THE POWER OF THE CROSS
I'm convinced from God's Word that in order for believers to grow spiritually and experience joy, peace, and power in their lifetime journey, we must understand our identity in Christ. We must know who we are in Christ and the spiritual victory we have because we are in Him. Therefore, not only is it imperative that we understand that we are alive with Christ and what this means for us in our daily lives, we must also understand that we have died with Him. Just as His life is our life, His death is our death.
Clearly understanding that God says you are alive with Christ rests on an understanding that you've also died with Christ. It is imperative that you know that your old self has died. You are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)! You have a new life! You are in Christ and the life of Christ is in you! These spiritual realities in the believer are accomplished solely by God through the cross-work and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Words are inadequate to express how amazing this work of God is in the lives of his children!
Knowing and living out the reality that the old you has died is a fundamental part of Pauline identification truth that I believe is not properly taught or emphasized nearly enough in the church today. You will hear many sermons on giving (more than enough), obedience, prayer, and serving (more than enough), but very few on on our amazing new identity in Christ, and as specifically related to us having died with Christ. This foundational teaching from God's Word, which is absolutely essential to how we grow spiritually God's way in our walk with Christ (sanctification), is not easy to find in churches today. This is nothing less than a tragedy!
The Apostle Paul certainly wanted the saints in Rome to understand that not only had Jesus Christ died for their sins, they had also died with Christ. He wanted them to understand that their death with Christ was foundational to living their new life in Him! It's key to experiencing victory over sin in our lives.
"We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Rom. 6:2-4)
Because we were put into Christ when we trusted Him, God says we also died with Christ, were buried with Him, and were resurrected with Him! The old you, connected to the first Adam, died with Christ and was buried. The new you, in union with the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) and a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) because you rose to new life in Him, are alive with Him. His life has become your life!
"When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory." (Col. 3:4)
Furthermore, since your old man was crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20), you share in His death to sin. The Bible says that Christ died to sin once for all. By faith, you are to see yourself as God sees you - dead to sin. Since we have died with Christ, we are freed from sin.
"...because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." (Rom. 6:7)
You are no longer a slave to sin, the old master. You have a new master, Christ, and you are now a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:18).
When our old sin nature wants to rise up in us, we must remember what God has done for us at the cross. As we see ourselves as having died with Christ at the cross and rest in that spiritual fact, the Holy Spirit is free to manifest the life of Christ in us. His death is also our death. His life is our life.
The cross is central to all of this. It was there that Jesus suffered and died for our sins. It was also there that we died with Him. What happened 2000 years ago at the cross was God's way to reconcile us to Himself, recreate us in His Son, and bring eternal glory to Himself. We need to understand and appreciate the power of the cross in our faith walk on a daily basis!
"For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel - not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Cor. 1:17-18)
Paul made the cross a strong focus of his teaching because God had revealed to him the great power in the work of Christ at the cross. He understood that there was great power in understanding and relying on what happened at the cross.
"For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2)
Our new identity in Christ, which should lead us to praise God for the new life we have in the risen Christ, should also lead us to praise God because our old selves died with Christ at the cross. Through the cross, God has provided us with the one way we can experience liberation from sin in our lives.
Our faith must rest on the fact that our old selves died with Christ at the cross. We must see ourselves as God sees us. The sin nature that produces sin in us was condemned by God at the cross. We were judicially separated from it by God. We died to it. We have been freed from the old master, sin, and are now alive to a new master, Christ!
As we rest in these spiritual realities based on our union with Christ, the Holy Spirit works in us to produce the godly character He desires for us. This is all the work of God through His amazing grace! We need not struggle, strive, or follow a rule system in order to have the life of Christ become more and more evident in our lives. That way leads only to frustration and failure! God's way is by faith - trusting in Christ to increasingly live out His life through us because He is our life!
