Christianity 201

January 25, 2022

To Make Up His Jewels

When I was a kid in Sunday School, we sang a little chorus, complete with King James era lyrics:

When He cometh, when He cometh
To make up His jewels,
All His jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own:

Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.

I had forgotten all about this song until I found the devotional which appears below. It’s based on older versions (KJV and NKJV) of Malachi 3:17a. Here’s the NASB:

“‘And they will be Mine,’ says the LORD of armies, ‘on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will have compassion for them just as a man has compassion for his own son who serves him.'”

I went to for some commentary, but was especially struck by this summary statement of chapters 3 and 4:

The final message, completed in chapter 4, is an appeal for God’s chosen people to return. God would prefer to see them redeemed, than to be destroyed, when the end finally comes. (emphasis added)

Remember that, as I believe verse 17 is a microcosm of both chapters, as fleshed out in today’s devotional.

We periodically pay a visit to the devotional page at the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s website. Click the title below to read at source. The author of this piece is Martin Wiles.

Junking For Jewels

Romans 8:29For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (NLT)

Jewels can sometimes be found among the junk.

My wife calls it “junking”, and she does it quite often. When possible, I usually tag along. We don’t actually visit junkyards or stores, but we call what we do junking because we do it among a lot of discarded stuff — stuff that many term junk. However, we adhere to the old cliché, “One’s man trash is another man’s treasure.”

Our junking takes place occasionally at yard sales, but more often in thrift stores. Any time when we go to a conference or on vacation, she searches for thrift stores, maps them out, and visits each one. Once our jewels are discovered, we take them home and make them look more like the treasures they once were. We place them in the dishwasher or washing machine, splatter them with lemon oil, or tighten their loose joints with a screwdriver or hammer.

Once our jewels are cleaned and repaired, we decide. Some we choose to keep in our home. Most we resell, sometimes for a handsome profit. One person’s junk has helped us to make ends meet.

When God gazes down from heaven, He sees discarded people littering the shelves of the earth — people whom others have rejected, abused, and scorned. These are people whom He created and loves, but many of them have rejected Him. Sin has duped them, causing them to think that they no longer need God in their lives. Sin has led them in directions that are slowly killing them emotionally, spiritually, and physically. But God keeps junking.

Those who allow God to purchase them through repentance, forgiveness, and salvation, He cleans up. The blood of Christ washes them, the grace of God changes their perceived purpose, and the strength of God allows them to enjoy life once again. As God molds them into the likeness of His Son, they are transformed from junk into jewels.

Malachi 3:17a“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels.” (NKJV)

God is in the business of making jewels of what many consider junk. Are you one of the ones whom He’s cleaning up and restoring?

Prayer: Father, thank You for Your amazing grace that makes us more than we could ever be in and of ourselves. Amen.

Here’s the second of the three verses of When He Cometh at

He will gather, He will gather
The gems for His kingdom;
All the pure ones, all the bright ones,
His loved and His own.

Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.

December 7, 2018

What You Take In and What You Get Rid Of

NLT I Peter 2:1 So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech.Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment,3 now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

It’s been six months, and today we’re back at the website Live as If. (Part of

Today’s writer is Sandy Shaw. See below for his biography, and click the title which follows to read at source.

Keep One End Full and the Other Empty!

When we were ‘born again’ and came to believe in Jesus Christ and then learned that it was Jesus Christ Who took the initiative and called and chose us, we have that desire and motivation to serve loyally and lovingly and faithfully.

But even after receiving this wonderful new life – old habits can hang around.

Even as disciples of Jesus we are aware that old habits seem to cling to us – and we wonder if we will ever be rid of some of them. They can appear to have such a hold.

That is why Peter says – Now make the effort to get rid of certain things.

The new life will never die – but the old ways have to die.

We are in the concluding verses of I Peter Chapter 1.

When you are born again a seed is planted in us – verse 23 – the word used is “sperm” or “spore”. God planted His Sperm in us – it sounds very physical as well as spiritual – and it is – because just like a baby that seed has to grow, and develop and mature.

We are born again and after we have lived a number of years, we can discover that some habits and traits can be difficult to break.

It can be like men taking the hardest of granite.

In order to break that hard rock – they drill holes in it – a series of them – and then they break of pieces of a tree and place these pieces in each hole – and pour water in every day for two or three weeks. The cells of the wood grow – and the granite is split.

Life – new life – can crack and break that which is hard. The life of God in us and watered regularly through the Word and prayer and fellowship – can crack bad habits – and push other things out of the way – things that God does not want us to have in our lives.

We have to learn a new language as we speak to a new Father. We are a new baby growing – and we have to learn to walk and talk.

The physical life and spiritual life need the same kind of care.

