Advent Day 14, the Gift of a New Self, in the Likeness of God

December 14, 2011

The gift a new self, in the likeness of God

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

Today’s gift from God is a three-part gift.  Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 24: It is the gift of a new self.  “… and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Putting on the new self.  It can’t really happen until you, Part 1, take off the old self and then, Part 2, renew your mind, for Part 3, putting on the new self.

Are you a collector?  Do you have things around the house that really have no value at all?  I confess, I’m one of those people.  I used to collect all sorts of things.  Baseball cards.  45 records.  Pop Bottles. License plates. Old newspapers with great headlines.   I’m sure when I decided to keep these things there was a reason… but, today… I don’t know why, really.  They just take up valuable storage space.

We all have some old junk in our lives… and throughout this chapter Paul takes the reader through a long list of old junk we need get rid of if we are to live the full life that God has for us:  impure sensuality, greed, stealing, unwholesome talk, bitterness, wrath, anger, slander. Get rid of it.  Renew your mind. 

“Put on the new self in the likeness of God, created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:24)   

That is a tremendous gift!  Once we say “yes” to being a Christ-follower, we get to get rid of the junk and live a life in the likeness of God!   In your old self you might have had the label “adulterer,” “thief,” “loser,” “addict,”  … but guess what?  That’s not you any more!  What a beautiful gift!  Like putting on a new, gorgeous dress or an Armani suit. 

I visited my mom a few years ago while I was on a business trip.   I was on my way to a meeting, but I first took some time to drive with my mom to one of her weekly Bible studies to visit some old friends.  One dear woman, when seeing me for the first time in probably 20 years, saw me all dressed up in an Italian suit and ready to tackle the business of the day exclaimed: “You look like a million bucks!”   Isn’t it great to look like a million bucks?  But let me tell you, when you are a new creation in Christ… your value to our Lord is “priceless.”

I think that one of reasons we collect stuff is because we hope that someday it will be worth something. We can sell it on Craig’s List or on eBay.  And we think, if this thing is worth something and I own this thing, then I am worth something.  

May I tell you something?  Once you put off the old and put on the new self, in the likeness of Christ, you are the wealthiest you will ever be! Your Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  You have been given every spiritual blessing… you can’t get any wealthier!

Here’s how The Message summarizes this gift: 

“Everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” (Ephesians 4:24, the Message)

God wants to reproduce His character in you!  And it’s beautiful when you let him do it!  It’s a beautiful, priceless gift!

Get dressed up for today’s gift, the gift of putting on a new self, in the image of God.

Father God, thank you that I am priceless in your sight.  Thank you for the new gift of a new self, created in your image.  Let me receive this gift every single day, even today!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2011. Rich Ronald

Advent Day 13, the Gift of Learning with a Purpose

December 13

The Gift of learning with a purpose

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

 Have you ever visited one of the great redwood forests in California?  These natural skyscrapers set records for height and girth.  And they never stop growing until it’s time for them to die.

How about you?  Are you still growing?  Spiritually?  Or have you peaked and are just waiting until it’s time to move from this life to the next?  I believe that for a Christ-follower, retirement is not an option.

You’ve heard it said that God has a wonderful plan for your life… and the idea is that we grow to fullness, maturity in the faith.  Not just grow old… but grow in maturity of the faith.  God does not want you to reach a certain level that you might determine on your own as “being mature” and then let you stop or coast the rest of your life.  God expects growth from you, year after year, season after season, just like the giant and grand redwood trees.

I want to gently challenge and encourage you:  Do you have the same level of faith you had a few years ago?  Or, are you experiencing a fresh and daily delivery of manna from heaven? 

Do you remember the manna that rained down on the people of Israel as they wandered through the desert for 40 years?  God gave them just what they needed for that day by way of a bread-like food, each and every morning. 

The people of God need to look to God to provide for them every spiritual blessing  — remember, that was our first gift in Ephesians 1:3 — every day.  If you were to measure the relationship you have with God, is it new and fresh and growing every day?  Or, do you take that relationship for granted?  May I encourage us to press in to all that God wants us to receive, fresh and new each day? 

