sermon: Are You Alive to God?
Union With Christ
Martin G. Collins
Given 03-Apr-10; Sermon #985; 63 minutes
Martin Collins, asking what it would be like if God looked down on us and viewed us as spiritually dead, suggests that Ephesians 2:1-7 has revealed that we all have been dead spiritually. Thankfully, God regenerated us, rescuing us from this spiritually comatose condition, resurrecting us from the grave through the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. As long as we walk in the spirit, leaving the realm of sin, the sacrifice of Christ is in force. We are dead to the penalty of the law, the realm of sin, and the power of sin to take our lives. Our human nature, in effect, becomes an alien entity in our new emergent spiritual body, being transformed into Christ's image, walking in the newness of life, a totally different quality of life. Our new heart craves righteousness, holiness, and an intimate relationship with God (manifested in a desire for prayer). Our will now conforms to God's will, developing godly character by choosing the right and rejecting the wrong, taking on God's divine nature. In order to develop God's character, we must struggle against and defeat Satan, the world, and our own flesh.
What if God looked down from heaven and saw you lying there dead. Spiritually dead to Him—totally useless—and your remains are an affront to Him, an abomination, and you are an enemy? If that were your condition you most likely would not care, unless God was beginning to call you out of that condition.
Well, that is the condition of every human being on earth who has not received God’s Holy Spirit. But for those who have responded positively to God’s call, have been baptized, and have received God’s Holy Spirit, “you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
The overall theme of Ephesians 2:1-10, is that God lavishes His grace on us all, through His plan of salvation. In verses 1-3 (which is a single sentence in the original Greek) the apostle Paul expresses the contrast between being spiritually alive or dead. Human beings, as sons and daughters of Adam, enter the world spiritually dead.
Ephesians 2:1-3 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
Ephesians 2:4-7 is also a single sentence in the original Greek. In contrast to the hopeless state of the non-believer, Christians rejoice in hope because of God’s incredible grace and gift of salvation. Paul accents this grace in contrast to the pre-conversion hopelessness analyzed in verses 1-3.
Ephesians 2:4-7 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the 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 in Christ Jesus.
We must all admit, as we read the first seven verses of this chapter, that most of our troubles are due to the fact that we are guilty of a double failure; on the one hand, we fail to realize the depth of sin, and on the other hand, we fail to realize the greatness, the stature, and the glory of our salvation.
Often, we are content to think of our salvation merely in terms of the forgiveness of sins. Of course, I do not want to depreciate that in any way, because there is nothing more wonderful for any human being. My point is, that to stop at that is inadequate. And it may be that the whole condition and state of the church today, is largely due to the fact that we fail at both points. It is because we do not always realize the depth of the pit out of which we have been brought by the grace of God, that we do not thank God as we should.
And then there is our failure to realize the great stature to which He has raised us.
That is what Paul is dealing with here, with the Ephesian Christians. He is telling them, and us, about the deliverance, and about the salvation.
At this point, he is writing to people who are already Christians, and he wants them to realize, and to understand, what is really true of them as Christians. He wants them to know the exceeding greatness of God’s power to us who believe; and so he expounds on that point.
It is our union with Christ that makes us true Christians. This is absolutely vital, because the first thing that it leads to is regeneration.
Regeneration is the spiritual change brought about in a person's life by an act of God. In regeneration our sinful nature is changed, and we are enabled to respond to God in faith.
The word regeneration occurs only twice in the New Testament, in Matthew 19:28 and in Titus 3:5, but the concept or idea is common throughout the Bible.
Titus 3:4-7 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
In verse 5, regeneration signifies the change of heart that is elsewhere spoken of as a passing from death to life; becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus; being born from above; a renewal of the mind, and a life giving of the spirit. This change is a process, and originates not with man, but with God through the Holy Spirit.
As to the nature of the change, it consists of the implanting of a new principle or priority in the heart; the impartation of spiritual life to those who are by nature "dead in trespasses and sins."
