Tag Archives: New Life

The New Way

When Scottish aristocracy can no longer afford the expense of maintaining a castle and the palatial grounds, sometimes they donate the property to the State.  They continue to live in a portion of the castle while the rest of it is opened for public tours.  When you tour such a place, you are carefully watched by guards and restricted by theater style barricades as you file by rooms filled with suits of armor, swords and ornate furnishings.  It’s quite amazing, well worth the trip, but don’t step out of line.  They are ready for you…

Imagine, if you got to know the son of the Laird, the heir.  What if he invited you for a visit at the castle and said, “Come on, let me show you around.”  Now you wouldn’t need to stay in line, wouldn’t need to stay behind the barricades.  You could simply follow the son through the place, going where he went and doing what he did.  You could even go hang out with the family in their special quarters.  Doing so, you would break some of the rules established to keep the general public from trampling the place, but you would still be well within the confines of what the family desired.

A similar transformation occurs when one gets to know the Son of God and follows Him through His place.  Where once we were beholden to “the Law,” all the rules and regs in the Bible, now we have been released from that and simply follow the Son.  As Paul said,

“… we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”  (Romans 7:6b)

Notice, in following Christ, it’s not “anything goes;” we still “serve.”  However our obedience is no longer accomplished by banging into barricades and watching out for the armed guards.  Instead, it is marked by the fluidity and gracefulness of paying attention to His Spirit and going where He leads.

Once upon a time there was a warehouse filled with cell phones that thought they were calculators.  Their manufacturer had designed them to be phones, but their SIM cards had been damaged.  They were dead but did not realize it.  They had battery power and several working apps so they thought they were “alive.”  One day the manufacturer sent someone to bring them to life.  He came with copies of his own perfect SIM card, offering to replace their damaged cards with his own. Most of the phones thought he was crazy and rejected the offer. But those who allowed him to make the exchange were astonished to discover all the new ways they could operate once they could receive a cell signal.  It was as though they came to life for the first time.

Once upon a time there was a planet filled with dead people who thought they were alive. Because their bodies worked and they could think, they assumed they were experiencing all that life had to offer.  One day, their Creator sent Someone to fix them and bring them to full and abundant life.  Here is what they wrote about Him:

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.  (John 1:4-5)

Jesus offered to connect them for the first time with the “Life” and “Light” of God’s Holy Spirit, bringing them to full and abundant life in a whole new way.  He would exchange what was damaged in them with His perfection, personally accepting the cost of their damage and allowing them to operate as their Manufacturer intended.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  (John 1:9–13)

 

Two Boxes

Smartest thing I ever did was take a lesson from an expert in organizing clutter.  His name was…   let’s see, it’s around here somewhere…   Well, anyway, one of his tips was to take two big boxes and label them, “Keep” and “Pitch.”  Then, everything you pick up, toss it into one box or the other.  I discovered this system only works if you actually get rid of the “Pitch” box.

A similar task confronts those who are given new life through faith in Christ, sorting through the elements of their old nature and new, keeping the new and discarding the old.  Paul explained this process as the logical extension of our having “died with Christ” (Colossians 2:20a) and having been “raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1a – See the previous post, “Refocus”).  In a sense, he said, get yourself two boxes, a “Death” box and a “Life” box.  Toss the parts for which Christ died and keep the parts for which He was raised. 

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

(Colossians 3:5)

“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. – ( Colossians 3:8)

New things Paul listed to put in the “Life” box and keep included:

“…compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” – (Colossians 3:12b-14)

Clutter can be debilitating; it feels so free to finally get it sorted and cleaned out. Similarly, the clutter of old habits and attitudes can wear us down and tangle us up with guilt and shame. Instead of fighting that battle, Paul says, drop all that old stuff into the “Death” box and haul it to the dump. Of course it is not entirely as easy as that. You will probably have to repeat the cleanup from time to time (just like you do in the basement closet!). But the boost you experience each time is worth it.

Fullness

This may be the most amazing sentence in the Bible:

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” (Colossians 2:9-10)

To fully appreciate what that says, answer these questions:

First, according to this verse, how much of Almighty God lives in Jesus?  Answer: All the fullness of the Deity!  All, every part of God’s “fullness!”

Second question: How much of the “fullness” of Jesus is available to those who have surrendered to Him?  Same answer. Oh, wow…

The chances are pretty good, if you have fully trusted Jesus, you have not been fully aware of His fullness in you.  But knowing you have His fullness is the first step to accessing it.  I just got a new Android phone, which came loaded with all sorts of special, tricky things it will do for me – provided I know how to access them and turn them on.  Which, of course, I can not do unless I know they are there!  One of the tricky things my phone will do is let me ask it questions about what other things it is able to do.  Such as, “Can you tell me how to get to Home Depot?”  Jesus comes into you with that feature already installed.  Not how to get to the hardware store, but the ability to show you how to understand and use your new operating system, His life in you. If you need to know how to use Him, just ask.  He will show you.  Because you have all His fullness, you have access to all the fullness of God through Him. In real time!

