Back to the Goodnews
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord. (2 Cor 3:18)
By David A. DePra
The Power of His Resurrection
The Essential of True Doctrine
There Must be Heresies
Signs and Wonders
True Prophecy from a False Prophet
Faith Without Works
Works Without Faith
The Law is Not of Faith
When the Comforter Comes
Obedience to the Faith
The Righteousness of God Manifested
Abiding in the Vine
Full Assurance of Faith
Through the Veil
A New and Living Way
Strangers and Pilgrims
Because of His Mercy
A Living Sacrifice
The Light in the Life
The Renewal of the Mind
Suffering Without Cause
Transformed by the Truth
Yet Not I, But Christ
Christ Lives in Us
A Denial of Christ
Standing Aloof from Christ
Learning the Grace of God
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death, If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Phil 3:10-11)
What is the power of His resurrection? It is the power of His Life over death. And the fact is, He is our life. His resurrection life in us is a life that has already conquered all death. That is why, in order to overcome and be in His victory, we have to be living from His life. But in order to be living from HIS life – we have to lose our life.
How does a person have power over death? From where do we get power over sin? By developing a religious system based on Bible principles? By law keeping? By plugging into the right church, group, or accountability system? No. The power death and over sin is found in HIM – in His resurrection life.
We must see the Truth that Jesus Christ in us is THE LIFE – He is our life. This isn’t merely a poetic way of saying we are saved. No. Jesus Christ IS the power of God – the living Jesus Christ who dwells in us NOW. Thus, we must learn to live, by faith, from OUT OF HIM as our life. But this cannot happen unless we are, “made conformable to His death.” His life comes only through our death – we must lose our lives in order to find HIS. Only then can we live in the power of His resurrection.
We must believe, stand for, and preach, only true doctrine. But why? What makes doctrine true? The easy answer is that the Bible makes it true, that is, if doctrine is taught in the Bible, then it is true doctrine. Good. But then we might ask, “What makes doctrine that is taught in the Bible true?”
True Bible doctrine came out of the Truth Himself. He breathed it. God gave the Bible as a written revelation of Himself. Therefore, true doctrine IS true doctrine because it tells the Truth about God – right from the heart of God Himself.
Of course, God also wants to reveal Himself to us through Christ in an INWARD way – He wants to reveal to us the Truth by His Spirit. But since there is only ONE Truth, what God reveals to us about Jesus Christ through His Spirit is always going to agree one hundred percent with what He has revealed in His written Word.
If true doctrine tells the Truth about God, then false doctrine lies about Him. Whatever I say the Bible teaches I am saying about the God who breathed it. Whatever I say God has revealed, I am saying about the God who revealed it. This is why holding to true doctrine is absolutely essential: I am describing God Himself – His plan and purpose through Christ. I am teaching others about Him.
For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are genuine may be made manifest among you. (1 Cor. 11:19)
God never creates or is pleased with heresy – for heresy is a lie about God. Paul is simply saying that there are going to be heresies, and that God must allow them. Why does God allow heresy, heretics, and false teaching in His church?
He tells us: In order that the genuine article might be proven or built. For example, how do you know two plus two equals four? Probably because you were taught that it does -- and you accepted it. But if someone comes along claiming that two plus two equals five, now you are going to have to prove two plus two equals four. Because you are faced with error, you must prove the truth – and if you do, your knowledge and faith that two plus two equals four will be strengthened. Being faced with error was therefore an opportunity to prove the Truth.
When a person who believes the Truth is faced with error – or when a person who believes error is faced with the Truth – they have a choice. Do we want to know Jesus Christ? If so, God will give us more than information. He will give us revelation. He will not only expose any error we believe, but He will expose the unbelief that is in our hearts that gave place for it. We will be made genuine – made true unto God. And if we already believed the Truth, our faith will be strengthened all the more because the Truth upon which it is built will be proven all the more. There must be heresies – they are allowed by God so that we might be given cause to seek the Truth in Christ.
The term, “revival,” means, “to come alive again.” But that suggests that there was once life, which died, but now must be revived. Having said that, what is REVIVAL? Revival is the bringing in of Jesus Christ -- as the Life. (John 14:6) During a real revival, Christ becomes OUR life, and thus, we become alive in Him.
True revival is first judgment. If God is to reveal Christ, then all that is contrary to Christ must be exposed and renounced. Jesus isn’t going to simply show up and affirm what we have been doing. Repentance, and a forsaking of all that has hindered Christ, will always be at the forefront of any revival.
Then – real revival is a revelation of Jesus Christ to people in a personal, inward way. CHRIST IN YOU becomes real. Of course, we tend to think of revival as a big special event – as something God does once in awhile. In fact, we should not need a revival. If the Truth of Jesus Christ is being preached in season and out of season, people should be continually edified unto the forming of Christ in them.
For false revival to deceive, it has to look like true revival. It is a terrifying and yet ironic thing that the end time apostasy is going to look like a great end time revival. The Bible never promises an end time revival. But there is plenty about an end time apostasy.
Since God is not in a false revival, there must be a substitute that will look like God is in it. That substitute is usually signs and wonders – people getting all worked up because they believe God has done something TO them. No. The fact is, signs and wonders are never evidence of true revival. God doesn’t merely want to do something TO us – He wants to reveal Jesus Christ IN US.
There is an old saying, “Things always grow up to be what they really are.” Look at the long term fruit of a revival and that will tell you whether it was of God. The question is this: Has Jesus Christ been revealed IN people as the outcome? Using this as our guide, we would be hard pressed to find many revivals of the 20th century that could pass the test. Most of the eventual outcome of these revivals have been to minimize Jesus Christ in favor of something else that is a substitute for Him.
“An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Mat 12:39)
People most often seek after signs and wonders because they do not believe and trust God – they are always needing God to prove Himself to them. In fact, Jesus says that this can be spiritual adultery – people put faith in experiences through signs and wonders rather than in Christ Himself. They want things from God but not God Himself.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were waiting for the Messiah. They knew all of the Bible verses that spoke of Him. They continually prayed that God would send Him. But when He stood right in their midst they called Him a devil. They did not recognize Him – despite the fact that He did many signs and wonders in front of them. Did those miracles change them? No. The problem was that they did not want God or want the Truth. They wanted a Messiah who would affirm their religion, affirm them, and exclude everyone else. We can be guilty of the same unbelief.
There are a number of ways to seek signs and wonders – this is not limited to seeking some fantastic miracle. I could continually nag God to prove to me He is there in any number of ways. But if Christ is being formed within me, and I have a growing inward knowledge of Him, He will be all the evidence that I need. If I am raised in Christ, then the sign of Jonah – resurrection -- is the only evidence I will need from God.
If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder comes to pass, whereof he spoke unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which you have not known, and let us serve them; You shall not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proves you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut. 13:1-3)
The most obvious mark of a false prophet is that what he says does not come true. Yet here we see the possibility that what he says DOES come true – and that the sign or wonder he does is REAL. But we are being told that NONE of this proves that the person is speaking for God.
The evidence of a true prophet is that he not only teaches the Truth – but that He gets you into a personal relationship with the Truth Himself. That is the purpose of all true ministry. It is what the Holy Spirit does. Thus, it does not matter what miracles a person might work, all that matters is that there is of EDIFICATION IN CHRIST.
Note that God allows such deceptions to PROVE US. I Cor. 11:19 says the same thing: “There must be heresies among you so that those of you who are genuine might be made manifest.” When we are faced with errors and lies they will always present us with a choice. The choice is whether we want Jesus Christ. God allows heresy so that in seeking Him for the Truth we might have our faith strengthened and hearts purified.
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:26)
James believed the same gospel as did Paul. But in his epistle, he is dealing with those who would practice license.
James is NOT saying that real faith, if it has not works, will die, and that I will lose my salvation. No. Rather, he is saying that faith without works is NOT GENUINE faith to begin with. Is DEAD faith a real faith? No. Dead faith is not the outcome of abiding the the Living Vine. Thus, it is not, “connected,” to Christ; it is dead. It is fake faith. If my faith is merely intellectual, or emotional, or in myself, ultimately it will prove to be dead. Real faith and rest in Jesus Christ is living. It always produces at least the desire to do God’s will. Thus, if I don’t have that desire, there is a serious question about my faith.
All good works in the Christian life – “good works,” as God defines them – are the outcome of being rightly related to God by faith – through Christ. If I am rightly related to God by faith, I will at least desire to obey Him. If I am not rightly related to Him by faith, then I have a fake faith – a dead faith. My works will eventually reflect it.
How much more shall the blood of Christ….purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb 9:14)
Just as, “faith without works,” is dead, so is, “works without faith.” dead. In a nutshell, “faith without works,” is license. But, “works without faith,” is legalism.
Works without faith is dead because, “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.“ (Gal 5:4) All good works in the Christian life are to be the outcome of being rightly related to Christ by faith. It is to be, “by grace, through faith….UNTO good works.” (see Eph. 2:8-10) If I don’t have faith, I am not rightly related to Christ – I might as well be separated from Him – and all the works that emerge, because they are not of faith, they are not of Christ, and are thus DEAD.
These matters of faith and works, or law vs. grace, are not merely theological matters. You can be a professor of theology majoring in law and grace and have no faith in Christ. Or you could be someone who knows very little theology and yet have great faith in Christ, living fully in His grace. This is about Truth – and what constitutes a relationship with Jesus Christ.
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith, but, “The man that does them shall live in them.” (Gal. 3:11-12)
Note the sentence: “The law is not of faith.” It could read, “The ability to keep God’s law and be justified thereby is not the outcome of faith.” There have always been those who have taught that faith in Christ gives us the power to keep God’s law – and that this is HOW we are then justified. Indeed, I have heard GRACE wrongly defined as, “The desire and power to do God’s will.” But hidden within this error is really justification by works: For if faith enables us to be justified by works then faith is nothing more than the means by which we become justified by works. This is not the Truth.
Faith -- rather than enable us to keep God’s law and thus be justified by works -- is the means by which we are justified BY CHRIST HIMSELF – completely independent of our works. Yes, all good works in the Christian life are supposed to be the outcome of real faith – but this does not mean that those works justify us. No. We are solely justified by faith in Christ. Good works are the outcome – not the means unto justification – and not a means to complete our justification. Again – “the law is not OF faith,” but rather, “justification in Christ is solely by faith.” This is a world of difference. But we will never grasp that difference unless we know what it means to be born again.
When the Comforter Comes
Christianity at the core is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) Christ dwells in a saint by the means of the Spirit of God, or, “the Comforter.” The work of the Spirit will be to, “form Christ in us” – that is, bring us into a inward realization of Christ. And the forming of Christ in us will be unto the forming of the believer together WITH Christ. (Rom. 8:29) If this happens, we will BE His witnesses. (Acts 1:8) These things constitute the purpose of God for this age – it is why the Comforter was given.
In John, chapters 14 thru 16, Jesus affirmed these things as the work of the Comforter. In summary, the work of the Comforter is to reveal Christ TO us, IN us, and THROUGH us. Likewise, Paul would teach that the gifts of the Holy Spirit would be to edify believers in CHRIST. (Eph. 4:12-16) And his travail for the churches was that, through the Spirit, “CHRIST might be formed in you.” (Gal. 4:19) Indeed, Jesus even went out of His way to point out that the work of the Holy Spirit would never be about the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” (see John 16:13) Note that: The Holy Spirit will guide us into all Truth, but will never do this by turning attention to the Holy Spirit – but rather do so by the revelation of the Person of Christ in each believer.
All that being said, then why do we have movements centered upon the Holy Spirit? Would the Holy Spirit be in a movement that is centered on the Holy Spirit? If you examine most of the movements that are centered upon the Holy Spirit, or the baptism with the Holy Spirit, you generally do not find the work of the Holy Spirit, which is the revelation of Christ IN US. The reality of, “CHRIST IN US,” is an almost completely unknown Truth in the vast majority of churches today. You rarely even hear the words. Yet CHRIST IN US is the essence of Christianity – which is why the revelation of Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit!
Paul prayed, “I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” (Eph. 1:16) The desire of Paul, inspired to be recorded in scripture, is the desire of God. Indeed, it is the purpose for which the Comforter came: To reveal Christ TO us, IN us, and THROUGH us.
When we were saved, Jesus joined us to Himself by making us one with His Spirit. (I Cor. 6:17) Thus, Christ is in us through the Holy Spirit. His Spirit carries all that is of Christ – which is the fullness of God. And if Christ is in us, then we are complete in Him – God has given us all things freely in His Son. So, if Christ is in us, what could we possibly LACK? Nothing. Herein we see the danger: Once Christ is not enough, or once Christ is not the purpose of the Comforter, then substitutes will be brought in. Christ will be replaced by signs, wonders, movements, and experiences. And over the course of time, you will no longer a Christianity that is CHRIST IN US – but a false gospel that is about almost anything or anyone else. Yet God’s purpose remains – to guide us into all Truth – to form us together with Christ that we might BE His witnesses.
By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name. (Rom 1:5)
All good works in the Christian life are supposed to be the product of being freely justified through faith in Christ. But what are, “good works?” Even unbelievers can do, “good works.” People who are trying to be justified by their works do, “good works.” In short, it is possible to do, “good works,” not from out of faith, but from out of unbelief. It is possible to, “obey God” – not because I believe Him – but because I don’t.
“Obedience to the faith,” means I do good works because I believe. My faith is solely in Christ, and I know I am justified freely by His grace. It is finished, and I am settled about it. So I do good works because I LOVE GOD. Contrast this over and against doing good works as the means of keeping right with God. In that case, I might do outwardly good works – but not because my faith is in Christ and I belong to Him – but because I am still trying to keep myself right with God by those good works.
What are, “good works,” as God defines them? They are the works that constitute, “obedience to the faith,” i.e., they are the works that spring from seeing THE TRUTH. They have nothing to do with keeping myself right with God – but I do them because I am right with Him by grace – and I do them because I love God. You cannot fake that. You either see the Truth of grace and believe, or you don’t. And if you see it, you will walk in, “obedience to the faith.”
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe. (Rom 3:21-22)
Verses like this one are so familiar, it is easy to embrace them as merely doctrine, and forget that they speak of Truth that forms the basis of new life. Righteousness is a matter of being right, not only WITH God, but FOR God. That necessitates a LIFE – a new creature in whom there is a righteousness that can fellowship with God. Such life is found only in Christ.
Thus, we need more than a righteousness that is legally imputed to us. Rather, we need a righteous life to be IMPARTED to us. When we are raised in Christ – God imparts to us Christ Himself. Christianity IS Christ in us, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27) Christ IS our life – our righteous life. (Col. 3:4) Christ IS our righteousness. (I Cor. 1:30) Christ in us is the reason we are justified – He is the reason we are RIGHT FOR GOD. The righteousness of God that is manifested – apart from the law – is Christ Himself in the believer.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me. (John 15:4)
“To abide,” means to, “live in,” or, “to live from.” If we abide in the Vine, we are abiding in His life; living from out of Him. His life is resurrection life, which is the power over all death and sin.
What this tells us is that we don’t have to obey God in order to abide in Christ. Rather, we must abide in Christ in order to obey. To put it another way, we abide in Christ through obedience to the faith. We cannot abide in Him through obedience to the law.
The question here is not one of works. It is one of LIFE. The means of obedience to God is the LIFE of Christ – we have to live out from His life that is in us. The notion that we must obey in order to keep in that life is contrary to the gospel of grace.
The picture of bearing fruit is certainly a great one. Does a branch bear fruit so that it can continue to abide in the Vine? No. The branch first abides in the Vine SO THAT it can bear fruit. Thus, fruit, including works, is the outcome of abiding in Christ by faith.
Everything of value in the Christian life, including works, fruit, and the character of Jesus Christ, is the result of abiding in Christ by faith. That is because we must first abide in Him for His LIFE to produce these results through us.
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised.) (Heb 10:22-23)
A full assurance of faith – without wavering -- is NOT possible if such a faith is based on anything about ourselves. Faith that does not waver is the result of knowing that the Person whom we trust never changes – He is always true and faithful -- and upon the fact that He alone is our basis for access to God.
Emotions waver; temperament wavers; and moods waver. But those things are all in us; of our natural makeup. Faith in God is not emotional, temperamental, or the outcome of a mood. Faith comes by hearing and embracing the Truth that God reveals – and fundamental to all Truth is Jesus Christ as The Way to God.
When Jesus said, “I Am the Way,” He was not talking only about salvation. Rather, Jesus is the means by which we are IN GOD every day for all situations. We don’t to have to try to find the way to God. If we are saved, Christ is in us, and He is our Way.
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh. (Heb 10:19-20)
When Jesus died, the actual veil in the temple in Jerusalem was rent from top to bottom. This showed that the way to oneness with God was opened through Jesus Christ. No one and nothing can sew the spiritual veil back together and close our access to God.
Sins -- but more importantly -- the sin nature, is what separated us from God. This made it impossible for us to be one with God. But on the Cross, Jesus bore in His body the Adam race – the body of sin. (Rom. 6:6) When He died, the body of sin died in Him. Thus, the veil which represented His body dies -- is rent. That which separated us from God is figuratively torn from top to bottom, and the way is permanently opened into the presence of God through Christ.
Access to God is permanently opened IN Christ. Nothing can come between ourselves and God. Not even our sin – because that is what was already taken away and torn asunder by the death of Christ. Thus, if sin is between ourselves and God, WE, and not God, have put it there through unbelief. In other words, the way is open. The sin is that we will not believe and enter in solely, “by grace through faith,” in Christ.
The temple veil that was rent when Jesus died stood for body of sin that was rent when Jesus died. This opened up a new and living Way -- Christ in us IS The Way. Thus, we don’t merely receive the legal right to enter the holiest because of Jesus. We receive Jesus Himself – He is our High Priest -- already in the presence of God.
Note the phrase, “A new and LIVING way.” The veil is rent by the death of Christ. We are reconciled to God by the death of His Son. But we are saved by His life (see Rom. 5:10) – we are saved because He has joined us to Himself and He IS our Life.
Jesus Christ died and opened the way into God for every human being that will ever live. That is a finished work – and would remain finished for all of us even if not one of us ever believed. But – it will do us no good if we do not believe, and come to Christ for LIFE. We must believe in order to be joined to the Lord and be saved by His life. As Paul said, “One died for all, and therefore, all were dead.” (II Cor. 5:14) But we must embrace His death by faith in order to be raised in Him unto newness of life.
The only sin that can keep us from Christ is our refusal to come to Him. This is unbelief. All other sin has already been taken away by the Lamb of God.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb 11:6)
This is a description of the faith at it’s root: A person must believe that God exists, that is, will reveal Himself. A person must also believe that if we seek God we will find Him – the person must believe that God is a, “responder to them that seek Him out.”
You will notice that the focus is upon the faithfulness of God. But isn’t it a fact that the faithfulness of God is ALWAYS the basis for our faith, and is therefore what is tried in any trial of faith? Is God really there for me? Is God indifferent to me? Will God respond to me as I seek Him? This verse proves that He will respond – in fact, at the root, faith believes that God is a responder to those who diligently seek Him.
True faith is never, “faith in my faith,” that is, it is not reliance upon my ability to believe or find God. Rather, faith is based on nothing more complicated than the faithfulness of God. God is faithful in that He will always respond to those who seek Him out – He will reveal Himself through Christ and take us on into His purposes.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (Heb 11:13)
THE promise of the Father is Jesus Christ. All of God’s other promises, indeed, all that God has for man is wrapped up in the Person of His Son. And Christ is IN US. Thus, we are complete in Him. (Col. 2:9) But in this age it is impossible for us to experience all that we have received in Christ. That is why the Spirit of God – through which Christ dwells in us – is said to be, “the earnest of our inheritance.” (Eph. 1:14) The word, “earnest,” means, “down payment.”
