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This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! - 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
“The old has gone, the new has come, and the future couldn’t be more beautiful.” - Chip Gaines
If anyone can tell a story of old becoming new, it’s Chip Gaines. His whole life revolves around making old houses become new and exciting homes. Whether you live in a rental, dorm room, $1 million dollar house, or bungalow (I have a good friend that really loves his beach bungalow—who wouldn’t?!), then you know how good it feels when you replace something that is old and worn out with something that is fresh and new.
For example, while helping me move out of my college dorm, my beautiful wife Gentry told me that I would never, under any circumstance, be allowed to move my rugs from college into our new home. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t like the rugs that my buddies and I had lived with and taken great care of (Gentry would highly dispute that statement, but this is my side of the story!) for a few years. Why would I waste time and money replacing those when they weren’t even that gross yet? However, I do have to admit that my caring, thoughtful, and incredibly sweet wife was right. Those rugs needed to go directly into the trash. They had absolutely no business going anywhere else.
Have you ever thrown out the old, dirty, nasty stuff in your own heart?
Jesus offers us a brand new life if we choose to follow Him. This new life is infinitely more beautiful than any house Chip and Jo have ever remodeled. It’s immensely more satisfying than replacing an old, dirty rug. The Greek word used for “new” in this passage is kainos, which means to completely replace old things with something brand new. Here’s the good news: Jesus took your old life with Him to the cross, and when He was nailed there, your old life was, too. He offers us this incredible gift of a brand new life that is a complete and total replacement of our old life. The old life is gone, thrown out into the dumpster to never be seen again.
This new life is like a brand new car that’s completely loaded with brand new features. In a loaded-out vehicle, you probably get a panoramic moonroof, heated and cooled massaging seats, premium wheel upgrades, a bigger engine, and maybe even a better warranty. Like a cool car, our new life with Jesus has some neat features, too: forgiveness for all of our mistakes, grace that never runs out, freedom from our past, hope for a better future. AND let me tell you about this new warranty… Jesus offers us a lifetime warranty that has no fine print—it’s known as Heaven. After our bodies break down and we’ve passed on, the warranty kicks in. Jesus replaces our earthly and finite life with a perfect and eternal life in Heaven.
So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ made us friends of God. - Romans 5:11 (NLT)
If you have ever seen Cheaper By the Dozen 2, you can hear “Why Can’t We Be Friends” playing as Tom Baker (Steve Martin) and Jimmy Murtaugh (Eugene Levy) clash in an epic battle of family vs. family fighting to win the Labor Day Family Cup. In the movie, the Murtaughs, an extremely wealthy and large family with a lake mansion, are pitted against the Bakers, a large but seemingly average family that is renting an old, run-down lake house for the week. Every time the two fathers interact, a fierce competition breaks out, especially when two of the teenagers from the opposed families go on a date… The scene turns into a nightmare ending with Steve Martin draped over the balcony in the movie theater where their kids are on this date. The viewer begins to wonder, “Will they ever be friends?”
As I read Romans 5:11, I was reminded of a phrase that I heard my friend, Will Briggs, use when I first joined the team at Southland: “God doesn’t just love you. He likes you, as well.” Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, God likes us enough to call us His friends. A friend is defined as a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection. As friends of God, we must understand that He knows us intimately. He knows the number of hairs on your head, the biggest mistake you’ve ever made, and the exact thought you just had, yet He still chooses to be your friend. Let me ask you the following question:
We are friends of God, but are we friends of one another?
My old basketball coach used to always remind our team that we could be successful if we played as individuals simply because we had talent, but we could win championships if we played together as a team. By the end of Cheaper By the Dozen 2, Jimmy and Tom both realize that they are a lot more alike than different. They both just want to raise families that love one another and care about each other. This common pursuit is able to connect them as friends.
Being friends often requires hard conversations, a lot of grace, a whole lot of forgiveness, willingness to be vulnerable, and extreme humility. Would our world look differently if we chose to view those around us as our friends instead of our adversaries? I truly believe that if we work together as friends, we will achieve the change we wish to see in our communities, cities, nation, and world. Are you with me, friend?
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us together in perfect harmony. - Colossians 3:14 (NLT)
E PLURIBUS UNUM has long been the motto of the United States. It simply means, “Out of many, one.” According to the U.S. Treasury, it was first used on U.S. coinage in 1795 on the $5 gold half-eagle coin. I am no Latin scholar, but I am a follower of Jesus. And because of that, I know that we, as humans, are one nation, church, and people made up of many ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds. However, we are in many ways divided, making us feel like we are many rather than one.
