We saw last time how hopeless we are at “Starting Again.”
Now let’s look at the way God does it for us.
Here’s a few expressions that we sometimes hear that help to explain what’s happening on the inside when God gets to work on us:
- Being “Born Again”
In its original meaning, Jesus gave an illustration of the new life that comes into being when we first experience a confrontation with Him, His Glory and awesome integrity (“righteousness”) and at the same time, His amazing grace and love – and fall at His feet.
Some might think this phrase is a bit of a cliché. It has been used in derogatory ways for something/someone that has been repackaged and relabelled but not really changed on the inside.
Sadly, this is actually true with some people that claim to have become Christians. They have become religious instead. They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
Jesus said “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16)
If God has really brought a “New You” to birth inside, it must begin to show in our behaviour, our choices and our actions. Not perfect by any means, but definitely growing.
- “The Work of the Cross” also known as “Dying to self”
Sounds scary doesn’t it! What on earth is it?
Whenever I’ve surrendered my preferences in favour of what I know God wants, I’ve felt like I could die!
It means I have to go outside my comfort zone! I have to kick “the habit”! I have to shut up when Brother Sandpaper says those annoying things about me – worse – I have to thank him for it, because I know he’s right!
This kind of “death” is such a painful experience.
But if I did it willingly, knowing that God knows far better what’s best for me than I do, it turned out He was right! (Surprise! Surprise!)
The most extreme example of this principle was, of course, when Jesus willingly went to an agonizing death, because His Father had a mighty purpose for it.
Thankfully, not many of us will go through a violent physical death, but there is a lot of daily character-building stuff that we suffer from which threatens to kill off our old pride, our old selfishness etc. In a sense, that Old Me is being crucified.
There’s also “Brokenness.”
This is a more severe experience than what I’ve just described above.
I’m talking about tragedy here, or “the dark night of the soul” where people go through bereavement or depression, a sense of hopelessness when you can’t see the sense in all of the pain and loss you’re experiencing right now. Jesus certainly knows what I’m talking about!
I’m not making light of it at all, since I’ve had a taste of that occasionally, but the outcome is still the same. If I take it with the right attitude, recognising the eternal significance of it, this leads to…..
- Experiencing “His Resurrection life”!
Most of us, even before we met Jesus, have experienced that moment when we gave up something (time, effort, money) and it made such a difference to someone in need.
What a buzz that gave us, right?
Research has shown that people who have given their lives in selfless service to others have a far greater “Life Satisfaction” than those who have heaped up huge wealth for themselves.
How much more does this Resurrection principle work in our lives when the Power of God comes into play! As if the initial experience of God’s Presence isn’t enough, wait ‘til you feel the effects of growing in faith and character.
It’ll make you think: “Why didn’t I do this earlier in my life??” And then there’s the reward when we go into Eternity….
As Paul said: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (1 Corinthians 4:17)
It’s a pity I don’t always remember this when I’m going through stuff. :/
This is another theological expression that’s floated around the church occasionally, and it has nothing to do with being labelled with a “holy” quality or even a title.
Just imagine our wonderful leadership at MCF:
* “Saint David of the Kingdom Keys”?
* “Saint Karen, Lady of the Jaspers”?
* “Saint Beverley, Lady of the Church Keys”?
* “Saint Adam the Messenger”?
But they’d be the first to repudiate such titles I’m sure, being such humble folk.
And that’s the point.
They’ve been through life experiences like I’ve described above and learned from them. It’s like a cleansing process, making them ready for leadership. They’ve experienced not only the hard experiences, but also through study of the amazing Word of God, taking it seriously and applying it to their lives, refreshing and refocusing their minds.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word..” (Ephesians 5:25, 26)
Note that even that process involves a strong relationship with Him.