Raised with Christ Unto a New Life
AFBC 2001 03 31
The resurrection, which we celebrate today, is perhaps the single most important historical event ever. Oh, yes, one can point to the incarnation, the crucifixion, the ascension, Pentecost, and so on. Yet what would it all mean without the resurrection?
We believe Christ died to save us from sin, from both the present power of sin and from the ultimate penalty for sin. And what is that penalty? Ro 6:23 For the wages of sin is death
This is the theory. But had Christ remained in the grave, what assurance would we have that His death meant anything? How would we know He had broken the power of sin? His resurrection is our practical, real-world assurance, God's guarantee that He indeed achieved what He set out to do, that the power of the cross is greater than that of sin, has utterly defeated it and cancelled its effects.
Why did He do it? Again, the theory. He did it because He originally created us to live with Him forever to glorify and worship Him. But because in Adam the human race rebelled against Him and chose to sin, we were cast out of His presence, could not come near a holy God lest we be destroyed. Moreover, because only the perfect, pure and holy could ever approach him, and a sinner could never achieve that perfection, there was nothing we could ever in our own strength do to remedy the situation. No amount of being good or of doing good could erase the sin nature, could cancel even one small sin separating us from God forever, could shed the smallest ray of light into an utterly black soul.
Even if we died eternally in hell for our sin it would not wipe the sin away, it would merely constitute just punishment.
But what if one who was indeed perfect could die in our place and take the punishment for us? Moreover, what if that one were God himself so He could take all the punishment for the entire human race on himself and fulfil God's justice? What if, moreover, His righteousness could then be placed to our account so God could look at us and see him?
But again, how could even such an infinite act ever be deemed to apply to finite and fallen human beings? After all, God was completely other than His creation; He certainly was not one of us. The idea that a human being could claim to be God is utterly blasphemous, preposterous—an affront even to intelligence, let alone to the Godhead. But surely the only one who could die to deal with human sin would have to be himself human to make it apply, as well as God to make it sufficient.
And so, the Incarnation, in which the Son of God miraculously became one of us, lived as one of us, was tempted and tried as one of us, but through it all, never sinned, so showed His perfection.
So also the cross, where the God-man took our worst, the cruelest punishment ever devised by our depraved minds, yet answered back "forgive them, father, for they know not what they do," so showing His utter righteousness, His complete holiness, His absolute purity, His eternal love.
And then...and then...He suffered far more, for at that point, God took over from us sinners who had nailed him there and vented His wrath against all the sin of all time upon this one hanging on the cross on behalf of the human race. At the end of it all, Christ could well cry "It is finished," as He gave up His spirit and His body died. What was finished? His work was finished. Sin was finished. Satan was finished. God's wrath was finished.
But the salvation from sin that His death provides is not universally or automatically applied. For it to be instantiated in us, we must first repent of sin, then accept the salvation offered by God, setting aside all ritual, all works, all religion, all self-help programs, and believe that the only way to God is through Christ, as He himself said
Joh 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me."
Likewise: Ac 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
After all if we reject the salvation He has offered, we are still in our sins, it hasn't been applied to us. Again the resurrection is a key factor in the collection of things we must believe to obtain the forgiveness of God in the light of Christ's life and death, as Paul put it:
Rom 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
It goes further:
Col 2:12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
Eph 2:6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
That is to say, God views believers in Christ as already having been not only raised from the dead spiritually, but so sure is our salvation that He can say we are already seated with Christ in His heaven.
So much for the theory. But is it only "pie in the sky by and by" as the infidels mock? Are we people who look forward to eternal life without the salvation God has given us meaning anything for the here and now? What does saving faith, what does redemption, what does forgiveness, what does an assurance of eternal life matter in daily life? After all, if it's eternal life God has given us, not only is it guaranteed tomorrow and the next day for ever and forever, but we have it right now, today. It should be possible to tell.
As Paul says in 2Cor 6:1 As God's fellow-workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. 2 For he says, "In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favour, now is the day of salvation.
This is not merely an exhortation to become born again in the first place, though it can be used to good effect that way. It is also a command to go on and demonstrate that we indeed do have the salvation of God. To drive this point home Paul concludes his argument in the first verse of the next chapter when He says: 1 Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. He's talking about now, not about heaven.
