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Christianity: Christ In Us
By David A. DePra
Christianity is JESUS CHRIST IN US. It is an unconditional devotion to a Person, Jesus Christ. But not to just "any Jesus." It is devotion to the Jesus who is God Incarnate, and the Savior of the world. Any other version of Christianity is not Christianity, but heresy.
The term also embodies the full gamut of God’s redemptive plan through Jesus Christ. It involves knowing God. We might describe the Christianity of the Bible in a number of other ways. Certainly, Christianity is a new birth. It is being reconciled to God. It is the condition of having been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. Christianity is LIFE – new life. It is being "in Christ," and "Christ in us, the hope of glory." All of these descriptions are Christianity.
Christianity has a premise. It is a premise upon which everything else is predicated. Deny this premise and you have no need for a Savior. That premise is that God created man to live with Him and experience him forever, but that man rejected Him. Through the sin of Adam, the entire human race lost affinity with God. Thus, through natural birth, we have no life in us.
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (I Cor. 15:21-22)
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Romans 5:12)
Unless we understand the fact that we are lost, and separated from God, we cannot understand the plan of God through Christ. In that case, there would be no need for Jesus to die, indeed, for Him to come at all. We would not need a new birth, for there would be nothing wrong with the old. We would not need to be redeemed, for there would be nothing TO redeem. And certainly, there would be no grounds for God to forgive us – for there would be nothing TO forgive. Deny man’s lost condition, and you don’t need Christianity. Indeed, Christianity would, in that case, be the biggest lie ever perpetrated upon the human race.
The Bible contains the story of the sin of Adam in Genesis. But the New Testament tells us what that story means, and how Jesus redeemed us from sin.
For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:17-21)
But now the righteousness of God without 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: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:19-24)
By natural birth, we are "in Adam." Dead. Through the new birth, we are "in Christ." Alive eternally. To get out of Adam into Christ, you have to die to Adam and be raised in Christ. This was accomplished for us by Jesus. By faith it is made real in us.
God has already accomplished everything necessary for this restored and eternal relationship through His Son, Jesus Christ. That is why Christianity is an unconditional devotion to the Person, Jesus Christ. When I am devoted unconditionally to Jesus Christ , I have that restored relationship.
Have we ever realized that our destiny is to live with God forever? To know Him, fellowship with Him, and experience Him – in a way that is beyond human comprehension. THAT is what Christianity is all about. It is supposed to be, not only an announcement of that, but a foretaste of it RIGHT NOW, for those who will come to Christ.
The Revelation of Jesus
If Christianity were merely a "religion to follow," or a "belief system," or a list of dos and don’ts to obey, then we would need to know the tenets of that religion, and we would need to know it’s commands. That is ALL we would need to know. But Christianity is a relationship with God through His Son. Therefore, what we need to know is HIM.
But how do we come to know HIM? The Bible says that God, through the Holy Spirit, has to reveal to us Jesus Christ.
In the final analysis, Christianity is REVEALED Truth. It must come as a revelation to us from God. This does not mean we have to have some overtly supernatural experience, or an experience similar to the one Paul had on the road to Damascus. God can use many methods to reveal to us Jesus Christ – including His Word, preaching, and many others. But unless God reveals Christ to me, I cannot know Him. There is nothing in me with which I can do this for myself.
Now what we see here might come as a surprise to some people. What we see is that Christianity is REVEALED Truth. It not is not "required" Truth. In other words, God doesn’t say to us, "Here are a bunch of teachings and doctrines to which you must agree to become a Christian." No. What He does do is reveal to us His Son. He draws us to Christ. Then, if we respond by "coming to Christ," by unconditionally placing our faith in Him, we are saved – we are a Christian. The teachings will come in along side of God’s revelation of Jesus.
In the day and age when the gospel was new, this fact was obvious. But today, when the gospel is everywhere – as are false gospels – it is easy to think that knowing Jesus Christ is simply a matter of growing up in the right church. It is easy to think that Christianity is acquired, or required, knowledge – almost like being able to pass an exam. But no. Despite the fact that we need teaching and doctrine to help people, and despite the fact the God uses us to help lead people to Christ, God must reveal Jesus Christ to people for it to be real.
What we are really saying here is that coming to Christ involves a CONVERSION. It is a moral conversion wherein a person repents of his sin against God, and surrenders to Him through Jesus Christ. Mere knowledge – even of the doctrines which say we have to do this – is not the same thing AS doing it.
Paul constantly spoke of knowing Jesus through a revelation of God:
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. (Gal. 1:11-12)
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: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. (Eph. 1:16-18)
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (I Peter 1:13)
We have already said that Christianity is an unconditional devotion to Jesus Christ. Contrast this to the idea of being unconditionally devoted to teachings ABOUT Christ. We need Biblical teachings about Christ. But we must start with Christ Himself. The teachings will then flow out of Him, flow into Him, and be centered in Him.
Revelation is ultimately of God. But revelation alone is not salvation. Rather, revelation is light. It is Truth that is introduced into darkness – so that we can choose LIGHT rather than darkness. God alone can bring revelation. But according to the Bible, we can and must respond.
John writes, "Light is come…." (John 3:19) But then he refers to, "he that comes to the Light"….and contrasts it to, "he that does not come to the Light." Clearly, God initiates and brings the Light. He draws us to Christ. But then we must COME – take the step of surrender by faith. Or we can refuse.
If you are a Christian, you got that way because God initiated your conversion by bringing some Light into YOUR world. And if you are a Christian, you got that way because you embraced the Light God gave by faith -- you surrendered yourself to Jesus Christ. Thus, you do have some knowledge of who Jesus Christ is. Not maybe. But for sure. You do have SOME knowledge of Jesus because you CAME TO JESUS! You had to have known at least enough to see that you were a sinner and He is your Savior.
Now, what I am saying is this: Conversion carries with it certain absolutes. You MUST see certain Truths and make a definite choice of faith to be converted. If you are converted, you passed through that process. Paul writes,
The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shall be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:8-10)
Here we see that if God has drawn a person to Christ that the person will have "the Word of God" NEAR them – in their mouth and heart. But that person must confess and believe – that is – surrender their whole selves to the Truth about Jesus Christ. If they do they are saved.
In a nutshell – according to the Biblical definition – you became a Christian BY seeing who Jesus Christ is, and your great need for Him. And you put your faith in Him.
