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Monday, January 19, 2015

Becoming A New Creation In Christ



In Titus 3:3-7, Paul tells us “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

If you look at verse three here, you get a very good and accurate description of our life before Christ. Before we come to Jesus, we are fools, we are deceived (and deceivers), we are enslaved to lusts and pleasures and we spend most of our life in thoughts of malice, envy and hate. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll see that the natural, sinful state of man relates to these attributes perfectly. No matter how ‘good’ a person may seem, in his private moments (at the very least) he has thoughts that are based in these negative character attributes.

No matter how educated and intelligent someone may be, they are also foolish. If you look around at the world you see that we are lead by educated fools, as it relates not only to living a Christian life but in general. It is very possible to be very highly educated but have no common sense. Highly educated people can make foolish decisions that the uneducated man with good sense would never make. We see it every day in the nightly news, locally, nationally and internationally.

When I went to college I was on full scholarship, the only thing I had to buy was books for four years. But in the first two weeks at university I got together with three other guys that thought it would be a great idea to open a bar in one of the dorm rooms to make extra spending money. After spending all we had to buy liquor, we were busted on the first night. I’m totally convinced that the only reason we weren’t expelled was because we were all on full scholarship – we were too valuable to the school to receive the punishment we deserved. I’d like to think that anyway. So, here we were supposedly intelligent people, who made a horribly foolish decision. I spent the major part of my college career convinced that I was being scrutinized intensely – so I became the model student after that.

So, “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures” My one example pretty much covers all of those in one story doesn’t it? We were disobedient by the deception that we could somehow beat the system due to being driven by the enslaving lust for more money to spend on what we wanted. You see how this works? A seemingly intelligent person can make extremely foolish decisions and act on those decisions, driven by totally destructive motivations – all in the name of fun, in this case; all in the name of national security in others; all in the name of financial gain in others; all in the name of “doing the right thing” in others. Without Christ in our lives, we are doomed to repeat the pattern.

We deceive ourselves every single day, did you know that? Without even being totally cognizant of it, every single day we deceive ourselves. It’s called rationalizing. There’s a line from the movie “The Big Chill” that goes, “I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations.” And it’s true. We can deceive ourselves so easily into making excuses about doing something because it suits our wants and needs. What is the driving force behind that? That’s pride! Pride is the root of all self deception! We want what we want – and we want it now! We live in the generation of “I” It’s all about “me”. How does that affect “me”?!? How can “I” get ahead?!? How can I get what “I” want? And the old standby in business, “what’s in it for me?” 

When we start down this path, rationalization moves from the sub-conscience into the forefront of consciousness. Rationalization moves from a ‘fringe benefit’ and becomes a necessity! It becomes a matter of survival! When it’s all about self-preservation we deceive ourselves consciously. This is the real danger – somewhere along the line we start believing our own lies to ourselves. This is the nature of sinful man. This is how Satan comes in and affects our very thinking, our innermost, intimate workings of self. We become deceived about our own abilities, deceived about our own cleverness and deceived about life itself! This kind of behavior soon leads to aberrant behavior as a means of escape. Drinking, gambling, doing drugs, chasing women as a means of escaping ourselves and our own disgusting lives. We become, as Paul says here, “slaves of various lusts and pleasures”
Lust, in any form, brings slavery. 

Lust compels us and drives us to do many things that we know are harmful – unspeakable things. We become compelled to feed the escape mechanism just the same as we feed the drive that makes us do things that causes us to need the ‘escape’ in the first place. It becomes a vicious circle. And we rationalize all of it as ‘that’s the way it is’. Lust makes us ruthless. We use other people as means to satisfying our own pleasure, our own interests – this is where malice enters in. We must feed the lust that drives us at any cost! All the time we are destroying ourselves and the people around us. 

This is what addiction is all about, lust leads to addiction in many forms whether it be alcohol, drugs, sex, food, gambling, you name it.  Addiction compels us to do things that we wouldn’t even think of without the addiction in our lives – and it destroys us and those we love and who love us. I knew a woman once who was addicted to shopping. Did you know that shopping can be an addiction? Well, I didn’t before this. I was dating her step-daughter at the time and became friends with her husband. This woman suffered from severe depression and every time she’d get depressed she’d go shopping, and she’d charge everything on credit cards. Nobody in the family knew anything about her addiction – she kept it a secret - until it was too late. She committed suicide. Afterward, I was helping the husband go through credit card bills that she had hidden away, unpaid.  We discovered over $50,000 in unpaid charges, charges that he now became liable for – not that that was important at the time. He just wanted his wife back. There was no suicide note, no warning of anything out of the ordinary, no indication that she was even depressed. In fact a month before she had cooked an incredible Christmas dinner and we all enjoyed it together. We surmised that she had killed herself because she knew that the net was closing in. She knew that it was only a matter of time until her husband discovered the debt that she had accumulated through her addiction – and what was it that kept her from saying anything? Pride! Prided couple with shame. In the end, he didn’t even care about that at all. It could have been rectified if she had come to him and told him what she had done, but her addiction had deceived her to the point of no return in her mind. You see, the ability to change was not possible in her mind because she had become enslaved to her lusts and addictions. Do you see how the devil is constantly working to destroy us?

