Summary: Why not use this Lenten season to work on your relationship with Christ, to invest as much in this most important relationship, as you do in other relationships in your life, so that you can feel like the new you is rising with Him at Easter.
“I Am New”
How many of you have a hard time throwing old things, especially clothes, away? Maybe you hold on to them thinking some day I’ll lose some weight and be able to fit into that again. Or maybe its gone out of style but you know that like most things, it will eventually come back into style. If we do this enough we don’t have room for anything new after a while do we?
What about old ways of thinking? Maybe you hold on to old ways of thinking that were engrained in you for so long that you think there is no way you could think any other way about it. I’ve probably told this story before, but I counselled a guy who was a recovering addict and ex biker. This guy wore nothing but jeans, leather jacket or vest, and those big leather Dayton boots. Didn’t matter what kind of weather.
After he started to turn his life around, his wife and children came back into his life after a long separation. He would go to the beach with his kids wearing jeans, a leather jacket, and big heavy leather boots. He felt silly but of course no one would tell him he did. He thought that’s what he had to look like to get by and be safe in the world coming out of a family where the kids were severely and regularly beaten by their dad.
I remember the day he came into my office one summer wearing shorts (Ok they were jeans that had been cut off), and runners with a t shirt. He was just beaming with a big smile and couldn’t believe how much more comfortable and free he felt. But he had one more struggle. In his house ketchup was not allowed. His father forbid it for no apparent reason, so for his whole life he thought you shouldn’t have ketchup. This silly thought had been with him since he was a kid, and his poor kids and wife could never have ketchup because of his father’s silly rule.
Well after this he went and bought some ketchup, and went home that night and the whole family had ketchup, with a big celebration, and he said it was so good, why had he held onto that silly rule for so long?
This is really in essence what Paul is talking about today. The ignorance and futility of some of our ways of living and thinking. Of course here we are specifically talking about spiritual thinking about God. Note that this ignorance is not a lack of intelligence, some of these people were brilliant. But the ignorance about the truth of God as Creator, redeemer and so on, and it’s due to the hardness of heart, Paul says. That word hardness is also used to indicate blindness, and stubbornness.
That is the state of all humanity when we are born into this world. We are all darkened and in the dark until the illumination of Christ shines on us. And at that point we either scurry away from the light hardening ourselves against the light, or we allow it to completely expose us, and this will lead to the realization that we need to repent and accept the work of Jesus. That is the life of God that Paul speaks of here, new life in a different spiritually enlightened way in Christ.
So what is the old life? Well it’s one that is characterized by callous sensual living. Remember Paul started this chapter with saying he was a prisoner for God. Well now he says that the opposite is giving ourselves over to be the slave of our passions. This former life is corrupt or spoiled through deceitful desires.
What does that mean, deceitful desires? Aren’t these desires and passions natural? Exactly, the natural man will have a tendency toward self gratification of all his desires and passions regardless of their source or outcome. We are born to satisfy our carnal desires. They are deceitful because they don’t offer what they promise even when we think they do. But Paul says the spiritual person has a new operating system so to speak.
That’s kind of what Lent is all about. This Wednesday marked the beginning of the 40 days before Easter that has been called Lent. During this time Christians have traditionally spent time fasting and repenting. The main purpose is to tame our fleshly desires and passions, making them obedient to us and to Christ. So I would encourage all of you to think about fasting from a desire that you have become maybe too attached to, for at least a day each week, and look at yourself, and allow God to look inside you, showing you what you are putting above Him who died and was raised from the dead so that you could have life. A life devoted to Him.