New Creations in Christ

New Creations in Christ

“In the crushing, in the pressing
You are making new wine
In the soil, I now surrender
You are breaking new ground

So I yield to You and to Your careful hand
When I trust You I don’t need to understand”

I made this song by Hillsong my prayer two years ago, in a season of ‘crushing’ & ‘pressing’. In His mercy, He brought newness in the last year. He restored me, and healed me of so much brokenness.

He exposed the strangling tendrils of control, the destructive hold of self-criticism and hate. He showed me how I had driven myself into the ground with my need to be in control. He softened my calloused but broken heart and readied me to receive a newness I have never experienced. I can’t think of a time when I felt like a new creation more than now. He answered my prayer to bring the new wine out of my life.

But what a struggle it is to live in the newness that God has brought.

The healing, the restoration, the resulting transformation were exciting and fresh. But the newness is threatened when faced again with the oldness of my habits and circumstances.

Since moving back to Singapore, I have found myself confronted by some habitual psychological positions and behavioural patterns towards people in my life and my job. It’s difficult to believe that the past year in London actually happened.

An example of this would be the natural mindless way I am critical of people here in Singapore. There’s this moral high ground that I often climb when I’m here. I comment on people’s public behaviour, I tell my mom what to do, I criticise people’s decisions. I mean, what is all of this?

Living as new creations in Christ is a daily battle when we live in this world.

Let me just clarify. When we come to Christ, when He brings the breakthroughs in our life, we ARE new creations.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  
2 Corinthians 5:16-19

Paul writes about the certainty of our newness in Christ when He reconciled us to God. If ANYONE is in Christ, he IS a new creation. The old is DEAD, and the new IS here (that’s why grammar is useful: present tense, present participle!)

But Paul also talks about this life being a battle – we are in a spiritual fight. It is naive to think coming home as a new person to face the daily onslaught of a world that is broken and sinful would be easy. The drug addict set free from his addictions has to continue living in a society which promotes the use of drugs as something to be glorified. The alcoholic has to go back to work where drinking is the only way they cope with the stress. The burn-out teacher set free from the need to control everything has to work in an education system that works its teachers to the bone.

What then? I often think about forming a christian agricultural community isolated from the world where there are no smartphones or Internet and we live as one with nature. Ha. That would solve everything wouldn’t it?

Then I remember that we are called to be salt and light to the world, and the church is God’s salvation plan for the broken world. Paul continues in 2 Corinthians 5:20 to call us “ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”

So how can we continue to be the new creations in Christ? Here are some of my reflections.

REMEMBER.

And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.  
Deuteronomy 8: 2

Literally, the whole passage of Deuteronomy 8 is Moses’ exhortation to the people of Israel to REMEMBER (I suggest reading it, such a powerful passage). They, as the rest of the OT would reveal, would soon forget(again and again), and turn to other gods(basically the whole of the OT). Some of the laments that God has towards the people is their forgetfulness, and in Jeremiah He passes judgement on their belief in their own works, forgetting He is the Creator God who had called them His own.

The single most powerful way of living as new creations in Christ, is to REMEMBER what God has done for us. Remember the ‘Egypt’ that He delivered us from, remember the brokenness that we were in when He met with us, remember the freedom that we experience when we learnt of His grace. Remember the cross.

I often listen to songs that have spoken to me deeply in those seasons of brokenness and hopelessness, to remind myself of how He has delivered me. The other thing I started doing is to be in the habit of recording prayers, and when I’m feeling frustrated or on the edge of slipping back into old ways of thinking, I listen to those prayers of faith and prophetic declarations that people prayed over me. And I find that my spirit is lifted again.

WALK.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6: 1 – 4

Walk IN the newness. Do not let ourselves be swept away by the usual things, by culture, by what people say. Paul says in Ephesians 6 to STAND FIRM, to stay strong in the currents of life and society.

As new creations in Christ, we have to make conscious choices that would honour Him, to turn our backs on our sinful ways so that we can continue to walk in the newness of life.

Choosing to do things differently is difficult. Some of these decisions I had to make lately are painful. I’m dealing with the grief of having to surrender certain friendships I have held on to so tightly for the last few years. Some decisions are difficult. Choosing to stay silent instead of commenting on my parents is proving to be a real battle sometimes I can’t help but laugh at myself in disbelief.

and YET, there is such peace and assurance in choosing Him, and choosing to walk in the newness of life.

On Tuesday night, I felt the Spirit’s nudging to open my bible and to process some of these emotions I have been bottling up inside. And He met with me.

And the hand of the Lord was upon me there. And he said to me, “Arise, go out into the valley, and there I will speak with you.”
Ezekiel 3:22

In the valley, in the quiet, in the difficult decisions that we have to make to honour God and to be holy, He will speak with us. He is a God who loves so unconditionally, so powerfully. He overwhelms us with His grace.

