For some reason today I found myself thinking tonight about what Christ alone can do for us. When I look around the Christian scene today I see lots of interesting work going on which probably falls into the category of being salt and light in the world in some way; it is about extending the influence of Christ and Kingdom of God ways to bless human life and community and society and endeavour. In a way that I don’t remember being quite as obviously the case back in the 70’s when I was saved, look around and you can find a Christian somewhere or a Christian ministry either overtly or covertly offering a course on anything from healthy living to helping you to be a better leader or businessman. There are marriage courses and parenting courses and money handling courses which are Christian in basis and operation but which will enrich the lives of non Christian marriages and families too. I am all for that. They should be part of the life of a congregation or Christian group within their community. It is all part of God’s common grace towards a world that has lost its way. I genuinely think it is great that such things are happening.
It is aways good though, to keep the main thing the main thing. What is it that Christ alone can do for us? Was it His priority to teach about the sorts of things mentioned in my opening paragraph? God cares about all aspects of living and Christ enriches every good and worthwhile and righteous human endeavour, but one does not need to be a Christian to thrive in these areas. So what is it that Christ uniquely came to do in lives that have received Him, regardless of the ways in which we may then serve Him in the world around us?
Well, I can think of several ways of answering that question: He came to reveal His Father and said no one but He could do that; He came to be one with us in our humanness; He came as an offering for human sin and to bear the punishment that would bring us peace; He came to give us everlasting life here and now and to conquer the grave. He is unique in all these ways. My concern is that the main things become put on the back burner or are even concealed by other good things.
What I was most thinking of today however, in terms of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, is the fact that having been a slave of sin, according to the clear teaching of the bible, through Christ Crucified and Risen I can become a slave of righteousness with no obligation at all to my old sinful nature to walk in the ways of sin. Jesus makes it possible not only to be forgiven, but to walk in victory over sin’s power. Sin can claim no entitlement from me which I am obliged to give. I don’t need to sin. This is the freedom released at the cross of Christ, where I was crucified with Him. Jesus gives the power to live as a child of God.
It is easy to look all around these days and see a culture of entitlement destroying people’s human dignity. I absolutely believe in the Welfare Sate and deplore the remotest vilification of those for whom such a thing literally is a god-send in the face of such things as unemployment or insufficient income or in the face of sickness or disability of one kind or another. I am glad too that we still have a National health Service and would hate to be part of a Britain where that was a thing of historical memory only, where medical care was dependent on you being able to pay your way. However, there is no doubt in my mind, especially since I came to Wester Hailes that living with an entitlement outlook is not a good thing. It can be a crippling thing. If I feel entitled, then there must always be those who I feel are obliged to supply that entitlement.When that becomes our way of living it is so easy to live as though the world owes me, or somebody owes me, or the church owes me; that can lead to huge bitterness, rage and frustration. It can stop a person taking responsibility for their own life.
If anyone is in Christ, then in union with Him they have died to sin and been raised to a new life. We no longer owe sin or the sinful nature our service. I wonder if that is a truth you need to put faith in as much as that Christ died to pay the penalty of our sin? Christian life begins at the point of realising Jesus died for me, that we are saved not by what we can do, by being good, doing good works or even doing a better than average job at keeping God’s commandments, but by what He has done. If you have persevered with reading these blogs at all, you are probably among those who can say, ”Yes, I believe that. In fact I am staking all my hopes of eternal life upon that.” However have you believed with equal faith that at the cross you died with Christ and rose with Him to a new life where sin shall no longer be your master? I think what I am encouraging you to do is to ask your Heavenly Father to help you believe that and to help you live it. Sometimes it seems that sin has a rampant power in our lives. I have found it to be simply but powerfully effective to remind myself, “Kenny, you died. You do not need to do this.” That truth when I remember it has a power like an emergency brake on a runaway train.
Child of God, are you facing strong temptation right now, whatever shape or form that is taking? It may be that there is a strong pull on you to do something this very night or day that you know a follower of Jesus should not do. Does it seem to you an inevitability that you will give in? YOU DON’T HAVE TO. Announce to yourself and to the temptation and to whatever or whoever may be behind that temptation that actually you do not need to do this.
You have probably looked to the cross of Jesus and seen Jesus dying for you as your representative and substitute. Is it time to look at the cross again and see you dying there in Him?
Be sure of this, if you refuse to feed and clothe sin, if you refuse to give it a home, that is only right. You have no obligation to feed, clothe or warmly welcome it at all. It may be when you try and resist, sin will cry out all the more fiercely, ‘’Feed me, water me, pay attention to me.” Refuse to listen to its angry or even its pitiful cries. I say again, you and I have no obligation to sin; it has no entitlement it can claim from someone who is born again to a new life in Christ. We do however have an obligation to the One who loved us and gave Himself for us, who can train us and help us to walk in His righteousness and victory.
It has become a sort of mantra today that the prophetic role of the church is to speak truth to power. I think that is true , at least in part. However, let’s not just do that simply in terms of speaking truth to governments, or society or national life: the Christian church can be quite good at doing that, especially when on the bigger world scene it has such leaders as the present Archbishop of Canterbury or Pope Francis. Let’s remember to bring that principle of speaking truth to power much nearer home. May God help us speak the truth of Christ our Liberator to the sinful nature, our former dictator, telling it that it has been slain in my life. Let’s remember too that in the bigger scheme of things, sin itself is on the way out for we are heading towards a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells.
It might be you would find it helpful to follow up this blog by reading Romans Chapter 5 – 8 in the near future. Ask God for faith to believe what you read about yourself there.
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