Now, what this tells us is this: If conversion to Christ mandates that you COME TO JESUS, because you have seen who Jesus is – your Savior, God Incarnate – then what can we boldly say about those who pro-actively deny Jesus is God? We can say they were never converted. That is for sure. They may have even REJECTED Truth God gave them – otherwise we might wonder why they protest so strongly about Jesus
It is one thing to be confused about Jesus. It is one thing to be ignorant about Him. But it is another to loudly deny Him. God alone knows our hearts. But we can stand by this one Truth if nothing else: Conversion is the result of seeing who Jesus is. Thus, after real conversion, it is not possible to deny who He is.
None of us know everything about Jesus. We are all growing. But the WAY we become converted to Christ involves seeing Jesus is God, and the Savior of the world. This is why these basics about Jesus stand at the center of essential Christian Truth and fellowship.
Conversion is consummated in a moment. But there is a process which leads up to conversion – of God’s drawing of us to Christ. The time and experience of this may vary from individual to individual.
Let’s liken "being saved" to being in a room filled with Light, called "God’s room." If I am in this room, I am "in Christ." I have been saved. Everything outside of that room is darkness. We all live outside God’s room until we enter through Jesus Christ.
Of course, Jesus IS the Light. He is the room, and the Door. But we must, by God’s grace, have Jesus revealed to us. This time of revelation and choosing might be likened to a THRESHOLD. This threshold is a corridor leading from the darkness into the Light. The threshold is NOT yet salvation. It is God’s drawing.
This threshold leads to the room of Light. But because there is Light which penetrates into this threshold FROM the room, this threshold shows us the direction – drawing us to the Truth. The closer we walk through this corridor to the Light, the more we see Jesus.
This threshold is our conversion process or experience. It is the time where God is showing us the Truth – drawing us to Christ, who is the Light. The threshold is the place where – for us – Light is come. It is the point where we must choose Christ or reject Him.
But notice: Once God has initiated our calling and has shown us some light, there is never any possibility of going back to where we were to begin with. That door is forever closed. We will hopefully embrace Christ. But we can reject Him. Either way, we HAVE SEEN. We are no longer blind. We WILL choose either the LIGHT, or we will end up in a place of greater darkness. But there is no going back to where we started, before God drew us.
God must bring Light into our world, and we must now decide whether we love darkness rather than Light, or Light rather than darkness. It is here, in this threshold, that we make our choices – for God Himself is dealing with us. He has called us.
As mentioned, this threshold carries revelation. As we pass through it, we see who Jesus Christ is. God reveals Him to us. It is likewise a threshold of repentance and surrender to God through Christ – assuming we embrace this revelation. This threshold or Door to God’s room is Jesus Himself.
Now, for some, their passing through this threshold goes very quickly. For others, it can take years. Some of us hear and don’t understand. Some of us get bogged down. Some of us hesitate and compromise. But we don’t actually make any concrete choices one way or another. Yet God has put us in this threshold and keeps pushing. He will push and push until we either receive Christ or reject Him.
Now ask: If in order to enter INTO God’s salvation, I must pass through God’s revelation as to who Jesus Christ is, how is it then possible, having passed through that threshold, to turn around and deny who Jesus is? It isn’t possible.
Do you see that? If in order to become a Christian, I have to see the Truth about Jesus, and surrender to that Truth, how can I later say I am a Christian, but deny that Truth? I cannot. Denying who Jesus is, but saying I’m a Christian, is like saying that I am a vegetarian, but constantly eat meat. It is a contradiction. It cannot be.
Conversion is real and it is permanent. If you have passed through the conversion process, you cannot go back. You have seen the Truth and can never say you haven’t. You cannot be "born again backwards." And part of what you have seen is the identity of the Savior. You have COME TO HIM.
Biblical teaching shows us what God does, is doing, and will do. It brings definition and communication to God’s plan and purpose. God can use teaching to draw us to Christ, show us God is drawing us to Christ, or help us understand what God did when He called us to Christ. Teaching is vital because we have to be able to understand essential Truths, not only to be converted, but to then LIVE. Someone once said that God can convert us in a second. But it will take the rest of our lives for Him to teach us what He did.
Just so there is no misunderstanding: Teaching is vital. It is not unimportant. But teaching itself is not conversion. Teaching is ABOUT conversion.
This point cannot be overemphasized because the minute you say that there is something more important than teaching about Christ – namely Christ Himself – there are some people who react and think that you are saying we don’t need clear, Biblical teaching. NO. NO. NO. We must have clear, Biblical teaching – indeed, it is often used of God TO convert people. The Bible is filled with such teaching.
The whole point is this: We must grasp the distinction between teachings about Christ and Jesus Himself. For example, don’t think that knowing teachings about conversion means you are converted. But also, don’t expect that to be converted you have to know all the theology of it, or be able to explain everything like you might be able to years later. No. To be converted you simply have to COME TO JESUS. Christianity is CHRIST IN US.
And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And you will not come to me, that ye might have life. (John 5:38-40)
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (II Timothy 3:7)
Now guess what happens once you COME TO JESUS? -- once you pass through the threshold and come into the room of salvation? You discover all kinds of Truth about Jesus! The knowledge of Jesus Christ is the result of coming to Jesus.
But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Eph. 4:20-24)
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)
So we see that the key is to COME TO JESUS. We do this through the conversion process. So even though you might not be all that good at explaining everything about Jesus, you are going to learn about Him. You are open and hungry for the Truth. Being open to the Truth is a characteristic of being born again.
The Bible uses the word "hear" to express an openness to the Truth. If I am willing or able to "hear God," then I am OPEN to Him. If I will not hear, then I am CLOSED.
Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convicts me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God hears God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. (John 8:42-47)
It is just this simple: When you came to Jesus, you opened yourself -- to the words of God.
You will now be able to stay that way forever. It comes with the package. But if you have refused to open yourself and give place to the Truth, you will not hear the words of God. You don’t want to – because God continues to say the same thing to you that you have already rejected.
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. (Heb. 3:14-15)
A sign of conversion is that we know who Jesus Christ is. We have HEARD – been open to ,and received the Truth – of Christ. Thus, when we became converted to Christ, we saw and embraced who He is.
A Christian cannot deny that Jesus is God because the way he became a Christian was by seeing that Jesus is God. A Christian cannot deny that Jesus is the one and only Savior, because the way he became a Christian was by seeing that Jesus is the one and only Savior of the whole world. A Christian cannot deny the need for repentance because he became a Christian by repenting.
So what we see is that God REVEALS certain Truths to us as part of the conversion process. We call many of these "the essential Truths of Christianity." The essential Truths of Christianity are those things, any of which if you remove or deny, leave you with something which is no longer Christianity. They are not "required Truths" – in the sense that God "demands" we agree to them before we can be saved. Rather, they are REVEALED Truths – Truths we WILL believe if we ARE saved!