God has given the body of Christ great leaders and teachers, both inside your local congregation and outside of it, or those who have gone before us whose writings can inspire and teach.  He has put people on the mission field, who by their example of living for God daily in a small village, can teach us how to depend on God… or how to see the miraculous move of the Holy Spirit in a way we’ve not seen before.   They all have great things to teach, if you are willing to be taught.

Today’s gift is from Ephesians 4:11-13: 

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,  to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

While there is a number of ways to look at this passage, I’d like to focus on the “so that” portion.  God desires we become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Another way of saying that is “learning with a purpose.”

Do you have a bucket list that includes learning new things?  I hope so.  May I encourage you to search out and find new ways to learn new things about how great is our God in heaven?  May I encourage you to grow in spiritual maturity?  Paul says that those who are mature are not tossed here and there by the waves when trials or challenging times come. They press into the love of Christ, as the head of the body, which holds us, collectively, all together.   And they do so by their willingness to be taught and encouraged by those who hold the spiritual leadership posts of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher. 

Every single one of us can find someone more spiritually mature than we are.  Search them out and learn from them.  It will strengthen you… so that down the road, you might embrace the position of leadership yourself.  And don’t ever give up learning more and more about God’s love and plan for you.

Receive the gift of learning with a purpose… and keep growing.

Father God, let me never tire of desiring to learn more and more about you and your love and perfect plan for my life.  In Jesus’ name,  Amen.

 

© 2011. Rich Ronald

Advent Day 12, the Gift of Grace

December 12, 2011

The Gift of Grace

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

What is grace besides the prayer often offered before a meal?  Grace is a gift.  And it often looks different depending upon who is using the gift.

Have you heard the story of a man who fell down some icy steps?  While he may not have been too graceful as he slipped and tumbled, he says the gift of grace looked completely different in each person that came to his rescue.  The first person helped him up, examined where it hurt, took him inside and put an ice bag on the injury.  This person had the grace gift of mercy.  A second person came up and asked him why he hadn’t properly poured salt on the icy steps before hand.  This person had the grace gift of exhortation.  And still a third person showed the man how to properly hold on to the hand rail and slowly work his way up each step, little by little.  This person had the grace gift of teaching.  Three different people, three different expressions of the same grace gift.[1]

Ephesians 4:7:

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  (NIV)

But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. (The Message)

Grace.  Being given a second chance.  And a third chance.  And a fourth chance.  And, as many “do-overs” as we need in order to fully accept all the love that God has for each one of us.

Some have suggested that no single man sums up the definition of grace like the man behind the song “Amazing Grace” … John Newton.  Do you know his story?  He was a slave trader, the captain of a ship in the mid 1700’s that regularly travelled the Triangle Trade Route.  Beginning with an empty cargo hold in England, he would travel to Africa and pack over 600 units of “human cargo” – slaves – onto the ship.  He would then sail to America and deliver his cargo in exchange for money and goods made in America that were needed in England where he would conclude for a short season and start all over again.  He met Christ during a terrible tempest aboard his vessel.  He ultimately left the sea and studied for the ministry.  Near the end of his life he was pastor at the Saint Peter and Paul Church of England in Olney Parish.    At age 82, Newton said, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things:  that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”[2] He is buried in the cemetery there.  On his tombstone reads these words:

John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves inAfrica, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.

Amazing Grace!  What a gift!

May you be a recipient and a giver of this gift today.

Father God, thank for the Gift of Grace.  Thank you for the chance to start over again no matter how often.  Thank you that I can receive your love new and fresh day after day after day.  As you have given me grace, may I be quick to offer it to others.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2011. Rich Ronald


[1] Ed Taylor, Spiritual Gifts, February, 2002

Advent Day 11, the Gift of Unity

December 11

The Gift of Unity

 This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the 25 gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

Do you remember the TV show The Waltons?  While there is no such thing as a perfect family, if there was ever an award for the perfect television family, John Boy and his ma and pa, Olivia and John, his grandparents and six brothers and sisters might have been the winners.  The show was on during the 1970’s.  Set during the depression in rural Virginia, the Walton’s lived life peaceably and with great resolve.  They got along well and held virtue to its highest esteem.   Remember the love that flowed as they ended each episode?  “Goodnight Grandpa, Goodnight Mary Ellen, Goodnight Jim Bob,GoodnightPa, Goodnight Elizabeth, Goodnight John Boy.”

