New Life in Christ
You wake up one morning and realize, “This is your life.” Lottery commercials pretend a fairy tale is a few dollars away, but sober men know differently. Work, spouse, children, finances: “This is just the way it’s going to be – but what about me?” Sadness descends upon your heart, fear and perhaps a little anger. Resignation follows. We have to live with ourselves, and dreams must make peace with reality.
This is only partly true, and it is mostly false. It depends upon your dream, what you are hoping to be and do. Most of all, it depends upon who or what rules your life. Life is very different for the believer in Jesus. He has been delivered from the delusion of “my life,” with all its false expectations and frustrations. The Christian has died with Christ – to sin and self, to the world, to the demand that I should get what I want.
Something not of this world has happened to the child of God. By the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). We are walking miracles of God’s sovereign grace and power in Christ. The Son of God has called our voice at the tomb of sin and death. We have experienced the first resurrection (John 5:25). We were dead, but we are now alive.
We are alive because Jesus Christ delivers us from the bondage of our corruption. Far worse than particular sins is the contagion of sin itself. There is an important difference between recognizing that “I have sinned” and that “I am sinful.” Every man has within himself a sewer of filth from which all sins seep out and soil the life. Chained to his depravity is the man or woman outside of Christ. He cannot see this until he is renewed, for sin blinds and deceives him (John 3:3,5). Every moment he hits his head against this brick wall. He cannot please God (Rom. 8:8) or understand that he is living in sin’s dream world – “Ye shall be as gods, determining good and evil for yourselves.” Trying to forge a personally meaningful reality in this state leads him to many dark and dangerous dead ends. He tries to forget his sense of alienation, that something is very wrong with him, through possessions, pleasures, being nice and moral, or being schizophrenic. Perhaps the latter is actually closer to man’s true state apart from Christ. Reality is unbearable; two worlds, two mental states are preferable to living alienated from God.
The glory of the gospel is that Jesus Christ breaks this cycle of misery and death. He makes all things new. He gives sinners a new nature – a new record of “righteous before God,” a new heart upon which God’s word is written so that he delights to do God’s will, and a new life of power unto godliness. When Jesus makes us new, the kingdom of God has come to us – “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
We must not blunt the force of this divine truth. Men are not talked into faith. The new nature is not received by making the faith more attractive to a lost world. It is not found in following “three steps to be born again.” God must draw us to Christ (John 6:44,55). Jesus must stand at our grave, call our name, and raise us to faith and new life. There is no other way into life except to be born again by his power.
Fellowship with Jesus Christ begins with this glorious resurrection. It continues its course as he unfolds his life in us. Consider these precious lines. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” “For me, to live is Christ.” “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” “Your life is hid with Christ in God.” “I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly.”
Solid peace and strange joy flood the soul when the Lord brings us to confess, “You are my Lord, my life. I only want what you want for me. You purchased me with your blood. I do not have any life apart from you, and want none. I only want you. Do with me what you will.”
To be crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20) is to be dead to the dominion of sin. We still sin. We must fight against it, with an important difference. Its dominion has been broken through his death applied to us, and we can now put our specific sins to death. We can deny the flesh, and there is sweet joy in the denial, for by the denial we choose Christ and life. He does not leave us dead. I live, but it is a strange “I;” no longer the I of “me, me, me,” but the “I” of him in me. The Savior of calmed seas and crushed Satan and defeated sin; the Savior of “here is my joy in doing the will of my Father, my peace through trusting him, and even my joy in the cross” – this Jesus lives in us.
And he always brings his reward with him (Isa. 62:11). He does not come as a humiliated pauper but as the Lord of heaven and earth. He brings with him and gives his Holy Spirit of truth and sanctification, who comforts and encourages and transforms. When Jesus lives in us, there is peace with God, hope in dark places, and a strange sense that we can be happy when we should be sad – if we were still living in the dream world of unbelief.
Family troubles, loneliness, nagging temptations, financial needs – yes, we carry these burdens, but Jesus is with us in these things. He brings them into our lives to show us more of himself as we trust and obey him (John 14:21). He will be our strength in weakness; he cannot deny himself. He will not be other than he is – the exalted Lord of all, the death-killing Voice at Lazarus’ tomb, the compassionate, the mighty, the tempted and tried, the Overcomer. He lives in us.
For me then to live is Christ (Phil. 1:21). We come to him, tell him our griefs, confess our sins, and believe his promise. He receives, sympathizes, forgives, and strengthens. We wait upon him rather than trying to find a way out of the trouble he has brought to lead us to him. We abide in his word. If we must endure a difficult marriage or our heart breaks over stubborn and rebellious children, for us to live is Christ. By his power, armed with his word as our shield and the hope of salvation as our helmet, we can fight against anger, melancholy, and bitterness – tar pits of the soul. We look to Jesus, trust him, and refuse to let him go, like Jacob, until he blesses us.
It may be a while. If we are honest, we get a raise – the world is wonderful again. We forget “daily bread.” A reprieve from temptation; we must have won the battle. We are not angry, proud, or lustful at the moment; all is good. Remember that our life is “hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). It does not yet appear what we shall be.” Jesus fellowships with us on the battlefield more than most other places. He most often works in us when we are in a position of weakness, not strength, dependence upon him, not independence (Ps. 30:7). On earth, we are combatants and cross-bearing disciples. There is no such thing as quick and easy victory. He could give it, but then we would fall into complacency and ingratitude. We would push him from us by carelessness. He will be near to us in grace and might. He will have us looking at his glory, thirsting for the living waters, and hoping for heaven.
One of the negatives of everything being mechanized is that we begin to think that reality is actually like this. The important things never are. Our walk with Christ and his transforming work in us are not 1-2-3 steps. Jesus Christ is a real person, and the way he works, blesses, and helps is not subject to our control and timetable. We must live yielded to him – his sovereign will, his challenging circumstances, his sufficient word, and his promised presence. To be yielded is more important than to be right. How many relationships we have hurt because we have forgotten this! Peter denied because he wanted to be right and prove his Lord wrong. Even if we happen to be right, sometimes he wants us to deny our right to be thought right and to yield to his love (1 Cor. 6:7).
Yielded, he gives abundant life. This is the reason that he came (John 10:10). It is life on his terms, however, not ours. He knows what true life is: to walk in his fellowship, his presence, under his authority, trusting his wisdom. He is the life (John 1:5). Without him, there is nothing but death. Since we have remnants of death clinging to us, he unfolds the grave clothes of our rebellion – one layer at a time. There is a definite unwrapping – the new birth – and a progressive unwrapping – as we walk in fellowship with him. It is never tidy or painless, but it is his abundant life in us.
He says to us, “You do not need “this” to be happy – you need me. No marriage or children can take my place in your life, fill the longing of your soul, or mend sin’s wreckage. Your career choice may be a disappointment and financially debilitating. I am your sufficiency and provider. Will you take me seriously and be filled with my joy and peace. Give yourself to me; enter the circle of love, obedience, and joy (John 15:9-11) that I offer you. I will give you life. Set your affections upon me. I will give you myself, my glory, my life.”