Now, it is good and right to put these Truths down in the form of a statement of faith. Why? Because we KNOW they are revealed Truth! We have to stand for them. The core of our statement of faith is supposed to be of those revealed Truths of Christianity, supported fully by scripture, with which there can be no compromise. They are those things which define Christianity. And there is nothing wrong with adding to them other less essential Truths which we deem to be of utmost value.
Christianity did not emerge out of doctrines. Doctrines emerged out of Christianity – or along side of it. Anytime we get this reversed, the life gradually disappears and religion takes over. And in time, even the religion begins to suffer because no longer at the center is Christ Himself.
Again -- it is important that we grasp the distinction between being devoted to Jesus Christ, and being devoted to principles which talk about Him. It is entirely possible to be devoted to my religious principles – and they might even be true ones – but to fail to put my life in the hands of Jesus. If this is the case, in time, the principles which hold my devotion will begin to suffer and wither. For I am not abiding in the Vine – instead I am talking about a principle which tells me I ought to.
God tells us that if we are unconditionally devoted to Jesus Christ, that this is precisely the WAY in which we will come to see the Truth about Him, and will value the teaching which He gives us about His Son in scripture. It is always the Person of Christ first, and always that.
Who Is Jesus?
It seems almost too self-evident to have to state it, but there is no Christianity, indeed, no revelation of Truth, without Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself stated this. He said:
I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father. (John 14:6-9)
These are plain and straightforward words. Jesus was God. If you wanted to know what God was like, all you had to do was look to Jesus. He was God’s revelation of Himself to us through the vehicle of the human.
The apostle John, in fact, tells us that we do not have God at all if we do not have Jesus:
Whosoever transgresses, and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abides n the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed. (II John 1:9-10)
Note that John says that we have to LIVE IN the Truth of Jesus Christ. Unless we are doing that, we don’t have God. Jesus is the only Way to, and IN God.
So who IS Jesus Christ? First, Jesus is God Incarnate – God become man.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3, 14)
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in very essence God, did not consider equality with God something to cling to for Himself. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the essence of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:5-11)
Jesus is also the Son of God:
But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through his name. (John 20:31)
And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus said to him, Thou hast said: (Matt. 26:63-64)
Jesus is the Savior of the world:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hates the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:14-21)
Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)
Jesus is also the Messiah of God – which is what the name "Christ" means:
Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. (Mk. 14:61-62)
Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not.
Lastly, Jesus was God’s message about Himself to us:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Heb. 1:1-3)
Who Do You Say I Am?
So far we have seen who Jesus is, and the fact that God must reveal Him to us personally – solely by His grace. This is Truth which is verified all through the Bible. One of the best portrayals of these facts is found in Matthew 16. Matthew 16 contains an important passage which shows us the necessity of knowing who Jesus Christ is, and the means by which we might come to know Him.
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Who do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that you are John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He said to them, But who do you say that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto you, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shali bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then He charged his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. (Matt. 16:13-20)
Here we see Jesus asking His disciples, "Who do men say that I am?" They say, "Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." (Matt. 16:14) But then Jesus rephrases the question. He asks, "Who do YOU say that I am?"
This is THE QUESTION. It is THE QUESTION upon which everything hinges – for the entire world, and for you and I individually. Who do I say Jesus Christ is?
Peter stepped forward from the fray that day and spoke for the disciples. He said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." That was the right answer.
Of course, the name "Christ" means "Messiah." So in one confession, Peter is not only saying that Jesus is the Son of God – God Incarnate become man – he is saying that Jesus is the promised Messiah of Israel.
Jesus applauded Peter’s realization. He said, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matt. 16:17-18)
Do we see what is going on here? Jesus was asking His disciples – not who anyone else said He was, and not even who "teachings" said He was. He was asking His disciples who THEY believed Him to be. THAT is the question. Jesus is asking you and I: Who do YOU – personally and individually – say that I am?
Here, in Matthew 16, we see that the revelation of Jesus as the Christ is not received through any "flesh and blood" means." God Himself must take the initiative to reveal to us who Jesus is. He can use people, preaching, His Word, teachings, and experiences. But in the final analysis, God Himself does this – and must do it -- by His GRACE.
This Truth is echoed throughout scripture:
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. (John 6:44-45)
In this we see two phases of the conversion process. First, the "drawing." God must do that. We cannot. God must get us into the threshold – into our time of decision. He must reveal to us some Light. Second, there is the "coming to Me." That is the intended outcome of the "drawing." This WE must do – by faith. We have to "come to" the Light in order to get into God’s room of salvation.
We might paraphrase a bit on John 3:19 to make the point: LIGHT has come in our world. If we "come to" the Light – by faith -- we will be saved. But if we love darkness, rather than Light, then this is condemnation for us. In short, God brings the Light. But we decide what to do with Him.
Anyone who rejects Christ can always turn and embrace Him. The Light God has given him is still turned on. But the sin is not turning and embracing Him. That is what condemns people.
Once we see the true conversion to Christ MUST be initiated by God, it tells us that it cannot be the product of an intellectual argument, an emotional condition, or a history lesson. We cannot know who Jesus is simply by studying. No "flesh and blood means" can give us a knowledge of Jesus Christ. It takes a revelation of the Father in heaven.
Have you realized that Christianity, by definition, is a revelation? Christianity is NOT a list of doctrines and teachings ABOUT Christ – although we must have these. At it’s root, Christianity is a revelation initiated by God, solely by His grace, to the human heart.
Come Unto Me
Jesus continually said, "Come unto Me." But not once does He ever attach conditions. Did you ever notice that? Instead, we are always told about what Jesus has for US if we will simply come to Him.
Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11;28-30)
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And you will not come to me, that you might have life. (John 5:39-40)
What does it mean to "come to Jesus?" Well, first, notice in that phrase, "Come unto Me," there is the assumption that we need to change directions. Do you see that? Jesus is saying, "Come unto Me," only because we aren’t already heading in His direction. Otherwise, He is telling us to do what we are already doing – which doesn’t make any sense.
To "come to Jesus," I have to come away from where I’ve been. I must – morally and by faith -- change the direction I am going, turn around, and come to HIM. And actually, "a change of direction" is exactly what is the meaning of the word "conversion." Repentance means "a change of mind." Conversion means "a change of direction." Therefore, TO COME TO JESUS IS CONVERSION.
To "come unto Jesus," of course, means to fall into His hands. It means to run to Him for shelter and provision. It means to give oneself to Him – to surrender to Him. What we see here is FAITH. "To come unto Jesus" is therefore what we do by faith for salvation.
So what do we need to do to be saved? Come unto Jesus. Faith. There is no other condition required.