This is perhaps a picture you might see as Paul encourages the family of Christ at the beginning of Ephesians, Chapter 4.

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6 NIV)

This passage summaries the unity that God so longs we all share together as the body of Christ… regardless of where we go to church.

A pastor friend of mine used to say that there are certain things that are disputable within the Body of Christ, such as music, dress, how we raise our kids, movies, politics, that kind of thing.  But there are certain things that are bedrock truths.  And this is what Paul is saying here.  This is the gift of unity.  One body.  One Spirit.  One Hope.  One Faith.  One Baptism.  One God, the Father.  And right in the middle?  One Lord.  One.  And his name is Jesus Christ!  So… Paul is saying, “c’mon church.  We can agree on this!  Let’s lift up the name of Christ together… for his glory.” 

Have you ever travelled someplace far away, whether on a mission trip, or just someplace away from home, and met another Christ-follower for the first time?  There is a sweet common bond, isn’t there?  A unity that we share together.  And it’s deeper than what your alma mater is or the sports team you root for. 

You have undoubtedly heard the joke that asks the question “what car did the disciples drive?”  Acts 2:1 says that on the day of Pentecost, the disciples were all in one “Accord”?   God bless Honda!

It’s an interesting picture to think of the whole church being crammed in one place, all going the same direction… In some ways that IS the picture of unity in the body of Christ. 

Paul says in Philippians 2:1-2 (NIV):

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

May we be encouraged to embrace unity.  And may we do so in a way worthy of Christ… being humble, gentle, patient and bearing with one another in love.   May you receive, and give, this Gift of Unity this Advent.

Father God, I pray for all Believers around the world today.  May we all be united in bringing the Gospel message to the lost and hurting, especially during this season.  May Your peace come on earth, as it is in Heaven.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2011. Rich Ronald

Advent Day 10, the Gift of knowing how much Christ loves us

December 10

The Gift of knowing how much Christ loves us

Parents and their younger children often play the “How Much Love?” game.  You know how it goes.  It usually starts with mom or dad looking at their child and saying, “I love you.”  And the child looks up with big inquiring eyes, “How much do you love me?”  The game continues with the parent comparing the amount of their love with the number of stars in the sky or grains of sand on the beach or “to the moon and back.”   In the recent Disney movie, Tangled, Rapunzel’s step-mother says “I love you very much dear.”  To which Rapunzel replies: “I love you more.”  And to finish the game, her mother says “I love you most.”

In Ephesians 3, Paul suggests a box of love with unlimited proportions.  I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love—how wide and how long and how high and how deep that love is. Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:18-19 NCV.

It is an amount of love that you just cannot get your hands around.  It is reminiscent of Romans 8:35 where Paul asks “Who can separate us from the love of Christ?”  And then he gives us the answer, in Romans 8:39, in a long list that includes “nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

How much does Christ love us?  He loves us more… he loves us most.  He loves us bigger than the biggest box…

If Buzz Lightyear was to answer the question, he would say “to infinity and beyond…” And that still would not be a box that could contain God’s love.

And that’s an awesome, incredible gift!

So, open your arms wide and receive today’s gift, the Gift of knowing how much Christ loves you!

Father God, thank you for loving me with an immeasurable amount of love.  May I remember today, and every day, especially when I’m not feeling loved, that you love me more than I can comprehend.  Let me receive your great love today!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Advent Day 9, The Gift of Jesus dwelling in our heart

December 9

The Gift of Jesus dwelling in our hearts

 

We all know the difference between a house and a home.  A house is merely a place to live.  It becomes a home when those who live in the house add love.  It doesn’t have anything to do with the things we hang on the wall, the furniture in the family room or soft lighting in the living room.  The proverb says “Home is where the heart is.”

