Monday, June 1, 2009

A Divine Appointment

Yesterday I changed Sunday School classes. I quickly tired of the pop psychology of Lehman and his "Have a Better Kid by Friday". If that were really possible, then truly there is no sin in this world and all we need to do is change our behavior for all to be well. I don't deny that some of his work is good and effective. But for what "ails" this world, that sort of babble has no effect by this Friday or ever. Only the blood of Jesus saves us from sin and only the powerful working of the Holy Spirit and the goodness of God brings us to repentance, a changing of the mind and behavior for righteousness. And only by personal responsibility to believe the truth and act upon it do we maintain a holy life.

This is crucial to understand as I describe the divine encounter in the other Sunday School class. It was divine both because I knew it was coming (I prayed for it) and because in the midst of it I knew God was there working in the mind of a man deeply asleep in unbelief.

A friend and fellow-prophet teaches this class. His premise yesterday was Galatians 2:20. He expounded on this for my sake before the class started so, at my request, he could bring me up to speed on what he had been teaching the previous few weeks. I then shared with him Romans 6:11 to encourage him along the path he wanted to take with his lesson.

Also sitting in the room was another interested party, a man who has been in the church body for a long, long time. He started to ask many questions about the dialogue I and the teacher were having. Clearly he was struggling with something. Basically it boiled down to something like this:

"I know a lot of this stuff but...." Let me fill you in on three critical points of this blurb. First, the "stuff".

Galatians 2:20 - "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

Romans 6:11 - "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

...and the topic of the day in Sunday School: the life of Jesus in you.

As we explained, there is a difference in the death described in these two verses. In Galatians, it is a one-time death. Jesus was only crucified once and therefore we can only experience this once with Him. (Hebrews 10:12 - "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;") On the other hand, the death described in Romans is one that we must reckon over and over. That's the way these verses are written in the original Greek.

In the first case, Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection are sufficient for all of our sin for all time. The Atonement is complete and we are redeemed by His blood. Positionally we are righteous before the Father solely upon this account.

However, we still have an old sin nature, a dead man, the flesh, to deal with. It is powerful and every so often he wakes up. When he wakes up, sin revives, and we die. See Romans 7. Although our positional state with God does not change, experientially we are separated in sin.

For the Christian saint, there can be no worse thing. When sin stands between us and freedom in Jesus, these are the consequences (not necessarily in any order):

1) we are asleep
2) we are in sin
3) we dishonor God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
4) we are in danger of further deception
5) we are completely overtaken by the flesh save for the intervention (praise God He never ceases) of His Holy Spirit to reconcile us and bring repentance

Okay, that's the "stuff". Now for the next point. The "but". When we do not believe the simple truth of God's Word, immediately we are in the flesh and all those consequences above apply. It is not a gradual thing. But it is ever so subtile because to most folks I fear it appears completely normal, so familiar that it is not recognized when it happens.

For the man in Sunday School class, his "but" was something like this. "The devil is keeping me from such and such. He is so deceptive." I told him that indeed the devil can and does impede the Christian's life if he can. But don't give him too much credit. For the flesh and the temptations of the world are just as powerful. He agreed. The flesh and this world fall under his kingdom. So then I said to him, "Don't spend another moment trying to figure out who or what is responsible. Did you know that whatever sin you are dealing with, it alone is what you have to deal with. Not the cause, not the source, not the devil, the flesh, or the world. Just the sin. No matter how big or small the sin is of no matter. God says in James 2:10, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."

That "all" is huge. Its magnitude is what Jesus suffered and died for on the cross.

He agreed and stated that we cannot even begin to imagine just how wicked we all are. Sounds good. And then we get to the third point that he brought out over and over. It is the main point of this posting today. Don't miss it. "I know...."

He said he struggled with knowing the Word but could not get it from his head to his heart.

Let's stop right there for a moment and crush that myth. There is no Biblical base for this kind of transaction that Christians so commonly teach and believe. We don't have to wait to get Biblical knowledge from our heads to our hearts before it becomes effective. There is no Biblical teaching to even show us how to do this. Nor is there any such teaching to show how it is done for us by God. It simply does not happen. It is a wicked, fleshly excuse for unbelief and disobedience.

Here's what God does say about it.

James 4:17 - "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."

Romans 7:25 - "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."

Knowledge of God's Word is sufficient. It is the will, the flesh that is still in the way that prevents belief and obedience.

That is what makes Romans 6:11 so wonderfully simple and yet so hideously difficult. For it points right to the reality of life and death. We are either dead in sin or alive in God. When we are dead in sin we are "alive" in the flesh and all seems well and normal. When we are dead to sin we are alive in God and we are free. That is the reality of John 8:32 and 36, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."

When I transact on the truth of Romans 6:11, I die to sin. I die to the flesh, the world, the lust, and the desires of temptation. Here's the wonderful thing about death. It is complete. Dead men cannot sin, cannot lust, cannot give in to temptation.

But the old man of flesh, he indeed can sin, lust, and give in. He doesn't have to. That's the good news. Jesus told us the truth, gave us the power, and expects us to believe and obey as such. Therefore He is righteous and just when He commands us to be holy and perfect just as He is. The question therefore to this man and all of us is not, "Do you know this?" Rather, "Do you believe?"

God divinely brought us together yesterday because He wants His saints awake unto righteousness. He wants us holy and perfect. He wants no further shame and dishonor to His name from His own children. When He comes, how will you be found?

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