One medical man said recently when asked by a new mother for one piece of advice as she was about to take the new five days old baby home – he said this – “Keep one end full and the other end empty and you won’t go far wrong”.

That is basically what Peter is saying here – Keep one part empty – and the other part full – and you disciples will not go far wrong.

Babies need washing and cleaning – and so do all growing Christians. As soon as the baby is born those present take away all the traces of that former existence in the womb. We too need to be washed and cleansed from our former existence – with all the traces being removed. That is why we have Baptism.

Peter mentions five things – which can cause spiritual disease if not dealt with. These five things can become a source of ill health.

1. Malice – that certainly can prevent or stunt or thwart your growth. Malice has been described as – a perverted joy in hurting someone else. Or it is a desire to bring a person down a peg or two. Peter says – now get rid of that.

2. Deceit – guile – being deceitful – being too clever by half. Peter says – now get all of that out of your life – have nothing to do with underhand methods – and don’t be a snake in the grass.

3. Hypocrisy – insincerity – play acting. Take off any mask – be real. Don’t be hiding behind some exterior – deal with that at the beginning of your Christian Life. Be what God would have you to be.

4. Envy – this was responsible for the first murder in history. Envy looks at someone and says – “They have more money than I have – they have more opportunities than me – they have more gifts than I have – they have more friends than I have. They have more – and I resent that!

Envy is a horrible thing – and Peter says don’t envy – get rid of all that. Get this side cleaned up – if you want to grow.

5. Slander of every kind – this can be so harmful if it is allowed to lurk around – gossip. It is like a beast of prey that does not wait for the death of the creature it devours.

These must be washed out of our lives – and then we are told to crave pure spiritual milk.

LUNGE at the very breast of God. We need more than just rooting out bad things – we need to be filled with good things.

Keep one end empty – and the other end full – and you won’t go far wrong as you follow Jesus Christ.

“Gracious God, help us to be rid of those things which should have no place in our lives. We find this difficult at times. Enable us to grasp the truth of your Word in this part of Scripture – and as we feed upon Your Word day by day, may we grow and develop and mature. Risen and living Jesus, help us. Holy Spirit, help us.” Amen.

– Sandy Shaw

Word from Scotland‘ Copyright 2018 © Sandy Shaw; used by permission.

More devotions like this at Live As If.

Alexander “Sandy” Shaw is pastor of Nairn Christian Fellowship in Nairn, Scotland. Nairn is 17 miles east of Inverness – on the Moray Firth Coast – not far from the Loch Ness Monster! Gifted as a Biblical teacher, Sandy is firmly committed to making sure that his teachings are firmly grounded in the Word. Sandy has a weekly radio talk which can be heard via the Internet on Saturday at 11:40am, New Orleans time, at

September 4, 2016

I Have Been Crucified with Christ

 by Russell Young

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20 NIV) A person’s understanding of this verse makes all the difference in his appreciation of the gospel.

Recently a well known television preacher stated that “having been crucified with Christ” means that in the mind of God our crucifixion has taken place.  That is, as far as God is concerned we are dead.  Accordingly, we can no longer sin and will not be held accountable for any sin.  Does this make Biblical sense and why would God entertain this perception?  He would have to accept something that has no basis in fact.  It is impossible to find any scriptural foundation for such thinking.

Crucified with ChristWhat does Paul mean?  The crucified person is dead! He has no life!  The result of crucifixion is end of physical life.  Paul’s teaching is that as far as he is concerned he has made the determination, by choice, to consider his physical body to be dead.  Such a death does not refer to a physical reality since Paul was still alive.  He had made the commitment to not allow his body to be his master, to not submit to its interests. The death to which he is referring is a matter of his will. After having reflected on the sin-producing power of the body, he had agonized, “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from the body of death [that brings about death]?  Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 7:24 NIV)  It was Christ who would rescue him.

The old life in the body or flesh is the cause of a person’s sinning.  He or she is constantly tempted to satisfy its demands. Unlawful appeasement of the flesh is sin and every person who walks this earth, starting with the family of God, will be accountable for the things done while in the body at judgment day. “For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one might receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor 5:10)

Paul’s teaching is that believers must consider or reckon themselves to have been crucified, or to have died to the body.  His statement was that he no longer lived, that he could no longer entertain the interests of the body, but that he was endeavouring to let Christ live in him.  Christ did not sin and if Christ is living in him, he will be victorious over sin.  To the Colossians Paul revealed that it is Christ in us who is our hope of glory. (Col 1:27) He also related that it is necessary to defeat the sinful nature which brings about death. “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom 8:13 NIV)

Paul also said that he now lived by faith in the Son of God.  To live by faith means that he had been persuaded of the life and ministry of Christ.  Since he has been so persuaded, he has abandoned his own life and has allowed Christ to live in and through him.