The original Greek word ‘palingenesia’ is used by classical Greek writers with reference to the changes produced by the return of spring. In Matthew 19:28, the word is equivalent to the "restitution of all things.” The literal meaning of regeneration is “spiritual renewal.” Every biblical command to us to undergo a radical change of character from self-centeredness to God-centeredness is, in effect, a call to be regenerated.
An Old Testament example of this is David’s prayer of repentance when Nathan the prophet went to David after he had gone in to Bathsheba. David asks to have a clean heart created in him, and for his spirit to be renewed.
Psalm 51:7-11 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
The word rendered "create,” in verse 10, is a word that is used to mean an act of "creation;" that is, of causing something to exist where there was nothing before. It is the word that is used in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and which is commonly used to express the act of creation.
David recognizes that it requires divine power that is given by God alone. His plea is for God to clean his heart; to make his heart pure; and to set his mind right. This could be produced only by the power of God.
This passage proves that it is as much a doctrine of the Old Testament as it is of the New—that only God, by way of His Holy Spirit, changes the human heart.
The phrase “renew a steadfast spirit within me,” refers to a ‘constant spirit.’ The Hebrew word from which the English word ‘ steadfast’ is translated, means that which is ‘erect,’ or that which is ‘made to stand up,’ or that which is ‘firm’ or ‘established.’
So David pleaded with God to renew in him an established righteous spirit. David, who had God’s Holy Spirit within him, wanted God to continue His regeneration process in him. Regeneration is the first thing that our union with Christ leads us to.
Let us go on to the next step, because Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians not only tells us that we have been given life together with Christ, but also that He ‘has raised us up together.’ This is a curious statement, considering that us “being raised up with Christ” was always thought of as being the first resurrection.
Ephesians 2:4-6 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree, He died, His lifeless body was taken down, it was buried in a grave, and the stone was rolled over the grave. There is no question about that; that is fact. He was dead; He literally died for our sins. But at the end of third day He arose, and He was raised from the dead.
We must bear in mind constantly as we deal with this teaching that Paul is working out a comparison here. Paul’s point is that what is true of us spiritually (at baptism and the laying on of hands) is similar to what happened to Jesus Christ physically when He was raised from the grave.
We are ‘raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ because Christ has gone to the realm of heaven as our High Priest and Savior. Even as we dwell here on earth we have the anticipation of that glory, and are admitted to exalted honors, as if we sit in heavenly places, by virtue of Christ dwelling in us, and we in Him.
It is in connection with Him that we are exalted, and as a result filled with joy and peace. We are united to Christ. We die with Him and we live with Him. We share His sufferings, and we share His joys. We become dead to the world by virtue of His death; we become alive unto God by virtue of His resurrection.
Christ was dead in the grave for three nights and three days. But He came out from that state and place of death. The women who went to the grave were surprised. They went to see the body in the grave, but there was no body, only the grave-clothes. He was no longer dead, but He was alive. And He appeared, you remember, to chosen people for forty days. At various times and in various ways He manifested Himself to those chosen witnesses; and then He ascended into heaven.
The beginning of the process of our conversion is comparable to that. There was this complete change in the realm in which Jesus Christ was existing—dead in the grave, and then alive.
So, we have been raised together with Christ. And because of our union with Him, what happened to Him happens to us—not in the human body changed to spirit body sense (which is to come at the resurrection of the saints), but by the renewing of our minds spiritually during the process of conversion. We are not yet raised in a literal resurrection of the dead, but in a spiritual sense, by a change of mind and heart, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We are raised from the dead, because sin makes us spiritually dead to God, and so this is what makes us alive to God.
What God wants us to understand now is that spiritually, this selfsame power that raised Jesus Christ is working in us who believe, and is doing this wonderful work in us.
We can look at this ‘raising up together,’ mentioned in Ephesians 2:6, first of all in a negative manner. Once Christ was raised from the dead there were certain things that were no longer true of Him. And the same exact thing can be said about the Christian. There are certain negatives that are of tremendous importance that are no longer true of us.
‘The Christian’, by definition, is no longer dead spiritually. He is no longer in a spiritual grave. He was! We were all dead in trespasses and sins, and we were in a spiritual grave. But as Christians, we have come out of it. As Christ came out of the grave, we are out of the grave. We have left behind the grave-clothes. We are no longer in that realm; our position is an entirely new one.
Now that is just another way of saying that this whole process of regeneration and salvation is the most profound change possible; and to become a Christian is the most profound experience in the whole universe. It is nothing less than the difference between death and life, between being in a grave and walking at liberty and in freedom on earth.
But what does this mean in actual practice? Paul says that there are certain things that we as Christians must hold on to resolutely.
That we are no longer dead, and no longer in the grave, is proof positive that we are no longer under the wrath of God, and we are no longer under condemnation.
Paul puts this in a very interesting way, in Romans 4. Referring to Christ he says:
Romans 4:25 Who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
He means that Christ’s death was on account of our offenses. He died because He bore our sins and transgressions, and because the punishment was death, He died.
But how do we know that God was satisfied with that offering? It is a very simple answer, and that is, that Christ was resurrected. Christ was raised for our justification! The emergence of Christ from the realm of death and the grave—His appearing again—is an absolute proof that God is satisfied that the punishment for sin has been truly dealt with.
Paul goes on to make the point:
Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
We are raised from the dead with Him, therefore we are justified, and thus we are no longer under the wrath of God. Paul puts it more strongly:
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
No condemnation! Condemnation leads to death; but we are no longer dead, we are changed in that sense in which I am speaking. You remember the contrast. What were we? We were not only ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ but we were also ‘by nature the children of wrath, even as others.’
All of us born into this world are born under the wrath of God, under condemnation, because of the enmity against God in our nature. But we are no longer there. We are being raised from the spiritually dead, we have come out of the grave, and we have finished with spiritual death; ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.’
There is, however, a qualification to remaining justified:
Romans 8:4-6 That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Now, of course, we have not yet risen in the first resurrection. The ‘rising’ I am talking about is our rising up out of the watery grave of baptism, and our receipt of a new spiritual mind.
Every Christian should know the truth, and every Christian should enjoy that assurance. Because we are in Christ, not because of anything we have done; we are unified with Him, and we are raised together with Him.
The first basis of assurance is that we believe this; we accept this by faith, we recognize that this is true. We have been put into Christ, we have been joined to Christ; and therefore, as He rose and left that realm, we have also left that realm of sin.
‘Delivered up because of our offenses, and raised because of our justification’! So we are no longer under the wrath of God. There is, therefore, no longer any condemnation for us. The punishment has been carried out, and that is Paul’s first deduction here.
He then moves to another point. He says that because we are no longer dead, but alive, we are also dead to the law. We are ‘not under law, but under grace.’ In Romans 7, he explains it with a comparison.
He says that a woman, as long as her husband is alive, is bound by that husband, and that she cannot marry another without being an adulteress. But, when the husband dies she is free and is able to marry again.
Romans 7:2-4 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
Paul says that is exactly our relationship as Christians to the law. We, all of us, are born ‘under the law.’ There is the law of God facing us, challenging us, and condemning us because of our failure; and God deals with us by that law.
But if we are in Christ, we are no longer under the penalty of the law, we are under grace. That does not mean, of course, that we no longer have to keep God’s law. It does mean that our relationship to God is a personal relationship, the relationship of Father and child, which we did not have before our conversion.
Of course if a father is a good father, he will see to it that his child is disciplined and that he has to obey certain laws, but the relationship has changed. A human in sin is an alien from God. But those of us who are ‘in Christ’ have been brought right out of that realm of sin. The law executed its full punishment in full measure upon Jesus Christ, and if we are in Him the law has no further demands upon us in that sense.
We are no longer under law, but under grace. That is Paul’s second deduction. And what a tremendous thing that is for us to realize, that we are in an entirely new relationship to God, unlike anything that the world has ever seen.
But there is a still more profound statement. Paul says that because we have risen with Christ we are now ‘dead to sin.’ In Romans 6:2, Paul answers the question that he had put in the first verse, ‘What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?’
Romans 6:2-5 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.
Because we have been buried with Christ through baptism, we are dead to sin. He says it again, in verse 6:
Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
Now this is obviously a very important statement. What does it mean? It does not mean that we are all perfect, and that we are without sin, and that we will never sin again. We know that is not true, and we know that we are not perfect.
I John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
In what sense then, is it true to say of a Christian that he is dead to sin? It is true in the sense that before we become Christians we are ‘dead in trespasses and sins,’ but as Christians that is no longer true of us. Before, we belonged to the realm of sin, to the dominion of sin, and we were under the power of sin. We were controlled by the lusts of the flesh, showing themselves as desires of the flesh and of the mind.
Our life was a sinful life; we were controlled by sin, dominated by sin, governed in various ways by these lusts and passions in mind and body. But that is no longer true of us. We are dead to the realm of sin, we are no longer there, and we have been taken out of it.
Romans 6:7-11 For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We no longer walk in trespasses and sins as we used to do. We do not spend our time in the realm of sin, we do not walk there, and we do not exist there. But, it does not mean we are perfect—only that we are no longer in that realm. It is like a man moving from one country to another, and he takes out naturalization papers; there is a complete change in his status, in his relationship to the state. And that is the thing that is true of the Christian—our citizenship is in heaven.
We also see the symbolism in the fact that ancient Israel left Egypt. God’s chosen people were called out of sin. They went through the symbolic burial in the Red Sea, as they passed through on the last day of Unleavened Bread. They came up out of the sea having left the realm of sin—in their case Egypt.
They had left Egypt, and as a result, they had a change in status. The Israelites no longer served Egypt. Or, to use the apostle Paul’s illustration again, we are no longer the servants of sin. We were complete slaves before. Whether we like it or not, the fact about every un-regenerated person is that he is a slave of sin, governed by an evil principle. But that is no longer the case with those who are baptized, and have received God’s Holy Spirit.
We are no longer the slaves of sin; we have been taken right out of that. It is true that we may still, in our foolishness, listen to Satan’s enticements; we may still yield to temptation; we may still respond to a sinful impulse. But that does not mean that we are slaves to sin, except in the temporary sense when any time that we sin, we are slaves to it.
We are no longer controlled by it. That is the principle, and it is in that sense that we are dead to sin. We have died with Christ, we have risen with Him out of our spiritual death, and we no longer belong to that particular realm of sin. Often people do not realize this because they cannot draw the distinction between a temptation and a sin. Because there are evil thoughts insinuated into our minds they think that they are still in the realm of sin. But they are not, if they are true Christians.
Most of those thoughts come from without—from Satan’s and the world’s influence. Of course there are still sinful tendencies left in the body, and yet we realize that our whole attitude is entirely different. Yes, we do still have to fight our human nature that remains in us, but hopefully slowly, we wish that it was more quickly; the Spirit of God is replacing that nature in us, that spirit in man, or changing it.
We still must overcome our own human nature that is within, but it remains a foreign entity within us. We have become residences of a new spiritual realm in Christ, but our human nature is of the old physical realm of sin. What an amazing status that we have in the church; it is just breathtaking.
We are no longer under the penalty of sin; we are dead to sin, in the matter of position and dominion and control. We have been called out and brought out; we are in this new life with God and Christ.
Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
What is the old man? We have had sermons on that over the years, and the answer is found in Romans 5. The old man is the Adamic man, the man who was in Adam. You remember the comparison. We were all in Adam, we are lineal descendants from Adam, and we were all in him. Again, he was our forerunner; but not only that, we have ties of flesh and of blood and of descent—we are all in Adam in that sense.
Every one of us born into this world is born a child of Adam. We have an Adamic nature, our standing before God is that of Adam. Adam failed, and we all fail just like him. Consequently, we are under the wrath of God, subject to lusts, and under the control and dominion of sin and of Satan, exactly as Adam was. This is the old man, the Adamic man.
But we have died with Christ, and when we died with Christ the old man died also. As Christians, we are no longer in Adam, but we are in Christ. Christ is ‘the firstborn of many brethren.’ We are in Him. This means that God no longer looks at us as being in Adam. He looks at us as being in Christ.
Of course, we are the same personality that we were before, and yet we know that we are individually reclassified as a new man, a different man or woman. Our whole position, our whole status, and standing are absolutely different. We do not belong to that old humanity any longer. We are still in the flesh, but we are members of a new spiritual body.
That is what Paul means by saying that our old man has been crucified with Christ. We are no longer under the wrath of God; we are no longer under the dominion of sin; we are no longer under the realm of Satan. This is because we are no longer an Adamic man. The simple, primary truth about the Christian is that we are ‘in Christ’ and not ‘in Adam.’
Notice that I am saying ‘the old man.’ I am not saying that the sin that is in the body and in the flesh has totally gone. I am simply saying that as an entity that was in Adam, we are no longer there; we are entities in Christ now. That is the negative side of the truth and of the fact that we have been ‘raised together with Christ.’
Let us now look at the positive side. This is the most amazing thing of all. What a contrast this is. We are sharing the life of Christ, and we therefore become like Christ. As Christians, we are basically different from what we were before. We are fundamentally and essentially different, but in what respects?
Romans 6:11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Here is the positive aspect. We are now ‘alive to God.’ Before, we were not. Before, we were dead in trespasses and sins, and remember we saw that the definition of the term ‘dead’ was that we were ‘dead to God.’ The terrible tragedy of every natural man who has not become a Christian, is that he is dead to God. He is living as if there is no God, and he has no living relationship with God.
By being raised with Christ, we are ‘alive to God.’ We are in tune with the Sovereign Father, and have been awakened to something infinite and absolute.
Have you seen the daylily flower? There it is at night, closed and shut; the sun comes out and suddenly it begins to open and to take in its life from the sun. A similar thing happens to the Christian. When Jesus Christ brings us into the light of spiritual understanding and knowledge, a whole new life is opened up to us.
John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."
The person who follows Christ has access to the light of spiritual life. He is ‘alive to God.’ We have an entirely new attitude towards God. We no longer have enmity against God.
Paul goes on in Romans 8 to say that the natural mind, the natural man, is enmity against God. Paul says to the Ephesians that we were ‘aliens and enemies in our minds through wicked works.’ But it is no longer true of the Christian. The Christian is no longer hostile against God. He desires God. He no longer has the feeling that God is some terrible cruel tyrant set against us, waiting to crush us and destroy us.
No! We have come to know God, and to know that God is love, and that God is mercy and kindness and compassion, but He also had standards of righteousness that are required by everyone. We no longer try to run away and hide behind the trees, as Adam did, avoiding God at all costs. That is what the natural man still does; the natural man does everything he can to avoid God.
That is why he hates the thought of death. Death is to him the most terrible enemy. Why? Because it means that he will eventually have to stand before his Maker. He does not always put it in words, but he has that feeling in his bones. He knows it is true, and hates it. It means standing before God for judgment; this is something he wants to avoid. He wants to get away from God. That is why he spends little or no time on his knees before God; and that is why he does not read the Bible. Those things would bring him near to God and the thought of it repulses him—but not so with the Christian.
Psalm 42:1-2 As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
That was his hope, that was his anticipation, that was his desire, and this is what he wanted with all of his being. What a change! It is a change from death to life. It is an absolute change. It is an essential change.
God becomes our Father. And the greatest desire of the true Christian is to draw nearer to God. When a person is ‘in Christ’ he has a new nature, and this new nature cries out for God. The characteristic of a Christian is that he is ‘alive to God’!
Here is a simple physical illustration. If an electric microphone is not switched on, it is dead. But switched on, it becomes alive. That is how we once were, we were not alive to God; but now we are alive to God. We are sensitive to God, desiring God, loving God, and seeking God. But not only are we alive to God, we are ‘walking in newness of life.’ What a complete contrast to the way that the world walks, the way of sin leading to death.
Romans 6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
That statement alone should be enough to show the fallacy of the “once saved, always saved” false doctrine. ‘Even so we must walk in newness of life’, we must live God’s way of life.
Walking in this “newness of life,” is an exercise in living God’s way of life; it is a practicing of walking in eternal life. Only God has eternal life inherent within Himself. Only God has eternal life to give. And, as the Father has life inherent within Himself, He has given this life to His Son to have immortal life inherent within Him. And, through Christ, God gives it to us. Whoever does not have Christ does not have eternal life. Eternal life is a gift no human has until he receives it as God’s gift.
The death of Christ paid the penalty of sin in our stead. It wipes the slate clean of our past sins. It saves us from the death penalty. It removes that which separated us from God, and reconciles us to God.
We are saved, by Christ’s life, not by His death. He is a living Savior, not a dead one. His blood alone, if He had not risen from the dead could never save us. It is an essentially important part of that, but alone it was not enough, He had to be risen from the dead.
We have to go through the process of conversion. Becoming ‘converted’ simply means: being changed. Our whole perspective changes when we receive the Holy Spirit. We think and see differently. Our priorities and goals change. Everything about our life should change.
Our minds are renewed with the spirit of a sound mind. We must grow in the grace and knowledge of God as He reveals His will through His Word.
To grow spiritually, we have to overcome the downward pull of our human nature and achieve self-discipline, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit. We must grow in love, faith, and understanding. We have to learn patience and perseverance as we work to overcome sin, Satan, the world, and our own human nature.
We must do the works of Christ; and, in doing so produce the fruit of the Spirit, while living a life of active service, and we must endure persecutions, afflictions, and trials all the way to the end. It is only those who do these things that will finally be given eternal life—finally changed from mortal to immortal at the time of the second coming of Christ with the other first fruits.
Beginning the conversion process and receiving the Holy Spirit, is only the beginning of a lifetime of living under God’s government with its laws, which express His will, rather than allowing ourselves to express our own self-will and desire.
The apostle Paul says it again in Ephesians 4. He talks about the ‘new man’ who, after Christ, is created in righteousness and true holiness:
Ephesians 4:21-24 If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
The new man, the Christian, is no longer walking in trespasses and sins. He is living this entirely new life, no longer governed by the flesh and its desires, but governed by this new outlook, this new attitude. This new outlook shows itself in the new man’s mind, it shows itself in his heart, it shows itself in his will. And the result that is produced shows itself in his decisions, his convictions and his actions.
The Christian is the person who, because he is raised with Christ, is walking in newness of life. He lives with his mind and heart according to the will of God. He has a new mind.
Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
We have a new mind that shows itself in these ways. We look at everything in a different way. We no longer think only in terms of time, we begin to think in terms of eternity. Remember, eternity is not only an infinite period of time; it is a quality of life.
The life of the person who is not a Christian is entirely bound by time, he never goes beyond it, and he does not want to, because he is afraid. Thoughts of the ‘unknown’ trouble him. He is not interested in eternity. But Christians are interested in the quality of life that eternal life has to offer.
