Clarion Word Classics: What if Jesus Really Meant what He Said?

Expand our spiritual thought

Earlier this year, WordBytes launched a new learning format entitled The Clarion Word Classics.  The word “clarion” comes from the Latin word claru or ‘clear’.  Used as an adjective, it means ‘loud and clear’.

Our intent with this quarterly series is to make “loud and clear” what is ours in Christ (Rom. 8:17) and  the relevancy of our faith for this present generation (Matt. 24:34).

New thought

With The Clarion Word Classics we will share faith writings from key theologians who will strengthen and enrich our spiritual lives and faith walk.  Some from  sage theologians and writers  and also introduce contemporary writers who express spiritual answers to the challenges of 21st century living.

To kickoff this Clarion Word Classics (CWC), we introduce the book Red Letter Revolution:  What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said?  Listed among the most popular devotional books, we thought this may be of interest to our curious readers.  Shane Claiborn and Tony Campolo , offer interesting perspectives on how to make our faith real in a world with no absolutes and growing disbelief in God and Jesus.

Let the Holy Spirit guide you

In the Word Ministries provides CWC in our effort to “inspire authentic communities of faith, fellowship, and learning.”  It is in that spirit that we share this book.  This is not an endorsement or agreement with the views shared.  Here  is an excerpt from and about  Red Letter Revolution.  

What is Your Eternal Net Worth?

 

Spiritual return in heaven

Our recent study on eternity has awakened a sensitivity in me as to how I spend my time and resources.   Are the things I’m doing adding to the glory and honor of my King and His Kingdom? Or am I only concerned with what’s relevant to life right now?

Alstair Begg, noted preacher and theologian, added to my concern by questioning me (indirectly of course) as to whether I was more concerned with my IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) than my IEA (Individual Eternity Account).  Do I have an eternal net worth?

Net Worth by any other name

Net worth is a financial term used to describe the total value of all possessions minus all outstanding debt.  It reflects what we  earn for personal benefit.  If we apply this financial term to spiritual things, eternal net worth is the value of one’s works that will be accounted to our reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

What’s with the fire?

The Apostle Paul, in writing to the church of Corinth wanted them to be aware that the works done on earth would have a direct impact on the rewards they would later receive in heaven.

If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” 1 Cor. 3:12-15 (NIV)

The Day refers to the time of the Judgment Seat of Christ or the Bema Seat (1 Cor. 3:13).  It is there where we will receive our reward for the things done in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10).

As the writer of Hebrew stated:  It is appointed to man once to die and then the judgment (Heb. 9:27). We will not be judge for our previous sins since Jesus Christ paid that price on Calvary.  It is here, however, where we will receive our eternal inheritance (1 Pet. 1:4,5).

A test by fire

At the Bema Seat, before issuance of eternal rewards there will be a “testing” of the worth of our completed works. The quality of our  work is judged on its eternal value. Works of eternal value result in expansion and extension of God’s kingdom on earth (Isaiah 61:1- 3).

If what we have built survives, there is reward.  One of God’s moral qualities is justice.  It is here where God will fairly evaluate, not only the end result of our work, but also the motives and the attitudes behind them (Rom. 2:16).  To receive reward, our work must pass the holy scrutiny of God’s evaluation (1 Cor. 3:14).

Loss of rewards

If our works are burnt by the fire, we will suffer loss.  Our salvation will not be loss but how sad it will be for us to see our worthless works burn in the holy fire of God.  We will leave God’s throne with no rewards.  We will have no crowns to cast at the Savior’s feet. (Rev. 4:10)

Our works, though not redemptive in nature, will however,  reflect our obedience and submission to God’s plan and purpose for our life.  Let us remember that we are God’s fellow workers and His field (1 Cor. 3:9).  I leave you with this question.   Are we creating worth for God’s kingdom?  What is our spiritual net worth?

With Eternity in Mind: Where do we go from here?

 

Where do we do from here?

Eternity Recapitulated

What have we learned about eternity?  Eternity is generally not a topic of discussion within most social circles, although it should be.  Why?  Because it represents not only where we will spend “forever and ever” but also will influence how we CHOOSE TO LIVE our life today.  Eternity begins the moment we are born and continues until our demise.  Everybody gets eternity!

