Yvonne Gentile serves on The Church of the Resurrection staff as the Director of Connections. Yvonne directs the team that is charged with helping people get connected into the life of the church through service, studies, group life, or other ways of involvement.
As I thought about being a “new creation,” someone who exists as part of a “new community,” I had to pause to reflect on how (or even whether) I had changed. I mean, I grew up in the Christian faith, so I didn’t really have a dramatic conversion experience. In fact, for a long time I kind of took my faith for granted. I didn’t invest time or energy into growing in my faith until my family moved to Kansas City and we joined Resurrection. That was when I began to realize that my faith wasn’t just a part of my identity, like “female” or “blue-eyed,” but that it was supposed to have an impact on how I lived my life.
The apostle Paul wrote these words to the believers in the church at Philippi:
“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then…” – (Philippians 2:1, The Message)
Notice the “if-then” language in that passage? IF we’ve gotten anything out of following Christ, THEN… It indicates that an action, a result is supposed to occur because we follow Christ. A life-shift is in order: away from being self-oriented, and toward being God-oriented…no longer living as one condemned to deal with (or pay the ultimate price for) our own sin, but living as part of a community set free to focus on things that have an eternal impact. If I look back at how I lived my life last week vs. this week, or even last year vs. this year, I have to admit that I don’t see a huge change. But when I consider my thoughts and actions more long term–15 years ago vs. today for example–the shifts in my life are more apparent:
- My focus has shifted from being served to serving others.
- My behaviors have shifted from being an observer to investing in this community (not just financially)
- My opinions have shifted from criticism to seeing potential
- My perspective has shifted from dissatisfaction to joy
- My goals have shifted from accumulation to peace
How did that happen? The shifts happened gradually, in fits and starts, through living as part of this Christian community. As I participated in community–studying as part of a Bible study or small group, worshiping regularly, and serving side-by-side with others who are striving to follow Christ faithfully–I was spending time doing and thinking about God-pleasing things. That made all the difference in the world. Paul puts it this way in his letters to various churches:
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” – Philippians 4:8-9, The Message
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” – Romans 12:1, The Message
“…And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” 2 Cor. 3:18b, New Living Translation
This kind of change doesn’t happen in isolation, or under our own power. It is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the community of others focused on the same goal–becoming more and more like Christ. That’s our purpose here at Resurrection: to build a Christian community where non-religious and nominally religious people are becoming deeply committed Christians. How are you actively participating in this Christian community, so that you might become more and more like Christ?
Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.