It has been said that the more of Christ you experience, the more you will sense is in Him – yet to be experienced. This is the Truth wrapped up in the above verse. In this age, and in this human frame, we are not able to fully experience Christ. Thus, the saint is going to have this unsatisfied hunger for Christ. Of course. There is no end to the riches in Christ. The more we grow to know and experience Him, the more hungry He makes us for more of Him. This is the only way it really could be if we are talking about God Himself. A stranger and pilgrim will never feel at home in this age. There will be a certain restlessness about this life even as a Christian. We will always be longing for another home – something beyond here. But this is all because knowing Him makes us sense that there is so much more of Him – here we can see only from afar – as through a glass darkly. But then we will see Him face to face. (I Cor. 13:12)
I beseech you therefore, brethren, because of the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom 12:1)
Because there is no true knowledge of God in man by nature, indeed, the carnal mind is at emnity against God, we tend to view God as One who wants to deprive us. We read verses like the one above that talk about the necessity of the work of the Cross, and we cringe. In fact, most of us tend to think of the Christian life as a rather reluctant resignation of surrender to God – something we do simply because we must.
You will note the preface of this teaching is, “I beseech you because of the MERCIES of God.” Paul is appealing to us, not, “by the wrath of God,” There is no demand here under threat of punishment. In fact, Paul says that if we really knew God, presenting ourselves to God as described would be, “our well-reasoned out choice.” In short, God is for us, and not against us, and what He commands here is for our good, our freedom, and unto His purpose in Christ.
A primary reason why we don’t want to lose our lives to Christ is because we don’t see our real condition. Neither do we see what it means to find Christ as our life. Paul is saying that once we begin to grasp the Truth that the well-reasoned out choice will be obvious: We will want to get on the altar and give ourselves fully to Jesus Christ.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, because of the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1)
Holiness means that I belong to God – and not to myself – the Greek word means, “to be set apart for God’s use.” We are told multiple times in scripture that, “we are not our own; we are bought with a price.” (I Cor. 6:19) Indeed, the very word translated, “saint,” means, “holy one.” Thus, the name God Himself inspired to refer to person in Christ carries the meaning, “one who belongs, not to themselves, but to Christ.”
The above verse is built upon that Truth of holiness. Everyone can obey it by faith. In fact, rather than think of it as an act, think of it as a continual faith relationship with God. We are to get on the altar – i.e., pick up the Cross – and confess that we belong to God by asking Him to do, “whatever it takes,” to bring to pass His purpose in us. We can do this no matter who we are, or where we are in Christ.
This abandonment to God, if we mean it, equals losing our lives to Christ – and is a way to express true holiness – “present your bodies a living sacrifice, HOLY……”
I beseech you therefore, brethren, because of the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1)
In the OT, no animal volunteered to be a sacrifice. But here we see that we are to, “present ourselves,” as a LIVING sacrifice. Certainly this means we must voluntarily present ourselves on the altar – i.e., pick up our Cross.
The fact is, unless we are voluntarily giving ourselves to God -- it is not really of faith. Faith is not of law – real faith isn’t the result of believing God because I am forced to believe by a law. No. Real faith is the result of believing because I KNOW. I believe because I have heard and embraced the Truth of God’s faithfulness.
Ironically, if we present ourselves a living sacrifice to God, we will be, “always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” (2 Cor 4:11) Do we still want to get on that altar? We should want to, because even though it will be death to the old, we will find true life in Christ.
You will never find any suggestion in the Bible that God is going to force surrender upon us. Coherced faith is not faith. God will take the initiative to show us the Truth – but ultimately we must choose to voluntarily, by faith, to get on the altar as a LIVING sacrifice. If nothing else, we can simply present ourselves to God by asking Him to do, “whatever it takes,” to get His purpose in Christ.
Present your bodies as a living sacrifice….and be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom 12:2)
Do we want to know Jesus Christ – and know His will? Most of us have this notion that in order to KNOW the will of God, we need INFORMATION – we need God to tell us facts. Certainly God is able to do that, and sometimes does. But this is not the way in which God usually reveals His will. Rather than give us INFORMATION, God wants to give us REVELATION.
