A New Person

“When someone becomes a Christian, they become a brand new person”  2 Cor. 5:17

The darkened theatre was hushed as the magician placed his beautiful assistant in the coffin-like box, balanced on top of two sturdy frames. Seemingly delighted with the prospect, her white teeth gleamed as she obliged, stepping into the box, disappearing beneath the closing lid.  

It was clear to the audience that the box was balanced on the frames, nothing beneath, no cloth to hide an escape route, just a long box on wooden frames which he now nailed shut to add even more drama and suspense.  

To this point, I was mildly interested in what came next, how he would make believe that she disappeared and would walk out from stage-left or some such thing. But when his other assistant rolled out a cart, piled high with razor-sharp swords, I began to squirm. Sure enough, he brandished one of the swords, touching its sharpened edge and then quickly spun around, shoving it into the box up to its hilt, I joined the audience in an unbelieving gasp! It was not possible.

Before we could regain our composure, the magician quickly and methodically walked around the box, shoving every sword deeply into the box, where his innocent assistant lay! Even though I knew this was a magic show and came with a great deal of skepticism, I have to admit to absolute shock mixed with fear and unbelief as I watched.

Of course she was not dead or even injured as we all saw in a few moments when he opened the lid with much difficulty (so it seemed) to reveal the undamaged young assistant. Judging by what we saw on the outside, that young woman should have been fatally wounded. However, what we thought we saw was not what really happened. It was an illusion, unlike our new life in Christ.

On the outside, we may seem the same as we were before Christ was invited into our lives, but inside we are totally changed—new people—filled with His Holy Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:13-21  “Whatever we do, it is certainly not for our own profit but because Christ’s love controls us now. Since we believe that Christ died for all of us, we should also believe that we have died to the old life we used to live. He died for all so that all who live—having received eternal life from him—might live no longer for themselves, to please themselves, but to spend their lives pleasing Christ who died and rose again for them. So stop evaluating Christians by what the world thinks about them or by what they seem to be like on the outside. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, merely as a human being like myself. How differently I feel now! When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!”

All these new things are from God who brought us back to himself through what Christ Jesus did. And God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into his favor and be reconciled to him. For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be reconciled to God. For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us!

1 Peter 1:21-25  “Because of this, your trust can be in God who raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. Now your faith and hope can rest in him alone. Now you can have real love for everyone because your souls have been cleansed from selfishness and hatred when you trusted Christ to save you; so see to it that you really do love each other warmly, with all your hearts.

1 Peter 4:7-8  “The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore be earnest, thoughtful men of prayer. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love makes up for many of your faults.”

For you have a new life. It was not passed on to you from your parents, for the life they gave you will fade away. This new one will last forever, for it comes from Christ, God’s ever-living Message to men. Yes, our natural lives will fade as grass does when it becomes all brown and dry. All our greatness is like a flower that droops and falls; but the Word of the Lord will last forever. And his message is the Good News that was preached to you.”

John 1:12-13  “But as many as received him—to those who believe in his name—he gave to them authority to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a husband, but of God.”

By one decision, our lives are changed eternally—for the better—for the best! It is no illusion.

 

Live By Faith

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Hebrews 11:1  ~Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

 

I attend a weekly Bible study that has been ongoing more than six years. The study is aimed at practical application of God’s Word, the Bible. This approach can bring daily challenges and will often bring spiritual growth in each life. Recently, that is what happened.

I ride with one of the men in the study who has an occasional variance in his work schedule which prevents his attendance. When this happens, the men in the study share their disappointment and I make sure to send a copy of the study via email. But this week would prove different and bring about a God-ordained journey and ending.

“I have a new job and will have to miss a few Wednesdays,” he said at the study. “I hope it won’t be permanent but I’m not sure.”

True to form, we expressed our disappointment and continued with the morning’s study. A few days later, it seemed that God was speaking to me about my lack of faith. “We live by faith, not by sight,” says 2 Corinthians 5:7. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but opn what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” says 2 Corinthians 4:18.

Then I understood what God, through the Holy Spirit, was showing me: believe that my friend, Matt, could be there; to have faith that God would answer our prayers to shift Matt’s schedule to allow him to continue attending. In that instant it was very clear to me, Matt wanted to be in the Bible study, would benefit from his attendance and the rest of us would benefit from his presence.

