“We preach Christ crucified”
1 Corinthians 1:23

God’s Glorious Church His Eternal Purpose

“Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy… to present her to Himself as a glorious church.”  Ephesians 5:25-27

   The Bible uses several terms to describe the church: the city of God, the temple of the Spirit, and the body of Christ.  However, the “bride of Christ” may best describe the divine relationship God is preparing the church to have with His Son.  This divine union is the eternal purpose of God the Father.  It was in God’s heart from before time to obtain a bride and holy companion for His Son.  The apostle Paul knew God’s desire when he declared, “I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin (2 Corinthians 11:2).”  It was also God’s intent to reveal His divine power and wisdom through the church.  Paul said that God’s grace was given to him “to bring to light… the mystery, which for ages was hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 3:9-11).”

   From the beginning to the end of the Bible, God’s eternal purpose for man is evident. In the Book of Genesis, we see God created Adam in His image to have fellowship with man and to have man rule over the earth (Genesis 2:27-28; 3:8).  But instead of preserving his friendship with God and his dominion over the earth, Adam disobeyed God and fell under Satan’s domain.  Adam’s rebellion against God affected all mankind and the entire human race inherited his sinful spiritual nature (Romans 5:19).  Yet despite Adam’s fall, God did not change His divine plan.  At the right time, God sent His Son, born as a man, to destroy Satan’s power and restore mankind to Himself.  Jesus Christ came to earth with one overriding mission – to die on the cross in order to rescue us from Satan’s rule and reconcile us to God (Colossians 1:13-22).  Christ’s crucifixion is, therefore, the most momentous event in history and the triumph of the ages.  Through His death on the cross, Jesus Christ redeemed us from both the penalty of sin and   the power of sin.  On the cross, Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for our sin so we might drink His cup of salvation.  God used the death of His only Son to perform a divine heart transplant  and save us from certain doom.  When Jesus died on the cross, God exchanged our terminally sin-sick heart with His Son’s divine heart (Romans 6:1-11; Colossians 2:11-3:4).  God then raised Jesus Christ from the dead and exalted Him as the eternal King of glory (Philippians 2:9-11).  Therefore, God included us in His Son’s death so that His risen Son might sovereignly live in us (Romans 6:5; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27).

   From His Son’s death and resurrection, God has created a people in His Son’s image – the body of Christ, the church, who is destined to fulfill His eternal purpose (Romans 8:29-30).  What Adam lost for mankind by his disobedience, Christ regained for us by His obedience to the death.   For as a husband loves his wife, Christ loved the church and gave His life for her.  Just as Eve was created from Adam’s body to be his bride and glory, God created the church from Christ’s body to be His bride and glory.  And as Eve was created as Adam’s helpmate to reign over the earth, God created the church as Christ’s helpmate to reign with Him in the age to come.

   By the cross, our Lord Jesus Christ destroyed Satan’s power to keep us captive to sin and death (Colossians 2:10; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8).  However, the church has, in the past, chiefly failed to enforce Christ’s victory because she has tried to do, in the power of her soul, what she can only do through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection.  “And they overcame him (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death (Revelation 12:11).”  The blood speaks of the triumphant work that Christ has accomplished by His crucifixion.  When the church knows (and acts on) the divine truth that she has died with Christ, the gates of hell will not be able to prevail against her.  When the church realizes she no longer has a sinful nature inherited from Adam and she is a holy new creation in Christ, she will not only vanquish Satan, she will fulfill her eternal destiny.  “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down (Revelation 12:10).”  When the church puts no confidence in her natural morality and ability and by faith trusts solely in Christ to overcome through her, she will be ready to reign with Him (Philippians 3:3).  “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready (Revelation 19:6-7).”  Under the Old Covenant, when Solomon completed building God’s temple, the glory of God filled the temple, which was His house (2 Chronicles 7:2).  Now, under the New Covenant, when the Holy Spirit has completed building the body of Christ into God’s temple, the glory of God will once again fill His house, which is the church (Ephesians 2:19-22).  “’And the latter glory of this house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord (Haggai 2:9).”  

   God’s divine plan is to have an eternal companion and co-regent worthy for His Son and a heavenly family for Himself.  God chose the church for this purpose before the foundation of the world.  He birthed the church from out of His Son’s death and He will glorify His risen Son through the church.  When the church has fulfilled God’s mission of ushering in His kingdom, Christ our King will return and crush Satan under His feet.  Then the bride of Christ, the glorious church, will eternally reign with her divine Lover and Lord, the Lamb of God.

“To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:21

The Lord’s Supper

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way, He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’” 1 Corinthians 11:23-25

   The first century church experienced spiritual fellowship and close community life among its members (Acts 2:42; 4:32). On the Lord’s Day (Sunday), the believers would meet together (normally in their homes) to share “the Lord’s Supper” as a full fellowship meal (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:20).  The primary purpose of eating this covenant meal together was to remember the Lord’s death through sharing  “the bread and the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

   What is the meaning of the Lord’s Supper and sharing “the bread and the cup”?  God ordained that we partake of the Lord’s Supper to proclaim our union with Jesus Christ (made possible through His death) and to celebrate our union with one another as fellow members of Christ’s body.  With this in mind, the apostle Paul taught, “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing (the Greek is koinonia, which means communion) in the blood of Christ?  Is not the bread which we break a sharing (communion) in the body of Christ?  Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).”  For this reason, the Lord’s Supper is now also called “Communion.”  Remember, though, “the bread and the cup” were normally taken as part of a community meal than as a separate ceremony.

