The Magnificent Savior of the World
So now, it remains only to root out the sin value of self-determination in the human heart and replace it with the faith value of influential humility before God. This is where our magnificent Christ must very visibly enter the redemptive picture. He is the final, “Keystone” element in God’s long unfolding “Redemptive Blueprint.”
So, at this point, with some increased magnification, let’s overview of the role of Christ. When we have grasped God’s unabated intention for a sensitive and faith-expressive people, and when we have understood the true nature of grace, and sin, and faith, then Christ becomes all the more magnificent in His role (or perhaps better said, His dual role) as the one, true, and perfect Savior of the world.
So, let’s look at the “Alpha and Omega,” the “Beginning and the End,” the “Author and Finisher” of our faith. As all of these descriptions which are assigned to Him in the New Testament indicate, indeed, we are really looking at one Christ in two distinct roles.
The Dying Christ: Our Reconciliation
Let’s begin by considering the “Dying Christ.” He is the Christ we celebrate first. It is His purpose to satisfy God’s justice by dying for our sin, in our place. In doing so, He secures our forgiveness and enables a renewed relationship with God the Father. In short, Christ’s purpose as The Dying Christ is simply to initiate our reconciliation to God.
And, the sacrifice of the Dying Christ not only brings forgiveness and reconciliation, but it also provides an initial protection to the believer which the Church commonly refers to as Imputed Righteousness. Paul describes this benefit in Romans, chapter 4. There, he says this, “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.’”
A Sidebar: Imputed Righteousness:
Here, a brief sidebar may be needed to explain this initial benefit which springs simply from our faith in Christ. To begin, let’s just note two things which are of primary importance regarding imputed righteousness.
1. Imputed righteousness is based in the work of Christ, not those of the believer.
At the moment of our conversion, when we make a sincere decision to embrace the Lordship of Christ, everything instantly changes regarding our standing before God. Remember, it is this decision to happily embrace, in Christ, God’s values and directions for our life which constitutes the Redemptive Faith which saves our soul.
And, it is this profound change of heart, alone, before any connected expressions of works or actions ever occur, which removes our condemnation and restores us to a righteous standing in God’s eyes. And this righteous standing is what the apostle makes reference to above as Imputed Righteousness. So, immediately, based merely on this humble embrace of Christ in our heart, we are absolved of all guilt before God. This is just the simple nature of that conversion moment.
Thus, imputed righteousness is merely an ascribed righteousness. That is, it is merely assigned to the believer by God. And, it has no basis in actual merit on the part of the believer.
Rather, this assigned righteousness is based entirely in the merits of the work of the Dying Christ on the Cross. It is He who enables this assignment of righteousness by taking, what should have been, our punishment on Himself to satisfy the requirements of divine justice.
Thus, as we embrace the Lordship of Christ, we are completely absolved of divine condemnation for our previous life approach of self-determination by His substitutionary death. And, this is true even though the believer’s actual reality remains unchanged save in one thing – that new heart motive of humility toward God (faith).
So, this imputed righteousness is born in the moment that we honestly embrace the Lordship of Christ. And, it does, indeed, attach as an initial benefit and protection for the new believer. But, it is by no means the be-all, end-all of the redemptive impact. In truth, this benefit is only one early aspect of God’s much larger and more sophisticated redemptive process.
2. Imputed Righteousness Is a Transitional Protection
The second, and perhaps lesser understood, point regarding this assigned righteousness is that it is transitional in nature. This preliminary protection for the believer anticipates a time when the believer will enter into a reality-based righteousness, which is enabled through our later Spiritual Merger with Christ.
Paul speaks of this reality-based righteousness in Romans, chapter 6, where he says, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. [the shared instinctive goodness of the divine Spirit]
“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” [Brackets Added]
So, Paul does introduce us to the idea of imputed righteousness in chapter 4 of Romans. But here, in chapter 6 of Romans, he also introduces us to a reality-based righteousness.
The Spirit Source
And, the apostle doesn’t stop there. In Chapter 8 of Romans, Paul also introduces us to the power source which enables a reality-based righteousness in the life of the believer: the indwelling divine Spirit. He writes in chapter 8: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
So, as this passage unfolds, it becomes clear that Paul is not speaking of our future resurrection, as might be first assumed. Rather, he is describing the here-and-now, every day empowerment which is available to the believer in this physical life – in this “mortal body.” He is simply explaining that the Divine Spirit is the enabling resource who brings to us the present capacity for a righteousness which occurs in our everyday life as the Holy Spirit empowers us from within.
