Monday, April 1, 2013

Living the Reality of the Risen Christ

Even before Jesus' public ministry began, John the Baptist declared Jesus to be the One who takes away the sins of the world. Ever wonder what was meant by that?

In other instances, Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, after all her accusers left, told her "Go and sin no more."

So, I wonder, why is it that it would be declared of Jesus that He takes the sins of the world away, and can say to the woman caught in a compromising position to go and sin no more if 1) we are nothing more than sinners, continuing to sin in word, thought, and deed even after the blood of Christ has been applied to our life and 2) if we are just sinners saved by grace who continue to practice sin though we are saved, however unintentional it may be.

I had a conversation with a friend recently who seemed to believe that sin is sin, and we, who remain in the flesh, still have a struggle with it. My friend is a guitarist, and a very good, above average, guitarist at that. I asked him when he started playing did he mess up his fingering, his chords, strum patterns, things that are very common among those who are just learning how to play. He laughed and said he did. He remembers. I then said to him that it's been several years since he started playing and asked him if he still makes those same mistakes. The answer was no, he is a much better guitarist now. He might make a mistake every now and then, but it's not part of his daily playing.

I then reminded him of Proverbs 24:16 where it says the righteous man falls seven times and rises again. So then I asked him how it would be possible for him to be righteous and a sinner at the same time if a righteous nature has nothing to do with a sinful one? Sure the righteous man may fall occasionally, but that does not automatically make him a sinner. If he fails to get back up and remains in a fallen state, then he is no longer righteous.

Jesus' death and resurrection did not just remove the eternal consequences of sin and death, and give us hope that we will stumble through life continually struggling with sin to the point where our struggle will one day be ended. His death and resurrection made it possible that we can receive both new life and be made new in Christ! This new life is available to all who hear God's call to salvation and believe that Jesus was crucified, dead, and resurrected for us. This means our old nature is replaced with a new one, God's nature in us through the indwelling of the Helper promised to us in scripture by Jesus, the Holy Spirit.

But at the same time, salvation (though instantaneous) is a process. When a baby is born, that baby has everything in him or her that will make them into the people they were created to be: all their talent, all their likes and dislikes, all that makes them unique. Though that baby is completely human, lacking nothing of what makes him or her human, there is the expectation that they will grow and mature and exercise those gifts and talents they have been given.

Salvation was described by Jesus to the pharisee Nicodemus as being born again, or being born of the Spirit. We have in us, from the time we are "born of the Spirit" everything we need to be a spirit-filled Christian. Yet there is the expectation that as we grow, we will also mature in our faith, so that the things we used to struggle with, through practicing Godliness in the power of the Holy Spirit, become struggles no more.

I don't know about you, but I walk fairly well. I have become used to the idea that one foot goes in front of the other, and the process gets repeated time and time again. It wasn't always that way. There was a time when just sitting up was a big enough challenge. Then I figured that I needed to learn to crawl. But pretty soon I discovered that crawling was cumbersome, so with a little help from my parents and various other devices, I learned how to move my legs in such a way that what might have seemed so impossible at one point in my life has now become something I don't even have to think about, as it is as natural to me as sleeping or eating. I mean I have even become so good that, if I so choose, I can walk backwards, side to side, bend my knees, jump up and down, pivot. I couldn't always do all of that, but that all changed over time with practice.

Isn't our spirituality, the life we have found in Jesus, the same way?

Let's carry the analogy a little bit further. Let's say one day something comes across the path I am walking on that I don't see, and I trip over it. I didn't intend to fall, but I still fell. Does that make me someone who lacks a sense of balance or someone who actively practices falling down? No. Therefore, even though I fell, it does not make me a fall-er (yes I made up that word). However, if I don't get back up from that fall, then what good is any practicing of walking I had done up to that point?

Often I think the holiness message, one that affirms we can be set free from sin, is misunderstood and carricuatured. I have never heard any holiness preacher once say that we cannot go back to sinning once we have been set free due to Christ's work, but that we cannot be both saved and sinner at the same time, and to be a sinner is to be one that practices sin. My guitarist friend cannot practice good playing skills and bad playing skills at the same time. He is either a good guitarist or a bad one. But he is not both.

And it's not an issue of whether or not I can go to bed at night wondering if somehow I had done something during the day in order to invalidate the salvation that was given to me through Christ. I have assurance that I am saved, and that frees me from unnecessary worry and doubt. If I do mess up, or stumble, it doesn't trigger a crises of faith. The Holy Spirit who is at work in me makes me aware of it, and enables me to deal with it, so that I can get back up and continue on how Christ would have me do. Sin no longer reigns in me, it is not something that I fear. But if I stumbled and didn't get back up, choosing instead to wallow in sin, then there is a problem.

Not allowing sin to be our motivation, but having the Holy Spirit guide us into all truth and enabling us to do righteousness, and subsequently following through in obedience to the Holy Spirit, means that while sin may be an ever present reality in our world, it doesn't have to reign in us.


  1. Thanks for this word, Pastor Chris. The analogies of a bay being fully human, yet needing to mature, and of your guitarist friend, and of learning to walk, are all especially helpful to me. I pray that the Lord helps us to all grow in holiness!

    This is really good stuff, my friend. Keep blogging!

    Chris Pulice

    1. Thank you so much Chris. I think too often we make the message overly complicated. Jesus used parables and analogies for a reason, to show that what He taught really wasn't as complicated as the religious people of His day were making it out to be.