Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dead to Sin

I’m doing something today that I very seldom do – stay home from church. I woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible sore throat. I’m not sure where it came from, but it’s kind of wiping me out. As a result, I’m home taking this opportunity to think through some things related to our study in the book of Joshua.

We’ve seen that we have died with Christ and risen with Him. The Scripture even goes so far as to say that we are raised with Him and seated with Him in heavenly places in Christ. The problem is that while this may be true, we still face the struggles of living here. The Israelites had been freed from their bondage in Egypt and now, having crossed the Jordan, even their wilderness wanderings were over and yet difficult times lay ahead. They would need to put two key principles into practice – faith and obedience. It became a matter of believing God and responding obediently to that belief.

In the same way we need to believe God and respond obediently. If we have died with Christ and risen with Him, what are the implications of that? What is it exactly that we have to believe and obey related to this truth?

There are three areas I want us to look at. We’ll cover the first one today and the others in succeeding posts. The first truth then is that in dying with Christ, we have died to sin. Look at this passage in Romans 6:5-12. I won’t quote the whole thing here. I assume you have a Bible you can look it up in. Verse 6 says 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 to sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.”

The thing then that we are to believe is that if we are a Christian, that is if we have received Christ and are trusting Him alone for our salvation, our old man died with Christ on the cross. It may not often feel that way, but don’t let your feelings get in the way of the truth. No matter how you feel and how strong the temptations are, the truth is the old self has been crucified.

The passage goes on to explain how we are to apply this. Verse 9 says “knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.”

When Christ died He died to sin. Christ never sinned, but Scripture tells us that He was tempted in all points like we are. Those temptations were real and vigorous and yet He defeated them. His death brought an end to the temptation to sin. Now that He is alive from the dead, His focus is toward God.

Now the passage says in verse 11, “Likewise you also…” Here comes the challenge for us to obediently apply the truth. “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The word reckon doesn’t mean “pretend”. It means “count it so”. The truth is we died with Christ and so we are to reckon or count it so, to believe it to be true and to act accordingly. More important than just believing it in our head, we need to work it out in our lives because having died with Christ we are to reckon ourselves dead unto sin. That means when those temptations come, we are to act as though we are already on the other side of the resurrection. We are to see ourselves as alive to God. Our focus is to be God-ward.

The concluding result in verse 12 is, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts and do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness.” Do you see how belief and obedience go together. If we truly believe that we died with Christ, then we too died to sin and are now alive to God. As a result we will not allow sin to reign. If we do, we are not only being disobedient, but we are sinning against what is true.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Living on Resurrection Ground

It’s been a busy several weeks. With the coming of spring there is so much yard work to be done that it takes up a lot of time. I want to continue the study of Joshua that we’ve been working on. Part of my motivation for doing this is the personal discipline of putting the results of my study in writing. Hopefully you will find it helpful as you follow along.

The last time we were studying this we noted that the Israelites marked their crossing of the Jordan with stones. The priests with the ark stood in the middle of the river until all was finished. I pointed out that this is representative of the death of Christ and our death in Him.

Moving on with the story then, we see that the Israelites came up out of the river on the tenth day of the first month. This is the very same day 40 years later that the children of Israel had come out of Egypt. You see, they were “saved” from their bondage 40 years ago, but because they didn’t believe God at the time, they ended up wandering in the wilderness all of those years. And most of the people who escaped Egypt did not enter into the promised land. Sometimes we do the same thing. We have our salvation in hand, but we have trouble really believing the truth about who God says we are and what our position is in Christ.

This is what the author of Hebrews is getting at in 3:16 and following: “For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was he angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

It is important that we believe God regarding our position in Christ on resurrection ground. Ephesians 2:5 and 6 say, “even when we were dead in trespasses, He 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.” We’re using the crossing of the Jordan as a picture of taking this truth by faith and putting behind us the purposeless wandering.

The difficulty as I see it is that even though we are positionally on resurrection ground, life has a way of hitting us with the reality of sin, disease, pain and temptation. Romans 8:23 puts it this way, “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”

We are presented as a church without spot or wrinkle, but now our practice and experience is less than that. So a point of tension arises. Am I going to accept God’s Word or am I going to go with my feelings? I need to ask myself who is going to be in control – my body or the spirit and the truth?

Through the next several articles we’ll look at the truth of our death with Christ and the importance of reckoning it true in our lives. Hebrews 4:1 says “let us fear lest any of you seem to have short of it” (God’s rest).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Christ's Victory

I came across a poem the other day on SharperIron blog that I thought my readers would be interested in.

Christ’s Victory

Richard Crashaw (c. 1613-1649)

Christ, when he died,
Deceived the cross,
And on death’s side
Threw all the loss:
The captive world awaked and found
The prisoners loose, the jailor bound.

O dear and sweet dispute
’Twixt death’s and love’s far different fruit,
Different as far
As antidotes and poisons are:
By the first and fatal tree
Both life and liberty
Were sold and slain;
By this they both look up and live again.

Friday, May 09, 2008

It Is Finished

In Joshua 4:8-10 we read, “And the children of Israel did so, just as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the midst of the Jordan, as the Lord had spoken to Joshua, according to the number of the tries of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them to the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day. So the priests who bore the ark stood in the midst of the Jordan until everything was finished that he Lord had commanded Joshua.”