Now notice: God doesn’t say, "Obey Me and then you can come to Jesus." No. He says, "Come to Jesus, and then you will obey Me." Neither does God say, "Make sure you confess every sin you have ever committed, and then you can come to Jesus." No. He says, "Come to Jesus, and you will be in a Light which will bring you to confession of sin." Neither does God say, "Figure out every detail of the doctrinal Truth of salvation, and then you can come to Jesus." No. God says, "Come to Jesus, and you will know the Truth." Neither does God say, "Come to Jesus, or I’ll send you to hell." No. He says, "You are already in hell. Come to Jesus and have life."
Christianity is the outcome of "coming to Jesus." For when I come to Jesus, I find out that God wants to give me more than just life and Truth. He wants to give me HIMSELF.
Faith or Unbelief
Faith is "coming to Jesus." Unbelief is living out side of Him -- refusing to come to Jesus. And in these two possibilities, we have the only two choices which any of us have. None of us can save ourselves or make our way back to God. But we can come to Jesus – by faith. Or we can refuse.
Faith is perhaps one of the most misunderstood elements of Christianity. Many people think that faith is simply agreeing that something is true. They think that if I believe something that I have faith. But this is not the faith of the Bible.
Faith is total reliance on the One in whom I place my faith. It is utter dependence. Thus, there is no sense of reservation in faith, or any conditional flavor. Faith is an unconditional surrender to the One I trust.
Once we understand these things about faith, we see that faith is not intellectual. It is not emotional. It is MORAL. This doesn’t not mean we will not understand what we believe, or feel emotional about it. It simply means that at it’s root, faith is MORAL. It is a relinquishment of my self-rule. By faith I belong to God through Jesus Christ.
Now, unbelief is the opposite of faith. It is not ignorance. Rather, it is the refusal to "come to Jesus." Why? Because I love darkness rather than Light. I am not willing to surrender to Jesus Christ my right to govern myself.
By faith, I "come to Jesus." Unbelief is refusing to come to Jesus. Thus, we now begin to see what it is that we must repent of in order to "come to Jesus:" We must repent of refusing to "come to Jesus." Nothing could be more simple.
God appeared to Abram, as recorded in Genesis 15. Once again God promises Abram a son, and to make of him a great nation. It is during this visitation that the Bible says, "And he (Abram) believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (Gen. 15:6)
What does this mean? Well, it means that Abram believed that God was faithful, and because he believed it, God counted Abram’s faith AS righteousness. Yet that may lead to a misunderstanding. God was not saying that because Abram believed him, that Abram had done such a righteous thing, that God could now say that Abram was a righteous person. No. This would mean that Abram made himself righteous, simply because he exercised faith.
No. Our faith never makes us righteous. Jesus makes us righteous. Our faith must be placed in HIM. Then His righteousness becomes ours, because we have become HIS.
Abram did not have any righteousness of his own to offer – not even his faith. There is NO MERIT here. Rather, Abram had faith in GOD’S righteousness. Thus, God said, "Your faith in MY righteousness has made it possible for Me to reckon to you MY righteousness."
Again -- Abraham’s faith was NOT what made him righteous. No. God did NOT say, "Your act of faith was a righteous act, and therefore I am able to call you righteous." Never. What God DID say was this: "I am righteous. Your faith in Me means that you are trusting My righteousness. Therefore, because you trust My righteousness, I am able to reckon it to you."
So what we see is that the righteousness that God reckoned to Abraham was a completely free and unmerited gift. It had nothing to do with whether Abraham was righteous. All that Abraham did was trust God He said, "I am unrighteous Lord. But I believe You are righteous. I embrace Your gift."
It is really vital that we see exactly what is going on here, because it is precisely what happens today when we put our faith in Jesus Christ. Our faith does not save us. Jesus saves us. Our faith is not a righteous thing. Our faith is in the Righteous One. Our faith is simply our relinquishment of ourselves to Jesus.
Abraham had NO MERIT – no righteousness. But he had faith in God’s righteousness – God’s faithfulness. This accrued to Abraham the very righteousness of God in which he had put his faith.
This is such a basic Truth – so simple, yet so profound. God does not expect us to be righteous enough to please Him. But once we put our faith in Christ, He puts His righteousness in us. In effect, we are implanted with the righteousness of the One in whom we have put our faith.
Faith is not MERIT. It never was and never will be. Not the faith of the Bible. In the Bible, there is never any thought of faith which includes, "giving God permission to save me." Or, a faith which is "my contribution to my own salvation." No. Faith is never any of those things.
People may think that faith is merit. People may think that faith is our contribution to our own salvation. They may create doctrines from this assumption, and even argue against these suggestions as a "straw man." But the faith of the Bible never carries with it the slightest notion of merit being due to the one having faith. Indeed, if I think my faith is merit, and entitles me to anything from God, there is a question as to whether my faith is in God. It would seem that "my faith is in my faith."
The Bible teaches that faith comes from the recognition that I have no merit, and have no righteousness. Indeed, that’s WHY I’m placing my faith in Christ: I need HIS righteousness. Thus, rather than my faith being merit, it is the outcome of my seeing that I have no merit, and must rely upon the merit and righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Here is another way of saying the same thing: My faith is NOT righteous. It is NOT a righteous contribution I make to my own salvation. No. My faith is in the Righteous One. The OBJECT of my faith is why God is able to reckon to me His righteousness – not my faith itself.
"Abram believed God." His faith in God was reckoned to him as righteousness – not because his faith was righteous – but because his faith was in God’s righteousness!
To be saved, I must "come to Jesus." That is all that is required. Included in "coming to Jesus," is, of course, repentance. The gospel message is, "Repent and believe." I have to repent -- "change my mind" -- turn around, and by faith, come to the Savior.
But if I have to REPENT of something to come to Jesus, then what do I have to repent of? Well, of sin. But WHAT sin, or sins, do I have to repent of in order to "come to Jesus?"
Some folks imagine that they must take inventory and confess and repent of every sin they have ever committed before they can come to Jesus. But this is not Biblical. The Bible tells us to confess our sins. Repent of our sins. But always, the confession and repentance of my many sins is the RESULT of coming to Jesus – and never the requirement BEFORE I can come.
So what SIN must I repent of BEFORE I can "come to Jesus?" Just one sin: I must repent of the sin of NOT coming to Jesus!
That is so simple. To put it another way, I must repent of unbelief – which is the refusal to believe. And if I do repent of unbelief, I will do what? Well, I will BELIEVE. Of course. That is why at the forefront of the gospel message is always the command, "Repent and believe!"