   At the last Passover (traditionally called the Last Supper), Jesus Himself instituted the believers’ practice of sharing “the bread and the cup” as a means to remember His death. “When the hour had come, He reclined at the table and the apostles with Him, and He said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’  And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.’  And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given to you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood (Luke 22:14-20).”

   Just as God ordained the practice of water baptism to remind us of the spiritual benefits of our union with Christ’s death and resurrection, God ordained the Lord’s Supper to remind us of the divine provisions we have in Christ’s death and resurrection.  What are these provisions?  Before we were saved, we were born into sin and were, therefore, in bondage to sin.  We were also destined to receive the just penalty for our sin, which is spiritual death and eternal separation from God.  However, by His death on the cross, Jesus Christ delivered us (who believe) from both the penalty of sin and the power of sin.  In baptism, our “burial” under water demonstrated that our sinful nature died and was removed from us (when we were born again) so we might have Christ’s resurrection life (Romans 6:3-11).  In the Lord’s Supper, the bread and the cup also demonstrate this full provision of Christ’s death.  The cup represents Christ’s blood that was shed so that we might receive forgiveness for our sins.  The bread represents Christ’s body that died so that we might receive His resurrection life. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life… this is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die (John 6:48 & 50).”

   How did Christ’s sacrificial death provide us with His resurrection life?  This is the mystery of the cross, which the Bible also calls the mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:19).  God used the death of His Son to perform a divine exchange.  When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He opened the spiritual door for God to exchange our sinful nature with His divine nature.  We receive this divine exchange (made possible by Christ’s death) when we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior and become born again of the Spirit.  Therefore, whenever we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim this glorious provision of Christ’s death.  We express our eternal gratitude that Christ’s body is the door through which we have been reconciled to God (Colossians 1:20-22).

   Sharing the Lord’s Supper each week is not   just a time when we remember Christ’s death.  It is also a time when we eagerly look forward to celebrating it in our Father’s kingdom at the marriage supper with our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.  The Bible records of that day, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready… blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9).”

   Although the Lord’s Supper is a joyous time together, we must not partake of the bread and the cup in a thoughtless or unworthy manner.  The Bible exhorts us to properly recognize the body of Christ whenever we share the Lord’s Supper together.  We are to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ with genuine love and respect as fellow members of God’s family; otherwise we will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of Jesus and we will be severely disciplined by the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).  On the road to Emmaus, the two disciples recognized Jesus Christ when He was “breaking bread” with them (Luke 24:35).  Whenever two or more of Christ’s disciples gather together in our day, may they also recognize that He is in their midst as they “break bread” together.

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,  you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:26

Anointed for Burial

“There came a woman with an alabaster vial of costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head…  Jesus said, ‘She has anointed My body beforehand for burial.  Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken in memory of her.’” Mark 14:3-10

   What is the meaning of this story that Jesus said should be told wherever the gospel is preached?  The details of this event, which occurred just before the Lord’s crucifixion, can also be found in Matthew 26:6-13 and John 12:1-8.  From these accounts, we read that Mary, whose brother Lazarus had been raised from the dead by Jesus, poured a vessel of costly ointment, worth nearly a year’s wages, on the Lord’s head.  Some disciples considered this extravagant and Judas led them in complaining that her actions were a waste.  “The disciples were indignant when they saw this and said, ‘Why this waste?’  For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor (Matthew 26:8-9).”  But Jesus said, “Leave her alone… she has done what she could.  She has anointed My body beforehand for burial (Mark 14:6-8).”

   This story reveals the cost of the gospel and the worth of Christ.  Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his soul-life will lose it, but whoever loses his soul-life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it (Mark 8:34-35).  In other words, the gospel of Christ will cost us our whole life.  The goal of the gospel is not just to save sinners.  Salvation is just the beginning and not the end of God’s purpose.  This is why God included us in His Son’s death so that His risen Son might sovereignly live in us.  “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized (immersed) into Christ Jesus have been baptized (immersed) into His death (Romans 6:3)?” Just as Jesus was anointed for burial so that, by His death, He might bear much fruit, He has also chosen us and included us in His death, anointing us with His Spirit so that we too might bear much fruit.  The Bible says, “We have been buried with Him through baptism into death (Romans 6:4).”

   How do we produce this fruit?  Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  He who loves his soul-life loses it, and he who hates his soul-life in this world will keep it to life eternal (John 12:24-25).”  We must take up our cross and lose our soul-life to bear fruit.  “For if you are living according to the flesh (the unconverted soul-life), you will die; but if by the Spirit, you are putting to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live… all those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death on the cross the flesh (the unconverted soul-life) with its passions and desires (Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:24).”  The only possible way we can carry our cross and lose our soul-life by the Spirit is to believe we have died with Christ.  Why is this?  The Bible says when Christ died, our sinful nature died with Him and was removed from us (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:11).  So when we take up our cross, we identify by faith with Christ’s death so that His death becomes our death.  Paul testified, “I have been put to death on the cross with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me and the life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20).”