When Christ died on the cross we died with Him there. We died to sin, self and the world. And yet we find that often we don’t enter into the reality of this truth. The crossing of the Israelites over the Jordan pictures this truth for us. Last time we pointed out the fact that the ark (God) went before the people. In the same way, Christ has gone before us having died and raised and ascended as our forerunner.

Here in this passage the priests stood in the midst of the Jordan until all was finished. Christ also stayed put on the cross until all was finished. The sin question has been totally dealt with on the cross. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

If you read the Joshua passage carefully you will see that there were two sets of twelve stones that were set up. One set was in the middle of the river and the other on the bank of the river. Joshua said to the people, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’ … that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is might, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

Our lives should be marked by events and things that help us remember and give us opportunity to explain to our children and grand children what God has done in our lives. If any of the people of Israel had determined to go back to wilderness living, they would have passed these piles of stones. These stones certainly would not have kept them from going back, but they would have reminded them of all God had done and made them ask themselves whether going back was a good idea.

Here are a couple of questions you need to think about. Even though you may be a Christian, have you accepted by faith the victorious position that you have in Christ? Have you left reminders of one kind or another along the way to prod your memory of what life used to be like on the other side so that going back won’t be a temptation? Are you using the opportunities you have to explain to your children and grand children what God has done for you in Christ so that they will be challenged to follow in your footsteps?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Seeing Christ as our Forerunner

In Joshua 3:11, we learn that the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is to go into the Jordan ahead of the people. When the feet of the priests entered the river, the water stopped. I think we can learn a couple of things here. First of all, by way of reminder, we’re looking at the crossing of the Jordan as a picture of the Christian taking hold of God’s promises and moving forward in the Christian life by faith. This is opposed to a Christian who wanders around in life full of doubts and fears and not living the victorious Christian life God has planned for us.

The first thing I notice here is that God, represented by the ark, goes ahead of His people. He has gone ahead and secured victory for us. Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” When He is with us, there is no storm of life that can overwhelm us.

Think about this. There is a man in heaven, Jesus the God-man, who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15. He has gone before us. He successfully lived a human life and now calls us to follow Him.

Having gone ahead of us he has “disarmed principalities and powers and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” Colossians 2:15.

The point I’m trying to make is just as the ark went ahead of the people of Israel, Christ has gone ahead of us and secured for us the blessing and victory. Read through the following verses from Hebrews 6:15-20, “And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus, God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus.”

Here he is called our forerunner. And where is this forerunner? He is behind the veil in the real Holy of Holies. The writer of Hebrews call this a sure and steadfast anchor. If He, our forerunner and representative is there, then certainly we who are in Christ will also be there with Him.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Grace Greater Than Our Sin

A blogger friend over at Bible, Math Politics and More regularly posts a hymn of
the week. I don't think I could be that consistent, but did want to share this
one with my readers.
I think sometimes we take "Grace" too lightly. Do we really recognize the desperate
need we had? As you read the lyrics, consider verse 2 especially.
"Sin and despair like the sea waves cold, threaten the soul with infinite loss." If we
believe this, why do we so often toy with sin as though it were an innocent play thing?

1. Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!

2. Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
threaten the soul with infinite loss;
grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

3. Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
brighter than snow you may be today.

4. Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see his face,
will you this moment his grace receive?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Challies Book Giveaway

Tim Challies, whose blog can be found here, is having one of his book giveaways. If you want to register for the drawing you can do so by clicking on the link below:

April Giveaway

If you enter by clicking on this link, you will be entered into the drawing and I will also be given another chance to win.

Three prizes will be awarded as follows:

First prize: Reformation Heritage Books Selections: God with Us, Reformation Heroes, Meet the Puritans, plus all books in the 2nd and 3rd prize package.
Second prize: Soli Deo Gloria Selections: Freedom of the Will, Excellency of a Gracious Spirit, Keeping the Heart, Parable of the Ten Virgins, plus all books in the 3rd prize package.
Third Prize: Profiles in Reformed Spirituality: A Consuming Fire, A Sweet Flame, Dedicated to the Service of the Temple, Christ Is All.

How to Know God is Among Us

In Joshua 3:10 we read these words, “And Joshua said, ‘By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and ….’”

A couple of things were of interest to me here. The first thing is that the way these people would know that the living God is actually among them is the success of their mission. “He will without fail drive out from before you….” I don’t think this is the same as modern American success-driven methods. What this is is a promise to the people that when God is among you, things happen.

How many people claim to be a Christian and have God in their lives and yet there is not one shred of evidence that He is actually there. There are no victories to be recognized, sin is not defeated, life goes on pretty much normally. Doesn’t God promise that His presence will be revealed by some growth and victory in life?

The other thing that is interesting to me in this incident is that of timing. In Genesis 15:16 God told Abram that his descendents would inherit this land. He told him that it would be four generations in the future because right now the “iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Even though God is above time, He is able to work in time to accomplish His purposes. At the time He was speaking to Abram, the sin of the Amorites had not yet reached its peak. For some reason, God wanted to allow that sin to fully materialize before He took them out.

Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is similarly timed. It was not just a fluke of history that Christ died when He did. Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” Romans 5:6 says it this way, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”