However, believers also receive eternal/everlasting life.   Everlasting life is the blessedness in God’s presence.  This relates not only to the quality of life in this age, but also to both the quality and duration of life in the age to come.  Everlasting life begins when individuals accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.  Everybody may not get everlasting life!  

Because eternity is so important, it is imperative that we have a clear and accurate understanding about it.  What’s the threat?  The sway of myths, lies, and misunderstandings.  That is why we believers depend on the authority and inerrancy of the Bible to guide us.

The blessedness in God’s presence

The biggest learning, for me, is that eternal life begins NOW.  Scripture teaches that to experience the fullness of God’s glory we need to separate from our flesh—the part that temporarily houses our spirit.  Our spirit—our essence, the part that never dies—will ultimately enter the “spiritual place” prepared for us in heaven.  (John 14:1-2)

That is why it is important to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (2 Cor. 5:16-17).  Spiritual conversion (redemption and renewal) is needed to prepare us to enter God’s presence—on earth and in the future, in heaven.  While I am yet alive, the blessedness of God’s presence is possible through the gift of His Holy Spirit—a foretaste of glory divine.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh;
and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 
(John 3:6)

What does blessedness look like?

How does the blessedness of God’s presence manifest itself?  What does eternal/everlasting life look like in my everyday life?  Here are several scriptures to begin answering those questions?

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  (Gal. 5: 22-24, RSV)

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and excellence. Thus, he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust and may become participants of the divine nature. (2 Pet. 1:3-4)

The greatest witness to God’s presence in our lives are the spiritual blessings we receive in Christ (Eph. 1:3-14).  God’s blessedness is shown in His love, His provision, and His protection.

God’s presence, the reality of eternity now, gives us a “living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3-7)—boldness, perseverance, and tenacity–to live out God’s purpose for our life (Eph. 2:10).  His presence guarantees it!

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory,
he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit. 
(Ephesian 3:16)

Where do we go from here?

Dr. Joseph M. Stowell, author of Eternity:  Reclaiming a Passion for What Endures writes:

Many Christians become disillusioned as their quest for peace and pleasure on this earth feel them with despair.  If you are one of these believers who senses you’re missing something—who have hoped for more—it may be that your perspective is distorted by your focus on this world. With heaven as our point of reference, we can learn to live a satisfying, balance, and victorious life even in a fallen world.

We MUST “reclaim our passion for what endures”—eternity.  We best serve The King and His Kingdom, by:

    • FOCUSING  our attention on eternity and things of God.
    • DEMOSTRATING to others what eternal life looks like in everyday life.
    • SHARING  the reality of eternity with both believers and nonbelievers.

With Eternity in Mind: Myths, Lies, and Misunderstandings, Part 2

Myths, Lies, and Misunderstandings

The Danger of MLMs

Myths, lies, and misunderstandings (MLMs) hinder our ability to accept the reality of life and death.   Since our belief systems influence our behaviors and the choices we make, a misstep or error in belief can have ramifications that, literally, impact us “forever.”  

MLMs, in general, are not biblical.  The enemy offers subtle counterfeits that cause us to either doubt, question or compromise what we know is God’s truth.  Therefore, it is important for believers to compare MLMs with the truth. Truth can be found in God’s Word.

Below are popular MLMs we often hear.  The examples cited are by no means an exhaustive list, but given to provide insight as to some of the erroneous views on heaven and eternity.

Myths

Myths are often connected to spirituality or other religious beliefs versus Christian doctrine.  These myths include, for example, the belief that we will be given a second chance to choose where we will spend eternity.

Myths can result in a false sense of spiritual security. We get one chance to make the right choice (Acts 4:12).

Many myths are often tied to what heaven or hell will be like.  

  • Heaven will be a dreamy, floating existence in the clouds.

Heaven is the place where we will continue to serve the Lord (Rev.7:14-15). Just as Adam was given charge of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15), we will fulfill the God-glorifying, personally fulfilling work that was part of God’s original plan for our life.  

  • Hell is a place where there’s always a good time and party. 

