Sunday, August 28, 2011

What's 'New' ??

The above photo is of my new e-reader, the Amazon Kindle that my kids and husband gave me for my birthday . I love it!!

Have you ever stopped to consider how many times a day you say or hear the word 'new' ??
A common greeting - 'What's new'?
A new experience, a new outfit, a new kitchen, new dishes, new hairdo, new technology, new recipe, new toy, new appliance, new d├ęcor, new friend, new book, new baby.... the list is endless.

In every instance 'new' is an adjective that conveys to us a sense of value concerning the 'thing' referred to ! It is not something old or worn out. It is something fresh, something desired, something we did not have before.

The word 'new' is also used in scripture, perhaps not as many times as we would guess. It is mentioned 49 times, with 7 of the references in the New Testament.
A very often quoted and one of my favorites is "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new." (II Cor. 5:17)

There is another reference to 'new' in Colossians 3:10 where Paul refers to believers as having put on the 'new man'. Because of something I learned this week about the Roman class system these words 'new man' have taken on a deeper significance of meaning for me.

I always simply understood Paul's reference to 'new man' fitting in with the above quoted verse in II Corinthians but I am wondering if Paul did not have a vivid analogy in mind drawn from the customs of his world.

Paul, living in a world dominated by Roman rule, would have understood their political structure. The Romans had two elite classes of citizens. One of these classes was the Senatorial class from which were elected the members of the Senate and the consul. The consul was a man elected to the highest political office in the Roman Republic.
This Senatorial class was dominated by the nobles. The nobles were distinguished by the fact that they had an ancestor who had served as consul.
The elitism of this class was closely guarded and men were appointed/elected to the Senate or as Consul because they carried birth-rite membership in this class of Roman citizens.

However, on a rare occasion, a man would so distinguish himself on his own merit that he would be elected as a consul even though his family did not belong to the noble class.
When this happened, Romans would call him a 'new man' because he was the first in his family to be elected to this public office. He then consequently qualified his family for noble status.
Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was such a man, who lived in Paul's lifetime.
How does this interesting Roman political tradition magnify the meaning hidden in the reference to 'new man' in our passage in Colossians 3?
I see several points of parallelism.

1> A 'new man' is not someone who is 'grandfathered' into a position of honour.
For the Romans it was not someone who could lean on ancestry.
We also cannot depend on our family connections or heritage in seeking relationship with God. We cannot take for granted that because our parents, grandparents or uncles were godly believers, we automatically belong to the 'noble' class and are part of God's family in the Kingdom of God.

2> A Roman 'new man' came on his own merit, as must we to become one of the elect.
What is our own merit ? Unlike the Roman man who distinguished himself by his mighty works or exemplary achievements, we must come on the merit of our own repentant hearts recognizing our personal need of a Saviour.
"..the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15)

3> The Roman 'new man' was elected by man. The 'new man' believer is 'elected' by God. Paul admonishes the believer in Col. 3:12 that as an elected 'new man' the believer must live up to the standard now required of him.
"Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;
While a Roman elected 'new man' could lose favour with the people, the believer 'new man' need not fear the opinion of man, only the opinion of God matters. "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies". (Rom. 8:33)
4> A 'new man' leaves his old 'class' behind and steps into an entirely new identity.
Looking at verses 5- 9 in our Col. 3 passage , we see that the 'old man' belonged to the class of sinners (fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, covetousness, idolatry , anger, wrath, malice , blasphemy, filthy language, lying)
But the 'old man' has been put off -- the Roman citizen could not belong to two classes at once. He could not belong to both the common class and the elite noble class. He had to leave one behind and embrace the 'new' .
So the believer, becoming a 'new man' steps out of his sinner class and steps up into the heavenly noble 'elect' class!
Col 1:13 "He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, (1Th 2:12) "that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory."

5> The 'new man' believer, just like the Roman 'new man' who qualified his family to belong to the noble class, has an great influence on others.
" whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (I Cor. 10:13) becomes his motto. He lives in such a way that his life will honour his new class and make others want to become one of the 'elect' as well.
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:16)

6> There is one difference in the Roman 'new man' and the believer. The Roman 'new man' had to prove that he was independently wealthy - he had to be able to prove that his personal worth was at least one million sesterces (about 2 or 3 million dollars in today's currency) There was no monetary salary offered with his elected position so he had to have his own resources.
The believer, on the other hand, is offered the riches of the kingdom for his support !
"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
(Phil. 4:19)

The invitation to become a 'new man' in the Kingdom of God is open to all ... not those born into the 'right' family, not those who earned it by their works , but ANYONE may come and receive the status of the elect 'new man'.
In the words of Jesus, hear His invitation .."And the Spirit and the bride say 'Come!' And let his who hears say 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires , let him take the water of life freely." (Rev.22:17)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dispeller of Shame

One day, long long ago, a baby was born.
The baby's birth was celebrated as only the birth of a King's son can be.
Loving arms and royal affluence withheld nothing needful or desirable for the child.
His name? Mephibosheth.

A difficult name to pronounce was perhaps the first indication that an easy life was not to be for this dear child.
His loving father, however, hid a nugget of hope in the meaning of the name he bestowed upon his son -- 'dispeller of shame'.

It was the child's grandfather, Saul, that brought the shame upon his life. The child was only five years old when disaster struck the house of King Saul.
News of the deaths of Mephibosheth's father and grandfather reached the palace causing an immediate panic as everyone fled for their lives.