This is an element of spiritual warfare and the victory belongs to God. Instead of saying, “Too bad you can’t come, Matt, see you when your schedule changes.” We can ask God to make a way for him to attend and believe He will do that!”

Two days later Matt called and said, “Hey my schedule has changed and I will pick you up as usual.” Joyfully I shared my revelation with Matt and we rejoiced in the answer to prayer. God cares. He is always victorious, and He delights in answering our prayers.

 

Deep Under Cover: Review

Well-written, well-told true story of an enthusiastic young East German Communist willing to risk his life for the propagation of what he thought was the ultimate socialist life for the world.

Jack Barsky, with the assistance of writer Cindy Coloma, recounts with vivid detail, his double life in America living out the assignment of gathering useable information to exploit the weakness of capitalism and democracy as played out in America. Much to his eventual surprise, American life was far from despicable but enviable. And, as he was forced to see with clarity, Communism fell far short of the model government and guide for the world. It was clearly the opposite, favoring those in the upper levels and ignoring the masses.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.

David Nelson

Made New

“Behold, all things are made new!” 2 Cor. 5:17

Michael prepared his talk for weeks, editing again and again, looking for the best descriptions and phrases to accurately explain the idea of being Born Again and becoming a new person in Christ. He knew his college graduating class would be caught off guard by his subject but he also knew it was the perfect time to share his faith.

Finally he felt ready. The hours of research, writing and editing had paid off. However, it was not to be so. At least not the carefully prepared speech Michael had written and re-written. God had other plans.

While driving to the campus he began to feel that mysterious, almost audible voice of the Holy Spirit changing his plan. Then, with slowly mounting terror, Michael understood that God was telling him to forget about his speech and to fully trust Him. At first he was gripped with terror, picturing himself on the stage, facing the sea of faces on this very special day, completely unprepared, wondering what he might say.

Later, as he gripped the sides of the lectern, looking out at the great crowd of expectant friends and relatives, Michael absolutely understood the meaning of being made new by his faith in Christ. As he opened his mouth, an amazing sense of calm and poise came over him. God had taken control to give Michael’s words supernatural power, reaching into the hearts and minds of all in attendance. Years later friends would remind him of his powerful and dynamic speech that truly touched their hearts and, in some cases, changed their lives.

2 Corinthians 5:14-21 The love of Christ controls us. Because we know that One died for all. So all have died. Christ died for all so that those who live would not continue to live for themselves. He died for them and was raised from death so that they would live for him.

From this time on we do not think of anyone as the world does. It is true that in the past we thought of Christ as the world thinks. But we no longer think of him in that way. If anyone belongs to Christ, then he is made new. The old things have gone; everything is made new! All this is from God. Through Christ, God made peace between us and himself. And God gave us the work of bringing everyone into peace with him. I mean that God was in Christ, making peace between the world and himself. In Christ, God did not hold the world guilty of its sins. And he gave us this message of peace. So we have been sent to speak for Christ. It is as if God is calling to you through us. We speak for Christ when we beg you to be at peace with God. Christ had no sin. But God made him become sin. God did this for us so that in Christ we could become right with God.

Ephesians 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Colossians 3:1-4 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:13-16 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. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Philippians 2:1-4 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Viewing life through the filter of faith in Christ transforms us into a new creation.

New Each Day

Mexican sunrise

 

May 13, 2015

“His mercies never end. They are new every morning” Lamentations 3:22

There’s always hope! No matter what happens. Each day with the Lord welcomes us with new hope, and a fresh start. All is forgiven, washed clean by the everlasting blood of the Lamb. The past is just that…past. When you feel low, worthless or totally sinful that is the perfect time to call out to the Lord and repent anew of your sins. He has already forgiven you and wants you to walk in that forgiveness. The blood of Jesus, flowing down Calvary’s cross was shed literally for each person in the world. His sacrifice gives us new life. If we refuse to accept his sacrifice then what hope is there? If I am feeling low then I am not asking God to change my attitude. He promises peace. Accept that offer.

· 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

· Romans 6:4 “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.”

· Galatians 6:15 “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.”

