“The New Life Fits” (Ephesians 4: 24, ESV) by Carley Evans

“Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness,” writes Paul. Webster’s Vest Pocket Dictionary defines “put” as “bring to a specified position or condition.” A perfect description of what God expects us to do; we are to bring ourselves into the condition specified for us by God Himself — we are to put on true righteousness, who is Jesus Christ. We are to put on His holiness. Webster’s also defines “put” as “cause to be used or employed.” We are to use Christ’s righteousness as our own.

The truth is not only that we are positionally holy; we are truly righteous because Christ is righteous and He dwells fully in us through His Holy Spirit, the Helper.

We put off the old self “which belongs to [our] former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires.” (Ephesians 4: 22) We are then “renewed in the spirit of [our] minds.” (Ephesians 4: 23)

Our action is both a negative and a positive — we put off the old; we put on the new. The old is a foreign way of living while the new life fits us best because we belong to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

(by Carley Evans on Monday, September 21, 2009 at 7:27pm)

“For God Loves The World This Way” ( John 3: 16, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

I admire and appreciate the way in which the Holman Christian Standard Bible words John 3:16. The verse we know from childhood as beginning with “For God so loves the world” is translated in the HCSB version as “For God loves the world this way” and proceeds to tell what God does to reveal His love for the world.

Clearly, God loves the world a lot. He loves the world so much that He gives His only Son, Jesus as a sacrificial lamb to wash away its sins and justify it before Him. The wording of the HCSB version emphasizes not how much God loves the world, but how God loves the world.

God’s method is espoused. His motivation is clear — to avoid His own judgment against the world. His method is simple. The Light comes into the world, and those who “live by the Truth come to the Light.” The works of those who come to the Light are subsequently revealed as “accomplished by God.” (John 3:21) From beginning to end, the work is God’s. For this is the way God loves the world.

“By Faith He Condemned The World” ( Hebrews 11: 7, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

Noah condemns the world by his faith in God’s Word. God tells Noah to build an ark, to gather two of every kind of fauna, to put his family into the ark, and to wait while the world drowns via non-stop rain for forty days and forty nights. When Noah obeys God, he condemns the world — the world which does not believe and obey. “The waters surge upon the earth 150 days.” (Genesis 7:24) And, “[God] wipes out every living thing that is on the surface of the ground, from mankind to livestock, to creatures that crawl, to the birds of the sky, and they are wiped off the face of the earth. Only Noah is left, and those that are with him in the ark.” (Genesis 7:23) For over ten months, Noah waits in the ark for God to release him and those with him. Forty days after the tops of the mountains are finally visible, Noah sends out a dove who returns. The second dove he sends out returns with an olive leaf; the third dove does not return at all. Noah waits a few months longer before God tells him to exit the ark with those saved through Noah’s obedience to God’s Word.

The world drowns in God’s rain; and by his faith, Noah condemns the world.

I’m not completely sure I understand why it is that the faith Noah has condemns the world except that his faith leads him to obey God in spite of the world’s derision. That Noah does not stand on a pedestal and shout, ‘repent for the end of the world is at hand!’ is revealing. Rather than striving to save the world from its destruction, Noah strives to do God’s will, continuing to build the ark in preparation for the flood he has been told is coming upon the whole world. Noah regards God as more important than his neighbors and friends, building the ark even as the world goes about its business of ignoring God.

By his faith, Noah saves himself and his family.

“Not The Smallest Letter” ( Matthew 5: 18, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

Jesus tells us not to assume He comes to destroy the Law; rather He comes to fulfill the Law. He warns that unless we are more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees, we “will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) It is not enough to refrain from murder; we must refrain from being angry or insulting. It is not enough that we refrain from adultery; we must refrain from lust. It is not enough that we keep our oaths; we must not make oaths at all. It is not enough to love our neighbor; we must also love our enemy. It is not enough to be righteous; we must not be righteous “in front of people, to be seen by them.” (Matthew 6:1) It is not enough to pray; we must not pray in public “to be seen by people” or “babble like the idolators, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:5,7) It is not enough to fast; we must “put oil on [our] heads, and wash [our] faces.” (Matthew 6:17)

“Whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)

Looking in the mirror, I see the least in the kingdom of heaven for I break the least of these commands more times than I can count. I find no room in my heart for self-righteousness. The only righteousness I have belongs to another — my righteousness rests solely on the finished work of Jesus Christ, who fulfills the Law and the Prophets.

“Fresh Wineskins” ( Mark 2: 22, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

Jesus says you do not sew a new patch onto an old garment — if you’ve ever done this, you know what He means. The new patch, as it shrinks, pulls away at the old cloth and makes a worse hole than you had in the first place. Jesus says you do not store new wine in an old wineskin; the new wine causes the wineskin to burst so that you lose both the wineskin and your wine.

Jesus says He’s not put on from the outside. You can not go to church and put Him on like a garment – in that He does not fit the unchanged person.

Some churches today are mega-institutions designed, it seems, primarily to put Jesus onto people’s outsides while worrying – at least a little bit – about whether the new look is just a look or is an actual alteration of the people’s insides. I think that little bit of worry is left to life groups.

“Reconciled” ( Genesis 33: 8, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

Jacob sees Esau coming toward him with 400 men at his side. Quickly Jacob arranges his children among Leah, Rachel, and two slave women, perhaps in an effort to protect as he puts Joseph in the rear position. He goes on ahead, bowing seven times as he approaches his brother, Esau. Jacob, by bowing seven times, is telling his brother that he sincerely regrets earlier deceptions and is ready to submit to the older of the twins.