The young child's nurse could not bear to leave her charge behind and snatched him up in her arms to carry him with her. Somehow, an accident happened, perhaps she stumbled and dropped the boy, who at five years of age would have been heavy. His legs were injured in the fall leaving him permanently crippled.

We hear nothing more of this boy through the rest of his childhood and into his adult life until years later.

Then one day, someone came to Mephibosheth's door asking for him by name.
Not someone he recognized - it was a stranger who commanded Mephibosheth to immediately accompany him. The King was demanding that he appear before him!

Mephibosheth was terrified. He knew the stories of how wickedly his grandfather had treated David and how he had tried many times to take his life. Now David was king and obviously wanting to even the score -- take his just revenge!

Trembling, he was brought to the throne on which David sat. Not even daring to raise his eyes, he fell on his face pleading that he was a willing servant.

Imagine how his trembling fear turned to disbelief - when he heard the king kindly say ... "Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for Jonathan, your father's sake and I will restore to you all the land of Saul , your grandfather !"
That was unbelievable enough .. but then came the promise....
"YOU shall eat bread at my table continually!"

Mephibosheth, having lived with shame all his life was unable to grasp the 'dispelling' of it and questioned ... "WHY?? why would you do this, why even look at a dead dog such as I?"

But it was true... the King's blessings were poured upon Mephibosheth and he was treated as one of the King's sons, sharing the King's table for the rest of his life.
(II Sam. 4 and 9)

A beautiful story of love, is it not?
When I reread the story recently, I thought of how the story is really a picture of our own experience!

Adam and Eve stumbled in the garden of Eden and each of us fell as a result. Each of us has been crippled under the shame of sin.
We lived fearful of the judgement we deserved.
Then one day, we heard the Good News that God was calling for us ! That He had, in fact, chosen us for the sake of His Son !
We approached Him hesitantly, afraid to believe, and yet .. It was true !! God's offer of love and salvation would 'dispel the shame' we had carried all our life.
His countenance smiles upon us in love, exchanging our shame for His righteousness and joy !
He calls us sons and daughters, inviting us to eat at the King of King's table forever !!

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God.." I John 3:1
".... that you may eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom..." Luke 22:30

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Wedding Feast

It is a sure thing that one day every person will cross that bridge that takes us from this life into eternity.
I am in the process of reading Randy Alcorn's book "Heaven". In the book he tells a true story, that very vividly brings home a scriptural teaching.

I don't think the author will mind if I share the story with you .
Following, is the excerpt from his book.

************* Ancient cities kept rolls of their citizens. Guards were posted at the city gates to keep out criminals and enemies by checking their names against the list. This is the context for Rev. 21:27 “Nothing impure will ever enter (the city) nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life”

Ruthanna Metzgar , a professional singer, tells a story that illustrates the importance of having our names written in the book. Several years ago, she was asked to sing at the wedding of a very wealthy man. According to the invitation, the reception would be held on the top two floors of Seattle’s Columbia Tower, the Northwest’s tallest skyscraper. She and her husband , Roy, were excited about attending.

At the reception, waiters in tuxedos offered luscious hors d’oeuvres and exotic beverages. The bride and groom approached a beautiful glass and brass staircase that led to the top floor. Someone ceremoniously cut a satin ribbon draped across the bottom of the stairs. They announced the wedding feast was about to begin. Bride and groom ascended the stairs, followed by their guests.

At the top of the stairs, a maitre d’ with a bound book greeted the guests outside the doors.

“May I have your name please?”

“I am Ruthanna Metzgar and this is my husband Roy.”

He searched the M’s. “I’m not finding it. would you spell it please?”

Ruthanna spelled her name slowly. After searching the book, the maitre d’ looked up and said, “I’m sorry, but your name isn’t here.”

“There must be some mistake, “ Ruthanna replied. “I’m the singer. I sang for this wedding!”

The gentlemen answered, “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you did. Without your name in the book you cannot attend the banquet.”

He motioned to a waiter and said, “Show these people to the service elevator, please.”

The Metzgars followed the waiter past beautifully decorated tables laden with shrimp, whole smoked salmon, and magnificent carved ice sculptures. Adjacent to the banquet area, and orchestra was preparing to perform, the musicians all dressed in dazzling white tuxedos.

The waiter led Ruthanna and Roy to the service elevator, ushered them in, and pushed G for the parking garage.

After locating their car and driving several miles in silence, Roy reached over and put his hand on Ruthanna’s arm. “Sweetheart, what happened ?”

“When the invitation arrived, I was busy,” Ruthanna replied. “I never bothered to RSVP. Besides, I was the singer. Surely I could go to the reception without returning the RSVP!”

Ruthanna started to weep – not only because she had missed the most lavish banquet she had ever been invited to, but also because she suddenly had a small taste of what it will be like someday for people as they stand before Christ and find their names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Through the ages, countless people have been too busy to respond to Christ’s invitation to his wedding banquet. Many assume that the good they have done, -- perhaps attending church, being baptized, singing in the choir, or helping in a soup kitchen - will be enough to gain entry to Heaven … but people who do not respond to Christ’s invitation to forgive their sins are people whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. To be denied entrance to Heaven’s wedding banquet ill not just mean going down the service elevator to the garage. It will mean being cast outside into Hell, forever.

In that day, no explanation or excuse will count. All that will matter is whether our names are written in the book. If they are not, we’ll be turned away.

Have you said yes to Christ’s invitation to join him at the wedding feast and spend eternity with him in his house? If so .. you have reason to rejoice – Heaven’s gates will be open to you !!!!!