In another place Paul considered the issue of death and baptism. “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or, don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Rom 6:1-4 NIV) The new life about which he wrote is the life of righteousness experienced as Christ lives in us.

The baptism about which Paul spoke is symbolic of the believer’s death and resurrection.  This symbolism, representing a pledge to maintain a clean conscience (1 Peter 3:21) leading to the hope of resurrection with Christ needs to be more fully appreciated.  The person being baptized must know that he has considered and has acknowledged death to sin and self, and is making a pledge to that end.

If it was perceived by God that the confessor’s death had happened, as the preacher claimed, there would be no need for judgment and a sureness of the confessor’s resurrection would exist; however, even Paul attested to the fact that he wanted to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings so that “somehow” he might attain to the resurrection. (Phil 3:10-11) In spite of theological teaching to the contrary, Paul was not certain of his own eternal state. His physical life had not been completed so opportunity to entertain the interests of his natural spirit still existed.

In Romans Paul wrote of the need for the believer to share in Christ’s sufferings if he or she is to share in his glory and to become heirs with him. (Rom 8:17) The suffering to which he is referring has been revealed as the struggle to overcome temptation. “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:18 NIV) We are heirs with Christ as long as we suffer in the pursuit of victory over temptations- “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12 NIV)

Christ admonished his listeners of the need to carry their cross.  He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”(Mk 8:34 NIV) The cross is an instrument of death and the disciples’ death must be to self interest of all sorts, for victory over sin and for service for the kingdom. If the cross is being carried, it is readily available to crucify the body in one’s mind once more when it starts to resume its own life. If, “in God’s mind” he considers a person’s body to be dead, there would be no reason for the believer to carry his cross.

The implications of a person’s understanding of his or her crucifixion are serious and have eternal consequences.  Like Paul each of us is to consider that his body has been crucified if he or she is to avoid sin and by faith -persuasion- is to allow Christ to live through him or her.

January 12, 2016

Keeping Ties to Sin City

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:29 pm
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Saving Some Souvenirs from the Adventure

NLT Joshua 6:16b …Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the town! 17a Jericho and everything in it must be completely destroyed as an offering to the Lord

18 “Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on the camp of Israel.

Joshua 7:1a But Israel violated the instructions about the things set apart for the Lord. A man named Achan had stolen some of these dedicated things…

10 But the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this? 11 Israel has sinned and broken my covenant! They have stolen some of the things that I commanded must be set apart for me. And they have not only stolen them but have lied about it and hidden the things among their own belongings. 12 That is why the Israelites are running from their enemies in defeat. For now Israel itself has been set apart for destruction. I will not remain with you any longer unless you destroy the things among you that were set apart for destruction.

The following is from the website Fighting The Giants:

There are some things that never fail to happen in God’s working. Just as surely as fire burns, so sin has its consequences. Sin affects not only the one who sins, but others as well. We will see that in our story today. It is a very sad story about a man who tried to hide his sin.

Have you ever had a real sore thumb—you banged it with a hammer and it got all inflamed and red. Didn’t you hurt all over? You couldn’t forget the pain so much that your whole body was affected. All who belong to the Lord Jesus are part of one big family, and when one of us sins, we hurt the whole family. We dishonor the Lord and we hurt other Christians as well.

But in our story today we learn about a man who did not believe God’s way was best, so he disobeyed God’s commands. The Bible says “He that covers his sins will not prosper.” (This means that the one who hides his sin shall not prosper.) When we sin, we need to confess our sin to God. (This means we should agree with God that we have not obeyed and that we have done wrong, because God’s way is always the right way.) We need to be convinced that God’s plan is always best. We can never have a plan that is as good as His plan, and when we disobey God’s command, that is sin…

…God had commanded them to destroy the entire city because it was so sinful. God had told Joshua, and Joshua had told the people just what they were to do. The Lord told Joshua that when the Israelites conquered Jericho they were to burn everything in the city that belonged to the people of Jericho except the silver, gold, brass, and iron. These they were to bring to the House of the Lord. Joshua had carefully instructed his soldiers, and every man knew that these were the orders. Achan was a soldier who disobeyed the orders and hid a beautiful garment, and some silver and gold in his tent. Achan felt sure no one else would find out about this.

The website continues to tell — in a way that children can understand — how the story unraveled and the destruction that this one man’s sin brought upon the nation, and all this in the wake of such a dramatic victory at Jericho.

Enjoying a Last Look Before Leaving

NLT Genesis 19:12 Meanwhile, the angels questioned Lot. “Do you have any other relatives here in the city?” they asked. “Get them out of this place—your sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone else. 13 For we are about to destroy this city completely. The outcry against this place is so great it has reached the Lord, and he has sent us to destroy it.”