Now, what does that mean: “revelation?” Revelation is not merely information about God or His will. Revelation is of Jesus Christ Himself. And if you read the above verse, revelation of Christ is found in HIS LIFE. Sure. Jesus is a Person – an individual. He is both Life and Light. If you lose your life to find His life, along with His life is going to come Light – a greater revelation of Himself. If we receive a revelation of Jesus Himself, we are going to more clearly know His will – because He will be our Light.
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom. 12:2)
Here we are told that in order to know the will of God, we need more than just NEW INFORMATION. Rather, we need a RENEWED MIND. We are not transformed by information – we are transformed by the renewing of our minds according to the TRUTH.
This is why when we cry out to God, “If you would only tell me what to DO!,” He is usually silent. It isn’t about DOING, it is about believing from out of a mind that has been renewed according to Christ. If you did not trust God, but now trust Him, what changed? The information you had about Him? No. YOU changed. Your mind has been renewed. You now know the Truth about Him – there has come a revelation of Christ that has renewed your mind thus enabled you to trust Him.
Faith comes to be in a person by hearing the Word God speaks or reveals. (Rom. 10:17) But if we do hear – embrace the Truth God reveals – it will renew our minds, and faith can come to be. Thus, the Truth renews our minds -- and faith can emerge -- proving the, “acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Suffering Without Cause
And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and escheweth evil? and still he holds fast his integrity, although you moved me against him, to destroy him without cause.” (Job 2:3)
What was the purpose of the trial of Job? God’s own words prove that it was NOT because Job had sinned. In fact, God Himself says what happened to Job was, “without cause.” Of course, the fact Job was suffering, “without cause,” is the conflict of the entire book. Job was convicted of no sin. But he was suffering. Isn’t this our conflict in any trial as well? Why must we suffer if we have believed and obeyed God?
The fact that Job could suffer in the will of God – but not because he had sinned – points to the NT Truth of God’s purpose: To form Christ in us; that we might know Him. Job was not being punished – he was being chastised. “Chastisement,” means, “to train a child,” and is necessary for growth, even if we are fully in the will of God. At the end of Job’s trial, he says, “I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not….I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” This is the purpose for which God allows these things: That we may see Him and know Him. This is not punishment for sin. It is the love of our Father to reveal Himself to us.
Transformed by the Truth
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rom. 12:2)
How are we changed, or transformed? By the renewing of our mind. How else could we see the Truth and be changed by it? But our minds are not renewed by increasing brain power through academics. Rather, we are renewed in our minds by knowing Jesus Christ.
The true knowledge of Jesus Christ might be called an inward realization of Christ. Paul said, “I travail until Christ be FORMED in you,” (Gal. 4:19) – the word, “formed,” means, “to inwardly realize or express.” Anyone can study Bible teaching and pass it on to others, but God wants us to know the One of whom the Bible teaches. In short, we are TRANSFORMED as He is FORMED in us – we are FORMED TOGETHER with Him – which is what it means to be, “conformed to the image of His Son. (Rom. 8:29)
Paul says, “Put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” This is simply another way of saying, “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)
Yet Not I, But Christ
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)
Paul knew, and taught, that Christ was crucified FOR him. But the fact that Christ is crucified FOR us made something else possible: We are crucified WITH Christ. Note that all of this is clearly in PAST tense: Christ died for us, so that we died in Christ. The reason we must pick up our Cross to follow Christ, is not because this is not finished. It is because we have to walk in the Truth of it.
Paul also says that because we are crucified WITH Christ, we are raised in Him – “nevertheless, I LIVE.” But note: We do not merely live BECAUSE of Christ. No. Christ lives IN US – that is – He IS our life. Eternal life is not a THING God gives us. No. God gives us Christ, in whom there is all life. Thus, Paul says, “I do live – but not I – Christ lives in me. Eternal life is CHRIST IN US. He is our life.
The phrase, “I live, yet not I, but Christ,” shows that Christianity is Christ in us, and that eternal life is the result of our being joined to the One who is life. The verse also shows that in order for us to live with Christ as our life, we have to walk in the reality of being, “crucified with Christ.” Thus, Gal. 2:20 is an expansion on the words of Jesus, “If any one would save his life he must lose it…..” (Matt. 16:24) Paul did lose his life – he was crucified WITH Christ. The result was, “Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ.”
