We have something that no other religion has – the promise to make you into a new person – a holy, righteous, loving person, full of peace, joy and hope. A new man created for a new society – the kingdom of God. Somehow I think we have forgotten the promise or we don’t fully believe it any more. We simply do not believe in the transformation, the new life in-Christ, being made into the perfect image of Christ. Furthermore, I believe that most Christians have forgotten that God lives in them through the Holy Spirit at all times – ever present. They have also forgotten that we have been translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Light – given a new citizenship in heaven and somehow mystically raised with Christ sitting in heaven with Him as He sits next to God the Father.
I will attempt to demonstrate just how far we have fallen from this clear New Testament teaching that turned the ancient world upside down and made Christianity a very different and inclusive religion above all other religions.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (II Co. 5:17
We have been given a new life in Christ; yet, many of us continue to… live in bondage to the old life. What do I mean by bondage? A slave was considered to live in bondage to his master, performing not his will but the will of his master. He had no rights. His or her life was a life of misery from sun up to sun down. There was no free time for just relaxing and meditation, but a constant demand for their services. Their every thought was centered on surviving one day at a time. This indeed was a life of bondage.
In the same way those who are dead in their trespasses and separated from God are in bondage. And here is the real tragedy; many are in bondage and don’t know it! They don’t know it because they have been blinded by the god of this world. The Bible says, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (II Co. 4:3-4) It is a little known fact, that to keep people in bondage is to convince them that they are free. And dear friends, Satan has done an amazing job of convincing the unbelieving world and especially those living in this country, that they are free. Indeed they have been blinded by the god of this world.
Most of the unbelieving world, and especially those in this country, believe that they have control over their own destiny. They believe that they have it within their own power to be or possess whatever they desire. Moreover, they are convinced that the experts of the age in which they live have all the answers to life’s problems. This is so believed in our country that the selling of prescription drugs, self-help programs, and psychological counseling has captured the soul of America and blinded them to the real problems plaguing humanity. Yes indeed the world has been blinded by the god of this world. The unbelieving world has been taken captive and cast into a life of bondage.
When our only recourse, so we think, is to take an array of prescription drugs to help us lose weight instead of cutting back on our food intake, to take drugs to lower our cholesterol instead of eating the right kind of foods, to take drugs to cure our depression, to improve our sex drive, to help us breathe more easily, to relieve our stress, to help us feel better, then truly we are in bondage to the god of this age.
Whenever we turn to the professionals of this age by following their step by step programs and their many human laws and regulations to solve life’s problems then truly we are in bondage to the god of this age. Whenever we believe that it’s necessary and somehow essential to our well being to follow the ways of this world in daily entertainment, amusements, enjoyments, and the purchasing of any thing that is pleasing to our eyes then truly we are in bondage to the god of this age. Whenever we adopt the philosophy of this age that states that there are no moral absolutes which causes us to relax the commandments of God then truly we are in bondage to the god of this age. Whenever we stop struggling with sin and give in to the old sin nature, then truly we are in bondage to the god of this age. And many do just that! They take their drugs, they follow their counseling, they follow all the human laws and regulations by keeping them step by step, yet they feel helpless to really change their life. Some things have changed but most are just the same. Around and around they go and life simply does not get much better. Why? Because they are still living the old life and their sin nature is dominant.
One must truly believe that he or she possesses the new life in Christ where old things have passed away or they will remain in bondage. But again this takes faith. I am sad to say that many God fearing Christians are still in bondage to the old life because they have not fully believed the promise. To doubt the promise is to doubt Christ and to doubt Christ leaves us barren – with only a form of religion and no power. Far too many have chosen to take the easy way and stay in bondage to the old life and the god of this world.
This reminds me that many of the black slaves immediately following the civil war chose to remain in slavery even though they had been freed. They simply could not, after so many generations, imagine their freedom. They simply could not muster up enough faith to go out into a new world of freedom, but chose in many instances to remain a slave to their old masters.