Hell was initially designed to house Satan and those fallen angels that participated in open rebellion against God in heaven (Isa. 14:12-15). While hell was not originally created for human beings, it is now available for those who reject Christ.

People who joke about wanting to go to hell is so much foolishness.  There will be no partying in hell only darkness, weeping, and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 8:12; 13:42) .  

Lies

Lies are the most dangerous MLM.  Why?  Because our belief in them can result in our being in a place we don’t want to be for eternity.  There will be  no “do-overs”. The following are the most frequently cited and the most deadly lies.  These are Satan’s favorites.

  •  There is no heaven nor hell. 

God’s Word tells us that there is a heaven and a hell.  And every word of God is “yes and amen.” (2 Cor.1:20)    

JESUS SAID He was going to prepare a place for us (John 14:2).  We know that when “our tabernacle is dissolved we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in heaven.”  (2 Cor. 5:1)

Hell is real (Matt. 25:41, 46).  It is a place of eternal punishment. There are two popular views that attempt to negate the reality of hell.  One teaches that unbelievers are not punished after death.  They simply cease to exist (annihilation).  The other proposes that because God is good and loving, He would never condemn anyone to a place of eternal torment (universalism).  

God doesn’t send people to hell.  People send themselves to hell by declining Jesus’ offer of salvation.  

  •  All roads lead to heaven.  

While this may be a very popular view, the Bible teaches that the only way a person can go to heaven is on “God’s terms”.  He has made His terms very clear in His inherent Word and by Jesus Himself.

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, He cannot see the kingdom of God.”  (John 3:3)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16) 

  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me”. (John 14:6)   

Salvation is found in no one else but Jesus (Acts 4:12). Anyone who teaches any other way to salvation is in danger of damnation (Gal. 1:6-9).

Misunderstandings 

Misunderstandings are often the results of incomplete or incorrect information.  While they are the most benign of the MLMs, it is still important to seek out reliable and accurate information about eternity. Acceptance of correct information, of course, is dependent on our willingness to change our view (Prov. 2:6).

  • God is responsible for death.  

Well-intentioned people console loved ones at the death of a family member with statements such as,  “God wanted them with Him.” “They’re in a better place.” “God knows what He’s doing.” 

They ascribe death to God. In reality, death is the result of man’s sin in the Garden of Eden. It is a guarantee we will all die.  The best way to be with family in eternity is to receive Jesus as Savior.

  • We will worship God in a tabernacle in heaven.  

The tabernacle of the Old Testament and the church structure today provide a physical place to worship God.  

However there is need for neither in heaven because we will live in God’s presence.   The object of our worship, God, will be with us throughout eternity.  We will freely worship God continuously (Rev. 21:3,22).  

The True Beauty of Eternity 

Our understanding of eternity influences all that we do today.  It becomes the filter by which we evaluate how we spend our time; what we focus on: where we place our priorities.

Eternity, most importantly, is where we will spend forever with Jesus.  Our relationship will never be interrupted by our busy schedule, our unconfessed  sin, or the enemies’ firey darts aimed against our faith.

Tony Evans in his book, Eternity:  Understanding Life After Death, shares his thoughts on our relationship with our Savior in eternity.

Before we get too excited about heaven, Jesus wants us to get excited about being with him first. Being with Jesus and face to face fellowship for all eternity is what will make heaven so heavenly. All the beauty of heaven is really just the backdrop, the scenery, for our eternal relationship with Christ. The central thing of heaven is that we will see our Savior, face-to-face, and be with him for eternity.

Next week we will close our series on eternity with “Where do we go from here?

With Eternity in Mind: Myths, Lies, and Misunderstandings about Eternity, Part 1

MLMs

Myths, Lies, and Misunderstandings (MLMs)

It is important that we have a clear understanding about eternity—what it is and what it isn’t.  Living in the 21st century requires that we be diligent and focused in not only equipping ourselves with correct information but also in understanding the source of our information. This is especially true with regard to issues pertaining to eternity.

What are MLMs?

To introduce this section, we will begin with Webster for a short description of what MLMs are and their intent.  We will use these in our teaching about eternity.

