“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)
The things I value most in the those I love, are surely the same things you value in those you love. But as I pray for my mind and attitude to be conformed to His mind and attitude, I am beginning to appreciate more and more what He values and wants for me as well. With that said, I realize that I find great peace, and I can relax, being around adults and children that have the following traits:
A spirit of servanthood
Full of smiles and laughter
Ever saying good things about someone else
Ready to help me or someone else any way they can
Never attempting to manipulate me or others
Genuinely interested in what I have to say
Uninterested in unkind talk about anyone else
Full of wonder and excitement each day
I am drawn to people like this because that’s the kind of a person I want to be. He has placed within our souls an appreciation for these characteristics.
Isn’t it noteworthy that none of us wants to be around people that are the opposite, i.e., the arrogant, self-serving, haughty, unkind, lazy, rude, dull and gossipy type? But am I striving to be the kind of person that we see as the ideal?
I understand better why people hated Jesus so much. He lived what He talked about and proved that it is possible to be the very man we all crave to be, but seem to be unable to become. And that’s the part of the Gospel that we often fail to proclaim. The only way to realize the ideal life, the one for which we were created, is to put to death the old habits and life and allow a new life to be created within us. It is not a matter of God merely trimming my branches, but pulling up the entire tree and planting a new one!
It’s not bit-by-bit that I can be reborn. But the very moment I admit I am not the man I want to be, and am not likely ever to achieve those traits and graces I admire in others, I begin that process of being sanctified—if I am willing to surrender to Him and let Him have His way. Then and only then, can I begin to be one that draws others to Him—not on my merits, but rather on my acknowledgment of what a wretched man I am without Him.
Folks our destiny is not to be wealthy, enjoy a long life or even to be well thought of. Our destiny, here and in our eternal home, is be conformed to the character of Jesus Christ. We can’t have His personality—-praise God we’re all unique, different and special in His sight. But we can acquire the mind of Christ and live a life that reflects His character. What made Saint Francis so different—and so beloved—is that He chose to be that man—-he lived the beatitudes!
But the habits of Jesus revealed the reason He lived as He did and the human element of His perfect character. So this morning, think about your habits. It’s funny how I can quickly discover a bad habit of someone else, but when I look in the mirror I call my bad habit an idiosyncrasy or cute eccentric thing that I do. Perhaps we should all look closer at our own bad habits and a bit more charitable at others.
Are you in Christ? If you are, it means that have become a new creature, and that you are still becoming that totally different creature than you once were. And so, again, I want to remind you that being in Christ, and being a new creature, means that the “changed being” you now are, is a representation of what Jesus would be if He were here! That means that you are taking upon yourself the very habits of Jesus.
As you all now, we have to fight bad habits; disgusting habits seem to come our way quite easily, from the pit of hell, while we have to struggle to good habits within our own lives. If we have or had good parents, they helped us with the formation of good habits, early in life. To have a good habit is to first endure the disciple of making yourself do what is not comfortable or common. Good habits are not easy or something that requires no effort. For example, by discipline we make our kids make up their beds before they go to school and pick up the clothes. It’s a a fight…a struggle at first. My sons hated it at first, and still don’t like it. But soon that discipline will be a habit—something they do quite naturally without threats from me. Then that habit becomes their custom—something they always do. And later, that good habit invades their very character—they learn to not procrastinate mundane tasks like making their bed, putting up their clothes—-they are, by their very character, neat and organized—but not just with their bedrooms, but other parts of being in a home.
So if we are “in Christ”, it also means that we’re also into the habits that defined His days on the earth—unless of course, you think He had bad habits. What were HIS habits? Before I go into them, let me suggest that before you start shaking your head, murmuring or rolling your eyes (well, that’s what my boys do when I share something with them that they don’t like hearing), let me humbly ask you to first pray about these things. Let the Holy Spirit convict you if you don’t want to hear it from me. The habits and customs of Jesus might not be to your liking, but if you make yourself, through your own inner discipline and determination, to do these things, you will discover that you are indeed becoming more like Him and, well, less like “you”. And we’ll all be the better for it!