THE SIN of the human race is not found in the things we DO. Those things are but a manifestation of THE SIN. THE SIN is independence from God. Unbelief is the affirmation of that sin – by continuing to live independent of God. It is the refusal to turn to Jesus Christ.
A Dependent Creature
The question might arise as to HOW, in our fallen condition, we can muster the faith necessary to "come to Jesus." The answer is that we have never lost that ability. Indeed, it is almost contradictory to say that dependency, or faith, is an "ability." Rather, it is what we are by nature. We are dependent creatures, made that way by God.
Man, by nature, is a dependent creature. Right now, your faith is in something or someone. Unless it is in Christ, all of this misplaced faith really boils down to faith in yourself. You don’t have to think about it, or work at it – the most self-assured of us are DEPENDENT creatures. It is how we are made.
The SIN of the human race is not that we are dependent. No. It is that our faith, or dependence, is in ourselves, rather than God. Consequently, the very worst of the worst of the human race continues to be dependent. We are able – indeed, MUST – put our faith somewhere.
The Truth God brings is to show us our sin of having lived independent of God. It is to show us that it is only in Christ that we have life. Because we continue to be dependent creatures, we are able, when brought to that choice, to choose dependence upon Christ. That is faith. Faith is the choice to remove our faith from ourselves, and put it back where it was designed to be: In God through Christ. This is repentance and conversion.
So again – we see two Truths about faith. First, faith is never merit. I am only placing my faith in Christ because I see I have NO MERIT – because I see I have no contribution I can make for my own salvation. Secondly, faith is inherent to the kind of creature we are. Right now, we are exercising faith in either ourselves or Christ. God wants us to see the Truth, and then for us to turn around and place our entire dependency in His Son.
There is no Christianity without the Cross. There is no salvation, there is no forgiveness, and there is no resurrection. But incredibly, one of the traits of modern Christianity is just that: Christianity without the Cross.
Today we are often presented with a Jesus Christ who provides for us, blesses us, and solves all of our problems. But not the Jesus of the Bible – the One who died on a Cross. Thus, today we have "another Jesus." Not the real One. Any supposedly Christian message which denies or waters down Christ crucified is heresy.
We must "come to Jesus" – come to Christ crucified. In other words, we have to "come to Jesus" as sinners – as those for whom Christ HAD to die. This means we must know that we have lived for ourselves in unbelief – and whose lives have reflected it. We have to know and embrace that when Jesus died, He was dying for US. This is not possible unless we see that He needed to die for us – i.e. – that we are lost sinners.
The Cross of Jesus Christ – on which He bore the sin of the world – is an essential Christian Truth. It is not possible to be a Christian and deny the Cross. Why? Again – because the way I became a Christian was by embracing the Cross! I embraced it in my "threshold of conversion" experience.
Notice the centrality of Jesus Christ crucified in the Bible:
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (I Cor. 1:17-18)
The above passage tells me that if I think that the Cross of Jesus is foolish, that it is evidence that I AM ALREADY perishing. Do you see that? Why? Because I am reckoning as "foolish" the only means by which God has made to save me.
The only reason anyone would think the Cross foolish or unnecessary is that they don’t see any need for it. That means they don’t see they are a sinner. That is why they are perishing – they are perishing in their sin.
This brings us back to the statement we started with: The premise upon which Christianity is based. Unless I see I am a sinner, I won’t think I need a Savior. Unless I see I am a sinner, I will see no need for the Cross.
It is an affront to Jesus Christ NOT to preach the Cross today. Many don’t preach it because they are afraid of offending people. But the Cross is at the center of the gospel, and we have no excuse for compromising with the Truth of God.
Paul knew that the Cross of Jesus was not only central to the gospel, but central to anyone who wants to follow Jesus:
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Gal. 6:14)
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (I Cor. 2:1-2)
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth 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)
On the Cross, Jesus bore every sin for every man. The Cross was the death of the Adamic race, and the means by which we are set free, not only from the wages of sin, but from sin itself.
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. (Rom. 6:6-7)
Repentance is a "change of mind." Practically, it means that I must stop refusing or neglecting to come to Jesus – stop walking in unbelief. I must instead, come to Christ by faith.
Or to put it another away, we repent of unbelief, and therefore believe! In doing so, we are coming to the One"In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." (Eph. 1:7 and see also Col. 1:14)
You will notice that this verse says that we HAVE redemption through Christ – past tense. But so often we don’t get this. We misunderstand. We don’t realize that forgiveness is already IN Jesus Christ – totally in place and FINISHED. We just need to COME TO JESUS – believing this.
Jesus Christ died for ALL sin. Thus, ALL sin is forgiven. Not, "WILL BE forgiven." But, "IS forgiven." Forgiveness is as finished in Jesus Christ as is the death He died which paid for it. God has done all the forgiving He is going to do. You and I, right now, are as forgiven as we are ever going to be – in Christ. And that forgiveness is TOTAL.
Christians are FORGIVEN people. We are not on "probation." We are FORGIVEN – and nothing we do, or don’t do, can change our condition of having been (past tense) forgiven. The FINALITY of the Cross, and the finished forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ, is a foundational Truth of Christianity. It is all through the Bible:
But God demonstrates his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Rom. 5:8-10)
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake HAS forgiven you. (Eph. 4:32)
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, HAS he quickened together with Him, HAVING forgiven ALL your trespasses. (Col. 2:13)
I write unto you, little children, because your sins ARE forgiven you for His name's sake. (I John 2:12)
To wit, that God was, in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. (II Cor. 5:19)
The fact that Jesus died for ALL never means "universal salvation" – that all are saved regardless of faith. No. It simply means that if ALL would believe, ALL would be saved. The fact is, it is ONLY those who believe that ARE saved.
Of course. If forgiveness is finished IN Jesus, and only IN Jesus, then only if I "come to Jesus" do I experience forgiveness. Jesus died for every person ever born. But only those who come to Jesus by faith are saved.
But notice what else this means: If I refuse to come to Jesus, I do not have forgiveness. Why? Because I am refusing the only One in whom there is forgiveness.
We saw earlier that the one sin I must repent of in order to "come to Jesus" was THE SIN of refusing, or neglecting, to "come to Jesus." Unbelief. This sin is tantamount to refusing God’s forgiveness. Thus, if I will repent of refusing God’s forgiveness, I will do what? I will receive God’s forgiveness! But if I will not repent of refusing God’s forgiveness, then what? Then not only does the forgiveness which is in Jesus Christ do me NO GOOD, but I have added an even greater sin on top of everything else: I have refused God’s forgiveness.
