Message of the Cross – Part 7

The Bible not only speaks of the Christian’s participation in the cross of Christ, but it also speaks of our having been raised with Him.

even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:5–6, NKJV)

buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12, NKJV)

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4, NKJV)

I believe the referencee to baptism in these verses does not speak of water baptism, but of the baptism of the Spirit in which the Spirit of God places us into the body of Christ. Being part of His body therefore, we have died, been buried and raised together with Him. The passage in Ephesians even says we have been made to sit together with Him in heavenly places. This is the way God sees it. And these truths are the ground of victory in our lives.

We need to reckon or count these statements as true regarding ourselves. We are no longer under the death penalty because that penalty has already been applied to those who believe. We are therefore on the other side of death and into the resurrection side so that, as Paul puts it, “we should walk in newness of life.”

Message of the Cross – Part 6

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5–11, NKJV)

The mind of Christ was such that even though He was God himself, He purposely and consciously took the form of a bondservant and stooped down to serve us, even to the point of death of the cross. As a result, God highly exulted Him and gave Him an exulted position such that every knee will someday bow to Him.

The challenge to us is to have this kind of mind. We are to have a mind to humble ourselves and to stoop to serve others. Since Christ died for all, then all should no longer live for themselves but for the one who died for them. “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:14–15, NKJV)

During this Easter season as we consider all the Christ has done for us to rescue us from condemnation, we should realize that we don’t belong to ourselves to live for our own agenda and own interests, but for God and others.

Message of the Cross – Part 5

knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” (Romans 6:6, NKJV)

As I mentioned in one of the previous articles, the Bible teaches us that if we have trusted in Christ, we have been placed into Christ. Since that is the case, God considers us to have died with Christ when He died on the cross.

In this passage, Paul writes that when that happened, our old man was crucified with Him. By old man he is referring to the old self. Some people call it the old nature. The Bible says that “if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. Old things are passed away and all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Our passage for today, Romans 6:6, tells us the purpose for this crucifixion of the old man – that the body of sin might be done away with. Some translations say that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, or made of no effect. The ultimate goal is so that we should no longer be slaves for sin.

What we as Christians need to do is to practice believing what God says is true. No matter how we feel about our sinfulness and the power of sin over us, the Bible says that our old man was in fact crucified so that the body of sin would be made ineffective so that we would not be a slave of sin. If we find ourselves in slavery to sin, it’s because we have voluntarily yielded to it, not because it has power or authority of us.

At this Easter season, let’s remind ourselves of what God says is true – our old self has been put to death.

Message of the Cross – Part 4

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, NKJV)

In this passage Paul gives us a very important truth about our relationship and oneness with Christ. Here, just as in Romans 6 and Colossians 2, Paul teaches us that we died with Christ. There are all sorts of practical implications in this truth. In this passage we see that since we have died with Christ, it is no longer we who live, but it is Christ who lives in us. As Jesus himself taught us that he is the vine and we are the branches. The life is in him.

As we live our life then we need to recognize that moment by moment our goal is to live out the life of Christ who lives in us. Our life is a life of faith in the Son of God, trusting him to live his life effectively out through us. Paul says it this way in his letter to the Corinthians: “and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15, NKJV)

I heard Kevin DeYoung quote John Calvin the other night. I think this is a fitting summary of this truth. Calvin said, “We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to our flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s: let us live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal.”

Message of the Cross – Part 3

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14, NKJV)

 

Paul’s focus on the cross was exceptional. In this verse he emphasizes that there is nothing to boast about except the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. That should be our focus as well. What is there to boast about in life? Anything we have has been given to us as a gift from God to be used for His glory (1 Cor 4:7).  We cannot boast that strengths and abilities come from inside of us because they were planted there by God.

 

Note also that the cross is a demarcation between us and the world. The cross is a turning point. Every true Christian was crucified with Christ on the cross and we have been raised with Him. At the cross the world was crucified to me and I to the world. The world should not have the kind of influence over us that it often does. John writes that if we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us (1 John 2:15).

 

The cross was a place of death and we need to recognize more and more that our death with Christ there means there is a decisive separation between us and the world system. That separation from the world and to God should be lived out every day in our walk of faith.

Message of the Cross – Part 2

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:13–15, NKJV)

We’re looking at the importance of the teaching about the cross from the instructions given in the New Testament epistles. So let’s examine this passage.