…15 At dawn the next morning the angels became insistent. “Hurry,” they said to Lot. “Take your wife and your two daughters who are here. Get out right now, or you will be swept away in the destruction of the city!”

16 When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the Lord was merciful. 17 When they were safely out of the city, one of the angels ordered, “Run for your lives! And don’t look back or stop anywhere in the valley! Escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away!”

…24 Then the Lord rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah. 25 He utterly destroyed them, along with the other cities and villages of the plain, wiping out all the people and every bit of vegetation. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt.

Some of the stories in the First Testament which many today have trouble accepting as factual (such as Jonah’s fish, or Lot’s wife) are the very ones affirmed by Jesus in the Second Testament. In one of the shortest verses in the Bible (just 3 words in many translations) we read:

Luke 17:32 Remember what happened to Lot’s wife!

From the website Walk by Faith:

Lot, being Abraham’s nephew and a Godly man who knew the Lord, saved his family from the coming destruction due to the intervention of Abraham. God had told Abraham if ten righteous men could be found in Sodom he would not destroy the city. God sent two angels to find out if ten righteous men could be found but they could find none. The angels had to physically take Lot, his wife and two daughters and lead them from the city the morning before destruction came to Sodom. They were told to go through the plains to the mountain and warned not to look back. Lot’s wife who had come to love the riches and things of the world lingered while her heart and desires continued to draw her attention back to Sodom. I don’t believe it was the act of looking back so much as the desire that was in her heart that betrayed her and she ended up paying the penalty for her desires.

Lot’s wife is a symbol of man today. We are aware of the right things to do and have been turned in the right direction of salvation but refuse to accept it because the desires of the heart are on worldly materialistic things not wanting to forsake them for the Godly things. Lot’s wife had a Godly husband, came from a Godly background and was privileged to be saved from the destruction of Sodom but chose in her heart to reject those things in favor of the wickedness life in Sodom had given her.

The Common Thread

Both of these accounts illustrate people wanting to hang on to a piece of something God would have us flee from. Maybe you can relate: An item of clothing or paraphernalia kept as a souvenir from an earlier phase of life; pictures of someone who was truthfully the other half of a destructive relationship; a bookmark in your computer that takes you to places online you should not be visiting.

After reminding us to consider Lot’s wife, Jesus says,

33 If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.

While the text doesn’t grant me this liberty, I’d like to suggest in context we read this today as, If you are holding on parts of a past life, you’re losing a part of life in the present; but if you let it go, you’re better off.

Are there things in a drawer in your room, in a box in the attic, in a storage bin in the garage that are part of a life you no longer live? Join the Apostle Paul in saying,

Phil 3:13b …I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead

We ran this song just a few weeks ago, but it seems appropriate to repeat it today

July 22, 2015

Ushered into The New

Today’s thoughts mark a second time appearance from Harvest House author Bob Christopher at the blog Basic Gospel. Click the title below to read at source.

Where Freedom Rings

Spiritual birth ushers us into the new. Paul made this point clearly:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Ready or not, the new is here.

• A new life – Romans 6:4.
• A new identity – John 1:12.
• A new self – Ephesians 4:24.
• A new heart – Ezekiel 36:26.
• A new covenant – Hebrews 9:15.
• A new command – John 13:34.
• A new way – Romans 7:6.

You might not know what this new life in Christ will look or feel like. And at first, it may feel a little awkward or strange. Like the Israelites, you may look back to your old life, especially when you feel down or blue, or when you are going through a tough circumstance. At those times, Satan will do his best to make you think your old life was pretty good. “Remember all the fun you had when you…?”

But as Peter wrote, “you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do, living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry” (1 Peter 4:3). It is time to let go of the old, to stop looking back, and to embrace the new.

There is nothing to fear. Jesus Christ is with you. He will never leave you. This means freedom for you, for “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). The “new” that Christ has for you is better than anything you could ever dream or imagine. And besides, you can’t go back. Once you are in the light, you can’t go back to darkness. Once you have been set free, you will never be a slave to sin and death again. Once you cross over from death to life, the only way is forward in the newness of life.

This is where freedom rings.

Excerpted from Simple Gospel, Simply Grace; Harvest House Publishers

March 13, 2015

Biblical Regeneration

I’ve been reading Arthur Sido for years, but other than one brief mention here 14 months ago, I see we have never included his writing here at Christianity 201. His blog is called The Voice of One Crying in Suburbia, and if you follow a number of online writers, I encourage you to bookmark it. Begin by clicking the title below to read today’s thoughts at source, and then look around at his other articles.