· Romans 3:21-25 “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.”

Most of us have a constant struggle with sin but God has provided the antidote that never fails. An antidote that we can claim by faith in Jesus Christ, fortified with God’s promises.

· “Romans 7:24-25 “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”

· Romans 8:1-2; 9-17 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”

· Philippians 3:7-14 “The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it. I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” (The Message)

Jesus willingly subjected Himself to the pain of death to free us from the penalty and control of sin. If you have accepted that love and forgiveness then each day is a new day… guided by the Holy Spirit, directed by the Lord Jesus.

James, Chapter Five

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The Lord has established his throne in heaven; his kingdom extends over everything. Psalm 103:19 (NET)

Cassandra was finally in the position she always fought for. She was president of an enormous and very successful company. She was one of three people allowed to fly off anywhere in the world in the corporate jet. This week she would be closing escrow on her second palatial home in Vail, Colorado. She loved to ski.

There was one slightly frustrating problem in her life and that was family. Her mother, although a nice woman, was constantly nagging Cassandra to visit and help out some of their less fortunate relatives.

“Mom, if they are in need, counsel them to get a better job, for crying out loud. That’s what I’ve done all my life. I’ve worked very hard with no hand-outs. I send money to cancer research and the local Better Education fund.”

“Honey, you’ve always been a self-starter and tremendously motivated but I think you are forgetting about your Uncle Frank’s gift of a free college education. I never knew the actual amount but I think paying for your full tuition, books and living expenses while attending Yale must have been many thousands of dollars!”

Her mother could be so frustrating. “Ok, Uncle Frank did help but I worked very hard in college and graduated at the top of my class. So, in a sense, he got his money’s worth. And he told me to never mention it to him. It was a gift.”

“My dear girl. You are so talented, driven, conscientious, and the pinnacle of dependability but you have a very hard heart. You really don’t seem to care for people less fortunate at all. Instead of sharing your increasing wealth with widows and orphans, as the Bible commands, you simply buy another huge home in Colorado. Honey, you could give away a million dollars a year and still have more than most people will ever have. I am concerned for you. God does not look kindly on such selfishness. I suggest you take time out to refresh yourself with chapter five of the Book of James.”

Warning to Rich 1-6

Selfish rich people should weep and groan with anguish because of terrible troubles ahead. Accumulated treasures will be evidence against you on the Day of Judgment.

Patience in Suffering 7-12

Just as a farmer waits patiently for the rewards of his crop, so we must be patient as we wait for the Lord’s return. Don’t grumble about each other. Be patient, using God’s prophets as examples. Think of Job, a man of great endurance.

Faithful Prayer 13-18

Suffering hardships? Pray. Happy? Rejoice in praises to God. Sick? Call elders who will anoint with oil in the name of the Lord. The Lord will heal the sick and forgive the sinner. Confess sins to each other. Earnest prayer has great power. Elijah was such a man of prayer. He was a prophet who prayed for no rain and then for rain to resume. God answered both prayers. His name means: YAWEH is my God 1 Kings 17

Restore Wandering Believers 19-20

If a fellow believer wanders from the truth and is brought back…they are saved from death and have many sins forgiven.

The Book of James hits the reader forcefully, cutting through all our facades, laying bare our excuses and half-hearted Christianity. James forces the reader to take a closer look in the mirror of his soul. Do we have faith? Can others see it lived out in our lives? Am I still clinging to the world and whatever pleasure or comfort I derive? Jesus said He loved us so much that he took a beating and climbed upon a wooden cross to die. He literally did this. Considering that example of love, how should we live?

Log Vision!

 

“Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own?” Matt. 7:3

 

After stepping out of the shower and looking in the mirror what do I see? Think about it, what do we all see? Do we see reality or a filtered version of same? Without consciously intending it, we automatically revise the facts and take off a few pounds, a few bulges, a few wrinkles and perhaps we add some hair. We all share that gift, the gift of fictionalizing our physical condition, especially the older we get and the farther away from fitness we have come.

            While fudging the physical facts is a problem, or can be, fudging our spiritual health is a far more devastating condition which many of us fall into as well. 

