Jesus Christ is Lord of All

Monday, April 8, 2013

Unity # 34: Released from the Power of Sin

Unity # 34: Released from the Power of Sin
Predestination, Effectual Grace, Suffering, and the Resurrection of Christ
Dear Father,
     We praise You for the hope of Your calling, the riches of the glory of Your inheritance in us, the surpassing greatness of Your power towards us who believe, the working of Your mighty strength which You brought about in Christ when You raised Him from the dead and seated Him at Your right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. You have put all things in subjection under the feet of Your Son, and given Him as head over all things to the church, Your body, the fullness of You who fills all in all. I commit this letter to You; may it flow by Your Spirit’s help to comfort the saints.
In Jesus Christ’s Name,

Dear Beloved,

      This letter is about our release from the power of sin. By the work of our Lord, death and its sting are swallowed up in victory. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:54-57) There are many things which may be written about our release from the power of sin; here I will be focusing on what God has been teaching me in the past week: the regenerate hearts’ understanding of predestination, the nature of God in the face of suffering, and the resurrection of Christ. I am trusting that God will help all that He has brought to my mind to fit together well in this letter.

The Regenerate Hearts’ Understanding of Predestination/Effectual Grace

     The Scriptures make it exceedingly clear that God has both foreknown and predestined the eternal outcome of all people: some are appointed for life, and some are doomed to destruction. However, many professing believers have a difficult time understanding and believing that this is so. The common reasons are that somehow justice is perverted or coercion has been enacted on God’s part if we are left with no choice of our own. All would agree that God is just, and that for all those who have trusted in Christ, they have done so willingly and wholeheartedly. Their surrender is indeed an outcry of acknowledgement of the great love of the Father. So for us who believe the Scriptures which teach us that God has predestined us, we agree that God is just in all that He does and that the people of God have a heart that loves Christ and all that He entails. But for those who do not believe in predestination, you must consider the passage from John 6:52-71 where Christ describes that He will give His flesh for the life of the world and that those who eat His flesh and drink His blood have eternal life, and He will raise them up on the last day. He tells us that if we eat His flesh and drink His blood we abide in Him and He in us. As the living Father sent Him, and He lives because of the Father, so if we eat of Christ, we will live forever because of Him. After Jesus taught about these things, many of His followers said that this was a difficult statement and asked who could listen to it. But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? When then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe”. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. He was saying. “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father”. As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. Dear saints, in view of the teaching of predestination, that is, that it is because of God’s will and power that anyone at all can come to Him, many people could no longer walk with Him. If you knew that God’s predestination of all people is true, then would you still walk with Him? Would you be as the disciples who said “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God” Jesus had chosen all 12 of them, but he knew that Judas would betray Him. He has mercy and compassion on whom He has mercy and compassion. And He hardens whomever He desires. His purpose is that His Name will be proclaimed throughout the whole earth. What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory? He has called people from both the Jews and the Gentiles; He has called those who were not His people and not beloved as His beloved people, sons of the living God. For though the number of the sons of Israel are like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant alone that will be saved; for the Lord will execute His Word on the earth thoroughly and quickly. So then, many of the Israelites pursued a law of righteousness, could not keep it, and rejected the righteousness that comes by faith. In Zion God lay a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and only those who believe in Him will not be disappointed. So then, our righteousness is by faith. (Rom 9)

    Dear saint, do you believe in the Scriptural truth of the total moral depravity of all unregenerate people, that is, that until we are raised to life by the Spirit, we are dead in trespasses and sin, possessing absolutely no goodness at all. Because we were dead, we could not hear, understand, or believe in the Gospel nor did we contain any inking of a leaning towards the Truth such that we could choose to believe in it even if we heard it? And because this is true, we require God’s effectual grace, the grace purchased through the blood of Christ for His chosen people that lifts us from our spiritual graves that we may hear, understand, and believe in the Gospel. Furthermore, effectual grace enables us to bear fruit, to be progressively sanctified, to persevere until the end, to remain faithful, to be glorified with and found in Christ on the last Day… To deny predestination is to claim that God has not chosen and caused us to trust in Christ, and if it was not effectual grace by God’s own predestination that caused us to believe, then you are saying that you had some inkling of goodness to choose him. And then you deny total depravity, and you are claiming to have some righteousness of your own; you are claiming that there was some inherent goodness in yourself that caused you to choose Him. Do you not see how such a belief, if continued in, could result in damnation if your heart has truly believed that you have some goodness apart from what God has chosen to grant to you though His regenerating work? Do you now understand why many turned away from Christ in the face of His teaching on predestination? Many were holding on to a righteousness of their own, to a false nobility of their human will apart from the Father’s enablement. We must surrender all.

