Growth takes time. We know this from a biological standpoint. Humans spend their first nine months of existence in the womb growing and being nurtured by their mother. Once we are born our growth continues through our teen years. We learn to roll over, then we walk, then our parents are sizing up our diapers and clothes. Year after year we have to get new clothes and new shoes because we can’t stop growing. We grow taller and bigger until we finally slow down between the ages of 16-20… It’s a lot of growth. But it takes a lot of time.
I think we can agree that growth takes time biologically, and most of us would probably admit that growth takes time professionally. Rarely does anyone wake up one day to realize that through no effort of their own they have achieved greatness and become the very person they dream of being. Rather, most people have an idea of where they want to end up in life and then they take the necessary steps to achieve that end. That takes time. In his book Outliers Malcom Gladwell records that it takes 10,000 hours of practice before you are considered an expert at any skill or talent. That’s a lot of time.
We understand that growth takes time physically and professionally… But few us like the idea of growth taking time spiritually. We often have that conversion experience where we feel God’s presence like never before, but it quickly fades and we soon realize that we have very little connection or relationship with God. And we begin to ask ourselves, “Why don’t I know all the answers? Why do I still struggle with this sin? Why am I still angry? Why don’t I feel God?”
When it comes to spiritual growth, we want the results immediately. Most of the time it is because the time associated with spiritual growth requires pain. We feel pain as we have to say goodbye to some relationships. We feel the pain of no longer reaching for the bottle to relax. We feel the pain of confronting the hurt we caused in someone’s life because of the way we lived before Christ. We feel the pain of sacrificing 10% of our salary so that the mission of God can move forward.
And often times, when confronted with these growth pains, we choose to not grow because the pain of staying the same is less than the pain of change. And then, we look at our lives and say, “Why haven’t I grown? Why am I not where I want to be spiritually?” And more often then not, it’s because we get impatient with what growth requires… So we quit and throw in the towel. But as we said at the beginning, growth takes time.
Rich Villodas tweeted the other day,
“If Jesus spent 8 hours a day, every day, for 3 years with his disciples, he would have spent over 8,000 hours with them. And after all that time, they still had significant gaps! Peter still denied him. Thomas still doubted. James and John still wanted power. 8,000 hours with his disciples and they had gaps.
Yet, we think 1 hour a week on Sunday morning is gonna change us?”
That convicts me! So often we don’t grow because we don’t put the time into grow. We never develop a consistent and steady prayer and Bible time. We don’t make it a priority to communicate and connect with other believers. We pack our schedules so full that we never have time to serve others. And all of these are steps to spiritual growth. And we often don't make the time for those steps. Which means we aren't growing by our own doing.
Please understand, when we feel distant from God and we feel like our spiritual growth is stunted, the problem is not with Him. It’s always with us.
So here's my suggestion: If you want to grow in your faith like never before this year, anticipate making sacrifices (pain!) so that you can spend more time with Him.
It should be no surprise to anyone that simply having knowledge about someone or something will not automatically dictate behavior. For example, I know that I should work out more because it’s good for my health… But that doesn’t mean I will. I know that I don’t need to upgrade to the iPhone 12 because my Xr works just fine… But that doesn’t mean I won’t. I know that I should turn off the TV and pick up a book… But it’s probably not gonna happen.
At the same time, the things I don’t know can also hurt me. As a kid, I didn’t know that broken glass could hurt me… So, when I picked up a broken shard and sliced my finger open, I really wish I had known that glass was sharp. For many of us, we wish we had known about those hidden dealer fees before buying a new car, but now we are out 500 bucks and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Knowledge can be a conundrum. And this knowledge conundrum especially extends into our faith. I know that I should sacrifice for and love my neighbor… But that doesn’t mean I will. On the flip side, I’ve known many who love to talk about themselves, yet had no idea that it was a prideful sin. You can be wrong and know everything. You can be wrong and know nothing.
