A NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
A NEW LIFE IN CHRISTCopyright Š 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
In the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Revelation we find that God is making all things new.
He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Revelation 21:5)
In the fifth chapter of the Book of Second Corinthians we note that if we are in Christ we are a new creation.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (II Corinthians 5:17)
In the Book of Revelation we find that the Spirit of God will give the victorious believer a new name.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. (Revelation 2:17)
Again, in the Book of Revelation, we note that ever Christ Himself will receive a new name.
Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. (Revelation 3:12)
Then Paul tells us in First Corinthians that human beings as such cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (I Corinthians 15:50)
The Lord Jesus emphasized this point by telling us that if we are to live in Him we must die first.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39)
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. (Luke 9:24)
A new name signifies there is a new person.
What is going on here? It sounds to me like the Christian salvation is not a saving of what we are and bringing us to Heaven, which is the common understanding, but somehow a complete changing of what we are. Does it sound like that to you?
A new creation!
Our first personality is not going to enjoy this change.
How do we begin changing from what we are into a new person?
I think first of all, we must consider what the Apostle Paul said in the Book of Romans.
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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. (Romans 6:1-4)
Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? That is what we are doing today. We are saved by grace and God sees us through Christ. So let us eat, drink, and be merry. Let us enjoy ourselves today because tomorrow we will die and go to our mansion in Heaven.
But we are continuing to sin, and God sees our sin. To say that God doesn't see our sin but only the righteousness of Christ is to make Paul's words above inappropriateor so it seems to me!
We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Can you believe that this sentence is used today to mean that since we died to sin we can no longer sin?
If this were the meaning, what then does Paul mean by telling us we must not go on sinning? People who teach that "we died to sin" means it is impossible for us to sin because we have died to sin are just not thinking clearly!
When Paul states that we died to sin and therefore we cannot live in it any longer he is saying the same thing as the writer in the Book of Hebrews. If we continue to sin after we have counted ourselves dead with Christ on the cross, we are crucifying Christ all over again.
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. (Hebrews 6:4-6)
By "fall away" the writer obviously means to turn back into sinful behavior.
If I am not mistaken we Christians of today are under a tremendous misapprehension concerning how Divine grace operates!
Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? I seriously doubt that a majority of the Christian believers of our day understand that they were baptized into the death of Christ. I think they suppose they were baptized into a denomination or into a religious formality of some sort.
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. A new life. What does God mean by a new life? New in what way?
"Behold, I make all things new," God says in Revelation. God did not say He would make all new things but all things new. God is going to take what we are and make it new.
Since Christ also is being given a new name, and we know that Christ does not change, then what does God mean? What changes and what stays the same?
I would say our unique identity as a person will never change. We ourselves will not change. How do we define "we ourselves"? I would say by our will. Our conscious will is who we are in essence. We know that Christ's will never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Yet He will receive a new name!
Our will never changes in that we want to live in righteousness, love, peace, and joy. Maybe we think we want mansions in Heaven. But we don't. We want everlasting righteousness, love, peace, and joy. That is the deepest desire of every person of integrity.
When we speak of dying in Christ and living a new life in Christ, our deep desire for righteousness, love, peace and joy does not change. Am I correct in this?
Everything else in our personality will change. Our body will change. Our thoughts, speech, and actions will be conformed to Christ's resurrection life. Our sinful nature will be destroyed. Our self-will and self-seeking will be removed from us. Our love of the world will be burned out of us. The pride of life will we destroyed and we will be as little children.
We will not be innocent, as were Adam and Eve, because God has trained us in righteousness. We will have an obedient spirit, all of the rebellion being purged from us.
How and when will all this change take place. Hopefully it will begin today. It seems to me that we will continue growing spiritually after we die. Some have deduced from this that I believe in ultimate reconciliation. The idea that everyone, including Satan and the fallen angels, will one day be reconciled to God assuredly is not a scriptural concept.
But people who in their deepest heart love God and want to dwell in eternal righteousness, love, joy, and peace will be strengthened in the Lord, either here or on the other side.
Notice what the Prophet Isaiah has to say about the weak being strengthened:
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; (Isaiah 42:3)
God is not talking here about reeds and wicks but about people, obviously. Some of this growth has to take place after people die. There is no way we all are going to grow to the full measure of Christ while alive in the world.