Salvation

By contrast with life BC, or before Christ, life after Christ is a totally different scenario. In verse four in this passage, Paul starts with the word, “But” and “but” is an incredibly powerful word, it is a bridging word that is leads us to a contrasting statement. It acts as a bridge between two concepts. It can be used as an excuse for something as in “yeh, but”. There are far too many ‘yeh but’s’ that I’ve heard in ministry. We can counsel someone and think they’ve got it, and then we hear those dreaded words, “Yeh but…” And it changes everything. Here Paul starts speaking of the changes that take place when we experience the saving power of Jesus Christ – the bridge between the old and the new. 
 
Titus 3:4 tells us  But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us…” You see, there is a bridge between the old and the new, unsaved to saved, and everything changes. You don’t have to be enslaved! You can be set free! And it doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived in that old skin, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, it doesn’t matter - Jesus changes everything! He saves us by His kindness and love! Do you know that most unsaved people don’t think of God as being kind and loving? Most people think of God as being mean and judgmental. Most think of God as some irritable, crotchety old man who does nothing but condemn us for our behavior. They don’t see God as love and kindness, arms open wide, ready to forgive us for our transgressions against Him. This is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about, acting in the love of the Father! If we condemn, all we do is fortify the lost’s incorrect perception of God! We must demonstrate the love of God in our own lives by loving the lost! 

The word conversion means to change – and if we are the same after ‘salvation’ as we were before salvation, then we haven’t experienced true salvation! We may have experienced something emotional that touched our hearts but if our hearts weren’t overtly changed then there is something wrong with what we label as salvation. As an unsaved person, I could never understand why people that called themselves Christian didn’t act like it! I’ll tell you this, if the lost can’t see Jesus in you, they don’t want what you're sellin! When the love of Christ comes into our hearts we can’t help but be changed from the inside out! It is an uncontrollable metamorphosis that takes place and we begin to shine with the love and joy of knowing Jesus Christ! If you are condemning the lost, it is you that are keeping them away from God! Listen to this please: Judgment is not our business. There is only one judge and it’s not me or you. Show the love, that’s our job.

Going on, Paul says “not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Salvation is God’s all inclusive provision for man, made available only through Jesus Christ. That’s good huh? Well, I didn’t write it, God did. This provision includes forgiveness of sins, it includes eternal life, it includes healing of diseases, it includes being set free from the bondage of religion, it includes release from demonic oppression, it includes financial provision, it includes the strength to walk in a godly fashion, it includes being filled with the Spirit of God in order to experience the fullness of God, it includes every good that He has planned for you and it includes the assurance of eternal life in the presence of almighty God! 

Salvation is the realization of the all-encompassing benefits and blessings of God made available to us only through belief in Jesus Christ - But we have to choose to enter into the provision.

Grammatically speaking, the word ‘saved’ is used in four tenses in scripture. In Ephesians 2:8 the past tense, “by grace you have been saved”; in verse five here it is used in the present perfect tense of “He has saved us” ; 1 Corinthians 1:18 in the present progressive tense “the preaching of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” and in Romans 5:9 it is used in the future tense when it says “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”

·         In the past tense, as in “by grace you have been saved”, it speaks of something that has already happened, it is settled and that’s that.
·         The present perfect tense of “He has saved us” speaks of a specific event that happened in the historic past.
·         The present progressive tense of “who are being saved” describes something that is ongoing and continuous.
·         The future tense “we shall be saved “ speaks of something that will happen in the future.
We must relate to all four tenses of salvation in scripture – we’ve been saved, He has saved us, we’re being saved and we shall be saved!

Noah’s Ark

One of the simplest illustrations of salvation is what happened with Noah. Noah’s ark was the total provision of God for salvation. There was no other way and it was total provision that included the forgiveness of sins for Noah’s safety and for that of his family. It included food and nourishment. Everything he needed for survival was in the ark. The ark was a gift from God, designed by God and it even came with an instruction manual! God’s gift of salvation in your life is complete provision, perfect and will never need improvement…and it also comes with a manual – the Bible! And just like God’s salvation, the ark was useless until Noah chose to step into it! Jesus is your ark! And when you step into Jesus you receive total and complete provision that will last your entire life and on into eternity! Jesus is your salvation today! Right now!  To be saved you must step out of your own condition and into the total provision of God through His son Jesus Christ!

In 1 Corinthians 1:18, when Noah and his family stepped into the ark and the waters rose, (1) the ark saved them! The ark was continually saving them, continually. From peril to peril they were protected – (2) they were being saved! What are you going to step into for safety when your storm comes and the water is rising and everything looks bleak and disastrous? Step into Jesus! He will save you and be your complete salvation! Jesus will continually preserve, protect and provide for you! He is your ark of salvation! You will be saved!

