Tag Archive: regeneration


All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 2 Number 7

August 29, 2013

Dressing Appropriately

From Pastor Bordwine

 

But you did not learn Christ in this way . . .

(Ephesians 4:20)

As we know, the apostle Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament epistles. He was the premier theologian for the early Church. Paul explains some of the most complex and essential doctrines of the faith. At the same time, Paul used a number of concepts to help believers understand not just the doctrine, but the application of the doctrine.

One of the apostle’s most helpful explanations of how doctrine should affect the day-to-day life of the believer comes in connection with his teaching on the process of change that takes place in the life of the sinner who embraces the gospel and is, consequently, born-again by the Holy Spirit. In the context of the verse quoted above, Paul is urging his readers to give careful consideration to the character of their lives now that they have become part of the Body of Christ.

Paul describes the previous character of those now being addressed as Christ’s people. They walked, he writes, “in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that [was] in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” (v. 18) In this spiritual state, Paul reminds them that they were callous and were given over to sensuality leading to “the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” (v. 19)

At this point, Paul writes: “But you did not learn Christ in this way . . .” He is emphasizing a critical fact, which is the inevitable spiritual change that takes place in the heart of a redeemed sinner. Those former traits had to give way to the Christ-like characteristics being developed in them by the Holy Spirit. They were being taught about truth, Paul goes on to say, as they participated in the new relationship they now had with Jesus, “just as truth is in Jesus.” (v. 21)

The apostle provides an extremely helpful image of this transition from life apart from Christ to life in and for Christ when he writes:

. . . 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Clothing is one of the most fundamental elements in our lives. The act of taking off one garment and putting on another is as common to our daily routines as anything else we do. We know that all clothing has a purpose and all clothing contributes to the image we project. Paul uses this universally familiar action to illustrate the crucial spiritual truth he is conveying.

The spiritual transition in which a born-again sinner gradually curtails former expressions of a fallen nature while increasingly manifesting the new characteristics of a regenerated nature is likened to the changing of garments. The wicked tendencies and displays of “the old self” are “laid aside” while the Christ-like inclinations and demonstrations of “the new self” are “put on.”

Paul continues and exhorts his readers regarding the “clothing” they should be putting on. Instead of falsehood, they should be “wearing” truth; instead of anger, self-control; instead of dishonesty, productivity; instead of destructive words, edifying speech; etc. (cf. vv. 25-32) A saving relationship with Christ will always give evidence of itself in our “appearance.”

The ongoing and inevitable change in character that Paul has been explaining is known as sanctification. Once we are born-again, the Holy Spirit begins remaking us in the image of the Savior. As we live out our days, we become more and more like Him in our desires and actions. Our spiritual “clothing” testifies to the reality of this continuing recreation.

Admittedly, I used the title of this devotional as a play on words, which is what Paul does as he helps believers understand the concept of sanctification. As one who has been regenerated, make sure that you are dressing appropriately.

 

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All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 31

September 6, 2012

Restoration

From Pastor Bordwine

 

 

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature;

the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

(2 Cor. 5:17)

Among the most popular television shows these days are those having to do with the restoration of old, worn-out products to a “like new” status. The process can be quite tedious, although most of the gritty details are left out of the final video presentation. Typically, the audience sees the “before” picture that shows how dilapidated the item is and how improbable it seems that it could ever be returned to an attractive and functioning condition. After letting us observe a few of the steps involved, such as finding rare parts and straightening bent metal, the show focuses on the finished product, which is always a surprising and pleasing contrast to the original.

The theme of restoration permeates Scripture. It is one of the primary aspects of the gospel, in fact. That which is ruined and offensive is rescued, recreated, and restored to a place of dignity. I’m referring, of course, to us—fallen men and women who were ruined and had no good or honorable purpose to serve except to be the objects of God’s righteous indignation. Although we came from the hand of God pure and capable of bringing glory to Him, disobedience rendered us useless; we became unable and even unwilling to honor our Creator and dedicated ourselves instead to self-promotion and self-preservation.