Imputed vs. Reality Based
So, how do we reconcile the purpose of imputed righteousness with that of reality-based righteousness? It is simple, really. Imputed righteousness protects believers prior to their later Spiritual integration into the empowering character essence of Christ. And, through that empowering Spiritual merger, the believer then becomes capable of actually living a consistently righteous life. But again note, this real righteousness is enabled, not from the human resource, but by the sufficiency of Living Christ operating, in Spirit form, within the believer.
It’s By Christ’s Faith
It works like this. At the point of his or her Spiritual merger with Christ, the believer literally experiences an integration with the character essence of Christ. And, as part of this integration, the believer actually becomes connected to the stronger faith of Christ, as Paul declares in Philippians 3. There, he writes, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Ref. King James Version)
So, ultimately, the believer is, in real terms, connected to Christ’s strong and consistent faith through the Spiritual merger. And, through this new, Christ empowered humility (faith value) he or she is truly enabled to conquer the sin motive of self-determination (the motive to gratify self). And through that victory, the believer then becomes consistently faith-expressive toward God in the real terms of his or her daily lifestyle.
Thus, when we are merged with the character essence of Christ through the Spiritual baptism, the believer enters an entirely new everyday reality. It is a reality where he or she is actually well equipped by the Living Christ to experience this real and consistent reality-based righteousness.
Paul describes this Christ empowered life this way in Ephesians, chapter 2: “For by grace [God’s natural goodness] you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, [the gift of Christ’s faith] not of works, lest anyone should boast.” [Brackets added]
So, as it turns out, the divine faith value in Christ’s heart actually becomes the “universal Spiritual gift” which is made available to all believers through the Spiritual merger. And, the apostle describes the result of that wonderful gift this way. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Now, through this mysterious, mystical merger with Christ, those wonderful New Testament implications of the prophesy of Ezekiel are completely fulfilled. Speaking for God, the prophet prophesied of this, “…a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ref. Ezekiel 36:26-27 KJV)
Imputed Righteousness: A Protection of Ever Diminishing Necessity
Also, imputed righteousness is best understood as a safeguard for the believer which is ever diminishing – not in its availability or its effectiveness, but in its necessity. Certainly, it can be truthfully said that this assigned righteousness is ever in place for the sincerely faithful. But, it is equally true that the need for this protection is an ever lessening necessity as the believer becomes ever more empowered by Christ within as the believer matures in His character essence.
The Non-Responsible Exaggeration
Now, let’s briefly look at how the non-responsible approach to redemption, again, exaggerates the idea of imputed righteousness to the point of absurdity. And, we will also consider the distorting impacts of that exaggeration upon various other aspects of the true Gospel.
Obviously, imputed righteousness is a part of Christ’s initial benefits to the believer, as we’ve seen. But, the non-responsible approach does, indeed, horribly exaggerate the scope and use of that benefit. According to the non-responsible gospel, imputed righteousness is all there is for the believer. It simply maintains that this is the only kind of righteousness which is possible for a chronically wayward humanity, even in Christ.
The non-responsible approach entirely denies the possibility that, in the Living Christ, a believer can become capable of a consistently righteous everyday reality. So again, if that is the case, then, God cannot justly require such. And so, the non-responsible teaching is that, indeed, He does not.
In all of this, we simply see yet one more example of the core contention flowing out of the antichrist ethos. This denial of Christ’s capacity to symbiotically empower the believer is just one more version of the idea that Christ cannot and does not live within the human form. But, as we have seen, in truth, the Resurrected Christ living within the human nature of the believer is precisely the means by which God’s people are set free and empowered to become consistently faith-expressive.
A False Security
Also, to use this exaggerated view of imputed righteousness to mask God’s true requirement of a reality-based righteousness in His people, leads to a false sense of security. It is true that, flowing out of our faith, imputed righteousness is ever in place as a safety net for the momentary missteps of a believer during his or her growth in Christ toward maturity.
But, it is also equally and simultaneously true that we do not survive divine scrutiny merely by this assigned righteousness. Again we are ultimately secured only by true faith, the humble embrace, in Christ, of God’s values and directions for our life – which, in turn, does, indeed, then results in a Christ empowered obedience.
Thus, in the Gospel of Matthew we read that Jesus said this. “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Matthew is describing a very tangible faith-expression here, not an exaggerated dependence on imputed righteousness.
Distortion = More Distortion
There is also another distortion which flows out of the need to exaggerate imputed righteousness in order to measure up under divine scrutiny. This distortion leads to a badly flawed understanding of the role that works play in our salvation. When one subscribes to the idea that the believer’s righteousness has no necessity of a basis in reality, it is no great leap to the idea that good works are completely inconsequential and thus, entirely optional. But, in truth, this is a grotesque perversion of God’s genuine intention for His people.
As we have already seen from the writings of James in the New Testament, in fact, just the reverse is true. Certainly, the expression of faith, in the form of God-directed good works, is not only possible and a righteous thing, but they are absolutely expected by God.
Obviously, it is a true teaching of scripture that mankind cannot earn God’s approval or God’s Heaven by simply producing his own self-determined good works. Those actually appear as “filthy rags” in God’s sight.
But, God-directed works, done in faithful response to His leading, and enabled by the divine Spirit, are absolutely a natural necessity to a heart which is truly attuned to God’s heart. And, they are of the greatest value.
And certainly, these works are no threat to the glory of what God is doing for mankind in Christ. Rather, they are the perfect expression of it. These works are faith expressed. They are faith made complete. So, the challenge of James is worth reviewing here. Again, he says, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
So, looking at an overview of these ideas, some things become very obvious. For example, it becomes obvious that this exaggeration of the scope of imputed righteousness is clearly designed merely to support the prime tenet of the non-responsible gospel. Again, that tenet holds that mankind has no hope of achieving a real and consistent righteousness. Thus, it follows that man must entirely rely on imputed righteousness in the face of God’s judgement.
But, as we’ve seen, this idea is simply not true. The Living Christ brings with Him the power to set believers free to become consistently faith-expressive – both in his heart and in his daily life. So, the notion that the sin impulse is completely irresistible has been made an entirely untenable position by the Living Christ. Indeed, His empowering Spirit enables believers, every day, to consistently rise to meet God’s expectation of real righteousness in the lives of His people.
Now, Back To The Dying Christ
With these thoughts in mind, let’s now move back to our focus on the Dying Christ. Obviously, we love Him; and, we celebrate Him. We celebrate His great love for us as clearly shown by the Cross which He endured in order to initiate a renewed and deeply meaningful relationship between mankind and God.
We should note, however, that this is all the Dying Christ did, and all He was intended to do. And, while we fully acknowledge and rejoice in what Christ did by His Cross, we should not stop there. We should also celebrate the Living Christ and His work which takes the believer to completion and a profound newness of heart and life experience.
Paul confirms this in his statement in Romans, chapter 5. There he says this, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
So, what about the Living Christ, the Christ of the Resurrection? What is the nature of His role in redemption? Let’s now explore further the realities contained in Paul’s last phrase, “...we shall be saved by His life.”
The Living Christ: Our Completion
God’s authentic redemptive plan not only requires the means of forgiveness and reconciliation for humanity, but also the means of real renewal. For that reason, it is impossible for a believer to experience the completion of God’s redemptive work without experiencing the reality of the Living Christ within.
The initial purpose of the Resurrection of Christ is to provide us with a Living Savior. The reason we need a Living Savior is so we can experience a vital symbiosis (an energizing connection) with Him, enabling us to share in His character essence. And, the purpose of that sharing is to renew our core person, our own character essence.