I’ve seen lots of people who “know” God in the sense of pure data. They can tell you every story, every character, every law, and every interpretation, yet they have never learned how to apply that knowledge and live that knowledge out. And so, what we discover in this tension is that they don’t really know God… Because to know God is to obey his commands (1 John 2:3).
On the total opposite side, there are many who profess to know God, but their lives don’t reflect that knowledge because they have made no effort to know Him. They’ve let the pendulum swing to the other side and rather than learning everything about God, they’ve decided to know nothing about Him. And they are still just as far from God as those who have lots of knowledge but do very little. Their claim to follow Jesus is really just empty words.
It really is a conundrum. It shows us that you can know all the answers or know none of the answers and still be wrong. And at any point in time, every single one of us could swing to one side or the other.
So how do we know if we truly know God? If just the facts isn’t enough and if claiming belief but failing to learn about Him isn’t enough, what’s the answer?
I think it’s simple really… Let your knowledge of God transform you to be like God. To those who know everything, you have to be open to the power of that knowledge so that you can change for the better. To the one who puts no effort into studying and learning the things of God, you have to make an effort to learn about Him in His word so that you can be transformed.
Learning about God is an essential process to knowing God, but it can’t stop there. That knowledge must be applied to everyday life. Your knowledge must transform the way you think, live, and act. It must transform you to be like Jesus.
Colossians 3:10 says, Put on the new self, which is being renewed IN KNOWLEDGE after the IMAGE of its CREATOR.
Your new self, your transformed self is renewed in KNOWLEDGE after GOD! You’ll know you know God when you begin to experience the thrill of transformation in Christ. You’ll know you know God when you begin to respond differently and act differently and think differently than you did before.
So here’s the application for all of this: When (not if!) you study the Bible and the things of God to know Him more, you should always ask, “How then should I live?” Because the answer to that question should always be a reflection of Jesus and His way of life. And if it’s not, then you’ve missed the point and you might not know God as well as you think.
I think it’s really easy to read the Bible and see all the incredible stories and great acts of faith that people like Abraham, Rahab, Peter, Paul, Moses, and Noah made and say to ourselves, “Yeah… But that was a long time ago. God doesn’t really expect such faith from me.” And by simply writing off these stories as “Different day and different culture,” we actually end up missing out on all that God has in store for us.
I believe with all my heart that Christians are to live into the same type of faith that we see throughout Scripture. We are to be risk takers and world changers because we believe that the Creator of this world has called us to participate in his redemptive purposes for the world. But so often, our faith is little more than mental assent… We believe in Jesus, but we don’t always live for Jesus. We believe that Jesus lived, died, and resurrected, but how many of us only believe that to make sure we are covered when we die? So that we can avoid the bad place and get to the good place?
When following Jesus exists in mind only, with no action and discipline to actually follow Jesus in the way we structure our lives, we miss out on the purpose for which we were called. Jesus lays that purpose out pretty clearly for us in Matthew 28…
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
I don’t know if you were paying attention or not, but that’s a purpose of action. Go… Make Disciples… Baptize them… Teach them… Five actions that Jesus outlines as our purpose. And for sure, these actions are often fulfilled in different ways. Sometimes its fulfilled with community service, intense prayer experiences, rigorous Bible study, or just showing up for your neighbor’s party… But, however the purpose is fulfilled, it’s fulfilled with some type of action. Praying for your friend to know Jesus is action. Studying Scripture to know God so that you can answer questions for others is action. Serving your community is action. Showing up is action.
Faith in Jesus requires action. It’s not enough to let our faith exist in mind only. We have to actively pursue God and pursue others if we are going to fulfill our purpose. The Bible is not just about people who took great risks so that we could be amazed… The Bible is full of stories about people taking great risks so that we could be encouraged to do the same.
