A New Creature in 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.”
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:
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.