    • Myths are widely held but false beliefs or ideas. Myths are upheld to misrepresent the truth and to maintain certain beliefs.
    • Lies are statements that one knows are false, with the intent to deceive.
    • Misunderstandings stem from a failure to understand something correctly. A misunderstanding can be caused by an incorrect conception or a misinterpretation. It can also be mistakes of meaning or intent.

Why are there MLMs?

Myths, lies, and misunderstandings can be credited to many different things.  Myths and misunderstandings concerning eternity can be attributed to a general lack of knowledge.  Even within our churches, discussions on eternity are limited and typically linked only to eternal life and life after death.  We need congregations that are better informed about eternity and how it impacts how we live our lives.

Lies, of course, can be assigned to the father of lies or Satan.  Satan has done an excellent job in intentionally deceiving people about eternity.  Eternity is the greatest inheritance believers are gifted with.  Knowledge of eternity present and eternity future provides us with hope amid our struggles.  Knowledge of eternity adds to our resilience and gives us reason to persevere.  Therefore, we do not “faint” (2 Cor. 4:17).

How to deal with MLMs?

What is the best approach in dealing with false beliefs, misrepresentation of the truth, and incorrect interpretation?  Seek out and know the truth.  The primary source of that truth is the Bible.  The Holy Spirit will also guide us in all truth, including truth pertaining to eternity (John 16:13).

Secondarily, we can address questions we might have about eternity with our pastor.  We can ask them for creditable resources on the topic that can help expand our understanding.

In this postmodern era, relativism offers the view that there is not absolute truth; truth is relative based on individual perceptions and considerations. Satan uses this thinking to continue his campaign to “blind our eyes” (2 Cor. 4:4) about God, His Son, and our position in Christ.  This includes the truth about eternity.

Why is this conversation important?

It is important that we have correct knowledge about eternity.  Consummate writer and faith blogger, Ruth Clemence shared “7 reasons to live with Eternity in Mind”.  I will list the top three that resonated with me.

    • Our life in this world is temporary.
    • People are facing life and death without hope.
    • The Gospel needs to be proclaimed clearly and truthfully.

The best time we can learn about eternity is now.  While our time is in God’s hand (Ps. 31:15), He has given us true knowledge of Him which includes knowledge of eternity.

Next week we will present the second half of “Myths, Lies, and Misunderstandings about Eternity” with the listing of MLMs currently driving the 21st century worldview of eternity.

With Eternity in Mind: Eternal Life

Eternal Life

 

Divinely Bestowed

Last week we defined eternal or everlasting life as the divinely bestowed gift of blessedness in God’s presence that endures without end.   It is noteworthy to see that eternal life is something that is gifted by God alone.

Eternal life is a “divinely bestowed gift” (John 3:16). It is not something we can earn, mandate nor make happen.  It is a gift of God.  Imagine if man could wield that kind of power.  We catch a glimpse of the desire to live forever “on this side” by our continual search for ways to reverse the effects of aging or increase the number of our days.

Man is not equipped to bestow eternal life.  He is limited by time.  Only God currently lives and operates in both time and eternity (past, present, future). God alone is able through His divine attributes of goodness—His love, grace, and benevolence—to offer the extraordinary and irreversible gift of eternal life.

Divine Presence

Eternal life is about our relationship with God.  This relationship is built on the knowledge of who God is and what Jesus accomplished with His sacrificial death.  We are not only reconciled with the Father (Rom. 5:10) BUT ALSO enjoy Jesus’ divine presence through His Holy Spirit (John 16:13).  Acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior, begins eternal life.

Eternal life is lived out through our recognition and acknowledgment of God’s presence.  God’s presence provides for us the confidence we need to navigate through the challenges of living in this fallen world.

The Apostle Paul expresses this thought in his letter to faithful believers in 2 Peter 1:2-5.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Equipped with God’s divine nature and operating continuously in His presence, we are able to navigate the challenges of 21st century living.  “The life-giving knowledge of the Father and the Son is a true, personal knowledge, not just an academic awareness.”[1]

Divine Time

We often limit eternal life to life after death.  We also mistakenly view eternal life as simply an unending progression of years.  It is much more.   Eternal life can function outside of and beyond time, as well as within time. For this reason, eternal life can be thought of as something that Christians experience now.

