Thursday, January 14, 2016

A New Lump

     When my nephews and nieces were young they used to come and spend the summers with me. They would travel from Iowa and South Carolina to our home in North Carolina. For a few weeks every summer I would have a houseful of kids, ranging from 5 years old to 15 years old. It was not just my kids and their cousins, it would also be my children's friends, who also would stay for days on end until their parents made them go home. Needless to say my summers used to be full of trying to find ways for everyone to stay busy, trying to keep the boys from picking on the girls and the girls from screaming through the house because the boys were picking on them! It was a challenge, but I would do it all over again! 
Two creations made that day. 
     One year I had somehow acquired a block of clay. I don't remember where I got it from, but I decided to give it a go and have a craft day with the kids. I laid out all the newspaper, prepared all the paints and tools they would need to make a creation all of their own. At first the boys were not enthused about having a craft day but when I pulled out the big block of clay you could see the curiosity lighting up their eyes. I took the block of clay and I cut off a piece for everyone. I watched and supervised as each one of them began to mold and shape their piece of clay into something of their imagination. I helped them as they needed it, but each one created something of their own. We sat there for hours. We were so proud of their creations when we were finished, so proud in fact that to this day I still have a few of their masterpieces sitting around my kitchen.
     Remembering this time with the kids made me think about my own spiritual life and how I too am a lump of clay being formed and created by the Master Potter Himself. In fact, every single Christian is a lump of clay being molded and shaped into a vessel for our Lord to display for His glory.
"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Galatians 2:20 ESV
     I didn't understand what this scripture had to do with being a lump of clay either until the Lord took me on a little journey through His word today. I thought I understood what it meant to be crucified with Christ, I thought I understood what it meant to be a new creation, but now I see that I was causing myself to stumble because I didn't understand it at all.
     Paul writes to us in Galatians 2 about how he and Peter had a little altercation. Peter was eating bacon and frying up pork chops in a cast iron pan when he was around the Gentiles, (my interpretation of what was happening) but when his Jewish peers would come from Jerusalem, he would refrain and act like he was keeping the law, when in fact he wasn't. This got to Paul and he said something. He basically advised Peter and all of us that if we are going to be a certain way at home, then we need to be that way around others as well. Don't go being all holy at church and then be all unholy at home. Be consistent in who we are, because we are all new creations.
"yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law because by works of the law no one will be justified." Galatians 2:16

     I can do nothing to be right with God. Even before Christ came it was impossible for anyone to keep the law. Because, either in our hearts, our words or our deeds at some point in the day we would fail to keep any one of the Ten Commandments. Even then there was no way we could be right with God. So God, in His infinite love and desire to be in relationship with His creation came and fulfilled the law and all the commandments that were against us so that we could be in right standing with Him again. He put right in His flesh what we could not put right in ours. (Colossians 2:13-14) Our works now are to believe in Jesus Christ, and that He did everything for us and took upon Himself all the punishment and the requirements of the Law so we don't have to. That's it, that's all we have to do to be right with God- we just have to believe. (It really is that simple!)
      Jesus made us right with God because we never could be right any other way. So does that mean we will never sin again? No, in fact, there is a 100% chance that you are going to sin today. As long as we are in these bodies of flesh we will sin. But, we no longer have to be under the control of that sin. Before Christ we were servants to our sins. We followed wherever our hearts led us. We could not help ourselves and we hastened after the lust of our eyes, the lust of our flesh and the pride of life. (1 John 2:16) We were slaves to it. But then Christ came and we believed in His death and His victory over sin and we no longer had a desire to chase after those sins anymore. That hindrance, the law and commandments that were written, kept us separated from God because we are sinners and God is holy. But now, through Jesus Christ that hindrance, that wall that separated us from our Holy God, is gone and we can freely follow after Christ. If we try to live our lives in accordance with the law we are placing a stumbling block in our own way. Why would God, after fulfilling the whole law and taking all the punishment of breaking the law, why would He take that upon Himself and then turn around and require us to do the same? It is finished means exactly that- it is finished. (John 19:30) We are walking in vain if we are trying to keep the law and the commandments.
     The law showed me that I was a sinner and needed saving. It showed me that no matter what I do or what I say I can never, on my own, be right with God. It is only through Jesus Christ and His completed work upon the cross that I am justified, that I am made right with God the Father and brought into right standing with Him.
"But if I endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:17-20

    2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore, if any is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come." You are not a re-created being. You are a completely new creation being formed and molded all over again. We haven't been bandaged up, and made to look like we are perfect. All that was marred in us is gone and we are a new lump. You have been reborn, not reformed.
     Who you were before Christ is dead, why are you still allowing that person to occupy your mind, your thoughts and control your will? I like the way Thayer's Greek Lexicon explains it; "the death of Christ upon the cross has wrought the extinction of our former corruption, by the death of Christ upon the cross I have become utterly estranged from my former habit of feeling and action." (Thayer's Greek Lexicon)
 Paul says that he has been crucified with Christ. Paul has believed in faith that Christ has died and the man that Paul used to be died with Him. Paul sees himself as dead, hanging on that cross with Jesus. Not just his sins, but who he was. Remember what Paul wrote in
     Who you used to be is dead, laid in the tomb with Christ. He did not stay in that grave, and neither did you. You were risen with Christ into new life. The life that you now live is not yours, it is His. Who I was is not who I am today, and prayerfully, who I am today is not who I will be tomorrow. I am a lump of clay that has been justified by faith. There is nothing I can do to make this pot into something of value. I am completely in the control of the Potter. He is molding this life, and even though I am living it, He is the one who is forming it, spinning it and making it into a vessel for His glory, to be displayed for His purposes and His enjoyment. Because I was unable to make the first pot worthy of His use, He brought Christ into my life and took this old lump away, making out of Him, something new.
     I think we stumble in our faith sometimes because we forget we are new lumps of clay, not old lumps being reformed, but new lumps being transformed. Christ is our block of clay. Just like that block of clay I had that day for the kids was a perfect block of clay, we too have been taken from a perfect block too. That block I had was solid, had no impurities and was perfectly formed. The pieces that I gave the kids that day came from that perfect block of clay. God has not taken your old lump and bandaged it up. He has instead gotten rid of the old you and cut you from an entirely new block that is perfect and free of any impurities. The life we now live is not a life reshaped out of the old, it is a life transformed from the new. We have to stop living our lives as if we have been reformed and start living our lives as transformed.
     The old is gone my friend, so why are you still chasing after it? The new has come, embrace the hands of your Potter and rejoice that what you are made of now came from the Perfect and Pure block of Jesus Christ. You were not cut from the old, you were cut from the new. Live like it. Amen?