That is why John is adamant about what constitutes CONDEMNATION. He says, "THIS IS the condemnation, that Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness, rather than Light." (John 3:19) We are not responsible for being born in Adam, in our lost and deceived condition. But we are responsible once we have enough Light to turn to God. If we don’t, we not only remain in Adam’s sin, but we have added to it an affirmation of our own: We have refused God’s deliverance through Christ.
Once "light has come" into OUR WORLD, we can no longer claim ignorance. For at that point, we must choose LIGHT or choose DARKNESS. We will either love Light rather than darkness, or darkness rather than Light. There is, once Light comes, no longer any possibility of NOT choosing. God will push and push and push until we choose one or the other.
What John is showing us in John 3 is a Truth which we find throughout the Bible. The same Light – the same grace – which God sends for the purpose of drawing us to Christ -- will harden us, if we resist. God doesn’t ask us to invite the Light. He doesn’t ask us to invite His revelation. He decides that. But we decide how to respond.
When the Bible says, "God hardens the heart," it is talking about the fact that God is going to bring Light and Truth to even those who choose not to receive it. God will have no one sitting on the fence when everything is said and done. Again – what God truly intends to soften our hearts will harden them – if we resist.
God must draw us to Christ. But we decide whether to "come to Him." In this we see that we will either walk in the Light, as God brings it, or resist it. That choice is one which God makes clear to us, but which is, in the final analysis, ours to make.
The Unpardonable Sin
The gift of God is totally free. There is nothing we need to do to earn it. There is nothing we CAN do to earn it. Indeed, if we are still trying to earn it, we are sinning. We have yet to put our faith in Jesus Christ. Our faith is still in something about ourselves.
The grace of God is so free because it cost God so much. All we need to do, as we have been seeing, is "come to Jesus." Not through our own merit, or even upon the supposed righteousness of our faith. But we are to come to Jesus by putting our faith in HIS righteousness. This leaves us with nothing to do but to receive, as a needy sinner, what God has given through His Son.
But it is precisely because the grace of God is free, that the judgment of God is so final for those who see it and refuse it. When everything is free, there is no excuse for rejecting it. And God has no other options for us.
This brings us to the subject of the unpardonable sin. The unpardonable sin is not the result of ignorance – of having no light. Neither is it a "mistake" any of us make. It is impossible to be guilty of the unpardonable sin, but want to repent. The unpardonable is called what it is because I don’t want to repent.
In short, the unpardonable sin is the refusal of God’s forgiveness. It is the one sin God CANNOT forgive: God cannot forgive the refusal of His forgiveness. If He did, it would make His forgiveness meaningless. It would make the death of Christ meaningless. It would mean that God says that forgiveness is only in Christ, but then He turns around and forgives those who reject Christ.
This may seem to create another contradiction. For if Christ died for ALL sin, did He not also die for the refusal of His forgiveness?
Well, this is easily resolved by going back to our original terminology: The one sin God cannot forgive is our refusal to come to Jesus. Why? Because all forgiveness is IN Jesus. Thus, if God forgave our refusal to come to Jesus, He wouldn’t need Jesus. There would be forgiveness outside of Him.
What we also see in this is that the minute we come to Jesus, there is no longer our sin of refusing to come to Him! We have repented of it. Thus, the only way in which refusing to come to Jesus can condemn us is if we refuse to repent of it.
Jesus said that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was the one sin for which there is NO forgiveness. So if you want to know if there is even one sin that God cannot forgive, simply read His words: There is. It is exactly the sin we have been talking about: The sin of unbelief. The sin of refusing God’s forgiveness. The sin of refusing to come to Jesus.
The function of the Holy Spirit is to "reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me. (John 16:8-9) The unpardonable sin is not a "one time" act of sin. It is a LIFETIME choice of unbelief. It is a final, deliberate, and knowing refusal – through a lifetime of rebellion and neglect of Light -- to come to Jesus. I demand my right to own and rule myself, and in the end, God gives it to me.
Modern evangelism has not helped people understand the Truth about sin, and the Truth about God’s grace. We have told people that they have committed all kinds of sins, and that they need to repent or go to hell. This is all true, of course, but misses the core of the gospel. We ought to be telling people that their sin is the refusal to come to God through Christ. Their sin is unbelief – and the rest of their sins have been the outcome of that. We ought to bid them to "come to Jesus" – for in Him is LIFE.
Raised in Christ
So far we have talked about who Jesus is, and the fact that we must come to Him in order to be saved. Now we must talk about what salvation really is. Ask most Christians and they will probably tell you that salvation is a "classification" given to us by God which entitles us to a place in heaven – all the result of us having placed our faith in Jesus Christ.
It is not as if there isn’t some Truth to this. But it really doesn’t get to the root of things. Salvation isn’t mine merely because my destiny is heaven. Salvation is LIFE. It is life NOW. And to be more specific, salvation is "Jesus Christ in us."
Most of us have been taught that the death of Christ saves us. Now, it is certain that unless Christ died for us, there is NO salvation. But most of us reason it this way: Because Christ died for us, God removed from us the penalty for sin, and thus, we are alive evermore. Yet as true as this might sound, it just isn’t the full Truth at all.
Did you notice in the reasoning just given, about how we are saved, that there was not one mention of the resurrection? Nor is there any mention of any change whatsoever IN US! This is why it isn’t the Truth we need to see. For in the Bible, it is not the death of Christ – and that death alone -- which saves us. No. Indeed, it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ which saves us -- which gives us new life.
This is stated in Romans:
But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8-10)
What we see here is that Jesus Christ died our death for us. But that is what it was: DEATH. It took away the sin of the world. It provided God with a just reason for forgiveness. It reconciled us to God. But with that alone, we have no new life. It is only through the resurrection of Jesus Christ – our resurrection IN HIM – that we receive new life.
Notice the words of Paul to the Corinthians:
And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (II Cor. 5:15-17)
If we are a new creature in Jesus Christ, we got that way because our "old man" died in Christ, and we were raised a "new man" in Him. Or, to use another Biblical term, we were BORN AGAIN.
Someone who is BORN AGAIN is not the old creation – only "made over." No. Old things are all passed away. ALL THINGS are brand new. This is new LIFE – through resurrection.
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:6)
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. (Col. 2:12)
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. (Col. 3:1)
Salvation is LIFE. And the way we get life – new life – is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Adam, we all die. And Adam died in Christ. But in Christ we are all made alive, as new creations who are equipped to live with God forever.
Christ in Us
If you look up all the passages which talk about being raised with Christ, you will find that we are not only raised with Christ (past tense), but it often says that we WILL BE raised with Him. (future tense) Why? How are both true?