There is going to be a Church without spot or wrinkle. Abraham, Job, and Moses are going to be in that perfect Church. But no person was born again until Christ rose from the dead; and no person can enter the Kingdom of God until he or she is born again. So when were Abraham, Job, and Moses born again?
Remember, I am not saying everyone is going to be saved. I am not teaching that we can bury our talent and then, after we die, hear "Well done, good and faithful servant." We have to obey Christ when He is presented to us. If we do not, there will be no second chance after we die. We will be judged, at the last judgment, according to our works.
When it comes to getting rid of all of our personality that is not of the new creation, I don't believe many believers will accomplish this before they die. But if they have been faithful today in all that has been given them, I truly believe they will continue in Christ after they die.
If there is no growth in Christ after we die, then most of us are in bad shape. What do you say about that?
Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)
If the standard set here by the Apostle Paul is to be realized to any great extent, then I believe the ministries and gifts of the Holy Spirit are going to have to continue after we die. Some of the Christian organizations work until they get people "saved," and then do little more about bringing them to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Do you agree with this.
A denomination may claim, in a certain meeting "5,000 people were led to Christ." What do they mean by "led to Christ"? Do they mean became a member of one of the denominational churches? If these people were genuinely led to Christ, is any provision made for them to learn how to keep walking with Christ, or is it that they merely are expected to attend the church services?
If we serve Christ like we are supposed to today, we will have a chance to grow further in the Lord after we die, I hope.
If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sinbecause anyone who has died has been freed from sin. (Romans 6:5-7)
To live the new life in Christ we must be united with Him in His death. Then we can be united with Him in His resurrection Life. As simple and straightforward as that.
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with. Notice carefully the distinction between "our old self" and "the body of sin." Our old self is our original personality. The body of sin is a consortium of evil impulses that have taken refuge in our flesh.
Let me interject a thought right here. There may be Christians who have gained some victory over the sins of the flesh and are content with that. Do they realize that God is asking for the crucifixion of our entire nature so that we truly will be a new creation? This is the reason for the crosses and prisons we experience throughout our discipleship.
Probably most of us would be happier if these evil impulses, spirits if you will, would be removed from us. But for this to take place, our original personality must be crucified with the Lord.
We might like to be free from evil tendencies. But such removal cannot take place until we are willing to set aside our old life and receive the Life of Jesus in its stead. We accomplish this transaction by each day asking the Lord Jesus to plant His thoughts in us; to help us to speak as He is speaking, and to act as He is acting currently.
Such displacement of our original personality and the entrance of the Life of the Lord does not happen in one day. We have to work at it day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. You can see that the first priority of each day is to seek the Presence of Christ until we are behaving in His Presence.
Do not be discouraged if you do not make rapid progress in learning to live by the Life of Jesus. Just keep at it. You will get there if you don't become impatient, because Christ wants you to be successful in learning to live a new life in Him.
There is no way by which we can get rid of our sinful nature, until we are willing to allow the Lord to crucify our entire original personality.
Putting to death our first personality does not mean just putting sin to death. It means all that we are. It indeed is a new creation. Old things pass away as we walk with God. An entirely new person emerges like a butterfly from a chrysalis.
As I said, all that remains of the old you is the deep, deep desire to love God and to live in eternal righteousness, love, joy, and peace. You will gain a new name, and a white stone showing that you have been voted into the ranks of the chosen.
That we should no longer be slaves to sin. Jesus said whoever sins is the slave of sin. We might be under the impression that we can sin when we want to and cease when we want to. However, all sin is of Satan. You are no match for Satan, but Jesus is. To be free from slavery to Satan you must die with Christ and live with Christ.
When you count yourself as dead to sin, the Law of Moses has no authority over you. This does not mean you are free to sin. It means rather that you are free to follow the Spirit of God into the work of putting to death the deeds of your sinful nature.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13)
When the Holy Spirit points out a sin we are committing, we are to confess it and turn away from it. Jesus will help us do this.
"As many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God." The Spirit always is leading us to put to death the acts of the sinful nature until finally its power over us has been completely destroyed. Total uncompromising war!
The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you. But the Lord your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. He will give their kings into your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven. No one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them. (Deuteronomy 7:22-24)
The passage above stirs me up, I'll tell you. God has in mind to put an end to sin, and He is beginning today among Christian people who are hearing the Spirit of God.
Because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Paul means here that anyone who counts himself or herself dead with Christ is free from the Law of Moses. Paul explains this in the seventh chapter of Romans.
We are not released from a sinful personality by dying physically. If that were true, every person who dies would automatically become holy.
