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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

When God does a full reinstall

Well, I’m hoping it’s going to be easier than last week’s blog. I’m talking about my Mac, so very slow last Friday. Writing my blog probably took twice as long as normal – so very frustrating, watching the Apple spinning wheel of death as my screen froze yet again. Later I did contact Apple support, but again such was the sluggishness of my Mac that we effectively ran out of time. The truth is that I’m not sure my ancient MacMini (now seven years old) can handle the latest Monterey operating system. Anyway, yesterday afternoon I decided I had little choice but to do a full reinstall, that is to delete the hard drive, upload a new operating system and then rely on Time Machine to upload all the material which I had just deleted. It’s called tough love. It sounds scary and sometimes things can go wrong which the YouTube tutorials don’t tell you about – but the main drawback is that the whole process takes time. It took ten hours but that was overnight. Then another half hour or so sorting out passwords – and hopefully we are now back to normal. I must say it’s looking okay at the moment, reasonably fast with good access to Google. However, I am reluctant to say it’s as good as new – I’ve been hurt too many times. All I can say is that “We’ll see!” I recall years ago reading how becoming a Christian is just like a having a full reinstall. Just like putting your magnetic tapes into a special cabinet which will then instantly wipe them clean, your sins deleted for ever. True, but staying with the metaphor, what happens to everything else in your life? Is that deleted too? And certainly becoming a Christian can feel like a complete reinstall. After all, doesn’t the apostle Paul say that when “anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). However, we need to remember that he is writing to a church where there were huge problems, even to the extent that their meeting together did more harm than good. Certainly to surrender to Christ means a whole new ball game. There is a change of ownership, as the apostle highlights in another epistle to another struggling church: “For (God) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” (Colossians 1:13). Furthermore we have changed sides in a cosmic battle where the cross of Jesus has proved to be the defining victory, a victory which he shares even with us. “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57) And when we choose to follow Christ we enjoy a new status, even to the extent that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1). The problem is that like my old MacMini we cannot enjoy the full benefits of a new operating system – for I am still me and I can still sin, quite easily in fact. Sadly over the years I have come across new Christians, delighted in their new relationship with God, have fallen, even fallen away altogether through discouragement. They did not expect old problems deep-seated in their personalities to re-emerge with such force. I remember talking to a young Christian who proudly told me that he no longer sinned. He needed to be put right: what the apostle Paul calls “sound teaching.” Sadly I don’t think he would have taken any notice me, as an Anglican sold out to the system. I wonder where he is today. The truth is that the Holy Spirit needs time to renew us, to make us like Christ. We are too fragile, our personhood too delicate for an immediate reinstallation, to become perfect in an instant. Like last nights’ reinstallation, it takes time. Certainly when counselling new Christians I invariably warn them against the spiritual flak which they will inevitably encounter. Life even can get harder. After all we are on a battlefield – which is the main theme of the New Testament book I am currently reading, Revelation. So the writer introduces himself: “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus.” (Revelation 1:9) However, our main problems are invariably within us, often the damage caused by the sins of others, particularly in our formative years. But the good news is that God has begun his project of renewing us and unlike me and my Mac, he knows what he is doing. So like the apostle Peter, we need to learn how to fall and get up again, repeatedly. Certainly we refuse to be discouraged by our failings and weaknesses; they come as no surprise. They may be a problem to us but not to God. More to the point, we refuse to be discouraged by the failings and weaknesses of other Christians. God’s grace abounds, above our judgment and criticism. Just make sure you have no plank in your eye, says Jesus. I’ve always been hugely impressed by George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilisation. For him mission is messy, hence his book Messiology. He writes: "Failures for the believer are always temporary. God loves you and me so much that he will allow almost any failure if the end result is that we become more like Jesus." For God declares, in the words of Magnus Magnusson, “I’ve started, so I’ll will finish.”

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