In the same way Christians too have remained in bondage to the old life – unable to accept the notion that their old life could no longer hold them in slavery. They do this by believing they can never change – the god of this world has so convinced them that alcoholism, depression, and anxiety are incurable diseases. They believe that a man of temper, rage, wrath, or party spirit had it passed down to him from previous generations and is incapable of change. Well friends this is only half truth, because on their own it is next to impossible to change these old habits, but with God all things are possible.
God’s promise is that old things will pass away, behold all things are new. This is of God! But again to receive this new life in Christ we must believe it, believe that God has the power to make you into a new creation, that He is a keeper of his promise. The Bible says, speaking of Abraham’s faith that he was “…fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” (Rom. 4:20) And what did God promise but to free us from the old life and give us a new life in Christ.
Jesus began His ministry by saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19) Jesus says we are prisoners who need to be freed, we are blind and need to have our eye sight restored, and because we are oppressed by the god of this age we need to be released.
The good news is: He has done this by rendering a fatal wound to Satan when Christ died on the Cross and was raised on the third day! He took our sins upon him and paid the price for our transgressions. He set us free from our old bondages and made us into a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (II Co. 5:17) This is a present, visible, undeniable change – all things have become new! This is a promise for all those who have picked up the cross and died to self, but it takes faith believing the promise – the promise of a new life! There is new life, a new personality, new likes and dislikes, a clean slate; for we take on His righteousness through faith; there are new senses, new faculties, new affections, new appetites, new ideals and conceptions. But do you believe it! Friends without faith you will never truly experience the new life in Christ! “All heathenish customs, rules, and methods of conduct once used in the old life are of no value in the new life.
A good way to understand this new creation is to look at the butterfly. He was not always a butterfly. He was a little worm that crawled around the trees and in the dirt. If someone told him he would be a butterfly one day and fly beautifully through the air like the birds that pestered him from time to time he would hardly believe it. But God’s wonderful design was not to leave him as a little worm in the dust but to raise him to new heights. What was needed was a complete transformation or metamorphosis. One day God would put the little worm through a great struggle that would completely transform his little life. He would grow wings and begin to soar like the birds of the air. He would be a new creature.
God on a much grander scale has done the same thing to the new Christian. We will not sprout new wings and fly like the birds, but we are a new creation that can house the very Spirit of the living God. Our transformation is so marvelous that the old life passes away and behold all things become new. So why do so many still crawl around on the ground like worms when they should be soaring through the air as butterflies?
I believe the answer to that question is a lack of faith. Not believing in the promise of God. Not believing that He has the power to transform your life. Far too many come into the kingdom and learn how to play church and never experience the new life in Christ. They never experience the transformation. They never experience the power and presence of God in their life. Paul says if you believe this then simply take off the old life as you would pull off an old set of tattered clothes, and because we have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ then put on the new life as you would a new set of clothes. It just takes faith believing that God has already made you into a new creation. Friends there is no other religion in the world that promises to make you into a new creation. There is no other gospel that promises you a transformed life. Now that we have this new life, Christ and the Father will come and make their home with us through the Spirit.
“Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’” (John 14:23) “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Wow! To me there is nothing more amazing than to have God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ to come and make their home with us through the Spirit. You might ask why He wants to come and live with us. He does so because of our mutual love for one another and the genuine fellowship which takes place between us and our God. We were originally created to have this kind of relationship with our Creator, a dynamic relationship that allows us to be all that we were created to be. No other religion can make this claim.
Think about it, God has plans for your life – plans that you can hardly imagine. But in order to fulfill those plans, God needs to reside within you. Without his ever present Spirit we would never grow from one degree of glory to another. It is the Spirit of the living God that guides us, teaches us, and counsels us with his eye always on us for good and not for bad. Unfortunately, far too many Christians never grow after the new birth, but become stillborn. As they continue in the old life they grieve the Holy Spirit and never experience all that God has planned for them. What a tragedy!
