Pastor Mark’s Devotions, July 28

“A New Creation”

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

Summer has arrived. Yesterday, the temperature ticked up into the 90’s. With the hot weather, I thought it would be a good time to refinish my deck. I brought out the power sprayer to wash off the dirt and grime from the boards. After stretching out the hoses, I realized a couple of bushes that had to be trimmed back away from the deck. Frustrated at the delay, I went to the garage to locate my trimmer and spent the next hour cutting back the bushes. Finally, I was able to return to the power sprayer and go after the weathered boards. When finished, I had to wait a few days for the deck to dry. Yesterday, being so hot, it was the perfect day to apply a fresh coat of stain. The deck was so dry, it soaked up the stain like a sponge. When the last board was stained, it was satisfying knowing that the job was done for another year.

While I watched the stain seep and soak deeply into the fibers of the boards, I remembered previous decks that I had refinished with paint. While the deck looked nice when finished, the pain didn’t seep into the wood. The paint remained on the surface and through the winter, eventually it peeled off. In some cases, the paint encapsulated the moisture in the boards and caused excessive rotting while it was invisible to the eye. Eventually, some boards rotted all the way through.

Somewhere in the process, I thought about Jesus’ words to Nicodemus. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:5) Jesus says that if one is to gain access to God’s Kingdom, they are going to have to be washed off and sealed. It seems that Jesus needs to break out his power sprayer and wash off our boards – spiritually speaking. In the waters of baptism, the dirt and grim of sin is washed off and we are declared children of God. But, more than that, Jesus says that we also need to be born of the Spirit. The Spirit is what seals us, guaranteeing God’s salvation which will surely come. The Spirit of God is to seep into the fibers of our heart and mind, like stain upon a dry and thirsty deck. Paul states in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” It is of critical importance that we surrender ourselves to “The Refinisher”, and open ourselves to the soaking and saturation process of the Spirit. And the reality is that we will need the washing and soaking many times over in a continual fashion. Some folks are resistant to the concept of a full surrender and simply want a surface coat. It seems to be a bit easier and less intrusive in the beginning but in the end it will be much more costly. The problem with only wanting a paint job, it simply will not hold. Without the soaking in of the Spirit, when bad weather arrives, the surface coat will be stripped away. So also, parts of the human soul will be left encapsulated, left to soften and decay, unseen by the naked eye, and will break down over time.

The only issue with this metaphor of re-staining is that it doesn’t go far enough. For Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Yes, we are to be washed clean in baptism and sealed by the Spirit, but Paul clearly points to becoming something completely new. We are to experience a metamorphosis. We are to go through a transformation. Paul would say that it is not enough to wash off a caterpillar and brush on some fresh stain. The point of following Christ is to emerge as a beautiful butterfly, transformed, with an ability to see life from a completely new perspective – God’s perspective.

So, I’m not ready to give up the deck metaphor. Below my cedar deck rests a concrete slab. Another deck, if you will. It too, needs to be power sprayed and sealed. But the make-up of the materials is completely different. The exposed aggregate will not give way to the eventual decay of the wood nor does it need the same annual care. The rock will remain steadfast and only a fool would want to paint over the top of it. But one could argue that the concrete while more stable, is more susceptible to cracking, and in the end, it is still a deck and not something “new”.

This train of thought is absolutely true. Therefore, we must leave my backyard in search for deeper truth. Perhaps we must consider a different deck altogether. A deck that needs to be power sprayed and sealed yet brings perspective from a completely new vantage point. Then may I suggest we move to the deck of a Boeing 737 airplane, or an Amtrak Cascade locomotive or a Navy Aircraft Carrier. Let us dismiss the Boeing 737Max for obvious internal reasons. Here we have the same needs of these vehicles to be washed and sealed yet brings a metamorphosis to the meaning of a backyard deck. Perhaps now we are getting close to imagining the Call in becoming a new creation in Christ.

This morning, I finished reading C.S. Lewis’, Mere Christianity. Coincidentally, the final chapter is entitled, “New Men” (I would add – and New Women). The only problem is that I don’t believe in coincidence. I will conclude with his powerful, penetrating thoughts concerning one becoming a new creation in Christ. I hope you are blessed by his words as I was.  

C.S. Lewis writes,

“Already the new men/women are dotted here and there all over the earth. Some, as I have admitted, are still hardly recognizable: but others can be recognized. Every now and then one meets them. Their very voices and faces are different from ours: stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off. They are, I say, recognizable; but you must know what to look for. They will not be very like the idea of “religious people” which you have formed from your general reading. They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less. They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from. When you have recognized one of them, you will recognize the next one much more easily. And I strongly suspect (but how should I know?) that they recognize one another immediately and infallibly, across every barrier of color, sex, class, age, and even of creeds. In that way, to become holy is rather like joining a secret society. To put it at the very lowest, it must be great fun.

But you must not imagine that the new man/woman are, in the ordinary sense, all alike. A good deal of what I have been saying in this last book might make you suppose that that was bound to be so. To become new men/women means losing what we now call ‘ourselves’. Out of our ‘selves’, into Christ, we must go. His will is to become ours and we are to think His thoughts, to ‘have the mind of Christ’ as the Bible says. And if Christ is one, and if He is thus to be “in” us all, shall we not be exactly the same? It certainly sounds like it; but in fact, it is not so.

It is difficult here to get a good illustration; because of course, no other two things related to each other just as the Creator is related to one of His creatures. But I will try two very imperfect illustrations which may give a hint of truth. Imagine a lot of people who have always lived in the dark. You come and try to describe to them what light is like. You might tell them that if they come into the light that same light would fall on them all and they would all reflect it and thus become what we call visible. Is it not quite possible that they would imagine that, since they were all receiving the same light, and all reacting to it in the same way, they would all look like? Whereas you and I know that the light will in fact bring out, or show up, how different they are. Or again, suppose a person who knew nothing about salt. You give him a pinch to taste and he experiences a particular strong, sharp taste. You then tell him that in your country people use salt in all their cookery. Might he not reply ‘In that case I suppose all your dishes taste exactly the same: because the taste of that stuff you have just given me is so strong that it will kill the taste of everything else.’ But you and I know that the real effect of salt is exactly the opposite. So far from killing the taste of an egg and the tripe and the cabbage, it actually brings it out. They do not show their real taste till you have added the salt. (Of course, as I warned you, this is not really a very good illustration, because you can, after all, kill the other tastes by putting in too much salt, whereas you cannot kill the taste of a human personality by putting in too much Christ. I am doing the best I can.”

It is something like that with Christ and us. The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of ‘little Christs’, all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He invented – as an author invents characters in a novel – all different men/women that you and I were intended to be. In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to be ‘myself’ without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact, what I so proudly call ‘Myself’ becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I never started and which I cannot stop…

It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own. At the beginning I said there were Personalities in God (the Trinity). I will go further now. There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given up your ‘self’ to Him you will not have a real self…Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

(C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity – pages 223-227)

“You are the salt of the earth.” “You are the light of the world.”  (Matthew 5:13, 14)

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark