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Monday, April 20, 2015

I've Been Made NEW!

Copyright April 13, 2015
Galatians 6:14-16

            My wife, Kelly, went shopping together last night.  I got a new pair of shoes and she got a new smart phone phone.  Her old iPhone finally bit the dust and wouldn't turn on anymore.  I'm so proud of her.  She finally ditched the iPhone and opted for the better android system with a brand new Samsung Galaxy s5!  So she's is learning how to use a new phone today and I'm wearing a new pair of shoes.
            There’s just something about getting something new.  Isn’t there?  Doesn’t it feel great to own a brand new smart phone or put on a new set of clothes?  And who wouldn’t love to sit behind the wheel of a brand new car? (You can even buy air fresheners scented with that “New Car” smell to trick into the good feelings that come from owning a new car.)  There’s just something great about new things.
            Of course, lately the thing that has been in vogue in home decor is the “distressed.”  Do you what this is?  It’s where you take a new piece of furniture and rough it up so it looks like it’s an old piece of furniture.  There are all kinds of pointers on how you can do this.  One method calls for you to use a chain to flog the wood until it is sufficiently “distressed.”  All this reminds me of a fashion trend for denim jeans when I was in high school.  It was the style to wear jeans with holes in them.  So some kids I knew would actually buy a new pair of jeans and cut holes in them.  Then they would wash over and over again to give them a worn appearance.  Clothing stores caught on pretty quick and soon were selling their own jeans that came already tattered.  Most parents were just dumbfounded with the whole thing! 
            But you know what I think’s really cool.  It’s when you take something old and make it new again.  There’s nothing like a classic car that’s been restored to be like new!  Or how about a piece of truly beautiful and interesting antique furniture?  I recently had the privilege of refinishing an old phonograph.  This is one of those old wind-up record players back from before they invented radios.  This particular phonograph was built in 1917 and has been in my family all my life.  It existed as a dilapidated piece of junk with chipped wood and broken parts. But it always fascinated me and I had the chance to bring it back to life.  Now it is NEW again and it is beautiful to me. 

            I think my love of making old things new springs from my understanding of what Christ has done for me.  You see, Jesus is making me NEW.  Ever since the day I gave my life to Christ, He has been renovating me.  He has been changing the old person that I was into the NEW person He wants me to be.  And that’s what I want to talk about with you today, because it is far more important than classic cars or old furniture.  I want to share how you can be made NEW. 
The Bible teaches that what marks a person as a Christian is they have been made NEW.  They have new desires.  They have a new way of thinking.  They have a new purpose in life.  And these changes are so real and dramatic in a person’s life, that the best way to describe them is to say, “They are a NEW person.”  Jesus even used the term “born again” as if to say the person they used to be was dead and they have been born again—a new person.
            Over the next few weeks, we will study what it means to be made NEW by God.  Let’s start today by looking at Galatians 6:14-16.

Galatians 6:14-16
14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.

