Making it Our Practice

John 3:16 ESV

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God the Father loved the people of this world so much that he sent his Son (God the Son) to the earth to take on human form, and ultimately to die on a cross for our sins. When Jesus was crucified on that cross, he who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21). Thus, when he died, our sins were put to death with him. And, when he rose from the dead, he rose in victory over sin, death, Satan and hell.

All this Jesus did for us on that cross so that we, by faith in him, might die with him to sin, and live with him to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. For, on that cross, via his blood which was shed for our sins, he bought us back for God that we might now, by faith in him, be God’s possession, and that he might be our Lord (owner-master), so that our lives would now be lived for the glory of God (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 1 Co. 6:20; 2 Co. 5:15; Tit. 2:14; Eph. 2:10).

But, to have this eternal life with God, we must be believing (present tense) on Jesus Christ. Not one of us is saved from our sins on the basis of past belief. Our faith must be current. And, scripture teaches that it must endure to the end (1 Co. 15:2; Col 1:21-23; II Tim 2:10-13; Hebrews 3:6, 14-15).

So, what is this faith we must have? Well, the word “faith” or “belief” has to do with being persuaded of God, i.e. this faith comes from God, and thus it submits to God (to Jesus), and it follows the Lord in obedience. For, not one of us can even come to faith in Jesus Christ unless the Father first draws us to believe in Jesus (Jn. 6:44; Ac. 11:17-18; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; Eph. 2:8-10).

So, when we believe on Jesus Christ for our salvation, because this belief comes from God, and it is persuaded of God as to his righteousness and holiness, therefore we are crucified with Christ in death to sin and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Rom. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24; Lu. 9:23-25).

Thus, this is what it means to be “born again” (ref: Jn. 3:1-15). Our old life of living for sin and self must die and be buried with Christ, and then he raises us to new life in him, born anew of the Spirit of God. He transforms us in heart and mind away from a life of sin to now living our lives by the Spirit of God, in following our Lord Jesus in surrender to his will and to his ways.

John 3:17-18 ESV

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

When Jesus Christ, God the Son, came to earth the first time, he came to save people from their sins, not to eternally condemn them for their sins. That will happen at his second coming, when he returns to the earth both to judge the people of this world (all who did not believe in him), and to take his bride (his followers, his saints) to be with him for eternity.

But, we should not misinterpret this passage to mean that Jesus, when he walked this earth, made no judgments regarding sin. He most certainly did! He talked much about judgment, and about hell (eternal damnation), and he called for people to repent of their sins, i.e. to leave their lives of sin behind them to follow him in obedience to his will for their lives. And, he was quite clear on the subject of what will happen to us if we don’t walk with him in obedience, and if we don’t leave it all behind to follow him.

He said that if we want to come after him, we must deny self, take up our cross daily, and follow (obey) him. He said that if we want to hold on to our lives (of living for sin and self), that we will lose them for eternity, but that if we lose our lives for his sake (die with him to sin) we will have eternal life (Lu. 9:23-25; cf. Jn. 6:35-66; Jn. 8:51; Jn. 10:27-30; Jn. 14:23-24).

John 3:19-21 ESV

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

What I have come to learn over the years is that it all comes down to what we practice, but not in our flesh, but in the power of God’s Spirit at work within our hearts and lives. For, Jesus died on that cross that we might be delivered out of our slavery to (making a practice of) sin, and so we might now become bond-slaves (making a practice) of his righteousness.

Over and over in the New Testament we read that it is those who are walking by the Spirit, and who are being led by the Spirit, who are the children of God, and who have eternal life with God. And, it is those who are walking (living in practice) according to the flesh who are eternally condemned and who have no hope of eternal life with God (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Gal. 5:19-21; Gal. 6:7-8; etc.).

For, our faith in Jesus Christ is not head knowledge only, but it is what we believe being put into practice in our daily lives. Jesus didn’t die on that cross merely to forgive us our sins and to promise us heaven when we die. But, he died to deliver us out of our addictions to sin so that we might now walk in his righteousness and holiness.

So, if we make a profession of Jesus Christ as Savior of our lives, but we think that is all there is to it, and that faith does not have to impact our lives all that much, then we need to think again. For, it is not God-given faith if it doesn’t submit to Jesus Christ as Lord, and if it doesn’t walk with him in obedience to his Word. It is of the flesh, and it will end in death, not life.

But, this is not to say that we will never sin again. Scripture indicates that it is still possible for a believer in Jesus to sin (1 Jn. 2:1-2), but that Jesus is our advocate to the Father when we do sin, so that we are not condemned. Nonetheless, this is not free license to continue in our sinful addictions and to think that heaven is still our eternal destiny.

For, it doesn’t matter what we profess with our mouths. If we hate the light of truth and we love the darkness instead, we are lying to ourselves if we think that we are truly saved from our sins and bound for heaven. For, if we live by the flesh, we will die in our sins, but if we walk by the Spirit, we have eternal life with God (1 Jn. 1:5-9; Rom. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:19-21; Gal. 6:7-8).

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer

Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

*copyright status is public domain

Sunday, May 26, 2019

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