It seems as if the world around us is unraveling at the seams, yet Jesus’ stance is very clear on everything that has tried to divide us recently. He is always for people. He wants equality for His people. Jesus wants everyone to experience the wholeness He offers. God wants the best for all of His beloved children. The Church of Jesus is called to stand for the oppressed, advocate for the weakest, carry one another’s burdens, and fight for unity. That is our calling.
I have been blessed to lead Southland Access for two years now, meaning I get to pastor people with special needs (how awesome is that?). During my time in this role, I have learned that we, as people, are abundantly more alike than we are different. And I am wise enough to know that this truth doesn’t just apply to people with special needs compared to those without special needs. This is a universal truth. We are all more alike than we are different. If we wish to use Maya Angelou’s exact wording, “We are more alike than we are unalike.”
I remember teaching a lesson in Southland Access where we walked through Colossians 3:12–14. In verse 12, we are taught to clothe ourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. So we had a couple of people add a wacky and wild clothing item to represent each of those words. By the end, these volunteers would have stood out anywhere they went that day.
When we clothe ourselves in love, people notice. When love binds us together in harmony, it resonates loudly within a disjointed, out-of-tune world. When we love others as Jesus has loved us, we join together. We could remain fractured and see ourselves as many different people pursuing different goals, or we could allow love to become our unifying force. In Christ, we are not many, but one.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. - Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
Are you an artist? I, for one, am in no way, shape, or form an artist as it relates to the typical sense of the word. If you could see some of my “simple” artwork from elementary school, you would laugh or maybe think what I had done was an incredible piece of abstract work. As much as I have tried to channel my inner Bob Ross, I can’t turn little blobs of paint into majestic mountaintops, no matter how much encouragement Bob gives me. (If you’ve never watched Bob Ross paint, you should! It’s fantastic!) I’m just as musically talented, too! If you were to ask my friends if I can sing, they would emphatically tell you, “YES! He sings all the time!” If you were to ask my friends if I should sing, they would emphatically respond, “NEVER!”
Let me ask you a more serious question: Is your heart hurting? It has truly been a hard few months for all of us. My hope is that through all of this pain, we choose to lament. As Derwin Gray unpacks in his new book The Good Life, “Lamenting is a holy hurt, but the hurt is a pain that pushes us deeper into faith, hope, and love.”
I always crack up watching the “Stop It!” comedy bitin which Bob Newhart plays the role of a therapist. A young woman comes to his office and brings him all of her problems, and as she seeks his help, he repetitively replies, “STOP IT!” There is a lot going on right now that I wish I could just stop. We can’t stop everything, but we could do a lot of good if we would stop tarnishing God’s masterpiece.
In our text today, Paul explains how God sees us:
If we begin to see others the same way God sees us, we can change the world. If you’re anything like me, you’re no Picasso, but regardless of our artistic abilities, we can appreciate the masterpieces that God has created all around us. Like Derwin challenges us, we can have a holy hurt that motivates us to have more faith, hope, and love.
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. - Isaiah 43:2 (NLT)
The first time I ever had the opportunity to preach, I was in middle school, skinny as a rail, and extremely nervous. I scavenged the Bible looking for a passage that I could preach from. I found myself flipping through the book of Matthew reading what Jesus taught. I had heard a little bit of what I was reading in church before, but most of what I read was brand new to me. I hit Matthew 7:24, and I immediately connected with the parable of the wise and foolish builders. In this story, Jesus explains what happens when you build your house on the sand as opposed to building on solid rock.
Do you like to build sandcastles? I asked that same question to my friends as I preached. That question has a much more profound impact on me today with the life experience and perspective I now have. I’ve seen adults build the most immaculate sand castles only to see them washed away when the tide rises or a rain shower pops up. I don’t mean literal sandcastles. I mean lives built on things like careers, status, goals, achievements, happiness, comfort, or marital success.
BOOM! Thunder claps and lightning strikes, and our sandcastles get destroyed. Instead of building on the rock, we hit rock bottom. I’ve seen a lot of people hit rock bottom through this season of life, and it’s not a fun place to be. But there’s hope! In Isaiah, we are reminded that God is with us, even in the midst of the hard stuff we all go through.
In the depths of the ocean, God is with you. In your divorce, God is with you. When the river tries to swallow you up, God will keep you afloat. In your financial struggle, God will provide for you. In the fire of oppression, God keeps the flames from harming you. In your fight for social justice, God hears your cry for help.
You are not alone in this season, friend. Let’s walk through it together.