By Jeannette Haley
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done,
but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing
of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” – Titus 3:5
No doubt all of us have either asked or been asked “What’s new?” and our answers may have varied from “Not much” to a list of what we got for Christmas, to additions or losses in the lives of family and friends, to any number of things. Of course, at this time we are celebrating another New Year. Considering the state of the world, the challenges that lie before us, and the fact that none of us are getting any younger, I have to admit that my greatest celebration of a New Year is the assurance that we are that much closer to the return of the King of kings, and the Lord of lords.
You know, I must be real dense or something because I’ve never been able to fully comprehend why the whole world gets so excited and even hysterically happy about New Year’s Eve. Maybe it’s because of the party spirit and anticipation that this one night of revelry to celebrate a New Year will somehow make life better for our personal lives and the world. Reality, though, teaches us that the results of over-celebrating are either a weeklong hangover, or major depression, because everything goes back to what it was. Nothing has really changed except the year. Even what was new at Christmas doesn’t quite offer the initial thrill anymore because that thing called “time” has stepped in and is operating like “emotional gravity.”
Of course, who doesn’t like new things? Especially if you’re like me; that is, a person who works hard to take care of things, such as clothes, so you end up wearing the same outfits for ten or twenty years. Being frugal is, to my way of thinking, being a good steward of what God gives you. However, there comes a time when the old just has to go so the new can come in—at least that is what my “wardrobe helper” (Carrie) tried to tell me the day I mustered up the courage to ask her to help me go through my formidable closet stuffed with a collection of “you-name-it”. I just have to say that was a freeing, and funny “adventure.” Lesson learned: you have to get rid of the old in order to gain room for the new.
If only there was some way to get rid of this old body in exchange for a brand new one! But, wait. I’m getting ahead of myself because the promise and hope of such an event will be touched on later in this article.
So here it is, another New Year with new resolutions to do things better, to work harder, to redeem the time, to draw closer to the Lord, to come higher, to trust and obey in all things, to be a vessel that is available for the Master’s use. All well and good, but what about the accumulation of the “old” that needs to go so the new can come in? You know those old mental ruts, old habits, old cycles in relationships, and old perspectives that don’t line up with God’s perspective? Are you ready to get rid of the old so you can take on the challenge of the new? That means being ready to get rid of the old way of thinking, the old way of doing, the old way of justifying ourselves, the old ways of the flesh, the old offences and influences, and any old bitterness and un-forgiveness all of which serves to make us just a bunch of useless “sticks in the mud.”
Jesus is calling us to follow Him, not to cling to the old traditions of men that choke out the Word of God; not to settle for the milk when He wants to feed us meat; not to hide behind old excuses and religious platitudes. Jesus wants us to be filled to overflowing with the Spirit of God so we can be strong and do exploits in these latter days. (Daniel 11:32b.) Do you feel like a “stick in the mud,” but deep down in your heart you long to be strengthened with might by His Spirit? Do you want Christ to dwell in your heart by faith? Do you want true love? Do you want to really experience the love of Christ? Do you want to be filled with all the fullness of God? Do you want power? If you do, then read, study, believe and meditate on Ephesians 3:16-21, which says, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
God has so much more for us than we can ever think, know, imagine or comprehend. When we invite Jesus to come in and commune with us one of the things He wants to do is “clean house.” That means He wants to get rid of the old and replace it with the new. He wants to set us free from the old rags and grave clothes that sin and the devil wrap us up in, and clothe us in a new robe of righteousness. He wants to remove that old, filthy, corruptible “high hat” of pride from off of our head and replace it with an incorruptible crown. He wants to toss out our shoes that are mud-caked from the filth of the world and give us the footwear of the gospel of peace. Jesus wants to cleanse us inside and out from the stench of sin and death, and then renew us by the power of the Holy Spirit so we no longer reflect the fallen world, but reflect the image of God who created everything, and said “it was good.”
When Jesus comes in to stay, it is “out with the old, and in with the new” in every area of our lives. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” 2 Corinthians 5:17. When Jesus comes in, He wants to go deep. He wants to go all the way down to the “bottom of the barrel” and clean out the dregs. Jesus wants to make us pure vessels, fit for the master’s use. Concerning becoming a new creature in Christ, A. W. Tozer said, “Salvation must include a judicial change of status — but what is overlooked by most teachers is that it also includes a practical change in the life of the individual. And by this we mean more than a surface change; we mean a transformation as deep as the roots of his human life. If it does not go that deep, it does not go deep enough.”
Oswald Chambers taught on the relinquished life, “No one is ever united with Jesus Christ until he is willing to relinquish not sin only, but his whole way of looking at things. To be born from above of the Spirit of God means that we must let go before we lay hold, and in the first stages it is the relinquishing of all pretense. What Our Lord wants us to present to Him is not goodness, nor honesty, nor endeavor, but real solid sin; that is all He can take from us. And what does He give in exchange for our sin? Real solid righteousness. But we must relinquish all pretense of being anything, all claim of being worthy of God’s consideration.
“Then the Spirit of God will show us what further there is to relinquish. There will have to be the relinquishing of my claim to my right to myself in every phase. Am I willing to relinquish my hold on all I possess, my hold on my affections, and on everything, and to be identified with the death of Jesus Christ?
“There is always a sharp painful disillusionment to go through before we do relinquish. When a man really sees himself as the Lord sees him, it is not the abominable sins of the flesh that shock him, but the awful nature of the pride of his own heart against Jesus Christ. When he sees himself in the light of the Lord, the shame and the horror and the desperate conviction come home.
“If you are up against the question of relinquishing, go through the crisis, relinquish all, and God will make you fit for all that He requires of you.” (My Utmost for His Highest.)