Justo Gonzalez is a Christian Historian and in his book, A History of Christianity he writes,
“…Evangelism did not take place in church services, but rather in kitchens, shops, and markets. Sure there were some who held more academic type debates in their education centers… But the fact remains that most converts were made by anonymous Christians whose witness led others to their faith… It is clear that the enormous spread of the Gospel in those first centuries was not due to full-time missionaries, but rather to the many Christians who traveled for other reasons — slaves, merchants, exiles condemned to work in the mines, and the like.”
The good news of Jesus spread because common everyday people got active in their faith. The purpose, “To go make disciples,” was fulfilled because people like you and me got off the couch, out of the chair, turned off the TV, and took Jesus with them to the marketplace, to their jobs, and to their friends. And the risk they took to share the love of Jesus with their world, changed the whole world.
Friends, our purpose as followers of Jesus demands action. Don’t let 2021 pass you by without making an effort to help someone find and follow Jesus. Commit today to living an active faith so that the world might see Him.
The goal of a leader is take people from where they are to where they could be… And sometimes the one being lead can’t even see where it is they are going. It’s the coach who pushes his players to work harder, run faster, and jump higher to win a national championship. It’s the music teacher who takes her pupil to the next level by encouraging and equipping the student to play better than she ever thought she could. It’s the professor who sees something in a young college student and spends more time than usual with her to make sure she’s ready for the real world.
Every single day there are leaders in the world who see something their followers can’t see and their goal is to get them to a level they didn’t think was possible… And it is no different when it comes to following Jesus.
I know that anyone who reads this blog has someone in mind that you believe in and you know that they could make a huge impact for Jesus. But they don’t see it. They are imprisoned by their past. Their mind ruts won’t let them break free from negative thinking and self-doubt. Their relationships keep pulling them back into the same old behavior that they’ve been trying to break for years. They could be so much more… But they just don’t know how.
This is where you make it personal with them. This is where you step up and have what one author calls the ICNU Conversation*. It goes like this…
“Hey, I’ve noticed that people really listen to you when you speak up in the group, have you ever thought of going into public ministry?”
“Hey, I’ve noticed that God continually blesses and you have such success in business, have you ever thought of using those skills to help non-profits become financially stable?”
“Hey, I’ve noticed that you have a way of making people feel welcome, have you ever thought of using your house to welcome people far from Jesus into a relationship with Him?”
The list could go on, but you get the point. The ICNU Conversation is noticing and seeing something in someone that they don’t see in themselves… And then telling them about it. It’s coming alongside them and saying “You’re really good at this, I think you can use it for Jesus.”
So many of us think that we are disqualified from following Jesus because of (fill in the blank), but nothing is further from the truth.
Peter denied Jesus, but lead the first church.
Paul killed Christians, but planted churches all over the ancient world.
Zacchaeus stole, but learned generosity.
Mary was a prostitute, but was one of the first messengers with the news of the resurrection.
James doubted Jesus, but went on to be a key leader for the early church.
You see the pattern? It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, God wants to use you for His glory. And sometimes we just need a little extra boost of confidence from others.
So go encourage someone today. Go have an ICNU Conversation. Go help someone be more than
*Borrowed from Dave Ferguson's and Warren Bird's Hero Maker, 2018.
My dad and I used to go out to breakfast every Tuesday morning when I was in High School. We’d wake up 5:30a and drive to Bob Evans. If you’ve never had Bob Evans, you don’t know what you’re missing. They have biscuits and brown gravy that is to die for! It’ll change your life. I remember my weekly order: 2 Biscuits with a bowl (yes, a whole bowl) of brown gravy, home fries, and hot coffee. I’m salivating at my desk just thinking about it.
A lot of times on our breakfast outings, my dad would invite someone else to go along. It was always fun having guests accompany us on our breakfast mornings. Old guys have good stories and I was always the youngest one at the table, so I was always hearing good stories. Not to mention, my dad’s friends loved talking to me about me. And let’s be honest, everybody likes to talk about themselves. I loved when we had guests at breakfast, because it often meant I’d get to brag on myself in answering their questions.
