Newsletter January, 2005

ORLANDO CHINESE CHURCH

MONTHLY NEWSLETTER

January, 2005


Put On The New Self
(Ephesians 4:17-24)

Thank our Lord for gathering us in His love before the throne of grace on the first Sunday morning of this New Year to offer our thanksgiving and praises. At the end of last year, we welcomed a new birth into David's family and moaned the bereavement of a few brothers and sisters' parents. Seeing that the breath of life is in the Lord's hands, we should bow our heads in worship.

Every passing year sees birth, death, and aging of the alive. However, God is always new. As stated in the Bible, everything related to God is new: He sets up a new covenant with us; He helps us to become His new creation; He makes all things new; He gives us His new name; He blesses us with a new song; He will lead us into the new Jerusalem, to be in the new heaven and new earth with Him forever. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). From everlasting to everlasting, He is God (Psalms 90:2). Our everlasting God also wants us to put on a new self (Ephesians 4:24).

Ephesians tells us that He has chosen us so that we can become
1. The first to hope in Christ (1:12) 
2. Members of God's household (2:19) 
3. Heirs who receive the inheritance (3:6) 
4. New self (4:24) 
5. The wise filled with the Spirit (5:15-18) 
6. The strong in the spiritual battle (6:10)

God makes us members of His household through Jesus so that we become just like Him: always new, full of hope, inheritance, wisdom and our Lord's great power, and become a new creation before the Lord. Ephesians 4: 1-16 says, "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received¡­" The word "live" means to "walk" in the original language. Paul taught the believers at Ephesians and us also to walk in accordance with 4:2-16 because we have received grace and the life of our Lord. We can summarize these verses into three major aspects:

1. Unity: to live before the Lord together and to keep the unity of the Spirit (4:3)

2. Acceptance of instructions: It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers (4:11), to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (4:12). We should receive the Word and follow His teachings.

3. Growth: The whole body grows and builds itself up in love to become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (4:13-16).

In verse 4:17, Paul continued, "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord", that since we are living before the Lord with a new life through His grace and growing to be mature with the nourishment of His word, we must no longer live, or "walk", as the Gentiles do. The Gentiles are: 
1. darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God; 
2. hardened in their hearts; 
3. without any sensitivity; 
4. gratifying the desires of the sinful nature; 
5. indulging in every kind of impurity (4:18-19). 

Unbelievers behave this way. We, however, did not come to know Christ that way (4:20).

4:21 says that we hear (heard) of Him and were taught in Him in accordance with His word (the truth). The "truth" in its original sense means our Lord Jesus. Therefore, we should never get tired of learning from Jesus. Only through Jesus' guidance can we overcome the problems of our old selves as shown in 4:18-19 so that we no longer "walk" like the Gentiles. What's more, we should not only learn the truth merely with our minds, but also live the truth so that people may glorify God because of our good deeds. Otherwise, the old self will be corrupted by its deceitful desires.

Therefore, we should do the following:

1. Putting off the old self ---- to leave Egypt (as slaves) and to enjoy the freedom in Christ (4:22);
2. Becoming new in the attitude of our minds ---- to replace our thoughts with God's will from inside so that we can live His purpose (4:23); 
3. Putting on the new self ---- as if we are replacing our old clothes like that of the Gentiles with new clothes (4:24).

Pharaoh wasn't willing to let the Israelites worship their God, but wanted them to stay in Egypt. Our enemy always tries to deceive us by keeping us where we have been, but the Israelites left Egypt on the very night of Passover. Therefore, as soon as we are saved, we should become a new creation by putting on the new self that is in God's image and likeness. Thus we put on the godly new self to have His righteousness and holiness. We should no longer live as the Gentiles do but live like a people of God. Our attitude of minds is afresh with sensitive conscience so that we are clothed with God's justice - God's righteousness. Our souls are equipped with God's holiness - complete purity. Then people will see the honor and majesty of God through us.

How pitiful and pathetic it is for a man to stay in the old self with no change from inside out. He's like Samson in the book of Judges. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power so that he could kill a lion with his bare hands and strike down the Philistines with a jawbone of a donkey. However, his heart wasn't changed but indulged in evil desires and lust. Because he lived in the old self, he fell before a woman such that he lost all his power and his eyes in the hands of the enslaving Philistines.

Another example is the prophet Jonah. He was called to go to city of Nineveh in the east, but he boarded a boat to Tarshish in the west. Though he knew the will of God, he rejected it and slept at the bottom of the boat without any guilt. God made a great effort in bringing him back to the city of Nineveh where he preached God's message for three days, leading the whole city to repentance in haircloth and dusts. How amazing is the power and love of God! However, Jonah went out of the city in great anger because he lost his face as a prophet of Judah while leading the enemy of Judah to repentance. He couldn't understand and see God's love for the whole world. He was surely blinded by his old self. If we do not renew our attitude of minds, our spiritual effort will be in vain as we cannot benefit from the new life's richness and will not get reward in the coming life. Therefore, we must put off our old self and put on the new self.

There are at least four principles that we need to follow in putting on the new self:

1. Do not live like the Gentiles (Ephesians 4:17). We may not do what the Gentiles can do. We must not do what the Gentiles think that we shouldn't do as Christians. The Gentiles may expect us to do certain things such as going to church every Sunday. We should do these things not only because we want to grow spiritually but also because we want to be a good testimony for the Lord.

