2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Justification — 'Just As If I Had Never Sinned!'
What happens when I become a Christian? This is the question we must try to answer. Among the words that described God's salvation of man, two words are prominent: Justification and Regeneration. These are the gifts of God given to the sinner who exercises saving faith in Christ. Each is given simultaneously, but each describes a definite aspect of Christ's saving work. We must spend a few days looking at these two great words.
Someone said that when God justifies the sinner, He treats the sinner just as if he had never sinned! Justification is a legal concept, concerned with the legal status of the believer. The great frequency with which the Scriptures discuss justification, show that the Scriptures put great emphasis upon the idea of 'Law'.
'Justify' in the New Testament sense of the word does not mean to prove a person righteous, but rather it means to treat, to account or to reckon a person as righteous. Justification in the New Testament means "to acquit" or "to pronounce just or righteous". There are four things which can be said about Justification.
First, in considering justification, it is important to realize the seriousness and sacredness of God's Law. God requires that man should live in accordance with His Law. "Moreover, it is part of the very nature of law as we know it that it attaches penalties to the breaking of the law, and in this respect the scriptural law is no exception. Again and again we are told that God views the breaking of the law with the gravest displeasure, that His wrath is extended towards the sinner, and that none can expect immunity, for there is no respect of persons with Him." (The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Leon Mooris, p. 294)
Second, God must honor His holy nature, and therefore cannot automatically and unconditionally pronounce forgiveness to all men. As P.T. Forsyth so well says, "God could not trifle with His own holiness. He could will nothing against His holy nature, and He could not abolish the judgement bound up with it. Nothing in the compass of the divine nature could enable Him to abolish a moral law, the law of holiness. That would be tampering with His own soul. It had to be dealt with. Is the law of God more loose than the law of society? Can it be taken liberties with, played with, and put aside at the impulse even of love? How little we should come to think of God's love if that were possible… God's holy law is His own holy nature. His love is under the condition of eternal respect. It is quite unchangeable". (Ibid, p. 294)
"O God, how can you treat me as a child to be loved when I deserve to be treated as a criminal to be obliterated? How can you save me, a sinner, and at the same time honor Your own holiness? Only one way! If You, O God, take upon yourself the punishment that a criminal and a sinner deserve! Only the perfectly just can justify the totally unjust!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God respected His justice enough to punish sin, in the person of His exalted Son. God loved His mercy enough to forgive sin, in the persons of His fallen sons! I am perfectly accepted in the perfectly acceptable One!
Romans 3:24-28, Romans 4:5
God Can Declare Man Righteous!
We are trying to understand the meaning of Justification. Third, Jesus suffered for man's sin and in turn gave man a borrowed righteousness. The substitutionary death of Christ must be taken account of, if we are properly to understand the true significance and possibility of justification. God takes into account that Christ suffered for man's sin and thus, God is able to forgive mankind of its own sin. Yet, because of Christ's substitutionary death, God is able to honor His own law of holiness. God's law must be vindicated; sin must be punished. Christ took the punishment of sin and thus the demands of God's law were satisfied. In fact, because Christ has died for man's sins, God must forgive man. God acts righteously or justly in that He honors the substitutionary death of Christ, and dealing righteously, God is therefore Obligated to forgive man. God forgives and yet He maintains the integrity of His character, simply because God, as a righteous Judge, cannot overlook the work of His Son on Calvary. "Even (God's) act of forgiveness which might be thought of as an act of mercy is seen to be also an act of righteousness." (The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Leon Maoris, p. 273)
At the same time that God, for Christ's sake, forgives man's sins, Christ bestows upon man a borrowed righteousness. The borrowed righteousness which man enjoys is given to man by God, and is the basis of man's justification. The righteousness which man enjoys must be appropriated by faith. It is not the faith itself (the activity of man) which justifies man; it is Christ's borrowed righteousness (the activity and gift of God) that is the basis of man's justification. God looks upon the borrowed righteousness, and acquits man and judges him as righteous. God is just in justifying a sinner, on the basis of God's acceptance of Christ's atonement which makes it possible for man to enjoy a borrowed righteousness.