Christ Lives in Us
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Gal. 2:20-21)
Many professing Christians walk as if CHRIST IN US is nothing more than some power to keep God’s law. Their faith is not in HIM, but in the works they claim He is doing through them – many believe we are kept righteous by the works Jesus Christ does through us. But this is still righteousness through works. Unwittingly, they have put themselves right back under law as the basis for relationship with God.
Righteousness is the basis of relationship with God. But Paul says that this righteousness is not created, maintained, or based in law-keeping -- for if it were, then Christ died in vain. In short, the only righteousness we have is Jesus Christ in us – He is the righteousness of God. (I Cor. 1:30) But He is not our righteousness because of any works – not even the supposed works that He does through us. No. He is our righteousness because He IS righteous – period – and we are joined to Him. In short, we are righteous in Him completely apart from, and without any connection to, works of any kind.
The life Jesus lives in us is a righteous life because HE IS righteous. Any works, therefore, do nothing to create or maintain Him AS our righteousness. Rather, they are the product of His righteousness living in and through us. It is finished – good works are the outcome.
A Denial of Christ
For if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Gal. 2:21)
Righteousness is the basis of relationship with God. But not just a legal righteousenss, but a living righteousness – in other words, righteousness is more than DOING, it ia a matter of BEING IN HIM. Thus, Paul says that if such righteousness is possible through law-keeping, then there really isn’t any reason why Christ needed to die. In that case, what Chirst did through His death was always possible through works.
Most church-goers know that we cannot create or maintain righteousness through law-keeping. But this is exactly how most live – in an inward way. The reason is not usually rebellion – but ignorance. We are blind to the Person of Jesus Christ, in Whom we died and were raised. Thus, we don’t rest in Him as our righteousness by faith. The result is that He is of, “no effect,” for us. (Gal. 5:4) He may as well have died in vain.
Can we now see why Paul called legalism, “another gospel?”
Standing Aloof from Christ
I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel. (Gal. 1:16)
The Galatians were trying to maintain their righteousness by law-keeping. But Paul said they were, “standing aloof” – from Jesus Christ. Why? Because Christ was not their righteousness; He was not their LIFE. They were bewitched by a false gospel. The Galatians were fully content that they were right with God. But in fact, Christ was of no effect for them. Happy but deceived is often the state of those under the law.
Paul said the solution to this error was, “that Christ be formed in you.” (Gal. 4:19) Note that if the solution is that Christ be formed in us, then a Christian life based on my works must certainly mean He is NOT being formed in us. Indeed, Paul wrote to the Philippians that it was not until he lost his own righteousness, and found Christ as His righteousness, that he was able to truly, “win Christ, and be found in Him.” (Phil. 3:8-9)
The problem here is not theology. It is faith in Christ and the life that emerges – indeed, we are dealing with Christianity at the core. Those who teach this error are not merely teaching a few false things about Christianity – they are teaching a false Christianity. They are teaching a Christianity wherein Christ died in vain. (Gal. 2:21)
Learning the Grace of God
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:11-13)
If we have seen the Truth of grace, and embraced it through Christ, as the basis of our life, what will be carried in that Truth? What will the grace of God teach or reveal to us? Not that we are free to sin because grace abounds. This is NOT what grace reveals -- even though if we sin grace always DOES abound. No. The revelation of grace in Christ will not only teach us, but motivate us by faith, “to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.” We will want to live, “sober, righteous, and godly,” lives. In short, the true grace of God never leads to license. If I am in living in license, I have not embraced the Truth of His grace, but rather, I have denied it.
This is because of the nature of conversion to Christ: In order for a person to be saved, the conviction of God will have brought them to a, “Godly sorrow that works unto repentance not to be repented of.” (II Cor. 7:10) Thus.if a person has repented of sin, they will no longer want to sin. Thus, they aren’t going to embrace license. They will, despite failures, want to obey God; want to be free of sin. This is the impact on a person who has seen and values the grace of God.
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