Last time, we discussed the Christless person. This person is so much at the mercy of his own desires and lusts that they have no thought of the consequences.
Three terms that show us what we are to do as believers:
The goal of salvation is to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.
We will never know to what great lengths our Father has loved and redeemed us. Although we will never grasp the depths of God’s love toward us, we are able to pry into the profundity of His love in the midst of grief and sinful failures. Truly, God’s love for us in our justification is amazing. But, the way He deals with us in our sanctification is staggering.
Below is a section of a letter I shared this past Sunday written by Jack Miller to a missionary who was having relational conflicts with others on the field and whose mother had previously died. We can be sure we will be welcomed by Christ no matter how difficult life is or how sinful we are because He raises the dead and His Father is our Father. Every moment with Jesus is a moment to enjoy and see His love as proof we are being chiseled into His image. One day, the darkness with be chased away and heaven’s light will dawn like a ‘sunny day after the rain’. Jack writes:
"It is also important to know that pain by itself does not necessarily sanctify us. I am persuaded that pain sanctifies us only as we trust [God], surrender to His blows in faith, conscious that our Father is reliable and that He is our own dear Father. I trust that the Father is not my judge executing me, but the Master Sculptor. As the craftsman He has a pre-vision of me which is beautiful and clean and self-forgetting, as sweet and pure as the sunny day after rain.
So let's not run away from Him because the cost seems too great. Or because I am afraid He will put me on a mission field with someone who [doesn't think like me or even like me]. No, dear friends, always look to Christ and find your security in Him. Even the greatest ideas and purest ideals and the best of friends are not Christ. They really cannot provide the love we need. He alone can raise Lazarus or each of us dead and disabled missionaries who are facing a dead and disabled world.
Remember: He alone is the Author and Finisher of your faith. Not [anyone else]...He gives faith, He is the object of faith, and He is the goal of our faith. He is life from the dead. When the tomb was opened, the smell of Lazarus' sin and death came forth. The Lord must have felt like running away, since He hates evil in all its forms. But He stayed there. He does not run from us in our state of decay and smelliness. I tell you when Jesus deals with us He does not pretend that we are lovely and odorless, but it is in the midst of our smelly death that Jesus draws near with tears and power and love and calls the dead and rotting into new life. I tell you, Jesus is something" (182, 183).
--C. John Miller, The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller
“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” Let this truth be music to my ears everyday! May this refrain choke away all my dangerous introspections and episodes of self-condemnation. For, if You are for me, who can be against me? This is all my hope, joy, and everlasting peace: no court in the entire universe can find me guilty! You are for me. You are with me. You indwell me. My Lord and my God, I love You!
Lord Jesus, thank you so much for demoting Yourself for me. For You took on human form like me and suffered on the tree for me. You are truly my Superhero, and in You I am a super conqueror. O! make me to know, smell, taste, see, feel, and hear the triumphant freedom You afforded for me in the power of the Holy Spirit.
My God, I tremble over the fact that the requirement of the Law can be fulfilled in me, if I walk according to the Spirit. At last! Let no one else tell me what my identity is except Your Spirit who indwells me. All I want and all I am is to be Your son and be led by Your Spirit and to have Jesus as my Elder Brother. Convince me everyday that I have no obligation to the flesh. No matter what I feel, convince me that my happy and life-long obligation is to mortify my sin by Your Spirit. At one time, all I knew was death and chaos. But now, through the gospel, You are my life and peace.
May 23, 2012
There is now, no sweeter and blissful union than being married to You. For at one time, I was once married to my sin and convinced in my blind state that such a union would bring dreaming fulfillment. I was sinfully mistaken! Such a union has brought nothing but loss, confusion, heartache, and the dread of Your frowning face. But, You had mercy on me, my Lord!
Let me die the death I am meant to die; a death to my sin and a death to the Law. This is the happiest death to die in the universe. I praise You for releasing me from the old covenant and making me alive to the new covenant and all of its blessings! O! to serve in newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter!
I love Your Law. It is righteous and holy. Yet, my passions rise against it. I do that which I hate! Why do I not do that which You love, my Lord? Let me never be idle to the holy war raging within me between the flesh and the Spirit. Left to myself, Lord, I would perish. How wretched I am to wish against the good and to wish the worst for myself, breaking communion with my King! My Jesus, set me free from the body of this death that I might bear the fruit I was meant to bear as Your chosen son.