Fourth, the work of Christ's atonement enables God to declare man as righteous. God can declare man as righteous because God constitutes man as righteous by giving to man the righteousness of Christ. "God treats the sinner as if he had not been a sinner at all… That means that to be justified is to enter into a new relationship with God, a relationship of love and confidence and friendship, instead of a relationship of distance and enmity and fear… He is not in this right relationship because he has meticulously performed the works of the law. He is in it because in utter faith he has cast himself on this amazing mercy and love of God." (The Daily Study Bible, Romans, William Barclay, p. 13-14)
"What a sense of relief to know that I need not prove myself righteous (which I can't because of my sinful life), but that you treat me as righteous (which you can because of Christ's righteous death)! Glory!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By placing faith in Christ, I become hid in Christ, and as a result, God no longer looks at my sinful life, but at Christ's perfect life. By becoming hid in Christ, I am found in God!
Ephesians 1:1-7, 1 John 3:1-3
"A White Rag On Every Limb Of The Tree!"
We have said that when God justifies a sinner, He treats him as if he had never sinned! God is able to declare the sinner as righteous, not because the sinner is at all righteous, but because Christ is righteous and the sinner, who puts faith in Christ, is hid in Christ. We are accepted in God's beloved Son.
"At the court of kings there was an official called the prosagogeus, the introducer, the giver of access, and it was his function to decide who should be admitted to the king's presence, and who should be kept out. He, as it were, held the keys of access. That is to say, it is Jesus Christ, through what He did, who brings men into the presence of God, who gives them access to God, who opens the way to God." (The Daily Study Bible, Peter, William Barclay, p. 278)
"A minister was on a train, the only occupant of the coach except a young man who seemed very ill at ease. The young man would sit in one seat and then get up and go to another, take up a book and drop it again. The minister went over to him, sat down beside him, and asked what was the matter. The boy shut up like a clam. But at last the dam broke, and he told his story: "I've run away from home, and I've been away a long time. I've wanted to go back, and I wrote my father asking if he would take me back. But there has been no reply. So I have written my mother and told her that I am not going to wait for a reply, that I am coming home, and that If they will take me back she must hang a white rag on the crab-apple tree, down near the railroad tracks, so that I can see it when the train goes by. If I do not see the white rag, I shall understand and go on by. We are getting near and I am afraid to look–afraid the white rag won't be there'. The minister told the lad that he needn't look, that he would look for him. The boy sat with his eyes closed, the hand of the minister on his knee. As they drew near to where the tree was, the hand of the minster closed tight on the boy's knee, and he said, 'My boy, there is a white rag on every limb of that tree!'."
The Cross upon which Jesus died is covered, as it were, with white rags–the rags of reconciliation. God accepts us as friends, not as enemies, because of what Christ has done on the Cross. "And you yourselves, who were strangers to God, and in fact, through the evil things you had done, his spiritual enemies, he has now reconciled through the death of his body on the cross, so that he might welcome you to his presence clean and pure, without blame or reproach." (Colossians 1:21-22, Phillips)
"I come to you, most holy God, with no confidence in my own righteousness, but with full confidence in the Christ of the empty cross!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I can come boldly into the presence of God for I carry on my heart the blood of the reconciling Saviour!
Regeneration — a Sense Of Newness
What is the difference between justification and regeneration? Justification refers to a Christian's changed status with God. Regeneration refers to a Christian's changed nature. "Regeneration is an act of God in us; justification is a judgement of God with respect to us. The distinction is like that of the distinction between the act of a surgeon and the act of a judge. The surgeon, when he removes an inward cancer, does something in us. That is not what a judge does–he gives a verdict regarding our judicial status. If we are innocent he declares accordingly." (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, John Murray, p. 121)
When a person receives Christ into his life, he is made a new person. Regeneration means a sense of newness, and while the actual word is seldom used in the New Testament to denote personal salvation, the concept is implied by a variety of terms and metaphors in the New Testament. Let us look at some of those metaphors, all of which denote newness of life or regeneration.