We don’t have to wait for eternal life, because it is not something that starts only when we die.  Eternal life begins the moment we exercise faith in Christ.

Jesus made this clear during his ministry.  In the book of John, several indications of the “present and now” reality of eternal life is clear.

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  John 3:36

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” John 5:24

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” John 6:47

We have eternal life because of our current position in Jesus Christ and therefore, we can experience it now.

God’s presence that endures without end

A common New Testament word for eternal is aionios.  We’ve addressed its relationship to the quality of life in this age.  But it also addresses both the quality and duration of life in the age to come. 

This duration cannot be compared with the limits of time we currently operate within.  But our future eternal life will be the culmination of our existence.  It is in future eternity that we will experience the full measure of God’s glory (Rev. 5:13) and the benefits of our resurrected body.

Next week we will spend time exploring eternity—time without end, specifically, the myths, lies, and misunderstandings about eternity.

[1] Got Questions

With Eternity in Mind: Begin with the End in Mind

 

What are we looking for?

In understanding what eternity is and its importance to us, we must “begin with the end in mind”.  What do we want to know about eternity?  Why does it matter?   All of us have a differing view as to what eternity is and what it isn’t.

The reality is this, as human beings, we will continue our existence even after death in eternity. The question is, which of the eternal lives will we experience? Will we experience joy and peace forever more with Jesus or will our eternal life consist of judgment, fire, and flames.  The choice is ours to make.

That’s why it’s so important that we begin with the end in mind.  To gain a better understanding of eternity, let’s begin with some important definitions. Key to understanding the biblical meaning of these terms is the Bible’s use of the word “eternal”.

Eternity by any other name

Eternal, eternity, eternal/everlasting life.  There are many variations of the word eternal used to describe eternity.  We will begin with some basic definitions to help us with our study.

“Eternal or everlasting” is an adjective used to describe a state of being “without end”.  It is used, for example, to describe the Trinity (Ps. 90:2; Prov. 8:23; Heb. 9:14)

Eternal can be applied to God’s attributes.  For example, His power (Eccl. 12:5), His righteousness (Ps. 119:142, 144), and His love (Jer. 31:3).   They endure without end!  As long as God exists, so do His eternal attributes.

In the Bible, eternal is also used to describe both believers (John 3:15; Eph. 3:11) and the wicked (Mark 3:29; Matt. 25:46).

“Eternity” is “time without end”.  It is the duration of God’s dealings with His people in times past, now, and always.  God has always been involved in the lives of His people and reveal Himself through various means (Heb. 1:1-2).

Eternity also includes a coming age from which evil will be banished and where God will reign in glory.  Quite different from the current world order.  

“Eternal/everlasting life” has been defined as the divinely bestowed gift of blessedness in God’s presence that endures without end.[1]  This relates not only to the quality of life in this age, but also to both the quality and duration of life in the age to come.   

We often limit eternal/everlasting life to life after death and heaven.  But eternal life is much more.  We will explore this aspect of eternal life later in this series.

Eternity in our hearts

To answer the question “why do we want to know about eternity”, I offer you this answer provided by King Solomon who wrote in Ecclesiastes 3: 11, “God has set eternity in the human heart”.

In every human soul is a God-given awareness that there is something more than this transient world and with that awareness of eternity comes a hope that we will one day find a fulfillment not afforded by the vanity in this world.  

We possess an innate knowledge that there is something more to life than what we can see and experience in the here and now. Through all the abs and downs of life, we have a glimpse of stability—God has “set eternity in the human heart.”  We have a divinely implanted awareness that the soul lives forever. This world is not our home.  [2]    

Eternity and Knowing God

Eternal, eternity, everlasting life.  We have heard these words used in various contexts and in a multitude of religious venues.  However, unless we intentionally focus on its importance to our spiritual welfare, eternity will remain nothing more than theological jargon we hear on Sunday morning.

Jesus prayed in John 17:1-3 (NLT):

Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him.  And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.

To know the true God and His Son Jesus Christ, it is important that we understand eternity. Next week we will continue our study by exploring eternal life.  What is it?  When does it begin?