Regeneration Is Not An Attitude

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17)

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. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:1-8)

Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of salvation in the broader evangelical church, up and down the spectrum, is the simple truth that salvation is entirely a work of God. Every bit of it. Jesus didn’t die to make good men better or to create a potential, possible salvation maybe for anyone pious enough to grab it, a kind of faith meritocracy. Salvation is nothing less than a miracle, a greater miracle than parting the Red Sea or knocking down the walls of Jericho or Jesus walking on water, feeding the multitude or healing the sick and blind.

Instead of embracing the awesome and fearful image of a God who can and does save as He desires, we make salvation into a decision people make like deciding which house to buy or whether to go to Burger King or McDonalds. That decisional sovereignty might make sense if a right standing with God is predicated on your current attitude but that is not what Scripture teaches.

What troubles me about the language of “personal relationship with Jesus” and “Jesus wants a relationship not a religion” that is so in vogue in religious circles these days, other than the obvious issue of it not being anywhere in the Bible, is that it sidesteps the necessity of regeneration. There is no relationship with Christ apart from a supernatural act of regeneration and adoption. The “relationship” between an unregenerate man and God is one of an enemy and a criminal who will be held to account with no hope of acquittal. You can talk about your “personal relationship with Jesus” all you like but it is good for nothing more than making you look like a moral person in the eyes of your fellow man. It certainly changes nothing in your standing before God. Only being regenerate counts, only being born-again. That is why it is so maddening and inane when people talk about avowed unbelievers like Gandhi as if they are paragons of Christian virtues when the one thing that matters most in the Gospel was absent from their lives. They were never born again and therefore will not partake in life eternal. I have no problem with saying that Gandhi and anyone else who refuses to bow the knee to Christ in this life will face an eternal hell, one that is infinitely just. I take no pleasure in it but I would be ashamed to deny what Christ taught.

When a person is regenerated, it is not merely the taking on of a new attitude. A Christian who has been born-again is something completely new. He hasn’t merely changed his mind. He was dead and now he is alive again. He was an enemy of God, a child of wrath and now he is reconciled to God and a child of The Most High. One does not waffle back and forth like a particularly fickle adolescent girl, this day, this hour in love with God and saved and the next falling out of love and unsaved. Salvation is not a spectrum where you get to 50% +1 units of saved and you get in (unless you slide back to 50% – 1 right before  you die). It is all or nothing. You are born-again or you are not. If you are, you are in the Kingdom of God, adopted and justified. If you are not you will never see the Kingdom no matter how many good works and acts of religious piety you perform.

When the church that has a doctrine un-moored from the necessity of regeneration it ceases to be the church of Jesus Christ. It might be a swell place to hang out, it may feed lots of poor people, it might have a fat bank account but it is not the church, the both invisible and visible temporal embodiment of the Kingdom of God. We are in real danger of losing this most precious, most necessary doctrine of regeneration. If we do we have nothing to offer the world but our own piety and that will save no one from the judgment to come.

You must be born again.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

October 13, 2014

Being Made New, Both Now and in the Future

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Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
II Cor. 5:17 NIV

Today we feature Canadian author Jeff K. Clarke. You’re encouraged to click the title below to read this at source, and then, choose a category from the bar at the top and read some other articles.

Escaping Escapism – Pulling the Future Ideal of ‘New Creation’ into the Present

It was the apostle Paul who first introduced the New Testament idea of people being made new through the life-giving grace of Jesus Christ. In a number of his correspondences, he chose the phrase ‘new creation’ as a way to capture the essence of Christ’s saving vision for the world.

However, when people think about and attempt to explain what Paul meant by the term ‘new creation,’ the focus primarily centers on salvific concerns that highlight the effects of Christ’s work in us. That is, through Christ, we have been saved from God’s coming wrath and must respond by keeping ourselves pure in order to escape this final judgement.

Unfortunately, our reflections often end there, and as a result, we fail to comprehend the cosmic dimensions associated with the language of ‘new creation.’

The idea of ‘new creation,’ when used to describe followers of Christ, is a companion to the cosmic and futuristic ‘new creation’ promised by God. And, while it does have implications for the personal component inherent to salvation, its focus doesn’t end there. In fact, the personal is meant to be a precursor to and a reflection of the cosmic and fulfilled dimension of ‘new creation’ communicated throughout the biblical witness. Unfortunately, we normally embrace the personal dynamic, only to abandon the universal.

Embracing the cosmic focus of ‘new creation’, however, offers us a remedy to our traditional lack of concern – often displayed in much of contemporary evangelicalism – for present earthly realities, i.e., ecological, environmental and social issues.

Rather than try to escape this world and launch into the world to come, the promised ‘new creation’ should create the opposite effect; it ought to inform and shape those who have been made new, now.

Ideas that center on notions of escape have no voice in the teachings of Jesus. The salt and light of the Christian’s witness is not to be removed from the present order, but remain within it, effecting positive influence by reflecting tomorrows realities today.

