Tag Archives: New

The Gospel defines

70099c4f97f7370a1ee45adf222abdb2“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (II Corinthians 5:16–17).

The Gospel believed is salvation received. In our moment of faith, Holy Spirit plunged us into Christ. Simultaneously, the Spirit birthed new life in us: God-life. Spiritual life. Eternal life. Suddenly everything had changed. The old had gone; the new had come!

Perhaps not everyone noticed the change. I came into this world with my mother’s nose and my father’s ears. These remained the same after I was born again. In other words, while absolutely everything had changed, to the casual observer nothing had changed. This is Paul’s point in the passage quoted above. Many people even looked at Jesus and saw just their neighbour, another Galilean; nobody special at all. They knew Him according to the flesh, or according to outward appearances. And outward appearance is not the business end of the Gospel.

That’s not to say that the Gospel doesn’t impact outwardly. Countenances change. Postures do too. Behaviour should make a quantum shift. But the issue here is that Christians are judged by the work of Christ, and not by their outward appearance, or even their behaviour. For Christians, the old has gone and the new has come. This is so because of what the Lord has done for them and to/in them. Therein lies the defining measure.

399635879We all continue to live in our Adam-suits after we are born again. The Bible calls these vestigial components of our old lives our flesh. This flesh refers to a little more than just our physical bodies, for it encompasses the remnants of our in-Adam-ness. Thanks to our flesh, our lives have the propensity to be reduced to some kind of war zone. Our mortal bodies are subject to sickness and disease, deterioration and decay; even death. In Christ is health and resurrection. Unhelpful views, attitudes, memories and beliefs flood our hearts and minds. In Christ is a lifestyle of repentance and mind-renewal. Our flesh is by its very nature godless, rebellious, selfish and sinful. Our new life in Christ is anything but.

The result can be an unhelpful religious schizophrenia. Sinner sometimes; saint sometimes. Saved today; unsaved tomorrow. Passages of Scriptures, unhelpfully applied out of context, all too easily reinforce the confusion. Into this malaise comes the Gospel with glorious clarity. Our flesh does not define us; the work of Christ does. Our freedom from any confusion is wrapped up in the once-for-all-ness of the Gospel. The Gospel is definitive news, and as such the Gospel defines us unambiguously. Christians are righteous. They belong to God. The Holy Spirit is in them. Period! The Christian with a hand in the cookie jar is just as justified (not guilty) as the Christian piously praying in the pew. There is no difference at all between the two according to the Gospel plumbline. Both are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone.

imagesGrasping this becomes the God-given foundation for all behavioural change. It takes us off the horns of dilemma and settles once-for-all who and what we are. Christianity is identity-driven. Christians learn to live righteously because they are righteous; to do good because they are good; to do what pleases God because they are pleasing to Him! Christians “do” because they “are”. That’s the mystery of the Gospel.

By way of illustration: The early church was being prepared to disseminate the Gospel cross-culturally. At the time, while not all Jews were Christians, nearly all Christians were Jews. Consequently, the distinction between Judaism and Christianity was not all that clear.
One morning, as lunchtime approached, Peter, the leader of the Christians at the time, went up onto the rooftop to pray. At that moment, Peter the apostle was Peter the hungry, and the Lord made magnificent use of the opportunity. Peter was induced into a trance-like state, and in the ensuing vision a huge tablecloth of sorts descended in front of him. In it were birds and animals of all kinds, and they all shared one thing in common – by the standards of Law of Moses, they were unclean or common. Three times the Lord instructed Peter to kill and eat. Three times he declined. Each time his reason was the same – he’d never eaten anything unclean, and he didn’t propose to do so now. Each time the Lord’s response was the same. “What God has made clean, do not call common”.

From there the Gospel went to the Gentiles. From then on Peter and the Christians understood that only one thing defined clean and unclean, and that was the Gospel! Anyone in Christ had been fundamentally redefined. It did not matter what they once were, or even what they looked like, for nothing was to be judged by its flesh. Anyone who was in Christ was a new creation. The old was gone; the new had come. To be in Christ is to be clean!

2-corinthians-5-17Many of the Jewish brothers and sisters of the day struggled enormously in coming to terms with that, Peter included. So do we, because it takes us so firmly into counterintuitive territory. We all agree that God does not judge the book by its cover, but we’re also painfully aware that everybody else does. Perhaps in the church, this is especially so. After all, if it walks like a sinner, talks like a sinner, sounds like a sinner and smells like a sinner, well, it must be a sinner. And if it walks like a saint, talks like a saint, sounds like a saint, and smells like a saint, well, the probability is that it’s a saint. Not true, bellows the Gospel! Saints who walk and talk like sinners may well be wayward saints, and on other days they might be you and me. Sinners who walk and talk like saints are a blessing to have as neighbours, but their self-righteousness falls short of Heaven’s Perfections.

