"The Cross and You"
(Delivered Sunday, February 18, 2001 at Bethany Bible Church. All scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version.)
Paul's theme in this morning's passage is one of the most glorious that we could ever talk about - the cross of Jesus Christ and the impact it has on us. The apostle Paul describes the impact of the cross with these words:
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 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. 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, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it (Col. 2:11-15).
* * * * * * * * * *
In his letter to the believers in Colossae, Paul had been affirming the absolute sufficiency of Jesus Christ to make believers complete in the eyes of God. Paul applied the truth of Christ's sufficiency specifically to the Colossian believers when he said, "and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power" (2:10). He wanted them to be gripped by the fact that, because of Jesus' sufficiency for them, and because of their completeness in Him, nothing more needed to be done in order for them to be completely in God's favor. No outward, external thing could be added to them that would make them more complete than they already were in Christ; and no outward, external thing, if missing, would in any way diminish the completeness in Christ that was already theirs.
Paul wanted that truth to sink deeply into their thinking. And I want that to sink deeply into our thinking as a church family too. God's word teaches us that we are not only completely saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ, but we're also forever kept in God's full favor by faith in His grace through Jesus Christ - and that there's nothing we can do to either add to or take away from the complete sufficiency of Jesus Christ for us.
* * * * * * * * * *
To many people, what I've just described sounds too good to be true. Many folks find it hard to accept the idea that Jesus alone, through our faith in Him, can make us utterly and complete acceptable in the eyes of God. And so, believing that Jesus' sacrifice for us is insufficient to make us complete in God's eyes, such folks try to attain acceptance in God's eyes through something else - outward, external things; such as the observance of religious ceremonies and rituals, or the eating of only certain foods and the abstaining from others, or even the seeking of aid from "angelic helpers" or guidance through "secret knowledge".
But that's why it's so important that we take a good, close look at this morning's passage, and see what Paul says about the abiding impact that Jesus' death on the cross has upon us. Because of what God has done for us at the cross, we can know that Jesus is a completely sufficient Savior and we can rest confidently in His sufficiency for us. Because the sufficiency of our wonderful Savior, all of these other things are rendered utterly unnecessary. In fact, they're not only unnecessary; but the pursuit of them as a means of achieving completeness before God is detrimental to our faith in the only thing that truly does make us complete - our union with Christ in His all-sufficient sacrifice for us. None of them can do for us - even in part - what He alone has done for us completely.
* * * * * * * * * *
To illustrate how unnecessary these other things are, take a look at what Paul says following his words about the cross of Jesus. After stressing the completeness of what God accomplished through the suffering of Christ for us, Paul told the Colossian believers;
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations - "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using - according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh (Col. 2:16-23).
Pay special attention to what Paul said at the end of that passage. He asserted that all those 'substitute' things have the 'appearance' of actually doing something in advancing our spirituality. But he asserts that this "appearance" is really deceiving; because those things "are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh." They don't accomplish what they promise. They don't really deliver the goods. The don't solve the real problem. They "are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh".
The Bible teaches us that there's a principle at war within us - the principle of "the flesh". It's a principle that wars against our ability to do what is pleasing to God. It's a struggle that Paul spoke of elsewhere in the Bible this way:
For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members (Rom. 7:15-23).
Have you ever felt that struggle? I know that I certainly have. Paul did too; and so did the Christians in Colossae. It' a struggle that God has mercifully dealt with for us at through the cross of Jesus. God's solution at the cross provides us with ultimate victory in this struggle.
But a teaching had begun to creep into the church of the Colossians that suggested that the cross of Jesus was insufficient. It promised that people could have victory in that struggle through such things as 'secret wisdom', or self-imposed religious 'practices' and 'rituals', or through painful 'neglect of the body'. Paul was stressing that, in reality, these sorts of things accomplished nothing to bring about the "victory" that they promised, and were "of no value against the indulgence of the flesh".
That principle of the flesh is something that we've inherited from our father Adam. It's built into us from birth. And the only way to be freed from it is to die to it. And that's why Paul stresses the significance of the cross of Jesus in this morning's passage. Because of His sacrifice at the cross, Jesus - our all-sufficient Savior - has gained the victory on our behalf over the principle of sin that is within us. Paul said, "What the law could not do" (that is, make us holy and acceptable to God), "in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:4-5).