One of my dad’s friends was a man named Kevin. Kevin was a character, but Kevin knew how to make you feel special. Have you ever been around someone that treats you like you’re the most important person in the world? And you leave that conversation feeling like a million bucks? This is what breakfast with Kevin is like. He has a unique gifting to always direct the conversation back to you… No matter where the conversation goes, Kevin has a way of always getting back to taking an interest in whoever he’s talking to. If holding a conversation was an art, Kevin was a master. Every time I left breakfast after he joined us, I felt on top of the world, encouraged, and ready to take on the day. I’ll never forget Kevin because of the way he made me feel.
It’s easy to be self-absorbed. Our self-made, self-obsessed, and selfie-taking culture breeds pride, arrogance, and selfishness. We are quicker to talk about ourselves and our accomplishments because we want people to know how special and great we are. We find clever ways to work into conversation how much money we make, the experiences we’ve had, or how #blessed we are. Admit it, you think you’re pretty awesome.
I’ve found, however, that nothing will ruin a relationship quicker than talking about yourself. Most people don’t care how much you make or where you’ve travelled in the world. Most people just want to know that you care about them. And if you want to help people find and follow Jesus, you need to get better at the art of engaging with people in what matters to them.
Jesus used fisherman language when calling the first disciples. He told parables and used everyday illustrations that his listeners could relate to. He took time out of his day to talk with people that society had rejected. Every time Jesus opened his mouth, he was communicating to people that they mattered. Jesus knew how to encourage and make someone feel like a million bucks - because he spoke their language and talked about them.
The apostle Paul had learned the importance of knowing what matters to people as well. He writes,
I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some (1st Corinthians 9:22)
Paul knew that he had to discover what mattered to people so that he could save some by introducing them to Jesus.
So here’s my encouragement to you today… Stop talking about yourself and start talking about what matters to other people. Ask them about their kids. Ask them how they met their spouse. Find out what their hobbies are. When someone starts telling you a whole bunch of information about bird-watching, you’ll know you’re making progress. Just talk to them about them… Be like my friend Kevin and always look for ways to navigate the conversation back to them.
Because if you take interest in them enough times, eventually, you’ll be able to navigate the conversation to Jesus.
If you’ve known me for anytime at all, you know that I’m huge fan of the Andy Griffith Show. In fact, I named my son Griffith in honor of the show. Everyday after school I used to come home, make a bowl of Ramen Noodles, open a bag of Doritos, and head to Mayberry for the afternoon. I love everything about the show! But the show would not be what it is without the bumbling deputy, Barney Fife.
On more than one occasion, Andy and Barney are featured in newspaper articles where they captured some criminals. And almost every time they make the headlines, somebody gets Barney’s name wrong. Bernie Fife. Barney Fike. Bernard Fise. As kind as Barney is, he always wants to be known and recognized. He wants people to know his name and get his name right. In fact, whenever Barney reads these misprints, he often boils with rage and always calls the newspaper to let them know their mistake.
Barney wants his name said… And chances are, you do too. A name communicates that we have value. It communicates that we belong and that we have an identity. Why do you think parents take such care in picking out a name when their baby is born? Because names are important.
However, as we get older, it seems like we put less and less emphasis on names. We say things like, “Hey you!”, or “Hey fella.” And these generic greetings don’t communicate value and honor - they communicate obscurity. Many of us are okay with saying, “I’m not good with names.”
But what if that’s a major reason we aren’t reaching as many people for Jesus as we’d like? If names communicate honor and value, don’t you think it’s the least we could do to begin building a relationship with someone in hopes that they come to know Jesus? In fact, Jesus was one for using names:
When we use someone’s name, it’s a way to make things personal because it communicates value and honor. It may seem like a small thing, but it has a big impact! Everyone likes to hear their name said.