God’s kingdom comes to earth in and through those who have been made new and precipitates the promised, future and fully realized kingdom inaugurated by Jesus. As a result, we don’t live to escape this world, but seek to find ways to express the realities of the world to come, now.

This captures the kingdom ethic of Jesus. His sermon on the mount is an invitation to live out his kingdom vision in the present. The Spirit enables Christ followers to emulate their leader in such a way that the kingdom brought near in Jesus is to be seen with increasing clarity in and through his followers. This ought to permeate the essence of our communal witness (words and works) to Christ.

If we are to abandon anything, it should be our ideas of escapism. Such a notion causes us to neglect present concerns because we believe they really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s as if we think God only cares about tomorrow and not today. This is inaccurate at best and an obvious misreading of scripture.

If Christ came to save the world, shouldn’t we too be about our Father’s business?

By embracing the present and infusing it with the future, God’s kingdom vision of a cosmic ‘new creation’ will one day be realized.

‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’

October 12, 2014

The Shepherd’s King

Today we look at the basics of Psalm 23. The author is Allan Connor, author and retired missionary. This is actually the first three of a number of shorter devotions; we’ll run the balance as Allan makes them available.

sheep in green pastureDavid, great King of Israel, had known the rugged life of a common sheep farmer – the hectic, 24 hour-a-day lambing season at the end of winter; the search for good summer pasture on far away fields, bedding down in a make-shift tent; the care of sick and wounded sheep; the never-ending battle with wild animals. He had cared for his sheep. Now, in the 23rd Psalm, he sees his experiences as a metaphor for God’s care.

The Bible Society’s Contemporary English Version of the Psalm provides a fresh translation so I thought it good to include it in full. Read it slowly and refresh your spirit. Take a few minutes to reflect on how these verses apply to your own life over the years.

“You, Lord, are my shepherd. I will never be in need.
You let me rest in fields of green grass.
You lead me to streams of peaceful water,
And you refresh my life.
You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths.
I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid.
You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe.
You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch.
You honor me as your guest, and you fill my cup until it overflows.
Your kindness and love will always be with me each day of my life,
And I will live forever in your house, Lord.”

Note the words “shepherd’s rod” in verse 4. The Hebrew text actually mentions two items carried by the shepherd: a club to defend against wild animals and a long pole to guide and control the sheep.

David writes in Psalm 23 that the Lord leads him “along the right paths.” But look how it’s done – from the front! When the shepherd has brought his sheep out of the sheepfold, “he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:4). No cajoling or beating here; just solid leadership. The sheep follow automatically because they have learned to trust their master.

Think of the meaning for us! The great God, the God who built the universe and everything in it, will go on ahead of us, if we are his sheep. He’ll search out the places and the circumstances so nothing happens by accident. What a tremendous comfort – being in his will! But there is an important caution: The shepherd must have control. Here is a story:

John D. Rockefeller, America’s richest industrialist, owned a large oil refinery in Cleveland, Ohio. Not far away stood a shabby wooden shop where an older man sold peanuts and penny candy. As Rockefeller passed the store day after day, he felt sorry for the vendor. One late afternoon he stopped for a chat.

“My good fellow,” he began, “why don’t you come and work for me. I’ll give you a decent wage, holidays with pay, health benefits and a pension.” “I don’t know,” the man replied. I’ll have to think about it.” Rockefeller’s brow registered his surprise .

“Alright, take your time, then.“ Rockefeller answered.

A couple of week later, the industrialist stopped in again. “So,” he said, expecting a positive answer this time, “what’s the verdict?”

“Well, sir, it’s like this. Your offer is a fine one but I have to turn it down. I’ve decided that I want to run my own business.” Rockefeller knew by the tone that persuasion would fall on deaf ears. He pulled at the brim of his hat and strode briskly to the door. Now compare this:

Jim Elliot, while studying at Wheaton College in 1949, wrote in his journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim was killed in 1956 by Huaorani Indians of Ecuador , the very people he had come to share the Gospel with.

King David tells us, “I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe” (Psalm 23:4). David may well have been thinking of the numerous times his enemies had tried to kill him; yet he wasn’t afraid. He knew how to deal with fear. How does this apply to us?

We don’t have to face such life-threatening situations. But there is a universal fear that can harass us. It crosses all human barriers; no social group, class or country is immune. It is the fear of death.

The CEV translation above uses the words, “valleys as dark as death.” This phrase may also be rendered, “valley of the shadow of death,” as in the King James Version. The fear of death really is more like a shadow – it hangs around. It clings.

So how do we shake this fear? What is the shepherd’s rod that makes us feel safe? We get rid of the fear of death by receiving life – the life that Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, will give us under his own terms.

