Culture

Sure, face swaps are cool. But have you tried a divine exchange?

by Joanne Kwok // June 30, 2020, 8:23 pm

Faceswap

Face swapping was old news in 2020 until election season rolled around for Singapore and photographs of politicians were put through FaceApp to turn them into women.

It’s no new trend, honestly – we’ve been face swapping since longer-running camera apps like Snapchat and Snow introduced that magic to us over the past few years.

Then FaceApp entered the game last year, boasting an additional ageing function that had our team intrigued and in stitches.

With programming leaps in short spans of time, face swaps have only been getting better, as proven by FaceApp’s latest update to the function, which we can thank for the recent laughs. Technology can be such a funny thing when we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

But jokes aside, it did get me thinking about the deeper “swaps” we’re called to make as Christians. Face swaps are easy – a simple click of a button. And in a similar vein, so are surface or behavioural changes, don’t you think?

How much easier it is to conform to a standard of moral goodness than be transformed through the pursuit of Jesus. To be the Good Christian Girl or Boy with all the “right” answers and actions, than be clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 61:10, Philippians 3:9).

Growing up as a second-genner (or second-generation Christian), where Christian rhetoric is essentially your mother tongue and Christian behaviour is second nature, I can tell you from 30 years of experience that wearing the face of Christianity beats taking up its cross any day (Luke 9:23).

How much easier it is to conform to a standard of moral goodness than be transformed through the pursuit of Jesus.

The latter requires a death of the old – a crushing, a pruning, a breaking – and rebirth of the new through the power of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus tells Nicodemus, a high-ranking teacher of the Jewish law (John 3:1-21). This is the way He came to show us.

The former is much like a face swap: living through enough years of Sunday School and learning the language of the church – often reduced in our heads to the letter of the law, a religion of can-and-cannot-dos. A religion of appearance. Of face.

Think about this: We can manipulate our photos all we want for a good laugh because we know it’s not real

So in my search for the swap of eternal value, I’ve put together a list of swaps the Word speaks of that are more than just skin-deep.

5 SWAPS IN SCRIPTURE

1. From death to life 

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)

Let’s start with the basics – salvation. Unquestionably the first and most crucial swap we must make as Christians.

Second-genners, I’m looking at you too. Your parents may have made this swap, but have you, really? Each ticket only pays for one.

Salvation is all about swapping our old life, doomed at the Fall to eternal separation from God, for the new eternal one – bought through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus.

This new, abundant, eternal life is ours for the taking, as long as we believe in Him (John 10:10).

The swap is simple, eternal and real: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

2. From old self to new self

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:22-24, 31-32)

Salvation is just the start of a lifetime of swapping our old selves – every little bit that doesn’t honour Jesus – with the new one He had planned for us all along.

The original version of you was created by God in His perfect image, truly righteous and holy. But the sinful nature present in all humanity due to original sin corrupts everything borne of this world. This shows up most obviously in our interactions and relations with others.

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we’re giving Him permission to redeem not just our souls from eternal death, but our lives in the present – who we are as people and how we see ourselves.

That includes our identities, characters, the way we act and treat others, the stain of our mistakes, all the awful stuff that happened to us that made us “this way”… He wants to take us back to His original idea of us at our creation.

3. From unredeemed mind to renewed mind

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

Here’s a swap that I especially yearn for because I desire to see and think rightly, the way God does.

The old, unredeemed mind scares me. Left on its own, it can be found running down intellectual rabbit holes or atrophying in hopelessness and hurt.

Without God’s perspective on things, I cannot respond to them the way Jesus would.

Because of sin, the world is broken, and full of broken people and broken wisdom. I too am broken.

My mind is broken. It is too easy to judge others, to hold myself as centre of the universe, to blame God and doubt His goodness and perfect plans for my life (Jeremiah 29:11).

Every circumstance in this life, every person who crosses my path, every piece of news or school of thought presented to me – without the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), without God’s perspective on things (Colossians 3:1), I cannot respond to them the way Jesus would.

This is why I need a renewed mind for renewed thoughts, new wineskins for new wine (Matthew 9:17).

This is not an apple: Why we need to think before we believe

4. From the spirit of the world to the Holy Spirit 

“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. (1 Corinthians 2:12)

Beyond the cognitive processes of the mind lies the spirit of a man, what drives him and guides him – his will and his way. It’s how someone shows up in the world, makes decisions, lives life.

But the spirit untethered to the One higher is stunted, confined to the finite and fallen nature, one that seeks self and not God. This is the spirit of the world. It cannot live for God. It cannot choose God’s will or way.

I could do things my way – but there’s a better way

Why else would God promise in Ezekiel 36:27 to give His people a new spirit to follow Him? Why does King David ask in Psalm 51:10 (NLT) for God to grant him a loyal spirit after he betrays his allegiance to God?

All the swaps that I’ve talked about so far are closely related to each other, but none can be made on our own. We must use our free will to say yes to them, but it is the Holy Spirit that does the work.

As you might be able to tell, we’re going deeper and deeper into the kinds of swaps we are invited to make as Christians. This leads us to the final swap on the list: the heart.

5. From hardened heart to new heart

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

If God just wanted a people who would do His bidding, He would only need their wills, not their hearts. But the first and greatest Commandment is essentially God saying this: Love Me. He isn’t looking for slaves or servants – He’s looking for sons and daughters.

As the old spirit is selfish, so is the old heart hardened towards Him.

While it is the renewed spirit that lives for God, it is the new heart that loves Him. 

This is where the good Father once again provides before we could ask – an invitation to the deepest swap of them all: the old heart for a new heart.

The meaning of repentance itself, one of the unique tenets of our faith – metanoia, in original Greek, or a complete change of the inner man. The mind. The spirit. The heart.

We can love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). It is His kindness that leads us to repentance, to the laying down of our hearts of stone so that we can carry His instead.

While it is the renewed spirit that lives for God, it is the new heart that loves Him. 

It may look the part at first glance, but “Good Christian Christianity” is not the gospel. God sent His Son to us precisely because no amount of “good Christian behaviour” or superficial swaps would ever be enough.

You see, Christianity is not just a change of fate but faith; not religion but relationship. Though salvation may be the swap of destiny, every swap henceforth is a step into an eternity with Jesus.

As the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 3:4-11, paraphrased by me:

If anyone can be confident of their good upbringing and behaviour to say they make a good Christian, that would be me – pedigree, star student, role model. But whatever that adds to me, I count as nothing. 

Anything that stands in the way of me needing Jesus, even my track record of right-doing, I count as nothing. Because my own righteousness only takes my will power – transformation into His righteousness requires His resurrection power.

Deep change requires a divine exchange.

I have no need for the Person of Jesus Christ if Christianity were a religion of moral goodness. It means something that His footsteps on earth led to the Cross. If we choose to profess our faith and allegiance to Him, ours must be no different.

THINK + TALK

  1. Have you made the first swap from old life to new life by accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour? If you’d like to find out more, visit our starter kit on the faith.
  2. What are some ways God has transformed your old self to a new one? Share that testimony with someone – or with us at hello@thir.st. 
  3. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you areas of old thinking, beliefs or perspectives, and how He wants to renew them to mirror the mind of Christ.
  4. How would you describe your spirit? Does it reflect the ways of the Holy Spirit? Talk to Him about it and ask Him to bring your wills into alignment.
  5. As King David prays in Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God” and in Psalm 139:23, “Search me, God, and know my heart” – say these prayers for yourself!
About the author

Joanne Kwok

Joanne is a bundle of creative energy commonly heard before she is seen. She believes in the triune power of good conversation, brilliant writing and bold ideas. She also likes milo.