Saturday, May 26, 2007

Adjusting to Life after Resurrection

The last time we observed that our death with Christ on the cross is not only death to something, but more importantly represents our living for something. We are to count certain things to be true and then to live accordingly. Our death and resurrection with Christ means that we should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4) Life after death and resurrection is not the same as it was before!

This is what Peter says in the first three verses of First Peter 4, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” In other words, we are to arm ourselves with the way of thinking that truly looks at our life as being post-resurrection. We are to “arm” ourselves with this way of thinking. That means that when we reckon these things to be true of us and live in the light of that truth, it is a means of defense for us against the onslaughts of sin coming from the world, the flesh and the devil.

Paul told us in Romans 6 that our death with Christ was a death to sin and the resurrection we had with Christ was a resurrection to God. The old needs to be put behind us and the focus needs to be God-ward. Isn’t that what Paul meant when he wrote in Colossians 3, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

We are to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. Since we’ve been raised with Christ we are to set our minds and seek those things which are above. These exhortations tell me that I need to think differently. I need to train my mind to approach life differently. Paul told the Romans that they should be transformed by a renewing of their minds. Our minds, our thought life play such an important part in living the Christian life. Living by faith means we need to believe what God has said about our position with Him and the reality of our having been raised with Him. Because of the reality of this, we need to refocus our attention and learn to adjust our thinking to focus on the things of God and not the things of this earth.

This is not an easy thing. Most of us have been steeped in our culture long enough to have gained patterns of thinking that need to be totally undone and renewed along biblical lines. It takes effort and personal discipline through the power of the Spirit applying the Word of God in our lives. May God help us to be faithful men in making this kind of reality thinking a priority in our lives.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dead With Christ

“Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” As we mentioned last time, Paul asks this question because he is working on the deeper question of how we can live in sin when we have died with Christ. He asks us if we realize that when we were placed into Christ by the Holy Spirit we were placed into His death. Our victory is fundamentally rooted in the fact that we died with Christ, but it is also necessary that we know that so that we count it as true and live accordingly.

Paul walks us through the logic of his argument in Romans 6. Death with Christ leads to resurrection with Christ. It isn’t just death to the old, it is death to the old AND a new life on the other side of the resurrection. But that resurrection is not just the actual future resurrection, it is a resurrection to new life now. Consider verse 4. “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.” (See Adrian Warnock's blog here: Adrian's Blog: Resurrection Empowered Life - Dying to Live)

This also is the point in verses 5-11. If we have been in the likeness of His death, we will also be in the likeness of His resurrection. Verse 8 tells us that if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. Verse 10 says that the death He died, He died to sin, but the life He lives, He lives to God. Therefore (verse 11) we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ.
Christ, of course, did not sin, but He was tempted in all points like we are. He died to all of that on the cross. On the other side of the cross, death no longer has dominion. The temptations were over. In that same way we are to count it as so that we died also so that we can walk in newness of life, that we should no longer be slaves to sin and that we might be alive to God.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Power of Reckoning

To reckon means to count on, to account for something. We are going to look at several places in Scripture where we are told to reckon something to be true. That means to count it as true and live in light of its truthfulness. It means to align our lives with the truthfulness of particular facts.

The best place to begin to understand this is in Romans 6. In verse 11 Paul writes, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We’ll go back and look at the context in a moment, but what exactly is God telling us to do here? He is saying that we should count ourselves dead to sin. We should live in accordance with the truth that has been presented that we died with Christ. It is inconsistent to live any other way. Living a life in sin is contrary to what is true about us. The Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, is making that argument from verse one of the chapter. “Shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound?” What is the answer? God forbid! What is the reason? Because it is against the will of God? It is against the will of God, but that is not the reason that is given here. The reason is an appeal to the consistency of how we live compared to what is true about us. He says, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”

He challenges us based upon the reality of our death to sin in Christ. He then considers the possibility that we might not know that we were in His death when He died. The presumption is that if we know this truth, it should affect our lives. This struck me as kind of interesting since we often say that it is up to the Holy Spirit to work in us to get us to do the right thing. This is true of course, but the Holy Spirit doesn’t work in a vacuum. He works using the Word of God.

….to be continued

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Cross -- Part 3

In my last article I discussed the fact that Christ’s death for us was substitutionary. That means He took our place on the cross. Because He took our sin and its penalty there, we are able to receive the forgiveness of God and actually have imputed to us the righteousness of Christ.

There is an important scriptural truth that we need to study in order to fully lay hold of the victory Christ won for us on the cross. In Romans 6:3 it says, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 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.”

I Corinthians 12:13 says, “For  by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”

When we trust Christ and receive Him, the Holy Spirit places us into the body of Christ. We are joined to Him. So Paul wrote in Romans 6 that those who were baptized into Christ Jesus were also baptized into His death. He tells us in verse 6 that our “old man” was crucified with Christ. In Galatians 2:20 Paul says it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ….”

Because of the fact that we have been placed into Christ, we were present in Him when He died on the cross.

The Bible not only teaches that we died with Christ, but that we were buried, risen and ascended with Him as well. Consider the following Scriptures:

Colossians 2:12-13 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. 13 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,

Colossians 3:1-3 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Ephesians 2:4-7 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in  His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Notice the tense of the verbs in the Ephesians passage. They are all past tense. God made (past tense) us alive together with Christ. He raised (past tense) us up together, and made (past tense) us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. We need to believe these statements as the truth whether it feels true or not. We are to reckon them as being the reality in which we live and the true condition of our lives before God. Next time we’ll look at how we are to use the truth of these statements to help us live lives that are pleasing to God.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Cross - Part 2

I think the place to begin our thinking and meditation on the cross and its power and impact on our lives is to remember that it was at that place and time that Almighty God Himself bore the penalty of sin on our behalf. We say it was a “substitutionary” death because He died in our place.

Paul wrote in Philippians 3:9 that his chief aim was to have the righteousness of God credited to him rather than be found in the rags of his own righteousness. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that all of our righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of God.

How did we make the jump from a substitutionary death to righteousness? The answer is the cross, for as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

When Adam sinned in the garden that day, he dragged the whole human race down with him. All of mankind was in Adam at the moment of his rebellion and we have all “seconded” the motion of rebellion by our own actions and deeds once we actually arrived in person in this world. God then is confronted by a whole race of creatures who are in revolt against Him. The just retribution for this treason is death. But God, because of His great love for us and to demonstrate the glory of His grace, sent Christ to die for us while we were still sinners and rebels. The sentence of death was on our heads, and “He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the cross…” (1 Peter 2:24) He was our substitute.

Having taken our sin upon Himself there, He not only grants forgiveness, but amazingly credits us with His perfect righteousness so that when God looks at our record, He sees the righteousness of Christ. That is why Paul said that he wants to be found in Him, not with his own righteousness, but with the righteousness of God. (Philippians 3:9)

Does everyone automatically have this forgiveness and replaced righteousness? No, God tells us that we must repent of our sins and believe the Good News; receive Christ; believe in Him; accept the free gift.
Our right understanding of the cross then is foundational to the victory and power of the cross in our lives. The key, which we will look at in subsequent articles, is that of being “in Him”. You see it in Philippians 3:9 and again in 2 Corinthians 5:21 which was quoted earlier.