THE GOSPEL IS A RELIGION OF NEW THINGS
THE GOSPEL IS A RELIGION OF NEW THINGS
I came across these very intriguing words in a devotional I read recently - “The gospel is a religion of new things”. These words seem to have left a deep impression on my mind even as I was reflecting on them in the context of the approaching feast of Easter. As we all know at Easter we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. We must remember that the Risen Saviour is not only the Creator of physical life (Col 1:16), but He is also the Originator of the new spiritual life because of His sacrificial death on the cross and His triumph over the grave. His resurrection gives meaning to life here and now, and it assures us that someday we will receive a new "spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15:44).
The ‘gospel’ in one sense means the record of Jesus’ life, His teachings and miracles He worked. It is found in the first four books of the New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. However, in this article ‘gospel’ is used in a wider sense and it means ‘Good News’, and essentially conveys that God forgives sins. It also includes the details of man’s rebellion against God, and His desire and attempt to redeem man.
The central message of the gospel is best described by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians when he wrote: 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 1 Cor 15:3-4. Hence, when we say the gospel offers us new things we are in effect saying the Bible offers us new things.
On going through the Bible we find an array of new things God offers us all - a new birth (1 Pet 1:3), a new life (Eph 4:24), a new heart, a new spirit (Eze 36:26), a new hope, a new happiness, and at the end of time – a new name (Rev 2:17 and 3:12). However, out of all these fascinating ‘new things’ which God offers us none is perhaps more intriguing than His offer of a new heart. The promise is first given in the prophecy of Ezekiel “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Eze 36:26).
THE CENTRALITY OF THE HEART
The heart is the inner self that thinks, feels, and decides. It is the centre of the entire man, the very hearth of life's impulse. This is the place where Christ wants to make His home (John 14:23 & Eph 3:16-17) and the Spirit of God dwells (Rom 8:9-11 & 1 Cor 3:16-17). Hence to keep people from giving this central place to Jesus wholly and solely, the devil is constantly attacking man with his deceptive promises and lies. He did not even spare Jesus. From the beginning of His ministry, the devil was tempting Jesus to change His mind about His mission.
The devil’s temptations come repeatedly and in different shapes and sizes and because of our weakness, we invariably succumb to his ploys. For this reason the heart is in a wretched condition. Further, it contaminates our lives by what comes forth from it leading to a further deterioration of our already beleaguered hearts and ultimately causes a spiritual death. The words of the prophet Jeremiah: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jer 17:9) and of Jesus For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony,slander (Matt 15:19) states this very clearly.
Since our hearts are incurable and irreparable, a new heart is the only hope. Thanks be to our Omniscient God who not only knows the end from the beginning but, being Jehovah Jireh, He also promises and provides for it as we read in “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezek 36:26. All this meant forgiveness of our sins and for this He had to give up His only Son Jesus to die for us on the cross of Calvary.
WHAT IS MY PART
A defective heart will ultimately lead to annihilation from God, which is the spiritual death. It is only a new heart that will make us alive. Let us then follow the advice given by the prophet Ezekiel: Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live! (Eze 18:31, 32)
Nothing we do can ever merit the new heart. It is a free gift of God. Let us therefore simply come to Him expressing our need and our desperation. God does not ask us to feel worse than we already do about our failures or to try harder to keep his commands. Instead, he invites us to receive a fresh source of motivation and strength- "a new heart and a new spirit" with thankfulness.
If you’re feeling that you’ve wandered too far away from God and that He is through with you, it’s time to embrace the truth that it is our personal faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross which will bring cleansing both on the inside and the outside.
Just as He saw the need of the woman at the well in John 4 and turned her around so does he see our need today and transforms us by giving us a new heart.
The heart works on a principle called GIGO (garbage in garbage out). We reap what we have sown. We must be careful what we are allowing to enter our hearts.
Someone has said, “Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become your character. Character is everything”. This coupled with another saying “If wealth is lost nothing is lost. If health is lost something is lost. But if character is lost everything is lost.” Character is the health of the heart. Beautiful character begins in the heart. Character is the sum total of all our thoughts, words, and deeds.
Considering the above the following scripture verses which are self-explanatory will serve as guides to preserve our hearts:
Psa 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Prov 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
2 Cor 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.
We cannot earn new life in heaven
By word or work or worth;
But when we trust in Jesus Christ,
He'll give to us new birth. -Anon.