Thursday, November 11, 2021
When I was in high school in the Twin Cities, with a graduating class of 825, I was an unnoticed nerd – or at least I thought I was. I was very insecure, I hated my appearance, and I had nothing that identified me except my trombone, and according to the cool kids, band was for geeks. But one day in English class, one of the most popular girls in school came up to me (she happened to be a cheerleader) and said, “I love it when you wear blue because it brings out the color of your eyes. I love blue too.”
Well, you can imagine how I felt after they revived me from fainting. I had found a connection point to the cool kids. I wore blue every day. I started to choose my clothing carefully, and I became one of the best-dressed kids in school. No blue jeans ever. Only dress pants and nice shirts and sweaters. All of my clothes had to be the latest fashion. I even wore shirts with French cuffs and cufflinks, and they were always blue. I was compelled to make a good impression outwardly. No one had ever noticed me for who I was inwardly, and I didn’t believe they ever would. For sure if they saw the real me they would reject me, and there was no way I was about to put myself through that pain. No one wants to be persecuted for who they are.
In Galatians Paul makes this point – don’t use an external image of religious conformity to avoid the pain of rejection.
Galatians 6:12-15 “Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.”
The Judaizers, those Jewish Christians who believed that salvation was only available to those who believed in Jesus and conformed to the Jewish law, were trying to force Gentile Christians to get circumcised. I don’t believe they were doing this because they theologically believed it, but because they socially needed it for their own approval rating. They could remain active in their Jewish sub-culture if they minimized the effect of the cross and kept some of their socially and religiously accepted traditions.
How often are we guilty of this in our lives? We add an external appearance or behavior standard to the message of the cross so that we can stay in our comfort zone. But let’s be clear about this: the message of the cross is simple and powerful. By the shed blood of Jesus as God’s sacrifice for our sin, all sin is forgiven in the life of any person who repents of their sin and by faith receives its cleansing power. At that instant they are made a new creation by the power of the resurrected Christ in them.
2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
They are blessed with every spiritual blessing from on high.
Ephesians 1:3 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
They are made joint heirs of all eternity with all of the saints in glory, including you and me.
Romans 8:16-17 – The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.
Everyone who believes!
There is the very real possibility that within your family or your circle of friends, or even in your church, you will be rejected and persecuted for living this way. Yet Paul was so convinced of the power of the cross that he said he would never boast about anything else in his life except that. He did not take pride in his pattern of behavior or in his theology and use those things as a means of gaining acceptance with anyone. He simply loved the cross. He simply loved people who loved the cross. He knew that the power to affect the external had to come from the power of the eternal in them.
When the Holy Spirit brings the new creation of Christ into a spiritually dead person, His ministry is just beginning. He will bring the external changes necessary to complete His work. He uses all of us to help influence that development, but we must be willing to let the finished work be unique, not cloned. What we do for Christ must be for the glory of the cross, not for the approval of people.