Another glorious reason why the Spirit resides within us is to do His work through us. Some time ago one of our Baptist men, Henry Blackaby, wrote a book about joining Christ in His work. This is exactly the point here. Christ already (past tense) has his work planned to do in and through us; we simply need to join Him in that work. But again far too many Christians don’t do so because they question the fact the Holy Spirit is really dwelling in them and has empowered them to succeed in the work. Friends, simply put, without God we can do nothing. We can’t but He can; if we won’t He will; but if we will then He won’t!
We have been given the power from on high. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) Again friends, this depends on faith! If Christ is in you then His will is to continue to work in and through you. That is why there is a greater work. God is not just working through the earthly Christ but through the heavenly Christ who is in every believer through the Holy Spirit. Every believer has been given a special gift of the Spirit. For when the Holy Spirit comes He does not come empty handed, but with glorious, mighty, and powerful gifts to do Christ’s work here on earth.
When we stop following the direction of the Holy Spirit and turn a deaf ear to his prodding then it is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit. When we refuse to use our spiritual gifts then we grieve the Holy Spirit. To grieve the Holy Spirit is a vast subject, but for now let me say that to grieve the Holy Spirit does not mean that He goes away and we can do whatever we want. Don’t think for a moment that He will leave us alone – we will not be home alone – to do whatever we want. In the original language the closest we can come to a literal translation of grieving the Holy Spirit is to make Him very sad – to make Him cry. The best word picture to understand this is of a grieving mother who is crying after her children who have not done as they should. Picture it if you will – some of us have been or are now parents and have experienced the deep sadness and grief that comes when a child of ours goes out and lives like the devil. Well, in a much higher way the Spirit also grieves for His children. He too is crying after His children when they remain in bondage to this world, following its ways. He is right there with us when we loose our temper, or curse, or watch TV. Think about that next time you choose a movie to watch on TV. He is right there with you – did you know that you invited Christ to join you in watching TV? We can also grieve the Holy Spirit whenever we fail to use our spiritual gifts for the furtherance of the Kingdom here on earth.
Although we can cause the Holy Spirit to grieve, to cry after us – that is not the end of the story. His job is also to convict us of our unrighteousness. That’s what He does! I believe this is one of the signs that God is in us working out His will in our life. Yet far too many Christians don’t pay any attention to the conviction of the Holy Spirit at their own peril. The Bible says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7) Could this be why so many Christians are in trouble today, because they have ignored the conviction of the Holy Spirit and ignored the fact that Christ is living in them. Far too many Christians have lost God consciousness to their own demise.
Now if Christ was physically standing right next to you, how would you behave? Yet some will go out from here, the church, and immediately begin to curse, or loose their temper, or live like the pagans around them with no thought of Christ living in them though the Spirit. If we are truly conscious of Christ living in us, ever present with us, then we will be careful how we live out our life. Yet too many of us live like the Deist of old who believed that God wound up the world like a clock and then retired back to heaven and allowed us to run things down here. There is nothing further from the truth, the Bible says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13) God is right here with the believer – do you believe that? If so, then let’s live out our lives with a God consciousness believing that He is ever present – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, leading us, guiding us, teaching us, convicting us, and empowering us to do our work here on earth.
God does not stop here; He has given us a new life; He came to live in us through the Spirit, but has also translated us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light – raising us with Christ, making us citizens of heaven.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Col. 3:1, 2)
What does it mean to be raised with Christ where He is seated next to the Father? Christ is in every believer through the Holy Spirit, but somehow we are also in Christ. That is, we have been raised with Christ and occupy a place next to Him as He sits next to His Father in Heaven. We see this great truth demonstrated every time a believer is baptized by emersion. As he goes down into the water it signifies his death with Christ, dying to self, and as he is raised out of the water it signifies his new life in Christ to be raised with Christ in His resurrection – to somehow, present tense, sit with Christ in heaven above. What a great mystery this is – to sit with Christ in heaven – so what does that all mean to the believer?