Becoming a Christian is like passing from darkness to light. Paul received a commission from God to turn men "from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins". (Acts 26:18 RSV) One college girl expressed her experience of Christ in these words: "I felt that I had swallowed sunshine!".
Becoming a Christian is like freedom from slavery. Wrote Paul, "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship". (Romans 8:15) Wrote one man after he found Christ, "He lifted me out of the dungeon… I was truly free".
Becoming a Christian is like passing from death to life or like experiencing a resurrection unto life. Wrote Paul, "But God is so rich in mercy; He loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, He gave us back our lives again when He raised Christ from the dead–only by His undeserved favor have we ever been saved–and lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with Him in the heavenly realms–all because of what Christ Jesus did". (Ephesians 2:4-6) "You see how your old, evil nature died with Him and was buried with Him; and then you came up out of death with Him into a new life because you trusted the Word of the mighty God who raised Christ from the dead." (Colossians 2:12, Living Bible)
Justification establishes a person in a right relationship with God and regeneration gives an inward newness of life to the sinner. Both are the gifts of God and are simultaneously given when man exercises saving faith in Christ. Have you exercised saving faith in Christ? Are you enjoying these wonderful gifts of God? If not, why not?
"O God, give me light for my darkness, freedom for my slavery, hope for my despair, life for my death! Make me a new creation in Christ Jesus!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is not calling me to be a better person; He is calling me to be a new person! God's grace alone can make me new!
2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 4:21-24
The Christian Life Is a Completely New Life!
We are looking at those metaphors which describe God's gift of regeneration.
Becoming a Christian is called a New Birth. "Thank God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that in his great mercy we men have been born again in a life full of hope, through Christ's rising again from the dead!" (1 Peter 1:3, Phillips) "You have been born anew, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God." (1 Peter 1:23 RSV) Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Except one be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God". (John 3:5) 'Water' refers to the purification from sinful pollution, and 'Spirit' refers to inner newness of life brought about by the activity of the Holy Spirit. New Testament teaching has its counterpart in the Old Testament: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh". (Ezekiel 36:25-26)
Becoming a Christian is called a New Creation. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17 RSV) (See Ephesians 4:21-24 in the Living Bible.)
Becoming a Christian means becoming qualitatively different–becoming a real person. Says Maurice Bernett, "The basic concept is that the Christian life is a completely new life. It is as different from anything that went before as is the 1ife of man from the 1ife of a sponge. Our modern tendency has been to stress the fact that when a man becomes a Christian it need not make so very much difference, especially in our 'decent society'. We have presumed that because a fellow lives in a society that is flavoured with certain Christian ideals he is therefore a Christian, for after all he exhibits certain Christian tendencies. How utterly absurd. As though my liking for Chinese food makes me into a Chinaman… It is vitally important to announce this for… there are those who do not think there is much difference in these days between the decent, likeable pagan and the Christian. They should mark the difference as the New Testament writers saw it. The easiest thing to do is to dismiss the New Testament metaphors as exaggerations. The fact of the matter is we have never really discovered what is being offered. We have been content with a sham, a farce, a fake, watering down our Christianity and being content with an anemic substitute. Thus we know about Christianity, we sing about it, but plod along with religious burden often unchanged and uninfluenced, miserable because of the unreality of our dreams".
"God, give me the 'vision which transforms'–the vision of your holiness in contrast to my sinfulness, and the vision of your transforming power in contrast to my moral impotence."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will allow my potential to be determined by the possibilities of divine Grace, not by the limitations of human sinfulness!