[1] Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary

[2] Got Questions, “What does it mean that we have eternity in our hearts?”

With Eternity in Mind: What do I think?

Where are my thoughts?

When was the last time you thought about eternity?  Better yet, do you even believe in eternity?  If you do not believe in “life after death”, you may be extremely depressed with the thought of someday leaving behind your prize possessions (your favorite stuff) and relationships (your favorite people).

Even for those of us who do believe in eternity, there is a reluctance to place much time or attention on this topic unless we are forced to do so, usually as a result of losing a family member or friend.

That’s why we are going to spend time in our next few WordBytes exploring the wonders of eternity; how we can live victoriously today with eternity in mind?

Why aren’t we talking more?

Why don’t we talk more about eternity—the place where we will live out the remainder of our existence?  I can understand nonbeliever’s aversion to this topic; for them, eternity doesn’t exist.  Therefore, there is nothing to look forward to.

However, for we believers there should be more to draw our attention to eternity than helpless resolve or fear. Eternity should be the place we joyfully anticipate.

Why should we be joyful?

To whet your appetite for eternity, I’ll share a “short list” of why eternity is a place of joy.

  • Eternity is a place which Jesus Christ has prepared for us to be together. “I go to prepare a place for you…that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3) We will be in the presence of God, our Creator and Christ, our Savior. In His presence is fullness of joy and peace forevermore. (Ps. 16:11)
  • There will be no sickness and no more tears (Rev.21:4). With The Fall (Gen. 3) sin was introduced into God’s perfect world.  On its heels followed pain, sickness, and death.  As much as man tries, he can never reverse these affects.  But in Christ—in His death, burial, and resurrection from the dead, sin lost its power.  Christ replaced it with eternal life which will be fully realized in eternity.  (Rom. 5:21)

And the “short list” continues…

  • We will have glorified bodies to house our eternal spirit. Ever wonder why you don’t mentally feel your physical age? It’s because our soul doesn’t age.  If our bodies didn’t “breakdown” with disease and age, we would keep right on “ticking.”  We will have bodies built for eternity. (1 Cor. 15:54)
  • Eternity is where we will receive our reward for service done on earth. While we do not work for our salvation (Eph. 2:8), God has promised to reward us for our contribution to kingdom building and acting as His ambassadors here on earth. (Rev. 11:18; 22:12)

So, I ask you again, why don’t we have a loving eye on eternity?  Why isn’t there greater excitement at the possibility of life eternal with the Lord?  What stands in the way of our desire for eternity?  Next week, we’ll continue with our study on eternity.

On the Road to God’s New Thing

A road by any other name

A road is literally defined as a wide way leading from one place to another. We often think of roads as access to new opportunities of commerce or development, such as the road to success.

A road can also describe a series of events or a course of action that will lead to a particular outcome. In the book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck uses “road” figuratively to describe the sometimes hard and often painful process of change. Peck uses the “road less traveled” as a illustration of the journey this requires.

Jeremiah’s  road

In Jeremiah 31, the prophet speaks to the people of God in Babylon to prepare them for a “road”—both literally and figuratively—that would return them to their own land after their 70-year exile.

Jeremiah’s message is clear. They are not to be afraid or lose heart. They are to be focused with a firm resolution to rebuild the nation of Israel.

In Jeremiah 31:22,  Israel is called to refrain from falling back into their old rebellious habits as God creates “a new road”  to their salvation—a “new thing” that had never been done before (or since).

How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.  

Failure on the road

Israel is warned against potential backsliding which is interpreted as “faithless”. In the past both Israel and Judah had consistently failed to “holdfast” to God and depend solely on Him for their every need. (Job 27:6) The results was always disastrous as proven by the conquest of both nations.

Where are we placing our faith? Is it in people—elected officials, family members, or friends?  Are we dependent on things—bank accounts, social status, or professional affiliations? Do we believe only in ourselves—our intellect, looks, or personality? When Jesus returns, will He find  us faithfully following Him on the new road? (Luke 18:8)

With God on the road to new things

Israel is encouraged to trust God, Who would create a “new thing”—interpreted as strange and surprising—in the earth. God would create a woman who would “compass” or protect man.