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20)
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." (Col. 3:1-3)
The Apostle Paul's teaching on spiritual growth centered on Christ in the believer. We see this as he argued against legalism, describing it as "those weak and miserable principles" (Gal. 4:9), and emphasized growing in Christ:
"My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you..." (Gal. 4:19)
Rest in these facts from God's Word: Your old sin nature was crucified with Christ at the cross 2000 years ago. You have been separated from it. Christ has not only you saved you from your sins, He has also delivered you from the power of their source, your sin nature. You are now united with Christ and it's His life living in you and through you!
This is God's way of transforming us - making us increasingly like His Son! That is His primary purpose for us and it's all for His glory!
Walk joyfully by faith as we rest in all that we have spiritually accomplished because we are in Christ.
Stephen J. Moll
The Great Grace Gospel
Grace Life Church is dedicated to proclaiming Jesus Christ and the gospel of God's grace to our community and to the world.
We don't exist to promote a religion, denomination, institution, or organization. We proclaim and exalt a Person, our great God and Savior, JESUS CHRIST! We rejoice in our living union with Him as members of the church, the Body of Christ!
The gospel of God's amazing grace is the most important message the world has ever known. At the heart of our ministry is our desire to help people understand and rejoice in the incredible riches of God's grace to us in Christ. We want to help believers live victoriously under His grace as they experience what God wants for His children - a personal, intimate, and dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ!
God's grace has set us free from the power of sin and death and united us with His Son, Jesus Christ! God has made us alive with Christ (Eph. 2:5)! He now wants us to rest in our eternal union with Christ and the wonderful freedom we have in Him (John 8:36; Gal. 5:1).
Resting in our amazing identity in Christ and all that He's done for us is the key to living a victorious Christian life(Matt. 11:28-30). God wants us to appreciate and rejoice in "the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding" (Eph. 1:8)! Grace is not only the way for our salvation, it's also God's way for us to live successful and rich Christian lives every day! No other way works!
Unfortunately, many Christians try other ways that don't work and will never work?
As much as I'd like to keep this article positive and tell you that the church today joyfully embraces the gospel of grace that is clearly taught in the Bible, I can't. This saddens and frustrates me. The widespread failure of the church to understand, appreciate, and teach God's amazing grace is a major problem in the church today. I believe it is the biggest problem facing the church.
In Christian religion today there exists a stubborn resistance and, in many cases, a rejection of the full truth of God's grace and the power of His grace. This widespread failure of the church to teach the gospel of grace, which is clearly taught in the Bible by the Apostle Paul, has been the result of Christian leaders and the people they lead preferring to stick with traditions and man-made systems which are based on all kinds of false teaching and usually rooted in legalism.
Tragically, the world philosophy of "you have to work for what you get" is the way many, if not most, Christians approach their spiritual lives. They're "working hard for God" in order to get accepted by Him, receive more blessings from Him, and grow spiritually. This works-based approach to living the Christian life, also known as legalism, has plagued and burdened the church since it began nearly 2000 years ago. The Bible teaches us that in the early years of the church the Apostle Paul constantly and vigorously fought against legalism. The legalistic approach to being saved and/or living your Christian life opposes God's way - by grace.
Sadly, because legalism is so deeply entrenched and pervasive in the church today, most believers living under its erroneous teachings and practices believe that it's the normal and right way to live the Christian life. Nothing could be further from the truth! Living that way only produces a superficial Christianity which sucks the joy and peace right out of the Christian life.
Because of the the burdensome yoke of works-based Christianity (Gal. 5:1), countless believers are not experiencing a close and growing personal relationship with their Savior, Jesus Christ. They're missing out on the life of freedom and joy that Christ has given to them. Many are confused, frustrated, and disillusioned, because they know, deep in their hearts, that something is missing. They know something is wrong, but they don't know what it is. They hunger for the joyful and victorious Christian life they've been told many times can be theirs, but eludes them.