"I Felt Clean Inside"
Out of large numbers of converts who were saved at a Billy Graham Crusade, about 2000 of these converts were asked to tell what happened when they became a Christian. The following five statements were more often given as answers to what happened when they were converted than any other answers:
First, "I felt clean inside". Sin blackens the soul morally, but Christ comes to the soul of the repentant one to cleanse from the guilt and pollution of sin. "What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus." Paul wrote to Titus, "Then He saved us–not because we were good enough to be saved, but because of His kindness and pity–by washing away our sins and giving us the new joy of the indwelling Holy Spirit", (Living Bible)
"A woman who had gone through the mazes of psychiatrical analysis and had been left rather picked to pieces without a synthesis, experienced this change and described it this way: 'I feel all clean within. All the old hymns about cleansing which I had laid aside as outworn superstition have come back. I find myself singing them again'." (Abundant Living, LS. Jones, p. 35)
Second, "I found peace of mind". Sin causes man to be at enmity with God. Christ has come to speak peace to the restless soul of man. Augustine talked about "our hearts being restless till they rest in Thee". Baron von Hugel has put it this way: "the passion and hunger for God come from God, and God answers it with Christ".
One lonely man in a hotel who was getting ready to pull the trigger of a gun to blow his brains out, reached for a radio dial and the speaker said, "Put down that gun! That is no solution for your problems". The man was shocked into reality and fell on his knees before God and found peace for his troubled soul.
One tragic result of sin is that it drives man from God into hiding. Christ has come to reconcile man to himself–to make peace with man. In one of his books, Barclay recalls the story of an architect who came to Plato and offered for a certain sum of money to build him a house into which none of the rooms would it be possible to see. Plato said, "I will give you double the money to build a house into every room of which everyone can see". (The Daily Study Bible, John, William Barclay, Vol. 1, p. 131) The peaceful mind is the transparent and integrated mind–transparent to all because it is cleansed by Christ's blood!
Paul's favorite title for God is the God of Peace. Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of everything that makes for a man's highest good!
"God of peace, impart peace to my troubled mind. God of holiness, impart cleansing to my polluted soul. God of love, shed abroad your love in my loveless heart! God of the New, make me a new creation! Thank you. A thousand times, thank you!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My passion for God is created by God and is satisfied with God!
"I Am Easier To Live With"
Third, "I was able to overcome vicious habits". One of the tragic characteristics of sin is that one sin leads to more sins. A practice which may appear relatively harmless can lead to a vicious habit. Sin makes a man a slave to its harsh tyranny. Christ has come to break the power of sin and to set the captive free! Christ enables a man to overcome a vicious habit!
"In London, England," writes Billy Graham, "an alcoholic was placed under the care of a psychiatrist who soon gave up because the alcoholic was getting no better. During our meetings at the Harringay Arena, the alcoholic was invited to attend. He listened in wonderment to the Gospel messages. 'Maybe there is some hope for me', he thought. One night when the invitation was given, he went forward with several others. He was converted, and new power came into his life. That night before he went to sleep, he reached as usual for the nearby bottle of liquor; but something–or rather, Someone–restrained his hand. Getting out of bed, he took the bottle and emptied it down the drain. When he awakened in the morning, through habit he reached again for his usual morning bracer. It was not there, but there was no sense of disappointment. The man called his psychiatrist and said, 'You have lost a patient. Christ has saved me from drink. I am now a new man'. The psychiatrist said: 'That sounds fine. Maybe I can find help where you found it. I am not an alcoholic, but I have my own needs and problems'. The psychiatrist began, too, to attend the meetings and he, too, accepted Christ as his Saviour." (World Aflame, p. 145-146)
Fourth, "I am easier to 1ive with". One of the tragic results of sin is that sin not only makes the life of the transgressor miserable, but sin also makes the lives of those who are intimately associated with the transgressor miserable. The fruits of sin are hatred, fighting, jealousy, anger, complaints, criticisms, and selfishness which is the "constant effort to get the best for yourself'". (Galatians 5:20, Living Bible) Christ has come to replace these evil traits with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These God-given qualities make a person much easier to live with. Christ has come to make a person winsome and gracious, He has come to build strong and lasting relationships.