So, at this point, we are moving past the benefits of the Cross to that mysterious, mystical, miraculous, and wondrous benefit of the Resurrection for the here-and-now. We are about to look at something, the likes of which, the world never anticipated nor saw before these New Testament times. As the apostle, Paul, put it in the book of Colossians, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
The Believer’s Completion
So, to put it succinctly, it is the Living Christ, in Spirit form, who actually completes the believer’s renewal as God’s authentic redemptive plan calls for. The New Testament speaks clearly of the radical, here-and-now transformation of believers in such passages as 2 Corinthians, chapter 5. There the Bible says this. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
And, in the book of Ephesians, chapter 4, the apostle, Paul, writes this instruction. “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”
And, in the book of Romans, chapter 12, we see a similar expression. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
The Divine Merger
This transformation of the believer is accomplished in the very unique way that we have already noted. Literally, it is achieved through the integration of Christ’s character essence with that of the believer. The apostle, Peter, described it in these terms in his writings. “ Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (Ref. 2 Peter 1:2-4 NKJV)
In the New Testament, we are first introduced to this opportunity for profound personal renewal in the book of Acts, chapter 2, which records this account. “Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Jesus also speaks of this divine merger in John 14. He says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”
So, what are the implications of all this for the believer? In simple terms, it means that the believer is no longer consigned to his or her previous inner and behavioral failures. Rather, there is now this real possibility of a true heart agreement with God and an everyday reality-based righteousness through the empowering presence of the Living Christ within. It means that God has, indeed, found a way to achieve a thorough and beautiful renewal for His people in His Christ.
The Great Mystery:
A Completely Unique Event
As mentioned, this Spiritual merger with the Living Christ is a completely unique event. There has never been anything quite like this before. This is the mysterious New Testament conclusion of God’s redemptive plan which Paul speaks of in Colossians, chapter 1. There he says, “...I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
This unique dimension of God’s redemptive process is, indeed, the primary distinctive of the New Testament. The empowerment of the Living Christ within the believer: this is the final redemptive piece which makes everything work, which brings everything together.
The Benefits of the Spiritual Baptism:
It is this integration with the character essence of Christ which enables the believer to bear the “character fruit,” or said another way, the character traits of His character. Again, Paul describes this blessing in Galatians, chapter 5. He writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...”
The New Birth in Real Terms
This divine partnership is the means to truly realize the new birth that Jesus spoke of in John, chapter 3, where it says, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God... That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’”
And, this oneness with Jesus is the power to fulfill, not just the letter, but the very spirit of God’s law. Paul indicates this in Romans, chapter 8, where he says, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Ref. King James Version)
God's Vision Enabled
This mysterious merger enables the realization of God’s redemptive vision of a truly meaningful relationship with a faith-expressive people. Again, Ezekiel prophesied of God’s plan for this wondrous transformation of His people long before it actually unfolded in these New Testament times. God said, through that prophet, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
A New Creature
This amazing superimposition of Christ’s core essence over that of the believer’s is, indeed, like giving the believer a new character DNA which completely redefines him or her. And, it is this “Christ code overwrite,” in their core person which literally transforms the believer into a new being, ultimately.
An Empowered Faith
As noted earlier in this section, through this character integration with Christ, the believer is not now limited to merely his own faith. Now, he has access to the divine humility (the divine faith) as well as the other values of Christ’s character. And this changes everything
Power Over The Sin Motive
At this point, the believer is no longer at the mercy of that arrogant primary sin motive (my will be done). Now, the power of Christ’s faith (consistent humility toward the Father’s will) rules in the believer’s heart, too. So, in effect, Christ, living within the believer, overpowers the sin value and firmly establishes the faith value as the ascendant value on the most primary governing level of the believer’s heart.
How This Works
But, let’s unpack, a bit more, this idea the Living Christ empowering the believer to consistency. As noted earlier, it is the inner dimension of sin, the heart value, which gives rise to the act of sin, the expression. Therefore, the ultimate remedy for sin has to be to expel that heart value, that initiating source of all sin, from the believer’s heart. So again, that sinful heart motive of self-determination becomes God’s first target in the redemptive process.
But, as noted in our discussion of the nature of sin, this value not only exists on the conscious level, but also on the subconscious level of the heart. This level is beyond the volitional control of the believer. Her faith operates only on the conscious level, but it cannot reach this subconscious level.
Paul describes this helplessness in Romans, chapter 7, as we saw earlier when he says, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.
“If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice."
The “Target Event”
So, it is the role and mission of the Living Christ to deal with this subconscious sin motive. He alone can accomplish this work. Thus, after a time of humbling, essentially a time of asking the believer to confront these still lingering subconscious feelings of self-sufficiency, the Living Christ chooses a moment to merge with the believer in Spirit form to end this dilemma of a divided heart. So, in that moment of merger, He superimposes His character essence, containing His value system, over that of the believer.
