A New Freedom

When the world thinks of the word “Christian”, is the word “new” the first thing that pops into their mind?  Is there something new going on here; something fresh, something better, something I would like to get in on?  Unfortunately, the response is often just the opposite.  Christianity is associated with old, narrow, conservative…words that carry a negative connotation in today’s marketplace of ideas.  We like to say that being misunderstood is just the cost of following Jesus, but could it be we who have misunderstood our own message?

The world will never paint Christianity in a positive light as it operates under the influence of the Evil One (II Cor 4:4).  However, all too often we conclude that there is some nefarious plot on the part of the media, academia, the entertainment industry, or our “enemies” to make us look foolish.  There is a plot, but it is orchestrated by the Enemy himself and our so called “enemies” in the press and elsewhere are not enemies at all but prisoners of the Enemy as we once were.  Our concern is not to silence them, but to set them free.

As for us, is it possible that we have contributed to Satan’s arsenal by our own narrow thinking?  Is the Christian life we advertise a new covenant experience or a law-keeping, old covenant approach to spirituality?  The ideas of putting on the new self, walking in the Spirit, loving as God loves are all, quite frankly, somewhat nebulous concepts.  We prefer a systematic , list-keeping religion.  We prefer something we can measure.  I can measure lists.  I can measure knowledge.  I can’t measure love.  I can’t measure the movement of the Spirit.  The old covenant approach reduces our Christianity to law and takes the supernatural out of our spirituality and, in so doing, removes the exhilaration, the mystery, the breakneck excitement out of the Christian life.  Let’s talk more about living into the mystery next time.

Something New

A short, but compelling, word found throughout the New Testament is the word “new”.  It is right there in the title and appropriately so.  After all, the essence of the New Testament message is a description of and invitation to join a new covenant, a new arrangement, a new agreement between God and us.

In the gospels, Jesus ushered in a new covenant, and with it a new kingdom.  In the parable of the wine and wineskins, Jesus referred to His ministry as “new wine” (Mk 2:22), indicating that it is not just an add-on to the old covenant, but something new and as we will see, nothing short of revolutionary.  From the outset, the crowds who followed Jesus were “amazed, saying, ‘what in the world is this?  A new teaching with authority!’ ” (Mk 1:27).  And finally, when we enter into this new arrangement with God, we become a “new creation” (II Cor 5:17).  We are raised to a “new life”  (Rom 6:4).  We are literally “indwelt by a new Spirit” (Rom 8:11).

In Ephesians chapter 4, the apostle Paul encourages us to clothe ourselves in this new covenant by “walking in a manner worthy” of our new arrangement with God.  “Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph 4:24).  Do you know that you have a moral resemblance to God Himself by virtue of your new self being created in righteousness and holiness?  Does the phrase “moral resemblance to God” sound prideful and too elevating of ourselves?

For the next several weeks, we will explore this topic here at jaylehman.com with an eye toward the incredible spiritual capacities God has given new covenant believers, our “new” relationship with sin, how love trumps knowledge in our dealings with each other, and many other topics related to “putting on the new self.”  We invite you to join the discussion.