In Titus 3:3-7, Paul speaks about that moment when we step into the ark of provision; reflecting back on who we once were and the process of being regenerated, renewed by the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ and assuming our position as heirs to the Kingdom of God!

Verse five tells us that “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy SpiritHere Paul introduces the Holy Spirit. It is actually the Holy Spirit that works in our lives and makes the changes in us. Every Godly function in our lives is performed by the Holy Spirit. Notice in this one line of scripture that there are three actions mentioned that are performed by the Holy Spirit:

·         Washing
·         Regeneration
·         Renewing

These are three absolutely necessary actions of God needed in order for us to be changed. 
·         Washing speaks of the cleansing nature of the blood of Jesus. Before we come to Jesus, we are filthy with sin. We are unclean mentally, morally and spiritually. This is why we must give these things to God up front and not try to rectify them ourselves. There is nothing that we can do by ourselves to eradicate these elements from our lives. The washing comes by the Holy Spirit through the blood of Jesus, the blood that Jesus shed on the cross is what cleanses us. Our sins are washed clean in His blood.

·         Regeneration means being ‘born again’. When we come to Jesus we are not only washed clean of our sin, we are regenerated, or reborn, by the conversion power of the Holy Spirit. This regeneration is so crucial that Jesus said in John 3:5-6 that unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

In other words, when we were born in the flesh as infants, that was the birth in water as it refers to the mother’s water breaking etc. When we are saved, the Holy Spirit regenerates us as new creations; this is the birth in the Spirit.

·         The third action mentioned in Titus 3:5 is Renewing. Everything about us, our personality, our behavior, our language, our demeanor, our very self is changed and made new! We become more ‘spiritual beings’ than physical ones. We think differently. We don’t look at people the same.  Everything about us is different.

God doesn’t just patch up the old, he doesn’t just knock some of the dust off, He makes a completely new creation out of you! Jesus doesn’t want unchanged church members – pew potatoes - He wants new creations that will follow Him!

Water Baptism

Did you know that the apostles of the first century church never made an alter call. They put out one call: Repent, Be Baptized in water AND the Holy Spirit! When the witnesses on the day of Pentecost asked what they should do to be saved, the answer was clear and precise: repent, be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit. That program has never changed and never will. If we follow the first century model, every time someone comes to Christ they should immediately be lead to a pool or lake or some body of water to be baptized – and baptized means submerged.  Water baptism was the dividing line between the old life and the new, the lost and the saved. When Noah and his family entered the ark it was still on land, still a part of the old. When the waters rose and they were saved, it was the water that separated them from the old life and the new. Water baptism is scriptural and necessary for every Christian. It separates us from everything else and sets us apart to God.


Your Testimony

When you make the change, your story of how you’ve changed becomes one of the greatest weapons in your Christian arsenal against Satan. People can argue about doctrine. They can argue about specific practices and methodologies, but they cannot argue about your personal testimony. This is why it says, in Revelation 12:11 that we “overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony!” This statement speaks directly of Titus 3:3-7 doesn’t it? We are washed clean by the blood of Jesus and by being regenerated and renewed, the story of the difference between our past life and this one becomes our testimony. Nothing cuts through and brings the light of the truth to bear like the power of your testimony. 

Prodigal

I’m a prodigal. I was saved at the age of 14, but deliberately turned away from God when I got more involved in the music business. When I made my prodigal return, I had been at a new job for two weeks. In those two weeks I had already earned a nickname that I was totally unaware of at the time. I was known as ‘the cursing guy in the corner’. I had a filthy mouth, disgusting, and I didn’t care who heard me ranting. I was rude and obnoxious. The night that I came back to the Lord happened to be my birthday. And I was sitting in the balcony of a large auditorium in an aisle seat – like it was reserved for me, it was the only seat left when I got there. In the moment I experienced Jesus break through to my heart I looked up through tears and there He was standing in the aisle, arms open wide. This was the second time He had visited me, the first being just a couple of months before I started to go off the rail, but at that time there was no communication, just Jesus standing there with His arms open. When I came back that night He spoke to me. He said, “I’ve been waiting right here for you”. The next day I went into work totally changed. This is the regeneration that takes place in rebirth – and it was immediate. I went from one person to the other, even to people in another wing of the building who I never even saw before and apologized for my behavior and my language. You see, meeting Jesus will humble you. He will cause you to go out of the way to make things right, to repent and to show His love and mercy to others.
 
Invitation

Some of you reading this may have never met the resurrected Christ the way I describe here – you haven’t completely yielded – and for you I have one question: Why stop short of God’s full provision? I challenge you right now. Maybe there are things from the old you still hanging around. If you want more, a deeper more meaningful relationship, He’s waiting for you. All you have to do is ask. You can start by saying this prayer:

"Lord Jesus, I want to know you more. I yield myself to walk a closer walk with you. Holy Spirit I welcome you into my heart right now and I pray that you reveal yourself to me in a way that I haven't experienced. I want to see your face Lord. I thank you for saving me and I want everything that you have for me Lord. I praise you and thank you Lord Jesus and it's in your name that I pray. Amen"

God bless you!




 

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