To be sure, this new “character DNA” from Christ, and the values contained therein, arrive in primordial, or infant, form just as is the case with our physical DNA. But, with time, this new “Christ code,” ultimately entirely redefines our character essence. Thus, this merger with the Living Christ marks the final redemptive phase of the believer’s renewal.
Truly, this redefining merger can legitimately be called the Target Event of the New Testament. It is this event which ultimately enables the believer to experience a true heart-oneness with God in very real terms. And that heart-likeness then becomes the matrix of a very durable and deeply meaningful daily relationship with God.
The Most Important Result
As a result of this event, something spectacular happens within the believer regarding that latent sin motive on the subconscious level of her heart. As explained earlier, the strong faith of Christ decisively overwhelms that subconscious sin motive (the urgings for self-determination) and establishes the faith motive (the desire to please God) as the ascendant motive in the believer’s heart – even on this subconscious level.
As a result, the believer is no longer divided in her heart between God’s will and her own. Now, that daily conflict between the subconscious selfishness of the believer and her conscious desire to agree with and please God, is ended.
And, because her heart is no longer torn and divided between God and self, there is a true peace within the believer, herself. And, there is a very natural serenity in her relationship with God in the absence of that subconscious conflict.
And this new, undivided heart fulfills the very definition of God’s desire for “Holiness” in his people: as it is written, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” The idea is that now, finally, through this empowering merger with the Living Christ, mankind is afforded the opportunity for a heart which has only one primary devotion, God (not God and self) on both its conscious and subconscious level. Now, at last, the believer can experience, in Christ, an undivided devotion to true goodness – which is, again, the very definition of holiness.
The Old Man, The New Man
Paul speaks of this transformation in Christ and its impact in terms of the old us and the new us. He very eloquently describes this personal genesis in Romans, chapter 6, where he says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin…
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”
Created According to God
In Ephesians, chapter 4, Paul goes on to, again, juxtapose the old, self-determined man and the new, empowered man, who is re-created by the indwelling Christ. He says, “But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness.”
Free At Last, Free At Last
In that moment when the subconscious sin motive ceases to be ascendant in the believer’s heart, the old man is entirely subjugated and the new man is truly born in the Living Christ. No more is this believer governed in his subconscious by the impulse of self-determination or the idea of self-sufficiency. Now, a true humility before God reigns in his heart.
And, as long as he chooses to be so, this Christ-empowered believer will be free to follow the impulses of his new, empowered faith. And that empowered freedom ultimately enables an entirely new and godly creature and a transformed life experience.
To be sure, there will be some battles on other, less primary, levels of the heart. There will be other secondary sinful values to conquer, the children of that original sinful essence. They are the offshoots of that essential sin value of self-determination that have rooted themselves throughout the various levels of the heart and life of the believer: the love of money, inappropriate sexual desires, covetousness etc.
But, it is only a matter of time. Because the root of sin is dead in the believer’s core person, the offshoots will die also. They will all succumb to that ruling faith motive in the believer’s heart as the “Christ code” finds ever enlarging expression both within and without in the believer’s lifestyle realities.
The Transformative Walk
It is true that this real transformation of the believer begins with his personal merger with the Living Christ and the character impact which we have described. However, the believer’s transformation by no means ends in the moment of that merger. Rather, that divine integration initiates a transformative every day walk with Christ as any intimate relationship would necessarily involve.
And, indeed, redemption at its core is ever and unceasingly about intimacy and a deeply meaningful divine companionship. And, as with the building of any important relationship, it is about an every day process of discovery, and the shared struggles and joys which bind hearts together.
Heart-oneness in the divine relationship, as in a marriage or child rearing, only comes through this very active bonding process of sharing life together. No important relationship, and certainly not the redemptive relationship, can survive compartmentalization, strategic “handling,” or outright estrangement. Those things are actually the bane of a healthy and deeply meaningful companionship. And, at the end of it all, redemption is really only about restoring a truly meaningful friendship with our Creator.
Again, It’s Like DNA
And our growth in that relationship is, again, easily likened to our physical development. For example, in the case of the physical DNA code, the genetic message is there from the beginning; but, it only fully expresses itself with time.
