How To Change The World
Like so many others, I have something within me that screams against the rules.
Like when I was much younger I was the proud owner of a pair of Washington Redskins shoes. Instead of using the normal shoelaces, I decided to spice up the shoes with some bright orange shoelaces that I owned.
Not exactly the prettiest sight in the world.
At the time, I didn’t realize that those colors didn’t match, and to be honest, it didn’t bother me in the least. I thought they were cool. But as I grew older and matured, I realized (after another pair of shoes with orange shoelaces) that orange didn’t really match. Other things began to change as well – my clothes started to match, my shirts were no longer on backwards, and I finally came to understand that you don’t wear pants with huge holes in the knees to special events. I was finally growing up.
Orange Shoelaces Don’t Go
In many ways, our Christian lives tend to be very similar to this. As we become teenagers, some of us have the urge to live our lives with our orange shoelaces still on. We remain children, fighting the so-called “rules” that our parents and authorities place over us and allow apathy to seep into our spiritual and physical lives.
The problem is this. Many of us have learned what is right, but we have never put that which we have learned into action. We’ve heard a thousand times that orange shoelaces don’t go with burgundy and gold shoes, and we might even know it to be true, but we’ve told ourselves a thousand times that where we are is so much sweeter.
Ignorance is bliss, right?
If we are ignorant of our need to mature as Christians, we will continue to live in that so called “bliss.” Sadly, many of us have remained infants in our Christian walk. But it’s time to grow up.
As believers in Christ, we are new people. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:17; “the old has gone, the new has come.” If this is the case, then we are to live as if we are new people – radically changed by God. We once lived in darkness and in sin, yet now all has gone away. Once, we did not struggle against sin, but continued in a steady pattern of ungodliness. Now, we are set free from our sin (Romans 8:2, 4-6, 9, 14), and have begun to live a new life. We have been“regenerated.”
In The Midst of a Battle
As regenerated men and women, we find ourselves in the midst of a battle. Like I said before, we once lived in a steady pattern of sin, but now things are different. One would think that because we are now regenerated – or made new – we would never sin again, but we all know this is not the case. Each and every believer continues to sin.
But the difference is clear: the true believer does not continue in a pattern of sin. If he does continue, he has not been regenerated and is instead living with the sinful nature from which believers are freed because of repentance and faith in Christ. He has not been truly changed.
So, my brothers you also died to the law through the body of Christ that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. (Romans 7: 4)
This is so important to understand! Knowing this helps us recognize what happens after “conversion.” James helps us understand the correct definition of faith and understanding of what salvation is in the highly misunderstood James 2:14-26. “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action,” says James. “is dead.” My works of holiness certainly do not save me, yet they are clear signs that proclaim “I am saved.” That is something we must grasp as we begin the journey in serving a new Master.
Our old master once ruled over us with an iron fist. We had no control over him as we lived in a pattern of sin and rebellion against God. For many of us, we did not realize our enslavement to this master of darkness because we had always, since birth, been a slave. It was life. We were born of the flesh, and therefore we lived and acted like the flesh.
Galatians 5:19-20 describe to us the acts of this sinful nature as being “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchary; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkeness, orgies, and the like.” Paul warns us that “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
We all were once liars, theives, adulterers, haters, idolaters, lusting, jealous, and selfish. We all deserved God’s wrath, and for those who continue in the pattern of the old man will not inherit eternal life, but will rather inherit eternal punishment in hell. But those who repent and place their faith in Christ will be regenerated – made brand new. This regeneration is not of ourselves, but is a gift of God.
1 John 3:4 talks about this very thing when it says, “everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”
That is the first part that we must understand – that we have fallen short of the glory of God and therefore are lawless. As lawless enemies of God, we need to be saved from eternal punishment. We are saved by grace through faith, by nothing of ourselves through Christ’s work on the cross as a propitiation and atonement for our sin. Through His resurrection we gain eternal life.
The second part we must understand is that no one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 1 John 3:7-10 clearly outlines for us what that means.
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
Now, this passage is not saying that if we sin after regeneration we are no longer under grace. We cannot lose our salvation, as pointed out by Paul in Romans 8:37-39, where he explains that for those who are in Christ Jesus, nothing can separate them from the love of God. Yet at the same time we must not keep on in a pattern of sin as slaves to righteousness. When we offer ourselves to someone as a slave, we obey that person. We are now under the control of righteousness. We now offer our bodies in slavery to righteousness “leading to holiness” (Romans 6:19).
This is the fruit that is spoken of in Galatians 5. By our fruit we are known to be either slaves to sin, or slaves to righteousness (Mt. 7:16-20). It is a test for us to understand whether or not we have been truly saved, as we now live in the light.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful to even mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by light becomes visible. this is why it is said: Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. Be careful, then, how you live – not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days of evil.
We are to understand what the Lord’s will is, not to get drunk on wine but to be filled with the Spirit, and are to speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs as we sing to the Lord in reverence and thanks as we clothe ourselves in righteousness (Col. 3:13-15, Malachi 2:5-7).
As We Preach the Gospel to Ourselves
As new believers, we must daily crucify our sinful desires, understanding that what we plant is what we sow. In other words, if we feed our flesh, it will grow and overpower us even as believers. If we starve it, feeding our righteous nature, we will allow holiness to grow in our lives instead of that terrible sinful nature. This is an ongoing battle. It’s tough for all of us, as we wake up daily to avoid feeding the flesh through each day. Whether it be anger, lust, pride, or envy, we all struggle against it. At some times, it seems impossible to overcome the old nature that once ruled in our lives.
We think that we can’t take off those shoes with orange shoelaces. But we have been set free and must crucify our desires! We cannot bend to the temptation to take no action and to sink into immaturity.
Finally, as young men and women who understand the importance of striving after holiness, we must be careful not to become conceited. Directly after stating the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – Paul exhorts us to “not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” In chapter 6 he tells us that “if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
As we preach the gospel to ourselves – as we understand daily the significance of our need for our Savior – we will not be conceited, but will daily return to the cross, bowing in humility, laying our sins before Christ who is the only one who can make us new again.
As a younger Christian I had the idea that all I had to do to live a holy life was to find out from the Bible what God wanted me to do and go do it. Christians with maturity will smile at this naive assumption, but I see younger Christians starting off with the same air of self-confidence. we have to learn that we are dependent upon the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to attain any degree of holiness. Then, as we look to Him, we will see Him working in us — revealing our sin, creating a desire for holiness, and giving us the strength to respond to Him in obedience. (Jerry Bridges The Pursuit of Holiness, Page 67)
I pray that all of us will understand the importance of living as a regenerated generation. It is more than a prayer – it is a life lived in humility like Christ. May our fruit shine as we go into the world and proclaim the glorious gospel.