But wait, you might say. I thought it was impossible to become perfect. Yes, and no. First, when God puts the righteousness of Christ on us, He judicially declares us to have Christ's perfection and is prepared to look at us and to see His son. He does that, not us, for we cannot. Even afterward, we cannot achieve perfection on our own. But second, He also puts His Holy Spirit in us to empower us to a new way of living.
1Co 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.
2Pe 3:11 ... what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives
Once again, what we cannot do, God is prepared to do in us and through us,m if we are willing. Yes, the old man, the old woman, the sin nature that is in us will emerge from time to time, for perfection is not achieved in this life, but there must be evidence of new life, an actual manifestation of the indwelling Holy Spirit in everyone who has God's salvation. As James puts it: Jas 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
And again as John says: 1Jo 1:6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1Jo 2:6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
Paul expresses the same thought: Tit 2:14 [Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
That "doing what is good" does not mean when we are in heaven, though no doubt we will continue there in the same manner. Rather, it talks about a people of God in the here and now visibly witnessing by doing the works of Christ in daily life. Jesus said: Joh 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." This is not theory; it refers to daily living in the here and now.
New life begins with a new attitude:
Col 3:1 1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
The old is gone, the new has come:
Ro 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
New life means new conversation. We'll want to talk about it, as the angel commanded Peter on releasing him from prison: Ac 5:20 "Go, stand in the temple courts," he said, "and tell the people the full message of this new life."
New life means a new way of living. If we truly have God in Christ through the Spirit in us, we'll be a different people from others in this world.
We'll want to seek out sin in our lives, confess it and receive restoration to fellowship with God,
Ps 32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD" --and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
1Jo 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
New life means that since we know intimately the absolute and unconditional forgiveness of God, it will be part of our growing character in Christ to extend forgiveness to others, to take little note of their faults:
Col 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Eph 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
New life means that since we have a growing relationship with Christ, we will help others, from our own experience with the same thing, to overcome the power of sin in their lives—not to curry favour with them or God, or to make ourselves look good by comparison, but because, having been loved greatly by God, we know what it means extend love to others.
Lu 6:42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
New life means that since we know the generosity of God in choosing us to know His salvation, to become His people, to have eternal life, we in turn will have a generous character. This is true of our giving to the church, of which Paul says: 2Co 9:7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
It is also true of our relationships with others of the people of God, and with unbelievers as well:
Pr 11:25 A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
Pr 22:9 A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.
2Co 9:6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
2Co 9:11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
1Ti 6:18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
Rom 12: 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
New life means that since we know the freedom from sin God has given His people, we will in fact be free from control by evil desires, from habitual sin, as Paul says in:
Eph 4: 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Yes, we will still sometimes go back to the old ways, but no, they will not have mastery over us.
New life means that the people of God do not need to lie to make themselves look good, for God has made them perfect in His eyes. They do not need to worry about or fear the future, for their future is guaranteed. They do not need to be captive to sinful addictions such as pornography, alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, for God has given them the power in the Holy Spirit to break all the chains of sin. They do not need to hold grudges, for if it is true that Ps 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us, then it is surely so that we can show that the love of God is in us by forgiving and forgetting in like manner.
God would use us in His work as a witness to him every day. Yet how can He, if we harbour sin that we do no wish to give up? How can He if there is bitterness in our hearts over something someone has "done to us" (which in fact is nothing compared to our not forgiving)? How can He use us if we hoard "our" possessions and are not generous to those who lack?
These are only examples. Would we indeed show forth the new life that God has put in us? Would we indeed be a picture of, a witness to His gospel? Then daily we must seek God so He may reveal more of the root of sin in us, repent of it, receive and offer forgiveness, and resolve to live the day in purity and holiness, alert to how God would direct us through that day unto His glory.
We need to call to mind two things about living in Christ and following Him:
Lu 9:23 Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
1Th 5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Denial of self, putting off the old sinful ways, and putting on Christ, living blamelessly through this life in expectation of continuing to do so in the next. This is what it means, this resurrection day, to be a people raised with Christ unto new life.