Observations and Affirmations #6

Observation: The biblical truth that there is new life (now) for all who are in Christ is not only not getting out, but is, in fact, also being stifled by those who do not want this biblical truth and reality proclaimed.

Scripture and personal experience are clear: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV; cf. Romans 6:4, 12:2; Ezra 9:8; Ezekiel 20:21) Jesus changes our heart and our behaviour to conform to His likeness — and it matters not where we start from. Therefore, everyone who seeks this change that the Holy Spirit brings must be made welcome in our churches. Through Christ, many people have been set free from homosexual practice, heterosexual infidelity, sexual and identity confusion, and all manner of besetting sin. The Bible teaches us and experience shows us that change is possible.

The Jericho prostitute, Rahab, was willing to risk this change, and so, in Matthew 1:5, she is numbered as an ancestor of Jesus. Peter, who professed Jesus as Messiah at Caesarea Philippi, but later denied Him three times, was transformed by Jesus' resurrection and His forgiveness. Jesus takes us, like that fisherman, as He finds us, but if we fearlessly seek Him, we are never the same again. Consider the Israelites, who were once slaves in Egypt, repetitively making identical mud bricks. God led them out where the desert, His love, and His life-giving law could transform them into His own people. To illustrate this, Israel was instructed to make an altar to the Lord out of uncut stones. Why? Because unlike their former uniform bricks, they were going to be a people that God would shape Himself. The land of Canaan itself was also a starting point for Israel, but its people had either to be transformed, like Ruth the Moabite, or to be cleansed. On reading the Old Testament, one might easily conclude that prosperity, i.e. “milk and honey”, is what God wants for His people, but in the New Testament, we discover that it has been transformation all along. And so, the angel told Peter and John, “Go and stand in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new life.” (Acts 5:20 GNT) If we are willing to accept the implications of the whole of Scripture, then change becomes a necessity. Michael Horton echoes this thrust of Scripture: “When Christ is proclaimed in his saving office, the church becomes a theatre of death and resurrection” (Christless Christianity, p. 141) and we are never the same again.

So, the question must be asked: Are we merely self-identifying as Christians, when in reality we are unconfessed sceptics, measuring out just how much “believing” we will commit to? Like a cautious Christmas shopper, do we have a pre-set spending limit on our spiritual transformation? If we have never heard of, seen, or experienced the power to change that the Holy Spirit brings us, how would we know if everything in Scripture could be true — and also good for us? Dare we then “hold to the outward form of our religion but reject its real power”? (2 Timothy 3:5 GNT) Perhaps, we really don't know just how much Jesus loves us, and so, we opt for little from God's throne of grace. Israel often chose less than what God had for them. For example, the Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt where they had food in their bellies, but were slaves; Aaron chose a small gold bull as the god who led them out of Egypt; the kings of the north and south repeatedly chose Baal over Jehovah; the Pharisees chose law-keeping over the marvellous grace that Israel had always experienced; and the crowd shouted for Barabbas over their Messiah. Right now, there is a crowd in the PCC shouting for less than what God has for us. But how can we say that we love Jesus, who is Himself the Word of God (John 1:1), yet casually skip over, or intentionally ignore, pages in our Bible that are intended to bring us blessing and new life?

Andrew Lloyd Webber's song is so correct: “Love Changes Everything”. For one thing, love awakens love in return, and secondly, the person we love will bring change and new life to us. This is true also of God's love. But all change takes time. And so, it was necessary in Genesis that God create time, for as Hugh Ross wrote, “Without time, relationships are impossible.” (Why The Universe Is the Way It Is, p. 127) It therefore becomes imperative that we welcome into our churches all who desire the new life that a love for Jesus brings and be especially patient with those who struggle to find it.

To have the courage to “touch the edge of Jesus' cloak” (Mark 6:56 GNT) is sufficient. And then, it begins… .