A New Creation

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17) 

I love the drive from Alabama to the mountains of North Carolina. It takes about six hours, leaving plenty of time for reflection. This time always provides me with an opportunity to think, not only about things that are going well, but also areas of personal failure and regret. I’m not talking about regrets with respect to goals I set as it relates to my profession or any other matter. I’m talking about sin, those moments when I had the opportunity to glorify God but didn’t.  

            I imagine you have these sorts of opportunities to reflect as well. When you do, perhaps you also find failures and regrets. They may be of a different type, but the type we still call sin. It’s easy for us to get trapped in those moments and fail to live the joy salvation brings. It’s not to make light of sin. God has called us to be holy and through the practice of spiritual disciplines we should be growing in holiness. But we must also realize that there will always be those moments where we fail to glorify God, as every part of our being is touched by sin. So, as Christians, how do we reconcile what has happened behind us and look forward to what lies ahead?

            “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” To be in Christ or in union with Christ refers to the relationship between the believer and Jesus Christ. John Murray says that our union with Christ is “the central theme of the whole doctrine of salvation”. In Romans 6, the apostle Paul explains this union in the context of understanding the proper response to God’s grace as it relates to remaining in sin. The natural desire of a recipient of God’s grace is obedience to God’s will. God’s will is the desire of the believer’s heart.  

            As a minister of the New Covenant, Paul taught that it was only through Christ that one could be reconciled to God. The Old Covenant (Mosaic Law) was incapable of saving, but Christ, the mediator of the New Covenant could. A few verses later, Paul expressed how that reconciliation occurs, how we are justified before God. It is because of Jesus, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). That’s the power of the cross. Paul’s focus in 2 Corinthians 5:17 is on the significance of the believers union with the Savior.

            I guess sin will always be somewhat of a companion in this life. But for those who believe; what Jesus accomplished on the cross has reconciled us to God and broken the power of sin in our lives. Be thankful for God’s mercies, they are new every morning. Be thankful for Christ because on the day He saved you, He didn’t just make you a better you, He made you brand new! 

Prayer

Father, on that cross You gave Your Son for my sins. Thank You! I know every part of who I am is touched by sin, but sin is not what my heart desires. The only appropriate response to Your grace is to live a life centered on Jesus Christ. By the power of Your Holy Spirit help me to look to Jesus each day and obey His will for my life; all for his glory and not for my own. Amen!

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Where the Rubber Meets the Road

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Romans 12:17) 

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “Where the rubber meets the road”. It’s used in many different contexts. It is used to describe the point in which after intense training, an athlete is tested in competition. It’s used in business where upon completion of all the planning, the time has come to act on that plan. And yes, this phrase is used in the Christian life as well as we are called to live out what we profess to believe. To use the phrase “where the rubber meets the road” simply indicates that the moment of truth or the point of when a plan or theory is put into action has been reached. I have a friend who refers to this as “reality”.

            One of the characteristics of the apostle Paul’s letters is they tend to flow from theological or doctrinal teaching to application. Through the first eleven chapters of Romans, Paul taught many wonderful theological truths to those in the church at Rome. From Romans 12 and throughout the remainder of the letter, he urged his brothers and sisters in Christ to live out those truths. In the first half of chapter twelve Paul expressed what was to govern their relationship with God, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2), that their spiritual gifts came by God’s grace and that they should not think too highly of themselves (Romans 12:3-8). And then, from Romans 12:9 to the end of the chapter Paul wrote of virtues that were to characterize those who called themselves Christian. Specifically in verses 17-21 he addressed the proper Christian response to one’s personal enemies. Paul set the tone for this section in verse 17, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all”. He then elaborated in verses 18-21, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all…never avenge yourselves…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

            There are no doubt area’s in our Christian lives where “reality” hits in such a way that it’s difficult to live what the Bible teaches and what we profess to believe. For the Christian, this is where the rubber meets the road. To not repay evil with evil is difficult, but it’s what God calls us to do and is a mark of genuine faith. If Christians are to be in the world, but not of it, then our lives have to be different and therefore, our responses to evil against us have to be different. “Getting even” cannot be our default response. Admittedly, this is difficult; in fact, it’s impossible without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. That’s why we must call on the Lord’s help daily. We must not be overcome by evil, but instead overcome evil with good.

            One commentary writer fittingly titles Romans 12:3-21 as Love Lived Out. After all, isn’t love where it all began? Not our love for God or for others, but God’s love for us. We were once His enemies, undeserving of His of His love, but He gave it anyway. It comes only by His grace and it comes in the person of Jesus Christ. Now that’s true love! Let us pray that the Lord would help us to show that same grace and love to others as undeserving of it as you and me. “So far as it depends on you…”  

 Prayer

Lord, way too often we take Your Word as if it is but a mere suggestion. It’s not! You call us to be different. Do I dare to be? In my own strength I know I will fail. That’s why I call on Yours. Help me live in a manner worthy of Your sacrifice. Help me to do what is unnatural in my humanity, but possible in Your power. Conform me more and more into the image of Christ that I may bring glory to His name. By all means, He is worthy!

Children: A Blessing and a Responsibility

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3) 

Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”. As a parent, part of living that out is teaching our children what it means. Several times a year, as part of our Sunday worship service at church, we have what is called Parent-Child Dedication. It is a special time for our congregation to celebrate with these families the blessings of God their children represent. As our pastor began this time of celebration on this particular Sunday, he reminded these parents of the covenant they were making before the LORD, charging them to pray for their children, teach them sound doctrine and to be a godly example in their lives. He then read Psalm 127.

            Psalm 127 has as its theme the importance of the LORD’s influence on the family. “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Verse 3 speaks specifically of children as a divine gift, an expression of God’s goodness upon a parent’s life, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward”. Our children are a tremendous blessing from God. They are also a tremendous responsibility. As parents, it’s imperative we take this responsibility seriously. As with any learning that takes place in a parent-child relationship, it’s hard to teach what we don’t model. Our children will most likely not walk a path we ourselves are not traveling. This leaves us to rely on God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s work to help us model godly living.

            A word of encouragement, our walk will never be perfect in this life, but as we set our affections on Christ, let us trust that our children will follow. Imagine the blessing of walking side by side through this life of faith with those God has given you the responsibility of leading. Imagine, you yourself becoming more and more like Christ and at the same time watching those you love so much becoming more like Him to. In both cases, our God will be glorified.