Thursday, July 7, 2011

Putting off the Old Man and putting on the New Man: Ephesians 4:21-32

"If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." -Ephesians 4:21-32

In this passage, we have perhaps the most all-encompassing concept in Christianity- putting off the old man and putting on the new man. These terms refer to a person's nature before coming to Christ (the old man) and after being saved (new man). This idea is so huge because it is all-encompassing: it spans our words, thoughts, actions, relationships, and overall lifestyles. It can't be limited to only one or a few areas of our lives. This is also not optional. It is not only for "uber-Christians" who are completely given over to the Lord. Putting off the old man and putting on the new man is cumpulsory to any true believer. Putting off the old man requires removing from our lives anything that had to do with our old sin nature- lying, grudges, hatred, lust, selfishness, etc. Putting on the new man entails doing what is right- loving one another, uplifting and edifying others, sharing God's Word, etc. Any true believer's walk with the Lord will have both of these things.

The most important thing is to make sure that we are BOTH putting off the old man AND putting on the new man. Not only are we to stop lying, but we must also share the truth of Christ with others. It is not sufficient to mearly begin to use our words for righteousness. We must at the same time stop using our mouths for unrighteousness. We cannot begin to forgive and be kind until we are putting off wrath and malice. Neither one of these is optional. God is not pleased with the man who puts off the old man but fails to put on the new, nor is he satisfied with one who puts on the new but fails to cast off the old. There are many dangers to doing one without the other, so it is imperative that we do both.

If we put off the old man without putting on the new man, we are not truly changed and become susceptible to falling back to our old nature again. Jesus illustrates this point in Matthew 12:43-45, comparing such a person to a man who has a demon cast out of him, but since he does not fill the new vacancy in his life with Christ, he ends up having seven demons enter him and is worse off than before. Think of a military general who has just conquered some new land. Does he then leave and hope that the army he just defeated does not try and reclaim the land? Of course not! He will naturally try to fortify his new possession and try to keep his newly conquered grounds. It is the same way in our lives. If we are able to overcome a sin in our lives, we run the danger of allowing that sin to come back unless Christ enters the new vacancy in our lives that the sin used to inhabit. If you used to struggle with stealing, instead use your hands to give to others. If your mouth used to be vulgar, instead use your words to bless others.

There is just as great a danger in attempting to put on the new man without putting off the old. Trying to live this way is hypocritical and discredits your Christian witness. James said it best in James 3:10 when he said, "Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so." He compares such a mouth to a fountain which brings forth both fresh water and bitter water. We all know that if there is any bitter water in a cup of water, the whole thing is bad. Such a Christianity makes a no different from the world, for many sinners also do "good" deeds, but that can't undo sin. Many give the excuse that we are "saved by grace" or that "nobody's perfect" but that is not a Christ-like way of thinking. We cannot truly worship God and still have bitterness or wrath inside of us. Such hypocrisy was the sin of the Pharisees, who would do all the right things but still sin and miss the bigger picture.

Sadly, we all know both kinds of people. Some people try not to do the wrong thing either out of fear of consequence or in order to fit in, but they do not put on the new man and try to live like Christ at all. Others try to serve two masters by doing whats right and serving Christ sometimes, but also living after the flesh in a worldly manner. Such people are half-hearted, lukewarm, two-faced, and hypocritical. This is not the type of Christianity that God wants or asks of us. It is time for you and me to put off the old man AND put on the new man. This can look many different ways. Are you influenced by your friends to sin? Flee temptation and influence them for Christ. Do you use your hands to hurt others? Stop, but also use your hands to give to others and serve others. Do you frequently discourage and make fun of people with your mouth? Cease doing that, and instead encourage others in the Lord. Do you have an obsession that consumes your time? Do not simply try and defeat the obsession, but use your newly freed up time to read the Word, pray, or share the Gospel. There are a million different ways to do this. What is important is that you do it, and do it thoroughly. Put off the old man and put on the new man. Don't settle for anything less.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Great Commission- Matthew 28:18-20