2. Learn Christ (Ephesians 4:20). We should walk in our new life as our Lord did. From the manger to Golgotha, Jesus lived before men for about thirty-three years. For us who follow him, his life is our life. The corrupted world naturally hates and insults those with God's righteousness and holiness. Our Lord suffered such hatred and insults. "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master." Therefore, we should not long for praises from men or worldly success. Paul said that the world had been crucified to him through the cross.

3. "Everything is permissible for me"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"--but I will not be mastered by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12). 

(1) We should make sure that everything we do is beneficial to our spiritual life. When we face apparently permissible conditions, the Bible teaches us to ask ourselves the question: is this beneficial to my spiritual life? We should seek after things that benefit our spiritual lives so that we can live a new life.

(2) We should not be mastered by anything. Though we may benefit from many things that we do, we should not be master by them. For example, fishing is good entertainment. However, once we become addicted to finishing, we become slaves to it such that we are no longer free to seek for spiritual growth or to provide spiritual service. Internet brings about great convenience. However, it becomes a bad thing once we are mastered by it.

4. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others (Corinthians 10:23-24). To become a new man with a new life, we should not only seek our own growth, but the growth of our brothers; we should not only seek our own benefit, but the benefit of our brothers. According to Paul, for our own benefit, we may eat the meat sacrificed to idols because it is cheap. However, if someone tells you not to eat it because it has been offered in sacrifice, do not eat it for the sake of that man's conscience. The choice should be made for the sake of others' conscience and for strengthening others. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" and for the benefit of others (10:30-31). We do things that are beneficial for our own good. We do things that are constructive for the benefit of others. When brothers grow together, the church will be strengthened and Christ will receive more glory.

Though this may sound very simple, it is the will of God for us to be saved together, to accept His teaching together, and to grow to maturity together. Therefore, we should put off our old selves and put on the new ones. We should grow in the Spirit and also help our brothers to grow with us. Hence, we should make sure that everything we do is not only beneficial but also constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. Thus, we can grow and glorify our Lord together. May we live a new life in the New Year so that people can tell we have put on the new self that has the likeness of God.(RY)

The Favorable Year Of The Lord
(Luke 4: 14-21, Isaiah 61:1-2)

Jesus was born to Mary as the Holy Spirit came upon her (Luke 1:35). When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit also descended on Him (Luke 3:21-22). The birth brought about by the Spirit revealed who He was. The baptism through the Spirit empowered Him in what He would do.

Luke 4:14-21 records the episode that Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, went to teach in the synagogue at Nazareth on the Sabbath day. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." He said to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." The verses He read are from Isaiah 61:1-2. He stopped at "to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord " because His mission at that time was to proclaim and to usher in the favorable year of the Lord's. The Spirit anointed Him to preach the good news to the poor. This is His first mission as the anointed One (Christ). The remaining verse of Isaiah 61:2, "and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn", will be His mission at His second coming.

"The favorable year of the Lord" is the jubilee mentioned in Leviticus 25:8-17. It is a proclamation of the time of freedom when everyone is to return to his family property and each to his own clan. Therefore, the year is the time of delivery, all freed to return to family properties. Slaves are set free in jubilee. Isaiah 49:8 tells us that this favorable year of the Lord prophesies the period of New Testament. "Now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). All slaves to sin can now return home. Those once under the control of sin are now set free by the salvation of God to enter into the Lord's favor.

Under the bondage of sin, everyone has lost the right to enjoy the divine life or the riches of Christ as he has sold himself to sin, the world and Satan. Paul said, "the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin" (Romans, 7:14). Therefore, man has become a slave to sin. However, the favorable year of the Lord tells us that we can be freed from the yoke of sin and be reconciled to God with Christ as our portion.

Before this episode of Luke 4, the Jews did not fully understand the meaning of the favorable year of the Lord as mentioned by Isaiah. Therefore, on that day, the Lord entered the synagogue and read about it from Isaiah 61, to proclaim that this scripture was fulfilled in their hearing on that very day. When this happened, Jesus had just been baptized and tested. He proclaimed the favorable year of the Lord right at the beginning of his service in order to reveal that the whole New Testament period is the favorable year when the Lord grants forgiveness to all sinners. Such a proclamation truly is the rich and complete good news. When we normally preach the good news, we say that we are all sinners deserving hell, but Jesus loves us and died for us so that we will receive eternal life through faith in Him. Nonetheless, the favorable year of the Lord further explains that with the coming of Jesus we can now enter into the true promise of the Old Testament. The Lord's salvation in the New Testament is the full fulfillment of what was mentioned in the Old Testament.

Our Lord accomplished His redemption at Golgotha, but He is still working toward His second coming when He will be God's tool of vengeance. Then He will comfort all who mourn and replace all sorrows with happiness.

Thank our Lord for making it possible for us to live in the favorable year of the Lord under the New Testament. We, who were once lost in Adam to become slaves and captives, are now set free and reconciled. In Christ, we are now a new creation and have received the sonship through Him. One day He will bring many sons into the glory of God!(TT)