Out with the Old, In with the New
Out with the Old, In with the New
February 22, 2023 T 2 Peter 1:2-11
It’s time to hit the reset. It’s time for a bit of spring cleaning with our habits. It’s out with the old and in with the new. It’s time for a change of heart, to cooperate with God to receive a new set of habits. For He has granted us new life and godliness.
Why do we need this change? Quite simply, because the Lord wants YOU. He doesn’t want you faking faith. He doesn’t want your empty external actions. He doesn’t want your excuses. He wants your heart. He wants your devotion, your love. “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. Rend your hearts and not your garments” says the Lord. What prevents us sinners from returning to God isn’t always our actions. It’s our hearts – our loyalties, our affections, our desires.
Our hearts are corrupted by sin. Thus, our actions are suspect of true righteousness. Much like the actions of the Pharisees that Jesus warns us of, we need to make sure we don’t practice our faith for our own glory. We don’t seek attention in our merciful actions. We don’t seek admiration from others for our prayers. We don’t seek glorification from others through our Lenten fasts.
But our hearts would be just as corrupt if we never engaged in Christian practices. Because we sin by the things we do, and the things we leave undone. Empty prayer, fasts, worship, or devotion come from a corrupted heart. But no prayer, fasts, worship, or devotion, also comes from a corrupted heart.
Complacency is the great enemy of the Christian faith. Because we’re tempted to think that the way to avoid being hypocrites like the Pharisees is to NOT fast and pray. Yet, this isn’t what our Lord says. He says, fast in secret. Pray in secret. Do these things not for your glory. But do these to exercise your faith to trust in me!
There’s nothing we can do to shed ourselves of this corruption. Even after Christ calls us as His own, there’s a tension between the old man and the new man. Our sinful nature wants to hold on to the old habits, the old way of being. Heck, we even want to call it good! And the world calls it being “true to who YOU are.” But it’s much harder to be who Christ has called YOU TO BE! Engaging in the habits of the Holy Spirit is difficult. Because the old man needs to be dragged along kicking and screaming. Paul speaks of these difficulties and tensions of the new life in Romans 7 :15 when he says, “I do not understand my own actions. I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
Since our hearts are corrupted by sin, we call to remembrance the goodness of God’s mercy. And that’s really what we do here on Ash Wednesday. But before we remember God’s mercy, we first remember who we are. We are dust, and to dust we shall return. Our sinful, corrupted, rebellious hearts lead to temporal and eternal death. We recognize our need for Christ and His life-giving power. In our humility then, God works on our lowly hearts.
He removes our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh. God says in Ezekiel 36, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.” God works to make you a new creation, with new desires, and new habits!
In the epistle reading tonight, Peter explains that God’s gift of new life aren’t meant for just after we die. Rather, God’s divine power works through the promises He gives through His Son, so that we might become partakers of the divine nature NOW. Which, surely we do! In the Lord’s Supper! We eat and drink the flesh of the incarnate God! This is how the Lord comes to us and puts Himself in us, that through Him, our hearts might be renewed.
For through His divine power given to us in our baptism, He’s granted us ALL THINGS pertaining to the new life we’ve been called to! There’s nothing that we lack! So now, we should make the appropriate response to God. Our response would be to heed God’s call and flee from the corruption of this world.
God gives the growth to do so! Peter lists the new practices God instills in us by faith. He says – “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” A corrupted heart doesn’t seek to increase in knowledge or practice. But Peter warns us of what will then happen – you will be ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ Jesus. Whoever lacks these qualities will eventually go blind and forget that they were cleansed of your former sins!
But we shouldn’t confuse this with salvation by works. Because it isn’t our own obligation to grow in these things by OUR strength. These works aren’t self-generated by our corrupted hearts that strive for peace with God. Rather, these practices are indicators that faith is live and active, not dead and fading. For as James says, faith without works is dead.
To engage in these practices to EARN something would be false righteousness, much like the Pharisees Jesus warns us against. Empty actions done to earn favor are corrupt before the Lord. The work of adding these virtues to faith does not earn believers an entrance into the kingdom, rather, these virtues help to ensure that the promise will be obtained.
You may or may not be growing in virtue, knowledge, self-control, godliness, or love. But God provides growth in these practices. He gives growth, leading us to rely upon His promises. Such a reliance is a faith that is rightly located in the righteousness of Jesus, the Lamb of God who’s death pays for the punishment of our sin and corruption.
Return to the Lord with an empty heart. Because He wants YOU! May God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work to refocus our faith and our hearts this Lenten season. For He has called us from blindness to sight, from giving free reign to sin, to new life with new habits. It’s time to be out with the old, and in with the new.
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