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New Creation

Read this message transcript from the "Living Room" message

Harold Bullock: I wanted to speak to you briefly about pastoral qualifications. In 1978, my wife and I began Hope Church, and we’ve moved through a lot of different stages. We talked about those in the messages earlier. We’re at a point now...the Lord spoke to me last spring and said this should be the year, 2020...2019-2020...that I move out of the senior pastorate, and so we’re in process of looking for a new senior pastor/lead pastor. As we’ve set aside a committee to do that...as they’re looking for people, I’ve wanted to walk with you through, briefly through, what Scripture says about who’s qualified to be a pastor. In 1 Timothy and Titus are passages that give the qualifications. We’ve looked at several things. Last time we looked at who they’re not supposed to be and what’s not to be true about them. This time I’d like to focus on who they are, what’s to be true about their lives. 1 Timothy 3 says, “Now the overseer must be...temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable…” Titus, a letter written to another of Paul’s proteges...Timothy was one...says this about selecting pastors: “Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless...hospitable...one who loves what is good...self-controlled, upright...holy...disciplined.” 


I’d like to just focus on these terms; some of them are repeated. Others are different in the two lists. The Greek...the New Testament was originally written in Greek. In the Greek language, some of the words as we translate are a little bit difficult; they may be a little bit larger than the English word. So just to run through these with you quickly, the first characteristic you can translate “circumspect.” Circumspect is a word we don’t use a whole lot, but what it means is someone who reads circumstances and consequences. So, he needs to have good judgment. He needs to be able to read what’s going on, and the word “temperate” reflects this, but the Greek word is a little bit bigger than that. He reads circumstances and consequences well; He’s sensible. Self-controlled...the word “self-controlled” can be translated as sensible, also. The thought is that he decides by good sense not just by desires. We all act out of desires, but as he  is leading it’s not just what he wants. It’s actually what is good sense for the whole group. 


Respectable...he behaves appropriately. If you’re going to follow a leader, particularly in a congregation, that person needs to be a respectable individual. Hospitable...the Greek word literally is he’s affectionate toward strangers. He loves strangers, but the concept is not just he likes people he doesn’t know. The concept is that he not only...that he has a heart that goes out to people, and he is generous with people, like if strangers needed something. So, he’s hospitable; he’s generous. He delights in good. I don’t know about your personal journey, but as I learned how to walk with God, there were some things I used to delight in that I did not delight in anymore...jokes, stories, some happenings that once were fun. It just changed in walking with Christ. This person finds their joy in what good things are happening; it’s actually a delight to them. 


Upright...they do what’s right before God and before people. They behave respectably, but they also do what’s right on both accounts. Holy...that word in English is sort of hard to get hold of. We tend to think of holy as somebody going around...maybe in a robe...and acting weird. The word actually means that this is a person who chooses what is pure and right rather than what’s tainted and in the edge of wrong. Holy...disciplined...literally, the word says he’s in charge of himself. He rules himself. He doesn’t wig out; he doesn’t go bonkers. He doesn’t lose his temper; he’s in charge of himself. He’s got himself under control. You want this because if he’s going to lead the group, you don’t want him going off. These are the characteristics; we’re going to look at one more set, but for today, these are the qualifications.


I’d like to talk to you about living room. The living room is a part of a house where a whole lot of life takes place. It’s where you interact with each other, just a lot of life occurs in a home. Things happened probably in your living room last evening, if you have one. The living room is actually one of the parts of life, one of the parts of the house, one of the parts of family life, that can actually be reshaped by Christ. All these interactions we have. Living room also may refer to the space available to live in. You want room to live. There’s an old poem about Daniel Boone, early pioneer, and the poet has him looking over the increasing settlements and crying out, “‘Elbow room!’ he says, cried Daniel Boone.” He heads out for the frontier again, and of course settlements follow him, so he has to holler “Elbow room!” again. You want room to live, whatever that is.


You, actually if you’re a Christ follower, you may have a larger life than you know. We’re going to take a look at that. What I’d like to do is take a look at four Scripture passages that tend to seem really mysterious but have actually a great deal of practical usefulness to us. We’re going to look at what they mean. First one, 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Hmmm...if you yield your life to Christ, you’re a new creation. Most of us, if we commit our life to Christ, we don’t really change looks that much. If you’re married, you probably did not change your mate. If you have a job, you probably have the same job the next day. Might make some difference, but it doesn’t look like there's much of a change. So what is this new creation?


The Greek word in the passage...the word translated “a new creation” is very interesting. There’s a word that means “new” in the sense of “recent in time.” There’s another Greek word that meant “new” in the sense of “fresh, new qualities.” This new creation indicates it’s not just a recent, more recent model of the same thing. Sort of like if you’re driving a 2000 Chevy Malibu, you know, if you are, you’re glad that it runs. It’s 20 years old. I’ve had a number of cars along the way that you just get in, turn the key, and you’re just so glad it cranked up. This one is pretty good looking; it’s available right now for $3500 bucks, by the way. You might get a new Chevy Malibu, like this. This is a 2020; if you’re driving a 2000, that would be nice. It’s about $23,000 bucks. It’s a Chevy Malibu; it’s got some things the 2000 didn’t have, but it’s a Chevy Malibu. It’s not just a...this new life that we have is not just a more recent model of the same thing. It’s more like this; you’re driving the 2000 Chevy Malibu, and someone says, “You know, you need a new car. Let me give you this.” That’s a 2019 Rolls Royce Silver Phantom. It’s just $350,000. Now, but it’s not just a new Malibu; this has some different qualities to it. It has some capabilities the Malibu does not. It’s new, not only because it’s more recent, it’s new because it’s different. It has different quality to it...different kind. 


A Christ follower has a life now that has dramatically different qualities from what used to be. You’re a new creation. What you have is much, much, much different from what you used to have. We’re going to talk about that. Romans 6:5-6: “...We have been united with him in a death like his…” Talking about Christ dying on the cross… “...we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that...we would no longer be enslaved by sin.” Christ was crucified 2000 years ago. I came to Christ about 50 years ago...50, 60. What is this? Well, the word “united” means...in the Greek language, it means “co-planted and grown together.” It grows up together; we have grown together in Christ in such a way that we experienced, that we went through His death with Him. Once you yield your life to Him, you’re grown together with Him.


The old person that used to be is dead; it died with Christ. Well, how does that work? That was 2,000...I don’t understand it, but I do know it happened. This happened, the old person died so that we wouldn’t be enslaved to rebellion. We all have that drive to rebel, and without Christ, it just gets control of you. With Christ, it’s still a challenge, but there’s something different now. Here’s another set of verses; Galatians 2:20, Paul writes, “I have been with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live.”--Wow! But he’s writing the letter, isn’t he? Yeah, he goes on to say, “...and the life I now live by faith.” He’s still alive, but there’s a difference here. A Christ follower is crucified with Christ. 


He now draws life from Christ living within him, and he moves forward by faith. Christ moves in, and He begins to give the power to live a different kind of life. You always have to keep trusting Him because the steps He leads you to take may not be the ones you want to. But you trust Him, and you move forward. I’ve already been crucified, and now I’m living a life out of the life that flows from Him. Another verse, Colossians 3:9-10: “...You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Hmm, if you’ve come to Christ, you’ve already put off the old person with its old ways, and you’ve put on the new self. Well now, well, why do I still act the old ways? Well, there’s a reason, and we’ll take a look at that in a moment. Christ followers already put off the old self. You put on a new self...the passage says it’s being continually renewed. The idea is that renewal...life keeps flowing in, and it more deeply and widely penetrates my life over time. It keeps growing; it brings me a new knowledge of God, experiential knowledge. It pushes me to become more like Christ.