So if you want to get better at names, here’s some practical steps you can take:
1. When you first learn the name, say the name out loud. “My name is Peter… Hi PETER, nice to meet you.” Repetition will help with the learning process.
2. Utilize your notes app… I often keep a name note where I write down people’s name to study later.
3. Pray for the name… Right after meeting someone, say a quick prayer for them.
4. Utilize a mnemonic device. If you watch the Office, Michael Scott might be of some help to you with this one :)
5. Discover the story behind the name. Everyone has a story. And if you ask the right questions you can learn who that person is, not just their name.
Names communicate value and honor. And if you want to get personal with others, it starts by learning their name. It’s a simple practice, but it creates a big impact!
If you want to learn more about learning names and why it’s important check out the book It’s Personal. If you have your own tricks for learning names, we’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Four years ago my wife and I stayed up way past our bedtime because we couldn’t stop watching the results of the election. I remember vividly saying late into the night, “Oh my goodness… He’s gonna do it.” I was as shocked as everyone else when President Trump won. I remember seeing the tweets and the posts from friends who were convinced the world was now over. To be fair, some of my other friends would have responded the same way had Hilary Clinton won. But, four years later we are still here. And I believe we would still be here if she had won as well. Because, at the end of the day, it’s not Donald Trump, Joe Biden, or Hilary Clinton who is writing the story of history. Jesus is.
And that’s easy to forget. As followers of Jesus we live in this tension that can often be hard to navigate. We have our beliefs and convictions that we feel strongly about but, there’s always that one candidate who seems to be the antithesis of those convictions. If Trump wins, we are doomed. If Biden wins we are doomed. But we easily forget that whoever wins has a term limit. But Jesus doesn’t.
I love what Dr. Derwin Gray tweeted the other day:
The November 3 election is important. But the most important Election took place in eternity past when God the Father elected Jesus to be the world's Redeemer and Savior.
Friends, the real election has already been won. Jesus, through His victory on the cross and His victory over death and the grave has already declared the winner… And it’s Him. No politician or government philosophy will provide true joy and salvation. No man made ideals or systems can save you and provide what you’re searching for. Only Jesus does that.
So, as you wait in the long lines at the polls today, remember this: No matter what happens, Jesus has already won. If Trump wins, you’re gonna be okay. If Biden wins, you’re gonna be okay.
The church of Jesus Christ has not pressed on through tyrannical rule, pandemics, dispersions, and persecution for 2000+ years to be defeated now. No, the hope of the Gospel will continue to permeate, saturate, and inundate our hearts if we remember to place our trust in the victory of Jesus. Listen to Jesus’ victory speech given through the pen of the Apostle Paul:
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who GIVES US THE VICTORY through our LORD JESUS CHRIST.
Paul knew that not even the power of death can keep us from the victory that is ours in Christ Jesus. So, when you panic because your candidate loses today… Remember that this is simply a blip in eternity and that you’ve already won if you are in Christ. And when you frame your life around the victory of Jesus, you can carry on with life. You can love, serve, and even build relationships with people you disagree with. You can speak joy in a world of despair. You can be love in a world of hate. You can give hope in a world of doom. In fact, that was Paul’s encouragement to us immediately following the description of death’s death. He writes,
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
So, go do your civic duty and vote for the man you’ve prayed for and believe will be the best representation of the Kingdom of God, but do so knowing that the ultimate victory has already been won. And Jesus is the Victor.
A few years ago my dad was going through a building campaign at his church in Indiana. In their efforts to raise money for their new building, they launched a vision series entitled A Place at the Table. Their vision was to see more open seats for people to join Jesus at His table. In one of those messages my dad wrote,
When you were a toddler you sat in a high chair or at the kid’s table and you wanted a place at the adult table with the big people. And then you went to school and you needed to fit in and you wanted to belong and the school cafeteria made it clear whether you were accepted or not if you had a place at the table. And then adulthood came and you worked and contributed and tried to survive and make your opinions known and when it came to how things should be done you just wanted to be heard and have a place at the table in your life pursuits. And as you got a little older you started to realize the beauty and importance of family and you would give just about anything to have that place at the table together with your family as you go through life.
