Advent Day 14, the Gift of a New Self, in the Likeness of God

December 14, 2011

The gift a new self, in the likeness of God

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

Today’s gift from God is a three-part gift.  Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 24: It is the gift of a new self.  “… and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Putting on the new self.  It can’t really happen until you, Part 1, take off the old self and then, Part 2, renew your mind, for Part 3, putting on the new self.

Are you a collector?  Do you have things around the house that really have no value at all?  I confess, I’m one of those people.  I used to collect all sorts of things.  Baseball cards.  45 records.  Pop Bottles. License plates. Old newspapers with great headlines.   I’m sure when I decided to keep these things there was a reason… but, today… I don’t know why, really.  They just take up valuable storage space.

We all have some old junk in our lives… and throughout this chapter Paul takes the reader through a long list of old junk we need get rid of if we are to live the full life that God has for us:  impure sensuality, greed, stealing, unwholesome talk, bitterness, wrath, anger, slander. Get rid of it.  Renew your mind. 

“Put on the new self in the likeness of God, created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:24)   

That is a tremendous gift!  Once we say “yes” to being a Christ-follower, we get to get rid of the junk and live a life in the likeness of God!   In your old self you might have had the label “adulterer,” “thief,” “loser,” “addict,”  … but guess what?  That’s not you any more!  What a beautiful gift!  Like putting on a new, gorgeous dress or an Armani suit. 

I visited my mom a few years ago while I was on a business trip.   I was on my way to a meeting, but I first took some time to drive with my mom to one of her weekly Bible studies to visit some old friends.  One dear woman, when seeing me for the first time in probably 20 years, saw me all dressed up in an Italian suit and ready to tackle the business of the day exclaimed: “You look like a million bucks!”   Isn’t it great to look like a million bucks?  But let me tell you, when you are a new creation in Christ… your value to our Lord is “priceless.”

I think that one of reasons we collect stuff is because we hope that someday it will be worth something. We can sell it on Craig’s List or on eBay.  And we think, if this thing is worth something and I own this thing, then I am worth something.  

May I tell you something?  Once you put off the old and put on the new self, in the likeness of Christ, you are the wealthiest you will ever be! Your Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  You have been given every spiritual blessing… you can’t get any wealthier!

Here’s how The Message summarizes this gift: 

“Everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” (Ephesians 4:24, the Message)

God wants to reproduce His character in you!  And it’s beautiful when you let him do it!  It’s a beautiful, priceless gift!

Get dressed up for today’s gift, the gift of putting on a new self, in the image of God.

Father God, thank you that I am priceless in your sight.  Thank you for the new gift of a new self, created in your image.  Let me receive this gift every single day, even today!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2011. Rich Ronald

Advent Day 13, the Gift of Learning with a Purpose

December 13

The Gift of learning with a purpose

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

 Have you ever visited one of the great redwood forests in California?  These natural skyscrapers set records for height and girth.  And they never stop growing until it’s time for them to die.

How about you?  Are you still growing?  Spiritually?  Or have you peaked and are just waiting until it’s time to move from this life to the next?  I believe that for a Christ-follower, retirement is not an option.

You’ve heard it said that God has a wonderful plan for your life… and the idea is that we grow to fullness, maturity in the faith.  Not just grow old… but grow in maturity of the faith.  God does not want you to reach a certain level that you might determine on your own as “being mature” and then let you stop or coast the rest of your life.  God expects growth from you, year after year, season after season, just like the giant and grand redwood trees.

I want to gently challenge and encourage you:  Do you have the same level of faith you had a few years ago?  Or, are you experiencing a fresh and daily delivery of manna from heaven? 

Do you remember the manna that rained down on the people of Israel as they wandered through the desert for 40 years?  God gave them just what they needed for that day by way of a bread-like food, each and every morning. 

The people of God need to look to God to provide for them every spiritual blessing  — remember, that was our first gift in Ephesians 1:3 — every day.  If you were to measure the relationship you have with God, is it new and fresh and growing every day?  Or, do you take that relationship for granted?  May I encourage us to press in to all that God wants us to receive, fresh and new each day? 

God has given the body of Christ great leaders and teachers, both inside your local congregation and outside of it, or those who have gone before us whose writings can inspire and teach.  He has put people on the mission field, who by their example of living for God daily in a small village, can teach us how to depend on God… or how to see the miraculous move of the Holy Spirit in a way we’ve not seen before.   They all have great things to teach, if you are willing to be taught.

Today’s gift is from Ephesians 4:11-13: 

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,  to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

While there is a number of ways to look at this passage, I’d like to focus on the “so that” portion.  God desires we become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Another way of saying that is “learning with a purpose.”

Do you have a bucket list that includes learning new things?  I hope so.  May I encourage you to search out and find new ways to learn new things about how great is our God in heaven?  May I encourage you to grow in spiritual maturity?  Paul says that those who are mature are not tossed here and there by the waves when trials or challenging times come. They press into the love of Christ, as the head of the body, which holds us, collectively, all together.   And they do so by their willingness to be taught and encouraged by those who hold the spiritual leadership posts of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher. 