Let me give you a picture of what these words mean...these verses and how they impact the living room. People tend to think that when you come to...quote “get converted”... Really what’s going on is you think about Jesus’ example, you read the Bible, you go to church, they talk about Jesus, and the Bible talks about Jesus. You think about these things, and so that inspires you to really discipline yourself and really try harder. In the diagram here, the first self, the stick figure, is me. The second one is me on steroids. I’m really trying hard to do this new thing. People think that that’s it; however, there’s more going on. There is effort, for sure, but there’s more going on. When I come to Jesus Christ, I trust Him. I have one way of living, and that’s what I’ve always known. It’s just me, and it’s got problems. I trust Him. Then, out of of Him, begins to flow a different kind of life, and this life keeps on flowing. It doesn’t stop. A new creation takes place.


There on the...in the diagram on the other side of the arrow, the stick figure still exists, but there is a larger possibility for me now. A larger life exists. I can either actualize it or not. I now have a choice. I’m going to have to make choices. Beforehand, well, I had a conscience and every now and then, it’d bother me. And, I’d make a few changes maybe, but things tend to go back to zero. Now, there’s a different kind of power. What’s going on is there are some spiritual realities that have changed in me. Things are just different. We tend to think that reality is just physical. That’s all it is...just matter and energy. People like Richard Dawkins will say, “That’s all there is.” However, there are also intellectual realities, like the laws of thermodynamics. Richard Dawkins would agree that they’re...well, they’re real. That’s just how the world is; we understand that. They’re real, though they’re not physical. That really gives guys, who want everything to be physical, a problem. 


There are also human realities. If you decide to date a psychopath, your life could change suddenly. That’s a human reality; it’s not physical. It’s a human reality. It shows up physically, but there are also spiritual realities. They’re really there. They’re as real as a brick or a psychopath, and they greatly impact human life. Human beings live this pattern of life; it’s not all bad. We reflect...we still have in us the reflection of God. He made us in His image, and there’s a sense of nobility. We do some things right, but there’s this restriction on us since we’ve rebelled, and that restriction is we just keep on wanting life like we want it. We have a basic selfishness, some arrogance. We feel like we deserve more than we do, and then, we’re willing to damage people. It keeps on showing up, so sometimes we go through circumstances that make us change a bit. We sort of grow. You enjoy seeing a movie where somebody grows, where they change over time. That is human, but these kind of changes take a different kind of life. 


When I trust Christ, I become fused with Him; I’m joined with Him in some kind of way. I’m grown together with Him. Have you ever seen two trees that have grown together? It started off as two trees, and gradually over time, they become one tree. If you could slice through the tree, you might see where the two are different. What you see is one tree. They’ve grown together, and there’s this connection between me and Christ. I’m fused with Him. He is not me; I am not Him. But, there is a connection that makes His death and resurrection true of me spiritually. The person I was...dominated by sin and selfishness and arrogance and damage. That person ceases to be; I’m no longer dominated by it. Christ moves into my life, and new life begins to flow out of Him into me. It’s a power for living that is different. It penetrates me more deeply over time. It gives me capacities that I didn’t have before, and by His power, by trusting Him over time, my life can change. 


If I trust Christ, I’m forgiven, and I’m accepted by God. That’s a done deal; it’s never questioned in the future. Christ now lives within me; He actually takes up residence. The Bible says our bodies are like a temple for Him. Spiritually I’m united with Christ, and there’s this connection. I’m fused to Him in His death and His resurrection. There’s a new me now alive with its possibilities, so I choose different responses to people and to life. There’s a game plan for choosing those, and you find it in Colossians, chapter 3. It’s a small book in the New Testament. We’re going to look at the first part of it today, and we’ll pick up on the second part of it next week. 


The first part of the game plan for living the new life, using the living room that I’ve been given, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” “Your life is hid with Christ in God”--what that means is if you look around right now, you don’t see God. If you look around right now, you don’t see Christ. He is still there, and if you look around right now, you don’t see my new life. But, it’s still real; it is not immediately visible to the world. It’s hidden. There will be a day when He reappears, and it will be obvious what’s going on. But for right now, I mean, people look at me and say, “Well, you’re no different.” I don’t blame them because it doesn’t look that way.