With His life, Jesus fulfilled the requirements of God's law; and with His death, He broke the stranglehold that sin held over us. And by faith, both His life and His death are applied to our account. We are made complete by our faith in a complete Savior; so that now, there's no need for us to do anything else to experience victory over sin in our lives than to trust completely in His all-sufficient sacrifice for us - and to walk and live in that victory.
The abiding impact of the cross of Jesus on us, then, is that it delivers us from the dreadful cycle of the law, sin and death. It invalidates the power that sin possessed to condemn us and bring the curse of the law upon us. And now, as brand-new creatures in Christ, we're set free to follow after God's will for us as those who are already in His complete, loving favor. Can there be any greater news for poor, tired, struggling sinners like us than that?!! Let the truth sink into your hearts of what the cross means to you, and it will change your life forever! Literally!!
* * * * * * * * * *
Now at this point, I can imagine someone asking how it could be that Jesus' death on the cross could have anything to do with people who live two-thousand years after the fact. Certainly, it's a significant event. It's a story of great tragedy and love and sacrifice. It provides us with a great example of what it means to be faithful to God to the very end. But let's face it; the crucifixion of Jesus was something that happened so long ago and so far away. How could it possibly have anything to do with you or me?
Many people have asked that question. It's a very good one to ask; and the answer is found in what Paul says in verse 12 - that those who have placed their trust in Christ have been vitally connected to His sacrifice on the cross for us by being "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."
This leads us to one of the fundamental things this passage has to teach us ...
1. THE REASON THAT THE CROSS CAN HAVE AN IMPACT ON US.
The basis of the impact that the Jesus' death on the cross has upon us is found in that word "baptism". We've been buried with Christ in "baptism".
Now usually, when we see that word "baptism" we automatically think of the baptism that's performed in church - the ordinance by which a brand new believer is dipped into water. But the baptism being spoken of here is not talking about the ordinance performed in church. What Paul is speaking of here is something that God does to a believer, in a spiritual sense, that connects them directly to the death of Jesus on the cross.
The Greek word that's used here - "baptizmo" - is related to the idea of "dipping" something into something else in such a way that the item dipped becomes permanently "identified" with the thing into which it is dipped. If, for example, someone were to dip a piece of white cloth into a pot of purple dye, that white cloth would become "purple" - permanently identified with the dye into which it had been 'baptized'. Paul is using the word "baptism" in verse 12 in a way that's very much analogous to that idea of such a "dipping". Permanent "identification" is the result.
The Bible tells us that, for whoever has placed their faith in Jesus as Savior, a work of the Holy Spirit has occurred - one in which He "baptizes" the believer into Christ (1 Cor. 12:13); spiritually "dipping" the believer, as it were, into Jesus, and causing the believer to be permanently "identified" with Him, and uniting the believer with Him in His death, burial and resurrection. Paul said, in Romans 6:1-7;
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! 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? 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 (Rom. 6:1-4).
The public act of baptism in a church has significance in that it's meant to portray that spiritual reality. The Bible teaches us that, once we've placed our faith in Jesus Christ, we should publicly proclaim that faith by being baptized in water as an act of obedience (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:37-38; 10:48; 22:16). But we need to make sure we all understand that, whenever we baptize someone in church, it doesn't bring about that spiritual reality. Baptism in a church is simply meant to serve as a public symbol of the fact that a spiritual "baptism" has occurred - that they have indeed placed their trust in Jesus Christ and have, by faith, been "baptized" through an act of the Holy Spirit into the death, burial and resurrection of the Savior, Jesus Christ.
Everything that Paul has to say to us in this morning's passage assumes the reality of a union with Christ's death through that "spiritual" baptism. As you look through this passage, you can see that it's filled with references a spiritual union with Christ: "in Him you were also circumcised" (v. 11); "buried with Him in baptism" (v. 12); "raised with Him" (v. 12); "made alive together with Him" (v. 13). Being "in Christ" or "with Christ" is a basic theme in Paul's letter to the Colossians. Earlier in this letter, Paul said that he sought to present every man perfect "in Christ" (1:28); "For in Him," Paul said, "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him" (2:9-10). Everything about our full completeness in Christ is dependent upon our being "in Him"- that is, by being "baptized" through faith into His death on the cross, His burial in the tomb, and His resurrection from the dead into glorious newness of life.
* * * * * * * * * *
I spoke once with an agnostic friend who was very skeptical of the gospel's teaching about the cross of Jesus. As we talked, she looked sternly at me and said, "And don't try to tell me that Jesus died the most painful death anyone ever died; because the fact is that He didn't!" (Obviously, that was something that some well-meaning Christians had told her once before - that Jesus died the most painful death anyone ever died; and she assumed that the whole of Christianity depended somehow the idea of Jesus' death being an example of the most horrible and painful death anyone could ever experience.)
I believe Jesus' death was, indeed, among the most painful and horrible deaths anyone ever experienced. I even believe that it may well have been the most painful death any man ever died. But that's not where the true, saving value of His death is to be found. I responded by telling my friend that the Christian faith doesn't rest on the question of whether or not Jesus' death was the most "painful" or "horrible" death any man ever died; but rather on the fact that it was the most "significant" and "substantial" death any man ever died - because He died as our substitute. That would make it, without question, the most important death anyone ever died; and she had to admit that this was true.
Jesus' death has had a direct impact on the lives of millions and millions of people who have placed their faith in Him over the past two-thousand years - people from every place on the globe, and from every walk of life. And the reason for this impact is because God unites such believers to His death, burial and resurrection through a spiritual act of "baptism". That's how it can be that the cross of Jesus Christ - an event that occurred on the other side of the world, two-thousand years ago - can have anything to do with you and me today. It's because we've been "buried with Him in baptism"
* * * * * * * * * *
Everything about the Christian faith hinges on our spiritual connection to Jesus Christ and His suffering for us on the cross. It was at the cross that the Son of God, who became fully man, took all our sins upon Himself and died in our place. It was there that the justice of God was fully satisfied, and that each and every one of our sins were fully atoned for. It was there that the death penalty for all our sins was, one-and-for-all, completely paid - never again to be charged against us. And it was because of what happened there that the full righteousness of Jesus Christ has been imputed to us - so that we are made as righteous as He is in God's eyes.
We've seen, then, how it can be that the cross has a direct and personal impact on us. This leads us, now, to consider how Paul talks specifically about ...
2. THE NATURE OF IMPACT OF THE CROSS UPON US.
First, Paul shows us how the cross has an impact on the principle of sin. Paul tells us that the cross of Jesus has dealt with the principle of sin that we feel at war within us when he says, in verse 11, "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ."
It may seem strange that Paul talks about the Old Testament rite of "circumcision" and the New Testament ordinance of "baptism" in almost the same breath. But it's not really strange at all when you consider that they were both symbols of "identification". Just as baptism symbolizes someone's spiritual "identification" with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus; so also circumcision symbolized a Jewish man's identification with the covenant promise of God. Circumcision was something that was established by God in the Old Testament law by which He distinguished the Jewish people for a special purpose in His great plan of salvation.
You see; each man and woman born from Adam has been born under the dominion of sin. Through the one sin of our father Adam in the garden, sin entered into the human race. Because of his sin, the death that comes through sin has spread throughout all his offspring - because we were all in him when he sinned (Rom. 5:12). All of us are born in the same condition as King David, who said, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:5). We were born sinners; and we demonstrate our pedigree by our own sins. We aren't "sinners" because we have sinned; but rather, we sin because we are, by nature, "sinners". And what's more; being born under the dominion of sin, we're also helpless slaves to sin. "Whoever commits sin," as Jesus said, "is a slave to sin" (John 8:34).
All of mankind was born under the curse of Adam's sin; and that curse was passed down from parents to children, from Adam onward - making all of us "slaves to sin". But God chose a people for Himself - the Jewish people - and entered into a covenant relationship with them. It would be through them that mankind's promised Savior would come; and it would be by them that cursed humanity would be saved. And so, God commanded the first Jew, Abraham - the man through whom this chosen nation was to be born - to bear a symbol of the covenant He would make with this chosen nation. He commanded Abraham that every male child of his offspring was to be circumcised (Gen. 17:10).
It's not really very hard to appreciate the significance of this symbol. If it was true that each human being that was born into the family of Adam is cursed with the principle of sin within them; and if God chose a people for Himself from out of this pool of sinful humanity, through whom He would provide a Savior and deal the death blow to the principle of sin; and if each Jewish man was to teach his children to put their hopes and faith in God's promised salvation - then it would be appropriate for each male child to be "marked" by a sign that symbolized that glorious expectation. Every male child was to bear on his body the mark of the removal of flesh; and he was to bear this mark on that part of his body by which his own offspring would be brought into the world. It would always serve as a reminder - from generation to generation - of God's covenant promise that He would one day deal with that cursed principle of sin and set people free from it.
