Monday, 13 January 2014

What does it take to be a Christian in 2014?

We're in our third week of 2014 and I wonder how many people have already broken their new year's resolution?

Resolutions are like that aren't they? We make them with a stern determination, but in truth it is really a whimsical commitment that doesn't take long to wane.

So if we approach the Christian life with the attitude of being resolute to be different, then our Christian life will falter as quickly as that 'not-eating-chocolate' resolution made on December 31st.  So true Christianity then is not a resolution.  If not, then what is it?  What makes it something that can never fade away, can never be renounced and will always be part of our very identity?

The answer is, because Christianity is all about a completely new life.

The old one is gone - that simple, gone! A new life has begun, that doesn't need resolutions to do things better, because it is founded in the One who made all things new.  Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, lives in the new life of a believer... that cannot be renounced, that cannot be ignored and the Holy Spirit does not fade away.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
~John 3:1-6, ESV
Entering the kingdom of God is this new life we have mentioned.  Once we enter that kingdom then we are not subject to the ways of the old kingdom of the world where we were born. In some sense Christians have a foot in each kingdom as they still have to live in the world, but their heart (their soul, their very self) is a resident in God's kingdom.  This comes from being born again... being born is a very definitive moment - your first birth is probably the most definitive moment of your life (where would you be if that never happened???).  A second birth would be equally definitive because it means you have entered a completely different life.  Being born of the Spirit means we now live with Jesus in us, His life gives us life, His love encourages and strengthens us, His grace has saved us from our sin and we can look forward to eternal life.
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
~John 3:9-15, ESV
It is hard for us to understand - because the truth is, we only really know that which we have experienced. I can't tell you the intimate details of the experience of skydiving, because I have never actually experienced jumping out of a plane, but I can listen to someone who has skydived, and learn all about what it feels like and how it works through their knowledge.  Jesus is God.  Jesus is eternal and yet He came from the kingdom of God to tell us about it.  He has experienced it, so we can learn about it from Him, even if we don't totally understand it.

To explain Jesus uses the story of Moses and the bronze serpent.  At the time the Israelites had disobeyed God and he had sent a curse of poisonous snakes into their camp.  People were being bitten and were dying, but Moses fashioned a bronze snake and held it up on a pole.  Anyone who turned their eyes to that snake, lifting their eyes from the life around them and focusing on something completely different, were not bitten and were saved.  Jesus points to his own sacrifice, that He will be lifted on a cross. His suffering though will pave the way for forgiveness so that anyone who lifts their eyes off their own life and turns them to Jesus lifted on the cross will be saved from the results of that old life.  The result is that those lifting their eyes to the cross will be born again by the Spirit into a new life, into the kingdom of God and will live forever, always with a faith placed inside them by God Himself.

So in 2014 how do you live as a Christian? The same as always, but maybe we just need to stop resoluting to be better, and actually experience new life.


David R said...

Good one Deano......make it less about the resolution and more about the relationship.

Deano said...

actually i'd say we even mushy up with the relationship analogy these days too - it's about transformation. Faith in Jesus transforms us into something completely new. It's only once we are transformed that we have peace with God (Romans 5) and then with that peace there is relationship.

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