“For the love of Christ constrains us…” (2 Corinthians 2:14 KJ 2000). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).
Once we have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, the world expects us to be transformed. They expect to see a change in our conversation and manners, in they way we treat others and in the way we do our work. This is by no means an unrealistic expectation, for the Bible makes it clear that, if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation; the old things have passed away, and the new has come. Indeed, even we, for we feel different inwardly, expect to behave different outwardly.
Yet how often, and how quickly are we (and others) disappointed by the lack of visible or definable changes? Some of this is, of course, natural to growth. The seed grows hidden beneath the soil, and it is a while before we see the first signs of life – the tiny leaves, and later, flowers and fruit. The flower bud needs time to blossom, and the fruit to ripen, before it grows sweet to taste. Growth is a process, and often a slow one.
Every flower bush, and fruit tree, even of the so-called shade loving plants, needs a certain amount of sunshine to grow. For the Christian, unless we live and grow beneath the sunshine of God’s love, we cannot blossom and bear fruit. It was the love of God that first drew us to salvation. The Holy Spirit opened our spirits to recognise the Father’s great love reflected in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. This overwhelming, redeeming love demanded a response from us, and as we believed, repented and turned from our sins to the living God, we were ‘made new in the attitude of our hearts’.
So, the seeds of transformation took root in our lives, and a little plant sprouted from the ground. But then something happened to arrest our spiritual progress. We proved to be little trees with legs. Most plants are content to bloom where they are planted by the gardener come wind or rain; but we tend to wander away when troubles come to our doorstep.
When faced with difficult situations or people, our old and natural instincts come to the fore – and if we give in to these instincts, we are, in effect, hiding ourselves away from the sunshine of God’s love. We wander and retreat into the darkness of our old natures seeking the security of old and familiar ways. This is, however, a false security. It is like the desire of the baby eaglet to remain forever cossetted in its cosy nest, rather than take wing and soar into the great unknown. How sad it would be, if the tiny bird grew into a big eagle, which never learnt to fly, but had to spend its whole life within the confines of a cramped little nest. It would be forever deprived of the freedom and power, which is the eagle’s birthright.
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that we should no longer serve sin.” (Romans 6:6 KJ 2000)
The scripture talks of the natural man or the old man, and it means the unconverted, sinful human nature. So, we Christians have within our beings, the old man as well as the new man, which is the new spiritual nature, born of God. We have the two natures living together in the same person, and in constant conflict with one another, waging a battle to gain control of the Christian’s soul.
We are commanded to feed and nurture the new man, and to let the old man weaken and die. And how is this nurturing done? There are many little steps a Christian might take to nourish the seed planted within – walking in the love of God, prayer, meditation on the word, obedience and self-denial – which are taught in the word of God. Past generations of Christians were better taught to practise various spiritual exercises necessary for growth; in our time, these are increasingly being forgotten.
The simplest, most delightful and the most necessary of these exercises is this – basking in God’s love. And this will be the topic of my next blog post.
Father, thank You for Your wonderful love us. Grant us a deeper revelation of Your love, so that we may be transformed. May we absorb, grow and reflect this love to the world. In Jesus’ name.