© 2008 by Deidre Campbell-Jones
April Theme: Life
Old Life: Romans 7:15 & 19
New Life: 2 Corinthians 5:17
So, tell me about your life? What kind of life are you living? I’ll tell you about my life – the life I’m living on the inside of me, is different from the life I’m living on the outside of me, is different from the life that everyone else can see. Make sense?
On the inside, I’m living a wonderfully righteous, God-led, God-filled life. On the outside, I’m desperately trying to live a live that matches the one on the inside – it's a constant battle. And the life that everyone sees, I fear is largely like the one they used to see all the time in me – either it’s not much different, or they’re waiting to see when this phase will pass and the old me prevail. Sometimes I wonder myself.
There is a war going on within me and on the inside I’ve already won, but on the outside I periodically lose a few battles. The inside only sees (or wants to see) the battles I’ve won because those bring the outside me one step closer to the complete me on the inside. But I feel the eyes of scrutiny from those on the outside of me as if the battles I’m losing are the only ones they see and they are waiting for this war to be over so I can go back to the way I used to be.
The Apostle Paul describes it like this in Romans 7:15 & 19 “That which I do, I allow not: but what I hate, that do I. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” Paul is talking about the war between his spirit and his flesh – his inward man and outward man – the old Paul and the new Paul.
Remember last week's lesson on life and death? At the end of his tirade on "self", Paul goes on to say this: Romans 7:24: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
This past Monday I attended the funeral for a classmate of mine and I went back home for the services. The week prior there had been a flurry of emails – a daily trail of decisions, commiseration, speculation and reliving old memories. It was so interesting to me how each of us handled the tragedy differently and those various aspects of my friends’ personalities was very evident. On the inside I reacted with compassion and understanding. And on the outside, I felt I had won one small battle by not capitulating to the tension that was slowly brewing in the undertones of the emails.
Then at the services I had the opportunity to meet with a few classmates and have a soda for a little while. Of the five of us, there was only one other friend present who had been on that flurry of emails. The atmosphere was pleasant, the visit was really good, and it was really good to spend some time with that group – a mix of individuals that never would have hung out together like that (and enjoyed it!) during high school.
So why then, did the old me crop up? I felt ornery, loud, and a little bossy like I was hogging the conversation. And it’s like the inner me recognized it and said a prayer for the outer me – that was promptly ignored the moment I opened my mouth again.
I don’t think my friends noticed. I’m sure I wasn’t obnoxious (at least I hope not!) and perhaps they may have even thought – wow, Deidre hasn’t changed a bit. Well, if they didn’t say it, I sure did!
When I came to Christ in 1985 I came to Christ in the midst of my sin – “smack-dab” in the middle of it – by the very person who was in sin with me. The one scripture that made a life changing difference to me each day of my new life was: 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creation; behold old things are passed away and all is become new.”
It was such a comfort to me to know that all my old crap, the old me and my old life would just pass away and everything about me would become new again! And when I realized it hadn’t really worked out exactly like that, I found Romans 12:2 to comfort me and encourage me to continue trying to be new again: “And be not conformed to the ways of the world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”
Well, when I got back from my trip, and jumped back into the last trailing flurry of emails that I’d so lovingly participated in before going home, I suddenly could no longer prove what was that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God. I acted straight out of my flesh, acknowledged it and honestly didn’t care. That was the old me, my old life cropping up again.
You see, God knows us and loves us just the way we are. He knows we are going to struggle. He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross to help us with that struggle. Christ died on the cross for you and me whether you or I ever believe that He did or not. Christ died on the cross while we were still dead in our sins and dead in sin because He loves us in spite of our sins. Our sin, the sins in our life, the things we do or do not do, the bad we have done and even the good we try to do have no baring on how much God loves us or on whether or not we can be forgiven of our sin and our sins and live a new life through Christ. That forgiveness is freely and wholly given to us – it’s already been given. We are already forgiven, even if we are still classified as a “sinner”, or an unbeliever, or a “backslider” or just a really “two-faced” Christian. I was forgiven for my behavior on Tuesday back when Christ died on the cross, and I was forgiven of my sin and all my sins – not in 1985, but 2000 years ago, when God sent his Son to die on the cross for the world that He loved so much. You were forgiven on that very same day as well. We are – 2000 years later - a part of that world Christ died for. You have already been forgiven. It’s just a matter of whether or not you believe it and accept it.