John 3:16 is one of the best known verses of Scripture. Here it is: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” For years I read this verse thinking only of its application to death and eternal life in heaven. It means that, of course; it is the Shepherd’s rod. But it also means much more.

The apostle Paul says, ”if anyone is in Christ, he (or she) is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17). I receive this brand-new life the very moment I place my faith in Christ as savior! So it’s like a two-for-one deal! I become a child of God, receive a new nature and at the same time don’t have to wait to become comfortable with death. As I learn to trust Jesus on earth I become comfortable with trusting him about my eternal life in heaven.

~Allan Connor

March 9, 2014

Put Off the Old, Put on the New

The Voice BibleYou may have noticed that occasionally I use The Voice Bible for quotations here. I do this partly to challenge myself with some different rendering of a familiar passage, but also to remind us all that over time, we need new translations. David Capes lives in Texas and is the Thomas Nelson Research Professor at Houston Baptist University.  He is the author of numerous publications and is one of the top scholars and writers for The Voice. He blogs at and this is one of a number of times we’ve covered his material here at C201, though I must add, that if you have a taste for the issues that translators wrestle with, this is a good blog to follow.

Some of the material in what follows may be beyond your Bible study experience, but take it in and absorb what you can; you may find it whets your appetite for more of this kind of discussion. Click the title to read

Putting Off and putting on: Modesty in Baptism

A new friend of mine—let’s call him Sherlock—is an accomplished legal mind and great Bible teacher.  Recently, he started using The Voice in some of his teaching.  He posed a question to another friend—let’s call him Holmes (another accomplished legal mind and amazing Bible teacher)—about how to read Ephesians 4:22-24.  Paul uses two aorist infinitives for “putting off” the old self and “putting on” the new self.  Most Bible commentaries describe the aorist as a one time act.  It is often called punctilliar aspect.  That’s probably telling you a lot more than you want to know.  But the idea would be that Paul is emphasizing how we decide once and for all to put off the old self and put on the new.  In other words it refers to a person’s point of salvation.  But Klyne Snodgrass, a distinguished professor at North Park Theological Seminary, has this to say: “The aorist tense is used for undefined action. Not necessarily ‘point action,’ as has been the traditional way of looking at the aorist tense!”

Now here is how we translated the passage in The Voice.

22 then you know to take off your former way of life, your crumpled old self—that dark blot of a soul corrupted by deceitful desire and lust— 23 to take a fresh breath and to let God renew your attitude and spirit. 24 Then you are ready to put on your new self, modeled after the very likeness of God: truthful, righteous, and holy.

You may notice words in both regular font and italic font.  The regular font is more of a straight line translation from the original Greek.  The italic is “explanatory paraphrase;” this expresses the idea of the Greek because often it takes more than one word in English to express the nuance and artistry of the original language.

Eventually Sherlock and Holmes kicked the question to me and here is what I said to them late Saturday night.

You are correct that Paul uses aorist infinitives for “putting off” (the old) and” putting on” (the new).  In between however, he employs a present infinitive to describe ongoing renewal by the Spirit which is to typify the Christian life.

There are times when the aorist points to a one-time event (punctilliar) and times when it is undefined.  After all Greek only has a few tenses to draw from. and it is probably unwise to pound the pulpit every time you see an aorist.  On this occasion, however, I think the punctilliar is warranted because most scholars are convinced that Paul is making use of baptismal language and liturgy when he talks about putting off and putting on.  Since baptism was supposed to be a one-time act, these aorist forms are appropriate.  Christian baptism–widely understood as initiation into the Christian life–was seen as the decisive turning point when a person denied the old nature once and for all and took on (intentionally) the new nature.  This language about Christian baptism was taken so literally in the first part of the second century AD that the baptismal candidates took off their old clothes, went down into the water naked, and came up from the water to put on a new set of clothes.  That was one reason why the church needed women deacons, to superintend the baptism of women candidates.

That said, however, I think Paul would also agree that we are to always be working out our baptismal vows.  That means we are continually in the process of renewal, which means setting aside/repenting of the old and appropriating the newness of the Spirit. This is why we translated the passage in The Voice the way we did.

Perhaps you’ve gone to a church and noticed a water font at the entrance to the sanctuary.  They are usually small and off to one side.  The purpose of the font is to remind you of your baptism.  You may see people dip their finger in the water and make the sign of the cross.  I don’t know about you but I need to be reminded regularly of the promises I made to God.  I need to renew those vows recognizing that ultimately it is God at work in us, making the renewal a reality.

October 12, 2013

Walking in the New Way

Last night I was listening to John Fischer’s All Day Song, and it reminded me to check out his blog The Catch. Here’s a recent item that appeared there; you’re encouraged to read this at source and check out the many other articles. Click here to read Walking In The New Way.

