Monday, June 20, 2016

Living Under New Management

In a little more than four months, Americans from coast to coast will stream to the polls to elect not only a new President and Vice President, but also U.S. Senators and members of the House of Representatives. There are those who support the course our nation is on today and are looking for more of the same. Others are eager for the country to be “under new management,” hoping the direction the United States has taken will shift drastically.

Fresh starts often foster high hopes.
The idea of new management can be very appealing in many situations, whether for a once-popular restaurant, a retail store, or a major corporation where profits and consumer confidence need a strong boost. It’s the hope that under new management, necessary changes will take place, along with major improvements.

Sometimes even congregations could benefit from being under “new management,” especially in circumstances when it appears to be the senior pastor, and not God, who’s calling the shots.

Bringing it down to an even more personal level, has there ever been a time when you sensed a need for your own life to be “under new management”?

I remember years ago, as a fairly new believer, wrestling with a variety of issues – anger and anxiety being among them. How could a Christian think and act the way I was? I remember praying, asking God for “help” in overcoming these struggles. Despite my best efforts, however, I was making no progress. The “bolt” of spiritual strength I was anticipating from on high never seemed to come.

At the time I was also trying to come to terms with two verses I was memorizing. One was Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The other passage was 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

“How can this be?” I wondered in frustration. “How can Jesus live in me spiritually with all this anger, my short temper, and the constant anxiousness I feel?” And I certainly did not feel like a “new creation.” I seemed like the same old flawed, troubled knucklehead I’d always been. I began to question whether I genuinely was a follower of Jesus Christ, or whether I was just fooling myself – and perhaps everyone else – just going through the motions, saying the right words.

Thankfully, around that time God put a man into my life who encouraged me to dig deeper into the Scriptures. He urged me to discover not who I felt I was, or who I thought I was, but what the Bible truly said about me and who I was in relation to Jesus as one of His followers. The key, I learned, was not relying on ever-shifting feelings, but instead starting to act upon God’s revealed truth.

For instance, Romans 6:4 states, “We were therefore buried with (Christ) through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” For me that meant if I believed and appropriated that promise, I could indeed be living “under new management.”

Another verse, Romans 6:11, expands on that idea: “In the same way, count (consider, reckon) yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  A bit later the apostle Paul added, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you” (Romans 8:12). What I’ve learned this means is that while the influence of sin is not dead to me, I am no longer enslaved or in bondage to it, as Paul explained in Romans 6:15-23.

This, frankly, is heavy stuff, biblical truth I’m striving to trust in and act upon to this day. It sounds too good to be true. In reality, it’s good – but not too good. And it is true. I’ve discovered many of the revered giants of Christian history – people like Saint Augustine, A.W. Tozer, Andrew Murray, Oswald Chambers, Fanny Crosby, Hudson Taylor and countless others – have found freedom and great joy as they came to understand their identity in Christ, instead of who they sometimes felt like they were. In fact, years ago someone wrote a book called They Found the Secret, accounts of people who experienced the transforming impact of grasping what it means to be “in Christ.”

Sometimes I’m more successful in living out this truth than other times. What the Bible calls “the flesh” is stubborn, and old habits don’t die easily. But if we read, study and apply what the Scriptures teach, we’ll realize we can in fact be “under new management” spiritually, realizing Acts 17:28 – “For in him (Jesus) we live and move and have our being.”

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