So, also, is the spiritual process. Again, we receive Christ’s character essence, including His values, in a basic form as we experience our merger with Him. God then uses the circumstances of life experience to bring full expression to this “Christ code.”
And, just as there are the inevitable mistakes and setbacks in the physical process of growth and development, these also occur in the spiritual process of growing up into the fullness of the Christ character. However, these struggles no more discount the verity of the Spiritual process than they do the physical process.
It is all still the way to maturity. It is still that all-inclusive process which brings us to the completion which Paul describes it in Ephesians, chapter 4, where he says,“ ... unto a perfect [mature] man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ...” [Bracket added]
But, It’s Never Merely A Growth Process
As a final note to these thoughts, we should also be careful to point out that Christian maturity can never be thought of as only a growth process or expanded life experience. As noted, it certainly initiates a growth process; but, to be clear, it is not merely a growth process, and never can be.
There can be no significant character transformation until there is the new character essence which is supplied by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. And, this only occurs through the believer’s personal Spiritual merger with Christ.
This is why Jesus would say in John, chapter 15, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
Without that personal integration with Christ which brings the vitality of the “Vine,” to the believer, even very intense human effort at self-improvement will always prove profoundly insufficient. To be sure, human effort can, in some measure, make us wiser and enables us to live somewhat more consistently than if we did not try at all.
But, mere human effort cannot make us one in heart with God. It cannot enable us to conquer the primary sin value in the subconscious. It cannot bring us to the empowering faith of Christ within. It cannot enable a truly intimate, communion. It cannot bring surpassing peace within ourselves and with God.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” Being re-created in Christ is the function of an integration with Christ, not simply trying harder or learning more or living longer as part of the Church.
In the Living Christ: Faith Empowers Grace
So now, finally, with this surprise, New Testament remedy for the sin motive – the Living Christ within – God’s child is able to experience the wonder, and freedom, and easy naturalness of an internal heart government of Grace. Gone, now, is the awkwardness of living by external rules. Now, the innate goodness of Christ has also become our instinct for good through our Spiritual merger with Him. And those very natural inclinations are now empowered to consistent expression by the strong faith of Christ which we also now share.
Thus, where once there was this disabling subconscious disagreement with what we consciously knew to be good, now there is the natural aspiration to goodness as well as the power to perform it. So, just as Paul described, a Christ empowered believer is able to become the “servant of righteousness.”
It Takes Both
So, in very real terms, the Living Christ truly does complete the redemptive work of God in us. Thus, we can see our Christ, as the “Author” of our faith, through the reconciling work of His Death on the Cross. And, we can also see Him as the “Finisher” of our faith, as the Living Christ of the Resurrection who shares his empowering divine essence with us. He is the Beginning of God’s redemptive work in our hearts; but, He is also the End of it.
Obviously, the two roles of Christ complement each other. The Dying Christ enables the work of the Living Christ. The Living Christ completes the work of the Dying Christ. And, Christ, in either role, is indispensable.
The Christ of the Cross must fix the consequences of sin, restore relationship, and provide the protection of imputed righteousness to the believer. The Living Christ, then, brings the final cleansing of the subconscious sin motive, and thus, an undivided, fully devoted heart, and ultimately a reality based righteousness.
Without the forgiveness and initial protection afforded by the Dying Christ, the Living Christ would never have a chance to do His work. On the other hand, without the work of the Living Christ, redemption is reduced to a mere veneer with no substantive impact upon the actual nature of mankind.
So, truly, in His dual role, Christ is the “Alpha and Omega” of God’s redemptive work. Christ, in both of His roles, was always intended to be the means to enable the Father’s original vision of a holy and faith-expressive people. And, through both of these distinct roles, He does it superbly.
Now, Let’s Return To – “The Roman Dilemma”
Finally, we’re now ready to return to Romans and explore the true nature of the believer’s inner turmoil, and again, with some magnification of the details, which Paul exposed there, in chapter 7. If you remember, this is that clash between the motive and faith and the motive of self-determination in the conflicted heart of the believer which the non-responsible gospel contends is the inescapable daily fate of the anemic believer. Well, already we’ve seen the fallacy of this contention, many time over. But now, let’s go discover the fullness of the truth in the next section entitled, A Return To The Roman Dilemma.
[Continue to Section 7]
[Continue to Section 7]