In order to get their game plan going, there’s something I need to realize. First, I’m going to live out this new me, situationally. I live the new me situationally. Actually, you live all of life situationally. You move from situation to situation. There may have been a point this morning where the situation was you’re brushing your teeth. Then the situation changed; you may have brushed your hair, or you may have put on your clothes. We move from one situation to another. Right now, the situation is you’re in this auditorium, and I’m talking. We move through situation after situation; we move from one to the other. Some situations are pleasant; we’d like to make that last. Most of them are sort of ho-hum; it’s just happening. We’ve got stuff we’ve got to do, nothing special. It’s just things are just happening. Some of them are unpleasant, and boy, we don’t like that. In all of the situations, God is meeting me. He’s actually meeting me in the situation. He always meets me situationally. He’s there; He will help me in the situation, every situation. 


In every situation, there are some things to accomplish spiritually. We’re going to talk about those. Scripture says, Colossians 3:1, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” This is step two in the game plan. In the passage, it’s the first thing. I’m dealing with my goal; I’ve got to set my goal in whatever situation it is. What am I going to do? Normally, I would handle the situation to make my life better. That might be punching someone because I’m so angry. It might be cutting that guy off in traffic that just cut me off. It might be laughing because someone told… I just do whatever makes my life better in the moment, but Scripture says I need to set a goal. I need to seek, that is I need to go for, things above. I need to go for what’s important to God, so I seek His priorities.


What are God’s priorities in situations? We’re going to talk about those next week. When I know them, I may not want to do them. So what I have do is I just ask Christ’s help over and over again. For me personally, I’ve just had to say to God, “Oh, God, I know what I need to do. I don’t want to. Would you please change my want to?” And you know, it changes. I’m going to have a different goal. Next is, Scripture says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth...” “Set your minds”--literally the Greek language says, “Think!” Think on things that are above. Hmmm, think on things that are above. The word, you could translate it this way, “Work your thinking process based on heavenly things.” We tend to think about just what we’re doing, what’s going on right now. We have a lot of stuff that runs into our mind. We’re to take control of that and redirect how we’re looking at life. I’m to adopt the viewpoints that are in line with God’s life... the Lord’s life above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God so a different goal, a different mindset. 


I want in the situation...I want to do a couple of things with my mindset. Number one, I’d like to get God’s perspective on what’s going on. Now, my perspective is “That person is just a bother!” Well, if they’re bothersome, I guess they are, but what is God’s angle on this person? I know that one part of it is they’re a person like me. They want to make life better for themselves, and they’re responding right now in order to do that. Maybe it’s the boss at work that is doing something you don’t like. It could be your wife or your husband that just did that again! Wherever you’re at it could be with your kids; it could be with your friends. I’d like to get God’s perspective on the person’s and then what’s going on right here. We tend to look at situations from inside the situation. I’d like to get...I’d like to stand by Christ’s throne in heaven and look down from His angle on this thing and see it like He does, so I ask Him to show me. 


Something else, I understand that God has allowed this situation for His own reasons. He’s the One who has allowed it. Therefore, in the middle of it, I want to do what He has for me. I’ve given you an acrostic - HELP. These are things that in the Bible are appropriate to all situations. The first one is in this situation, that is very uncomfortable, I’m going to honor Him. Whatever I do, by my response, by my behavior, I’m going to honor Him. Secondly, experience His reality more deeply. How do you get to know God’s real? Well, you do it this way. You trust Him enough to do what He says, and then you see Him come through. Does that mean the whole situation just goes away if it’s unpleasant? No. However, you will see Him come through. You’ll see the results of your trusting. He’s bringing me this, so that I can learn more about His reality by experience. 


L is for love. I need to love others, not so much emotionally; I don’t just have to feel all warm and fuzzy about this bothersome person. I am to love my enemies, but it’s not so much the feelings. It’s I’m going to act in their best interest before Him. All situations…”let everything be done in love…” 1 Corinthians 16:14… Even the bothersome...going to love others, even the bothersome, as I respond...in the way I respond. Then P is progress in His paths by practice. God is leading us to grow, and the way that growth occurs is situation by situation as we make the decision to trust. Every now and then, we blow it. We’ll talk about that next week, too. Whatever the situation is, I know that I’m here to help. I know that God is the One who has presented it. I know there are things that have to be done and have to be realistic, but I’m here as God’s new person to respond in a very different way from what people do. So, I ask Him to show me. What’s important here, Father? And actually I’d like to be learning about that as I move along in my life. We’ll talk about some details of it next week. 