Any of those scenarios ring true for you? Or maybe worse, do all of them sound familiar? As we go through life, we all want to be accepted. We want relationship and community. We want to know that we have people that we can rely on and people who rely on us. Having a place at the table is important to us. The need and desire to be seated at the table will often dictate and control our emotions and our actions whether we admit or not.
Sadly, so many of us go through life feeling like we have no place at the table. We’ve been chewed up and spit out too many times and we have believed the lie that we are unworthy. We’re not good enough. And nobody wants anything to do with us. So we give up. We throw in the towel simply because of what we think others say and think about us.
Too often we feel neglected and distant from the table because people have pulled the chair out from under us and kept us distant. In fact, I would argue that the majority of people who don’t like Jesus, don’t like Him because of how other people have treated them. And Jesus has something to say to those who prevent others from coming to the table.
One day Jesus was walking through the Temple and he saw some corrupt practices going on. There were some money changers who were profiting on people who simply wanted to worship God. They made it too expensive for these worshippers to ever dream of having a place at the table… When Jesus sees this he expresses some righteous anger and actually begins flipping over all the tables in the Temple… Read the whole thing in Mark 11:15-18 and see how Jesus expresses His anger!
But here’s the bottom line — Jesus overturns the tables because people were keeping other people from His table. In other words, Jesus will not let someone else limit your access to Him. In fact, He went to even greater lengths than just turning over some tables… He went to the cross. And on the cross, Jesus says to each of us…
“I don’t care where you’ve been or what you’ve done or how you’ve failed. My sacrifice, my new covenant is for you, the ground is level here and you have a place at the table.”
You see, Jesus breaks down the barriers and the caste systems and the pretense and the self importance and He forgives AND gives you A PLACE AT HIS TABLE.
So there’s two brief points of application in all of this:
First, don’t be that person that keeps people from God. Jesus will get mad. And He will respond accordingly. Instead, focus on being like Jesus and bringing more people to the table.
Second, don’t believe the lie that you’re not wanted at His table. He died for you. He loves you. And He wants nothing more than to be in relationship with you. And if you want a place at His table, we would love nothing more than to walk with you to your seat and help you in any way we can.
On Sunday we talked about scams. Nobody likes to be scammed. I’ve heard horror stories of people losing thousands of dollars because they believed someone who pretended to be something they weren’t… But if we zoom in a little bit, most of us would admit that we run a scam everyday. We try to scam God, the people around us, and ourselves. We don’t do it intentionally, but we all do it.
I’m no psychologist, but I recently read an interesting article about Cognitive Dissonance. Cognitive Dissonance refers to the ability for humans to hold certain beliefs, yet do actions that go directly against those beliefs (AKA - a scam… I say one thing, but I do another). The presence of Cognitive Dissonance will often cause feelings of unease or discomfort because inside we recognize the difference between who we say we are and what we do.
You’ll see this all around: It’s the politician who opposes prostitution but is caught with a high priced call girl (A call girl isn’t REALLY a prostitute). It’s the addict who insists he/she is sober because they aren’t using that drug anymore, but has instead switched to a less harmful substance. It’s when you get denied for your dream job, and then tell everyone it was a dead-end job and the interviewer was a jerk anyways. To put it in more simple terms, it’s the process of self-justification.
Most of the time it happens unconsciously… In fact, it works better that way. Imagine if we said to ourselves, “Okay self… I’m going to convince you that, even though he’s not, this person is idiot, so that you feel better about being rejected….” Instead, we just do it without thinking about the process - “I was rejected because that guy is an idiot.”