"The biggest grouch of a certain city called up a friend over the long distance telephone and said, 'Everybody is changed in _________ after that meeting in the high school with Stanley Jones last night. Everybody is different this morning. Of course, it may be that only I am different, but everybody seems different'." (Abundant Living, E.S. Jones, p. 35)
"O God, because I am powerless to break my unholy habits, I come to you for deliverance from sin's power. Heal my will that I may develop holy habits! In Jesus' powerful name!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The way of the transgressor is hard, for Man is not made to transgress! `I am made for holy living!
Isaiah 61:1-3, 1 Peter 1:8
"I Am Happy For The First Time In My Life"
Fifth, "I am happy for the first time in my life". Sin brings misery and despair. "The way of transgressors is hard." (Proverbs 13:15 b) Christ has come to give real joy and happiness to man. Jesus said to his disciples, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full". (John 15:11)
Christ has come to the human race to change the long face and to remove the depressed outlook on life. Christ has come to give us Life–Abundant Life! One man called a Negro man to a train window and said, "Uncle, is there anybody in this town enjoying religion?". The old Negro replied, "Them's that's got it is". (Abundant Living, LS. Jones, p. 35) Those who genuinely have Christ have genuine joy! "Whosoever trusteth in the Lord, happy is he." (Proverbs 16:20 b)
"In the third century, Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage, wrote to his friend Donatus: 'It is a bad world, Conatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people Donatus, are Christians… and I am one of them'." (Quoted in World Aflame, Billy Graham, p. 139)
Once when I was travelling to an annual Bible Camp meeting, I visited with a man–a simple and uneducated man–who was all aglow with the joy of God. This man told me of his former and miserable life of drunkenness. His wife had left him and he went through several struggles. But God had transformed him and his testimony rang with certainty and joy. He bubbled over with enthusiasm as we rode together to camp. The joy and happiness that he found in Christ was indescribable. He was experiencing the joy of the Lord–joy that was 'unspeakable and full of glory'!
The joy that Christ gives is not dependent upon one's external circumstances. A young woman who became a Christian, lost her husband in an accident, and yet this did not rob her of her joy. Writing about a spiritually needy friend, she said, "I do wish I could share all the joy in my heart with her. She deserves it, and I have enough for ten people!". (Prayer and Life's Highest, Paul Rees, p. 79)
In the journal of a young convert of thirteen were found these words: "Oh, that I had a voice that would reach all the world. I would tell them how happy I am". (Living In Two Worlds, Mary Alice Tenney, p. 72)
"O God, your holiness is my happiness, your presence is my power, your glory is my goal! When your smile of approval rests upon me, I laugh with a holy joy!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God wills that I be truly happy; therefore, I will "rejoice evermore with joy unspeakeble".
Mountain Peaks Of Spiritual Blessings
Have you ever got so excited about something as you were relating your experience to someone else, that your mind got ahead of your tongue? There was so much to tell and you could not find the words to communicate your excitement!
That is what often happened to the apostle Paul. Paul was so full of Christ and the riches of Christ that he could not contain himself. Paul's letters to the Churches were love letters to dear friends. Paul was so enraptured with the riches of spiritual blessings that, in his attempt to communicate these blessings, he piled descriptive phrase upon descriptive phrase. From verse 3 through verse 14 of Ephesians 1, there is no period in the original Greek language. It is one sentence! Paul's mind races from one spiritual truth to another, as he becomes lost in 'Wonder, love, and praise'. It is not a logical statement, but a lyrical song of praise.
During the next few days I would like for us to imagine that we are aboard a spiritual airplane. There is a mighty range of spiritual mountains, with towering mountain peaks of various heights to look upon as we fly above the range. Just as a plane flies quickly over a number of mountain peaks in a relatively short time, so I would like for us to get an airplane view of some of the great mountain peaks of spiritual blessing which Paul puts before our view in Ephesians, chapter one.
To glance at the mountain peaks of spiritual blessings is to break out into a shout with Paul, and declare: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places". (verse 3)
As we 'fly' above the mountain peaks of spiritual blessings, get all excited about your spiritual heritage as a believer!
