Recently we received the Easter cards for our sponsored children. After reading one I was very grieved in my spirit. The last lines read, “Jesus is still alive today. He loves you and wants you to live with Him in heaven. That’s the story of Easter.”
Is it? Is that truly the story of Easter? That Jesus died so that we get a free ticket to heaven? And until then being a Christian means …”be good, read your bible, go to church, witness about Christ, etc., and someday you will grow into Christlikeness.
Please be patient with me as I share what the Lord has laid on my heart. Let me give my testimony. I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of 16. For the next twenty some years I went to church regularly, read my bible almost everyday, witnessed, helped with music in some of the church groups throughout the years, prayed lots, etc. But throughout that time even with doing all these spiritual activities, I was not becoming more Christlike and yet I wanted to be more filled with Jesus. So I kept on reading, praying, etc., hoping that someday, somehow it would just happen. Well, when I was in my 40’s I started really hungering for God and His ways. I was tired of sinning (i.e., living in worry at times, getting impatient with people, wanting attention on myself, trying to be in control of my life and others’ lives sometimes, and so on…) I was sick of living in “the flesh” (as the bible puts it ), in the “old self,” in the sinful nature. When I sinned I would confess it to the Lord, thank Him for his forgiveness, and then find myself doing the same sins again. So I would go through the confession routine again…and on it went.
I wanted more. I wanted Christ’s holiness in me. I wanted God. It wasn’t happening by my doing all those spiritual exercises. It wasn’t happening by confessing sins all the time. I wasn’t getting any holier. And let me say that during all those years I did truly experience the Lord’s presence many times and did have his joy and peace and love. It just wasn’t continually. And as I got older I realized that how I had been taught Christianity wasn’t true Christianity. It was (and still is) man’s way of living the Christian life. “Do this, do that, read your bible more, pray more, serve in the church …Then you will become like Jesus.” NOT!!!!!!
So I finally got to the point of really calling out to God – seeking Him with my whole heart (which I thought I was doing in my earlier years, but God knows when we truly mean it from the depths of our soul). And Hallelujah! God is so patient and so faithful! He started really opening my eyes to what being a Christian means, not according to man, but according to the Almighty Holy God.
Many things He revealed to me – the heart of it all being this basic truth: God’s definition of Christianity is simple. It isn’t us trying and striving to be like Christ. It is God living His life in us. The Lord himself will live His very own life in us fully when and only when we say “yes” to our sinful nature being dead so that the Lord can be the only life of our soul, of our whole being. The bible teaches it very clearly, I had read it over and over all those years and yet I didn’t see it. Why? The Lord showed me that it was because I loved me more than God. I wanted to be god of my life (which is true of everyone who remains living with their sinful nature on the throne of their life instead of God living His life in them – totally and only God.) I didn’t know it in these words at the time but that is what I was living.
I’ve learned that what Jesus said is true, “By their fruit you will know them.” Whatever is inside us, whatever or whoever is the true god of our soul is what comes out in our attitudes, thoughts, behavior, actions, words, etc. If the sinful self is on the throne of the heart, the fruit of self comes out - sin. If the Lord Jesus is on the throne of the heart and He is the life of the soul, then the fruit of the Spirit comes out - God’s character. It’s that simple.
And another truth that is so awesome (of course all of God’s truths are awesome because He is awesome) is the fact that the sinful nature of man can only be dealt with by God Himself. Only He can put it to death. It is not a life-long process of dying to self. If it were, then it would be a matter of works. It would be us trying to crucify our sinful nature ourselves – which we could not and never can do. Only God can take the old self/sinful nature to death. And the good news is that He already did! It is done! In Christ it is finished! Paul talks about it quite extensively in Romans especially, and throughout the New Testament, how Jesus took the sinful nature of man to death with Himself when He died on the cross. And then raised us with Him to give us new life – His very life to live in us instead of the sinful nature! Amen! Thank-you, Jesus!
“I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)
We are now complete in Christ. It is Christ living His perfect, holy life in us. By God’s divine power we have all we need for life and godliness. We are temples of His Spirit. Christ Himself living in us – the hope of glory! And it is for now, not for some future date at the end of our earthly lives. All scripture that talks about these truths is in the tense of “has been” or “is”. For example, it doesn’t say, I “am being” crucified with Christ. Or I “will be” crucified with Christ. But it says, I “HAVE BEEN” crucified with Christ…Christ “HAS” taken the sinful nature to death, not “will” take the sinful nature to death. We “ARE” His temple, not “will be” His temple. Christ lives in me –NOW - not “will live in me someday.” Praise God!
Now perhaps you are asking, “If this is all true, why am I still experiencing “me” on the throne? Why am I still living in the sinful nature?” I’ve asked the Lord the same question many times at the start of my seeking Him. The Lord showed me that I was still experiencing the “sinful self life” because I hadn’t absolutely and completely surrendered my self (my sinful nature) to Him. I didn’t mean it when I said “yes” to its death. I thought I did. So God brought me to the point of seeing the detestable, stubborn, rebellious, proud nature of the sinful self and how much it immensely grieves Him. And as I’ve truly hungered for Him to be my All in All, to be the only Life of my soul – so that it would be, NOT I, BUT CHRIST living in and through me, I am experiencing His life in me more fully every day. By faith, Christ lives his very own life in me with the sinful nature dead and no more.
Sinful self is out – Christ is in.
It is a matter of believing, taking God at His word. Living by faith, not by sight. All of God’s truths are only ours by faith. We can’t experience His life in us until we believe that what He said is true. If we don’t believe, we are calling God a liar. We have to also be willing to die to self. Not as a process, but consenting to the fact that it is already done in Christ.
And as moment by moment I trust the Lord to keep me yielded to Him alone, He will continue to live His holy, loving, powerful, victorious, faithful ( and everything else that He is) life in me and through me to others.
Praise His holy name! Now I am truly saved. God is now total Lord and Savior of my life. Not just One who paid the penalty for my sins and bore God’s wrath for me – and praise God that He did! But also that He is my true Redeemer who saved me from my sinful nature, who saved me from sinning; from the power of sin. I am no longer a slave to sin. Hallelujah! I am a slave to God’s righteousness. Jesus is the life of my soul. It’s all Him. And all the glory goes to Him alone!
The message in the Easter card for the sponsored children reflects the decapitated gospel message that most evangelical Christians teach. And have for a long time. It’s only part of God’s truth. Praise God that Christ paid the penalty for our sins and opened the door for us to heaven. Amen! But even more so, praise God that He came to destroy the devil’s works, and took the sinful nature to death with Himself on the cross and gave us new life – His life to live in us. That’s the full gospel message. That is the story of Easter.
I pray that all who profess to be believers will hunger so much for God and His holiness, and for Christianity His way, that there will be true revival everywhere, starting in each and every heart that is willing to fully surrender to Almighty God – and say a hearty “Amen” to NOT I , BUT CHRIST!
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
The message of Easter
The other day we received some Easter cards to send to our sponsored kids. The message in the Easter card was wimpy, to say the least. Debbie felt prompted to write a letter to the sponsorship agency—a Christian one. Here is the content of the letter (warning, it's three pages long!):