God wasn't concerned simply with a outward physical act on the part of the Jewish people. He wasn't concerned, in an ultimate sense, with physical condition of the body; but rather with the spiritual condition of the heart. Circumcision symbolized "separation" - a severing of ourselves from sin and a separation of ourselves unto God. He said, in Jeremiah 4:4; "Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest My fury come forth like fire, and burn so that no one can quench it, because of the evil of your doings (Jer. 4:4). He told them in the days of Moses that, "... The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heat and with all your soul, that you may live" (Deut. 30:6).
* * * * * * * * * *
And now, Paul is telling us the good news that God brings about the "circumcision of our hearts" through our identification with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for us. In Him, we were "circumcised" with a spiritual circumcision - "the circumcision made without hands" - in which God "puts off" or "strips away" from us what he literally calls "the body of the flesh". It's all accomplished for us in "the circumcision of Christ" - that is, the spiritual "circumcision of the heart" that has its source in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
Apart from Christ's sacrifice, we are utterly enslaved to the principle of sin at work in us. We are completely given over to it. Paul said elsewhere that while in this state, "we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and where by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3). That principle of sin was abiding in us - just like the principle of wildness abides in an animal that was born wild. No matter how we may have tried to tame the principle of sin out of ourselves, it eventually showed itself.
But that's where the practical significance of the cross of Jesus comes in. Because of our union with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection, we have died to our old master, and we've been raised up in newness of life to a new Master. The dominating power that the principle of sin held over us has been broken. We no longer have to serve as helpless slaves to the principle of the flesh.
That principle still abides in us - even though we ourselves are "in Christ". We'll never be completely free of its presence in us until we shed these bodies of clay, and are made to stand eternally in the presence of Jesus in full glory. Until then, we must struggle with that principle at war within us. But the glorious difference that the cross of Jesus makes is that sin's dominating power over us has been broken. The "body of the flesh" has been cut away from us through the spiritual "circumcision" of Christ. And now - though it is still present within us - we are no longer its helpless slave.
I believe that what Paul is saying here parallels what he said in Romans 6:5-19;
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, 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. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 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. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 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 to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have domination over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to uncleanness, and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness (Rom. 6:5-19).
The death of Jesus on the cross means that we are no longer slaves to the principle of sin. The dominating power of the principle of sin has been "circumcised" from our hearts by our having died with Him on the cross. Now, when we feel the pull of the principle of the flesh in us toward sin, we can declare with Paul, "No! I won't obey you!! 'I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me'" (Gal. 2:20). We can refuse to give the members of our body over as instruments of sin - our eyes, our ears, our lips, our hands, our feet, our minds; and instead, we can freely give our members over to God as His instruments of righteousness!
* * * * * * * * * *
That's how the cross impacts the principle of sin that abides in us. It sets us free from it, so that we are no longer enslaved to it. But sin gets its power to condemn us through God's law. And so Paul goes on further to tell us about how the cross impacts our relationship to the law. He says that, in Christ, we have died to the condemning power of the law - "buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God" (v. 12); so that he could later say, "having wiped out the handwriting of requirements against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (v. 14).
The Bible tells us that the principle of sin is a very deceptive thing. It gets its power through something good - the law of God. It gains its opportunity to condemn us through the commandment of God. We wouldn't have known what God wants from us if it weren't for God's good and holy commandments. But as soon as we hear God's commandments, the principle of indwelling sin kicks in to oppose it; and thus, it puts us under the law's curse. As Paul said elsewhere;
... sin, taking the opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me (Rom. 7:8-11).
You and I have been born under such an obligation to God's commandments that, if we fail to keep it completely, we are cursed and deserve death. And that's the condition in which we remain apart from Christ. Our great problem is that, along with being born under obligation to the law, we've also been born sinners. Apart from Christ, we cannot help but be breakers of God's law; and so we're immediately born under a curse. We cannot the commandments of God - the commandments to which we're obliged as long as we live. The only way out of this horrible cycle of obligation, sin and cursedness is to die to it.