Both ARE true. We are, right now, if we are saved, raised in Christ. We are brand new – in the fundament of our being. We are a NEW MAN in Jesus Christ, inside. But our bodies are NOT saved or raised in Christ. (Just look in the mirror.) That bodily resurrection is yet to come.
God tells us that we have been given a "down payment" – by the Holy Spirit – of the fullness we will experience in the eternal ages – through the bodily resurrection. Right now, we continue to live in a fallen creation, in a body which is subject to the flesh. Now, we have Jesus Christ IN US, and we are IN Christ. Then, there will be a fullness of union with God for which our present vocabulary is not sufficient.
For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.….For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…..For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest (down payment) of the Spirit. (see II Cor. 4:4-5:5)
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27)
Your body is the "earthen vessel." The treasure is "Christ in you." What God wants to do is slowly bring forth that treasure, so that it will dominate your earthen vessel. He wants to start that process NOW. But the fullness of it will happen when our mortality is finally swallowed up with LIFE.
Life in Christ
Now, once we realize that we have "Christ in us," it verifies to us that salvation is LIFE – it is His life in us. This therefore tells us that salvation is MORE than just "getting our sins forgiven." It certainly starts there. But salvation is LIFE – THE life which comes from that forgiveness.
Yet so many Christians, despite agreeing with these words, don’t grasp the reality of them. Most of us continue to think that when we came to Christ, that God took out this "big red stamp," and stamped us on the forehead "forgiven." To us, salvation is being forgiven. It is being "reclassified" by God from the "lost" classification, to the "saved" classification.
Well, there are all of the legal aspects of the Redemption. It is a fact that God could not forgive us unless He had a just and holy reason for doing so. Jesus gave Him that by paying the price for sin with His own Blood. Furthermore, we are legally (justly) reclassified. We are declared justified because of Jesus. But if that is all there is to salvation, we are left with a giant problem.
Do you see what that problem is? If salvation is merely "being forgiven" – a changed "legal" position -- then what does salvation do to change US? Nothing. In fact, then we would be "forgiven," but unchanged. This would equal LICENSE. And God would not be calling us what we are.
The point is, if God forgives us for all sin, only to leave us the same as He found us, this would make Him worse than us. THAT would mean that He calls us saints, but that we are exactly the same as we were as sinners. This is a lie.
In Truth, God not only FORGIVES us for sin. He DELIVERS us from it. God not only reckons us as righteous, He puts His very righteousness in us. THAT is what it means to be raised in Christ. It is what it means to be IN CHRIST.
So what we see is that what God does is change us, give us a new nature, and put His righteousness in us. Therefore, when God reckons us as righteous, He is not kidding Himself. He is calling us what we are – in His Son.
Christians have the righteousness of God in them, because they have Jesus Christ in them. HE is our righteousness. This isn’t just a theory, or a classification, or a legal position. And it certainly is not OUR righteousness. It is HIS. It is a righteousness which is His LIFE in us. It is as real – more real – than our natural life. It is eternal.
But now the righteousness of God without 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: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 2:21-24)
The word "justified," here, in the Greek, is the same root word as "righteousness" – only in a verbal form. Many commentators have, over the years, defined "justified" as "being made righteous." So what God does involves more than simply "classifying" us a righteous. Rather, He puts His righteousness in us. Then we are more than "classified as righteous." We ARE righteous – with HIS righteousness.
This only makes sense. If you have Christ in you, don’t you think you have righteousness in you? If you are born again a new creation in Christ, don’t you think you have something eternal in you? If you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, don’t you think you have One who IS HOLY in you?
Note again what our passage from Romans is saying. It is saying that there is now a righteousness of God manifested which has NOTHING to do with works – nothing to do with the law. That righteousness is a PERSON. God says that it is a righteousness which is through the FAITH -- not merely IN Christ – but which is through the faith OF Christ. This righteousness is unto all and upon all who BELIEVE. It is Christ in us.
Jesus Christ is the righteousness of God. He practiced and lived righteousness by faith on this earth as a man. When I place my faith in Him, the righteousness of His faith meets my simple faith, and He is made unto me incarnate righteousness.
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord. (I Cor. 1:30-31)
We have no righteousness of our own. Our righteousness is Jesus Himself – Christ in us. Again, we see that Christianity is not a "religion." Or just teachings about Christ. Christianity is Christ in us.
Once we see that Jesus Christ in us is our righteousness – indeed, the ONLY righteousness we have, it should tell us the futility of trying to make ourselves righteous through good works. Did we earn Jesus in us through works? No. So neither can we earn His righteousness. Jesus is there by faith, and His righteousness comes with the "package."
But what of good works? Good works are never the MEANS of salvation. They are the OUTCOME of it. The Biblical formula is "by grace, through faith, unto good works."
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it (His grace) is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:8-10)
So what we see is that obedience is really the outcome of being rightly related to God. Disobedience is the outcome of not being rightly related to God. Notice that works are the OUTCOME of something at the root of our relationship with God. Once we understand this, much confusion about the place of works in the Christian life dissipates.
The one word which describes what it means to be rightly related to God is LOVE. "Agape" – which is the Greek word for love – is a selfless commitment to God, or to anyone else I love. Agape is perhaps best described in this way:
Agape is my unconditional commitment to God’s highest, for the one loved, regardless of personal cost to them, or to myself.
This definition puts God at the center, and seeks HIS best, and HIS will. It is never love to seek MY will, or to simply give the person I love THEIR will.
John gave a very simple definition of love, and showed that it must be the motivation behind all of our good works:
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. (I John 5:3)
This tells us that if I love someone with the love of God, I will practice it by keeping the commandments towards them. And I will do it gladly. I won’t be a burden to me to do it. Love and righteousness always go hand in hand. This is what it means to live a holy life.
Once God gives us His righteousness, through our faith in the Righteous One, then we have a righteousness WITHIN that must be worked WITHOUT. Paul points to this in Philippians:
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13)
Paul does not tell us to work FOR our salvation. No. He says to work OUT our salvation. In other words, we have to WORK OUT what God has WORKED IN – i.e., the righteousness which comes by faith. Or to put it another way, we have been born again a new creation. Now we must live like a new creation.
As we begin to walk with Jesus Christ through faith and obedience, our minds will be renewed more and more to be like the mind of Christ. God will work in us to will and to do – but of course, God won’t will or do FOR us. Otherwise, Paul would not say to us, "Work out YOUR OWN salvation." God gives grace. We believe and obey.
Conformed to Christ
When we come to Jesus, our salvation is finished. We are never going to get any "more saved" than we are the moment we receive Christ. But just as a new born baby must grow and learn, so must we. Thus, our finished salvation merely BEGINS a whole new experience in Jesus.
