Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Do We Understand New Life in Christ?

This is the last in a series of reflections on the messages at the recent Shepherd’s Conference put on by the Rocky Mountain Bible Mission.  Joel Van Hoogen was our main speaker and he spoke on Removing the Rubble from the Wells of our Salvation.

Joel sees our life as a well, with the life of Christ in us as the refreshing water in that well; water that is necessary for our life as a believer.  Rubble in our well blocks our access to that water.  In our lives, the rubble in our wells is often the doctrines of the Christian faith we lose hold of.  We fall into doubt and unbelief.  We distance ourselves from the authority of the Word of God.  And last, we lose sight of the power of regeneration.

Regeneration is part of the salvation process in which the Holy Spirit of God brings new life or a new creation to us.  Sin springs from spiritual deadness – apart from Christ, we are spiritually dead to God.  We cannot earn our way into His presence or manufacture a reconciled relationship with Him.  Being spiritually dead, a person is actually blind to God, sick in mind and soul and deaf to His truths.

All that changes at salvation.  We become brand new persons.  Sure, we all recognize that sin still infects our lives, but the Bible assures us that at the core of our being, we are new people in Christ.  As the apostle Paul notes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  (2 Cor. 5:17, ESV)

When we are regenerated, we are given new life in Christ.  The life of God resides in us.  As a result, every Christian, as time passes, should reflect that new life in increasing measure.  If we are a new creation at the core of our being, we should increasingly live like one.  This is what sets regeneration apart from another wonderful event that happens at salvation – our justification.  Justification is the divine act in which a holy God makes sinful humans acceptable to Him.  Justification happens by grace through faith.  But justification, though it is vital in salvation, is really invisible.  We do not see the fruits of justification.  But we do see the fruits of regeneration.  You see, regeneration leads us directly into sanctification, the process of the believer becoming more like Christ.  Sanctification is the outworking of our new creation life.  The life of Christ in us enables us to be more like Christ.

The idea of regeneration is so important to grasp hold of because it changes how we approach the Scriptures.  Every believer knows that the New Testament epistles have a lot of material on how a believer should live.  The apostle Paul alone dedicates chapter after chapter on what we tend to call ethical teaching. Unfortunately, reading those chapters can be discouraging for believers, because we assume that they are lists of what we need to do.  Frequently they are guilt-inducing in our lives.

Regeneration calls us to look at those chapters differently.  Rather than ethical demands written down to make us feel miserable, we should look at them as a description of the new creation in Christ.  These are the changes new life in Christ can make in us.  They are the pulsations of the regeneration life in us.  They become the things we want to do, and no longer the things we need to do.  If we are truly a new creation in Christ at the core of our being, we should desire to do these things, not out of guilt but out of a true response to who we really are. (And if we do not want to do these things, we need to take a hard look at where our walk with Christ really stands!) So the commandments of God in places like Ephesians 4-5 or Romans 12 or the book of 1 John are not demands, but enablements.  It is as if God, through the apostles, is saying, “This is a picture of the life of Christ in you.  I am waiting to enable you to look just like this.”

Do we understand that we are truly new creations in Christ?  And if we do, our lives should increasingly reflect that reality of that new creation.

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