  1. We as gentiles (the uncircumcised) have been, as Paul says in another place, “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12, NKJV). Paul tells us in our passage that even though we were dead and outside the covenants and without hope, God has made us alive with Christ. Christians have gone through the resurrection with Christ (Eph 2:6). Great Easter news!
  2. God has forgiven all our trespasses! If you are a Christian, let your heart rest in this truth.
  3. And finally, here is where the cross is specifically referenced in this passage. “The handwriting of requirements that was against us” has been taken out of the way. What is that handwriting? I believe he is referring to the law which is constantly accusing us of our sin. That handwriting has been wiped out and taken out of the way. It has been nailed to the cross. Crucified! And in doing this, God has disarmed principalities and powers and made a spectacle of them in triumph. You know the passage that says that we wrestle against principalities and powers. These powers have been disarmed!

All of this through the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Message of the Cross – Part 1

I thought it would be helpful to my own spiritual growth to think through the truth of the cross and resurrection as expressed in the epistles of the New Testament during   this Easter season. Our passage for today is 1 Corinthians 1:17-25.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” “but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,”  (1 Corinthians 1:18,21,23, NKJV)

If you read through this passage in its entirety, here’s what you find the Apostle Paul saying.

  1. If the gospel is preached using the wisdom of words, the cross of Christ is made of no effect. In other words, we should rely on the truth of the cross and not the cleverness or creativity of our words to get the message across (vs. 17).
  2. Those who are perishing will find the message of the cross to be foolish and nonsensical. Only when God is saving someone will it make sense at all and that will be because God’s Spirit is at work opening up the truth to them (vs 18).
  3. The world cannot come to know God through its wisdom and way of thinking. God “stooped” (my word) to using a “foolish” (God’s word) message to save people (vs. 21).
  4. To those who don’t believe, the message of the cross is either a stumbling block or foolishness (vs.23).

We are called upon to believe the truth and preach it fearlessly in spite of the inevitable and unavoidable reaction of those who are perishing.  We can’t spice it up or decorate it in any way that will make it palatable to those who are perishing. Only God’s Spirit can break through and give understanding.

 

Sin & Forgiveness – Part 4

Now let’s look at 1 John 1 and then we’ll sum up this study. In 1 John 1:7 John says that if we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ continuously cleanses us from all sin. This is a description of believers. John had earlier said in verse 3 that our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 Paul asks what fellowship righteousness and unrighteousness can have with one another. The implication from the passage is that they cannot. But here John is saying we have fellowship with both God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. If we are to have fellowship with God or better if God is to have fellowship with us, we can’t be unrighteous. But why aren’t we unrighteous? Because we have been cleansed by the blood of Christ and our sins have been removed from us and the cleansing is ongoing and continuous.

So 1 John 1:7 is speaking of believers. If on the other hand, we walk in darkness, or deny that we sin, or deny that we have a sin nature, we are lost (1 John 1:6, 8, 10). So we’re not talking about two kinds of Christians here but the difference between believers and unbelievers.

In the middle of these verses we come to 1 John 1:9 which most of us are familiar with. In my opinion, this verse is primarily a verse contrasting believers with the unbeliever mentality mentioned in verses 6, 8, and 10. It is not primarily a verse about daily confession of particular sins. Please don’t read this statement as though I am saying we don’t need to confess sins. I’m not saying that. But this verse is primarily a verse that tells us the contrast between an unbeliever who doesn’t admit he is a sinner and the believer who confesses that he is a sinner.

If we walk with God in humility, acknowledging our situation as sinners, God is faithful and just to continuously forgive us of our sins and to continuously cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Notice the word “all”.  His forgiveness and cleansing are continuous. It doesn’t get applied to each particular sin but His blood stands as the continuous cleansing agent for all of our sins, past, present and future, recognized and unrecognized, thoughts, attitudes and actions. We walk in the blaze of his all-seeing holiness and we have fellowship with him because our sins have been removed from us.

Sir Robert Anderson said, “It is not in order that it may thus cleanse him that the believer confesses his sin; his only right to the place he holds, even as he confesses, depends on the fact that it does thus cleanse him.”

Jesus Christ is our advocate or attorney pleading our case continually because his blood is the propitiation (continual satisfaction before God) for our sins (1 John 2:1-2).