     These principles can be applied to eternal security as well. Eternal security is the gift of grace granted to all those who are chosen for eternal life. Those who inherit God’s promises do so through faith and patience (Heb 6:12). God enables them to persevere until the end and works in them the “obedience of faith” that is present in all those who are truly justified. If it is not God who secures the souls of the elect and prevents them from falling away through His Spirit, Word, discipline, and love, then we are left to ourselves to remain in the faith, and we are again denying effectual grace, and claiming goodness apart from His predestining work. His act of predestination involves our calling, conversion, perseverance, and eternal life. And thus, we are determined to know nothing among us except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. We come in weakness, fear, and much trembling, and our message and preaching are not in persuasive words of worldly wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that the faith of our hearers will not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Cor 2:1-5)

     So then, this letter is to be about our release from the power of sin, and you may be wondering how God’s predestination is related to the power of sin. There are certain things which accompany the saints’ righteous belief in predestination: a deep conviction of total depravity prior to regeneration, a deep conviction that because God has secured our salvation, He will keep us holy and blameless, firm in faith, until the end, in the face of imminent temptations to turn aside and the surrounding deceitfulness of sin, a tremendous awe and fear at the incomprehensibility of God[1], and a total dependency on His hand of grace and righteousness. The heart of the saint cries, “Lord You alone have the Words of eternal life, where else can I go? You alone have caused me to trust in You and will enable me to persevere until the end because You have saved my soul” There is also a deep gratitude and thankfulness for God’s choosing, for it is apparent that MOST PEOPLE WILL DAMNED. Just as the generation of Noah was damned and only Noah and his family were saved, we also live in a crooked and perverse generation, and though many try to enter the narrow gate, few will find it, and many are called, but few are chosen (Matt 22:14). The majority of humans will be damned, but dear saint, do you still believe that He is good, that He is just, that He is unfathomable, that He is righteous in all His ways. These truths should bind Your heart in reverence to His.
     So then, if we have believed in His predestination of us, in His effectual grace, then we know that we are under His New Covenant by which He does not turn away from us to do us good (Jer 32:40). We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the Firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Rom 8:28-30)

The Regenerate Hearts’ Understanding of the Nature of God in the Face of Suffering

     Dear saints, suffering reveals what our hearts have believed about God. The fiery storms draw out from us the desires and beliefs regarding the nature of God. Just as the storm tested the foundation on which the house was built, rock or sand, so the troubles of this life reveal where we have placed our hope, our affections, and our labors. For as Christ told us, He spoke to us that in Him we may have peace. In the world we will have tribulation, but He tells us to take courage; He has overcome the world. (John 16:33) Those who doubt God’s goodness, those who do not long for the glory of God, will not stand under trials. For during suffering, they will doubt God’s goodness. They do not believe that all of the events of their lives are preordained by God out of His goodness and love. For the saint to truly believe that God never stops doing good to him will grant him overwhelming victory in the face of tremendous suffering, for he knows that each and every trial is an act of God’s goodness, though he may temporarily not know how or why. The saints consider Christ who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that they do not grow weary and lose heart. They do not forget the exhortation which is addressed to them as sons, “ My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He received”. It is for discipline that we endure; God deals with us as sons; and there is no son who is not disciplined by the heavenly Father. (Heb 12:3-7)