God would have been completely just had He left us in our state of sin and misery. In spite of His clear warning, our first parents ignored the commandment of their Maker and acted according to their own wisdom. The result was catastrophic. But then a love that we can barely comprehend was manifested toward us in the form of a Savior who was God in the flesh. The penalty of our sin fell upon Jesus, our Substitute. The Holy Spirit gave us new life and began to build us all over again, from the inside out, so to speak.

Any restoration requires at least two critical elements: knowledge of how the finished product should look and the skill to achieve that end result. When it comes to the human soul, only God, our omnipotent Designer, has both knowledge and skill. Salvation, therefore, is a restoration project in which a fallen, deformed, and corrupted creature is returned to a state of honor. This is the most amazing restoration of all and this is how the Bible describes what happens to the sinner who is called out of darkness into the light of redemption.

In the case of a sinner, the primary issue in need of attention is his history of transgressions. This is what stands between the creature and the Creator and this is why the wrath of God hangs over the head of the fallen individual. Therefore, God’s restoration of us includes a provision for taking away our guilt. As just mentioned, that provision is Jesus Christ. By dying in our place, He enabled our full restoration by the Holy Spirit.

As Paul indicates in the verse quoted above, what we were is replaced with what we are becoming. We are “new creatures,” he writes. Throughout our lives, we are engaged in the restoration project. Gradually, the Holy Spirit returns us to a state of purity and dedication to our original purpose, which is the glorification of God. Some days, you may feel as if the work on you has ceased or has been unproductive, but rest assured that, once begun, your restoration will be completed. This is the inevitable conclusion to the sacrifice of our wonderful Savior.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

(2 Corinthians 7:1)

In a recent sermon, I used the verse above as my primary text to encourage the congregation regarding our obligation to seek after holiness in order to honor the Lord. In the context of this verse, Paul speaks frankly to the Corinthians, telling them that they were no longer what they used to be, morally speaking. He also quotes a promise made by God that He would dwell in them and walk among them as their God and they would be His people. For this relationship to prosper, the recently born-again Corinthians had to rid themselves of the influence of the sinful nature and give increasing expression to the new life they had received in Christ Jesus.

I imagine that this must have been an overwhelming challenge to those who lived in the culture of the first century. Corinth was a major center for commerce. All of the negative influences that could be found throughout the Empire would be present in this city. Idolatry, for example, was universal; self-gratification was the primary concern of most people. The environment encouraged rebellion against the Law of God. In time, however, the gospel was preached and the Corinthians were regenerated by the Holy Spirit. They are told that they are called to be the opposite of what they had been all their lives.

Regardless of when in history the people of God exist, this command from the apostle is always paramount. The gospel changes us by giving us a new disposition, one that is oriented toward Christ and holiness. This orientation must be nurtured and guarded and I would suggest that there are three essential and highly effective elements involved in “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

First, we must fill our hearts with the truth of God given to us in the Bible. Bible reading, Bible study, listening to Biblical sermons, and reading Biblical literature are a few of the ways in which we can saturate our minds with the principles of righteousness. With the help of the Holy Spirit, these principles soon began to produce fruit. Another way in which to establish holiness in our hearts is through interaction with other Christians. These relationships produce an atmosphere conducive to spiritual growth and the development of wisdom.

Second, we must battle against every influence of our previous nature. This requires us to avoid certain habits, perhaps, or particular places where we know temptation awaits. Relationships that will not contribute to our growth in Christ must be abandoned. Again, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will develop discernment as we become more sensitive to the contrast between the holy Word of God and the many potential transgressions that we encounter every day.

Third, we must pray. We must seek God’s help so that we can walk peacefully under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must ask God to identify those areas in our lives that are weak and need to be strengthened. We must call upon Him to reveal those subtle sinful tendencies that we might overlook.

What are you reading these days? Do you find gladness in a sermon that is true to the Word? How often do you pick up your Bible simply to read for a while? Are you being built up by Christian friends? Do you fortify yourself through prayer each day? Much grace is needed to live honorably before God in this fallen environment. It will never be easy, but it will always be our calling. Be assured that the mercy of God is abundant towards those who desire to honor Him through thankful and joyful obedience.