One author writes, “The talent for self-justification is surely the greatest achievement of the human brain. When it comes to justifying actions, every human being acquires the intelligence of an Einstein, the imagination of a Shakespeare, and the subtlety of a Jesuit.”
Let’s be real… We all do it. We all run scams on ourselves. We run scams on God. And we run scams on others. Our heart says “We want this, so we should go for it…” But our moral compass says, “Nope that’s not what you need.” And this tension is where a scam become inevitable. The only way to fix this problem, is to cure the source of the problem… The human heart.
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God says, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick. Who can understand it? (17:9).
So if that’s true, what do we do? It kind of wrecks the whole life philosophy of “Follow Your Heart,” doesn’t it?
What if, instead of following our heart, we surrendered our heart to follow God? In other words, don’t follow your heart (which is deceitful and will leave you feeling the discomfort of saying one thing, but doing another), but surrender that heart to the Lordship of Jesus. Jon Bloom says,
Note that Jesus did not say to his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled, just believe in your hearts.” He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).
If you want to quit running a scam on yourself and everyone around you, it starts by being honest with yourself. Remember that your heart will always tell you what you want, not what you need. It does not have your best intentions in mind.
So, listen to your heart, yes, but only so you can know yourself better. And then surrender that knowledge of yourself to God so that He can transform and change your heart to be more like Him.
Running a scam may work for a bit, but before long the desires of your heart will overpower the front you’re putting up. Instead, quit pretending you’re perfect, quit running the heart scam, and with brutal honesty and transparency, give that heart to Jesus.
I have not yet arrived, but I try very hard to live a minimalist lifestyle. Minimalism is the idea that we are to live with less so that we have time for more. I listen to podcasts and read books about how to be a better minimalist, how to be a minimalist with kids, and how to decrease the amount of clutter in your house. I have about 7 T-shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, and 4 dress shirts that I cycle through each week. I love everything about minimalism.
But I’m not always great at it. Because there is this very powerful drive to always get new items. New shirts, new shoes, new cars, new games, new furniture, and new pants… I love getting new things. I love the research that goes into purchasing new items, I love opening the box of a new iPhone, and I love planning out how I will care for my new car. Part of this love of new things comes from our materialistic culture - companies know us better than we know ourselves and they know how to market to us. But this desire for new things and more things doesn’t mix well with my desire to be a minimalist. At some point, I must choose which way of life I’m going to live by.
And the same is true when it comes to being made new in Christ. We can’t hold onto our OLD life while looking for NEW life in Christ. We love the idea of new, but we are often drawn back into the old. Let's be real... We struggle to let go of the past. And we try to fix ourselves with solutions that were never meant to fix us. Jesus spoke to this reality and he told us to not let it happen:
Mark 2:21-22 says,
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
You see, new and old don’t mix well together. My desire to live a minimalist lifestyle doesn’t mix well with our culture’s incessant need for more. And our desire to be made new in Christ, doesn’t mix well with the temptation of living in our old way of life.
The truth is, and that I pray everyone accepts and believes, Jesus wants to make you new. He doesn’t want you to be burdened by regulation and tradition, shame and guilt, or that sin habit you can’t seem to break. He wants to make you totally and completely new... Not by using an old patch or old leather, but by giving you new life instead.
But we can’t have a foot in both camps. Being made new will require total surrender to who He’s forming you into. It might mean tough conversations with friends or family. It will mean slowing down and processing before responding. And it will definitely mean a transformation in your thoughts, mind, and actions.
But the reward of fully accepting the new and letting go of the old is worth the discomfort. It’s worth the self-denial and the tough conversations. Because when you surrender the old for the new, you are entering into an eternal relationship with Jesus forever. So, quit trying to fix new problems with old solutions … Instead, surrender that old life to Jesus and be made totally new.
As you reflect on being made new today, check out this song. This song has ministered to me on more than one occasion as an encouragement to let Jesus make me new.