Thursday, January 10, 2019

Reflecting on Restorations

Once in a while as I’m driving around, I’ll spot an antique car on the roadway that someone has restored. It might be a classic, high-finned 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, an iconic 1967 Mustang Coupe, or maybe even a stately 1929 Pierce Arrow. Even though I’m not mechanical, I have great appreciation for people adept at taking an old car and painstakingly bringing it back to its original glory. Perhaps even better.

Vintage cars like this 1956 Chevy
Bel Air can't help catching our eyes.
I feel the same way about those who enjoy restoring old furniture. Some folks can go to a garage sale or antique store, find something most of us would dismiss as junk, and transform it into something of beauty and renewed usefulness. It takes skill – and tender, loving care – to take something that’s become old and worn and turn it into a new thing.

A friend of mine in Kansas City has spent much of his life in professional photography. In recent years he’s developed a business of restoring old photographs. Some of these date back to the early 1900s, and he delights in serving his customers by restoring faded images into treasured, high-quality pictures of beloved family members, distant ancestors, or historical settings.

Since we’re still in the glow of the new year – before we get a sobering reminder that for the most part, not much has changed from 2018 – I’ve been thinking about another kind of restoration, perhaps the best kind: personal, spiritual restoration.

I will never forget the epiphany I received more than 30 years ago that helped me to understand how much God loves making new things. We can look to the creation story in Genesis, or the account of Noah when the Lord decided He needed to start all over with humankind. But in the New Testament, we see a different kind of “new,” one that He performs from the inside out.

At the time of my revelation, I had been determinedly trying to “live the Christian life,” and doing a miserable job of it. When I encountered 2 Corinthians 5:17, I reasoned it couldn’t possibly apply to me, because I felt I was nothing like what it described. It declares,“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” At that time, that hardly sounded like me – I felt like the same old knucklehead I had always been.

A key to understanding this is the preceding verse, which states, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” Like many people, particularly in our pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps, “I did it my way” culture, I had been attempting to change myself, to fix my flaws. That, I discovered, is not how God works.

For instance, Romans 6:4 informs us,“We were therefore buried with him 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.” The Lord has no interest in tweaking our old life; He wants to undertake a complete transformation, restoring us into the people He’s always intended for us to be – in Christ.

This is occurring all over the world, regardless of nationality, culture or dialect. God is aggressively working in each of His children to make them into new creations (another translation calls us “new creatures”). And this won’t be ending soon. In fact, the Scriptures tell us it will continue through the end of time as we know it.

In Revelation 21:1-5 we read, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’…” 

So the next time you see a vintage automobile or truck tooling down the road, admire a chair or chest of drawers someone has refurbished, or study a restored photograph, let that be a reminder that God is the expert at that, making old, broken things new, works of art for His eternal pleasure.

The Lord wants to do that in each of our lives. He desires to take us “just as I am,” as the old hymn says, and embark in a lifelong process of restoring us into the people He wants us to be. For His glory.

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