The Christian life is supposed to be one of learning and growing:
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (II Pet. 3:18)
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom. 12:2)
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:11-13)
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)
Now, if you read these and other verses, you find out that we do not grow as an independent person. We grow up in Christ – because we abide, or live, in Him. We grow to bear His likeness – morally and spiritually.
The purpose of God for this age – for His people – is that we become conformed to the image of His Son. That is the purpose for which He saves us. One other way to say this is that we must BECOME His witnesses:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
It is one thing "to witness" for Christ – to tell people about Him. But it is quite another to BE His witness. For that, we have to reflect Him in our LIVES. We have to become living witnesses – examples of what it means to have Christ in us.
One of the big mistakes of the Christian church has been to WITNESS for Christ, but not BECOME a witness for Him. This creates people who say one thing, but live another. The world uses this as a rational to excuse themselves from Jesus.
To become living witnesses for Christ is what Paul continually talked about. There is no clearer passage on the subject than the one found in Romans 8:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)
Read that again. What is the PURPOSE for which we are called – the PURPOSE and GOOD unto which "all things work together?" To be conformed to the image of Christ. Nothing could be plainer.
I am not conformed to Christ through my own efforts to "act like Him." I am conformed to Him by BELONGING to Him. That is what "holiness" means – belonging to God – to be "set apart for God’s use." The holy life and holy character which emerges is the FRUIT of belonging – unconditionally – to Jesus Christ.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (Jn. 15:4-5)
Here we see that the way we grow to bear fruit – the fruit of the Holy Spirit – is by abiding in the Vine. In short, by belonging to the Vine, living in and for the Vine, and by being ONE with the Vine. We do this by faith and obedience. We see to do the will of God. We live for God.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
Christianity is an unconditional devotion to Jesus, and if that is my relationship to Him, I will grow to be like Him.
The Holy Spirit
It is the purpose of the Holy Spirit to take everything which is of Jesus Christ, and make it livable, practical, and part of us. In effect, the Holy Spirit conforms us to Christ.
If you have embraced Christ as Savior, you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. But what does that mean? Well, "baptism" means to be immersed. So, if you are baptized in the Holy Spirit, you are immersed in Him. That means that the goal here is that instead of seeing you, God wants everyone to see the Holy Spirit – in other words, Jesus.
John the Baptist described what this baptism really means:
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Matt. 3:11-12)
The baptism of "the Holy Spirit and fire," as described here, is likened to what a person on a threshing floor does with the grain. He gets rid of the chaff, so that the wheat might be pure. So it is. The work of the Holy Spirit is to get rid of the "chaff" in us, so that what remains is holy, pure, and to the glory of God.
The Holy Spirit is said to be a foretaste, or "down payment" of the fullness which we will one day experience in the eternal ages. But Jesus also told us of some of the functions of the Holy Spirit today. Most of these are found in the gospel of John. Central to these purposes is the fact that the Holy Spirit will always glorify and witness to Jesus – keeping Him in the center. (Jn. 15:26 and 16:14) He will also "guide us into all Truth." (Jn. 16:13) And the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin – of the sin of unbelief. (Jn. 16:8)
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are, of course, the Trinity. They are ONE, and where the presence is of one, there is the presence of the others.
"Fellowship" is communion, or "a having in common." Among Christians, that is Jesus Christ. Remember Jesus’ question in Matthew 16: "Who do you say that I am?" And Peter’s confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."? The church consists of those who agree on who Jesus Christ is – and have given the right answer -- the same answer as Peter.
It is one thing to talk about Christians fellowship with each other. But it is always possible for people to have something in common which is deception. The only real Christian fellowship is when we all know who Jesus Christ is, and all have fellowship with HIM.
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (I Jn. 1:3)
It is also a fact that if professing Christians do not agree on who Jesus is, that there can be no fellowship. This is because somebody is NOT a Christian. Again – the way you become a Christians is by seeing and embracing who Jesus is. Seeing the Truth about Jesus is a non-negotiable. If we don’t agree on Him, we need to stop pretending we have fellowship.
What we see here is that the centrality of Jesus Christ is what the church, and fellowship, is all about. The church isn’t supposed to be the center of my church. The people aren’t supposed to be the center. And my beliefs aren’t supposed to be. Jesus Christ is the center. And when HE is the center, than all of those other things find their proper, profitable place.
Fellowship is more than just the FACT that we all have a common faith. It really means to share that faith in practical, helpful ways. Each person in the church, the Bible teaches has one or more gifts. These are to be used to minister to each other. We teach each other, encourage, and help each other grow.
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Eph. 4:15-16)
Ministry to each other is not accomplished by persuading others of our point of view. It is accomplished by helping each other develop the mind of Christ. Again – Jesus must be center for the individual, and for the church as a whole.
The Great Commission
The charge which Jesus gave to the church was the we preach the gospel, the "good news" to everyone. It was always God’s intention to use the church to preach the message.
And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matt. 28:18-20)
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all udaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. (Rom. 10:13-18)
But what is the GOOD NEWS? Really, Jesus Himself. Or, we might say, the whole Bible is the good news. But there are a number of places in scripture which summarize it wonderfully:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hates the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:16-21)
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it (grace) is the gift of God:Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:8-10)
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. (Acts 2:37-39)
The gospel is not a threat of punishment. In other words, God does not say, "Believe in Jesus or I will punish you by sending you to hell!!!" That is NOT the Spirit of God – despite the fact that Jesus is the only Way to God, and hell is the other option. What God does say is, "You are already on your way to hell. Embrace Jesus and have life."
Jesus told His disciples why He had come to earth:The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) And of course, the life He came to give was only possible if He died for us, and was raised.
The good news is a message of life. It is a promise that in Christ Jesus, there is full redemption and salvation. We need only repent of unbelief, believe, and "come to Jesus."
The Eternal Ages
Christianity is not an end unto itself. It is an experience with God through Christ, in the here and now, as a preparation for the eternal ages. We are going to live with God forever. Being in Christ now, as we have seen, is simply the "down payment" of things yet to come.
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:6-7)
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. (Eph. 3:21)
And so we come full circle. God originally created a man, with the intention of that man glorifying him, and living with Him forever. Adam walked away. But the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, came and did everything right which the first Adam did wrong. He "bought back," or redeemed, humankind from the realm of death and darkness. In the end we are going to live with God forever.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. (Rev. 21:1-5)
What is Christianity?
Christianity is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory -- whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." (Col. 1:27-28) It is not a religion, belief system, or a list of teachings to follow. Christianity is redemption and new life through Jesus Christ. It is for NOW – and will be fully experienced in the ages to come.*
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