Every single one of us can find someone more spiritually mature than we are.  Search them out and learn from them.  It will strengthen you… so that down the road, you might embrace the position of leadership yourself.  And don’t ever give up learning more and more about God’s love and plan for you.

Receive the gift of learning with a purpose… and keep growing.

Father God, let me never tire of desiring to learn more and more about you and your love and perfect plan for my life.  In Jesus’ name,  Amen.


© 2011. Rich Ronald

Advent Day 12, the Gift of Grace

December 12, 2011

The Gift of Grace

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

What is grace besides the prayer often offered before a meal?  Grace is a gift.  And it often looks different depending upon who is using the gift.

Have you heard the story of a man who fell down some icy steps?  While he may not have been too graceful as he slipped and tumbled, he says the gift of grace looked completely different in each person that came to his rescue.  The first person helped him up, examined where it hurt, took him inside and put an ice bag on the injury.  This person had the grace gift of mercy.  A second person came up and asked him why he hadn’t properly poured salt on the icy steps before hand.  This person had the grace gift of exhortation.  And still a third person showed the man how to properly hold on to the hand rail and slowly work his way up each step, little by little.  This person had the grace gift of teaching.  Three different people, three different expressions of the same grace gift.[1]

Ephesians 4:7:

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  (NIV)

But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. (The Message)

Grace.  Being given a second chance.  And a third chance.  And a fourth chance.  And, as many “do-overs” as we need in order to fully accept all the love that God has for each one of us.

Some have suggested that no single man sums up the definition of grace like the man behind the song “Amazing Grace” … John Newton.  Do you know his story?  He was a slave trader, the captain of a ship in the mid 1700’s that regularly travelled the Triangle Trade Route.  Beginning with an empty cargo hold in England, he would travel to Africa and pack over 600 units of “human cargo” – slaves – onto the ship.  He would then sail to America and deliver his cargo in exchange for money and goods made in America that were needed in England where he would conclude for a short season and start all over again.  He met Christ during a terrible tempest aboard his vessel.  He ultimately left the sea and studied for the ministry.  Near the end of his life he was pastor at the Saint Peter and Paul Church of England in Olney Parish.    At age 82, Newton said, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things:  that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”[2] He is buried in the cemetery there.  On his tombstone reads these words:

John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves inAfrica, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.

Amazing Grace!  What a gift!

May you be a recipient and a giver of this gift today.

Father God, thank for the Gift of Grace.  Thank you for the chance to start over again no matter how often.  Thank you that I can receive your love new and fresh day after day after day.  As you have given me grace, may I be quick to offer it to others.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2011. Rich Ronald

[1] Ed Taylor, Spiritual Gifts, February, 2002

Advent Day 11, the Gift of Unity

December 11

The Gift of Unity

 This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the 25 gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

Do you remember the TV show The Waltons?  While there is no such thing as a perfect family, if there was ever an award for the perfect television family, John Boy and his ma and pa, Olivia and John, his grandparents and six brothers and sisters might have been the winners.  The show was on during the 1970’s.  Set during the depression in rural Virginia, the Walton’s lived life peaceably and with great resolve.  They got along well and held virtue to its highest esteem.   Remember the love that flowed as they ended each episode?  “Goodnight Grandpa, Goodnight Mary Ellen, Goodnight Jim Bob,GoodnightPa, Goodnight Elizabeth, Goodnight John Boy.”

This is perhaps a picture you might see as Paul encourages the family of Christ at the beginning of Ephesians, Chapter 4.

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6 NIV)

This passage summaries the unity that God so longs we all share together as the body of Christ… regardless of where we go to church.

A pastor friend of mine used to say that there are certain things that are disputable within the Body of Christ, such as music, dress, how we raise our kids, movies, politics, that kind of thing.  But there are certain things that are bedrock truths.  And this is what Paul is saying here.  This is the gift of unity.  One body.  One Spirit.  One Hope.  One Faith.  One Baptism.  One God, the Father.  And right in the middle?  One Lord.  One.  And his name is Jesus Christ!  So… Paul is saying, “c’mon church.  We can agree on this!  Let’s lift up the name of Christ together… for his glory.” 

Have you ever travelled someplace far away, whether on a mission trip, or just someplace away from home, and met another Christ-follower for the first time?  There is a sweet common bond, isn’t there?  A unity that we share together.  And it’s deeper than what your alma mater is or the sports team you root for. 

You have undoubtedly heard the joke that asks the question “what car did the disciples drive?”  Acts 2:1 says that on the day of Pentecost, the disciples were all in one “Accord”?   God bless Honda!

It’s an interesting picture to think of the whole church being crammed in one place, all going the same direction… In some ways that IS the picture of unity in the body of Christ. 

Paul says in Philippians 2:1-2 (NIV):

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

May we be encouraged to embrace unity.  And may we do so in a way worthy of Christ… being humble, gentle, patient and bearing with one another in love.   May you receive, and give, this Gift of Unity this Advent.

Father God, I pray for all Believers around the world today.  May we all be united in bringing the Gospel message to the lost and hurting, especially during this season.  May Your peace come on earth, as it is in Heaven.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2011. Rich Ronald