Rescued from Our Past (Lent Series)

Lent_Rescued_Standard_Past_Main (1)People of Israel in slavery, not through their own actions

Sermon Series: Rescue (Lent Series)

Scripture: Ephesians 4:22-24 (teaching text), Exodus 1 (historical narrative)

Theme:  Rescued from the past, second chance, new life

The people of Israel find themselves enslaved to the Egyptians for over 400 years. The Israelites came to Egypt at the request of the king of Egypt during the time of Joseph. Verse 8 tells us that a new king has come to power who does not know Joseph and what he did for the Egyptians in the time of famine.

We all come from somewhere. We have family stories, choices we have made and past histories that bring sources of joy and sources of pain. When Christ comes into our lives, we can be rescued from that history. We can know a new life in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 teaches us that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.” Ephesians chapter 4 tells that we are to put off our old self in favor of the new self. This week we will explore Ephesians 4:22-24. We will follow our life’s path from our “old self” to our “new self.” God can rescue us from our past.

Outline:

  1. Our old life
  2. Our second chance
  3. Our new life

Face it! We are all born into sin. Salvation Army Doctrine 5 ends by saying, “and that in consequence of their [Adam and Eve, our first parents] fall all men have become sinners, totally depraved, and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.” This sinful self can cause us, and those around us, a lot of pain. We need a “do-over.” When we were kids, if things were not going our way or if a situation was not going to work out in our favor, we would ask for a “do-over.” Some golfers still enjoy the option of the mysterious mulligan.  A mulligan is “when a player gets a second chance to perform a certain move or action.” Video games offer the opportunity to win and extra life or a 1-up. We all want the chance to try something over again and do it right. God in His infinite wisdom and love for us offers us a mulligan through salvation by Jesus Christ.

Our Old Life

Ephesians 4:22 NIV – “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.”

What we are carrying – our baggage, our issues, our old lives – is holding us back. We cannot be who God wants us to be while we are still carrying around our “old self.” Scripture says that we have to put off our old self. This means we should put away, cast off, lay apart (aside, down), put away (off). It should be put away and never picked up again. It is no longer needed. Our past does not need to hold us back!

People might ask why someone would want to hold on to this “old self.” I think the answer is both simple and complex. Simply answered, we do not want to put it away because we are comfortable with it. We know what to expect. We can control it, or so we think. We cannot imagine ourselves without it. The complicated answer is that at some deep level we need it. It helps us to define who we are. We become dependent upon it.

Personally, I have struggled with my weight and physical appearance since age 15. It started simply enough. I went through a very stressful and confusing time in my life that led me to find comfort in something else – food. When times were tough, I ate. When times were great and I celebrated, I ate. My schedule and my world revolved around food. I knew where things were located because of their proximity to places I liked to eat. During a particularly low period of my life, I met with a counselor who said something that still rings true. I used food and my increasing weight as a buffer and a shield against things that I did not understand and could not control. [If this is not an appropriate illustration for you, please insert your own or feel free to use my story as an example.] Our old self and our sinful life can be spiritual weight that creates a barrier and makes us feel comfortable.

We need to put off and out away that sinful life, that sinful self that is holding us back. We do not need to carry it any longer and we do not need to pick it up once we lay it down.

Our Second Chance

Ephesians 4:23 NIV – “…to be made new in the attitude of your minds.”

It is going to require us to change how and what we think. Ephesians 4:23 says that we have to renew our minds. We need to reboot the way we act. We need a renovation of our heart and lives. This is more than words. It is also actions. It is more than intentions. It is also completions. It is more than being sincere. It is about being persistent. We cannot continue carrying around our past.  We also need to change the way we think in order to move forward.

Too often we focus on physical or surface-level changes instead of looking for changes at the deepest level. We fall into the easy trap of only looking at what is right in front of us. We deal with symptoms of the problem and not the problem itself. Part of this renewal process involves learning and growing from our past.

Some of the greatest examples of renewal for me are the stories from The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers. Through these programs, beneficiaries are separated from the immediate physical binds of their substance abuse and are taught how to live beyond and without their addictions. It is not enough just to deal with the physical, financial, and family issues that surround addiction and abuse. You also need to deal with the choices that got you there in the first place.

Putting away our old self alone is not enough. We have to change our way of thinking and living. We have to change from the inside out. We have to learn from our past and grow beyond it.

Our New Self

Ephesians 4:24 NIV – “…and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

When we remove and put away the “old self” and renew the way we think, we need to replace it with something. We cannot just leave a hole there. We need a new self. It is the same thing with our understanding of being rescued from our past. Once we have grown beyond our past and have adjusted the thinking of our present, we need to put something else there. We need a new future.

From losing weight to battling addiction to turning a business around, most people can see the problems in the past and get help to make the internal changes necessary for true rescue.  Because true rescue is, after all, going a new way in the future.  True rescue is not picking back up the problems of the past. Verse 24 of Ephesians 4 offers that new choice, that new future. We can “be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” The Israelites were rescued from Egyptian slavery. God took them on a journey to “retrain” the way they thought. The secret to God’s rescue is that He gave a new land, a land flowing with “milk and honey,” a Promised Land.

