A New Day
A NEW DAY
Today we're wrapping up our series called Now This Changes Everything. For the last five weeks we've been looking at why the past doesn't mean what it used to mean. It has to do with the power of the resurrection, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of God's mercy.
And — as we saw last week — the past doesn't mean what it used to mean because, in response to our helplessness and hopelessness, in response to our brokenness, Jesus came into this world and died on the cross for our sins so that through him we might be made new.
He said, in effect, I'm not asking you to turn over a new leaf; I'm offering to give you new life. And the Bible teaches that this new life was grafted into us — like the orange trees in South Texas — and we have been made brand new.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come! ()
The problem that we run into, at this point, is the lingering old nature — the bitter root of our old sinful selves that is just too stubborn to go away.
And so many believers, at some point along the way, find themselves asking: If I am a new creation, why am I not acting new? Why am I still living like the old me?
As I mentioned last week, even the Apostle Paul, after having been a Christ-follower more than 25 years, faced this same struggle. He said...
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do... ()
This is the struggle all believers face. It's why Watchman Nee said...
"Anyone who serves God will discover sooner or later that the greatest hindrance to his work is not others, but himself."
So, in the final moments of last week's message I talked about how the new life we receive at salvation is just the beginning of God's redemptive work in our lives. In order to fully realize our potential as a new creation in Christ, we need to nurture this new life in the same way that you would nurture a budding tree or a growing child.
Last week I said that an essential next step in this process is to make it a point each day, throughout the day, to set your mind on what the Spirit desires and fully surrender yourself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Every time you yield yourself to him, you are nurturing the new life. That's the big step we all need to take, and we need to take it often.
And, of course, there are other steps we need to take in order to nurture the new life.
For example, every time you spend time alone with God in your morning devotional, you are nurturing the new life. Every time you worship him, you are nurturing the new life. Every time you open his Word with a desire to learn more about him, you are nurturing the new life. Every time you listen to a sermon with the intent to be taught, you are nurturing the new life. Every time you say no to temptation, you are nurturing the new life. Every time you do something selfless, every time you serve another, you are nurturing the new life. And on and on and on.
When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within you, and he grafts a new life into your spirit — this doesn't represent the end of the process for you. It represents the beginning. You will, no doubt, see some changes take place in your life right away, but the most profound changes take place over a course of time, as God conforms you to the image of his Son.
Now, as much as we would like for it to, this process doesn't look like the gradual-but-ever-increasing stock index, showing nothing but improvement day after day. It's not a straight line moving upward. It's a jagged line, with a lot of dips and setbacks and ground lost along the way.
Some people latch on to a life of victory earlier in their Christian life than others — and that's great if you happen to be among this group.
Unfortunately, though, most others continue to struggle — like the Apostle Paul — even after they've been on this journey for years and decades. And they ask themselves: Why can't I be as good as I want to be? Why can't I do the good I want to do? Why can't I abandon the sin that I despise?
Paul confronted this frustration in Romans, ultimately crying out:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ()
And then he answers his own question:
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! ()
And then in he talks about the life of victory. He says there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus; he says that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead will give life to us; he says that God is always at work in our lives, causing things to work together for good as he conforms to the image of his Son; he says that if God is for us, nothing can come against us; and he says that are, ultimately, more than conquerors through Jesus Christ.
can be called the victory chapter, because it tells us the way it can be and the way it will be in our Christian life — even though along the way we will undoubtedly spend some time in , in which we say often: O wretched man that I am, why can't I do the good that I want to do?
Today's message is for those who are in this process. You've received new life by accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit dwells within you.
You know who you want to be: You want to be holy, you want to be good, you want to be like Christ.
And you know who you don't want to be: You don't want to be that person you were — sinful, selfish, disobedient. You don't want to be that person, but leaving him or her behind hasn't been as easy as you hoped it would be.
Today's message is for you. Today we'll talk about how to survive these seasons in which progress seems to be so hard to come by, and we'll talk about the steps we need to take in order to ultimately experience victory. Today we'll look at three progress points on the pathway to victory.
Here's the first. In order to experience victory in the Christian life, you need to understand that ...
1. Your relationship with God is based solely upon mercy, and always will be.
And it will never be based on anything else.
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy...()
In his book Transforming Grace, Jerry Bridges talks about the two different kinds of bankruptcies: Chapter 7 and Chapter 11.
Chapter 11 is a temporary financial reorganization that keeps a company's creditors at bay until it can get back on its feet financially.
Chapter 7 is a total and complete erasure of all debts, with no further requirement to repay. This nearly always leads to the dissolution of the company.
Here's how this compares to the Christian life.
Becoming a Christian is a Chapter 7 experience, but many believers treat it like Chapter 11. We make the mistake of thinking that the forgiveness received at salvation is a temporary reorganization of the mess we have made with our lives, providing enough relief to last until we're able to live in the strength of our own goodness.
That's not the way it works. We're saved by grace and we live by grace — and grace, by the way, is synonymous with mercy. You will never get to the point where you don't need God's grace and you don't need God's mercy. It will forever be your lifeline.
Over the years I've observed that Christians who don't rely exclusively on God's grace to sustain are the same Christians that don't really take sin seriously. They may take some sins seriously — the big sins, the visible sins, the sins that other people commit — but they often lapse into a pattern in which they don't seriously their own sin, because, after all, their own sins are rather small in comparison, and they think they can deal with them on their own. And they think that, thanks to God's reorganization plan, they'll eventually get to the place where they're living at a high enough level that begging for mercy is no longer necessary.