   Exercising faith in this Biblical fact enables us to overcome the power of sin and produce fruit.  When we give ourselves wholeheartedly to Christ’s sovereignty in this way, some may say we are wasting our life and we could do so much more with our talent.  To the carnal-minded, losing our soul-life for the sake of the gospel is a terrible waste.   However, you only entertain the idea of waste when you underestimate the Lord’s worth.  Jesus is the “Pearl of Great Price” worth selling everything for, so that we might know Him (Matthew 13:46).  When God opens our eyes to see His Son’s worth, we will gladly lose our soul-life for Him.  “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! (Revelation 5:12).”  Paul said, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so I may gain Christ (Philippines 3:8).”  God has always intended that the preaching of the gospel would produce a people wholly devoted to His Son, a people rich in good works (1 Timothy 6:18), which spring from faith in the truth that believers are “dead to sin but alive to God (Romans 6:11).  By including us in His Son’s death, God has also intended that His risen Son would sovereignly rule in our lives.  This means we become bondslaves of the Lord in everything we think and do.  This is the fruit of the gospel that God has, from the beginning of time, desired to express through us, which is the fruit of our sanctification to Him (Romans 6:22).

   The end of the age is almost upon us.  Many true believers will be poured out as a sacrificial offering for the sake of Christ and His gospel (Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6).  Jesus Christ has already anointed us for burial by including us in His death and giving us His Holy Spirit.  Let us pray that the fragrance of this anointing will be poured out through our lives.  As Paul shared, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body (2 Corinthians 4:10-11).”  Therefore, knowing that we have died with Christ and we have been anointed for burial by the Holy Spirit, let us proclaim the Lord’s worth to all heaven and earth by “wasting” our lives on Him!

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to   the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.”  2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Living by the Spirit

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

   If we want to experience Christ’s life, we must learn how to live by the Spirit.  The Bible says that if welive by the Spirit, we overcome sin and are the sons of God.  We may be born again, but if we do not practice living by the Spirit, then Christ will not be revealed in us and through us.  What does it mean to “live by the Spirit?”  To live by the Spirit means we practice a lifestyle of being governed by the Spirit.  How can we do that?  The answer is found in Christ’s death on the cross.  The Bible says that, before we were saved, we were all in Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22).  This means we had all inherited Adam’s sinful nature, which led to spiritual death (Romans 5:19).  However, when we were born again, God put us in Christ (Romans 6:3; 1 Corinthians 1:30).  This means God spiritually immersed us into Christ’s death and, by the divine operation of the cross, He removed our sinful Adam nature and replaced it with Christ’s nature (Romans 6:4-11).

   Then what can prevent us from living by the Spirit?  It certainly is not the sinful Adam nature. That issue has already been settled by Christ’s death on the cross.  Now that we are born again, we do not have a sinful nature (Colossians 2:11).  The question then is no longer whether we are in Adam or in Christ.  Now that we are in Christ,  the question is whether we will be governed by the Spirit or by the flesh (our unconverted soul).  The chief obstacle to our living by the Spirit is no longer our old Adam nature but our Adam way of thinking (our unrenewed mind), which needs to be transformed by the truth of God’s Word. The apostle Paul said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is… (Romans 12:2).”  When we believe and act on this central New Covenant provision of Christ’s death on the cross (our sinful nature no longer lives, but Christ lives in us), then we will live by the Spirit (Galatians 2:20).  However, if we do not believe and act on the truth of Christ’s death on the cross, we have no alternative than to vainly struggle to live the Christian life by the best of our natural or carnal (fleshly) ability and mistake our self-effort for faith.  It may surprise you that carnal Christian behavior (what the Bible calls “deeds of the flesh”) can be expressed in two very different ways.  The first way is obvious.  “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are immorality, impurity, sensuality… (Galatians 5:19).”  But the second way is more disguised.  “No wonder, for Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  Therefore, is it not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (1 Corinthians 12:14-15).” The carnal lifestyle of a Christian is obvious if they are practicing immorality; however, if they are practicing outward morality even while they are inwardly lawless and unsubmitted to Christ, it can be more difficult to discern their carnality.

   There is a great difference between a Christian who overcomes sin by believing and acting on what Christ has accomplished by His death on the cross and a Christian who tries to “overcome” sin by faith in his own natural ability and willpower.  The apostle Paul described people who practice this kind of outward moral behavior as “those who take pride in appearance (2 Corinthians 5:12)” and “want to make a good impression outwardly (Galatians 6:12).” Jesus described them as “hypocrites” and “people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous (Luke 13:15; 18:9).” Any religious morality that is derived apart from faith in the power of Christ’s crucifixion is a bastard holiness that is the offspring of the flesh (man’s strength) and not the fruit of the Spirit.  If a professed Christian persists in habitually practicing this kind of false religious morality, it is not harmless.  It is hypocritical and hostile to God because it is not of true faith (Romans 14:23; Galatians 5:17).

   Although most Bible translations confusingly use the term “flesh” for both the sinful nature and the unconverted soul (the unrenewed mind), there is a crucial difference.  Our unrenewed mind is not like the sinful nature, which was a powerful entity – a “sin factory” within us that continuously produced sinful attitudes and actions and, therefore, had to be destroyed by Christ’s death on the cross.  Now that we no longer have a sinful nature, we are not captive to sin and our unrenewed mind can be transformed and submitted to Christ’s sovereignty by believing the Word of God.     Since Christ’s death on the cross has already dealt with our sinful nature, we do not have to put it to death every day over and over again.  Instead,  we now have the obligation and privilege as Christ’s disciples to carry our own cross and “put to death” our old sinful way of thinking (the unrenewed mind or unconverted soul).  This means we are able by faith to put off our old way of thinking and put on the mind of Christ (Ephesians 4:22-24; 1 Corinthians 2:26). By faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross, we are able to exchange our carnal attitudes and affections for Christ’s attitudes and affections.  This is what the apostle Paul called “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).”  Paul taught the first century believers, “If you are living according to the flesh (the unconverted soul-life), you will die; but if by the Spirit, you are putting to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live… now all those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death on the cross the flesh (the unconverted soul-life) with its passions and desires (Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:24).”