Actually how this works out personally for me because I have to do this; you need to. First, I have to choose my mindset. It’s not so much a different goal. For me, it’s first a different mindset. I’ve got to look at things differently. A lot of things get loaded into our minds as we move through the day. As you start off, it tends to be your “do list.” You’re thinking about your “do list.” Then stuff happens, and attitudes creep in. It might have been in traffic that something happened that wasn’t pleasant, or something else happens maybe at work or in the home. And, attitudes begin to start. I don’t really get into a bad attitude, but they sort of start. And, they linger around in the edges of my thinking. 


Temptations may rise up and start echoing in my mind. I don’t really sort of focus on the temptation; I’m just moving on with what’s on my mind, but that’s echoing around in there, too. Then, the enemy injects some thoughts and feelings, and they may play in the background for quite a while. Over time, they tend to work their way into the front of my thinking because I’m just not paying attention. They may lead me into struggles with my desires, like lust or resentment or self-condemnation or maybe self-pity or maybe fear...maybe anger. I’m into the struggle; it just sort of happened  a while back, but it’s all been rattling around in there. So when I hit a situation, I’ve already got a mindset, and it’s set on earthly things. 


Do you understand what I’m saying? I’ve got to change this. I’ve got to say, “Aah! I need to get a different mindset.” I have to intentionally and repeatedly reset my mental processing, otherwise I will plow right through this situation just like I have always. So in the situation, I realize something’s going on; I ask Christ for help. “Lord, help me to see your viewpoint; help me to adopt it. Help me to want to act out of it.” Then, I refocus, and I look at the situation from His viewpoint. Very often situations don’t stop, and you get to … all the action stops, and you step aside and say, “Lord, would you help me?” Then, you step back in, and everything starts again. It’s not like that; it’s in the middle of it, rolling. But you ask, and God will help you. 


John Bunyan, in his book, The Pilgrim’s Progress, he wrote it 300 years ago from prison. Twelve years in prison because he was a pastor; he made this statement, “The human spirit is prone to exasperation and despair…” That’s just the way we are. “...It is real faith that recognizes the activity of the concerned Savior even though His work may not be seen clearly for a time.” You don’t know exactly what’s going on, but you know Jesus is here. Even if His presence may not be greatly felt; you may feel all alone as the situation is happening. He is still here. We get in a situation, something happens that is unpleasant, so we easily get exasperated. We get irritated and frustrated, or maybe you’re more like, you get discouraged and despairing. It’s just it’s always the same thing. You intentionally have to set your mental processing that Christ is in control, the situation is from Him, and He will help me see it rightly. So, you ask for it; then you set your goal by His help. I’m going to play the role He wants me to. Lord, show me how to help. Then by Christ’s power, you can respond in new ways because His power is flowing into you. 


There are very specific actions you can take, and we’re going to talk about those next week. This week, though, as you face unpleasant situations especially because these are challenges, ask yourself, “How does Christ see what’s going on? How does He see this situation?? Ask yourself, “In this situation, this problem, this difficulty...in this situation with my kids or with my boss or whatever...in this situation, what’s important to Him? In this situation, what would He like done?” Pick one, and do that. It’s amazing how views shift as the Lord helps. The living room, well, we interact a whole lot in it, and Christ can actually change our interactions. The living room, if you have yielded your life to Christ, then you have been given larger capacities, more room, than you may realize. Does that mean you always live in a different way? No, we’re still us; that is a problem, but there are options now that we didn’t have before. You need to learn to use them. If you’ve not yet yielded your life to Christ, then understand that new life takes more than trying hard. It does take some trying, but it’s more than that. It takes power, and Christ will give you that power when you decide you’re going to trust Him with your life. “Lord, You take over my life, lead it, change me into the person that You want me to be.”