Many interpreters understand this “new thing” to be the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  A woman, the Virgin Mary, enclosed in her womb the Might One. This was to be their incentive.

They would know that with their return from exile came the promise of not only their physical restoration but also the spiritual blessing of the Mighty God (Is. 9:6). God would not cast off His people but bless them. This was to be their assurance.

What is the road for us today?

How do we  to live in the knowledge of this “new thing”?  Knowing the blessings of being in Christ (Ep. 1:3-14).

We live attentively in God’s presence. God is creating new opportunities for us.  However, we must listen for His voice and watch where He is working. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

We live expectantly in God’s provision. God has provided all that we need to live godly lives and to accomplish His purpose in our lives. (2 Pet. 1:3-8)

We live faithfully in God’s purpose. As the elect of God we live by faith. We do not backslide or “draw back unto perdition” but trust that He who began this “good work in us” is able to complete it. (Phil. 1:6)

Our journey to understanding “new things” has hopefully provided incentive and inspiration to walk in the divine purpose God has created for our lives. When we as believers trust God and understand God’s reason for “new things”, we can move forward joyfully in faith and confidence.

God’s Reason for New Things

God's Reason for New Things

Why change?

Last week we asked if we are ready for “new things”.  Maybe your life is going great and you have no need to change.  Great!  But for the rest of us, we realize that as the world changes, we too, must make sure that the way we are operating is within the will of God and His purpose for our lives.

Why resist?

It is human nature to resist doing new things even if new things offer more than the status quo.  The Book of Numbers takes us to where we observe the impact of a nation’s resistance to “new things” with respect to God and His divine purpose for their life.

But if the LORD make a new thing and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD.  Num. 16:30 (KJV) 

What should have been an eleven-day journey resulted in a forty year “funeral procession” (Num. 14:28-29; 32-35).  Regardless of Israel’s opposition, God would show them a reason for His new thing.

Resistant and rebellious until the end!

From the time of their departure, Israel complained and was rebellious against not only the leadership of Moses and Aaron but also against God Himself.  Israel had seen the many miracles of God yet  in their hearts, regardless of what God did for them, “Israel had Egypt in their hearts. ” [1]

Where is your heart?  When God attempts to move you to your divine purpose, do you complain and murmur?  Is your affection set on the things of this world when God’s plan offers much more? (Col. 3:2-4)

New things may come with a price.

Read Numbers 15:1-20:13

Motivated by jealousy and envy, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram attempted to seize the priesthood from Aaron and his sons. In so doing, they also challenged the sovereignty and authority of God.

In the wilderness, God would teach Israel a painful lesson about the reason for “new things”—about sacrifice, authority, and responsibility.

That “new thing” would come with a price—it would cost Korah, Dathan, and Abiram their life, their families’ lives plus the lives of 14,700 people within Israel’s camp.

One of the reasons for God’s severity in punishing Israel was to prepare the way for His new thing—a people who would accept the “new beginning” He had readied for them in the Promised Land.  It would be there that Israel would experience new victories, a new priest (Eleazar), a new leader (Joshua), and a new generation.

How does God use “new things” in our life?
    • God might need to reset or reboot our current efforts. Stalled plans, ungodly influences or fleshly lusts can often take us off the path God sovereignly chooses for us.  God’s intervention will guarantee success. (Phil. 1:6)
    • God may desire to take us out of our comfort zone. He may even allow “trials and tribulations” into our life to move us forward.  In trusting and waiting on the Lord, we find courage to persevere as we pursue God’s plan for our life.  (1 Pet. 1:6-7)
    • God could choose to introduce us to an opportunity that may not have been on our radar screen. It is in those moments we can depend wholly on God to bring prospects into our life that will result in our good and His glory.   (Matt. 7:11)
God always has a reason for introducing new things into our life.

They may not be easy but they are always worth it.  We may not understand “why” but we can trust “Who” (God).

In the past when faced with new things, I was like Israel, guilty of complaining and murmuring.  Out of fear and frustration, I would cry, “Lord, why me?” I now choose God’s path for my life and when faced with “new things” I sigh in faith and confidence, “Lord, it’s YOU and me!”

[1]   Wiersbe Bible Commentary