My wife told me last night that my daughter would like to go shopping this weekend to spend her Christmas money at a particular store. I smiled at the thought of my daughter's face lighting up over this and that. And then my thoughts turned, and I blurted out, "Is there anything we can purge too?" Maybe I'm experiencing some residual "stuff-overload" that sinks in around Christmas time when numerous presents are opened, or it's a knee-jerk reaction to the plethora of toys that lay dormant in shelves (or the other plethora of toys that have a hard time finding their way to the shelves!) Either way, it makes me wonder if there's something to the idea of making room for new.
Whatever that "new" is -- a toy, an article of clothing, a family member, a friend, a ministry role, a health habit -- is it possible that in some regard there is a need for old things to give way so that new things can take root?
I would submit that when God is at work in us, He intentionally removes the old so He can create something new.
OUT WITH THE OLD
God is the One who alone "restores our soul." Take a look at these beautiful promises of the newness He brings about in our lives.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26, NKJV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV
I think Paul understood well the re-creative work of God in the life of the believer. He saw that the old order of things, when wracked by sin and severed from God, could only lead to death and destruction. But God when God makes us alive in Christ (Eph. 2:4), He makes us new. All new. Old things pass away. But in Christ new things have come!
Oh the sweet sound of the amazing grace and transforming power of Christ!
And just so we don't get caught up in the emotional ecstasy of what God does for us, Paul wants to make sure we understand the practical application of this out-with-the-old criteria for newness in Christ:
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV
Let's not get this confused with having to change ourselves before we come to Christ. No, no. The declaration of 2 Corinthians 5:17 is true when we come to Jesus as we are and choose by faith to be in Christ. New things have come and old things have passed away because God has declared it so, just as truly as God spoke light into the darkness on the first day of creation. And it's in view of this declared truth, that Paul urges us to apply the truth in practice and deliberate action: Because old things have passed away and because all things are new in Christ, I can put off the old self and put on the new self. He takes the gospel declarative and turns it into a gospel imperative. (That's Pauline theology in a nutshell for those New Testament scholars out there.)
So if you're like me and you're eager to experience newness in your spiritual journey this year, then join me in making room for the new by taking stock of what is old, what is corrupting, what is only a deceitful desire that causes distance between our hearts and our Savior. That may not sound very pleasant, but maybe that's why following Jesus involves taking up a cross. Let's be real and honest and put off the old so we can truly put on the new.