The 2002 film “Catch Me if You Can”, starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio, is based on the true life story of Frank Abagnale who, before his 19th birthday, successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars by posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor and a Louisiana parish prosecutor. His foremost crime was check fraud.  His success as a con man was his ability to reinvent himself and become someone new, the “art of reinvention”.  He was arrested in 1969 and served a 5-year prison sentence.  He became so highly skilled that the FBI later turned to him for help catching other check forgers.  He currently runs Abagnale and Associates, a financial fraud consultancy company.

“Reinventing yourself” is a common theme in our culture.  Social media is a seedbed for identity reinvention.  If we don’t like our identity, we can create a new one.  Since I’m a musician I’ll share a few notable musicians who reinvented or transformed themselves.  In some cases, this self-reinvention strategy catapulted them from utter obscurity to super stardom.

  • Bob Dylan from folk icon to controversial electric guitar-wielding rock legend.
  • The Beastie Boys from punk rock to hip hop and rap pioneers and innovators.
  • Alanis Morrisette from teen pop to alternative rock stardom.
  • Katy Perry from Contemporary Christian Artist to mainstream pop star.
  • Taylor Swift From Nashville country to genre-bending pop star.

A great example of a reinvention that didn’t go so well was when Coca-Cola in 1985 came out with “New Coke”.  It was considered a major failure, and the old formula was reintroduced within three months and rebranded “Coca-Cola Classic” which resulted in a significant sales boost.  Many speculated that the whole thing was a marketing ploy to stimulate sales, which of course Coca-Cola denied.  The story of New Coke remains influential as a “cautionary tale against tampering with a well-established and successful brand.”  This is a good of example of “Brand=Identity”.

Christianity has an identity.  It’s in the name.  It wouldn’t be Christianity without Christ. Jesus doesn’t need to reinvent himself for obvious reasons, but He does give us an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, or better yet, to be transformed into in His likeness, to be “in Christ”.  These verses contain dramatic contrasts between “before and after”.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:11 NIV

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

The Bible is like an instruction manual for spiritual transformation and reinvention.  It even includes living examples of actual people who went through the “program”.  One of the things that I most appreciate about these Biblical examples of transformation is that none of them are perfect, even after transformation.  They were flawed, broken, and messy; and yet there was hope because of what God was doing in their lives.

Basically there are 3 major transformations that we can and will experience on our path to Christ-likeness:  Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification.  Today, we’ll just focus on Justification.  Justification is “the action of declaring or making one righteous in the sight of God”.  Only God can do that, but we do a play a part in it.  In order to be justified or made righteous, we have to “believe” God.  Decision and action are required on our part.

“What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  Romans 4:3 NIV.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 NIV

“That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  Romans 10:9-10 NKJV

However, justification is more than just recognition of God’s existence or saying “I believe”.  It also includes confession, admission, and submission.  We confess or admit our sinfulness to God.  We submit to His Lordship over our lives.  Identity and ownership have been transferred.  We are under “new management”.  We surrender our will for His.  But there is SO MUCH MORE!  Justification is also a beautiful expression of God’s love and grace to us.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23 NIV

The contrast Paul uses in this verse is eternally profound.  The Aramaic for “wages of sin” translates “The business of sin is death.”  According to Paul, if our life is spent in the business or “busy-ness” of sin or disobedience to God, the penalty is severe.  It can’t get any worse than death, right?  A wage is something we earn, and in this case it’s not a positive reward, in fact it is a penalty. “BUT”, as Paul says, the gift of God is so much better.  There is hope.  There is a “gift” from God that when believed and received changes everything.  We can go from death to life, old to new, and slave to free.

I remember how powerful this message of hope was for me.  In a moment I felt both joy and pain.  I felt guilt and shame for my participation in the “business of sin”, and then unspeakable joy and gratitude for my new gift from God.  My transformation had begun.  Becoming a Christian wasn’t about punching my ticket to heaven, joining a club or religion.  It was about a relationship with God, and the fullness that it provides.  Jesus said in John 10:10 (NIV), “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest”.  In John 14:27 (NIV) He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”  What does Jesus mean by “I do not give to you as the world gives”?  What is the best we can expect from the natural world? Death? Unfairness? Even attempts to be moral or good only lead to more frustration.  The “peace” that Jesus is referring to is a hope and reassurance that goes beyond what a fallen world can offer.  It is promised, assured, and eternal.  No matter how much we try to reinvent ourselves without God, we always seem to end up in the same place.  There is a better way, and it’s not a religion.  It is a relationship.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC