Who can forget Mel Gibson’s epic performance in Braveheart? The 1995 blockbuster tells the tale of legendary thirteenth century Scottish hero William Wallace, who rallied the Scottish against the English monarch and Edward I.
Movies in this genre will always be popular because our hearts will always be moved by courageous leaders who rally common men like us to live and die for great and noble causes. And there is nothing amiss with the sentiments evoked, for they have been programmed into us by our Creator. This is how our hearts should be, making leadership a first-order issue of immense importance, no matter the context.
That said, recognising, rallying around, adoring and following our True Braveheart, Jesus, will go a long way towards injecting a greater level of health into the church. Following Him is something we all do together in the church, leaders and congregation alike. There are most certainly differences in gifts and callings, anointings and authority, roles and placements within the church. Yet we must remain emphatic regarding our all having received a faith of equal standing. It is Jesus who is our Braveheart, and only Jesus.
Thank God for every hero of the faith, ancient and modern, in whom Jesus resonates. The louder the echo of His greatness the better. Let’s be inspired and encouraged; even grateful. But let’s never be confused. It’s all about Jesus!
“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31a–39).
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
More than conquerors! Do all things! The prophet Zechariah declared Christians to be prisoners of hope. Jesus Himself said that we would do even greater things than He did. Christianity’s history is that it often thrives most vibrantly in the face of vehement opposition. Something indomitable is going on here, and the Gospel is the cause of that.
It is right-standing with God that sets Christians up for risk-taking, because although a righteous man may fail, he can never be a failure. Right-standing grants glorious immunity for it is apart from the Law. As such, it is divorced from performance, and is defining, constant, unchanging, irrevocable and inviolable. God says that we are not guilty. He says that we are not guilty even when we are guilty. Even when sinning – literally busy sinning – Christians are still justified (not guilty before God), for they are in Christ.
The Gospel doesn’t just tell people that they are new; it actually makes them new! Sin appeals to the flesh, but it cannot satisfy. Sooner or later, with our righteousness a settled conclusion, the desire to live significant lives arises. And since failing cannot turn us into failures, we have every reason to be bold, risk-taking adventurers in our pilgrimage. Someone with nothing to lose has everything to gain, and with the promises of God factored in, all things are possible! Why pray small prayers when you can pray big ones? Why aim low when you can aim high? If it really is all by grace alone through faith alone (which it is), and if it is all to Christ’s account, and already paid (which it is), and if He really is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ask or imagine (which He is), then why not go for it!
The Gospel is clear. The gifts and callings of God are without repentance. The freedom and fullness of our salvation are irrevocable gifts. Why then settle at any point, or ever take no for an answer? A squandered inheritance is not irreplaceable, because God does not have to reallocate slices of pie; He simply makes more pie! (The Lord does not have to take from the older brother in order to reinstate a returning prodigal’s inheritance). Christ is as much Healer of the sick Christian as of the healthy one. This never changes, even on one’s death-bed. Christ is as much Provider to rich as to poor, in bull markets and in bear. His riches in glory are the measure of our supply. No matter how much has been squandered, for whatever reason, Zechariah is right – we are prisoners of hope.
The gleanings of recent years have included in their yield four magnificent illustrations that illustrate our point. None is original to me, but I’ve used them all repeatedly. I can’t recall where they came from (best guess Rob Rufus on most), or else I’d give credit where due. They’re just too good to exclude, though, and so if it’s you I’m plagiarising, please forgive.
Life in Christ is like walking on the high-wire, with His perfect work our safety net. We might slip and fall, but are guaranteed to remain safely suspended in the lofty context of His victory. When we lose our footing, there is no devastating plunge to destruction. Instead, all that needs to be done is for us to regain our equilibrium and get walking again. We’re righteous in Christ, and in that all-important regard, nothing’s changed. Consequently, when we walk, we do so confidently, sans anxiety or fear, for no matter how tetchy things might get on the wind-buffeted high-wire of life from time to time, we cannot fall. So let’s go for it!
For those who love the game of cricket, life in Christ is an innings at the crease with an umpire who will never give us out. The bales scatter; we’re not out. Caught playing the shot; not out. Plumb LBW; a shake of the head from the umpire. We can’t even be run out. That’s because every ball that life or devil bowls is effectively a no-ball. The cross has rendered every ball a free hit. Each and every one remains a scoring opportunity, but none can take our wicket. So, spinner or seamer, it matters not. Simply take a stroll down the wicket and have a go!
Our life in Christ is a ride on an up-escalator. The inexorable upward momentum makes it well-nigh impossible for us to lose ground. Serious regression takes concerted, sustained effort, for He wills and works for our salvation at all times. Stumble we might, but as we do, the escalator of His loving-kindness continues to carry us into our preferable future. He works for our good in all things, even if the things themselves are not of Him and not good. We can rest in Christ and enjoy the blessings and privileges that are ours by unmerited favour, for it is He at work to will and to do in and through us. Forwards, upwards, glory to glory – that’s the doing of this Gospel in which we stand. Let’s live large, and go for it!
Ours is the privileged life of the adopted child. (This is Biblical fact. Indeed, we are His four times over. He created us; He redeemed (purchased) us; we are born again of Him; and He has adopted us). He has taken us into His family and given us His name. We are His, and all our stuff is His! He is our protector and provider, wills the best for us, and plans and follows through accordingly. And so, out there on the giant school playground of life, there’s no need to submit to the bullies of anxiety, fear, guilt, manipulation, oppression, condemnation and shame, and no need to inflict their pain on others. On the contrary, there’s every reason to suck the stuffing out of the marrow bone of life – who is your Daddy!
Nothing is more empowering than the inability to fail. Temporary setbacks are inevitable, but in Christ we have been placed out of defeat’s reach. We might yet disappoint ourselves and others, but our relationship with God is disappointment-proof in any ultimate sense. We are in Christ, and the perfection of His performance has been imputed to us. The most natural thing in the world now is for us to embrace the advantage and live well.
The Biblical accounts of Abraham of old illustrate the potential we’ve been presented with magnificently. Read the descriptive account of his life and times in the Old Testament, and it’s the story of a typical human being. There are moments of extraordinary faith, and there are times of sin and unbelief. He reads just like us. Then read Heaven’s record of that same life and times in the New Testament, and what you find is a fully sanitised account. Post the cross, Abraham suddenly presents as a super-saint, who never doubted for a moment, nor put a foot wrong. Can you see it? The same life and the identical events, when viewed through the gift of righteousness, is flawless. It’s failure-proof. Right-standing with God ensures that there is nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
The righteous live by faith, and that life has every reason to be an abundant one, for there is no other kind of life 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.
The freedoms granted us in Christ are Christ’s victories won, but couched in liberty’s language.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
The freedom the Gospel brings is a wonderful thing. It is not dangerous, wild, or boundary-less. The Gospel’s gift is freedom in Christ, not freedom apart from Him. True freedom is not licentiousness or lawlessness. Those who live without restraint are not free, but prisoners of sin, satan and flesh. Freedoms in Christ are His victories appropriated, and appropriating these will always move us towards Christlikeness, and never away. The opening line of Freedom for Dummies would be, “It’s freedom from sin, not freedom to sin, silly!”
Like everything else the Gospel brings, it grants freedom unconditionally. No strings attached. The freedom that is ours in Christ is without rules and regulations. It is unmerited, and it can be squandered. For this reason the Bible wisely cautions us against using our freedoms to indulge our flesh. Why? Because, if we do so, we will once again find ourselves in bondage to our carnality. And why run back to that from which the goodness of God has delivered us?
Those who are in the know tell us that most addicts require more than one attempt at rehabilitation before they’re able to break the cycle. This is because they typically misuse their early freedoms, flirt with temptation, and get themselves back into bondage that first time round. The fact is that the addict is only truly free when he or she uses his or her freedom to stay free. So it is in Christ. True freedom values freedom. In Him we are unfettered; free; no strings attached, and soon learn that to misuse that freedom is to relinquish it. The younger son in the parable ended in the pigpen thanks to the exercising of his rights and freedoms. Not the freest of outcomes, that. This is why Paul tells us that all things are lawful, but not all are helpful; all things are lawful, but not all edify. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should, and maturity can tell the difference between the two. Walking in this distinction – now that’s freedom!
The mechanism by which we are free in Christ is the same by which any of the other benefits of salvation become ours – death and resurrection. In the moment we believed, His story became ours, and we were placed in Him. Faith is confidence in this exchange, which in turn enables us to appropriate the richness of the salvation-package in its fullness. In the moment that we believe into Jesus, His victories become ours. All of them. Instantly. But it is believing that is receiving, and so it is in the day-to-day of our Christian living that the Gospel imparts revelation and faith, both of which work within us for the appropriation of these freedoms a little at a time. As we shall see in a later chapter (The Gospel Empowers), freedom from condemnation is the linchpin around which all of the many benefits of salvation are appropriated. This is so because it is impossible for a righteous man to be powerless. Increasingly the full assurance of our right-standing with God becomes the beachhead from which we possess our inheritance on an experiential level. The gift of righteousness persuades us that we indeed qualify, without exception, for everything that God has promised. On that foundation, believing is receiving.
Then, in Christ, we are the justified. We are not guilty. We are righteous. We are condemnation-free. In Christ we are free from sin, and from its dominion. We have been forgiven, cleansed, and delivered from sin. We are saints (holy ones). Grace teaches us to say no to sin, for grace has loosened us from sin’s grip. Christ has also freed us from our past. We are no longer in Adam. Our baptism served as the funeral service for that old life of ours. We might still carry its scars, but not its wounds. Even Jesus carries scars, and they do not make Him ugly; on the contrary, His scars are medals all; veritable trophies of grace and mercy. We no longer have a sinful nature. Our old man was co-crucified with Christ. We are not who we once were. What freedom! In Christ, we are no longer subject to the dictates of our flesh. We are Spirit-born, Spirit-indwelt, Spirit led and Spirit-empowered people. By the Spirit, we put to death the deeds of the flesh. Our vestigial in-Adam-ness does not provide the drumbeat to which we march; we keep in step with the Spirit and are moved by the rhythms of Heaven.
The pressure is off. No more striving. No one left to impress, including God! We are free from trying to be and trying to do, for God has made us to be, and has prepared good works for us to do. The righteous requirements of the Law have been met in us. We are free from the Law’s demands (we are not under it), and we have been delivered from its curse (its accusation, condemnation and disqualification). Satan is a defeated foe. Christ has triumphed over Him. In Jesus’ name, demonic strongholds yield and demons flee. His power over us has been broken, and to us has been granted authority over him, in Jesus’ name. The world no longer fools us. We are no longer ensnared in the system that surrounds us. Its way of thinking is not ours; its value system no longer ours either. We are citizens of a kingdom that is not of this world, and our worth and ways are determined there. We are no longer ashamed. We are the forgiven, loved, accepted and affirmed – no matter what has transpired. God is not ashamed of us, nor is He embarrassed to be associated with us. He proudly, publicly, takes full responsibility for us. We’re His kith and kin now. He is the lifter of our heads, says the Bible.
Last but not least, we are free from fear. Even death, the last enemy to be conquered, has lost its sting. No judgement awaits us; only the consummation of our salvation. The Lord has promised that He will never leave or forsake us, and He reassures us constantly that there is no need for us to be anxious about anything. He is well able to take care of us; and He will; and He does.
This chapter could be amplified exponentially. For instance, all sickness, war and poverty has its source in satan and sin. Jesus is Healer, Prince of Peace, and Providence Himself. The will of God is clear – Jesus taught us to pray heaven to earth – and there is no sickness, war or lack in heaven. Having couched the benefits of believing in the language of liberty, let’s not short-change the Gospel by misrepresenting its richness in any way. The truth is, the benefits of our salvation are a two-sided coin – freedom and fullness – which can and should be described, understood and received in abundance. Freedom and fullness in Christ, that’s the Gospel, and the Gospel believed is its benefits received.
A well-proclaimed Gospel will leave no room for an orphan spirit. Our God is our Father, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of His Son, the Spirit of sonship. Anyone who is in Christ is God’s child in God’s family, and is blessed. The old has gone; the new has come. The bad has gone; the good has come. Paul’s words help us to conclude the thought: “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
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.
So saying is not some sort of call to honesty. Neither is it an appeal for the facts of a matter to be carefully verified. Rather, it has to do with reality, and two critical applications immediately spring to mind.
Truth (spiritual realities) triumph over temporal realities …
When Jesus said that “it” was finished, it looked as though He was finished. But truth trumped temporal realities. His tomb is empty, and redemption has been secured. It really was finished, and successfully so. When Paul and Silas worshiped in stocks, deep in that Philippian dungeon, their truth was freedom in Christ, and soon their temporal realities yielded to the superiority of the spirit-realm. The earth shook, and they walked free.
This is how all faith works. Faith taps into spiritual, eternal truth, and appropriates its facts into temporal situation and circumstance. Sight, sound, touch, taste and smell yield to “God says”, and wisdom, freedom, provision and healing manifest in our lives. Resurrection is nothing other than the grave yielding to Life. Nothing too extraordinary at all. The same applies to the new birth and to breathtaking creative miracles. All that happens when these things take place is that truth is triumphing over our inferior, temporal reality. This was what happened when God said, “Let there be light”, and is what has happened every other time the proclamations of God have been appropriated ever since. “God says” and “in Jesus’ Name” move mountains, part seas, and bring forth out of nothing. Truth triumphs over all!
Truth (Jesus) triumphs over all other spiritual realities …
The spirit-realm harbours power beyond anything in the natural. That is why those who move in its occultic dimensions are the controlled, not the controllers. They are the manipulated and the used, no matter how much their demonic masters masquerade as servants. Principalities and powers have their clear agenda, and any man or woman who invokes their bidding soon becomes their pawn.
But in this arena of spiritual realities, light and darkness, truth (Jesus) trumps all also. He reigns supreme. All authority on heaven and earth has been given Him. The Biblical record bears witness. Every time there came a showdown between the Spirit of God and a contrary spirit, Holy Spirit prevailed without question, no contest. The same holds true today, and always will. Truth triumphs over all!
Binding and loosing …
Christians are in union with Christ. As such, they walk in tremendous authority. On occasion, their particular gifts and callings usher them into the midst of the conflicts raging in the heavenlies. There they are used to disrupt Destruction and facilitate Salvation. These moments of militancy have their place, but are rare for most.
Far more common is our partnership with the Lord in bringing Heaven to earth. Much of our binding and loosing, locking and unlocking, forbidding and permitting, happens in the most unconscious of ways. All we’re doing at the time is loving our wives, showing kindness to our neighbours, sharing the Gospel as opportunity presents, or praying as the Spirit prompts – the simplest of things in a life in the Lord; no significant spiritual warfare orientation required. The battle is His, and the victory is His. It is simply our living with hearts malleable to His touch and ears inclined to His voice that make us ferocious in battle. For it is, you see, that we are far less warriors in His army than arrows in His bow.
Herein lies a great secret. We have not been called to war, but to peace. We have not been called to anger and hatred, but to loving obedience. The battle is His and the victory is His. Ours is to believe and obey. His is to rule until all things in heaven and on earth are manifestly subject to Him. Truth triumphs over all. God says so!
Think for a moment of our armour, and Truth’s triumph becomes all the more self-evident. Our helmet is salvation. Our breastplate is righteousness, which comes to us as a gift. Truth guards our loins, faith is our shield, and the sword of the Spirit which we wield is His word. Right down to our footwear, our armour derives from the Gospel. It is of His efforts, not our own. Ours is to stand, and ours is to pray. Truly, truth triumphs over all!
When Paul the apostle reflected on his life, he did so using three metaphors. “I have fought the good fight”, he said. “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. (II Timothy 4:7). Wrestler, runner, soldier – so helpful to us as we seek to live well.
We all wrestle with something. Perhaps it’s because some flaw, fault or weakness runs through our person. Or perhaps because a bit of shrapnel from an earlier skirmish remains lodged within, and has the propensity to fester again and again. Whatever the case, we all experience the enemy’s intrusion into our internal world, probing for purchase, at least to distract, and at best to destroy. His agenda is never benign, and establishing ourselves in the victories of Christ in the private enclaves of heart and mind is at least as essential as triumphing in other arenas. Paul mentions the private and personal first, and tells us that there he fought a good fight. Let’s be clear that a good fight is a fight won! A word to the wise – although these battles are by definition in the all-alone, a close confidant who is kept aware can be helpful is establishing oneself in consistent victory.
We also all have a race to run. This is of gifts and callings, of meaning and purpose; of destiny. It refers to endeavors unique to us; the good works prepared in advance for us to do. Our race is God-appointed and each of us is perfectly equipped to run it, for the grace of God is upon us to do so, no matter what twists, turns or obstacles we may encounter along the way. It’s our race, and no one else can run it for us, but this metaphor reveals the intriguing way in which Christianity is both an individual and corporate pursuit all at once.Those around us can watch our progress and urge us on, as can we them, and together we can draw strength from the great cloud of witnesses who preceded us all, ran well, and now cheer us on in the spirit-realm. Like Paul, let’s be single minded and run to win, doing all to encourage others, all the while drawing encouragement from them as we stride towards the line.
Then there’s the soldiering. None of us have much to offer in this department when we stand alone, but together with all brothers and sisters down through the ages, we take our place in the great army of God. Together we steward the glorious truths of the Gospel as entrusted by the Lord to His church for the redemption of His world. Together we occupy, and little by little Heaven colonises earth, glory to glory, until all of His enemies have been manifestly subdued beneath Christ’s feet.
Wrestler, runner, soldier all – Triumphing in victories Christ-won at the cross. Wrestler, runner, soldier all – Living well, living full,
For the grave is empty Our champion lives! Wrestler, runner, soldier all –
For the sake of the Gospel, And the glory of our Lord.