The Christian sees that this is a temporary life, a life in time, with a limited amount of time. But to think seriously about eternity, and that it is more than limitless time—it is a superior quality of life. So the Christian’s mind begins to build on that. And now he only thinks in terms of the right actions of the body, the righteous thoughts of the mind, and whether they are used to the glory of God, because the true Christian desires eternal life, and not just any eternal life. To have eternal life as a sinner would be the most cruel and miserable life anyone could experience.
How does a man who is not a Christian think?
Well, this world and its knowledge and its culture and its art and its business and its pleasures and all such things bind his ‘thought world.’ Put anything you like into it—put everything you have into it, and still it is a life and an outlook that are bound entirely by the body and by human reasoning and nothing beyond.
But the Christian does not stop at that. We realize that there is a spirit within us, and it makes us conscious of the fact that we belong to another realm, and we begin to live more and more in that, and less and less in the other.
It is not only time; it is not only material; it is eternity, it is spiritual, it is everlasting. We are lifted up into an entirely new ‘thought realm.’ And we judge everything now in the light of it. We have a new standard of values; we assess things in an entirely different way.
We no longer want to know what kind of thrill we will get out of something, at least not in the same way as the world does, or what kind of pleasure it will bring us; but rather, does it impinge on our relationship with God and with Jesus Christ? Or, does it glorify God? And, how does it affect our relationship to eternity? And, what is its value to our heart and mind? When we become converted the questions that we ask ourselves are far more deep and important than what the people in the world ask themselves, because they do not have the spirit of God to assist them in asking the correct questions.
We look at everything in a different way, and have an entirely new standard of values, because we have this renewed mind in Christ. We are walking in newness of life.
Another thing that is obvious is that we are interested in the Bible in a way in which we were not before. It is not an intellectual view, nor a superstitious view; it is a faithful and reverent view. Just as an example, you take the mainstream Christians and they base more of their religion on tradition than they do the Scripture. If you point out Scripture to them that corrects what they say, they will always default to their tradition rather than to the inspired written Word of God. In this age, the world puts every other book before the Bible, but in this age we put the Bible before every other book. Another contrast between us and those who are dead to God.
We realize that this is the only Book that brings us to God and to an increasing participation in the life of God. It is not just a compilation of nice stories with a moral slant. The world (including mainstream Christianity) puts more value on humanly-devised tradition than it does on the inspired written Word of God.
On the other hand, we are moved and motivated by it—we supremely value it. Unlike the unconverted person, we find that we increasingly meditate on it. We contemplate its spiritual principles and strive to apply them in our lives. We have a new mind, and it desires spiritual knowledge.
We are completely opposite of the world. Many people do not understand that we are completely different from it. We are not different from the world in just a few things—we are diametrically opposite the thinking and actions of it.
Then consider the manifestations of the new heart. We have entirely new desires. Christ tells us that we will be blessed and satisfied if our desires are for doing what is right.
Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Our greatest desire now is not for more pleasure and momentary satisfaction on earth; it is for righteousness, for true holiness; it is for an intimate relationship with God.
Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
That was David’s attitude before God. All his desires were towards heaven, and all his treasures were placed in heaven.
That is the Christian’s greatest desire: to be with God and to be like Him—to be alive to God. That is the purpose of what we are keeping and doing this week.
We are reminded of it by our daily eating of unleavened bread during these seven days. We are reminded of how hard it is to find, get rid of, and avoid sin in our lives as we try to deal with leavening before and during the Days of Unleavened Bread.
We are grieved on account of sin. We realize now that sin is not merely an offense against law, but an offense against God, who so loved us that He sent His only begotten Son to die for us.
Our desires are no longer desires of the flesh and of the sinful mind; they are the desires of Jesus Christ Himself, to be well pleasing in the Father’s sight.
II Corinthians 5:9-10 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
The phrase translated “well pleasing,” in verse 9, not only means to be well pleasing; but it also means to be acceptable, or approved, or worthy. It is quite a tall order that God gives us, but He gives us the help to be able to accomplish it.
Our daily actions have eternal consequences. Everyone appears before the judgment seat of Christ, to receive ‘what is due’ to them for the deeds that they have done in their earthly life.
Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
So, God does the work using His Holy Spirit to empower those who desire and make an effort to live His way of life.
The new man also has a desire for prayer. If we have new life in us, we want to pray fervently. There should be a longing to be intimate with God—a desire to spend time speaking with God. This is essentially true of the person who is alive to God. The Sovereign God of the universe, and His Son our Savior, desire fellowship with the saints.
The brethren, the children of God, the Family of God, the people who desire in these things, are the people we love and whose presence we long for.
I John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.
He remains dead in sins; that is, he has never been converted if he does not love his brother. Love between brethren is essential to true godliness; therefore, a person who does not have love remains unconverted, or is in a state of spiritual death. He is by nature dead in sin, and unless he has come out of that state, he ‘remains’ in it.
But even that is not enough, if we do not have genuine concern and compassion for those who are outside the church. Love for God and all mankind is manifested in keeping the letter and the spirit of God’s commandments.
We cannot be a Christian without having mercy. What a contrast to those who are dead in trespasses and sins. They are beings of lust. They do not know it; but we know it; and there they are under the wrath of God. What a pitiful state of being!
Christ felt a great compassion for the people; He saw them ‘as sheep without a shepherd;’ and the Christian of necessity must know something of that feeling. There is the changed heart in the Christian!
We exercise our will in a new direction. Our will is now focused on conforming to the will of our God and Father, and Jesus Christ.
We must develop righteous character to choose right—to discipline the self in the way that we should go. Perfect character is the ability, while made spiritually alive with free moral agency together with Christ, to come to the knowledge of the right from the wrong—the true from the false—and to choose the right. We must have the will to enforce self-discipline to do the right and resist the wrong.
Like muscle, character is developed, and grows by exercise. We exercise our character by living God’s way of life. There is within us a nature that exerts a heavy pull against that righteous character—to give us something to strive against for the purpose of strengthening and developing right character. It is that striving, enduring, and persevering that helps us to develop, that is with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, holy righteous character. We certainly will not develop it just sitting around doing nothing, or not making any effort to live God’s way of life.
God’s character is always in accordance with His law—the way of love. He gave His only begotten Son to reconcile us to Him and make the joys of His character and everlasting life possible for us.
He showers on us every good and precious gift. When we repent and turn from the wrong ways of this world, begin to resist it, and turn to Him through faith in Christ as our personal Savior, He puts within us His divine nature.
God’s divine nature is the nature of love—of giving, serving, helping, and of outgoing concern. It is also the nature of humility. When we begin the process of conversion—when we have repented, and turned from the world’s false ways and have received God’s Holy Spirit—our human nature does not flee from us. Our human nature remains; it still exerts a pull. We still live in this present evil world, and it still exerts a pull as well. God still allows Satan to be around; and he also exerts a pull. So we now have three influences to resist; to overcome. We must overcome Satan, this world, and our own selves.
We have to battle against these three, in order to grow in grace and knowledge. God clearly says, it is the overcomers who are saved—it is the overcomers who will reign with Christ.
We have been ‘raised’ with Him.
Colossians 2:12 Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
And because of this we are different in mind, in heart, and in will.
Our Savior paid, in His own body, the great debt that we owed God because of our breaking of His holy and righteous laws. Now our sins have been forgiven. Having risen from that watery grave, we now have the promise of eternal life as we live a new way of life—a life of righteousness and service to Him!
The real spiritual test surfaces between what God has already accomplished and the responsibility of His people to obey. We are still tempted by desires to sin and must not let those desires gain control. Each day we must give ourselves anew to God.
Romans 6:13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
Even when we were dead in trespasses and sins, God made us alive together with Christ. We are being saved by grace, not by anything we have done. Nevertheless, we are still held accountable for our own actions. The Christian is one who is raised with Christ from the realm of sin and death, to a new life in which he is ‘alive to God.’