New, not just improved

Published 6:06 pm Friday, September 16, 2016

From time to time I see a label on some product or see an advertisement giving reasons why some item should be included on our grocery list. It is not unheard of for them to include an inviting statement like this: “New and Improved.”

I suppose they have to be able to back up such a claim or else they run the risk of getting into trouble for false advertising, nevertheless, sometimes it takes a lot of imagination to identify what has made the product authentically new and improved. A new label might make it more appealing, but a mere surface change is not equivalent to real newness in a product.

Recently I took something that we no longer use and did some improvements that will make it useful again.

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We had an aquarium with several fish in it for many years. I enjoyed watching the fish swim about; occasionally one would expire and I would buy replacements. (Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed that the more I paid for fish the quicker they would die, while the inexpensive ones would thrive.) Eventually, after all the fish died out, I decided to take down the tank and all its apparatus. That left me with a small steel stand that the tank had rested on. Not wanting to dispose of it, I stored the stand away for awhile until I got a bright idea of how I could put it to another use.

My plan was simple: just attach a piece of wood to the top to convert it into a workbench. Like usual for me, nothing seems to go 100% flawless when I drag out the tools and go to work. While it took a little longer than I expected, I finally got my fish tank stand / workbench finished and ready for use. But the truth is, I did not make something new, I merely changed and improved something that was old. Even though the paint, wood and screws were all new, the main frame of the table was as old as ever; the inner parts remained unchanged.

It seems that too many view their faith experience as little more than a little improvement on the outside without any real internal change. Rather than a new spiritual life, all they know is the old one with some slight–and often temporary–improvements. But God’s spiritual plan is much deeper than that; He desires not just to improve us, but to transform us into newness through Him. Romans 6:4 declares the result of the powerful work of Christ in the lives of those who believe in Him: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (New International Version).

The spiritual newness that Christ produces in those who give their hearts to Him brings about a transformation that moves the individual from empty religion to a living faith in Him.

Empty religion can teach one how to follow a list of rules and requirements to achieve outward improvement, yet spiritual deadness remains. But living faith in Christ brings new spiritual life and the privilege of knowing God in a personal way and experiencing His love and nearness every day.

Have you trusted Christ to give you new spiritual life, or are you struggling just to improve your ways? Stop struggling and ask Him to do His transforming work in your heart. He wants you to be new, not just improved.