“Prepared Beforehand” ( Ephesians 2:10, LEB ) by Carley Evans

The Word of God is clear – all people are created by God in His image. The Word is equally clear that people are created a second time “in Christ Jesus for good works.” ( Hence Jesus’ mention to Nicodemus that he must be born again. ) These good works are ones designed specifically for us as individuals; they are “prepared beforehand, so that we may walk in them.” If even our good works are planned, how is it that we are not planned? Of course we are. What creator doesn’t mold his or her work according to plan? Nevertheless, as an artist renders his or her work, spontaneity surely plays its part. Perhaps God, the ultimate Creator, shows a touch of His own creative spontaneity when He allows His creations to stray off plan. Ever played with your car; ever taken your hands off the wheel briefly to see which way it might head? Ever dropped the reins on a horse and allowed it to go whichever direction it will? Yet, you remain in control of your car or your horse. The steering wheel is right there; so are the reins. God is in control; never fear.

For we are his creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that we may walk in them.

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

Jesus says, “New wine is for fresh wineskins.” If you put new wine into an old wineskin, the newly fermented wine will burst the old skin so that you not only lose the wine but the skin. In order to keep the new wine, it must be stored in a new wineskin.

And so, without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, we can not be made new creations. Jesus tells Nicodemus, “You must be born again” in order to “see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Our new lives can not function in our old systems — the system itself must be altered so that our lives are made real; so that we function as parts of the body of Christ.

The extraordinary power of God can not enter the ‘old nature.’ Rather, that nature is changed at a fundamental level so that God is able to make a place for Himself in our hearts.

Therefore, God commands, “Be holy as I Am holy.” And Jesus says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

“Born Again” ( 1 Peter 1: 22, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

“Love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you are born again — not of perishable seed but of imperishable — through the living and enduring Word of God.”

If we are in Christ, then you and I are born again. Jesus tells Nicodemus that unless he “is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) “Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed”, says Jesus, “that I tell you that you must be born again.” (John 3:6)

Jesus says to the Samaritan woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks from this [well] water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water I give him will never get thirsty again — ever! In fact, the water I give him becomes a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

If we are in Christ, then you and I are born again of water and Spirit, and we have eternal life “springing up within [us].”

The seed we hold within — “the living and enduring Word” — germinates, grows, buds, blossoms. “For the Word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12) Given that the Word of God dwells within us, let us be fragrant to our Lord, “loving one another earnestly from a pure heart.”

“As He Is Holy” (1 Peter 1: 15 – 16, ESV) by Carley Evans

“Be holy in all your conduct,” writes Peter. We are to be holy because Jesus is holy.

“As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.” (1 Peter 2: 4 – 5)

After all, do not forget that “you have been born again through the living and abiding Word of God.” (1 Peter 1: 23) Jesus Himself tells Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God;” (John 3: 3) for “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3: 6) Once we are born of the Spirit, we cry “Father” to God, looking to Him as a child looks to its own parent.

“David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.’ ” (Romans 4: 6 – 8)

Paul assures us that we “who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” are reconciled to God by Jesus’ death “in order to present [us] holy and blameless and above reproach before Him.” (Colossians 1: 21, 22)

Our task is to “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel.” (Colossians 1: 23)

We are holy because He is holy. This is our hope; the fruit of our faith.

“A Living Hope” (1 Peter 1: 3 – 5, ESV) by Carley Evans

“He has caused us to be born again to a living hope.” We are born again, just as Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ ” (John 3: 7)

“You, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation.” Our salvation is guarded by God Himself, via the power of His Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

“Therefore…set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1: 13) Our hope is in the grace and mercy of our God and Father.

Our inheritance is presently “kept in heaven for [us].” This inheritance is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” (1 Peter 1: 4) Our salvation is “ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1: 5) Our salvation is a future event. Presently, we are “obtaining the outcome of [our] faith, the salvation of [our] souls.” (1 Peter 1: 9) Yes, we are saved now; but our ultimate salvation is to be had in the future, outside of this limited time and space, in eternity.

In the meantime, “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, grown inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8: 23 – 25) Our hope is sometimes painful as we long for the other country, the better place, the close fellowship with God, the three in One.

And, “though you have not seen [Jesus Christ], you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” (1 Peter 1: 8)