We are all descendants of the first man, Adam, who was made of the dust of the earth. But, sometimes we get to thinking too much, and fool ourselves into believing we are made of angel dust; you know, we get to thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. We feel better about our “old man” if we can imagine him with some glitter sprinkled on top of the clay. The Bible tells us, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” 2 Corinthians 4:7.
So, here we are: a bunch of earthen vessels, like the ones used in Jesus’ first public miracle at the wedding in Cana, “six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece” John 2:6. 9 (A firkin is about 9 gallons, and “stone” jars means baked clay.) And “Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water, And they filled them up to the brim” John 2:7. Without Christ, we can be compared to those empty vessels just sitting there. Worthless, unattractive, and unimportant clay pots in the scheme of things. Six clay vessels represent the number of man and imperfection, or incompleteness. Maybe there’s some hot air in those vessels, but nothing else. Unattractive, common, empty, and void of substance, they lack life and purpose.
Then comes Jesus, and everything changes. Just as He ordered His servants to fill up the dry waterpots with water, representing the living water of the Word of God, so too has He (to whom all “power is given…in heaven and earth”) commissioned His followers, both men and women, of every age to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” Matthew 28:18-20. Pure water symbolizes the pure water of the Word. Little by little we begin to be filled up with the fresh, clean water of the Word. “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” Isaiah 28:10. Then, when we are filled to the full, and prepared for the Master’s use, we find that the more we pour the New Wine of the Spirit out to others, the more He refills us.
What a wonderful exchange! What a difference the new can make when we let go of the old! Here are a couple examples our Lord gives us as recorded in Luke 5:36-38, “No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.” We know that Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, but there are different applications that can be made, one of which is the fact that as Christians we cannot try to “patch” up the “holes in the garment” of our old life by adding Christ to it and trying to make Him fit. In other words, we can’t simply tack Jesus on to our old way of living, old habits, cycles, patterns, philosophies, petulancies, policies, practices or personal hang-ups. When we believe and receive Christ, who is “the new,” all of these old things “are passed away.”
“But,” someone may lament, “I don’t want to give that thing up! I’m fond of my old filthy rags of self-righteousness that I cover myself with! I’m afraid of what might happen if I let go and lose control of my stinky garbage.” Well, if you want to be “good saved,” if you want to go on with God, if you want to be cleansed inside and out, if you want to be a vessel for God’s use, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, you better come into agreement with God quickly. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” 2 Corinthians 6:2b. Now is the time to get rid of the old, rotten garbage in your life and be cleansed through and through by the blood of the Lamb of God.
The same goes for the New Wine of the Holy Spirit. The “old spirits” of the world, the flesh and the devil have to go because such things cannot co-exist with the life of the Son of God within us. Smith Wigglesworth said, “God wants to purify our minds until we can bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things. God dwells in you, but you cannot have this divine power until you live and walk in the Holy Ghost, until the power of the new life is greater than the old life.” “You are in the right position when you allow the glory of the new life to cause you to act. Live in the Acts of the Apostles, and every day you will see some miracle worked by the power of the living God.” [Emphasis mine.]
When we allow the Lord to transplant us from a lukewarm, powerless, nominal Christian life into the new life of walking in the Spirit, we will discover that we are now living what should be the normal Christian life. The Apostle Paul summed up this new life in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” This new life in you, however, will cause different reactions in the people around you because they don’t understand what has happened to you, and where the “old you” has gone. Some wonder when the “old you” will return, and most hope it’s soon because the “new you” is making them uncomfortable. In fact, the Spirit of the Lord in you is bringing disruption and conviction. Thus, there is a price to pay in different relationships because you cannot drag others with you into this divine life anymore than the High Priest could bring his family and friends into the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement.
Therefore, once we have put our hand to the plow and committed a sold out life to Jesus, we cannot look back. Where He goes we must follow. If others cling to us, trying to hold us back, we must let go of them and hold onto Christ, trusting that He will have His way with them.
Oswald Chambers, in writing of the cost to other people, explained, “If we obey God, it is going to cost other people more than it costs us, and that is where the pain begins. If we are in love with our Lord, obedience does not cost us anything— it is a delight. But to those who do not love Him, our obedience does cost a great deal. If we obey God, it will mean that other people’s plans are upset. They will ridicule us as if to say, “You call this Christianity?” We could prevent the suffering, but not if we are obedient to God. We must let the cost be paid.
“When our obedience begins to cost others, our human pride entrenches itself and we say, “I will never accept anything from anyone.” But we must, or disobey God. We have no right to think that the type of relationships we have with others should be any different from those the Lord Himself had (see Luke 8:1-3).
“A lack of progress in our spiritual life results when we try to bear all the costs ourselves. And actually, we cannot. Because we are so involved in the universal purposes of God, others are immediately affected by our obedience to Him. Will we remain faithful in our obedience to God and be willing to suffer the humiliation of refusing to be independent? Or will we do just the opposite and say, “I will not cause other people to suffer”? We can disobey God if we choose, and it will bring immediate relief to the situation, but it will grieve our Lord. If, however, we obey God, He will care for those who have suffered the consequences of our obedience. We must simply obey and leave all the consequences with Him.
“Beware of the inclination to dictate to God what consequences you would allow as a condition of your obedience to Him.”
As we watch biblical prophecies being fulfilled every day, there can be no doubt but that we are living in the latter days. These are the times of great expectation and hope for the Christian as we remember the promises of God involving the “new” things to come, such as: a new incorruptible body, (1 Corinthians 15:42-58); a new name (Revelation 2:17) and the New Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12). He will write on us His new name (Revelation 3:12); there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1); and finally “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new” Revelation 21:4, 5a. Surely, “He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD” Psalm 40:3.
Are you a vessel that is prepared, ready and open to receive the new wine of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God?