But that's exactly what the cross of Jesus Christ accomplishes for us. Our death in Him severs us from our impossible relationship to the letter of the law - the law which we were under obligation to keep in every detail - the law which was impossible for us to keep because of the principle of indwelling sin that was aroused by it - the law which was killing us every time we looked into it. When we died in Jesus, we died also to the curse of the law.
* * * * * * * * * *
The Bible describes our relationship to the letter of the law as something similar to that of marriage. So long as a woman is married, she is obligated to her husband (just as, so long as someone is alive, they're obligated to the letter of God's law). If the married woman was to join herself to another while her husband was still alive, she would be an adulteress. But if her husband were to die, then she would be free from her obligation to him. She could be joined to another in marriage and not be guilty. Death severed her previous relationship - and with it, the obligation that bound her to it.
Paul wrote; Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another - to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter (Rom. 7:4-6).
Being baptized into Christ means that, as far as God is concerned, Jesus has received the full punishment for sins on our behalf in His crucifixion. And that means that, as far as God is concerned, we have been laid to death with Him in His burial, and have also been raised up with Him in His resurrection. Our death in Christ, our burial with Him, and our resurrection with Him, sets us free from the condition into which we've been born. And this all means that, just as our spiritual "circumcision" through the cross of Christ sets us free from the principle of sin in us that waged war against God's good law, so our spiritual "baptism" into the cross of Christ sets us free from the obligation to the law that resulted in a terrible curse being brought upon us.
* * * * * * * * * *
It's important that we understand God's law correctly in all this. The Bible is not now telling us that the law of God is something bad, or that it's something that we can now simply ignore. God's law is good (Rom. 7:11); and it still remains as God's unchanging standard of holiness (Matthew 5:17-19).
We're not set free, then, to live in utter disregard to God's holy law through disobedience to it. After all, the Bible tells us that Jesus died for us so that He might "redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14). Rather than set free from the holiness described for us in God's law, we're set free from the curse of the law itself that came through our inability to obey it.
You can look at it this way: Apart from Christ, we're utterly obligated to the absolute letter of the law as the only means by which we could be in God's favor - a situation that was impossible for us because of the principle of sin in us. It only brought death upon us, because "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). But by our faith in the cross of Jesus, and by virtue of our being baptized into His death, burial and resurrection, we've been set free from that old, impossible obligation. We've died to that old relationship to the law, and to the obligation to it that brought a curse of death upon us; and now, we no longer have to seek God's favor through strict obedience to the letter of the law. Now, we've been placed in God's favor "in Christ"; and we have been set free to keep the law of God as those who are freed from its curse and are already - fully and forever - in His favor by grace.
We no longer have to struggle with the law out of a motive of fear of its curse. Now, we can keep His law out of the motive of love, under the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Of course, we're sure to fail and stumble along the way in our attempts to keep God's commandments; but we have no need to fear that we'll ever be lost to God's favor because of that failure, because the law is not how we enter into His favor, and the law isn't how we're kept in His favor. We've "died" to that old, impossible path to His favor; and have been "raised" to a state of eternal favor in His Son Jesus.
Walking in obedience to God's law is no longer a burden under God's curse; it's now a delight under God's grace!
* * * * * * * * * *
I hope that you can see that there's all the difference in the world between trying to keep God's commandments in an effort to earn God's favor; and keeping God's commandments out of loving gratitude to Him, because you're already in His favor as a free gift of His grace. Only the latter describes the Christian faith as it's taught in the Bible; and that's because the object of our faith - Jesus Christ - is an all-sufficient Savior.
Jesus alone saves us completely; and He alone keeps us savingly complete. I long for the complete sufficiency of our wonderful Savior Jesus Christ to be the heart-felt confidence of everyone in our church family.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ; God has accomplished everything we need at the cross of Jesus Christ. By faith, we can rest assured that He has placed us "in Christ". By His death, we have been severed from the dominating principle of sin, and have been put to death with respect to the binding curse of the law. The cross of Jesus Christ alone is sufficient to give us victory over "the indulgence of the flesh". Nothing else is needed to place us - and keep us - in God's full favor. Nothing else can do for us what the cross of Jesus alone is sufficient to do.
And so, let's not look anywhere else than to the cross of Jesus. Let's put our full confidence in what our all-sufficient Savior accomplished for us there; and rest confidently in Him.
(copyright 2001 by Pastor Greg Allen and Bethany Bible Church. Reproduction without permission, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.)
Missed a message? Check the archives!