Who doesn’t like new things?!? I know I do.
I love the way new cars smell. I love the first time I wear a new outfit. I love breaking through the packing tape on the amazon box on my front step.
I love seeing things I’ve never seen before. I love new years, new workouts, new restaurants, new binge-worthy tv shows.
Admit it. You do too.
Even those of you who love yard sales and thrift stores and hand-me-downs and Facebook marketplace love those items because they are “new to you!”
What about a new you?
I think its safe to say that most of us want to not only have new things, but actually be new too.
Its why there are new years resolutions, and new diet fads, new self-help books and talk-shows and support groups based on everything from pet ownership to personality type.
Over the course of this next month we’re going to be wrestling with what actually makes us into someone new.
Something new that lasts. And the truth is, it’s not the answer we want.
In Pastor Vijay’s message this week he gave us a new definition to a familiar word that is a key component of our newness.
The word is resilience.
Resilience: going through something hard to become something new.
And if you are anything like me you are already bristling at this definition.
Maybe you’re having the internal argument of
“That may be necessary for some people, but I’m sure that I can become someone new without the ‘something hard’, thank you very much…”
Or is that only me?
This week, lets begin to wrestle with what we need to become someone new.
Day 1: Fresh Ears
Read: Hebrews 1:1-3
Watch: Bible Project video until 4:50
It would be fair to argue that 2 of the most important things about a letter is who it is addressed to and who wrote it. Without this info it becomes super hard to know how to take the rest of the contents. When the credit card company sends a letter with its branding all over it offering to increase your credit limit its pretty specific about who its from and who the offer is for.
In most of the epistles (letters) in the New Testament the author and recipient is clear – Paul writing to the church in Corinth, the church in Philippi, to his friend and co-worker Timothy, etc. So sometimes we can read those letters and excuse ourselves from the implications.
I mean, the letter wasn’t really addressed to me, after all.
But the book of Hebrews is different.
We aren’t completely sure who wrote it. And the only thing we know is it was written for people who were trying to follow the way of Jesus through adversity and difficulty and persecution. That right there is a gift.
Because that means this letter is addressed to you. To me. WE are the recipient. And we don’t get to excuse or qualify or contextualize what it says.
We need fresh ears to hear these words, to read this message and take hold of both the encouragement and exhortation within it.
So let’s listen today with fresh ears.
In what ways do you find yourself skimming or watering down or even outright rejecting God’s refining work in your life?
This could look like listening to sermons and applying it to other people, or moving past difficult passages as you read scripture, or not inviting wise counsel into your decision making. Don’t worry, we all do it. But we want to be someone new, right? So be honest.
Talk to God about it. Confess your tendencies and ask him for new ears to hear His words to you. Ask Him what He wants to develop in you and take the time to listen.
Day 2: Opened Eyes
Read: Hebrews 1:1-14
Maybe this passage seems almost silly to you.
Like, duh, of course Jesus is “better than” the angels. Because, honestly, how often do we even contemplate angels?
Most of us probably only think of them at Christmastime chatting with the shepherds or surprising the ladies on top of the stone outside Jesus’ empty tomb at Easter.
But don’t forget, Angels are a big deal.
Before Jesus lived and died and rose again, it was the angels (and the prophets) who were tasked with doing God’s work here on earth – and that included delivering messages from God to his people (remember the video from yesterday?)
This gave the angels pretty special status. And because humans tend to succumb to hero-worship, angels unintentionally gathered their own fan club.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Who are God’s messengers today?
Well, Angels. They are still around, you know. And prophets. And pastors.
And other followers of Jesus who are filled with the Holy Spirit who write and preach and teach and counsel.
And there’s God’s word. The Bible.
So how often do we rely on, esteem, value someone else’s wisdom and words and interpretations for help to understand or guide us,
instead of looking first to Jesus?
Jesus – who we can directly hear from, look to, be with, revel in His wisdom and comfort?
To become someone new we need opened eyes to gaze upon “the radiance of God’s glory”.
Who’s fanclub are you the president of? Who do you have on a pedestal or rely on to be the voice of God in your life?
Or put it another way: if something terrible suddenly happened, who would you reach out to first?
Don’t worry! There is no shame or condemnation when you answer – remember good friends, family, 911 and google are all God’s gifts to us.
But – be honest – do you look to those people/books/websites before looking to Jesus when you need help?
Hebrews 1:10-12 quotes a portion of Psalm 102.
Read that passage (Psalm 102) and rewrite it as your own prayer.
The author recognized that all the earthly wisdom and solutions and stuff would whither away but that the Lord will remain the same and His years will never end. Before you begin ask the Holy Spirit to give you new eyes to see what God has for you as you read and rewrite this passage as a prayer.
Day 3: A Big Brother
Read: Hebrews 2
I always wanted an older brother. I’m the oldest kid in my family and I had this romantic notion of what it would be like to have a protective older brother who would go before me, clearing the way and advocating for me…beating up any guys that broke my heart. In my mind he looked like AC Slater, mullet and all (that’s a Saved by the Bell reference, btw). Anyone else relate?
