One of my all-time favorite jokes is about the guy who was applying for a truck driver’s job. As part of the oral exam to pass the driving test, the instructor said, “Let’s say you and your sidekick Bob are going down a steep hill and all of a sudden your brakes go out, and at the bottom of the steep incline is a train stalled on the tracks. What would you do?”
The applicant replied, “I’d wake Bob up!”
Puzzled by his response, the instructor asked, “Why would you wake up Bob?”
“Well, me and Bob have traveled a lot of miles together and we have seen a lot of pretty spectacular wrecks, but Bob ain’t never seen a wreck like the wreck that’s going to happen at the bottom of the hill!”
This fallen, broken world we live in is a lot like a runaway truck without brakes—on its way to sure destruction. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be caught sleeping in the passenger seat of that truck!
Thankfully, Paul makes it very clear that Jesus provided a way of escape from this fallen, destined-for-destruction world order. When he told the Corinthian believers in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that old things are passed away, he was talking about the old world order that is headed for judgment. And Paul uses the past tense to assure us that the certain doom is already accomplished. Thankfully, Jesus has already paid the price to avert our riding this world’s 18-wheeler to disaster. It is historical fact, already accomplished for those who are in Christ.
What that means for those of us who are in Christ is that we are no longer in the death grip of the “old things”: All the dark seductions of our fallen world. All the lying and deceit. All the over-the-line sensuality and immorality. All the damage and despair caused by slavery to sin. This is all the old, outdated stuff that is marked for judgment and extinction.
Instead, we as His followers are part of a “new creation.” When Paul proclaimed the good news that “the new has come,” he used the perfect tense of the Greek language, indicating a past action with continuing results. In other words, there are ongoing ramifications of Jesus’ past action to save us. In the perfect tense, His past action is intended to continue to produce results; results that reflect the new order of a life in the grip of Jesus’ love. New stuff like honesty, purity, forgiveness, generosity, servanthood, faithfulness, and compassion for those who are sleeping in the passenger seat of the runaway truck. His process of making us into a new creation is ongoing, anchored in the historical bedrock of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. That means that we as His followers are, in a sense, a “work in progress” looking more and more like His new creation all the time.
At the start of this new year, it’s a good time to ask if your life looks more like the old or more like the new. As a “new creation” in Jesus, what are the results in your life that clearly reflect His new way of living? Let’s wake up to the fact that we don’t belong to the darkness of this fallen world, and gladly embrace the new dynamics that God wants to create in our lives.
Live to make progress in the perfect tense of Christ’s finished work and make it a New Year that will be a lot more like the new and a lot less like the old.
- Can you say with confidence that you are you a new creation?
- What are some “old things” that still attract you to this fallen world? Confide in a friend who can help you take steps to avoid those pitfalls and can help you to keep on track with living in the perfect tense as a new creation.
- We are “works in progress.” If you were to receive a Progress Report, what would it say? Ask God to show you what results He has produced in your life and what things need some attention, and then ask Him to develop those things in your life this year.
To refuse to be continuously converted puts a stumbling block in the growth of our spiritual life. There are areas of self-will in our lives where our pride pours contempt on the throne of God and says, “I won’t submit.” We deify our independence and self-will and call them by the wrong name. What God sees as stubborn weakness, we call strength. There are whole areas of our lives that have not yet been brought into submission, and this can only be done by this continuous conversion. Slowly but surely we can claim the whole territory for the Spirit of God.
This week’s Torah portion began with Jacob on his deathbed, giving his last words to his sons. This week’s Haftorah begins with King David on his deathbed, giving his last words to his son, Solomon. Interestingly, both men began their ‘last will and testament’ the very same way.
Jacob said, “I am about to be gathered to my people” (Genesis 49:29). David said, “I am about to go the way of all the earth.”In both cases, the children gathered already knew that their father was dying. These words were not intended to be informational; they were meant to be inspirational.
To a child, it seems that life can go on forever. As we get older, we start to understand that at some point, it will end. As we continue to age we start to realize that the end may be closer than we think. And then, if we are lucky enough to get that far, we realize that our end is fast approaching. Our own mortality is a sobering thought, but it is also an empowering one.
In the book of Psalms, King David writes, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). David asked God to help him understand how short life was so that he would have the wisdom regarding how to live each day. He understood that many of the mistakes we make in our lives come about because we don’t appreciate how frail and brief life really is. If we did, we would cherish every moment and make every minute count. Knowing that we will die instructs us on how to live!
This is why both Jacob and David chose to begin their final message to their children with a lesson about death. They said, “I am going to die.” The unwritten meaning is “and one day, you will too.” It was their deepest hope that this message would resonate with their offspring and the deaths of the fathers would inspire the lives of their sons.
