This is an extract of the Sermon from my home church for our Lunar New Year Service,

The Lunar New Year is an important festival for the Chinese, and often we would hear many typical greetings such as “恭喜发财” (May you make a fortune) some kids may even say “红包拿来” (Surrender your red packet now). But as Christians, we usually greet each other “新年快乐”(Happy New Year) or even “福杯满盈” (May your cup overflow (Ps 23:5) ).

Indeed the new year is a special time for reflection for Spring is the time where everything is renewed. So as the world is slowly renewing itself, let us strive for renewal in our faith.  But how do we renew our faith?

Putting Off Our Former Conduct

Paul once told the church in Ephesus

But you have not so learned Christ,
  if indeed you have heard Him and
  have been taught by Him, as the
  truth is in Jesus:  that you put off,
  concerning your former conduct,
  the old man which grows corrupt
  according to the deceitful lusts,” – Paul (Eph 4:20-22)

Paul told us to put off our old man, for it is an old man that grows corrupt according to deceitful lust. The New year is the time for new resolutions, I believe all of us have make certain resolutions with regards to our lives, but have we made a resolution with regard to our spiritual journey?

Most people in the eastern hemisphere will take the chance during the lunar new year to get rid of old things at home and to buy new replacements. In the past, we would save up new clothes to be worn in the new year as we visit our relatives.

In the same attitude, Paul reminds the church in Ephesus

This I say, therefore, and testify
  in the Lord, that you should no
  longer walk as the rest of the
  Gentiles walk, in the futility of
  their mind, having their understanding
  darkened, being alienated from
  the life of God, because of the
  ignorance that is in them, because
  of the blindness of their heart
  who, being past feeling, have 
  given themselves over to lewdness,
  to work all uncleanness with
  greediness.“- Paul(Eph 4:17-19)

Paul described the Gentiles as having their understanding darkened. For they are unable to see this vanity, and they are unable to find satisfaction in life. For even if you own the entire world, it would only satisfy for a short while. Soon we would crave for something more.

King Solomon once told us that life on earth is Vanity and there is nothing new under the sun. For those who lead their life without God would always feel that life could never be satisfied. Since we often tell ourselves that life is just about going to school, getting a job, establishing a family and to gain status and fame. He describes all these as vanity and grasping for the wind. Ironically man spent most of his time chasing after them.

Many Christians felt the same before they started to follow Christ, for only when we accept the words of God, then they realise that it is the bread of life. That is when they feel contented in their heart and they no longer have their understanding darkened

Letting Go Of Our ignorance

That is why Paul describes a person that is alienated from the life of God as a result of ignorance. For only those who know God would want to seek him, those who are ignorant would not seek God. All they could see is the thing that lies before their eyes. They are only able to see what is temporary and not what is eternal.

Those who are ignorant of the word of God will tend to choose their own standard of morality. They believe that as long as they do not kill or hurt people they are good. But by God’s standard no one is righteous. Only by following the word of God can they depart from darkness.  If a man a far away from God, he can never follow the will of God.

That is why Paul reminds us “But you have not so learned Christ,” – Paul( Eph 4:20)

Sometimes when we look at our world and we wonder, “Why are there so much problem in the world?”

That is because man follows his own standards and he tries to define what is good and right in his own eyes. Every man had his own standards of morality, what seem to be acceptable to one may not be acceptable to another. If there are no standards and rules, how could one make peace with one another?

Putting Off Our Old Man

That is why Paul tells us to put off our old character and put on our new man. Paul wrote

“and that you put on the new man
  which was created according to God,
  in true righteousness and holiness”- Paul (Eph 4:24)

If we want to put on this new man, we must be prepared to put off our old man. To allow the new man that is created according to the word of God to take form within us. This image of God is one that had true righteousness and holiness.

For if we continue in our old character, we will run into many problems. Those who are often given to wrath suffer from bad health. It often leads to suffering of the people around us. Those who often have pride will often boast of their past glory and his past success. They will focus only on themselves and their selfish conduct will bring pain and hurt to others around them.

If one were to follow the word of God and be a new man. If we allow the new man to grow within us. If we allow the word of God to be our standard and to follow them in our daily interaction with others. We would find that we would be happier and there will be less problems.

For Paul once wrote to the Corinthians saying

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
  he is a new creation; old things
  have passed away; behold, all
  things have become new.”- Paul (2 Cor 5:17)

Paul said that we are all new creation in Christ, our old self had passed away and became renewed. But the question is “How can we be a new creation?” In the past, we are people without hope, but it is through the blood of Christ that we put off our old man. In the past in the garden of Eden, man had the image of God, that image was lost when man sinned against God.