It’s not unusual for things not to be as they appear in the religious arena. The church is consistently embroiled in scandal, and unhelpfully so. But even more scandalous is the Gospel, our God-given plumbline. Outside of Christ, and apart from the righteousness that is by grace alone through faith alone – everyone is leprously unrighteous. And in Christ, even the most Peter-repelling, creepy-crawly-esque individual, who evokes our immediate no-thank-you is perfectly righteous. Perfectly righteous, and mercifully, undeservedly, completely so! There is nothing fair about the Gospel. There is nothing fair about sinners being made righteous. But then, there is also nothing fair about sinless Jesus becoming a sin offering for our sake. It’s not fair, but in Christ, the old has gone, and the new has come!

Best News Ever 3DThis is one of a series of posts adapted from the e-book, “Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever!” by Gavin Cox. Go to the first post in the series by clicking here, or on the icon to go to the book’s page.

 

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The Gospel includes

Nothing could be more revolutionary than that which is done to you in the moment that you first put your confidence in Christ. The Gospel believed is the Gospel received, and in that instant of faith, the greatest exchange imaginable is effected – Christ’s life for yours!

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:1–9).

goodbyeoldhellonewThe transformation that occurs is literally out of this world, as in a moment you go from being “in Adam” to being “in Christ”. All of the major metaphors of Scripture apply in that instant – death to life; darkness to light; satan to God, condemned to justified, slave to freeman; enemy to friend – on and on it goes. Many books would be necessary to do justice to the many wonderful facets of this single glorious truth – inclusion in Christ. And that’s the big idea. Believing includes us in Christ. This is not just some sort of transfer of allegiance; it is the all-encompassing transformation of a life. The phrase “in Christ” is ubiquitous in Paul’s letters, for it describes the essence of salvation. “In Christ”; “in Him”; “in Christ Jesus”. Those of us who preach and teach these truths will often refer to this as the believer’s position, placement, status or standing. In Christ!

Christians are saved, but they did not save themselves. They are in Christ, but they did not put themselves there. It is not even their faith that saved them. In the moment that they believed, it was the Holy Spirit who went to work as per the Father’s decree, transferring them from in Adam to in Christ. This was all of grace, and is something that God does to all who believe.

in-christThe enormity of what happens is not faith-sized, but grace-sized. It’s not as if those who have great faith receive a great salvation, and those with less faith receive a lesser salvation. Those with less faith may well appropriate less of the salvation given to them, but a lesser faith does not lessen the work of Christ on our behalf. To think thus is absurdity, for those who believe have not just seen, heard or tasted, but have entered into salvation by the power of God. Tentative faith (a mustard seed’s worth) does not unleash a tentative reaction from heaven. Salvation is a one-size-fits-all proposition – Jesus! Rather, believing thrusts us into the white-water of the new birth, and those who have put their confidence in Christ have been carried along by the power of God, away from the old and right into the new.

It is simply not possible to be a half-Christian or a bad Christian. It is not we, ourselves, who make ourselves Christians. It is a work of God, and all that He does He does well. There is only one kind of Christian on the planet, and that is the perfect kind, for we are of His making. Some of us do live poorly representing our in-Christ-ness, thanks to paucity of faith, or to misbeliefs of one kind or another. But that does not mean that we are lesser Christians, for we are all Christians by the same work of the same Spirit. Understanding this is life-changing. In Christ, is in Christ, is in Christ! We’ve received a faith of equal standing before God, writes the apostle Peter. We might have different gifts and callings, and some might fellowship more intimately with God than others do, but we’ve all received equal access to God, with equal rights and privileges. It is all of grace alone, and all because of Christ alone. We have all received the highest title and the richest commendation imaginable, for in Christ we are all God’s beloved children, in whom Father is well pleased. That is who we are. That is our identity.

inchristlogoIn the moment of faith His story became our story. That’s the Gospel. In an instant, the Holy Spirit united us with Christ, in His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. We were raised to new life in Him, and are now seated with Him in heavenly places. We are the saved; He is the Saviour. Our salvation has come through our literal immersion into Him, and into His substitutionary, atoning work. Christians have been baptised (immersed) into Christ. It is this to which believers’ baptism testifies most graphically.

