A New Creature in Christ

jesus_christ

I taught Relief Society again this past Sunday.  I felt as though the lesson went extremely well and was well-received.  I thought I’d share my lesson outline here.  I’m trying to capture what happened as much for myself as for you, dear readers, so forgive the length of this post.  🙂

I titled the lesson “A New Creature in Christ.”  We started by reading 2 Cor 5:17:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

I told the ladies to keep that scripture in mind while I wrote another word up on the board.  “This word,” I said, “is pretty loaded.  But I’m going to put it up there and I want to hear your reactions to it.”

PERFECTION

I got a bunch of groans.  Sisters raised their hands: “It’s impossible!”  “No one is perfect except God!”  “We’re all driving ourselves crazy trying to be perfect, but no one is, and it’s so frustrating!”

One sister raised her hand and said quietly, “You know, I have a different take on this.  I feel like, through the grace of Christ, we can be perfect.”

I smiled. “A woman after my own heart.”

Then we turned to Matt. 5:48:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

“So,” I asked, “is it possible to be perfect?”

“Well,” said a sister on the front row, “if the scriptures say it, I guess it is.”

“Exactly!” I replied.  “We just have to understand what ‘perfect’ really means.”  I went on to explain that I felt as though “perfect,” in this context, refers to a wholeness, a completeness, a ONE-ness with God.

Then I wrote another word on the board:

At-One-Ment

We turned back to 2 Cor 5 and read verses 18-19 this time:

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

We talked about the word reconciliation, and how Christ reclaims us for God, so that our sins are not counted against us.  Then I said, “If you have experienced the wholeness in Christ that comes through the atonement, you are reconciled to God and you ARE perfect in Him.”  I added, “And that means right this second, NOW, not 5 years from now or 20 years from now or a dozen millenia into eternity.  You are perfect in Him as you are. That is the miracle of the grace of Christ.”

The same sister who spoke up about grace before added a reference to Ezekiel 36:25-27:

Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.  A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

“Exactly,” I said.  “And who is doing the work here?”

“Christ,” said the sister.

We turned back to the title of the lesson and addressed this question: So what does all this have to do with becoming a new creature in Christ?

We talked about the second part of 2 Cor 5:17–where old things are passed away and all things are become new.  “What does it look like in a life,” I asked, “when Christ casts out the old and brings in the new?”

The sisters had a lot of ideas about that.  “You have more love!”  “More patience!”  “More self-respect!”

“Do you think every life will look the same?” I asked.

They agreed that each life, in fact, wouldn’t.

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, so I wanted to expound on that.  “I think sometimes, we want to control the way God remakes us.  But maybe He doesn’t want to fix the things we think need fixing in the order we want Him to fix it.  Maybe He wants to fix other things first.”  I referred briefly to Romans 9:20: Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

“Sometimes I think we say to God, ‘God, I don’t really approve of your timing here.  I told you I wanted THIS fixed, not that.’  But I think it’s safe to say God knows better than we do.

“Remember, we are being remade in the image of Christ, like it says in Alma 5–receiving His image in our countenances.  Let Him do it the way He wants to do it.”

I turned back to the board and pointed to the word “perfection.”   “Let go of your image of perfection, sisters,” I said.  “Let go of your image of the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect woman.  Instead, let Christ plant His image of perfection in you; indeed, His very image in your countenance.  And we’ll all look different.  We’ll all be different.”

Here I added a quote from C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity (the same quote I used last time I taught, but I can’t help it, I love it so much):

There is so much of Him that millions and millions of ‘little Christs,’ [because that’s what He’s making us, isn’t He? little images of Him], all different, will still be too few to express Him fully.

Then I bore my testimony.  I said: “I don’t throw the word ‘know’ around very often, because there is way too much I don’t know.  But I know, as well as I think a person can know something, that Jesus really will do this for us if we let Him.”

I struggled for two weeks to put this lesson together, but in the end, I think God gave me the words to say and I believe He sent His spirit to help magnify the teaching.  I think it got through to at least some of the sisters on some level, which is what I was praying for.  I’m glad I had the chance to teach this lesson.

About Katie L

A doubter by nature, a believer by grace.

Posted on November 3, 2009, in Mormonism, Personal, Thoughts on God and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Katie, I wish so much I could’ve been there. It sounds like it was a wonderful, enlightening experience for so many people. I loved this:

    “I turned back to the board and pointed to the word ‘perfection.’ ‘Let go of your image of perfection, sisters,’ I said. ‘Let go of your image of the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect woman. Instead, let Christ plant His image of perfection in you; indeed, His very image in your countenance. And we’ll all look different. We’ll all be different.’

    I also loved the C.S. Lewis quote. Can I borrow Mere Christianity from you if you own it?

    Thanks again for posting about your lesson!

  2. So I’m sitting here listening to the institute teacher tell us how we have to be perfect. I’m trying to remember your lesson. 🙂 Thanks, Katie.

  3. Excellent lesson!

  4. I am at a loss for words. That is an awesome lesson. Thank you so much for sharing!

    I love 2 Corinthinas 5! A side note on “reconciliation:” A less common definition is “to sit with again.” I love that angle in the context of 2 Cor. 5.

    Another angle I like is that “reconcile” is often used in the context of an undesired outcome. Because of our carnal nature, a Christ-like life is not what we naturally desire – until He changes us. Maybe it’s a stretch, but I think it is instructive.

  5. Amazing how arrogant people can become to entitle themselves to a gospel that they have not received. LDS have gotten utterly away from the distinction of the power of godliness rather than the abominations of men who fashion the many forms thereof.
    The entire purpose of the Restoration was to manifest the power of the gospel and defeat the many forms that men have invented. The LDS have invented now their own forms and have no guilt or compunction to be shy of taking for granted all the scriptures say. You sound just like the world.
    It is everlastingly inappropriate to liken the scriptures unto yourself when you have not accomplished like things.
    Matt 3:11
    Acts 1:4-5
    Acts 15:11-17
    2Ne.28-33
    Mosiah 3:13,19
    Mosiah 27:24-26
    3Ne 11,
    D&C 84:50-59
    Now go and do thou likewise Stop pretending to great things.

  6. Wow James.

    I think in the attempt to admonish someone else for being arrogant you have just sounded very proud yourself! 🙂 I can’t speak from the LDS position, but I would be cautious to judge the “gospel” that Katie speaks of here. As a born again Christian I “liken” the Scriptures to myself all the time! I believe that the Scriptures were written to people like you and me. In fact, John wrote regarding his gospel, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).

    I can’t say that I understand your perspective, but I think you should be slow to judge others for their understanding of the gospel. Just judging from the comment, it is quite possible that Katie has a better understanding of the gospel than you do!

    Stephanie

  7. James, I really don’t know what you’re talking about, but that’s okay. I’ve never had an extremist on my blog before, so I’m kind of happy about it! 😉

  8. I smell a troll…..

  9. Sorry I’m late… 😉 Seriously, just finally made it to your blog, Katie, and I’m glad I did! I may have to do some major plagiarizing if I ever get the chance!

    I love the idea that we need to let go our our idea of perfection and let Christ decide what it means for us to be perfected in Him!

  10. Well thanks Alex! Feel free to plagarize away. 🙂

    Merry Christmas!

  11. If I am ever asked to teach a lesson in Relief Society ;), I’m coming to this blog for material. Wow, beautiful lesson Katie!
    I feel like I found a kindred spirit when I read your posts. 🙂

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