So how much are you forgiven? Let me use an analogy to explain. If you traveled north in an airplane with the intent of traveling around the earth, what direction would you be traveling after you crossed over the North Pole? You would be traveling south, even if initially you started traveling north. If you travel south around the earth, you will eventually start traveling north when you move beyond the South Pole.
What is amazing is that when you travel eastward, you will always be traveling east; you will never be traveling west. Conversely, if you take off in the same plane and travel west, you will continue traveling west.
Aren’t you glad that your sins are not forgiven as far as the north is from the south! But your sins are eternally forgiven as far as the east is from the west. Hallelujah!
GOD’S PROMISES ARE TRUE
Listen to the prophet Ezekiel.
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances (Ezekiel 36:25-27 NASB).
Did you notice the additional promise that God makes towards us? He promises to give us a brand-new heart and to place a brand-new spirit in us. He will make us clean and we will obey Him. While we are responsible to cooperate with God’s leadership, God himself will be in charge of our new and consistent behavior. Always remember that God is not going to force Himself upon anyone. He is looking for voluntary lovers who will invite Him to change their behaviors to align and be consistent with who we are to Him.
My favorite verse concerning the revelation of our identity as the bride is “Let us keep living by the same standard to which we have attained” (Phil. 3:16). I note a couple of things in this verse. First, we are to keep living. It doesn’t say that we are to keep dying (to the flesh or to the sinful nature within you). Secondly, we have already attained the standard of Jesus because we have died to our old self (once and for all) and we now live for Christ! We are to soar consistently on the outside because of who we already are on the inside.
The Greek word for sin is harmatia, which means, “missing the mark.”While this is biblically sound, I have a practical definition that I have adopted and can truly relate to. I define sin as trying to get spiritual life out of things or actions that are incapable of producing life because a person is unaware or has forgotten that they are a child of the life-giving God. In short, sin is the result of forgetting who you are or trying to get life out of dead stuff!
One of my original mentors, Jeff VanVonderon wrote a powerful book entitled Tired of Trying to Measure Up. In his book, Jeff has a brilliant statement defining sin. “Anyone or anything from which you and I try to acquire life, value and meaning, outside of the true God, is a false god.”
WHY NOT PUT THE “FLESH TO DEATH”?
If you have to put the flesh to death (die to self), then it’s you doing it and that is self-effort. Why would you have to put the flesh to death when the flesh is already dead? The goal of the Christian life is not to stop sinning. The goal of the believer’s life is to keep remembering who you are, that you are permanently stationed at the banqueting table. The “old self” (see Rom. 6:6) can no more be re-crucified than Christ can be, and even if it could be, you couldn’t do it!
The fact that Jesus came in the flesh does not make Him automatically sinful. It does not mean that He had a sinful nature. Jesus always looked to His Father as His source for life, strength, purpose, and desire. Even when Satan came and tempted Jesus to look to natural things to meet His needs, He never turned to those natural things to meet His needs. He lived in the flesh but never did things according to the flesh. He walked according to His Father who was always His source for everything.
Before we were Christians, we were in the flesh and we also did things according to the flesh (the flesh was our source for life). We tried quite unsuccessfully to get life out of dead things such as money, status, inappropriate sex, and people’s opinions. And even though the flesh never delivered, we kept trying because we did things according to the flesh.
A person actually becomes a Christian when he or she gets their life from God. His Spirit is the only source that can give us life. When we get life from the Spirit at the time of salvation, the natural flesh is no longer our source. Galatians 5:24 clearly states this fact, Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (NASB). Paul clearly emphasizes this truth again in his letter to the Corinthians.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20 NIV).
THE LAST SAMURAI
In the magnificent movie The Last Samurai, Tom Cruise plays a character by the name of Algren, an ex-United States Army Captain. In the movie, the westernized Japanese Imperial Army recruits Algren, because he is a decorated warrior, to help train their soldiers to defeat the ancient samurai warriors.
Within days of his arrival in Japan, Algren is informed that he must quickly train the Japanese army for immediate battle with the samurai. Algren obstinately tells the head of the Japanese army that the troops are not ready for any battle, much less against the ancient samurai warriors who relied solely on their swords and armor. He had been training the Japanese soldiers on the use of American guns and ammunition and recognized they were not proficient yet. It was obvious that the samurai were superior warriors and that the Imperial army would be easily defeated.
Algren is reluctantly forced into battle with his unprepared army. They battle against each other until the samurai warriors defeat the Imperial army and take Algren captive.
During the battle, Chief Samurai Katsumoto notices Algren’s valiant skills and great passion to survive. As a result, the chief samurai befriends Algren while he is confined at the samurai camp. Over the next year, Algren is captivated with the samurai lifestyle and becomes very skilled in samurai warfare.
During the brutal, final battle scene of the movie, most of the samurai die, including Katsumoto, who becomes known as the last samurai. Algren is also wounded and in deep emotional pain because his good friend Katsumoto has died at the hands of the Japanese army.
A few days later, Algren presents Katsumoto’s sword to the young Japanese emperor. As Algren walks up to the young Emperor, he respectfully bows and lowers his head. As Algren is frozen in his submitted pose, he offers up the last samurai’s sword to the young emperor.
The young emperor says, “Tell me how did he die?”
Algren looks into his eyes and—with great pain and agony—says, “I will not tell you how he died, I will tell you how he lived.”
IT’S TIME FOR THE TRUTH
My friends, it is time for the bride of Christ to stop telling everyone how he or she has died to the flesh or the sinful nature. We need to start telling everyone how we live for God. We are alive because Jesus rose from the dead.
So let us start remembering that the flesh is dead and start focusing our lives in Christ.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace (NIV).
YES AND AMEN!