He is good.

He is the loving Father who cares, who knows, who sees, who calls you by name. He loves the big decisions you make to surrender more of yourself to Him. He loves the tiny acts to draw yourself a little closer to Him. He loves the unique way you worship Him. He does not despise your simplicity and He is greater than the complexities of life. He is good, and He is Lord over all.

Remember the finished work of the cross, the certainty of our newness in Him. Remember His great power, His great faithfulness. We do not walk in this newness because of our own strength, but because of who we are in Christ. We are His. He says to us “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

As we continue to live as new creations in Christ, to contend with the forces of this world, to struggle against the old, to run this race with our eyes fixed on the right reward, to find new wineskins for the new wine, I pray that we will know the immeasurable worth of knowing Christ Jesus.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3: 14 – 21

Distracted and Deceived

Distracted and Deceived

In a sermon, Stef Liston spoke about the two main ways the enemy wages war. First, to turn our attention from God through DISTRACTIONS, and second, to make us doubt/quench our full potential through DECEPTION.

It struck me because so often those are the two things I struggle with the most in my faith. Since coming back to Singapore I have been bombarded with distractions. My mind can’t fully be still, even when I’m reading my bible in the morning my thoughts are racing about what’s next, life, lunch. Sometimes with the most facepalm worthy things.

Another battle is fighting the lies about my identity, and these lies become like weeds that wrap round the tree that is blossoming, and choke the life out of it slowly. (Luke 8:14)

In my journeys to and from work, I have observed that many (not all but a seeming majority) Singaporeans are glued to their screens. Some people are reading the news or a book, which is fine, but most are watching movies, playing games or scrolling on social media. Sometimes, by virtue of ‘everyone’s doing it’, I find myself gravitating to my phone as well, checking empty updates of people I don’t really know or care about. That, and reading articles that frankly, have little value on my life.

Why is this an issue?

D I S T R A C T I O N

The Lord speaks to us in the stillness of our hearts and minds, but when we fill our time with visual stimulation and mindless social media, I don’t know how we will actually be able to hear Him.

I call it the abyss of screen time: my mind and awareness darkens, and I delve deep into the lives of other people, of vicious comparison. Either that or I’m numbed to all other sensations because of the escapism of watching videos or scrolling social media.

How distracting it is, and unsatisfying for my soul. To quote a famous man, “But we can give Frodo his chance if we keep Sauron’s Eye fixed upon us. Keep him blind to all else that moves” (Aragorn, LOTR). Distractions keep us blind to other humans, oblivious to the voice of God.

What would it look like if, instead of waiting for that two hour session during a random church camp to go our treasure hunting to pray for people, all of us would open our eyes to see needs on the streets as we are travelling, to observe people and pray for our nation? How much more will God be able to move in our nation? Our cry that God will establish His kingdom here in our nation will turn into action!

What hope do we have against the enemy if we spend that 10 minutes in the morning on the Word of God, and the rest of the time at work or watching videos?

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:16 – 17

‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ – I’m convicted to allow my bible readings to dwell in me richly each day, by thinking about them, processing them, breaking them down into smaller phrases and really delving deep into them. Best time to do this? Every morning on the train/bus. Eating lunch alone.

When we are distracted, we leave ourselves open to

D E C E P T I O N

Lies start to creep in about my body image when I scroll the Insta-perfect models. Lies about the futility of my life start taking root little by little when I see all the powerful lives others seem to live. Bitterness and disappointment fight to the surface when I begin to compare myself to friends who are seeing breakthrough in their lives.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 
Ephesians 6: 10 – 13

Putting on the armour of God requires awareness, and focus. Often times the devil’s schemes are subtle, he creeps in like a thief to steal, kill and destroy. To steal our joy, kill our hopes and destroy our faith in Christ. They may start like little foxes, but if we do not remember that we are in a fight, we leave ourselves vulnerable to attacks and they may slowly tear down the good work that God has done in us.

O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.
Grace be with you.
1 Timothy 6: 20-21

Paul exhorts Timothy to GUARD the truths, the gifts, the downloads, the faith given to him through the Spirit. Because the enemy will come, and will try to take them away.

“It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters

This is an exhortation to us as believers to be aware of what we let in to our lives, what we fill our time and minds with. It is something that comes up of personal conviction, and a desire to walk more closer with God. To live out the freedom that He has already won for us. Sometimes that takes a bit of uprooting, rock removing, rug pulling in order to free us from the chains that so easily entangles.

What are some of the little distractions that have crept into our daily lives, and keep us from the all-consuming, transformative power of God?

Have you noticed what happens when you engage with these distractions? What are you aware/not aware of?

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful” (1 Corinthians 6:12) What are some things that dominate your time and mind and emotions that are not helpful in encouraging your journey?