   Living by the Spirit is not some emotional or mystical experience.  It means we are living by faith in the truth of what Christ has accomplished on the cross (Christ died for us and included us in His death so He might sovereignly live in us).  Our faith will be genuine and our fruit evident if we take up our own cross, putting to death the carnal desires and deeds of our unconverted soul-life for Christ’s sake and His body’s sake.  Then the fullness of Christ’s life will be revealed in us.

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” Romans 8:14

Seven Woes for False Shepherds

Woe to you… because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”  Matthew 23:13

   We live in a day when false shepherds have infiltrated the church and caused great harm to God’s sheep.  These false shepherds steal and kill and destroy the sheep.  Jesus has great love and compassion for His sheep.  All false shepherds will be accountable to Him and face His wrath.  Here are seven woes for these false shepherds patterned after the seven woes pronounced by Jesus Christ in Matthew, Chapter Twenty-Three.

   Woe to you false shepherds who have seated yourselves in positions of authority in the church.  You are hypocrites who tell the sheep to obey God but you yourselves are lawless.  You tell the sheep to love God and love others but you yourselves are loveless. You are imposters who pretend to love God when you are really lovers of self, lovers of money and lovers of pleasure.  You hold to a form of Christianity but by your deeds you deny Christ’s Sovereignty.  You love the approval of men but not the approval of God.  How can you be Christ’s servants when you seek the approval of men?  You love to be called “Pastor” when there is only one true Shepherd – Jesus Christ.  You have made the church into a theater in which you are always the “star.”  You love to be the center of the church and you receive more attention and care from the flock than all the weak sheep that truly need it.  You have made the church into a cult devoted to your personality and welfare.

   Woe to you false shepherds who masquerade as ministers of righteousness.  You trust in your own righteousness but you do not submit to Christ’s righteousness.  You boast about your ministry but you do not boast in the cross of Christ.  You tell the sheep to be holy but you are unable and unwilling to help them be holy because you yourselves practice sin. You love to appear righteous to men but you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.  You make a show of looking good to others but you are full of selfish ambition, greed and self-indulgence.  You are whitewashed tombs which look consecrated on the outside but are full of rottenness and death on the inside.

   Woe to you false shepherds who are zealous to make converts and when you make one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.  You draw disciples to yourselves and make them depend upon you and not on Christ.  You promise them freedom when you yourselves are in bondage to sin.  Since you are slaves to sin rather than enslaved to God, how much more are your disciples slaves to unrighteousness?  Because you are lawless, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven and you also prevent others from entering in.  You are the blind leading the blind and so make your disciples doubly blind.  But since you claim to see, you will receive the greater condemnation.

   Woe to you false shepherds who devour the poor. You are ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing and your hearts are trained in greed.  You tell the sheep they must tithe or else they rob God when you yourselves rob God by extorting money from His sheep.  Should not your Sunday collections be given to meet the needs of the poor among you so there would be equality in the house of God?  You are profiteers who sell your sermons and yourselves when you should be giving yourselves to the sheep without charge.  You have made God’s house into a den of merchandise and prostitution and you cloak your thievery and harlotry with religious prayers.

   Woe to you false shepherds who love all your “church” traditions but by your actions you invalidate the Word of God.  You are devoted to your own prosperity but not to justice, mercy and faithfulness.  You do not know God’s voice because you do not obey the Holy Spirit and you stop the sheep from hearing the Spirit by quenching the Spirit’s gifts given to the church.  You say you honor God’s prophets of old but this day God is sending you prophets and teachers whom you will reject and persecute.

   Woe to you false shepherds who say you preach the gospel when your false gospel only produces the fruit of man and not God.  You tickle the ears of the sheep and turn them away from the truth with clever speech when you should be preaching the offense of the cross.  You use flattery to seduce and deceive weak sheep for your own selfish gain.  You falsely tell the sheep that God wants them to have a happy and prosperous life instead of preparing them for the suffering and persecution that lies ahead.  The foundation of the church is Jesus Christ and Him crucified but your ministry is founded in greed and ambition.  You do not know the gospel of the cross; otherwise you would repent and find life eternal.  You honor God with your lips but your heart is far from Him.  You have seen God’s works but you do not know Him or His ways.  And in the Day of Judgment, He will not know you!

   Woe to you false shepherds, you brood of vipers! You fulfill yourselves through your ministry instead of laying down your lives for God’s sheep.  You exalt yourselves in the place of Christ in the church instead of humbling yourselves as the servant of all.  You tell the sheep to submit to you but you are self-willed and not submitted to God.  You love to have authority over the sheep but you yourselves despise Christ’s authority. You would not recognize Christ if He walked into your church!  You are hired hands and mercenaries who minister for money, self-fulfillment and ambition.  You are stumbling blocks who have caused God’s sheep to fall.  Because of you, Christ is maligned and God’s holy purpose is twisted.  Unless you repent, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

“You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts.  What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” Luke 16:15

God Causes the Growth

“The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows – how, he himself does not know.  The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.  But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”  Mark 4:26-29

      Since farming was commonly practiced in Israel, Jesus often used examples of planting and harvesting to teach His disciples about the kingdom of God.  In this parable, Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a seed that once deposited in the soil grows and produces a harvest apart from man’s effort.  Of course, the condition of the soil is also important and we will look at that shortly.  The spiritual lesson of this parable is that God, not man, causes the growth in His kingdom.  “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6).”  This is an important Biblical truth that many Christians do not understand.  Although they know their salvation depended on God’s mercy and not their own deeds, many Christians mistakenly think their spiritual growth now depends on their self-effort.

   After we are saved, what should we do to grow as Christians?  To answer this question, we need to look at another one of Jesus’ parables.  Jesus told a story of seed being sown on different kinds of ground (see Matthew 13:3-23; Mark 4:2-20; Luke 8:4-15).  In this parable, the seed once again represents the kingdom of God and the soil represents the condition of our heart.  Just as the condition of the soil determines how much fruit that the seed can produce, the condition of our heart determines how much spiritual fruit God can produce in us.  Jesus said the seed was sown on four kinds of ground but only the last one yielded any fruit.  “Other seed fell on good soil.  It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown (Luke 8:8).”  Jesus then said, “The seed in good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance (Luke 8:15).”  The lesson of this parable is that the gospel of the kingdom must be received in an honest and good heart to bear fruit.  What is an “honest and good” heart?  God said, “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word (Isaiah 66:2).”  With this in mind, the apostle Peter wrote, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand (1 Peter 5:6).”  Based on these and many other Scriptures, we can conclude that, from God’s point of view, a good and honest heart is a humble heart.  The apostle James said, “In humility receive the word planted in you, which is able to save your souls (James 1:21).”  

   Just as we were saved when we received Christ with a humble heart full of faith, we must now live in Christ the same way.  The apostle Paul taught, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught (Colossians 2:6-7).”  Therefore, after we are born again, the next baby steps we take are very important.  We know we were not able to save ourselves; however, after we are saved, we may wrongly conclude we can grow as Christians by trying our very best.  This is a common trap that even the early Christians fell into. The apostle Paul admonished the Galatians for this wrong thinking, “Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh (human effort) (Galatians 3:3)?” All Christians through the centuries have faced this same dilemma.  What is the work of God that we should do?  When Jesus was asked this question, He replied, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent (John 6:29).”  The work that God requires of us is always the work of faith – to believe in Jesus Christ and His completed work on the cross (1 Corinthians 2:2).  This does not diminish the purpose and value of Bible study, prayer and acts of service.  However, we will never spiritually grow and bear fruit unless we learn to abide (stay rooted by faith) in Christ and His death and resurrection (John 15:4).  The Bible says that when Christ died, we died with Him and our sinful nature was removed from us (Romans 6:6).  God can deal with our sins but He cannot deal with our unbelief.  If we do not believe Christ died for us, Christ’s death cannot save us.  In the same way, if we do not believe our sinful nature has died in Christ, Christ’s life cannot bear fruit in us.  Just as we could not save ourselves, we cannot spiritually grow apart from faith in the cross of Christ.

   Jesus Christ said, “He who abides in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit (John 15:5).”  When we were born again, God planted us in Christ (Romans 11:16-24).  Our responsibility is to now stay rooted by faith in Christ and in what He accomplished for us by His death on the cross.   We must strongly resist the urge to try harder outside of faith.  It is impossible for us to grow in Christ no matter how hard we try.  The Bible says “It does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy (Romans 9:16).”  Just as faith was the key to our salvation and new birth, faith is also the key to our sanctification and spiritual growth.  If we abide (stay rooted by faith) in the truth of Christ’s death, God will cause Christ’s life to be formed in us.  “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:5).” In another parable, Jesus compared the kingdom of God to planting a mustard seed.  When sown into good soil, the seed grew into a tree larger than everything else and took over the whole garden.  If we know we have died in Christ and we no longer have a sinful nature, then let us fix our eyes on Jesus.   He is not only the author of our faith; He is the perfecter of our faith and His life will grow within us until He takes over our whole life.

Jesus said, “How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it?  It is like a mustard seed… though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, it grows   up and becomes larger than all the garden plants.”  Mark 4:30-32

The Rest of the Cross

Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness.’… And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.”   Hebrews 3:7-8; 18-19

   Jesus Christ commands His disciples “to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).” Yet Jesus also promised, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me… and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28).”  Many Christians would admit their experience has fallen far short of Christ’s command and promise.  His yoke of discipleship has not seemed easy or light and His commandments have seemed difficult to keep.  Why is this?  A look at God’s ways in the wilderness with Israel may help us to understand why and help us find His promised rest today.

   The Lord saved His people Israel by the blood of the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:1-13) and delivered them from a kingdom of slavery (Exodus 13:3).  He then baptized them in the sea and in the cloud of His Presence (symbolic of baptism in water and the Spirit/Exodus 13-14; 1 Corinthians 10:2).  Then what does God do after His people are saved and baptized? Does He immediately bring them into the bounty of the Promised Land?  No.  Instead He led them into the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8:15) – a “great and terrible” desert lacking in food and water and inhabited by deadly serpents and scorpions (symbolic of demonic spirits/Luke 10:19-20).   In this wilderness, God miraculously protected and provided for them with food and water (a picture of Christ/John 6:31-58; 2 Corinthians 10:3-4).