Exegete the Passage
The Apostle Paul wrote these words to Christians living in a city called Galatia to bolster their faith in Christ.  Some false teachers were confusing them they by teaching the Galatians needed to believe in Christ and…  I.E. Believe in Christ and be circumcised.  Believe in Christ and follow the Jewish law… 
This is false because no external thing we do can save us.  It is only Christ who saves us and to tag on any additional stipulation as a requirement for God’s grace is an offence to the absolutely free gift of God’s grace.
The Galatian Christians were often persecuted for not being circumcised by both Jews and Romans.  You see, Roman authorities officially recognized and allowed for the practice of the Jewish religion; whereas, Christianity was not sanctioned and often severely persecuted.  Circumcision was the religious mark of a Jewish person.  Some thought that by being circumcised they might fall under the Jewish umbrella and thus be protected from persecution from both Jews and Romans.  Couldn’t these Christians just go along with the crowd, be circumcised and keep being good Jews?
We face similar temptations in our own time.  Though we aren’t pressured to be circumcised, we are pressured to be like everybody else around us.  Most non-Christians will tolerate Christians so long as we don’t cause a fuss (as long as we remain pretty much like them).  But if we really become a NEW person and take a stand on something that is contrary to popular opinion, we face ridicule and ostracizing.  For instance: we do not support gay marriage because it is clearly contrary to biblical teaching.  However, popular opinion disagrees with biblical teaching.  An active, growing, and vocal majority in our country advocate for gay marriage.  And when Christians refuse to go along, when we stand on solid biblical teaching, we are ridiculed, ostracized, and possibly even penalized.  There is a great temptation among many Christians to avoid all that and just “go along with the crowd.”
Paul says, “No!  All you need is to believe in Christ.  All the other stuff doesn’t matter.  Religious ceremonies can’t save you.  The approval of others can’t save you.  All that really matters is that you believe in Christ.  For when you do, you will be transformed into a new creation.”  The key verse for us is - 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.
A NEW Allegiance
When you truly believe in Christ, it means you have chosen to follow Him.  You have become His disciple.  Disciples forsake everything else and choose to follow their master.  You think about the Disciples we read about in the New Testament.  They left their homes, their jobs, their families, everything to follow Jesus.  And Jesus transformed them into new people. 
In the same way, when we chose to follow Jesus, we put Him and His teaching above all else in our lives.  Jesus said, If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26).  Jesus is not advocating a life of hate--especially for your family.  The point is:  Our love and devotion for Jesus must be so strong, so committed, that it surpasses all our other commitments.  It means, that we will always choose to follow Christ even at the expense of these other natural, familial obligations. And the truth is, when you give your heart to Christ, you will actually become a better father, mother, husband, wife, son or daughter or friend.  You will become a better person, because when you choose to believe and follow Christ, he transforms you into a New Person. 
A NEW Creation
            What does it mean to be made NEW?  I will be talking about this over the next few weeks in worship.  But let me just give you a summary today.  When Jesus makes you NEW, it  means you will have a heart.  Your desires will change.  The sinful, selfish things you used to desire, will be replaced by things that are good, wholesome, and fulfilling.  You will find peace because your heart will desire things that are good for you, things you were originally designed to have.  And God will give you the desires of your heart and you will be fulfilled.
            When Jesus makes you NEW, He will give you a NEW mind.  He will help you a new way of thinking where you see yourself and others as He sees you—as the beautiful, unique, wonderful masterpieces He created.  Instead of seeing your flaws and weaknesses as mistakes, you will start to see them that God has transformed them into your greatest attributes--for in your weakness His glory shines through most clearly.  False pride will disappear and be replaced by a true knowledge of who you are and who you belong to.  You will find the confidence that comes from being a child of God.
            When Jesus makes you NEW, He will give you a NEW purpose.  Jesus will give direction to your life.  You will find a true sense of purpose, knowing that your life matters.  You will no longer chase after meaning in your days—jumping from one cause to another, and losing your identity every time your life’s purpose changes.  You will have an eternal purpose that transcends your age, gender, where you live, or your station in life.  It will be a purpose that brings everlasting rewards you will celebrate for all eternity.
            Lastly, when Jesus makes you NEW, He will give you a NEW eternal destination.  You see, those who have not been made NEW are dying.  They are headed down a road to destruction.  Their destination is eternal separation from God, the source of life.  It is a Hell of eternal torment, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  But those believe in Christ, whom Christ makes NEW, have a NEW destination.  They will have eternal life in heaven with God and all His saints.  It is a glorious place of eternal joy where there will be no more sickness or sadness or death.  All the injustices of this world along with the worries and suffering and evil will be swallowed up and forgotten forever in the wondrous glory of God.           

            If you would like to experience all these good things, why don’t you decide to follow Christ today?  Don’t cling to your old life any longer.  Let go of the past and embrace the glorious NEW future Jesus wants you to have.  Pray to Jesus and ask to be His disciple today and He will make you NEW. 

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