The gift of salvation is not extraneous to our person. It is not like an item of clothing or jewelry, or even like any other experience we might have. It is not something that can be received, explored, enjoyed, kept, exploited or discarded. It cannot be lost or misplaced. It is defining. It’s not so much something we possess, as something that possesses us. Being in Christ is far more a matter of Christ having us than our having Him. Those who have believed have been engulfed in Saviour and salvation just as surely as Jonah was swallowed by the big fish. The difference is that we were not ingested, but en-wombed. We were re-created; born again; re-made. Nicodemus puzzled over this because he could not imagine how he would ever get back into his mother’s womb. He understood the point, just not the means, for the womb into which the Spirit thrusts us is the work of Christ, from which we re-emerge altogether new.

col-3-3-hidden-in-christWe would better speak of believing into Jesus, even if it is grammatically awkward. Coming to faith is literally believing into Christ, which is what faith ultimately accomplishes as grace is appropriated by the Spirit. It is also why the whole experience is irrevocable. If we were saved by our faith, then our salvation could well be on-again, off-again. But we are not saved by faith; we are saved through faith. Believing opens the door to the tsunami of God’s power, and that which was wrought for us on the cross, is applied to us by the Holy Spirit. It is a leap forward from which there is no way back. In a moment, we are included in something altogether other, immeasurably bigger than ourselves. We are welcomed into a kingdom, a family, a fellowship, a union. We enter by literal re-creation. The Gospel believed is salvation received; the Gospel believed is inclusion in Christ.

This is one of a series of posts adapted from the e-book “Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever!” by Gavin Cox. Go to the first post in the series by clicking here.

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Much to celebrate

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There is much to celebrate in our neck of the woods. The Lord’s Presence and Provision are magnificent always, and although we’ve been busier than is customary, it’s been with a spring in our step and a a song in our hearts.

We’re delighted at the steady increase in downloads of all three of the books in the NOT CONFUSED series. They are proving to be helpful to many, and we are grateful to the Lord to be used in establishing others in the Gospel of grace in this way.

Enjoy the updated look and feel of the the website, and be blessed!

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Fresh Starts and New Beginnings

Germination

Both are desirable; both are needed; both are good!

The fresh start is what we long for when we’re in a bind. Nothing wrong with that. This is the stuff that lotto-winning fantasies are made of. The stuff of miracles. New job, new house, new car, new country, new life! The dreams of others touch us deeply because we identify. New bone marrow, new liver, new optic nerve. And how uber-cool it is when these things happen. And they do! Our God is a God of miracles, and if you’ve been around Him much you’ll have seen it all – new job, new house, new liver, new optic nerve.

But fresh starts are not always good enough. The Lord once offered Moses just such a fresh start (Exodus 32:7-14). “New everything”, God generously offered (I’m paraphrasing loosely). To folks in a bind his response is incomprehensible. “Thanks for the offer”, he said (more loose paraphrasing), “but let’s rather stay with this mess” .

Why would anyone do that? Two reasons in his case. The first is obvious. Accepting God’s offer meant certain death for well-upwards of a million people, some of whom were Moses’ family. By declining, he was saving lives and granting multitudes a second chance. It’s a great lesson. Sometimes we stay with the mess for the sake of others.

The second reason Moses declined is because he understood. He understood that he was just like the rest of us, and any fresh start would be a temporary solution. None of us can pull off the ideal. He made a good call; he was excluded from the Promised Land along with the rest a little later on. The truth is that fresh starts don’t produce utopia because of the fallen-factor. However much we might resist the thought, miracles are in and of themselves only temporary fixes. Tomb-exiting Lazarus is not still alive today. Winning the lotto destroys many lives. New jobs don’t always work out, new cities become old, and new cars fender-bend just as well as the old ones.

Thank God for miracles, but the new birth is much more. Being born again is a permanent solution. It is much more than a fresh start. It is a new beginning; a re-defining; an altogether-other intervention. Praise God for miracles, but the engine-room of transformation is not the fresh start but the new beginning! This is so, because, rather than settle for a change of circumstances, the new birth produces a brand new you!

This new beginning was not an option for Moses – the New Covenant had not yet been cut; the Spirit had not yet been given in fullness; union with Christ and regeneration was yet come. It was not yet an option for Moses, but it is our reality. The new beginning that was beyond Moses was in reach of Jesus, who began anew for Adam, and in so doing began anew for all of us. In Christ, we are new creations. We have been made new! Miracles deal with symptoms; the new birth deals with underlying causes. Fresh starts are great – they intervene in our circumstances; new beginnings are even greater – they transform us. Miracles bless us; the new birth makes us blessed.

You might need a miracle today. Many of us need a few. Let’s ask God for them and believe for them without apology. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are already a new beginning. This is who we are! All the time. Because we are new, every situation and circumstance is already infused with hope. Because we are new, every day is a new day. In making us new, God has already made up His mind about us. He has plans for us, and His are good plans.

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