I’ve been in an old school kind of mindset lately. There was a southern gospel singer named Michael English, who sang this song called “In Christ Alone.” Last night as I was praying and getting ready for this message, I listened to that song again and some of the lyrics really stood out to me. They go like this,
“In Christ alone will I glory
Though I could pride myself in battles won
For I’ve been blessed beyond measure
And by His strength alone, I overcome
Oh, I could stop and count successes
Like diamonds in my hands
But these trophies could not equal
To the grace by which I stand
In Christ alone I place my trust
And find my glory in the power of the cross
In every victory let it be said of me
My source of strength, my source of hope is Christ alone
In Christ alone will I glory.”
As I was listening to that song, I was thinking, “Lord, that’s what it is! Whether it’s a victory or a loss, it doesn’t make a difference, because it’s in ‘Christ alone’ that I am still standing. It is in ‘Christ alone’ that I am still worshiping; that I’m still praising; that I am going forward. It’s in Christ alone. Nothing more and nothing less. My strength was not my own. My ability to do what I do is not my own. It comes from God and God alone. More and more, as each day passes, I realize, Lord, I need you. Every day, every hour, every minute, every second, every millisecond. So many times people wait until there’s a trial or tribulation, and then say, “Lord, I need you right here, right now.”
In reality, you need God just as much in the trials as you need God when you are walking on clouds, or walking on sunshine. There’s no, all of a sudden, I need God! Our attention to God may be different because we see our lives ‘in need,’ but that doesn’t mean that I need God anymore or any less in any minute of the day. I need God the same whether it’s in good times or bad times. Whether I’m going through a trial, or whether I’m going through a victory. I need God all the same.
I’d like to go back to a verse from the last devotion. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” If you are ‘in Christ,’ the first challenge is that the ‘old things have passed away. That is all the stuff you had in your life before Christ is long gone. The old you, gone. Whatever it is in your past that you may be trying to outrun, chase away, or get away from, this verse is saying that God is doing something new in you.
He says here, “the old passed away; behold, new has come.” I looked up the word ‘behold’ because that word really stood out to me. The word ‘behold’ doesn’t mean to just look. Whenever I read the word ‘behold,’ I always thought it meant, “look, pay attention,” but it doesn’t mean that. The root word means to ‘get a grasp of it’ or ‘to hold on to it.’ Yes, it means to look with your eyes, but it means more than just look. It means look, then get a grasp of it, and hold on to it. God is saying in this verse that you need to get a hold of this, meaning ‘your new creation.’ The word ‘behold’ is active, not passive. It is something you pursue. You need to hold it in your hands. Hold it in your heart. Hold it in your mind. Hold it in your spirit. Don’t let the enemy come and steal that from you. The verse says you need to hold on to this truth: that you are a new creation; the old things have passed away. God is doing something brand new in your life, and it can only be done through Christ alone.
As I thought and prayed about this, my prayer was, “God, what is it that you’re wanting for me to understand? What is it that is gone? That has passed away? The first thought in my heart was: “The past is gone.” That may be an obvious statement, but for some of us, who sometimes get stuck in the past, it’s a difficult thing to fully grasp. But it was more personal. God began to speak to my heart, “Oscar, the past is gone. That includes all the things that have been said about you. They’re gone.” When I was younger, people used to always tell me, “Oscar, you are such a scaredy-cat. You are scared of everything all the time. You’re always afraid to try new things. You’re afraid to be adventurous; to do anything daring at all.” So, I grew up thinking that I was this big old scaredy-cat, afraid to do anything.
When I first came to church, it was the ‘scared’ me. One Sunday, I had an encounter with Sister Carol. She used to always get me, that Sister Carol. I would just be minding my own business, and all of a sudden she would have a ‘word from the Lord’ and it would wreck my week. That Sunday, she came to me and I knew by the look in her eyes that the Lord had put a target on my forehead. I was minding my own business and she walked up to me and said,
”You know what, Oscar?”
I looked at her and said, “Yes, Sister Carol?
She said, “The Lord wants to use you to sing a song.”
Now, I had never sung a song in my entire life, you know; not up on stage. Not in front of people. Maybe in my room.
I grimaced and said, “I’m not a senior, and that is not gonna happen.”
Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” After I went home, Sister Carol’s words would not leave me. They stayed with me, and I was thinking, “I’m afraid of being in front of people. I’m afraid to talk in front of people. I’m shy. I hate going in front of people in the classroom. I hate talking in front of groups of people. I hate doing all that public stuff, so why would I sing?” But her words would not leave me, and I knew that I was being convicted by the Holy Spirit. I tried to rebuke God’s conviction. Those words would begin to speak to my heart, and I’d say “Nope devil! You’re a liar.” And the Holy Spirit would prompt me, “It’s not the devil. It’s me, and I’m telling you to do it.” I’d say, “Hold on! Nope, nope, nope, nope.” We don’t always know what God has in store for us. Sometimes those things we don’t want to do are getting us ready for something else in God’s plan for us. Finally, I just submitted to it and said, “Okay, Lord. I’ll give it a try.”
Well, I went up and I sang a song for the first time in front of the church. I probably sounded awful, but it was alright because God used it; he anointed it. It didn’t make a difference how I perceived it, but how God was receiving it. I was obedient, and God used it. The verse in Deuteronomy says ‘Be strong and courageous;’ don’t be a scaredy-cat. I overcame my fear in that moment and was blessed for it.
I’ve given you two verses in this devotion to chew on. Consider what it means for you to be ‘a new creature,’ and what ‘old things’ are (or should be) gone. In this devotion, there were three (3) important lessons for your life. (1) The maturity of our walk with Christ is dependent on our willingness to put our faith in Christ alone. He is ‘the author and finisher of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:2). (2) This is an ‘all of the time’ relationship with Jesus, and not just a ‘when I need help’ relationship with Jesus. To be a ‘new creature’ you have to walk away from the ‘old things’ — let them go. (3) One effective tool of the devil is fear. God may have bigger plans for your life that are dependent on your developing skills and abilities that you don’t have — and more, maybe don’t want! But if you feel that ‘conviction’ or prompting in your spirit, you need to accept the calling. Because no matter what, God ‘will never leave nor forsake you.’
God bless you and keep you. ~OS