For countless other Christians the result of being subjected to many years or a lifetime of legalism is that they have reached a point where they're just simply looking forward to getting to heaven and that's it. Many of them know they're saved (sadly, many are also not sure because legalism can lead you to doubt your salvation), but through the years their relationship with God has grown distant or was never close to begin with. They go to church regularly, attend Sunday school or belong to a small group, and are often involved in other ministries. They find their comfort in the traditions and patterns they've followed for years, as well as the friends they've made at their local church.
These saints see their relationship with Christ as primarily a life of duty, responsibility, and service. They've come to accept that this is the best the Christian life will probably be. They've learned and chosen to be content with that. Some have described believers in this situation as "faking it until they make it." Though what they're doing may look great to everyone around them, the truth is they're missing out on so much more of what God wants for them to experience and enjoy through His Son!
What often makes things even worse for believers in these situations and others like it is that many of them blame themselves for the status of their spiritual lives. They believe that the reason they aren't experiencing a close and exciting relationship with Jesus Christ is because they're the problem. They've been told and are convinced that God is somehow disappointed with them or there's something wrong with them. They've been told that they're not doing something right or there's some sin in their lives that's causing the problem. Many stop attending a church because they feel like they just don't fit in. They've given up trying to live the "normal" Christian life because it's just too frustrating and hard for them.
However, in most cases, they're not the problem! The real problem is that they've been taught the wrong way to live the Christian life!
Not only that, the very place they believe should help them grow in their relationship with God - their church - is often times actually confusing and hurting them! Instead of clearly teaching them about God's amazing grace to us in Christ and the wonderful freedom we have in Christ, pastors and teachers at many churches are actually leading people into bondage.
The sad reality is that various forms of legalism, manipulation, and guilt-based approaches to ministry are used in order to produce action and results. These tactics are often so common and subtle that many people in these churches or ministries figure that's just the way things should be done! Many churches and ministries are busy "doing things for God." People are told that things need to be done, ministries need to be led, and goals need to be accomplished. Usually the intentions on the part of church leaders are good. They have a true heart desire to serve Lord and their people well. However, we are fooling ourselves if we don't realize that sometimes all this busyness is the result of selfish motivations.
Tragically, as a result of all this busyness from whatever the motivation, God's grace has lost its meaning and power for many believers as they are constantly pressured to perform.
We know and praise God that a lot of good is being done in churches and ministries - people are being reached with the gospel, churches are being planted, believers are being built up in the faith, the poor and needy are being helped, and so on. In no way do I want to diminish the powerful work of the Holy Spirit as He works in and through individuals and churches to proclaim Jesus Christ to the world. The Holy Spirit does this very well and He's been doing it very well for nearly 2000 years!
However, a line I heard once on a sports radio station needs to be considered here - "Never confuse activity with accomplishment!" There is a lot of activity in churches and Christian ministries, but what is actually being accomplished? What is the real motivation for all this activity? Are all these works really serving God or ourselves? Is God pleased with all this busyness? I believe all Christian ministries, including ours, would be wise to ask and answer these questions honestly.
The Bible clearly says that anything that isn't produced by faith is sin (Rom. 14:23)! God is not pleased with all of our "good works" if they're the result of selfish desires and motivations. Our sin natures can produce a lot of what appear to be "good works" to the world around us. But God sees these works as "filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6) if they flow out of the self-life and not the life of Christ living in us.
Unfortunately, the problem of believers being led to do all kinds of things for God often starts right away for new believers. Before they're saved, they're told that they can be saved by simply trusting in Jesus Christ and what He's done for us through His death and resurrection. They are correctly told that they don't have to work to earn their salvation - that we're saved by grace alone through faith alone and not by works (Eph. 2:8-9). So far, so good.
Then, once they're saved, the approach changes. Usually with good intentions on the part of church leaders, there's a rush to "disciple" them. In this process these new believers are now told all the things "they should do" - like meet with the pastor, join a discipleship class, join a small group, take an evangelism class, join a prayer group, get involved with missions, learn spiritual disciplines, start tithing, and so on. What's communicated is that "the more you do the better" is the way to living a godly Christian life. Depending on the church, the pressure to start "getting busy for God" can range from very subtle to right in your face.
