by Jefferson David Tant
“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (II Corinthians 5:17).
The apostle Paul reminds his readers of something that we all need to keep in mind, and that is when we are baptized into Christ, we become a new person. We change our thoughts, our habits, our action, and our very lives.
We are aware that children who are raised by godly parents and who are baptized at a young age may not have to make any big changes in their lives, but many do not learn about Christ or decide to obey him until they are adults. They may have many behaviors that need to be changed as they look to the future. I am afraid that I have known too many who try to blend their former sinful lives with their new lives in Christ. Paul gives the admonition that we need to put away any questionable practices and focus forward to a new life in Christ.
I was reminded of Paul’s admonition when I came across the picture on the right. This shows the 1899 “Horsey Horseless.” This was when transitions were being made from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles. Some manufacturer thought it would help riders feel better about the change, so he built a motor-driven vehicle with a large fake horse head at the front. The hollowed horse’s head was used to store gasoline (a bit dangerous). His attempt to blend the old with the new didn’t go over very well, as you might imagine.
In my work in Jamaica, I have learned many “lively choruses” that they love to sing. The words of one are “Things I used to do, I will do them no more. I will keep them no more. Things I used to say I will say them no more,” etc. Consider some things of which we need to be mindful.
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6).
It used to be that crude words were not permitted in movies, on the radio, or on the TV. Those days are long gone. People were shocked that the 1939 movie “Gone With the Wind” had the star Clark Gable uttering a profane word.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16).
When we are around our neighbors, co-workers, schoolmates, and friends, is it obvious to them that we are different? A light that is turned on is obvious to anyone who has eyes to see. In the same way, the conduct of a Christian should be so obvious to others that they know there is something different about that person.
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’" (I Corinthians 15:33).
“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed" (I Corinthians 5:6-7).
Obviously, this does not mean that we cannot associate with people of the world, else how would we ever have an influence on them to lead them to Christ? But who are our closest companions, our dearest friends? Who do we spend most of our spare time with?
This is especially important concerning our children, who are at a stage in life when they are developing their habits and character. Parents need to be watchful as to whom their children’s close friends are. But they don’t need to be so careful that they don’t want their children to spend much time even with other young Christians. Some parents shelter their children so much that they don’t really have any close friends, not even other young Christians.
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you’ (Matthew 6:33).
What is your goal in life? To achieve fame, wealth, accomplishments, education? Obviously, there are some worthwhile goals, but there is one primary goal that far surpasses all the others, and that goal is heaven. We remember the story of the rich man in Luke 12:19-21 who really worked hard to increase his material wealth, but things didn’t turn out very well for him.
“And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."' "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' "So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
Yes, we need to work to provide for our food and clothing, etc., but that must be kept in second place with respect to our life’s goals and achievements.
In all matters in life, we have to make a choice between the things of this world or the things of heaven. One must take the preeminence. We cannot blend them as equals any more than the man who tried to blend the horse and the automobile. It didn’t work very well.