Trips to the dentist are one of my least favorite activities. I will confess to having a few cavities in my life. When a dentist deals with a cavity, the first step is always to clean out the infection. From drilling to cleaning, a dentist does not want to leave any infection behind. The slightest bit of infection can compromise the integrity of the tooth in the future. After removing the infection, the dentist then prepares the area. They prepare it for the next step. Most good dentists also reeducate the patient in ways to prevent the infection from happening again—which includes good dental hygiene.

There is a final step. After the infection has been removed and the area has been prepared, a filling is placed in the opening. A filling protects the sensitive inside of the tooth and protects the overall structural integrity of the tooth. It helps keep it strong—inside and out.

Our “new self”, fashioned after Christ, is the filling that keeps us strong, inside and out. God provides us a new future and promise in Him. Not only are we rescued from our past, but we are given a new future. True rescue!

Summary

The people of Israel had been born generation after generation, for over 400 years, into a slavery that was not of their own making. They were there in that place because of who they were and what they were born into. We, like the Israelites, have been born into slavery—slavery to sin. We did not create it. God rescued the Israelites from their bondage to the past, retrained and prepared them, and gave them a new future, a Promised Land. God wants to rescue us from our bondage to sin. He can help us renew our minds and attitudes. He has a new future for us.

Do we want to be rescued from our past?

This sermon is not complete. It is meant to encourage, inspire, and develop your thoughts on the topic.

This sermon series with accompanying graphics and videos was featured on The Salvation Army Ministry Toolkit here.

Walking to Renewal (Easter Wednesday)

Title: Walking to Renewal
Series: Walking the Roads of Easter (Easter Wednesday)
Scripture: Luke 19:45-48
Theme(s): Renewal, Loss of purpose, Second chance

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT
Have you ever gone for a walk in the woods? As you push your way through trees and bushes, you occasionally come across paths that have been created in the woods. You can sometimes see paths that have not been created on purpose, but because man or animals have walked that way time and time again. It might be the quickest way to a source of water. It might avoid some natural predators in the area. It might simply be the easiest way from one point to the other. These paths have been created because of frequent travel. After someone started going that way and broke through the bushes, pressed down the grass, and parted the trees, others that came along the way started following that path. Why? It is simple. It is often easier to follow an existing path than to make a new one. The person or animal who started the path probably never expected to create it or for others to follow it, but it happens. We find comfort in following the easy, comfortable way everyone else is going. It is not easy to take a different path, a new way. It is not always easy to begin “walking to renewal.”

In Luke 19:45-48, we find Jesus entering into the temple and not liking what He finds. We find Christ confused about what He is seeing but sure about He needs to do about it. In defense of the people who were selling animals for sacrifices, they were providing a necessary service. People would travel from all over the nation of Israel to come to the Temple to sacrifice. Families who traveled from these distant places could not always transport the required sacrifices with them from home. They needed a place to purchase these sacrifices for their families—sacrifices that were an important part of the Jewish tradition and culture.

Catch what Jesus says at the end of verse 46: “You have turned it (the Temple) into a den of thieves.” What Jesus alludes to here is that these people were taking advantage of the people coming to the Temple to sacrifice. They could have been charging too much for the sacrifices or treating them unfairly. They could be selling them substandard animals. Part of the sacrifice tradition was that the sacrifices were to be pure and without blemish. They were stealing from God’s people. They were stealing from Him. They were utilizing their advantage of location and ability to take advantage of others.

Our thought today comes in right here. While they may not have started out being “thieves”, this is where Jesus found them now. It became comfortable. It became easy. It might have started to become acceptable—to become their right. They lived here and these foreigners should pay to come here. Somebody had to get them the right animal. Is there anything wrong with making a little profit? “I have bills. I have a family to feed. I have needs.” You see how easy it is—how quick it is to slide down to that place. How easy it is for Jesus to find us there.

Jesus knew He had to do something radical. This was not a time to call together the Temple Better Business Bureau to discuss suspension options. It was not time to form a committee to discuss possible repercussions of dishonest trade franchises. It was time to clean house! I don’t know where God has found you, but there are times in my life where God has cleaned house within me. He has removed all of the stuff that I thought was so important and that I had made important. Like a dentist removing a cavity before putting in a filling, if you build on decay and sin, you will not have a sure foundation. Jesus started them down a “walk to renewal.”

Like starting any exercise program, it is never easy at first. You will get tired and frustrated. You will wonder if there are any results. You will constantly question your motivation and commitment. Renewal is a lot like that. It is not easy to start something new—to make a positive change. Ask someone who is losing weight! One of the most frustrating experiences in weight loss is that healthier foods are more expensive and harder to find than unhealthy foods. Forging a new path through the forest can sometimes come with consequences. You may have to change who you associate with and where you like to go. You may have to try new things and make greater sacrifices. Your family may not understand, and your friends probably will not.

“Walking to renewal” must be your choice. You must initiate it. God has promised us support and help. He has sent His Spirit to convict, comfort, and guide us through this and the rest of our lives. Will you make a covenant with Him today?