As I’ve said many times, I tend to keep up with the news and politics of the day, at least as much as my schedule allows. While watching coverage of the Inauguration a few weeks ago, I noticed a piece on the designer of the gown the First Lady was wearing. I can’t remember his name, but apparently after she wore his line four years ago, everyone was seeking out his clothes. He became super rich and famous overnight and the media was expecting a similar uptick in his popularity due to Michelle Obama choosing his work again for the second time around. People want to wear what famous people wear. “Out with the old and in with the new” they say. As Christians, we are instructed to put off the old self and put on the new self. We looked at this passage of Scripture, Ephesians 4:22-32, during a recent Wednesday night service and I felt led to write on four aspects of that message in this month’s newsletter.
We are to put off lying and put on the truth…Terry and I have been blessed with two good vehicles over the course of our marriage. They’re both 2001’s and have needed some repairs, but they have served us well and we’re folks who tend to lean toward driving ‘em ‘til they die. During the course of this last year, our Blazer has been getting closer and closer to flat lining. The driver’s door couldn’t be closed strong enough from the inside to keep out the water when it rains (and summer’s comin’!). When you turn the wheel sharp in either direction, you hear a big pop from underneath the car (I don’t know much about cars so I couldn’t fix it…Of course, we took it to a place that does know a lot about cars and $500 later they couldn’t fix it either!). The A/C works but there is no heat. Not as much a problem in Florida as in Wisconsin, but still an issue when you need to go for the Defrost. The radiator has to be filled with water two to three times a week, otherwise the car will overheat. Of course, you can combat that a little bit if you turn off the A/C while you’re waiting for your chicken nuggets in the drive-thru! Last, but not least, are the three explosions (okay, explosion might be overstating it a little bit) we’ve had in the last year when starting the car. You turn the key, twice because the first time is just a warm-up, expecting for it to rev up like normal when all of a sudden you hear a pop from under the hood that is soon followed by a cloud of smoke and a sudden loss of all power in the vehicle. Long story short, we decided it was time to look for a replacement for the Blazer. We researched the internet to find the lowest priced SUV. We checked at the bank to see how low an interest rate the bank would give us. Then, the paper came. There was an advertisement in the News-Press for the kind of vehicle we wanted at an outrageously low price. We thought it too good to be true, but decided to take the drive to the dealership “far enough away from Ft. Myers to give us a lower price due to their decreased overhead.” I could write a whole newsletter, in fact I might be able to write an entire book, about our terrible experience there but to sum it up, and I know this will take you by surprise, their ad was a lie! I wouldn’t buy a bicycle from them (well, truth be told, I probably wouldn’t buy a bicycle from anyone, at least for myself!). We did end up buying a car from a reputable dealership that met our payment need of under $275 per month and at an interest rate of less than 2% with a warranty that will extend through the time we’re paying for the vehicle. However, just as much a part of our decision as the goodness of the deal offered was the professionalism and truthfulness of the staff where we did business. As Christians, we need to be people who do not lie, folks who don’t say that we’re Christians from afar and then leave a different impression when others get close to us. It will make a powerful statement for Christ if people think of truth when they think of you and me. May God help us to put on the new self of truth!
We are to let no unwholesome word come from our mouths, but only what is edifying and grace filled…Have you noticed that there are nutrition labels on nearly everything now days? It started out innocently enough years ago. Labels were put on items at the grocery store so that you could see how many calories were in your frozen pizza and how many grams of fat were in your canned spaghetti and meatballs. Now, I think they’re going too far. We have nutrition labels on our fast food items, Big Mac boxes and French Fry holders and all! I don’t know about you, but I’ve never ordered a number one super-sized with a Coke thinking “my, I’m eating healthy today!” No, every time I knew that I was eating something greasy and salty and sugary and not the best for the waist line. However, seeing those numbers on the side of those boxes lets me not only know that the burgers and such are bad, but just exactly how bad! I’m not crazy about those nutritional stats printed on the sides of everything we eat, but it got me thinking. I wish we could have a report on the nutritional values of the words that we say before we say them. Most people don’t criticize, complain, bemoan, and belittle believing that they’re speaking good words that are helpful to others. That being said, most of us don’t quite realize how bad, how damaging, how destructive, how hurtful what comes out of our lips can be. It would make a mighty testimony for our Lord if when others thought of the words they hear us speak they thought of wholesomeness and grace. May God help us to put on the new self of right speaking!
We are not to grieve the Holy Spirit…We went to Cici’s Pizza on my day off this last week for lunch. For those who don’t know, Cici’s is one of those wonderful and marvelous kind of places known as “buffets” (in the Greek that means “all you can eat”)! After getting our drinks, Benji and I sat down at our booth while my wonderful wife went to get the first round of food for our boy. During the time she left me and our 5 year old unattended, he decided that Daddy’s hair needed some fixin’. He ran his fingers through my hair (which now sets higher up on my forehead than it used to) and turned it every which way but loose! When he had it just right he looked me in the eye with a glorious grin on his face and said, “Dad, you’re stylin’!” Now any stranger coming down the aisle might have thought that my hair was a mess. They might have figured I just rolled out of bed and went out the door without so much as running a comb through my hair or giving a glance at myself in the mirror. In fact, they may make all kinds of judgments about me from what they see on the outside. But, most of those folks I will never see again. They don’t know my name nor do I know theirs. However, I know my boy and he knows me. I love him and his mommy and they love me. And, you know what, he thinks I’m “stylin’”, and that’s all that matters…When we do put on our new self, people will take notice. Some will be drawn to Christ and some will continue to go farther away from Him in their sins. Not everyone came to Jesus nor accepted Him and He is God in the flesh (in fact, more than not turned away and scorned Him) and we, His servants, should not expect better results nor treatment than that which our Master received. The new self will not please everyone, and that’s okay, it’s not meant to be people pleasing, it’s meant to be God pleasing! And when we wear the new self, the Holy Spirit thinks we’re “stylin’.”
I would be remiss if I ended this article without making this last point. In order to put on the new self, a new self must exist. That is, the point of this passage from Ephesians is not to give people a lesson on morality, telling them not to lie but to tell the truth, not to cuss but to speak kind words, and just in general to stop being mean and try harder to be a nicer person. No! The point is not for unbelievers to try to put on something they’re not, but for believers to put on something they are, through the goodness of God, the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul is writing the book of Ephesians to believers who have been transformed, who have repented of sin, confessing their iniquities, and who have put faith in Christ as the Savior who took upon Himself the punishment, the wrath of God, that should have been ours. In fact, “transformed” is not strong enough a word to describe what takes place to those who have truly put faith in Jesus. What happens to them is so strong a change that Scriptures refer to it as being “Born Again.” Not a new physical birth, but a spiritual one. All who have genuinely put faith in Christ know what this is, even though words may fail them to fully describe it. People may see the same you in physical appearance, the same self with the same ears and eyes and nose and toes. But inside you know, and increasingly so do others, that there is a new self, everything has changed, old things have passed away and all things have become new. It is my prayer that those who are not born again will receive the gospel, and that those of us who are believers will put on the new self, walking in the newness of life that Christ Jesus purchased for us with His precious blood!