What we are, we are. Death does not change that. A sinful, self-willed nature dwells in our flesh and spirit at the present time. It will remain with us when we die.
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. (II Corinthians 7:1)
When a lazy, wicked servant dies he is sent to be with the other lazy, wicked servants. He does not become a godly individual just because he dies. Physical death is our enemy, not our redeemer.
When someone dies who has been pleasing God to the best of his ability, he will go to be with people who are pleasing God to the best of their ability. There he will be ministered to until his personality in every aspect is pleasing to God.
I am elaborating this concept a bit because Christian people, and perhaps others, are under the impression that physical death will make them a better person. The truth is, for many such people, dying physically is out of the frying pan into the fire!
You will note that I consider the sinful nature as only one part of our personality. Yet, our entire first personality must be crucified with Christ if we are to be delivered from the sinful nature.
"Shyness" is an example of a personality characteristic that we do not always view as being a part of our sinful nature. Shyness must be replaced with the strength of character of the risen Jesus. How many times has a believer's shyness caused him to avoid doing what he felt Christ wanted him to do?
"Personal ambition" is another trait that often is regarded as worthy. But Christ is not personally ambitious; so this has to change into the Personality of Christ.
"Giving over one's life to the perfecting of a talent" would not ordinarily be viewed as sin. But suppose Christ has in mind a different career for the believer?
So what do we do if we want to live a new life in Christ. We must begin by telling the Lord we want Him to demolish everything in our personality that is not of Him.
What can the Lord do about shyness? He might, for example, urge us to proclaim "fire" when we noticed smoke coming from a corner of the building where we were standing. There might be a crowd present who did not see the smoke. But we were too shy to make a spectacle of ourselves, and two people died because it was too late for them to escape the flames.
It would be natural for the shy person, having realized she caused the two deaths, to ask the Lord to remove her shy nature and give her enough boldness to act responsibly in another such situation.
The Lord Jesus is not crippled with shyness, and we are called to be like Him.
Since personal ambition may not be a spirit dwelling in our flesh but a trait inherited from an ambitious ancestor, how might Jesus go about correcting our personality? Any number of ways. He may touch us physically so we cannot pursue our goal. Or He may allow our ambition to lead us into pain of some sort.
God has His ways of creating us in His image.
Suppose we are pursuing a talent fervently and Christ has something different in mind for us. He may plant in our mind that when we have perfected our talent we will spend our life entertaining ungodly people who live to themselves, never helping a needy person. Then we may be in a church meeting where a missionary is telling of the needs of the people she has been serving.
Right at this point Jesus may show the talented person the difference between spending his life entertaining wicked people, or spending his life helping children with desperate needs. How the talented person decides may very well determine his future state throughout eternity.
So you see, becoming a new person in Christ involves much more than being delivered from sin. If we will follow the Lord diligently, He will make us a new person in Himself.
However, getting rid of the sinful nature requires that our entire personality be crucified with Christ.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:8)
Living a new life with Christ means infinitely more than being a good church member. It means literally living with Him. Every thought we think should be being brought before Christ as much as we can.
Every word we speak must be held up before Christ before we speak; while we are speaking; and after we are finished speaking. "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God," says the Apostle Peter.
Every action we take must also be held up before Christ, before we act; while we are acting; and after we have completed our action.
If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (I Peter 4:11)
Eternal life is a gift, it is true. However, it is the gift of an opportunity to gain eternal life, whereas eternal life, the Life of Christ, cannot be gained through the Law of Moses. Rather, it is through the Law of Moses that we die and thus gain entrance into the Life of Christ.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22,23)
We have been set free from sin by dying to the Law of Moses and being raised into the resurrection of God. We no longer are slaves to the Law but slaves to Christ.
The benefit we reap by dying to sin, the sin that is given life by the Law of Moses, and being raised into the resurrection Life of Christ, is that we are being made holy.
The state of being holy is that of being free from unclean spirits and being in the image God and part of God, set apart for His use alone. The result of our being made holy is eternal life.
So we understand from the above that eternal life, which is the Life of Christ Himself, is not just handed to us on a platter. Rather, it is the result of the gift of God. The gift of God is freedom from the Law of Moses and the opportunity to obey the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ.
I stated previously that the deepest desire of every person of integrity is everlasting righteousness, love, joy, and peace. Such is the nature of eternal life, and it comes only as we live a new life in Christ.