   The Lord’s intent in the wilderness was to test His people and reveal whether they would trust and obey Him (Deuteronomy 8:2).  The Bible says God used the wilderness to discipline His people as a father trains his son (Deuteronomy 8:5). God’s goal was to humble His people so they would learn to depend on Him alone for their sufficiency (Deuteronomy 8:3).  God wanted His people to realize that they had no ability or righteousness of their own to possess the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 8:17; 9:4-5).  However, Israel failed to understand the Lord and His ways during their wilderness testing.  Despite the fact that they had witnessed His miraculous works (Hebrews 3:9) and zealously built His tabernacle (Exodus 39:42), they did not trust God and did not recognize His purpose in the wilderness (Hebrews 3:10-12).  Therefore, the Bible calls them “a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God (Psalm 78:8).”  As a result of their unbelief, most of God’s people died in the wilderness without entering His promised rest (Hebrews 3:17-19).

   Today, God still disciplines every son and daughter who belongs to Him (Hebrews 12:6-7).  After we are baptized in water and the Spirit, the Lord will often lead us into a “wilderness” experience where we suffer hardship and affliction.  The apostle Paul said, “We do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction… that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength… so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).”  The Greek word for affliction is thlipsis.  It is also translated as tribulation and simply means pressure.  God has designed our experience in the wilderness to press us beyond our natural ability so that by faith we will enter into Christ’s rest. The wilderness is God’s school of the Spirit.     The wilderness is where God reveals to us the hidden attitudes and motives of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12). The wilderness is the crucible God uses to purify our faith in His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).  The wilderness is intended to show us that we are incapable of living the overcoming Christian life in our natural strength (2 Corinthians 1:8-9; 3:5) and to enlighten the eyes of our heart to see what His Son has accomplished for us on the cross.  When we finally come to the end of ourselves, God will reveal the mystery of Christ’s crucifixion to us.  This is the divine revelation that God has included us in His Son’s death so His risen Son might live in us (Romans 6:3-11; Colossians 1:27).

   When you know (believe and act on) the Biblical truth that when Christ died, your sinful nature died with Him, you are then free to serve God without the fear of being defeated by sin  (Romans 6:1-14).  When you are convinced of this historic and divine fact of your inclusion in Christ’s death, you can then live by faith in the  Son of God who lives in you (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27).  When you know (believe and act) that you no longer have sinful nature, you will learn to no longer rely on your natural ability to serve God (Philippians 3:3) and Christ will become your true food and drink (John 6:55-56).  So then, you enter into the rest of the cross when you know that “you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).”  

   Israel failed to enter God’s rest because of their unbelief.  Although they professed faith in God, they trusted in their own righteousness and strength instead of God (Psalm 78:36; Isaiah 29:13).  Today, God’s promised rest is fulfilled by Christ’s completed work on the cross.  The secret to entering God’s rest is to know that we have died with Christ and we no longer live.  We will then cease from depending on our own works and enter into His spiritual rest and His works (Hebrews 4:10).  By resting in His victory on the cross, we can trust in Christ to sovereignly live in us and His yoke becomes easy (Galatians 2:20).

“Therefore, let usfear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it… so there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.  For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.   Hebrews 4:1, 9-10

Stand Firm in Liberty!

It was for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  Galatians 5:1

   Jesus Christ died to set us free from sin – not only from the penalty of sin but also from the power of sin.  When Christ died, God included us in His Son’s death.  Because our sinful nature died with Christ, we have been eternally freed from bondage to sin.  “For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that our sinful nature might be done away, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.  For he who has died has been freed from sin (Romans 6:6-7).”  This is our glorious victory over sin in Christ!

   After we have experienced this great salvation, what’s next?  We must be careful to avoid the mistake of the Galatian Christians, whom the apostle Paul chastised, “Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now trying to perfect yourselves by your human effort? (Galatians 3:3).” The Galatians experienced this miraculous born again experience but were then deceived into thinking they must sanctify themselves by their own effort.  Paul reminded them that all their effort would never set them free from sin.  Only Christ’s death on the cross sets us free from sin. We could not crucify ourselves and we cannot sanctify ourselves.  Because of Christ’s death on the cross, we no longer have an old Adam nature; however, if we still have an unrenewed mind (the old Adam way of thinking), we will have a natural tendency to think we can be righteous because of our own merit and that we can resist sin by our own strength. Even after the Holy Spirit gives us divine revelation that only Christ’s death on the cross gave us freedom from the power of sin, our natural habit (especially under stress) will be to fall back on our own strength to try to master sin.

   Trying to sanctify ourselves this way is not only burdensome; it is impossible.  We need to stand firm by faith in the liberty we have in Christ and resist the inclination to do anything by our own self-effort, knowing it would be fruitless.  The work of God never changes – it is always the work of faith.  Jesus said, “This is the work of God – that you believe in Him whom He has sent (John 6:29).”  Now that Christ has completely delivered us from our sinful nature and the power of sin, our work of faith is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and His finished work on the cross.   This is how we live the Christian life.  Many Christians think now that Jesus has saved us, we should try hard to sanctify ourselves.  But we must remember that Jesus is not only the author of our faith (our salvation); He is also the perfecter of our faith (our sanctification) (Hebrews 12:2).  

   Whenever we step out of God’s work of faith and enter into our own effort, we take the burden for our sanctification out of God’s hands and put it in our own hands.  This prevents God from doing the sanctifying work of the Spirit in us that comes only from faith.  It also produces ungodly anxiety and stress since we have decided (in unbelief) that the work of God now depends on our own effort. This yoke of unbelief is an awful burden to bear.  The Bible calls it “the yoke of slavery.”  This man-made yoke is in marked contrast to Jesus’ yoke.  He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you… My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).”   

