A new year will begin soon. The transition to a new year is a good time to reflect about new things. Rabbi Paul, writing to the Christians and Messianic Jews in Rome, encouraged them to “walk in newness of life” – to live a whole new life made possible by God the Father, Messiah the Son and the Holy Spirit. Our lives ought continually to reflect new things. May the following thoughts encourage us to do so.
Our old lives were lived independently from God. We didn’t have real faith in Him. We really didn’t know Him, nor did we care to try. We did not order our lives with the thought of pleasing or obeying Him. Confident in our own abilities, we didn’t lean on Him for strength, look to Him for guidance, rely on Him to provide, or derive from Him our sense of purpose. The old life was characterized by pride – the sinful pride of life. We fancied ourselves independent of our Creator. But newness of life is characterized by humility, by reliance on God. As those who have been redeemed by Messiah Yeshua, we now realize that our very existence, every breath we breathe, every beat of our heart, every moment of life, is utterly dependent on God’s will. Now we recognize that He is our portion and our cup, and our all in all. Now we desire most of all to please God, and to put Him first. We are trying to pray to Him without ceasing, giving thanks to Him throughout the day for the good things that happen, praising Him purely for who He is and what He has done. We are committed to serving Him and to seeking His divine wisdom. We are not relying on our thoughts, but His thoughts, knowing that His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts infinitely higher and better than our thoughts. We are trusting in the Lord with all our heart and not leaning on our own understanding. In all our ways we are acknowledging Him, first finding out what He wants, and then putting it into action, and then He enables us to travel down a straight path that will lead through the very gates of Heaven!
In the old life, we boasted in ourselves and not in God. We relied on our own efforts, talents, gifts and opportunities. We looked everywhere but to God for affirmation, approval and meaning. We looked to ourselves or to other fallible people to define success. Now we look to God, and not man, because humanity is weak and frail and corrupt. Now we seek to be poor in spirit, and humble in heart, because the more we depend on Him, trust in Him, look to Him and boast in Him, the better off we are. Now, we realize that when we are weak, we are strong, because the weaker we know we are, the more likely we are to depend on God, and we’ll be better off for it.
In the old life, we did not regard Yeshua as very important. He lived, He died, He said this, He taught that – “So what?” we thought. For some of us, Yeshua was overshadowed by religious systems, by saints or sacraments or traditions. But the new life means Yeshua is extremely important. Those of us who are experiencing newness of life try to think about Him all the time, the meaning of His coming and His life. We think about the way He lived, and dwell on what He taught. We consider His various encounters with people, and how they either came to trust Him and moved closer to Him, or would not believe Him, and moved farther from Him. Now, we think much about how Messiah died, and its implications for us – how we therefore need to die daily – die to self, to the world, to sin, and to think about His amazing resurrection from the dead and ascension back to the right hand of God in Heaven. We are constantly looking to Yeshua, making Him our role model, listening for His voice, praising Him for His great love for us, and thanking Him for His ongoing intercession for us. We want the mind of Messiah, to think like Him, and embrace His agenda, His values and His goals.
In the old life, we were either engaged in no religion, dead religion inherited from our relatives, or even false religion. But in the newness of life we now enjoy true religion in which we draw near to the Living God. Now our faith is centered around the Living God, not mere rituals and ceremonies, the outer husks and outward trappings of lifeless religion. We are not attempting to approach God in the wrong ways – ways based on false or erroneous premises, or legalistic ways which fail to grasp the spirit of the law.
People who are part of the old life may think that they have a good relationship to God. They may presume that they are right with God when they are not. They may pray, go to church, synagogue, mosque, shrine or temple, but don’t have a real connection to God. They are not right with God. They are not righteous in His sight. They are not right in many of their behaviors. They are not right in much of their thinking. Those who are walking in newness of life are truly right with God. They have been made right by the work of the Three-In-One God. God the Son died and rose again to make us right. God the Father declares us right. God the Holy Spirit is at work within us, transforming, teaching and empowering us to help us know and do what is right.
In the old way of life, the Spirit of God was not living in us in the way that He desires to, giving us new spiritual life, making us conscious of God, alive to God, connected to God, aware of salvation, sensitive to sin, aware of the need for holiness, so that we hunger and thirst for righteousness. The new life means we have received the Holy Spirit, who is transforming us from within, teaching us, guiding us, and leading us to the truth.
In the old way of life, God’s Word was not very important to us. We didn’t read it, and those few times we may have read it, we didn’t understand its basic message – salvation by placing our personal faith in the Messiah; salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, and not as a result of our own efforts or merit. Now, we understand the Bible, and, for us it is much more than merely another book. With the help of the Holy Spirit, it becomes alive within us, powerful and active and meaningful, richly dwelling within us, inspiring us, guiding us and teaching us.
Most people in the old way of life don’t take the Holy Scriptures very seriously. Even among the few who do take it seriously, like some orthodox Jews, there is disregard for essential parts of it (such as the prophets), and even contempt for essential parts of it – like the New Testament. Others, like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, add to it. Most don’t know that the Tenach and the New Testament are complete, and are the inspired and accurate Word of God. Those who are enjoying the new life know it. To us the Word of God has become extremely important. Now we understand that man does not live by bread alone, but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. All Scripture, every word of the Bible, is divinely inspired and is true, powerful and meaningful, and merits study, contemplation, and implementation. We are letting the Word of God dwell richly within us, reading it, studying it, thinking about it, applying it and teaching it to others.