So consider His habits—-these are the same things those closest to Him observed Him doing day in and day out:
-He rose early to pray…. Now I know that some say that they prefer to pray and read their Bible at night, or in the middle of the day, because of their own preferences and schedules. That’s fine, but Jesus prayed early in the morning—before the son rose…alone, where He would not be disturbed. That’s what I do and that’s what I believe a person that is truly embracing the new life in Christ must do. And think about this: Jesus Christ was the only perfect man to ever live and die—-He was the Son of the Almighty God. If any man did not “need” to give up sleep and rise early to pray, it would have been Jesus! And yet He did this because it was His nature to talk to His Father first each day….during the quietest and most private place He could find. You and I have no excuse for failing to follow this example. Give God the best part of your day and watch how He bless the rest. It will soon cease to be a burden or a chore, but a habit you will have a hard time breaking!
-He went to a place of worship every weekend—either a synagogue or the Temple and sometimes more than once a week. Again, if there was ever a man that did not need to go to church, it was Jesus! If there was ever a human being that could correctly hide behind the excuse everyone there was a hypocrite, it was the perfect, holy Son of God. And yet He went into the house of the Lord because it was His custom, and I believe He also because he loved being about His Father’s work in the temple—as He taught, listened, and gave praise to His Father. When Mary and Joseph lost Jesus when He was about 12 years old, where did they find Him? In church. He said, “Why did you have to look for me? You should have known that I must be where my Father's work is.”
So why do you and I skip church, from time to time, but it appears that He never did. He delighted to be in church and listen to and talk about His Father—and so should we. He listened to the priests recite the Holy Scripture from the Old Testament and believed that it was all true and that nothing written would fail to happen or be proven untrue. He quoted frequently and abundantly from the passages He read and heard recited. It’s funny how we can find the spare time, and the power and strength to do many things during the week, but we yet we’re just too busy, tired, sore or lacking the ability to worship once a week. Jesus was physically there on the sabbath—there’s was nothing more important in His life than doing His Father’s work and being in His Father’s house.
-He was never in a hurry and never rushed. Don’t think I am preaching to to you—even though the Holy Spirit might be convicting you right now this habit of Jesus proves how far I have to go in that transformation. Yes, I get in a hurry and therefore cut my fingers with a butcher’s knife, I fail to listen long enough, I cause others to feel less important in my life than they really are by looking at my watch too often! Why am I in such a hurry all the time?
We must all slow down, listen to the smallest one, smell the roses, savor the coffee, and relax.
-All that He did to bring glory to God. Now again, this came somewhat natural to one who was divinely orientated, but I would also point out that He was tempted three times to not be God/Father focused, but Jesus was dedicated to glorifying God, and so, each time He refused the sly temptation of Satan. We are born with a proclivity to focus upon our self day and night! Most of what enters into our minds is a temptation to satisfy our cravings to lift ourselves up and above others! The desire to rise above others is a snare and temptation from hell, that is so intense, so basic to the fallen nature of all mankind, that its all you see in commercials and advertising.
To acquire to the habit and character of Jesus in our culture means that you will stick out in a crowd—you won’t fit in, you won’t belong here on this earth, you will recognize that you are an alien on this planet—and you will become more and more homesick for the place He has prepared for you, where living the new life in Christ is common—a place where you are surrounded by people have a blessed riddance of pride, ego, self-promotion and seeking all the attention..
Friends, the work of salvation means that you are really and dramatically changed. You no longer look at things in the same way. Your desires are new and the old things have lost their power to attract you. One of the tests for determining if the work of salvation in your life is genuine is— have you let God lead you to new habits and to abandon old habits? If you still yearn for the old things and are doing the same bad habits, it is absurd to talk about being born from above— you are deceiving yourself.