To fully understand this we need to journey back to the time when Christ walked upon the earth and the Father was seated in heaven. So let’s look at Christ; He lived for the greater good. He did not easily get side tracked by the many affections, amusements, enjoyments, methodologies, man made laws, world events, but He stayed ever more focused on His higher calling and purpose while He walked upon the earth. He would say things like, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19) And as He did that work, He did it with all the power and authority of His Father in Heaven.
The Apostle says we must do the same thing; keeping a close relationship with the risen Lord so that we can see His purpose and calling for our lives and going forth in the same power and authority on high accomplishing His work here on earth. Have you ever imagined that God has a specific work just for you and all the power you need to do that work is sitting right there in heaven ready to be used by you? All the resources of heaven and earth are at your disposal. Yet so many live weak and beggarly lives because they don’t believe that God has given them everything needed to accomplish His work.
“Heaven and earth are contrary one to another, and a supreme regard to both is inconsistent; and the prevalence of our affection to one will proportionally weaken and abate our affection to the other.” We simply cannot think about both at the same time – one is opposed to the other. We must live such a life as Christ lived here on earth – We live in Him in all we do! If we say we believe all this, then how should we live, but constant, conscious, un-broken communion with the risen Lord performing His works here on earth with His power and authority. So conscious that we can say with Christ that I don’t do my own will, but I do only what I see Christ doing.
Friends, this was exactly what set apart the Christians living in the ancient world. They knew their citizenship was in heaven above. Their hearts and minds were focused on the risen Christ and His agenda for their life. They simply could not and would not call anyone living on this earth king and master – for their true Master was in heaven and also abiding with them; it was from Christ alone they took their directions. It was this kind of devotion to their heavenly Master that caused them to turn the ancient world upside down. They too were not easily side tracked by the many worldly affections, amusements, enjoyments, methodologies, man made laws, and world events, but they stayed focused on the heavenly vision – the divine mission – God’s agenda.
Yet far too many Christians get entangled with everything that is going on in the world today. They are entranced by all the legal trials against the citizens of this country; they follow closely the political wrangling and mudslinging between political candidates. They are captivated by world events; they are enticed by the immoral lives of the rich and famous. They are enslaved by the outcome of sports events; they can’t wait to see who won the latest lottery. They mind more the agenda of world leaders than our Leader who is in heaven. They are more concerned about the outcome of an election than accomplishing God’s will here on earth as it is in heaven.
And here is the problem; we try to make a difference in the world by following man’s agenda and not God’s. We are the light of the world. We are the salt of the earth. We have been gifted with power on high – no other religion can make that claim. Our faith is weak and somehow we just don’t believe that God wants to work through every believer – it might be ok for the preacher or the gifted teacher, but not for us. We have forgotten the Word of God that says, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)
So let’s believe that we have been raised with Christ and that He wants to work in and through our life. He is ready and willing to do great things for those who believe. If he turned the world upside down in the past He can do it again. Let’s stop following the ways of this world – minding earthly things rather let’s set our minds on heaven and the heavenly agenda to accomplish God’s work here on earth.
If we could only imagine what God wants to do in our lives, it would take our breath away. But we need to believe – believe the gospel. There is evil all around us. Is it not time we did something about it. The world is getting worse every day. It looks as though evil has won the day, but it’s not too late if we heed the call of God and wage a holy war against all the evil in this world. And when we do so it is not with the weapons of this world, it is not with carnal weapons but with spiritual weapons. It’s time to get into the fight. It’s time to overcome evil with good. This is the divine plan – to overcome evil with good. We have been given every resource to wage this holy war. Fight against evil by being as good as you can. Fight evil by turning the other cheek. Fight evil by going the extra mile. Fight evil by blessing those who curse you. Fight evil by loving your enemy. This holy war can only be won by uniting with all other believers around the world and following the heavenly agenda. We have been taught too long by the evil one to wage our war with carnal weapons. Evil has almost won the day by dividing the church and pitting one brother against another. He has almost won the day by injecting his devilish agenda into the Church. Dear children it’s time to fight back. We are not just fighting for our independence but we are fighting for our very life – we are fighting for our right to exist. Friends you have sat there to long – come – let God do what He wants to do in your life.