These newer believers, who are eager to do the right things and serve God well, then start getting involved in more and more activities. Often times they are privately and publicly commended for all the good things they're doing. Things really look good - on the outside. Sadly, what's actually happening for many of them is that they're being led into a trap and the spiritual consequences are very damaging. This so-called "discipleship" is really leading these Christians into legalistic bondage.
The hard reality is that many of them (including long-time believers) doing all these "good works" are burned out and frustrated under the heavy and oppressive yoke of legalism. The joy and peace they experienced when they received Jesus Christ has left them, replaced by anxiety and confusion because they believe they must be doing something wrong. Tragically, God seems very distant to them.
At the heart of the problem is that these believers have been led down a path where their focus is no longer on Christ, but on what they're doing. The focus is now on self - always a recipe for spiritual defeat! The "good works" they're doing are not the problem, but the fact that they're produced by the wrong motivation. They're not resting in Christ and what He has done for them (Matt. 11:28-30).
God knows our hearts and motives for what we do. Outward appearances and visible results that flow self-effort, legalism, pride, and selfish motives, may look good and spiritual to everyone around us, but don't please God, even while we may be patting ourselves on the back. This way only produces an empty and joyless Christian life. We can fool ourselves and the people around us, but not God!
Enough with the bad news! Now let's get back to the good news!
MORE VERY GOOD NEWS!
Thank God for our Lord Jesus Christ! In the unconditional love and acceptance we have in Christ, we're liberated from having to perform in order to live a victorious Christian life. We also don't have to get busy doing things for God in order to gain His favor, be accepted by Him, or receive spiritual blessings. Grace is God's way for us to experience the freedom and abundant life that Jesus came to give us (John 10:10)!
This requires that we learn some very important truth from God's Word about His incredible grace to us. Living a victorious Christian life will not happen apart from a clear understanding of how God wants you to do it (Rom. 12:2)! We learn how to correctly live the Christian life, God's way, through a correct understanding of His Word to us.
The Bible tells us that God loves us unconditionally and that we've received the riches of His grace (Eph. 2:6-7)! We possess all of these amazing grace riches because we are in Christ and have a new identity in Christ. We are new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17)! At the moment you were saved, God gave you everything you need in order to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3).
In order to avoid the error and trap of legalism in all its forms and also avoid being deceived by emotion-based approaches to living your Christian life, it is vital that you know who God has made you in Christ. You need to know and embrace who you really are as a child of God. This is foundational to living a victorious Christian life.
Please go to Your Wonderful Identity In Christ to see in detail who you really are in Christ and all that you possess because you're united with Him. Because you're in Christ, you're a child of our heavenly Father! You've been forgiven of all your sins - all past, present, and future sins! You are totally righteous! You have eternal life that can never be taken away! How great is all that! See how God's love and grace work in you to transform you to be more and more like Christ (Phil. 1:6; Tit. 2:11-13)! Learn how living under grace does not produce lazy Christians, as some people believe will happen. No way! The Bible teaches us that living under grace produces saints who are focused and energized to serve Christ!
Be amazed at what Christ has done for you - filled with great thankfulness and joy at "the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:7). Grace definitely works!
Stephen J. Moll
"And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe."
1 Thes. 2:13
Grace Life Church
Proclaiming Jesus Christ and the Gospel of God's Grace
Bible Teaching Articles
Choosing A Church Your Wonderful Identity In Christ The Power Of The Cross
The Great Grace Gospel Understanding The Bible Why Are You Tithing?
God's Victory Program For Us Today Living By Grace Resting In Grace
Are You Saved? The Law Of Christ Pauline Identification Truth
Alive With Christ! Using The Law Properly Why Save Saul?
Correcting The 1 John 1:9 Error Living The Christian Life God's Way
Totally And Unconditionally Forgiven!