May 18, 2012
As Your child, make me know the exceeding joy of a sanctified life. Like Gollum, I have been handled, shamed, ruined, enslaved, oppressed, and left for dead. Lord Jesus, forgive me for the great sin of not esteeming You as the most precious Person in my life. Instead, my sin has been precious to me. What a worthless and never-satisfying life it is to love my sin!
So Father, instead of continuing in sin, let me continue in Your grace. All I want to do is live in free grace. May Christ’s death for my sins and His perfect life for my righteousness fuel a passion to live walking in the newness of life You have called me to. Draw my attention to the union I have with Jesus.
As I think of Your glory, may my highest approbation be the inseparable union I have with Jesus. Father, make His death, burial, and resurrection fresh upon my mind. Make this sweet union more appealing than sin’s grip. Holy Spirit, let the gospel of grace reign in me!
My Master and Lord, make me know the power of the good news. Inform me of who I am as a slave of righteousness. Undo the mess of my impurity that resulted in further lawlessness. Do it with the mysterious wonder of sanctification.
May 17, 2012
Romans 12:21 says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." This all-too-familiar verse deserves a personal note to self. The defeat of evil is a theme found in every good story and fairy tale. In fact, there is a true story where a cross conquered the darkest evil and a Prince rose triumphantly to save a damsel from an ancient dragon.
Interestingly enough, evil was not overcome by retaliation. Evil was overcome by the greatest 'magic' of all: love. The gospel story is the greatest story ever told because it is true. The curse was broken by the power of Christ's love, demonstrated at the cross. Wrath and mercy kissed so that God could deal with us in accordance to His compassion.
The implication is, if God has dealt with me in accordance to His mercy, how can I not deal with others with the grace of the gospel? Why do I sometimes think I need to give some pay back to those who wrong me, when all I deserve is hell for wronging the Creator and Redeemer of the universe with my sin?
Unspeakable evil has been overcome by the infinite good of the gospel in my life. We are changed when we are overwhelmed with amazing grace. The glory of God shines brightly when our worst enemies are overcome with a sense Christ's love manifested through us. That demonstration of love is truly heroic.
In a personal manner, Greear shows the problems beneath retaliation and the benefits to showing mercy in our relationships:
[...] I have noticed that one of the biggest obstacles to showing grace to others is the belief that if you do not retaliate, those who hurt you will never learn the wrongness of what they have done. We take it upon ourselves to educate our spouses, our kids, our coworkers, our parents, and anyone else in our path as to their faults and how they've hurt us.
That's what I thought during those first two years of marriage. I thought the only way really to change my wife was to make her feel the pain of what she was doing to me. If I hurt her in the same way she hurt me, she'd repent.
Furthermore, I felt right in paying her back for her wrong. When we are wronged, a little divine tuning fork rings in our hearts telling us that the balance of justice in the universe is off. We feel nigh unto deity when we are righting the wrong. We think when we restore the balance of justice, everyone will start behaving properly again.
That's a lie. Is that how God changed us, by punishing us for our sin? No. God changed us by pouring out undeserved kindness on us. When we tasted that, our hearts were transformed (115, 116).
--J.D. Greear, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary
I have always found it striking the way Peter closes his second epistle to the dispersed Christians residing in Asia Minor: “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ […]” (2 Peter 3:18a). Just like in Peter’s day, spiritual growth is important in a world of false teaching, licentious living, and the imminent return of Christ. But real growth is never severed from the gospel itself.
In fact, real spiritual growth is growing in the grace and knowledge of the good news of Jesus Christ—not apart from it. For some reason, the gospel does not function for us as the key to all authentic spiritual growth. Instead, the gospel tends to function only as our entrance into the Christian faith.
According to Peter, the gospel and growing into it will prepare us for sound theology, make us like Jesus, and make us ready for His return. Never move on from the gospel; go deeper into it. This past week I shared some similar thoughts again from J.D. Greear:
For many evangelicals the gospel has functioned solely as the entry rite into Christianity; it is the prayer we pray to begin our relationship with Jesus; the diving board off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity. After we get into the pool, we get into the real stuff of Christianity: mastering good principles for our marriage; learning rules and regulations of how to behave; and figuring out if Kirk Cameron will be left behind.
The gospel, however, is not just the diving board off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity; it is the pool itself. It is not only the way we begin in Christ; it is the way we grow in Christ […].
That’s why growth in Christ is never going beyond the gospel, but going deeper into the gospel. The purest waters from the spring of life are found by digging deeper, not wider, into the gospel well (21, 22).
J.D. Greear, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary