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Archive for June, 2012

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Let’s look at the objective facts of your past in the scriptures. 2 Corinthians 5, verse 17 tells us, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation!” The New Century Version of the Bible shows unique insights into this verse by translating it:

“If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation.”

I liked this rendition because it stands outside the influence of the conversation and points to the facts—there is a new creation! The same verse in the ever-illustrative Message Bible paraphrases verse 17:

Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!

I might add that anyone “united” not only gets a fresh start, but, more to the point, is that fresh start. When Paul writes that the believer’s former life has “died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God,” he means that the past is concluded, buried and not to be dug up in all its corruption. This is the objective “facts” of the scriptures. It’s the unwavering principle by which believers choose to live the life of Christ.

Sadly, in the minds of those considering themselves to have experienced a past of extreme unrighteous behaviors, the powerful reality of forgiveness is too soon forgotten. Somewhere along the lines, when the scriptures ought to be a comfort, the guilt and weight of a former life presses upon the memory and the choice is made to cast off the forgiveness once realized. Now, I’m not referring to those who fall back into the wretched behaviors of the past, I’m writing to those who are cursed with the short memories of the goodness of God’s forgiveness.

Let’s look at the subjective realities of our feelings. They speak to us about failures and weakness. Sure, there are a couple good sentiments thrown in there for good measure, but in the whole, a believer desiring holiness finds the subjective feelings of past sins weighing heavy upon the mind.

At this point there is one of two choices to make—finding blame or giving thanks. Too often I’ve read about Christian counselors encouraging prolonged periods of introspection and reflection of how the past was realized. This may briefly help those with no hope, but it’s terrible advice for those who want to know the power of the blood of Christ. The necessary grasp of the sinful nature is there, but the darker exploration of what caused the iniquity continues to grow in an unhealthy manner. The search finds negligent parents, cultural backgrounds, and spouses—any variety of different variables on which to cast the excusing, self-justifying eye. And to what end? To defend why I am the wretch I am.

Maybe these explorations are true, or maybe they become overblown in our minds. The problem with such deeper introspection is one can never rebuild a relationship with someone taking the blame for past sins! This is the travesty of this type of counseling. You may feel good because you’ve “discovered your problems,” but it can never restore fellowship with the one who “inflicted” the pain. It’s not the fresh start, the new life burgeoning from 1 Corinthians 5:17. Sadly, this look inside only tends to create greater darkness through self-deception.

So, what is the answer to experiencing the new life in Christ, for understating how to put away the feelings of guilt and remorse? Let me say it in one word—thanks! Okay, I need three more words—remembering to give thanks! Anytime the thoughts of guilt and remorse of the past creep in, remember to give thanks that the old is passed away, the new has come! This is the most productive, positive way to choose deliverance over remembering passed failures. Give thanks for the precious blood of Christ that has forgiven you and bestowed new life!

There’s a reason why the pattern of the early church was to celebrate the Lord’s Supper at least once every week. Remembering His work by the elements of the bread and the wine keep the victory fresh! When I do so in a thoughtful way, I recall the blood of the Lamb that concluded my release from sin and bondage. Every chance I choose to give thanks instead of harboring resentment is an opportunity to develop wholesome relationships with those who “done me wrong.”

So, is forgiveness a fact for fiction? The way it becomes real is to know I’m forgiven and now I can forgive others in the same way. So you choose—do you want to dwell in the past or look in thanksgiving at your future? After all, it is the facts of scripture!

“If one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13 (ESV)

J. Robert Hanson

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And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Acts 3:4-6 ESV

Sometimes situations happen pushing the envelope of extraordinary. Things that are extraordinary are things that go beyond the usual, regular or customary ways of life. The healing event of Acts 3 is something unusual! Since we have the advantage of seeing the incident as a whole, sometimes it’s difficult see these circumstances as coming out of the ordinary. Look at how the day begins.

It starts with Peter and John going up to the usual day of prayer, following the usual time schedule allotted for this service. There’s the usual crowd going through the same usual gates, people making routine choices that have become ordinary, regular and customary preferences. The two Galileans, Peter and John, had only the expectation of prayer on their minds. They walked through the gate called Beautiful with the crowd of Jewish worshippers eager to give God glory. It was an average prayer service performed at the normal ninth hour.

This ninth hour was about three o’clock in the afternoon. People were making their way to the afternoon prayer service just following a day’s work. A lame man’s friends or family had just delivered a needy companion to his most effective location. That’s when Peter and John walk by. So far, there is nothing unusual here! The disadvantaged man arrived just in time to reach the majority of worshipers. He’d learned from experience the only folks who’d look at him were those with the capacity to make a contribution. And a gaze in his direction generally meant someone was willing to present alms. Everything was going as planned, people did what they normally do in life; nothing seemed out of place for the moment.

But now things begin to change—the extraordinary happens. As Peter and John headed up the steps this needy fellow confronted them. We read of the disciples stepping over to the disadvantaged and look steadfastly upon him. No doubt his hopes rise.

4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.

We see nothing out of the ordinary yet. No doubt he was getting ready to give his customary display of gratitude. Verses 6-7:

But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”  And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.

The ordinary becomes extraordinary! Out of a predictable situation comes an astonishing event that no one, except Peter and John, expected.

8 And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

Extraordinary! There’s one little sentence fragment in this passage that says each of us has something extraordinary to offer. Verse 6:

But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.

We have the same thing as Peter and John. What is it? “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” We enjoy the same extraordinary, common life. Maybe we’ll never see the extreme physical healings. But, what we do have is the same personal relationship with Jesus—which was what the two disciples desired to give in the first place. What is the key to this giving? It’s the willingness to take the needy by the hand; verse 7.

And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.

We must be willing to touch others. To see the extraordinary we need to take our hands and reach out to the one in need. Along time ago a band named Love Song wrote these lyrics in a song they titled, “Two Hands.”

Accept Him with your whole heart
And use you own two hands
With one reach out to Jesus
And with the other, bring a friend

These simple words point out one of the greatest callings of the Christian faith—and that message is to reach out to people. If we never give our hands in service we can never fully give our hearts in devotion.

The willingness to touch others, no matter the disability or deformity, is what makes way to experience the extraordinary life. This is how we turn our ordinary moments into extraordinary hours. Looking directly into the eyes of others, meeting them gaze-to-gaze, and taking their hand into our own is the way the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

J. Robert Hanson

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“…I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:25-27

There is one thing that Christian fellowship produces that no other affiliation in the world can—a display of what Christ is like! The Christian fellowship reveals, “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” We can witness this value simply by looking into the eyes of one another and seeing Jesus.

While growing up I spent a lot of time with my grandfather. He would take me with him on adventures and activities. After he passed away, my great uncle, his younger brother, began inviting me to do some of the same activities. One day as we sat in his den, I remember looking up at my great uncle and it was as if I were gazing into the eyes of my grandfather. He looked and acted so much like him the memory brought tears to my eyes and I had to look away.

That’s what we are in this world. Christian fellowship is looking and acting like Jesus in this world. When I’m with you, I’m more inclined to see the aspects of what Christ is like working through you than anything else. And each one of us has some reflection that amplifies Christ.

Now, if all I’m going to look at are the different personalities and idiosyncrasies, I’m going to become frustrated and loose the value of our Christian fellowship. But, what no other fellowship can offer to this world is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” There are two ways in which Jesus is manifested through our lives every time we come together.

1. His Life is in You!

What I mean by that is you are becoming like Him in behavior. He is changing us to act like Him—more holy. We see this process written of in Hebrews 12, verse 10. In context of why God disciplines us the author of Hebrews writes:

“…disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.”

See that! We are in the process of learning to share in His holiness. We are becoming holy like Him to display Christ, the hope of glory. This is not immediate but happens through the time-honored tradition of discipline and instruction. There are areas in our lives that don’t look too much like Jesus—He’s working on those things. But, there are also areas that look exactly like Him! Those are the valuable things I look for when I see you. If all I look at is the stuff that bugs me, I’m in trouble and will grow negative. I will never see Jesus in our midst if all I do is see everyone problems.

2. His Gift is in You!

The second practical way I see Christ in you is by the gift He’s given you to contribute with—His gift in you. Everyone has a gift! Whether you received it by birth or learned it through other means. A gift is still a gift no matter how you get it. Peter puts it this way in 1 Peter 4:

10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

As you use that gift in the Christian fellowship, Christ is displayed. And we discover that the gift God has given you is for the service of one another. And that gift God gave you is a value to the Christian fellowship and displays Jesus more perfectly to this world. It is something you can get nowhere else in this world!

J. Robert Hanson

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