It is through the sacrifice of Christ at the point of Baptism where we have our sin forgiven and we regain that image which Adam lost. But we know that after our baptism, we would continue to sin in our lives and fall short of the standard of God. That is why we need to lead a life of Spiritual nurture. We need to put in the effort to continue on the path we have chosen to take.

Pt 1: Entering Into The Word Of God

That is why the first step of our renewal involves entering into the word of God. For Jesus is the truth and he came to save us from sin. In order to be a new man we ought to abide in his words and enter into his truth.

For the word of God is mighty and is able to change us. We have all read the sermon of the mount recorded in Matthew 5-7. It teaches us the basis of what to do in order to enter into the truth of God. It talks about what must one do to be part of Gods Kingdom and how we could enter the Kingdom of God. One of the main points from the sermon on the mount is to tell us that change must start from our hearts.

There is a stark difference between the Old Testament and the New. In the law of Moses, a sin is only regarded as a sin when the people took action. For example, a murder counts as a murder when a man is killed. But in the new testament, the thought of murder and adultery is regarded as sin.

In order to enter the word of God. We must focus on our hearts, and if we are changing from within it would be reflected so that others would see. Sometimes we are unable to change because we carry too much of our own burdens and baggage within us. In every new year, we renew our surroundings by getting rid of things we do not want and cleaning up the house.

Likewise, we must renew our hearts and minds by allowing the word of God into our heart. We need to allow the word of God to change us, and the word of God must never stop as just mere head knowledge. It must be kept in our heart and shown in our actions. Only then can one enter into the word of God and experience God.

Pt 2: To Enter Into The Love of God

Paul talks about another aspect of Renewal that we ought to take note

“but, speaking the truth in love,
may grow up in all things into
  Him who is the head—Christ—”- Paul (Eph 4:15)

We need to practice the love of God. Paul specially talks about speaking the truth in love.  It tells us that love must be foundation of the truth. Truth cannot be determined by mere human emotion. For our human emotions will not help us to enter into the love of God. Love that is built upon the words of God is one that endures forever.

A New man must enter into the love of God. That love is one that is built on truth, it is pure and unconditional. Just as Jesus describes in the sermon on the mount

“But I say to you, love your enemies,
  bless those who curse you, do good
  to those who hate you, and pray for
  those who spitefully use you and
  persecute you” – Jesus (Matt 5:44)

This verse also tells us that one of the requirements from Jesus is to forgive others. We know it is hard, but yet we know it is a requirement. That is why Jesus reminds us to pray for our enemies. We remember that Jesus did it when he was on the cross when he said

“Father, forgive them, for they do
  not know what they do.” – Jesus (Lk 23:34)

Perhaps in the previous year there are many people who had offended us. But can we on account of God, forgive those who had hurt and offend us in the new year? But if we resolve to enter into the love of God we must try our best to forgive and to move on.

Pt 3: To Enter Into The Spirit of God

There is one more aspect of renewal to consider.

We need to be renewed in the spirit and to have a change in our lives. For when the Holy Spirit is here he will change us and renew us in our spirit. For the Holy Spirit is power from God.  For Jesus told his disciples before he ascended to heaven.

“But you shall receive power when
  the Holy Spirit has come upon you;
  and you shall be witnesses to Me
 
in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and
  Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”- Jesus (Acts 1:8 )

The Holy Spirit is power from on high. For Jesus knows our weakness and we cannot overcome the flesh by our own might. That is why he poured the Holy Spirit into us to be our counsellor and guide to renew us and change us so that we would become the new man.

It would be difficult for us to follow the word of God by our own strength. But if we keep the word with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will become our bread of life and add power onto us. The Holy Spirit can help us put off our old man.

For whenever we pray to God in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will intercede for us to God. Those who are filled with the Holy Spirit will be renewed by the power of God. The Holy Spirit will lead us to the truth. He will guide us and bring to our mind the words of God.

If we allow it to move us, we can be changed into the new man

Conclusion

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
  he is a new creation; old things
  have passed away; behold, all
  things have become new.”- Paul (2 Cor 5:17)

We are all children of God and Jesus had purchased us with his blood. That is why we ought to hold on to him and to be renewed in our lives.  Paul had told us to put off our old man and to be renewed into a new creation.

We have covered three aspects of this renewal. Let us make the resolve to be renewed as we begin year 2016.

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