So we can see from Scripture that God has provided for every aspect of our sin problem. He accepts Christ as our head and sees us as saints rather than sinners. He resurrects our dead spirit and provides the motivation to follow him. And finally he completely and totally forgives and removes all of our sins on a continual basis based on the sacrifice and continuing advocacy of his Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Spurgeon writes:

“According to this gracious covenant (the new covenant of Hebrews) the Lord treats His people as if they had never sinned. Practically, He forgets all their trespasses. Sins of all kinds He treats as if they had never been; as if they were quite erased from His memory. O miracle of grace! God here does that which in certain aspects is impossible to Him. His mercy works miracles which far transcend all other miracles. Our God ignores our sin now that the sacrifice of Jesus has ratified the covenant. We may rejoice in Him without fear that He will be provoked to anger against us because of our iniquities. See ! He puts us among the children; He accepts us as righteous; He takes delight in us as if we were perfectly holy. He even puts us into places of trust; makes us guardians of His honor, trustees of the crown jewels, stewards of the Gospel. He counts us worthy, and gives us a ministry; this is the highest and most special proof that He does not remember our sins. Even when we forgive an enemy, we are very slow to trust him; we judge it to be imprudent to do so. But the Lord forgets our sins, and treats us as if we had never erred. O my soul, what a promise is this! Believe it and be happy.”

 

You may be thinking, “Yes, that’s all well and good but we do sin. How do we overcome this sinful tendency?” That’s a topic for another day. But the short answer is that as we live by faith in the truth of Scripture, and meditate on his Word, God’s Spirit will gradually make us more like Christ:

 

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

 2 Corinthians 3:18

 

Sanctification — growing in Christlikeness, including the desire for such growth are all part of what Christ purchased for us on the cross and provided in the New Covenant. He gives the new life and the desire to grow.

 

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Jeremiah 31:33

 

I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Ezekiel 36:27

 

for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13

 

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—  1 Corinthians 1:30 (Christ is our righteousness and our sanctification.)

 

Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?  Galatians 3:3 (The question expects an answer of “No”.)

 

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Sin & Forgiveness – Part 3

Finally we want to look at God’s solution to the sinning problem. We have looked at how God has solved our guilt in Adam and how he has changed our hearts so that we don’t have that old dead, fallen nature any more. But what to do about sins we commit. That is the problem we want to look at next.

First of all we have to believe God when he says that we have forgiveness of our sins (Ephesians 1:7), and that he has forgiven all our trespasses (Col 2:13). The Psalmist reminds us that as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12). Notice the word “from”. Our sins are removed from us. Mary’s baby was to be called Jesus because he would save his people from (there it is again) their sins. I think we have a huge problem believing what God is saying about our sins. I’m not speaking to the world here; I’m speaking to those who have trusted Christ as savior, those whom the Holy Spirit as regenerated through the Gospel. So I would like to look at this subject through some important teaching found in Hebrews 9-10 and then in 1 John 1. So first, Hebrews 9-10

The author of Hebrews tells us that the old sacrificial system, the Old Covenant could not make a person perfect with respect to conscience (Heb 9:9, 10:1). Now as we’ll see, the implication of his teaching is that what the Old Covenant could not do, Christ and the New Covenant could and would do. Therefore I conclude that there should be cleansing with respect to the conscience through the New Covenant.

Next the author tells us that Christ obtained eternal redemption for us through his sacrifice once for all (Heb 9:12). That means it was sufficient and does not need to be repeated. He goes on to say in verse 14 that his blood cleanses our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Dead works are those we try to do to make ourselves acceptable to God or to win his approval. In chapter 6 of Hebrews, the author had connected this with elementary teaching. Elemental principles are those of basic religion where people try to make God happy with them through endless human effort, ceremonies, rituals and penance. Even Christians do this. When they confess their sins, people sometimes don’t believe that God forgives them and so they try to do things to prove they are really, really sorry. If they can cry they will do that. They may put extra money in the offering or do extra works of penance so that God knows they really, really, really mean it. They may abstain from certain pleasures that aren’t sinful in themselves, but somehow it makes them feel as though they are proving a point to God. Paul, at the end of Colossians 2 tells us that these efforts don’t work in stifling our fleshly tendencies or in approving us to God. So the blood of Christ cleanses our consciences from the need to perform these sorts of deeds.

Hebrews 9:26 tells us that he came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. We need to understand that Jesus put away sin. He removed it. He even says of the people in the world, “that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). We need to remember that the whole point is for him to solve the sin question. He put way sin by the sacrifice of himself.

The author goes on in Hebrews 10 to tell us that if the old system had made the worshippers perfect, two things would have happened:  the sacrifices would have ceased (10:2), and  the consciousness of sin would have been removed (10:2).  But as it was, those sacrifices didn’t stop, and instead of solving the conscience problem, they actually made it worse by reminding people day after day that they were sinners because new sacrifices were required all of the time. And so the author concludes that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin (10:4).

But in contrast to that, the sacrifice of Christ has sanctified forever (10:10), and those who are sanctified have been perfected forever (10:14). So what the Old Covenant could not do, the New Covenant has accomplished. In fact he quotes from the New Covenant passages we studied earlier. And he summarizes with this amazing statement, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 10:17).

I take all of this to mean that if we keep resurrecting our sins in a way that is reminiscent of the Old Covenant we are acting in disbelief of what God has promised us in Christ. He put away sins by the sacrifice of himself and separated them from us and refuses to remember them or impute them to us (Romans 4:8).

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Sin & Forgiveness – Part 2

So what is God’s answer to the three-fold aspect of our sin and guilt? First we’ll look at the guilt we have because we sinned in Adam. Those who are in Adam (i.e. those who have been born human) are sinners, guilty and condemned because of the decision of their head, Adam (Romans 5:18). But, those who are in Christ (i.e. those who have been born again of the Spirit of God) are saints, righteous and alive because of the actions of their head, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:19 says, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”

Just as Adam’s sin makes us a sinner, Christ’s righteous obedience makes us a saint! How much of a sinner did Adam make you by his disobedience? Then more so Christ makes you a saint by his obedience. Don’t minimize this truth! Read the verses in the previous paragraph again. By one man came sin and death. By the other man came life. It just depends on who is your representative head. If Christ is your head then His vote to obey God counts for you. Thus God has dealt with the first aspect of our sin problem.

What is God’s solution to the perverseness and wickedness of our hearts? The question of being sinners is more related to the sin issue rather than the sins issue. First we find out in 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21 that we have been made new creatures in Christ. The old has passed away and all things have become new. We also learn that Christ became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Note that in this verse he doesn’t say Christ took our sins upon himself. It says that he became sin. In doing so it allows us to be the righteousness of God in him.

Since our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), they need to be completely replaced with a righteousness from outside of ourselves. Paul’s request is that he might be found in Christ not having a righteousness of his own, but a righteousness from God (Phil 3:9). The Bible teaches us that God’s righteousness is imputed, or placed on the record of those who believe God (Romans 4:5-8, 22-25). That means if we believe the record that God has given of his son, our filthy rags righteousness is replaced by the righteousness of God and credited to us as though we had been the one who actually obeyed perfectly.

We also learn in Scripture that Christ himself is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). God doesn’t add to your righteousness to bring you up to the level required. Your righteousness, no matter what it is, is wiped out and replaced with Christ’s righteousness. That means some good deed you did for someone today is wiped out because it was probably tainted with some amount of selfishness or pride and is replaced with Christ’s perfection. In the end God is going to present us to himself as holy, blameless and above reproach in his sight! (Colossians 1:22)

Finally in this part of the discussion of what God has done to fix our sinful heart, we learn that God has done an amazing thing as part of his promise in the New Covenant. At the last supper, Jesus said that this cup was the New Testament in his blood. In other words he was initiating the fulfillment of the promised New Covenant. If we look back at Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:25-27 we can summarize the promises this way. He has promised to (1) remove our old stoney heart, (2) replace it with a new heart, (3) give us a new spirit, (4) give us his Holy Spirit, and (5) motivate us to follow God and his ways. This completely reverses what happened to our spirit in the fall. This is what we mean by the new birth.

But, the problem is that we have the remnants of what the Bible calls the flesh or the “old man” within us. There is a battle that needs to be fought to tame and keep in subjection those old habits and tendencies that still stay with us. But we should not think of ourselves as though we were still under the bondage of the old fallen self. God has provided all we need for a life of godliness. Old things are passed away and all things have become new.

 

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