I know, some of you have older brothers and what I just described was NOT your experience. I get that. Romantic notions rarely reflect reality.
Except in this case.
Because you DO have an older brother who has gone before you.
You have someone who totally gets you, never judges you, is there to comfort you and will never leave you.
And best of all – He is the perfect picture of resilience! He knows was it means to endure hard things and NOT become hard.
It says in Heb 2 “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest…because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
This means we have a big brother who can help us become the someone new we long to be.
Begin by closing your eyes and taking 3-4 deep breaths.
As you breath in, say/whisper “Jesus”. As you breath out, say/whisper “show me”.
Picture yourself in your favourite place. Somewhere you feel safe and comfortable and happy. It maybe at a cottage or on your front porch or on a hiking trail. Maybe its in your bed or on an airplane going someplace. Wherever it is it should be a place you feel secure and relaxed.
Now look for Jesus. Where is he? Wherever he is go to him and have a seat next to him. You want to have a chat.
Ask Jesus if there an area of your life that you are succumbing to worry or doubt or fear or sin. Take your time, don’t rush. Quiet your mind so that you can hear from Him. Listen.
When He has pointed something out, ask Him to show you how He understands what you are going through.
Remember, he was like you “in every way” but without sin. This means He was tempted to succumb to those very things. Invite Him to share His heart with you.
Listen to Him and don’t rush. Enjoy his faithful presence, and take note of his posture towards you. Ask any questions you might have, ask for his help. Be specific.
Try not to rush, but when you are finished thank Him for His kindness and mercy.
Day 4: Soft heart
Read: Hebrews 3:1-19
This passage refers to the 40 years the Israelites, God’s people, wandered in the wilderness because of their disobedience. (For a refresher read Numbers 13 & 14)
It says that the testing in the desert hardened their hearts and they stopped trusting in God and His promises. Their sinful, unbelieving (the author’s description, not mine) hearts caused them to forget all the ways the Lord had come through for them in the past and they began to trust in themselves and their own ways.
This is the essence of what we are studying – how can we endure, even thrive, during testing so that we become something new, instead of something hard?
There is a clue for us in verse 13. Have a look.
“But encourage one another daily…”
the ESV says “but exhort on another daily…”
It seems to me that a new, soft heart is cultivated in the midst of difficulty by one another.
We can’t do it on our own.
We need others to remind us of God’s goodness, to gently call out our cynicism and proneness to follow our own ways. We need someone to laugh and cry and celebrate and lament with us – all while pointing us back to God daily.
Reflect and Pray:
1. Do you have a somebody to encourage and exhort?
If yes – write them a note, line up a coffee or a walk, give them a phone call and ask them how they are doing.
If not – talk to Jesus about it. Ask Him to help you see who in your life could be that person.
Commit to praying for this person over the next week as the Spirit leads and share with them any insights God gives you if it is appropriate.
2. Do you have someone who encourages and exhorts you?
If yes – write them a note thanking them for they way they pour into your life.
If not – talk to Jesus about it. Ask Him to help you see who that person could be in your life and have the courage to ask them to do that for you.
Commit to praying for this person over the next week – and see what happens!
Day 5: A New Way
Read: Hebrews 4:1-13
So if you are someone who has attended church for a while you’ve probably heard of the word “Sabbath”.
For the most part it isn’t something the general population talks a lot about. Probably the word is most associated with Judaism or maybe as the root of the word “sabbatical”. I think it is safe to say that most people would not immediately equate Sabbath with rest.
Most of us think of rest as vacation. Time off of work. And if not full-on vacation, its flopping on the couch at the end of the day or afternoon naps.
If we’re honest, we may even associate rest with weakness.
But what we see in the passage we read today is that rest is a key component of resilience.
In fact, we don’t become “someone new” without it.
There are plenty of authors more eloquent and learned than I who have written about rest and God’s design for Sabbath – I’m happy to recommend some.
But it struck me today that ignoring this God-modelled and designed rhythm is sin. Plain and simple.
Not resting is in direct opposition of our desire to become someone new.
It is in direct opposition of God’s design.
It is, as it says in verse 6, disobedience.
So if we want to be in right relationship with God, if we want to grow and change and become all He has designed us to be, we must rest.
Verse 13 says that “Nothing in all of creation is hidden from God’s sight.”
That means He sees us running ragged. He sees us trading life-giving opportunities to use our gifts and talents with mind-numbing activities that we think is restful but in reality drains us.
To become someone new, we need a new way.
1. Have you ever considered not resting a sin? Does that change your perspective on the Bible’s teaching about Sabbath?
2. Does your weekly rhythm include a Sabbath rest? How can you make that happen?
3. This might seem crazy, but do you rest too much? Be honest. Is there anything to mark a difference between your regular days and your day of rest? Do you waste time or fill slots with mindless activities that could be draining you?
If you find it hard to rest, talk to God about it. Be honest about how this topic makes you feel and ask for His help.
If you have a good rhythm of rest this is your chance to thank God for it.
Make a list of all the things you know gives you rest and joy and peace and praise Him for creating them!