I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." Matthew 26:29.
Jesus spoke these words to His disciple’s just days before His crucifixion. They sum up His divine purpose. We are born in sin. Christ here promises that with His death and resurrection, a whole new creation has come. That is why John the Baptist referred to Him as the Lamb of God.
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29.
God would sacrifice His only Son that mankind’s sins might be forgiven. John the Baptist was beheaded because he told a woman the truth about her sins. He offered her the Lamb of God who would take away her sins.
Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. In so doing, Jesus recreated a way back to God for anyone who would believe in Him.
In our deepest pain, our most humiliating shame, in our darkest hours, or in the most wounding abuse, in God’s mercy and grace, through Jesus Christ, we are being made new every day.
Hurry to the Word of God again that we might know the power of His love that creates us anew every day--“and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19.
Filled to the measure used in this passage in Ephesians 3:19, we rest upon the initial actions of God, “pressed down, shaken together, and running over and poured into [our] laps.”
“For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38. In reflecting on these last words, we need to consider the demanding times and styles of life we live. Never, it would seem, has there ever been a more demanding culture than the one in which we are now living.
But the magnetic power of the Word of God never ceases to amaze one. Recently we had as our guest’s three young Christian men. They spent the weekend helping us with some yard and garden work. We visited with one of them, who, having finished his many years of schooling, is now beginning a career in a large well-known world-wide company. We asked him how he came to be a young man who lived by faith. He answered in the following way.
“Faith wasn’t something that was at the front of my mind coming into college, but I was blessed to have friends who invited me to join them in pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ. I think getting that relationship started was the biggest step for me, and having friends who continue to encourage me on in faith has been great for me.”
The fruit of that faith is peace. We live in this world but do not have to be of this world. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. This is the cosmic battle that rages in each of us. We must find work in this world and with whatever our calling may be, God will supply us with peace.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29. God demands nothing from us save the simple response of trust. That is what Martin Luther meant when he used the term vita passiva. Through faith that is given to us, God is recreating us new every day in full measure.
We are recreated anew from the beast that has a hold on the world. ”All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast--all whose names have not been written in the Lamb's book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” Revelation 13:9
Briefly, who is this beast? It is the one to whom we can become bound. This beast is the antichrist, the one who comes between a believer and his/her life of faith in God and sets up additional conditions. God makes no demands but offers His grace and mercy through Jesus Christ. This is the Christ whose life and light recreates life and peace anew in us.
Before the world was even brought into existence, the fullness of God had been displayed through Christ. He was from before the beginning, the “Lamb of God.”
This took place ions before our changing cultures made their constant demands on us.
The Lamb of God creates us anew every day. It is not of our own doing; it is a faith that God is working in us. The battle continues. We live in a world that suffers greatly. But Christ has overcome this world. Suffering in any form was known to Him even before time came into being. It is Christ who has created us anew, making it possible that we can glorify His name even in the deepest suffering.
In this world, mankind is now able to alleviate some of the physical and mental pain of suffering, but we cannot escape the sin that causes the suffering of death.
Early theological thinking on suffering, which is a part of this world, regarded it as a form of redemption. Often we think of it as a testing that will prove us worthy of the redemption. Michelangelo’s, The Pieta, is a sculpture of a young woman who Michelangelo was able to give the appearance of timelessness, a very young mother who holds the dead form of her son. As one looks at her son’s body, every muscle is showing. Michelangelo was able to show through the body of a dead Christ, the real corpse of suffering humanity, along with timeless compassion.
Jesus Christ, out of a divine love, bore in His body the sins of all that all might be made new in Him. “For God so loved the world . . .” God did this on His own and was influenced by His sovereign will.
As by the free will God had given Adam and Eve, through which they rejected God, God chose to will mankind’s redemption. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
One cannot walk away from this work of Michelangelo in St. Peter's Basilica without realizing that God is fully in charge, creating us new every day. For all creation was condemned to suffering and death by disobedience. Jesus Christ became the new Adam, that through Him we might be made into new creations in His image.
There is the name of a man who visits my memory now and then, a man out of my childhood. His name was Joe. He led a Bible Study class for young people after they were confirmed into adult membership in the church. We were fourteen or fifteen at the time. He was the only one from my church who sent a hand written letter to me in my first year of training at the seminary, along with a check for $100. That was a considerable amount of money in 1959. But I don’t remember him for that reason.
I remember Joe as a carpenter, a simple man with an eighth-grade education. He lost an eye in an accident when he was young. His wife died of leukemia. He was left to raise their five children. He never remarried, never called attention to himself, but in my eyes, he was a complete man. Everybody knew he was a life-long student of the Word of God. His prayers came from within his soul, a soul that had suffered deeply. Even at a young age, I knew of his sufferings. In the absence of any need on his part to impress others, there was a rock-like quality about his life that Christ alone had recreated within him.
How do we hasten to the Word of God when the world draws our attention away from Him? C.S. Lewis tells us that “there must be a real giving up of the self.” We must throw it away "blindly,” this life of ours to which we cling. C.S. Lewis goes on to say that “Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about, you are not going to Him at all.” Lewis says, that “the very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring two pence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”
The man, Joe, from my childhood, was that man who God had created anew through Christ.
Lewis tells us that this “principle runs through all life from top to bottom. 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 favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever 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.”
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