Ok so, I believe it and I accept it – I’m even trying to live it – so what’s the deal with this struggle between some “old me” and this so-called “new me?” It seems like such a bother and a burden, why didn’t I just stay the way I was – happy and ignorant in my sin and sinful behavior? It is because Christ came so that we could have life and have it more abundantly.
John 3:16 again: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son so that whosoever should believe would not perish but have everlasting life.” Christ’s death gives us life. But we have the choice whether or not to accept it and live it.
Before accepting Christ’s death on the cross for me, I lived a life that was loving and compassionate, fired up and feisty. I was searching for purpose and meaning and would try nearly anything once. I also cursed and drank and partied at the clubs dancing all night. I was a fighter, loud and obnoxious and didn’t give a flip what anyone thought. I would tell it like it “T-I-is!” My sins: lying, drunkenness and fornication. Not a pretty list. My sin: I was separated from God – just like everyone else out there living it up with me in my sins.
Now that I have accepted Christ’s death on the cross for me, I live a life that is loving and compassionate, fired up and feisty. I am following my purpose, understanding its meaning and I’m still trying and learning new things - within reason. I no longer curse or drink excessively, but sometimes I party in the church all night and still enjoy a good dance. I am still a fighter, I still get loud, I still get obnoxious and yet not only do I care what others think of me – more importantly, I care what God thinks of me. And yes, I still can and sometimes do, tell it like it “T-I-is!” My sins: forgiven and tossed into the sea of forgetfulness! My sin: has been saved by Grace – which is God’s time. He gave me the time I needed to come out of my separation, to come to Him and to turn around and tell everyone else who was out there living it up with me in my sins about the new life I have with Christ.
So what’s the difference? How do I reconcile the old me that still looks (and acts) a whole lot like the “new me?” The difference is that all those things – the good and the bad of my old life only worked towards death. I had one place to go through it all and one place to get to at the end of it all: death. I was living a flat, empty, lost and searching life of death. And without Christ I would have died in that life and stayed dead: eternally dead and separated from God. I was living a life that was often times just straight hell and it is a wonder I didn’t actually die and go straight to hell. If I had died in the midst of my sin that is exactly where I would have ended up – and it would have been my own choice because it was my choice to live that life and it was my choice to accept Christ or not to. You only get condemned to hell (not by God but by your own choice) when you are presented with the choice of Christ and choose not to believe.
I praise God I chose to believe! Because now, even though I may still sometimes seem like the old me on the outside – all the things about me – the good and the bad of it, all work toward life! God can take the very same behaviors I am not proud of and instead of me adding them unto my death, He counts them all for joy! How does that work? “All things work towards the greater good for they that love the Lord.” That word “all” includes the good and the bad.
You see, just like Christ’s death offered me forgiveness even when I was deep in sin, so has His resurrection offered me the blessing of a new life in Him. I am already blessed! I was blessed while I was still a sinner – and you were too. You were blessed the same day I was blessed - the day Christ rose from the dead.
Our blessings are stored up in Heaven – waiting for us to unlock them so that God can open the floodgates of heaven and poor them out upon us. God wants us to receive our blessings! I am standing under the shower of my blessings.
What this means is, when I live through the tragedy of a friend’s death – I receive a blessing from it. When I step outside of my inward me with some behavior I am not proud of, I am blessed when I learn a lesson on compassion, tolerance and forgiveness. When I tell it like it “T-I-is” in Christ I am blessed immeasurably when friends and family see me – the new me, the inside me - and recognize I am walking in my purpose.
I am blessed with life when I open my eyes in the morning and I will be blessed when I close my eyes to sleep in eternal life with Christ. All things are working for my greater good because I love the Lord. And all He asked of me in exchange for these blessings, and for a blessed and abundant life, and for everlasting and eternal life, is just to believe in Him.
Your life begins with belief. There are no list of rights and wrongs – just simple belief. Do you believe that Jesus is the only begotten son of God? Do you believe that He was born of a virgin? Do you believe that He died on the cross for the transgression of our sins? Do you believe that He was raised again on the third day so that we could have life everlasting? Do you believe in Life?
p.s. Do you want to know why Jesus is called the “only begotten son of God” if He was God? Email me and ask… I’ll tell you why.