During the next few days, we will learn anew how blessed it is to be God's people. How does Ephesians One describe God's people? They are (1) Chosen People, (2) Destined People, (3) Redeemed People, (4) Forgiven People, (5) Enlightened People, (6) Enlivened People, (7) Hopeful People, (8) Empowered People.
As one who has repented of your sins and transferred your faith from yourself to Jesus Christ as your saviour, you have a right to claim your spiritual heritage! Your aspirations toward effective living are fulfilled through the 'working of God's great might'. You are a child of the King, so learn to enjoy your privileges of royalty!
"O God, open my eyes that I may see the unspeakably wonderful blessings which you wish to share with me! I am rich in Christ!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The bitter experience of repentance leads me to the blessed experience of enjoying heavenly blessings!
Chosen To be Holy And Blameless!
Writes Paul, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him". (Ephesians 1:3-4) Wonder of it all is that God would choose sinful man! The Infinite choosing of the finite; the all-powerful choosing the very weak! The righteous choosing the sinful! God took the initiative to choose to save humanity. Said Jesus, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you". (John 15:16)
It has been said, "Many are called but few are chosen, because few are choice". That is, God chose to save the entire human race, but only those who accept God's universal offer of salvation, become members of the choice (or elect) group.
We are chosen to be 'holy'. Chosen for the purpose of separation from the world's values and standards. Believers are to stand out as different –with values of God controlling their behavior. This means that, as believers, we are never to look at people as means to our own selfish ends. We are never to look at people as things to be used, but instead as eternal beings to be served. The 'thingification' of persons is always the tragic result in a society that considers gadgets more important than God! Christians are chosen by God to restore compassion to relationships and value to persons! As God's chosen people, we are not chosen to be separated from sinners, but instead, separated from sin.
A chosen people must be a 'select' people, that is, a 'blameless' people. This term refers to the Old Testament animal sacrifice which could only be offered to God if no blemishes were found in it. The animal must be perfectly formed and healthy before it could be used to offer to God. The offering of our lives–be it our home life, our personal life, our recreational life or our work life–must be the best possible. A chosen person must be a person who is willing to undergo the very scrutiny of God! Perfection in love and blamelessness in behavior is the high goal of Chosen People. It is a great blessing to be a chosen person, but with that privilege comes a great responsibility to be holy and blameless.
So the first description of a Christian's spiritual heritage is given in Ephesians 1:3-4. A Christian is a chosen person. Not only chosen, but also destined (verses Ephesians 1:5-6). To this we must next turn.
"O God, like you, enable me to be separate from sin, but never separated from sinners. I cannot be faultless in behavior, but enable me to be blameless in love. For Jesus' sake! Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The God who chooses me to be holy will cleanse me to live a holy life!
Destined To Be Sons!
Secondly, Christians are Destined People. "He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." (Ephesians 1:5-6) Even before the foundation of the world, God determined to adopt us as His children! The mark of God's ownership is stamped deeply on the soul of every person! God claims the right to be our Father, and we as His children! God has destined us to be sons, not slaves! To be called children of God is to be called the objects of God's special care, love, and attention! David asked in wonderment, "What is man that thou art even mindful of him, O God?". But we can ask with equal wonderment, "What is man that thou, O God, art willing to make him a son of the living God, through special adoption? Through that adoption, our sins are cancelled out and we are made a part of God's wonderful family!
Third, Christians are Redeemed People. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. (Ephesians 1:7-8) The meaning of redemption is "to loose'. Man is in bondage to sin by reason of his own sinful nature and by reason of his own willful choice. Man is unable to free himself from the terrible bondage of sin. The man without Christ feels like crying out, "Oh, what a terrible predicament I'm in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature?" (Romans 7:24) It is Christ's death that loosed men from the bondage to sin. Christ's death appeased the wrath of God, and at the same time, demonstrated the love of God for sinners. Christ's resurrection revealed God's power–a power so great that sin's chains could be broken! Christ's death was the substitutionary price of redemption, and Christ's resurrection was the availing power to set the sinner free!