   Now that we are saved, we can “count ourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).”  The Greek word used here for count is logizomai, which is an accounting term meaning “credit to the account.” The language of mathematics is precise and certain.  All over the world, one plus one equals two.  This Scripture means we can count on the fact that we are dead to sin with absolute certainty just as we can count on the fact that one plus one equals two.  Now that we have died with Christ and we no longer have a sinful nature, we should present ourselves each day as a living and holy sacrifice to God.  As we do this, God will renew our minds and transform our souls by His Word (Romans 12:1-2; see also Ephesians 4:23).”

   It is important to remember that faith is always active – not passive.  We cannot just forget about what Jesus has done on the cross and then expect God to transform us.  Many Christians have drifted away from the faith because they unwisely practiced this kind of “passive faith,” which is really not faith at all.    True faith actively believes and acts on the divine facts.  If we never actively believed that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross for our sins, we would never be saved.  In the same way, if we do not actively believe that Jesus Christ included us in His death to remove our sinful nature and free us from sin’s bondage, we will never experience freedom from chronic and entangling sins. 

  We need to stand firm by faith in the spiritual freedom Christ has purchased for us on the cross.  Whenever we find ourselves afraid and overcome by sin, it is a sign that we have stepped out of this place of faith.  At that point, we should repent and return to fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ – who He is and what He has done for us on the cross.  Whenever we are overwhelmed by a sense of failure, it reveals we are trying to sanctify ourselves in our own strength instead of fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ.  Whenever we become religiously merciless with ourselves and with others around us, it is an indication that we have stepped out of that place of faith in Christ.  Christ’s burden is easy and His yoke is light and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is spiritual liberty and mercy; not carnal severity.  We cannot sanctify ourselves and we cannot sanctify others; only Christ can accomplish His sanctification in each one of us.  Therefore, we must remember to always stand firm on the sure foundation of faith in Christ and His completed work on the cross, by which He has given us spiritual liberty and rest.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Corinthians 3:17  “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:36

The Freedom of the Cross

Everyone who sins is a slave to sin… so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:34-36 “Now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.”  Romans 6:22

   At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus Christ declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.  He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners (Luke 4:18).”  Jesus fulfilled this mission by dying on the cross.  God used His Son’s death to set us free from the kingdom of darkness and bring us into His kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13).  The Bible says, “God set you free when He sent His own Son… to be a sacrifice for our sin (Romans 8:3).”   

   Before we were saved, we were slaves to the fear of the destructive power of sin in our life (Romans 8:15).  But through the cross, Christ has set us free from the guilt and condemnation of sin.  “For by the death of Christ we are set free… our sins are forgiven (Ephesians 1:7).”  When we were still lawless and rebels to God, we were enslaved to sin.  But through His death, Christ freed us from this power of sin.  “We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that our sinful nature might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin (Romans 6:6).”  When we were still unbelievers, many of us were afraid of physically dying.  But, even as believers, many of us are still afraid of sin’s power; wrongly believing we are still captive to sin.  However, by His death, Jesus has freed us from this fear of death and sin’s stranglehold.  “So that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15)”

   Therefore, by Christ’s death on the cross, we have been forever freed from the fear of sin’s dominion and the fear of death.  It is crucial for us to know that sin is no longer master over us and death no longer has dominion over us.  “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death (Roman 8:1).” Why?  Because the Bible says that through Christ’s death we have been “brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God… for you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba!  Father! (Romans 8:15; 21).”  Before we were born of the Spirit, we were enemies of God.  But by His Son’s death on the cross, God has set us free to be His bondslaves.  How did God deliver us from the power of sin and produce this miraculous change of heart in us – from godless, rebellious sinners to devoted bondslaves of God?   The way God accomplished this glorious liberation for us was simply profound and powerful: Since we were born into sin, God freed us from sin’s captivity by including us in His Son’s death so we could be born into life (Romans 6:3-5).  “He who has died has been freed from sin… we have died with Christ (Romans 6:7-8).”  This operation of the cross was like a divine heart transplant.  When Jesus Christ died on the cross, God exchanged our terminally sin-sick heart with His Son’s divine holy heart.  We were once sons of disobedience and children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-2), but now that God has removed our sinful nature and put the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, we have become sons of obedience (Romans 6:6-20; Galatians 4:6; Colossians 2:11).

   Since Christ has set us free from the kingdom of darkness, should we continue to practice sin?  Absolutely not!  “For you were called to be free, my brethren; only do not use your freedom to indulge sinful desires (Galatians 5:13).”  Jesus Christ has set us free from sin for the very purpose that we would practice holiness (sanctification).  “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but to sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:7).”  The Bible says we have been freed from sin and have become enslaved to God (Romans 6:22).  Many Christians think they can continue to willfully practice sin and still receive the benefits of salvation.  Other Christians think that holiness is too strict a standard to keep.  Still other Christians think that spiritual freedom means you can do whatever you please, living lawlessly, and still be covered by the blood of Jesus.  None of these are true.  The apostle Paul said, “Should we sin because we are under grace?  God forbid! (Romans 6:15).”  And the apostle Peter said, “Act as free men and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil but use it as bondslaves for God (1 Peter 2:16).”  Paul also wrote, “Keep yourself free from sin (1 Timothy 5:22).”  Even though we may be under grace,  God has never changed His standard of holiness.  Here is the divine truth: You are either a slave to sin or slave to God.  “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? (Romans 6:16).” Practicing obedience to God is essential because the Bible says “without sanctification no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).”  Unless we walk by faith in this freedom from sin purchased by Christ’s blood, we cannot know   the Lord.  The apostle John taught, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.  But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins.  And in Him is no sin.  No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning.  No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him (1 John 3:4-6).”  