But Esau surprises Jacob, hugging and kissing him. Together, they weep as they reconcile.

When Esau sees the women and children, he wants to know about “this whole procession” and what it means. Jacob answers that his intention is to “find favor” with his brother. (Genesis 33:8) Esau tells Jacob to “keep what you have.” He says that he “has enough, my brother.” (Genesis 33:9) Jacob says he has seen “God’s face” in the face of his brother and so pressures Esau to “take my present” “since you have accepted me.” (Genesis 33:11, 10) Esau relents and accepts the gift Jacob brings him — now, what is this gift?

I suspect it is the two slave women and their children who are first in the procession. Jacob gladly gives these persons to his brother so as to appease him and show his gratitude for his forgiveness. We know Jacob does not give away Rachel or Leah or his children by them; but he gives Esau something of value, something Esau sees. “What do you mean by this whole procession I met?” (Genesis 33:8) Esau even attempts to leave some of his own people with Jacob, in a kind of tit-for-tat exchange, but Jacob protests, “Why do that? Please indulge me, my lord.” (Genesis 33:15)

So, they part reconciled; Esau going back to Seir and Jacob going to Succoth.

“Through His Name” ( Acts 10: 43, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

“All the prophets testify about [Jesus Christ] that through His Name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 10:43)

Peter preaches this to Cornelius, who has recently sent for him after “a man in a dazzling robe” stands before him and tells him that He has heard his prayers. Cornelius says to Peter, “You did the right thing in coming. So we are all present before God, to hear everything you are commanded by the Lord.” (Acts 10:30,33)

Peter begins by verbally recognizing that “God doesn’t show favoritism.” (Acts 10:34) Peter realizes that “in every nation the person who fears [God] and does righteousness is acceptable to Him.” (Acts 10:35) Peter then proceeds to tell Cornelius of the events which led to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Peter proclaims, “[Jesus] is the One appointed by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:42)

If Jesus judges you as clean, then you are clean.

With Peter’s words, Cornelius and the other Gentiles with him, believe and through the Name of Jesus Christ each is saved from his sins. The Holy Spirit descends on each one so that they speak in other languages and declare the greatness of God. At this point, Peter calls for these new believers to be baptized with water for they have already been sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Seeking God and being sought by Him — in every nation, people are being saved. Even so, come Lord Jesus!

“We’re Going To Die!” ( Luke 8: 24, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

Jesus sleeps through a windstorm, even one in which the waves threaten to swamp the boat. Both Jesus and His disciples are in real danger of drowning in the lake. In panic, Jesus’ disciples wake Him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to die!” (Luke 8:24, HCSB)

Jesus stands up, “rebukes the wind and the raging waves” so that a calm falls over the lake. (Luke 8:24) Jesus turns, looking at the disciples, wet and sheepish I am certain. He says to them, “Where is your faith?” They don’t know who He is which is why “they are fearful and amazed.” (Luke 8:25)

Jesus, in complete trust in His Father, sleeps during the storm. The disciples, not recognizing the Son of God who sleeps in the boat with them, are terrified, certain of their impending deaths. Jesus is simply resting after a long day with the crowds; He is crossing to the other side of the lake. The disciples are simply afraid. “We’re going to die!” they say to the Son of God. And He asks, “Where is your faith?”

Our faith, even faith as tiny as a mustard seed, is enough that we also can rest through the windstorm and the raging waves; even enough that we can calm them with a word.

“Eternal Life” ( John 17: 3, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

“This is eternal life: that [we] may know You, the only true God, and the One You send — Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) I’m always a bit bewildered that people don’t seem to realize they are in hell. Obviously some people are extremely aware of being in hell — their circumstances make their condition painfully obvious. For others, however, this earth has many pleasures — its natural beauty is one of its best attributes. Of course, we owe that entirely to the Creator. But, after the fall into sin by Adam and Eve, we — in our natural state — also find ourselves in trapped in hell. Remember the angels usher us out of the garden of Eden and bare the way back.

Jesus reveals God to us. As we accept Him as God — that is, Lord and Savior, Healer and Coming King — we are ushered out of hell and into His kingdom. Because we remain on this earth for a time, we may be very aware of the trappings of hell around us. But, we are not of this world. We are foreigners, waiting for our full inheritance, our heavenly country, as the author of Hebrews writes.

Knowing God is eternal life.

“The Grace Of One Man” ( Romans 5: 15, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

“How much more do those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ,” writes Paul to the church at Rome. (Romans 5:17) “How much more does the grace of God and the gift overflow to the many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15) “Through one righteous act there is life-giving justification for everyone.” (Romans 5:18) “Through one man’s obedience the many are made righteous.” (Romans 5:19) “Grace is multiplied even more.” (Romans 5:20) “Grace reigns through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:21)

Whose obedience does Paul highlight? Certainly not Adam’s or Eve’s. Certainly not mine or yours. Rather, Paul writes of one man’s obedience, of the one man, Jesus Christ who obeyed God the Father completely. Through Jesus’ obedience is “life-giving justification.” Through Jesus’ grace, “the many are made righteous.” Jesus’ grace overflows to us as does the gift of His own righteousness.

“What shall we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not!” (Romans 6:1) “What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not!” (Romans 6:15) “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He does not even spare His own Son but offers Him up for us all; how does He not grant also with Him us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies.” (Romans 8:31-33)