Fourth, Christians are Forgiven People. "We have forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us." Guilt drains away vitality, causes mental and physical distress, marks the face, and scars the soul. Shakespeare described the terrible plague of a guilty conscience:
"My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, And every tongue brings in a several tale, And every tale condemns me for a villian.
But "as far as the east is from the west, so far hath God removed our transgressions from us".
"Dare to believe that I am a redeemed and forgiven soul, a soul whose sins are buried in the sea of God's forgetfulness, never to be remembered against me again! In Christ, my dreams become realities! Glory!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Loosed from the chains of sin, I shall forever be chained to the heart of God!
Enlightened And Enlivened People
Fifth, Christians are Enlightened People. "For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a, plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." (Ephesians 1:9-10) The mystery or secret of God has been gloriously revealed to Christians. What is that secret? Very simply, yet profoundly, the secret is this: All of nature and all of humanity will be unified and redeemed in Christ! God is sovereign and He will make even the wrath of men to praise Him! Evil will not triumph! Rather, good and justice will have the final word! Right will be rewarded; evil will be punished! The godly will be saved; the ungodly shall perish! God both wills and desires that all men come to repentance, but those who won't repent will be punished. All of nature and all of mankind will either willingly or unwillingly bow the knee to Christ and proclaim that He is Lord of lords!
"In olden times God did not share this plan with his people, but now he has revealed it by the Holy Spirit to his apostles and prophets. And this is the secret: that the Gentiles will have their full share with the Jews in all the riches inherited by God's sons; both are invited to belong to his church, and all of God's promises of mighty blessings through Christ apply to them both when they accept the Good News about Christ and what He has done for them." (Ephesians 3:6, Living Bible)
Sixth, Christians are Enlivened People. "In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:11-12) The life that is fitting into God's master plan for history is the life that brings praise and honor and glory to the Saviour. What is God's master plan for history? To bring all things and all people into unity and fellowship around the feet of Jesus! Enlivened people are reconciling people. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." Christian people should, of all people, be the most alive, for they are people of destiny, purpose. They know where history is going! "Stanley Jones said the awful events of earth did not disturb him because he knew 'how it will all come out'. Yes, of course. This is the secret of serenity in our work. The genuine Christian, in his depths, is not at sixes and sevens, for he knows that history has a goal divinely determined and that, whatever happens, Almighty God is moving redemptively to that great and grand goal." (The Minister's Ministries, Don Demaray, p. 20)
"O God, your perfect will is to save all humanity in Christ! Your permissive will is to allow those who reject Christ to live a Christless eternity! What you perfectly will–my total salvation–help me perfectly to realize! Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's revealed plan gives me power to realize life's purpose–to be united in Christ!
Empowered By The Powerful Holy Spirit!
Seventh, Christians are Hopeful People. "In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:14-15)
We have already seen that past mysteries are revealed and present life is enjoyed in Christ. Now we see that future riches are assured. The future for the Christian is as bright as the promises of God, and to guarantee that the Christian's hope for future riches is not merely an illusion of the mind, God has given us the promised Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit "is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it". (verse 14)
On October 23, 1975, Merlin Adamson, missionary to Africa for nearly 20 years, died at the young age of 48. He died at the height of his missionary career, a victim of cancer. He was my wife's cousin. Shortly after he died, my wife and I received a small note from his wife: "Of course, we miss Merlin so very much, but it is comforting to know that he is with the One who loves him even more than we do. Heaven seems so much closer now that he is there". It is the Holy Spirit who makes heaven's future treasures real to us now, giving us a foundation for our hope. The Holy Spirit is God's promise to us that lithe best is yet to be".