In the old life we were mostly concerned about worldly things. We sought happiness by the things of the world – money, power and status. Newness of life means we are minimally concerned about the things of the world. Yes, we need a source of income. We need to work. The Word of God is clear that the Lord will not tolerate freeloaders and bums. The one who refuses to work isn’t entitled to eat. We require food, clothing and shelter. But walking in newness of life means that if we have our basic needs met, we try to be content. We are not constantly striving for more and more money, and more and more things. We are primarily concerned with the things of God. We are not concerned about constantly advancing ourselves in this doomed world, or achieving fame in a world that is perishing, or having the approval of men in this corrupt world. We are concerned about what God thinks about us. We want His praise, not man’s. We want to hear His “Well done!”. We are willing to endure rejection from a world which is hostile to God, a planet full of people who are spiritually clueless, whose opinion of us is utterly inconsequential.
Those who are part of the old life are spiritually dead – dead in their trespasses and sins. Sin has killed them. Sin has enslaved them. Sin and death have a very real power, and this power is like a black hole, able to prevent people from escaping its pull, and ultimately carrying them off to the Second Death. The new life means that we are set free from the forces of sin and death! We are no longer enslaved, because a greater power has set us free! That greater power continues to work in us, liberating us from the awful power of sin. In the old life, our sins easily entangled us. Most of us were insensitive and indifferent to sin. We didn’t know some of the things we were doing were wrong, and when we knew, we didn’t care. We didn’t understand that our sins were grieving God, and damaging our relationship with the One who is the Source of all good things. We didn’t fully understand that one day, we would have to appear before the holy Creator and give an account for each one of them. We didn’t know we would be punished for them. We didn’t realize how much damage they were doing to us, because when we sin, not only do we often hurt others, but we always hurt ourselves. We diminish ourselves in some way.
But now that the Holy Spirit is living in us, and we are aware of God, and the awfulness of sin, we find that we do not want to carry out the desires of the flesh. We are crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires. Before we were redeemed we may have had little self-control. But now, as we are filled with the Spirit of God, we have much greater self-control. We find it much easier to avoid the things that tempt us. Oh, there are still battles between the corrupt desires of our old nature and the pure desires of our new nature, but as we draw close to God, our hands upheld in prayer, the battle goes our way.
In our old way of life, if we were restrained from doing something we knew was wrong, it was generally due to some outside pressure – like the fear of getting caught and punished. But as part of the new life, we have a new disdain for sin that comes from within. We restrain ourselves from doing wrong precisely because we know it is wrong. We have a new understanding of who we are, and want to live in a way that lines up with that new person. Knowing that God calls us His precious children, we are trying to live up to that high calling. We want to live up to God’s expectations of us.
The old life was a self-centered life, each of us doing our own thing. Like sheep who have gone astray, each of us turned to his or her own way. We did what we wanted, when we wanted, how we wanted and where we wanted. We engaged in the lusts of the flesh. When we wanted to do things we knew weren’t right, we generally did them anyway. We also engaged in the lusts of the mind, thinking bad thoughts and often implementing them. But the new life is not about us doing our thing; it is about doing God’s thing! Now, much of the “I” is gone. It is longer I who live, but Messiah who lives in me. Oh, our personalities are still very much intact. We still have our likes and dislikes, our unique identities, our creativity, but now our identities are centered in God and Messiah. We live for God! To live is all about Messiah, and what He wants for us. We know that we are no longer our own. We have been created by the One who created everything to fulfill His will. We have been redeemed, bought and paid for with a very high price. We realize that we are servants of the Almighty. We serve at His pleasure. We are to go where He sends us, give as He directs us. We are committed to God’s Word, not our own. We pray for God’s will to be done – and not our own. We seek to follow God’s ways, and not our ways.
The old life was based on living by sight. Only those things we could see, touch, taste, feel, hear and smell did we judge worth pursuing. Many of us did not concern ourselves with the Day of Judgment, Heaven or Hell, God and Messiah, salvation and everlasting life. The new life is characterized by living by faith, not by sight – trusting in the invisible God, confident in the Messiah who came from Heaven to Earth 2,000 years ago, who died, rose again, is at the right hand of the invisible God, and will return very soon. We live by faith, confident in the truthfulness and reliability of God’s Word, trusting in its promises and in the reality of Heaven and life everlasting; believing that God rewards those who come to Him in faith. The unseen is much more important to us than the seen, the invisible is more real to me than the visible.
For many, the old life was characterized by selfishness. We looked out purely for our own interests. Now we are more concerned about the well-being of our neighbor. We find that the whole Law is fulfilled in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We are trying to bear other’s burdens, and trying to treat the interests of others as we would our own.
In the old life, we wasted much of our time and energy on the wrong things. Now, we are investing our lives, energies and resources properly, because we are not deceived, knowing that whatever a person sows, that he will reap. We don’t want to reap corruption, or a smallish reward, but rather glory, honor and praise! We look forward to a great reward and everlasting life from our God and Judge! Therefore we are investing in the things of the Spirit, not in the flesh, the things connected to God and which will last, like our relationship to God. With His help we want to develop good character, and the things involved in extending the Kingdom of God – reaching the lost and dying with the message of life and salvation, tearing down strongholds of false thinking, wrong ideologies, foolish philosophies, and building up the Community of Believers.
The happiness of our old life depended on circumstances, on things going “our way.”Some of us relied on drugs or alcohol or pills to help us cope when things didn’t go our way. Now, we have a new source of joy. We are not dependant on our circumstances. Therefore, we praise the Lord in everything. Our source of happiness is the Lord Himself. We are rejoicing in the God of our salvation, delighted to know Him and be known by Him, to love Him and be loved by Him. We are saved, and know it. We are joyously drawing water from the wells of salvation. We are headed to Heaven and sure of it! We will live forever, and are absolutely thrilled by our knowledge of it! We know the good God is in control, and that all things will work together for our good, so we can relax.
May the gracious Three-In-One God enable us all to walk in newness of life!