We can learn from them, too. From Jacob and David we can learn to value every moment of our lives and not take even one second for granted. We need to see our days and years as opportunities for greatness. They are ours to take advantage of, or heaven forbid, to waste.
|… needed more than ever|
|A couple of close friends of this ministry have recently said to me: “This ministry is needed more than ever.” If you think so too, I urge you to do what others are pledging to do – increase their giving for the coming year and help us with as generous a gift as possible at the close of this year.
As we come to the close of another year, we recognize perhaps more than ever that our beloved America is struggling on many different fronts. Our embattlement and decline has been brought about not so much from enemies without, but from our rapid spiritual and moral decline within.
First a few of my personal accounts.
Afterward, Samson fell in love with a woman in the valley of Sorek, named Delilah. Then the rulers of the Philistines came to her and said, “Find out by teasing him how it is that his strength is so great and how we may overpower and bind him that we may torture him. Then we will each one of us give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.” So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me how it is that your strength is so great and how you might be bound to torture you?” Samson said to her, “If they should bind me with seven green bowstrings which have not been dried, I would become weak like any other man.”
Then the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven green bowstrings which had not been dried, and she bound him with them. She had the men lying in wait in the inner room, but when she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” he snapped the bowstrings as a piece of yarn is snapped when it comes near the fire; so they did not find out the secret of his strength.
Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have deceived me and lied to me; now tell me with what you can be bound fast.” He said to her, “If they should bind me securely with new ropes with which no work has been done, I would become weak like any other man.” So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” Men were also lying in wait in the inner room; but he snapped the ropes from his arms like thread.
Again Delilah said to Samson, “So far you have deceived me and lied to me; tell me now with what you can be bound fast.” He said to her, “If you should weave the seven braids on my head along with the web and beat it into form with the weaving pin, I would become weak like any other man.” So while he was asleep, she took the seven braids of his hair and wove it with the web and beat it into form with the pin, and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke out of his sleep and pulled up the loom and the web.
Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you do not trust me? You have deceived me three times already and have not told me the secret of your great strength.” But in time, since she daily begged and urged him, he was wearied to death, and told her all that he knew, saying, “A razor has never touched my head; for I have belonged to God from my birth. If I should be shaved, my strength would be gone, and I would become weak like any other man.”
When Delilah saw that he had told her all that he knew, she sent and called for the rulers of the Philistines and said, “Come at once, for he has told me all that he knows.” Then the rulers of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money with them. After she had put Samson to sleep on her knees, she called for a man and had him shave off the seven braids on his head. Then she began to tease him, and his strength went from him; and she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke out of his sleep and thought, “I will get up as I have done at other times and shake myself free”; for he did not know that Jehovah had left him. So the Philistines seized him and bored out his eyes. Then they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with chains of brass, and then he was set to grinding in the prison. But the hair of his head began to grow again as soon as he was shaved.
Then the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon and to rejoice, for they said, “Our god has given Samson, our enemy, into our power.” When the people saw him, they also praised their god, saying:
“Our god has laid low our foe,
He who brought our country woe,
He who slew us with many a blow.”
When they were in high spirits, they said, “Call Samson that he may amuse us.” So they called Samson from the prison and he amused them; and they placed him between the pillars.
Then Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me touch the pillars on which the building rests, that I may lean against them.” Now the building was full of men and women, and all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof about three thousand men and women were looking on while Samson amused them. Samson called on Jehovah and said, “O Jehovah, remember me and strengthen me, I pray thee, just this once, O God, that by one act I may avenge myself on the Philistines for the loss of my two eyes.”
Then Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the building rested, one with his right hand and the other with his left, and leaned against them. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bent over with all his strength, and the house fell upon the rulers and upon all the people who were in it. So those whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed during his lifetime.
THE margin suggests that the thought of giving for God‘s house would ascend in a man’s heart, till it became the royal and predominant thought, swaying the whole man to obedience. It is a beautiful conception!
For the reconstruction of the Temple there were two classes of revenue: the tribute money which each Israelite was bound to give, and the money which a man might feel prompted to give. Surely the latter was the more precious in the eye of God.
Does it ever come into your heart to bring some money into the house of God? Perhaps the sug gestion comes, but you put it away, and refuse to consider it. The thought begins to ascend in your heart, but you thrust it down and back, saying, Why should I part with what has cost me so much to get! Beware of stifling these generous promptings. To yield to them would bring untold blessing into heart and life. Besides, the money is only yours as a stewardship; and the thought to give it to God is only the Master‘s request for his own.
The great mistake with us all is, that we do not hold all our property at God’s disposal, seeking his directions for its administration; and that we forget how freely we have received that we may resemble our Father in heaven, and freely give. Too many, alas! are anxious to hoard up and keep for themselves that which God has given them, instead of counting themselves and all they have as purchased property, and using all things as his representatives and trustees. Let us make a complete surrender to our Lord, and from the heart sing,
“Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.