Eighth, Christians are Empowered People. You must read Ephesians 1:18-23 to better appreciate this. A group of students were asked if they thought Christianity was essentially a demand or an offer. How would you answer that question? After considerable thought, they realized that Christianity is an offer! God has promised that His grace is sufficient for every problem of life. God said that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Paul affirmatively met life with a resounding 'Yes' when he shouted, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Christ offers adequate resources to meet every crisis of life. Paul declared that we are 'more than conquerors' through Christ. Paul prayed for all believers that their spiritual eyes might be enlightened that they might see "the immeasurable greatness of God's power in us who believe", The power that works in the 1ife of the believer, is the same power that was best demonstrated in God's workings with Christ. God's power toward Christ resulted in (1) Christ's resurrection, (2) Christ's ascension, (3) Christ's dominion (militant victory), (4) Christ's headship over the church. That same mighty power works in you!
"God, send your hopeful Holy Spirit to inspire hope in my despairing soul. Send your powerful Holy Spirit to impart power to my weakened spirit. Send your inspiring Holy Spirit to cleanse my cloudy vision from earth's trivia, in order that I may see heaven's treasures alone!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What God demands, He always provides. What God provides, I will receive–today!
Discussion Questions On 'What Happens When I Become a Christian?'
What does 'Justification', as used in the New Testament, basically mean?
How does God view the breaking of His holy law by mankind?
Why cannot God, out of the motivation of His eternal love, easily and quickly forgive mankind for breaking His holy law?
How can the just character of God be maintained and, at the same time, unjust men be saved from the eternal damnation which their sins deserve? How is the substitutionary death of Christ an answer both to maintaining God's justice and demonstrating God's mercy? Why is God 'obligated' to forgive the sins of the genuinely repentant sinner?
Discuss your understanding of the following statement: "God is just in justifying a sinner, on the basis of God's acceptance of Christ's atonement which makes it possible for man to enjoy Christ's borrowed righteousness".
On what basis can God declare and treat a sinner righteous? Because a repentant sinner enjoys the 'borrowed righteousness' of Christ, what privilege does such a person enjoy? (Note Colossians 1:21-22)
What is the difference between justification and regeneration?
List and describe some of the metaphors which are used in the New Testament to describe the concept of Regeneration.
What is the difference between becoming a better person (human reformation), and becoming a new person (divinely-wrought transformation), as these concepts relate to motivation for change and quality of change in a human life? (What is the difference between being tolerant toward Christianity as a religion and being personally transformed by Christ as a Person?)
Cite Biblical references that describe divinely-wrought transformation of a sinner in terms of 'cleansing'.
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Peace, according to the Biblical understanding, is not the mere absence of trouble, but it is the presence of everything that makes for a man's highest good".
What evidence, both from Scripture and from your own personal experience and observation, can you cite to demonstrate Christianity's claim that Christ is able to break bad habits and to make bad men good?
What evidence is there that a person who is converted to Christ is easier to live with and easier to get along with?
On what basis can a Christian be filled with joy, in spite of the changes and chances of life's circumstances?
Discussion Questions On 'What Happens When I Become a Christian?' (continued)
God's people can be described in eight different ways, according to the first chapter of the Book of Ephesians. List those eight descriptions.
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God chose to save the entire human race, but only those who accept God's universal offer of salvation, become members of the choice (or elect) group". (Note Ephesians 1:3-4)
For what purpose are persons chosen by God?
To what are Christians destined (according to Ephesians 1:5-6), and why is such a destiny so amazing?
What is the Biblical definition of 'Redemption' and how does this concept relate to God's people (according to Ephesians 1:7-8)? Why is an understanding of the meaning of Christ's death and resurrection essential to a proper understanding of the meaning of 'Redemption'?
What are the consequences of Guilt, and what does God offer the guilt-ridden sinner?
What is the 'secret' or 'mystery' of God which has now been revealed to God's enlightened people, according to Ephesians 1:9-10?
What revealed knowledge is given to God's people that motivates them to be the most enlivened people on earth?
What is the guarantee that the Christian's hope for future riches is not merely an 'illusion of the mind'? (Note Ephesians 1:14-15)
Is Christianity essentially a demand or an offer? Explain your answer, and share Scriptural references to document your answer.
The power that God demonstrated in Christ, is the same power that God makes available to believers. According to Ephesians 1:18-23, in what four ways was God's power demonstrated in His relationship to Christ?