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” –Matthew 28:18-20

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the Great Commission, God’s plan for our lives, and the state of our Church today. Now I just recently went on a trip with my school’s Sr. High band, where several seniors gave us brief exhortations, many of which basically boiled down to reading the Word. Now these brothers and sisters could not have given a more life changing exhortation than this, for reading the Word changes lives the way nothing else can, but what does it say about the state of the Church today that the entire message of an exhortation should be the importance of reading the Word? Reading the Bible is as essential to spiritual life as eating is to physical life, yet we do not require our parents to constantly remind us to eat because eating is a basic instinct, something that we know and desire to do without need of reminder or encouragement. Why then should high school students, many of whom have grown up in the Church, need a reminder to do something that is as basic and essential to Spiritual life as reading God’s Word? My friends, I do not think that God is pleased at this. I believe that God desires so much more from us. I think our view today on what God asks of us in the Great Commission is far short of what He truly desires.

I really believe that many believers today do have at least some desire to serve the Lord. To my understanding, I would say most in the Church would say that they believe they are fulfilling the Great Commission by finding ways and taking advantage of opportunities at their workplaces, at home, in their neighborhoods, with friends, and at social or public locations to share Christ with non-Christians. Young adults seek to find a spouse, family, location, and career which satisfy them and then seek the best way to serve the Lord wherever they’re at. Certainly, on the surface this seems like a fine approach to spreading the Gospel. It would appear that such a life would satisfy Jesus’ desire for someone’s life. However, I believe that Jesus wants so much more!

The problem with this way of living life is that it seeks to somehow incorporate God’s plan into one’s own plan for his or her life. In this lifestyle, we chose what we do, where we are, and who we marry, and then we try to incorporate God’s plan into ours. The Great Commission takes a backseat to our lives, our jobs, and our families. We are content to be workers who preach. The Great Commission is not an aspect of our lives! It is our lives and the rest of our lives should be lived with the purpose of how we can better fulfill it! God calls us to be preachers who work. Rather than figuring out how we can reach the lost wherever we work, we should rather pray to seek what God wants us to do with our lives to reach the lost. In short, rather than the Great Commission being an extension of our careers, our jobs should become our outlets to fulfill the Great Commission. Our purpose in our current school or career should be evangelism rather than education or income. Our entire mindset should be focused on reaching the lost.

Some might call this “radical Christianity.” Is it really radical, though, to fulfill the one task Christ asked of us before He ascended into Heaven simply on the premise that the Church today is not living up to the standard that Jesus asks of us? I think not. Is there going to be a cost? You better believe it. The Great Commission requires tremendous sacrifice. It will require you to lay down those things which you have a right to, give up your chance at personal fame and glory, damage some people’s opinion of you, live the life of a servant, live in humility, be obedient to the command of God, endure pain or even death for Christ’s name, and die to yourself. Does this sound like too much? This is exactly what Jesus did for us (Philippians 2:5-8). So yes, the Great Commission is difficult, costly, risky, dangerous, and requires all of your life. But how glorious it is for those who accept it, deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Christ! The journey is long and hard, but how worth it the end will be!

In conclusion, let’s look at the example which we have recently seen of Harold Camping’s claim of judgment day on May 21st. While they were passionately following a lie, none can deny the passion and urgency of his followers to spread the message, nor can they deny the speed and efficiency with which this lie was spread. While these people were deceived, they still offer us an example. If these people were so urgent, passionate, quick, and efficient about spreading a lie, why aren’t we, who have the truth, matching and surpassing them in urgency, passion, speed, and efficiency? 8,000 people spent their life savings on spreading this false message, yet I doubt that we could find 8,000 American believers willing to give up the same for the Truth. How much more should we be willing to give up for the sake of the Gospel? I am by no means suggesting that I have mastered this, but I for one believe it is time for a change. It is time for the Church to allow God to use us the way He desires and live lives completely given over to Him!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Meditations on the Spirit

Yeah, I know it's been a while, but I feel that the Lord is finally leading me to write another post. Anyway, recently, Ive been going through the Bible reading all the verses on the Holy Spirit. I am not finished yet, but it has been an amazing study so far, and I've been learning alot. I want to highlight just a few of the verses and show you what God spoke to me in them. Also, I highly reccomend doing this study to everyone, lest we end up ignorant of the things of the Spirit (I Cor. 12:1).

