One of the most challenging things about giving one’s life to Christ is the fact that we begin an entirely counterintuitive process of transformation that is at once accomplished because of the immediate and complete spiritual renewal that comes by embracing Christ through faith (ie. justification), and yet we are called to grow and be continually transformed through the relationship we now have with the Lord (ie. sanctification). We are in this state of tension between the “already” and “not yet.”
It is absolutely true that from the moment the Holy Spirit regenerates us, that regeneration is complete and we live in an entirely new state. We are made into a new creation: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, [they are] a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17). We are immediately raised from death to life, signified clearly in baptism: “…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions…He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions” (Col. 2:12-13). And, we are brought from the dominion of darkness and of Satan into the kingdom of Jesus Christ: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13); and Jesus revealed to Paul saying, “…for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you… to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:16-18).
We see that at once–by grace through faith–we are fully made new, and this new freedom is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9). A dead man or woman has no power, in themselves, to decide to come back to life. Such it is with the salvation we have received, it is an undeserved gift that we have no power, in ourselves, to claim as our own apart from the power of God’s grace.
Now, while we stand fully justified before God and spiritually renewed at once, we are then called to not be conformed to the world but be “transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). A key part to the transformation of our minds is submitting oneself fully to Scripture, and the uncomfortable task of being willing to receive correction in a spirit of humility!
After watching a panel discussion with R.C. Sproul, Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, and Tullian Tchividjian, I had one of my own unknown theological errors highlighted; and, although it was a somewhat subtle error, it could easily take root and have far reaching–potentially devastating–consequences for myself and those to with whom I discuss the Gospel. Indeed, an accurate explanation of the question, “What is the Good News?” is at stake.
The question raised was about the idea of a “cross-centered” message, and how focusing attention on the cross alone (ie. Christ’s death), in isolation from the other aspects of Christ’s life (ie. His active obedience prior to His crucifixion and His subsequent resurrection from the dead), undermines the fullness of the true message of the Gospel. Neither Christ nor His apostles proclaimed His death alone, and we must remember that the other aspects of His life are as important as His sacrificial death. Our understanding about God must be focused on the centerpiece of His revelation: Jesus Christ Himself. For in Christ, “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form…” (Col. 2:9). Jesus Christ’s life is the central life in all human history, to which nothing else can be justifiably compared. Because Jesus is the center of revelation, there can be no mistake that nothing is more important. As such, we must not fragment God’s revelation by proclaiming one aspect of the truth at the cost of the others. These truths work in perfect harmony, and it is when we see each of them together that we understand fully what Christ has accomplished on our behalf.
Because of the importance of each element of Jesus’ life, I am going to split this discussion into three additional parts:
Christ’s sinless, law fulfilling life, and why His active obedience is essential.
Christ’s atoning death on the Cross, and why His death was necessary.
Christ’s resurrection, and why the reality of His resurrection is what completes His work and affirms the reality of our salvation in Him.
As I prayerfully consider the fullness of Christ’s life, please understand that I do so with sincere trepidation and legitimate fear in my heart. Blogging has already caused significant spiritual growth and, with that, it has also brought clarity to the seriousness of the task to proclaim the truth with accuracy because of the eternal consequences connected with the truth. The advice of James rings more loudly to me now than ever, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment” (Jam. 3:1). And may we always remember, above all else, that God’s word is the final judge of truth. Let nothing sway you from that realization. The words of men count as nothing if they do not align with what God has spoken concerning the truth; and, conversely, the words of men are true only so much as they accurately align themselves with what God has spoken. So long as His word is our standard, we will not be deceived.
David Bibee is a student at Santa Clara University and blogs full time at http://thebereanway.wordpress.com.