Astonishing…

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Watch Out for the Lyrics

In the gathering dusk, the harmonies settled in, comfortable, tight and mysterious.  The guitar was soft, rich and deep, a confident, rock-steady downbeat.  A few hands clapped in light, syncopated rhythm. They sang:

“Keep your lantern trimmed and burning, 
Keep your lantern trimmed and burning”…

Moments like that are rare and precious, they sweep you up and pull you in. Maybe you love singing that old Gospel song and have memories like that. 

But watch out for what it says!  It’s a dangerous message.  There is no way a oil lamp or kerosene lantern can keep itself burning.  It must be cleaned and adjusted.  Most importantly, it must be filled.  The song tells “you” to keep yourself trimmed and burning.  It implies you can do it if you will just try hard enough and persevere.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world,” going on to illustrate His imagery with an oil lamp.  But He also said, 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. –  (John 15:5)

We who follow Him are but branches through which His life grows, lanterns through which the oil of His Spirit is transformed into light.  Only by His power, life and light, are we able to keep burning.

Somehow, David understood that Who keeps the light lit.  3000 years ago, he wrote:

“You, LORD, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.” –  (Psalm 18:28)

Golden Delicious

Apple trees don’t struggle to figure out who they are and what they should do.  Perhaps you shouldn’t, either.  Apple trees produce apples; they bear fruit.  Apples emerge because the sap of life flows through the tree.  I don’t know how it happens, simply that it does.

We do well to remember that when we deal with Bible passages about bearing fruit, such as this one: (We’ve lingered over this part of Colossians (see last few posts) in which Paul prays for God to fill his friends with spiritual wisdom…)

“… so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work…” –  (Colossians 1:10a)

If you’re not careful, a passage like that can fill you with insecurity:  “Am I doing enough?  Am I pleasing God?  Am I doing good work?  Am I worthy?”  Knock it off!  The new life of Christ does not shake a bony, accusing finger in our faces!  Remember the apple trees. 

Jesus gives us new life, the life of His Spirit, to live in us as we live in Him.  In that state, He says, we will bear much fruit. 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  –  (John 15:5)

What’s that fruit going to look like?  What sort of “every good work” am I meant to do?  You will see.  Your fruit might look like apples.  Mine might taste like grapes.  But don’t worry: once we put our faith fully in Jesus, God fills us with His Spirit, His life in us produces fruit, and He is pleased.

“…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” – (Philippians 2:13)

What It’s For…

A catalog of toys for the very wealthy features a hammer, so well made and balanced, it costs nearly $200.  It comes with it’s own display box. You can set it on the desk in your office, smugly showing your clients and colleagues that you own a better hammer.  Big deal!  That’s not what hammers are for.

In the previous post, I explained how you can have spiritual wisdom and understanding that surpasses that of a mountaintop guru. (See: Without Boots or Beard)  But so what?  What on earth would you do with such wisdom and understanding?  What’s it for?  It’s not just for putting on display, not even on  some Tibetan peak.

Paul prayed his friends might attain spiritual wisdom…

“…so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…”  –  (Colossians 1:10)

Spiritual wisdom is for using,  for living.  You’ve heard the old saying, “He’s so spiritual he’s no earthly good.”  Rubbish.  If you have spiritual wisdom and understanding, you live better, more fully.  Peyton Manning excels at football because he has studied the game.  He plays with wisdom.  People who have wisdom, from God’s Spirit, understand this gift is meant for living, really living.  Jesus didn’t sit around humming and pondering his belly button.  He lived a robust, energetic life, filled with purpose.

But what does “worthy of the Lord” mean?  It almost sounds as though Paul wants them to measure up so God won’t be mad.  That’s not it.  It means to live in such a way that the advantages of spiritual insight are fully brought to bear in everything you do.  If you own a Ferrari and only drive it down to the corner store for milk, you’re not using it in a manner worthy of the power under the hood.  If you have wisdom and understanding from God and don’t do anything but sit around singing hymns, you’ve wasted His power. 

Spiritual wisdom is for “bearing fruit in every good work.”. That may be as simple as giving a cup of water to someone who is thirsty.  Or, it could look like the good work of a guy I know who goes around the country, helping people clean up after a tornado or a flood. 

By the way, I’ve seen that guy’s hammer.  He doesn’t keep it in a display box…