"And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." -Ezekiel 36:27

In this passage, God is speaking to the children of Judah taken captive to Babylon. Notice the order in which the statements are arranged. God promises that they will be filled with the Holy Spirit FIRST, and THEN they would walk in His statutes, keep His judgements, and do them. One of the biggest misconceptions about the Spirit is that He is like some sort of currency in a heavenly reward system in which the better we are, the more that God will fill us with His Spirit. We read verses about the Spirit being a mark of those that are in Christ and often interpret it as saying that if we come to Christ, we are rewarded with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we think that if we are really good and seek the Lord, He will chose to fill us with His Spirit and use us in a mighty way. However, one thing that is important to remember is that the Spirit is the cause, not the result, of any good that we do. The Spirit is the mark of a believer because it is the Spirit who makes the believer a believer. We do any good works that we do because the Spirit put in us to do those works, and not only that, but God had prepared those works for us to do before we even did them (Eph. 2:10). With this in mind, it is foolish to take any pride in our own works. God does not "owe" us the Spirit, we recieve the Spirit as He choses according to His will. We call the "fruit" of the Spirit fruit because fruit is the natural result of a groing tree. Likewise, good works are the natural product of a Spirit-filled life, but do not themselves cause the filling of the Spirit.

Dwell on that image of the fruit of the Spirit. Fruit are a product of a tree. They do not produce the tree from which they grow. However, in them are the seeds with which more trees can be made. The same way, even though our works do not bring the Spirit into our own lives, the Spirit uses our works to create new, Spirit filled believers. What a beautiful picture!

"And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man." -I Samuel 10:6

How beautiful a phrase it is that the Spirit turns us into another man. The Holy Spirit is in the business of transforming lives, not just changing them. He is a rebuilder, not a renovator. He is not simply satisfied with changing a few things in our lives. Our lives are to be completely different now that we have the Spirit in us than before we were saved. Paul does not say that our old man (our life before we were saved) is changed, but crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6). Any life in which the Spirit truly dwells will be radically different from how it was before salvation. Does your life have such a change? Or are you merely trying to change things about your life. This is done on your own effort, and will never work.

"And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly." - I Sam. 11:6

In many passages in Scripture featuring the Holy Spirit, the Spirit comes upon someone and they are able to do something tremendous. They might recieve a prophecy, be filled with strength, recieve wisdom, or any other miracculous feat. This time, in comparison, may seem a little strange. What is so miraculous about getting angry, it may seem at first. However, a closer examination reveals a beautiful ministry of the Spirit here. In this passage, the Holy Spirit is giving Saul the heart of God. The Spirit helps us to hate the things God hates and love the things God loves. When you look at it, this is even more miraculous than recieving tremendous strength. God loves good and obedience and hates sin. Naturally, humans love the pleasure sin gives us and hate authority and the pain from doing what's right. Yet as the Spirit begins to work in our hearts, we recieve a tremendous change. We learn to go against our human nature, to align our hearts with God, and think eternally. Many gifts of the Spirit are use just for a moment, but this ministry changes our hearts and minds forever. What an amazing ministry of the Spirit!

"And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;" -Isaiah 11:2

This passage is a prophecy about the coming Messiah, Jesus. The "him" is Jesus. I find it very interesting that the Spirit was working and empowering Jesus throughout His life and ministry on earth. This verse said that the Spirit gave Jesus wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord. If anyone didn't need the Spirit to provide these things, it would be Jesus. If Jesus had a need of these things, how much more reliant should we be on the Spirit for our lives? How much more should we pray for the Holy Spirit to give us these things?

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;" -Isaiah 61:1

Isaiah is the speaker in this passage. Here you see that he had a real sense of what his ministry was that the Spirit had called him to. It is the Spirit who gives us our ministry. He gifts us in ways that we will need for our ministry and then leads us there. A good friend of mine once told me, "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called." God doesn't look for Spirit-filled people to use. He fills people with the Spirit so that He can use them. Each of us have a ministry that God has specifically called us to. The Spirit gives us the ability to do that ministry. For Isaiah, that ministry was to preach good tidings, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and open the prison of them that are bound. What is it for you? If you don't know what it is, look how the Spirit has gifted you and think how they can be used for Christ's Kingdom. Then go out and minister by the Spirit!