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3)

There it is: the new way and the old way right up next to each other. The fact that this verse is in the Bible and was a characteristic Paul identified in one of the first churches to ever follow Christ shows how the old way of relating to God holds on tenaciously to our psyches turning us all into Pharisees in much less time than we can learn the ways of the Spirit.

Like a tweet I posted yesterday — “Religion changes your behavior. Jesus changes your heart” — our new relationship with God is all about the heart. The old way is based in God’s expectations for us written on stone tablets. It’s a distant relationship with God. It’s not even a relationship with God as much as it is a relationship with God’s laws or God’s expectations, which for all of us are so far beyond any of us as to render us all disobedient. So the old way either grovels in our failure, or it severely reduces the expectations to something we can do (which enable us to pridefully judge all those other people who don’t), while hiding behind a religious facade that has nothing to do with the real attitudes and changes in the heart that God wants to form in us.

In fact, that pretty much describes the church for thousands of years — fake, self-righteous leaders and groveling parishioners.

Our new relationship with God changes all that because through it, God writes His ways and means on our hearts. This is not a relationship with God’s laws; it’s a relationship with God. It is close and intimate. Because of the blood of Jesus that covers all our sin, God can come near to us and change us on the inside.

“‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

No more groveling. No more faking. No more spiritual caste system. God’s forgiveness opens the door to an entirely new relationship where we all know God — priest and parishioner — on the same basis, not on the basis of what we do, but on the basis of what He has done.

If you harbor guilt in your heart, you are not walking in the new way. If you think there are those who are better than you, or not as good as you, you are not walking in the new way. Our new relationship with God is based on what He has done. Period.

Whatever we do comes out of that relationship, not to earn it, but to live and walk in it.

January 9, 2011

The People That You Meet

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working my way through a copy of the DVD Curriculum, The Truth Project from Focus on the Family featuring Dr. Del Tackett.   I’m watching some of the episodes out of sequence, so yesterday I watched the conclusion to the series; in which one of the participants in the series paraphrases C. S. Lewis:

Every person you meet is an eternal being.   You have never met a mere mortal.  Everyone you’ve ever come into contact with, argued with, traded with is either an immortal horror or an everlasting splendor.

“You have never met a mere mortal.” Wow. Strong words. But certainly consistent with the idea that God created us as spiritual beings made to respond to Him, or made for eternity.

Something to consider.

But when you think about it, that’s what new life and new birth have bought us and brought us: Transition from being on the road to immortal horror, to the way of being everlasting splendor.

At his blog, Dr. Tackett considers this in greater depth:

I don’t know what it is within the heart of man that loves a new beginning, but we do. Yes, there are times when a new beginning carries some fear because of the unknown that lies ahead or because we don’t like change and are just very comfortable with the old. But, in most cases, we like the fresh beginning.

The new year often stirs within us a motivation to start anew with goals and objectives that, in many cases, have gone unmet in years past. It almost gives us the privilege of “closing the book” on the failures and disappointments of the past and setting out with no bricks in our backpack. We almost feel lighter!

Of course, the reality is that just because the second hand sweeps past the 12 at midnight on December 31st, there isn’t some magical wand that brings fairy dust down upon your life. No genie appears to undo your past or miraculously change your circumstances. If you have a boatload of debt on New Year’s Eve, you will wake up to that same debt on January 1st.

Ugh! The reality of reality!

Wouldn’t it be grand if all things bad went away when the clock struck midnight at the end of the year? Can you imagine what your sleep would be like that night? Can you imagine what it would be like waking up the next morning, knowing that all the debt was gone, all the regrets and failures of the past were gone, all the ugliness and pain and grief and misery…gone!

Wow! Wouldn’t that be something!

But, alas, there are no magic wands and there are no genies.

But there is One who is in the business of making things “new”. For those who are His, there will come a day when we will go to sleep and awake to a true New Beginning.

But even in this life, He makes things new.

Millions have experienced the joy of a new creation, when the sins of the past are truly forgiven.

He creates us anew.

He gives us…
…a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26)
…a new birth (1 Peter 1:3)
…a new spirit (Ezekiel 11:19)
…a new song (Psalm 40:3)
…a new name (Isaiah 62:2; Revelation 2:17)
…a new life (Acts 5:20)
…a new self (Ephesians 4:24)
…a new way into the holy place (Hebrews 10:20)
…a new covenant. (Hebrews 9:15)
…and He creates a new heaven and earth (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13)

The Scriptures close out with the great declaration from Jesus, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

That is a New Years Day that will make all our new years pale in comparison!

But there is a continual “newness” that God gives to us:

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Every day, there is a newness for those who are in Christ. If that reality were understood by our faint hearts, we would arise each morning with the joy and “freshness” that befits the child of the King who is in the business of taking old things and making them new.

May your New Year truly be a New Day every day.