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Monday, March 9, 2009

What a Friend!

Earlier last summer, my husband and I were invited to a birthday party for friends we hadn’t seen in 3 years. The last time we’d hung out, our son was just around 6 months old and in trying to adjust to being new parents, we had completely dropped out of the whole night club scene: partying until the wee hours of the morning and all those shenanigans.

But it was so good to see the old crowd again that I found myself right back into the old conversations, the old gossip and the same old brand of questionable humor. After the party I wondered why I’d been so easily sucked back into that old behavior. After all, while they hadn’t changed – I sure had. I had begun a new journey and speaking career in my ministry – soon to start teaching at the Bible College of my new church and even about to become a minister elect, working on my ministerial license. How then could I have gone to that party, and fallen into the same old conversations? (Don’t act like I’m the only one that’s happened too! :D)

I never figured out the answer at that time, but I was presented with a suggested scripture for a teaching I did in August: Ephesians 4:22-24 “That he put off concerning the former conversation of the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” The answer as to how I could have fallen into the same old deceitful and debase conversations was there in the last portion of verse 24: … and ye “put on” the new man.

Well, I tell you, I may not have been able to follow verse 22 and put off concerning those former conversations that night, but I sure must have been following verse 24 – putting on the new man. In fact, I must have hung up my “new man” in the coat closet when I arrived at that party because you can’t take off what you haven’t put on in the first place! It’s as if I arrived at that party over-dressed and hung myself at the door so I could fit in with my old friends once more.

When I asked myself why I did that (of course) I didn’t know my answer was in Ephesians 4:20, “But ye have not so learned Christ.” In fact, I would have argued that I had indeed learned Christ. But the truth is it was as if the night of the party I’d started summer school with a pop quiz that I’d failed miserably that night. Class was suddenly in session and all summer long I had lesson after lesson and tons of homework week after week! And then just a few day s ago I had my final exam. And let me tell you, it was painful – but I can confidently say I’ve passed with flying colors! Let me present his test to you and you’ll see how easy it is to pass this test.
Who here has had a friendship that has last 30 years or more? Marriages don’t count so put your hand down if you’re talking about a spouse! Just yesterday I heard a man say that when men get married they sacrifice everything for their wives – the first sacrifice being HOPE! :D Well, the same must be true for friendships that begin in the spirit of the “old man” – before you are saved.

I have a friend, who for the past 30 years has always been like John 15:13 – “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” I’m talking close. Suddenly however, she can no longer continue our friendship. So, we’re having this conversation about it and she’s talking all this old stuff that I thought was over and done with. And I know what she’s referring to, but none of it makes sense any more. I’m trying hard to understand but I just can do it. All I can think of is, “wow, this friendship is really over.” And it dawned on me the more I tried t0 salvage the friendship, the less we seemed to be able to see eye-to-eye the way we used to... or the say I thought we did.

You see, I had “put off concerning the former conversations of the ‘old me’” and now I could see why she felt she couldn’t talk to me any more and why we didn’t see eye-to-eye any more. I realize that I have been renewed in the spirit of my mind. The proof came in these new truths about me 1) I too suddenly felt like I could no longer relate to, nor want to try and relate to my once beloved friend of 30 years. My mind, no longer thinks like her mind. I am a renewed. And 2), I have a renewed sense of the Spirit dwelling within me.

I have finally put on, and kept on, the new me, which, through God, is created in righteousness and true holiness. Now had that happened, especially without me having specifically done anything to do so? Well, before this summer, and during the last 23 years of being saved, I was living like my “new man” was indeed a coat of many colors that I was taking off and putting on. Each different color was a like a different attribute or characteristic that I was trying to patchwork into the fabric of my life and my behavior according to the Christian I thought I was supposed to be – instead of the person Christ created me to be – created through righteousness and true holiness. (verse 24)

How are we righteous? Through the righteousness of Christ once Christ dwells in us. And how can we be created in true holiness, less we be created in the image of the only One who is Truly Holy? Christ Himself declared to our Father that “they [we] all may be one; as though, Farther, art in me, and I in the, that they also may be one in us:” John 17: 21, 22 and 23: “…that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me…” Christ is telling us that God lives in Him, and He lives in us so therefore – God is in us as well. Jesus also said, “I and my father are one, if you have seen me you have seen the Father.” I say, if we are created in God’s own image, then look in the mirror and see God for yourself! Look in the mirror and see your own royalty, see your own deity (little d) and your own godliness with a little “g.”

If Christ is the Son of God and He and the Father are one and the same, then we too share in that royal deity once we have been made the children of God. We are co-heirs to the Kingdom of God, brothers and sisters with Christ, adopted into the family of righteousness and told that we too are given power over this world – able to do greater works than Jesus himself. Once you have heard, and been taught and learned that truth in Jesus (Ephesians 4:21), your Spirit is truly renewed and the new man you put on doesn’t come off so easily any more!

That “new man” is Jesus Himself – the same Jesus who also calls us friend: John 15:15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”
Luke 21: 16 says “And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, brethren, kinsfolk and friends and some may betray you even unto death.” I am sure we have all been betrayed by a friends at one time or another – whether we’d been friend for 30 years or not. Oh, but praise God we have a friend in Jesus – the Spirit of whom lives within us – promising to never leave or forsake us! What a friend; what a friend; what a friend we have in Jesus! Halleluiah, in Jesus’ name, Amen!

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