It will never happen. Your relationship with God is always about mercy. You will never get past the need for God's grace.
Here's a second progress point on the path to victory.
2. You will learn to despair of your sin before you have the power to defeat your sin.
I've been preaching God's grace for as long as I've been preaching. Forgiveness is ours unequivocally through Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he paid the price for your sins, my sins, and the sins of the whole world.
That's what John the Baptist said just as Jesus was beginning his public ministry.
"Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" ()
Jesus paid the price on the cross for your sin, past present and future. Every sin you have ever committed ... every sin you will ever commit ... has already been paid for.
There are some who, when they hear this statement, will say: "If I'm already forgiven for all my sins past present and future, what's to stop me from sinning all I want and cashing in my forgiveness ticket?"
Not every body says that, but some people say it — and if you've ever been inclined to say it, you won't say it long. And here's why.
Sin knows how to do only thing, and it can accomplish only one thing. It knows only how to destroy, it doesn't know when to let up, and it never ends well for anyone.
No one ever says, "When I began abusing alcohol — that's when all the pieces of my life fell together."
No one ever says, "When I began backbiting and criticizing and gossiping about my friends, that's when my relationships began to flourish."
No one ever says, "When I began to betray my wife and neglect my family and live only for myself, we were suddenly happier than we've ever been before."
That's not how it works.
Now, these are examples of the so-called big sins, the visible sins, but the same is true for the quiet little sins we try to hide. Sin never makes the situation better. It knows only how to destroy.
The sooner you come to grips with this fact — that sin can never be anything but destructive — the sooner you will find yourself on the path to victory.
The person who says, "Because of God's grace I sin all I want," is headed for some serious heartache.
However, the person who can say, "Because of God's grace I sin more than I want," is on the road to recovery, and ultimate victory.
I want to make it clear that this is not about wallowing in guilt and shame for years and years after you commit a sin. It is about, however, coming to a point where you recognize sin for what it is — as Paul said in , that sin is utterly sinful. And, as a result, you want nothing to do with it — because you know it can only hurt you and those around you.
During the course of the baseball season it's not unheard of for the worst team in the league to beat the best team in the league. In fact, it happens just about every season.
The question is: How do the eventual World Series Champions respond to the defeat? Do they shrug it off as just one game out of 160, so it's no big deal? Or do they say, "We're going to fix this mistake and this mistake and this mistake so that hopefully this never happens again."
The answer, of course, is option B. They don't drop out of the league because of the loss, but they don't ignore it either. They take it seriously. You might say they even despair the loss — because they don't want their season to be defined by losses. And then they go out and play the next game to the best of their ability.
To an extent, this is the attitude we need to have toward our own wins and losses. We take each loss — each failure — seriously, because we know what it means and we know where it leads. Our response to sin is never, "Hey it wasn't that big of a deal. It was a minor thing. I just lost my temper. I just insulted a guy. I just told a little white lie. No big deal."
Our response, instead, is: I don't want this attitude or this behavior to define my life. So I'm going to try again as many times as I have to try again, until I get this right.
When you begin to despair of your sin, to take it seriously, you're on your way to victory.
This brings us to the third progress point I want to mention. The journey doesn't end with mere despair over sin, because God wants us to experience victory. He wants us to be overcomers, more than conquerors.
How does that happen? Here's the third progress point. We need to learn that ...
3. Your new life in Christ begins again every single day.
In the book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah said...
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ()
There are two words here that you can take very seriously — upon which you can build your life.
The first word is never. As in God's love never ceases. He will never stop loving you.
You can count on this word "never" to be true — as in God's mercy never comes to an end. No matter how many times you fall, no matter how many times you fail.
There may be people in your life who give up on you, but he will never give up on you. He will not stop loving you, never stop forgiving you. You can count on the word never.
You can also count on the word every — as in "new every morning." He has promised that each day is a brand new start.
Do you know what this means? It means that you can begin each new day right with God. No matter what happened yesterday, today his mercies are brand new, and you can start again.
A while back I was talking to a friend who was feeling quite discouraged because he hadn't been able to establish lasting change in his life. He kept making temporary short-term changes, but none of them would stick.
During our conversation I realized something.
How long does lasting change really last? Lasting change really lasts only a day, and then you've got to do it again.
We've all heard the phrase one day at a time — and the reason this phrase keeps coming around is because this is the only way you can live. If you want to create lasting change, that change will take place one day at a time. If you want to create lasting change in your marriage, or your health, or your finances, you make these changes one at a time, one day at a time.
And here's the good news. The great news. God has said, in effect, "I will give you a huge head start every day of your life from here on out. I will love forever, and I will never stop loving you, and you can count on my love every day. And I will shower you with mercy and grace and forgiveness every day of your life — and you can begin every day right with me — and you can count on my mercy and my faithfulness forever. And you can experience it brand new every day of your life."
Last week we talked about how we need to nurture this new life in Christ. This is how we do it. We live out the Christian life one day at a time. And we are renewed one day at a time. And we turn our back on sin one day at a time. And we seek the fullness of the Holy Spirit one day at a time. And we do it day after day after day.
There are two days that mean nothing at all to anyone who wants to live a holy life in Christ. Do you know what those two days are? Yesterday and tomorrow.
All that matters is today. And God has given you a huge head start on today, through the power of two words.
Never, as in I will never stop loving you or never hold back my mercy.
And Every, as in every morning is a brand new day that you can begin right with me; it's another chance to nurture the life that I have given you, and to become the person I created you to be.