Today we receive a two-fold gift, found in Ephesians 3:16-17 (NCV): “I ask the Father in his great glory to give you the power to be strong inwardly through his Spirit. I pray that Christ will live in your hearts by faith and that your life will be strong in love and be built on love.”

Paul prays for the Church here, that we may be strengthened by the Holy Spirit so that Christ may dwell in our hearts.  The Greek word he uses for “dwell” means to “always be present.”  Is there a greater gift to receive than this?  Christ…  Living in our hearts…  in our life… built on love… strengthened by the Holy Spirit.. always present.

God can and does give us many, many things… every spiritual blessing, remember the first gift in this Advent study?   John Eadie, a Scottish theologian from the mid 1800’s suggests that God is not being frugal here.  “His bounty proclaims His conscious possession of immeasurable resources. He bestows according to the riches of His glory—His own infinite fullness.” [1]

God gives us His all… and His all is to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit so that Christ may dwell in our hearts.   Revelation 21:3 says that no longer does God dwell in a building that man has made such as the Tabernacle that Moses set up in the desert and moved from place to place.  No… “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.”  Jesus is the New Tabernacle!  And He dwells within us! 

And in John 15, Jesus stresses the benefit of abiding with him…  verse 5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

 As God’s children, we are given ALL.  The Greatest Gifts.  And that is represented in today’s gift, Jesus living in our heart.

Father God, thank you that you no longer live or dwell in man-made buildings or temples, but that Jesus lives in our heart.  Make my heart a loving place where He is glorified.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Advent Day 8, the gift of Boldness and Confident Access

December 8

The Gift of Boldness and Confident Access

Think back to elementary school.  Did you ever get called up to the teacher’s desk for a one-on-one meeting?  Not a disciplinary confrontation, mind you, just a “please come here I want to talk with you” meeting.  Generally, there were two opposite responses from the room full of pupils.  One student would sheepishly approach the front of the classroom, head hanging low, feet shuffling along, fearful.  Another student would stride confidently, chin up, eyes fixed on the teacher’s eyes. The first lacked confidence, the second acted boldly.

Our next Advent gift is found in Ephesians 3:12, the gift of boldness! 

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12 NIV).  The word “confidence” can be translated “boldness” or even “cheerful courage.”

Someone once asked the question “What was the difference between the disciple Peter at Passover and Peter at Pentecost?”  It was 50 days… and there was a 180 degree change in Peter.  Recall at Passover, Peter was afraid, he acted cowardly, even lying to a young girl about his connection with Jesus.  At Pentecost, in Acts 2, he boldly proclaimed the Gospel on the steps of the Temple for all in Jerusalem to hear.  And over 3,000 responded to his sermon and were baptized that day!   What was the difference?  He was filled with the Holy Spirit!   

Jesus, through His Holy Spirit, gives us boldness to proclaim the Gospel… and also to approach the Father in Heaven to ask Him for whatever we need. 

Why can we do that?  In the old days, man needed a mediator to go between him and Holy God.  No longer, thanks to the grace of Jesus!  You may recall that the moment Jesus died, the Holy of Holies in the Temple became accessible to everyone. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  Matthew 27:51 (NIV).  We now have access to the throne of God, and today’s scripture says we can have “confident access” (Ephesians 3:12 NASB). 

So, ask.  Receive.  And boldly proclaim, with confidence.   And we have such confidence, because, as the writer of Hebrews notes in Hebrews 10:23,  “He who promised is faithful.”

Be encouraged to use this great gift this Advent, the gift of being able to go directly to the LORD of Lords, the King of kings. 

Father God, we are grateful for this gift of being able to pray directly to you.  Thank you, Jesus, for tearing the veil away from the Holy of Holies.  Holy Spirit, give us the boldness to proclaim the love of the Gospel.  For your glory.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

(c) 2011. Rich Ronald