     We know that we have been justified by faith, and we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom 5:1-5) Thus, the saints are able to consider it all joy when they encounter various trials, because they know that the testing of their faith produces endurance. Endurance has its perfect result, so that they are perfect and complete lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4) During suffering we do not fear, for God has redeemed us; He has called us by name and we are His. When we pass through the waters, He will be with us; and through the rivers, they will not overflow us. When we walk through the fire, we will not be scorched nor will the flame burn us, for He is the Lord our God, the Holy One of Israel, our Savior. (Is 43:1-3)

     The beloved are not to be surprised at the fiery ordeal among them, which comes upon them for their testing, as though some strange thing were happening to them; but to the degree that they share in the sufferings of Christ, they are to keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory they may rejoice with exaltation. Those who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. (I Pet 4:12, 13, 19) Indeed, all who desire to live Godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12) and whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Christ cannot be His disciple (Luke 14:27). But the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed to us (Rom 8:18). God’s granting of perseverance and faith in the midst of our persecutions and afflictions which we endure is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that we will be considered worthy of the Kingdom of God, for which indeed we are suffering (2 Thess 1:4-5). Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all (Ps 34:19).

The Regenerate Hearts’ Understanding of the Resurrection of Christ

     Again, how does the believer’s overcoming in suffering relate to the release from sin that this letter must concern? For one thing, in the resisting of temptation, there is a measure of suffering that we undergo. In many cases the desire for Christ that reigns in our regenerate hearts causes specific sins to lose their appeal and we may cheerfully and wholeheartedly obey our Savior without looking back or feeling any longings for these desires of the flesh. Ultimately, as a result of His progressive sanctification of our character, attitudes, behavior, and lifestyle, He is bringing us to that place of wholehearted obedience accompanied by great joy and comprehension of His love. But we know that many times, to resist sin, we must suffer, and we must obey in faith, not knowing how He will provide, but simply knowing that He is good, loving, strong, and has promised to do so. For we know that no temptation has overtaken us but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that we will be able to endure it (1 Cor 10:13). With each and every temptation that comes our way, our hope is that as we put to death the misdeeds of the sinful flesh, the resurrection power and life of Christ has been granted to us. Thus, the feeling of suffocation, pain, emptiness, and turmoil that we experience in our resisting of sin will not prevail. For in our resistance we have simultaneous faith in God’s goodness and the indwelling Spirit to powerfully oppose and weaken the desire of sinful flesh (Gal 5).  Rather, we are promised that if we have died with Him, we will surely live with Him. For if Christ is in us, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of His righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in us. (Rom 8:10-11). For the righteousness based on faith is granted to the one whose hearts believes that God has raised Christ from the dead and that no one who believes in Him will be disappointed (Rom 10:9-11). Those who do not believe in the resurrection have a worthless faith and are still in their sin (1 Cor 15:16-17). But we believe that we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be united with Him in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to died again; death no longer is master 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. Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom 6:4-11)
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Cor 4
     Thus, in our resisting of sin, we often feel death in our striving, and yet if our hearts have truly believed in the resurrection of Christ, we know that in due time, yes very soon in our earthly journey, He will again grant us the comprehension of freedom, peace, life, joy, and His unfailing love. With regard to all of the sin of the dead sinful nature, He has either completely removed the heart’s desire for that sin and replaced it with a desire for Christ, or He is commanding and causing us to resist sin in faith, while trusting in His goodness to His elect, and will soon grant us the joy of our salvation. The desires of the regenerate heart are realized through this work of His. As surely as we know that Christ is risen, as we put to death the misdeeds of the sinful flesh, the Spirit will grant us life moment-by-moment. The wisdom we speak of is God’s wisdom, a hidden and mysterious wisdom that among the unsaved, no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed it to us through His Spirit, yes through the mind of Christ that we have been granted. For just as our spirits know our thoughts, the Holy Spirit knows God’s thoughts. And we have this Spirit that we may know the things freely given to us by God. (1 Cor 2:6-12, 16)
Love in Christ,

[1] 33 Oh, the depth of the riches [l]both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him [m]that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory [n]forever. Amen. Rom 11

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