by Barry Newton
I have a hot temper and that’s just the way it is. Because of some bad past experiences, I will always have trust issues. Genetics dealt me this hand for how I feel. How many of us have heard someone say these things or something similar?
Perhaps we were chatting with a friend, when suddenly we discovered a fatalistic attitude toward change. I must confess that in those moments I wonder whether I am hearing the despair of resignation, an excuse for apathy or carnal desire seeking permission.
The God who can transform a caterpillar into a gooey protein jelly within a chrysalis only to reorganize it into a butterfly has the power to remake our lives. In prayer Paul longed for Christians to comprehend God’s power toward the believer (Ephesians 1:18-19).
Ephesians 2:1-6 captures that initial transformative moment. God’s power starts with us being spiritually dead, but recreates us into new creatures alive with Christ. However, this is neither the end of what God desires for us nor the extent of his ability to reorder our lives into something healthier and greater. God’s power continues to work daily in the lives of his people, enabling us to put on the new self created to be like God (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 3:20, 4:24).
Yet, nothing in scripture suggests that such a change is automatic or imposed upon God’s person. Rather, as we learn from Christ we are to exert effort in discarding old undesirable ways. We do this by deliberately seeking to practice those behaviors and attitudes of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:21-24; Galatians 5:16).
Paul promised a powerful principle. Since the ways of the Spirit and of the flesh pull in opposite directions, if we live by the Spirit we cannot simultaneously do what our flesh craves (Galatians 5:17). Therefore Paul instructs us to intentionally engage in pleasing the Spirit (Galatians 6:8).
Satan might wish for us to believe change is impossible. Our flesh might desire for us to abandon all hope. Yet, God’s power can be revealed through our lives to his glory.
We must decide to choose. New life emerges from choosing God. Continued transformation occurs by choosing to live by God’s Spirit. Praise be to God for his love, power and mercy.
by Tim Hall
An image of Jesus fades quickly on this man’s pickup truck.
He lives about twelve miles from my home and has now made national news. Jim Stevens wasn’t seeking fame, but he couldn’t help but report the strange scene he has recently witnessed.
Each morning when he goes out to his truck, an image that resembles popular depictions of Jesus can be seen on the driver’s side window. As the sun burns off the morning dew, the image fades. A photo in our local newspaper backs up Stevens’ claim.
Seeing religious images is nothing new.
A building in Clearwater, Florida housing a financial institution boasts a glass exterior. Someone spotted an image in the glass that, they claimed, resembled the mother of Jesus. Others saw the resemblance and word spread. To date, millions have made the pilgrimage to view the scene. (Others, however, see only discoloration in the glass, not the virgin.)
Such sightings seem hard to reconcile with God’s clear instructions to Moses in Exodus 20:4. In forbidding idolatry, God stated, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (NKJV).
God has always discouraged focusing on external material images.
He does, however, urge us to focus on spiritual images. Paul wrote about this idea in Romans 8:29: “For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
Our challenge is to look more like Jesus (spiritually) with each passing day. In another passage the apostle again stressed the goal: “And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man” (1 Corinthians 15:49).
Many of us accepted that challenge and were baptized into Christ. Initially the fire burned within us, and we were glad to show our Lord’s image to others. As time went by, however, that image seemed to fade. Though we continue to stress the external actions of faith, we fall into the same error as Christians at Ephesus long ago: “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).
Onlookers may see a Christian who is diligent about worship and service. But do they see the image of Jesus? Or has that image faded?
Christians have long struggled with the balance between love for Christ and external rituals. Paul’s prayer in Galatians 4:19 still applies: “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you.”
Don’t let Jesus’ image fade from your life!