. For the past ten days we have mined the truths of 2 Corinthians 3:18 in order to understand our transformation in Christ.

Before we move forward let’s remember, as Paul seeks to remind us, that any change in our lives, any transformation, is made possible only by the Lord who is the Spirit.

What is the Spirit’s role in our transformation into the image of Christ? The Spirit is so much more glorious than the law because he changes us internally. He changes our heart’s desires. He does this by giving us Christ’s unconditional love and acceptance. He does this by giving us Christ’s status, his record, his righteousness, his holiness.

In theology class we call this imputation. Imputation is the idea that everything that is Christ’s is given to us freely.

Sometimes theologians argue about whether the Christian life is imputation or participation. Is it all just given to us (imputation), or do we gain it as we participate with Christ?

But this is a false dichotomy that we don’t need to create. The Lord who is the Spirit imputes Christ’s life to us, and then also invites us to participate in Christ’s life. Remember you are in Christ (imputation) and Christ is in you (participation).

Naturally, it can get a bit confusing to think that the Spirit lives in me and has imputed Christ’s righteousness to me, and yet I STILL need to be transformed into the image of Christ. This paradox has led to all kinds of really smart theologians writing all kinds of fat books and having all kinds of arguments about the nature of the Spirit’s work in us.

So how do we make sense of having the Lord who is the Spirit inside of us, and our need to still be changed?

First, we must remember that we are tri-part beings: Spirit, Soul, Body. We have a spirit and a body, but we are a soul. Our spirit has received the imputed righteousness of Christ, but our body remains corrupted by sin. As a result our soul is the battle ground of change and transformation. It is in the soul that the metamorphoo takes place. Imputation happens in the spirit, but participation happens in the soul.

Second, as the Holy Spirit is making us into full humanity, he will never violate our humanity. Therefore he will always allow us to operate from faith, from choice, and from freedom. He changes our desires (imputation) by pouring love into our hearts, but he still allows us to grow by faith (participation).

“To live is Christ” is to have the Spirit working this two-fold ministry of grace into your life. The ministry of imputation alongside the ministry of participation.

How does imputation empower participation? Have you experienced this in your own life? Can you think of an example (ex: Jesus’ imputed love allowed you to love another person)?

Stay for verse 2. Amazing. Sadly Sharon Jones passed away last year from cancer, making this an even more powerful testimony.

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