When Does It End?

In the last couple of weeks…

  • Two family members have undergone surgery.
  • A couple of close friends have learned that they are facing medical tests which could lead to life-changing or life-threatening diagnoses.
  • A family member has been harassed to the point of requiring police involvement.
  • Another family member has been defrauded by someone close to them and is facing difficult decisions about how to handle it.
  • Another family member is dealing with physical pain that cannot be helped medically.
  • A couple of close friends are dealing with adult children who are making unhealthy and unsafe relationship choices.
  • A couple of friends are dealing with the possibility of imploding marriages.

And those are just the tip of the iceberg.  Those are just some of the issues in my immediate circles of family and friends.  There are a ton more.  And that doesn’t even touch on things like the deepening divisions in our nation, the threat of war with North Korea, and a hundred other disturbing news items that I could highlight.

Where does it all end?  When does it end?  It feels like one one thing right after another, like one thing gets dealt with and before it’s even completely dealt with, another thing is popping up.  It’s like life has become a giant, losing game of Whack-A-Mole.

How do you deal with all of that without becoming cynical, fearful, anxious, depressed – without just throwing up your hands and giving up?

Hope.  We have to have hope, despite all that is happening around us.

And what reason could there be for hope?

Jesus.  And…Jesus’ promise:

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”  Matthew 19:28-29 (NIV)

Did you catch that?  At the renewal of all things.

Plant

The way things are now is NOT the way that they will always be.

The way your life is now is NOT the way that it will always be.

One day, all things will be renewed.  Re-made.  Re-created, as some Bible translations put it.

All things restored, put back as they were originally created and intended.

I know, it sounds too good to be true.

And there’s so much more there – so much deeper that we could dig into this.  But that’s beyond the scope of one short blog entry.

For today, it is enough to remember that there is hope.  That a day is coming – a day that Jesus called the “renewal of all things.”  On that day, He will fulfill what God promised in Revelation 21:3-5 (NIV):  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”  Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

The Old Self vs. The New Self

The Apostle Paul was a master theologian.  A self-described “Pharisee among Pharisees”, he knew the Law inside and out.  As a converted follower of Jesus, he was an extraordinary apologist for the Christian faith, a missionary who traveled extensively and planted churches in numerous cities, and an author who is responsible for over half the books in the New Testament.  An impressive resumé, to be sure!

So it makes sense that as we focus this week on the transformation (that’s sanctification, for those of you who are theologians) that occurs when we follow Jesus, we would turn to Paul for some clarification on what it looks like, how it happens, how to cooperate with God in the process, etc.

Our passage for today is one where Paul deals with this issue of transformation in particular:

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as  the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life  of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening  of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over  to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.  That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  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.  Ephesians 4:17-24 (NIV)

Here are a few significant concepts that Paul touches on:

  • We are to put off our old self – there comes a point in our lives where we recognize that to follow Jesus means that we have to make some changes in our lives.  Some of the things that were once habits and part of our lives are no longer acceptable nor desirable to have in our lives if we want to follow Jesus.  And so, we have to make some conscious choices – as we align our values with those of Jesus, we also begin to align our thinking with His way of thinking, our acting with His way of acting, etc.
  • We are to be made new in the attitude of our minds – an important part of this transformation is that our thinking changes.  When we change the way we think and the things that we believe, our actions begin to follow.  This is an important part of repentance.  Repentance means to change our direction, to turn around – to turn from selfishness and sin and to turn our lives in the direction of Jesus.  But it also means to change the way that we think.  We once thought of ourselves as the center of our universe; now we think of Jesus as the center of our lives.  We once thought about what would make us happy, soothe our pain, help us feel good – now we think about what would please and honor Jesus.  We once thought selfishly; now, we are not to think of ourselves first above others, but to consider the needs of others above ourselves.  And this is both a deliberate choice of what we think and how we think – and also, a process of God changing how we think (Him “making us new” in the attitude of our minds, by the power and presence of His Holy Spirit within us.)
  • We are to put on our new self – in other words, every day, and throughout every day, we are to remind ourselves that we are not our old self.  Like a new suit, we are to “put on” our new self – we are to consciously choose to remember and to remind ourselves throughout each day that we are a new person, a person who is created to be like God – like Jesus – in true righteousness and holiness.  True righteousness and holiness is not outward appearances and observances (like the Pharisees), but righteousness and holiness in our heart – by faith, a heart that is directed towards God in all we say, think, and do; a heart that is unselfish; a heart that is grateful for grace and forgiveness and for the fact that I don’t have to do anything but rest in who God says I am and in who God is transforming me to be.  Holiness sounds like a lot of hard work – but it really is resting in what God is doing within me, and cooperating with Him in that process by obeying Him as He speaks to me through His Word, by His Spirit, and through situations and circumstances all around me.

Wow!  That’s some heavy theology to try to cram into a short blog, and it’s some heavy theology to begin our day with.  So what do we do with that?

Let me make a simple suggestion.

Let’s pray this prayer together this morning, as our day begins:

Father God, help me to live my life today in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  By faith, right now, I put off my old self and I put on my new self.  Father, today, continue to make me new in the attitude of my mind.  Thank You that I am a new person, created to be like You in true righteousness and holiness.  Help me, by the Power and Presence of Your Holy Spirit within me right now, to make choices today reflecting and honoring You, choices made according to my new self and not my old self.  Thank You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

And let’s pray this prayer at lunch time today.  And then again in the evening.

Then watch what God does in answer to our prayers!

Who knows what God will do!