PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “EMBALMING THE OLD MAN / EMBRACING THE NEW MAN.”
By: Ron Woodrum
Charles Swindoll, in his book The Grace Awakening, tells a humorous story that was told by the late J.Vernon McGee during one of his preaching assignments in Chafer Chapel at Dallas Theological Seminary. This is what Swindoll shares, “I remember sitting in Chapel as Dr. McGee was waxing eloquent on Romans 6. He told the story of a lady who lived in the Deep South and had a close relationship with her childhood sweetheart. She fell in love and ultimately married him. Their life together was not perfect, but it was rewarding. There was faithfulness and there were times of joy. This continued for years, until he was suddenly taken from her side with a heart attack. Not being able to part with him visible, she decided to have him embalmed, put in a chair, sealed up in a glass case, and placed immediately inside the front door of their large plantation house. Every time she walked through the door she would smile and say-‘Hi John, How are you?’ Then she would walk up the stairs. Things rocked along as normally as possible month after month. There he sat day after day as she acknowledged his presence with a smile and friendly wave. A year or so later she decided to take a lengthy trip to Europe. It was a delightful change of scenery. In fact, while in Europe she met a fine American gentleman who was also vacationing over there. He swept her off her feet. After a whirlwind romance, they got married and honeymooned all over Europe. She said nothing of ol’John back home on the farm. Finally they traveled back to the States. Driving up the winding road to her home, he decided-This is my moment to lift my bride over the threshold and carry her back in her home-this wonderful place where we will live together forever! He picked her up, bumped the door open with his hip and walked right in. He almost dropped his bride on the floor! ‘Who is this?’ ‘Well it is John. My old man from’…He is history…he is dead!’ The new husband immediately dug a big hole and buried her former old man in it, case and all.”
That is exactly what Christ has done. However, without realizing the effect, many Christians put the old man in a case and greet him every morning and cater to him every day of their lives! We live as if the “old man” is alive, even though the Bible says that we are dead to him, since Calvary. He has no right to be in our conscious thinking. We serve a New Master who has walked us across the threshold, who has awakened us to a new life, new love, and new relationship, and entirely different future. But we still struggle with how to break the habit of thinking of and catering to the old man and start enjoying fully the benefits of our new relationship with Him.
C.S. Lewis talked of doing just that, when in Mere Christianity, he illustrated this truth in his analogy about the Tin Soldier. Lewis says, “Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning his tin into flesh. Suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh. All he sees is that the tin is being spoiled. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He is an obstinate soldier. To be obstinate is to be stubborn, and the tendency of humankind toward God is extreme stubbornness. The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God…the natural life in each of us is something self-centered, something that likes to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives…and especially it wants to be left to itself: to keep well away from anything better or stronger or higher than it, anything that might make it feel small…it knows that if the spiritual life should get hold of it, all its self-centeredness and self will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth an nail to avoid that. Yet the Second Person…the Son, became human Himself…a real man of particular height, weighing so many stone, with hair of a particular color, speaking a particular language…becoming not only a man, but before that a baby, and before that a fetus. Think how you would like to become a crab or a slug. The result was that now you had one man who really was what all men were intended to be: one man in whom the created life allowed itself to be completely and perfectly turned into the begotten life…He choose an earthly career that involved the killing of His human desires at every turn-poverty, misunderstanding from His own family, betrayal by one of His intimate friends, being jeered and mishandled by the authorities, and executed by torture. And then the Man in Christ rose again: not only the God, The whole point is just that! For the first time we saw a real man. One tine soldier-real tin soldier. By the same Spirit that transformed Him He longs to transform us, to become alive, splendidly real and alive”. Time to bury the old man. Time to yield the old tin flesh and put on the transforming glory of the risen Christ. II Corinthians 3:18 tells us that “we behold with unveiled faces the Lord, and are transformed from glory unto glory”…tin to transform…enjoy the process…it is glory! Well glory!