Evan was middle aged and known for his active Christian life. He wanted to serve the Lord more each year, wanted to be God’s man in every circumstance. And yet, he had a serious flaw that had hidden itself from his conscious mind. The flaw was a common one shared by most believers. Evan had Log Vision. And like most who have this flaw, had perfected the ability to look around the log in his own eye to clearly see the splinters in everyone else’s eye!

Unlike cataracts, Log Vision cannot be surgically removed, it grows in our heart, it is a condition of the soul. Like most unpleasant attributes, Log Vision is a clever, non-offensive way of describing something more lethal and devastating: being judgmental. And being judgmental is a condition that can be changed, healed and removed. More importantly, being judgmental brings grief and pain to our Heavenly Father, our Savior Jesus Christ.

  • Matthew 7:1  “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”
  • Luke 6:37-38  “Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.” See Matt. 6:14 on forgiveness.
  • Romans 14:10-13  “So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.” 12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. 13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.”
  • 1Corinthians 4:5  “So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.”
  • James 4:11-12  “Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. 12 God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?”
  • Romans 2:1  Therefore, anyone of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things.

            Simply put: Who am I to judge? Judging is God’s job and He will take care of it. Our job is to love our neighbor and help those in need. We are also to forgive…everyone!

 

The Fall of Pride

 

 In weakness we can find strength, God’s perfect strength. But in our strength, our pride, when fully developed, we can find desolation and pain. Such was the case in my life many years ago in a place far away.

I was a faithful Christian, involved in church leadership, teaching Bible classes, volunteering at the children’s private Christian school. I was the epitome of walking after the Lord…on the outside.

Inside I had allowed doubt and lust to establish a foothold in my heart and mind. Subtly I allowed stray looks, personal remarks and thoughts to slide in and build comfortable seating arrangements in my inner man, in my heart.

As my flesh grew stronger, my Spirit weakened. And then one day, the dike broke, the floodwaters gushed forth, overwhelming the land of my mind. I acted on my desires rather than asking God to provide a way of escape as we are told to do in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

The pounding force of the pent up desires carved a new path for me. No longer walking on the narrow and straight way, I found friends and satisfaction on the wider way; the one that leads to perdition. Step by step, I walked away from His voice, His pleading, His warnings.

One night, after dropping off my date at the door of a restaurant, I found a parking place nearby. Just as I set the brake, I heard an audible voice say, “Don’t do it!” I was shocked and stunned. I looked to my right, expecting to see the Lord. Nothing. Again the voice said, clearly, “Don’t do it!”

Now if my life had been a movie, I would have broken down, called out to God for forgiveness and run back to Him. It was not and I did not. My pride was running the show. I was not yet ready to repent!

I walked further away from my Savior (who never gave up on me), burrowing deeper into the abyss of broken promises and fractured ideals. Peace? What peace, I am too busy feeding my flesh, looking for that all-elusive satisfaction.

Within a few months, my newly erected wide-path world collapsed, taking me down with it. There I was, standing in the middle of the road, shaking my head, wondering what happened.

This time He didn’t need to speak audibly. Apparently I had not buried the Holy Spirit’s guidance completely because I “knew” that He was calling me back. “You’ve gone far enough,” he let me know. “My grace is sufficient to restore you. Repent and walk away from this sin.” This time I did break down and pour out my soul, asking for forgiveness, knowing He would grant my request…already had.

That was more than thirty years past. Since then, God has healed my heart, given me a new life, a wonderful wife and new Bible classes to teach. My flesh remains alert, ready to strengthen my pride but this time I refuse to relent, I will continue to call upon the Lord to deliver me and forgive me each time I am tempted and drawn away.

And He always does…with a smile and a reminder that His blood shed on the cross gave me absolute forgiveness and a new life.

 

Dying To Self…

Dying To Self

We think we are willing and ready for the change God will bring in our lives as we totally surrender ourselves to Him. Our confidence grows as the first few layers of self are stripped away because these surface issues remove relatively easily.

But then we resist, as Jesus requires further stripping and removal. “Can He actually love me when all of me is revealed,” we think. Will I love me? In vain protest we call out to Him, “Lord, you are stripping away who I am!”

Gently, lovingly, Jesus replies, “Oh no. It is merely who you’ve become. Trust me. I will reveal who you are…a new creation.”

David Nelson