   Jesus Christ died on the cross to set us free from the power of sin and death.  If we do not use this priceless freedom to serve God as His bondslaves, then Christ will have died needlessly for us.  If we are not enslaved to God, we cannot be sanctified. And without sanctification, we cannot know God nor can we inherit eternal life (Romans 6:22).

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17  “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”  Galatians 5:1

Beware of the False Gospel

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really is no gospel at all…  if anyone is preaching to you another gospel… let him be eternally condemned!”  Galatians 1:6 & 9

   The apostle Paul was disturbed when he heard God’s people were turning to a different gospel.  Paul knew that a different gospel would lead them astray from sanctification and devotion to Christ.  This is why Paul was vigilant and fearless to confront those who preached a gospel different than the one he had received from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12).  Paul called his gospel the message of Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23). This gospel can be expressed as “Christ died for us and included us in His death so He might live in us.” This was the gospel Paul practiced and preached when he testified, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20).” 

   It is essential that we also practice and preach the same gospel of Christ crucified.   We simply will not come into sanctification and a true knowledge of Jesus Christ by any other gospel.  What makes a gospel different than the true gospel?  Whenever anything is added to or taken out of the gospel, it is a false gospel.  For example, if someone teaches that you must be water baptized before you can be saved, this is a false gospel since it has added something to the true gospel.  Water baptism does not save you; it only confirms your salvation in Christ.  It is more difficult, however, to discern a false gospel when something is omitted from the true gospel. For example, the gospel commonly preached today is “Jesus died to forgive you for your sins.”  Of course, this is true, but all of God’s promises and provisions are conditional.  Yet most preachers leave out the fundamental condition  for Christ’s forgiveness of sins to be effective: Christ forgives our sins if we turn away from darkness and walk in the light (1 John 1:5-7). The Bible says that if you sin against God, you must confess your sin to Him (1 John 1:9).  If you want to walk in fellowship with God (and other believers), you must practice walking in the light.  You cannot continue to walk in the darkness (practice sin) and expect to have the benefits of God’s forgiveness and fellowship.  God never intended that Christ’s death on the cross for our forgiveness would be used as an excuse for sin.  This is why Paul said, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:1-2)   Therefore, this incomplete gospel is false unless it is preached within the context of repentance and turning away from practicing sin.  Without the message of repentance, this gospel gives a false license to sin and a false security.   As a result of this false gospel, many Christians are willfully practicing sin and grievously sharing in the Lord’s Supper in an unrighteous manner.  Tragically, they will be judged along with the rest of the world.  “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving a knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment (Hebrews 10:26-27).”

   Once again, the complete gospel is “Christ died for us and included us in His death so that He might live in us.”  The most devious counterfeit of the gospel conspicuously leaves out this central portion of Christ’s gospel.  To the immature and undiscerning, this omission seems unimportant.  But a crucial centerpiece of the gospel has been left out – our inclusion by faith into Christ’s death on the cross.  Jesus Himself taught that applying the work of the cross in your life is central to discipleship: “Whoever does not carry his own cross… cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:27).”  Omitting this essential truth is Satan’s scheme to substitute a seemingly harmless but extremely dangerous counterfeit to the true gospel.  The only way we can overcome Satan and sin is to abide by faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross; otherwise “whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).”  This is the whole gospel: When Christ died, we died with Him.  When Christ was crucified, our sinful nature was crucified with Him.  When Christ was buried, our sinful nature was also buried and removed in Him (Romans 6:3-11). Once again, God’s promises and provisions are conditional.   If we believe and act on the truth that we have died with Christ, He will sovereignly live in us.  If we do not actively identify by faith with Christ’s death in this way, He will not sovereignly live in us.  We cannot just mentally assent to Christ’s inclusionary death and expect to have Christ’s life.  Jesus Christ said if we abide in Him, then He will abide in us (John 15:4).  We must abide (act by faith) on the truth of Christ’s death in order for the power of His resurrection life to be expressed in us.  Death always comes first, then resurrection life (Romans 6:5).  When we were born again, we received Christ’s seed into our heart.  If we stay rooted in Christ by faith so that His death becomes our death by carrying our own cross, His seed will reproduce His life within us and we will stop practicing sin and will intimately know Him.  “No one who is born of God continues to sin because His seed abides in him; and he cannot go on sinning, because he is born of God (1 John 3:9).”

   Whenever anything is added to or taken out of the gospel that undermines God’s intended purpose for His people, it is a different gospel.  Some preach a different gospel (which really is a false gospel) out of ignorance, but others do it because they resist the Holy Spirit and do not want to stop sinning.  Those who preach a false gospel do not abide in Christ and His teaching and do not carry their own cross for His sake.  Since they have “gone beyond” the cross, they do not walk in sanctification and do not know Christ.  “No one who abides in Him keeps sinning; no one who keeps sinning has seen Him or knows Him (1 John 3:6).”  The only way we can know the difference between the true gospel and the false is to walk in the Light as He is in the Light.  Then we will have fellowship with Jesus and His Light will separate the true gospel from the false!

“Anyone who goes beyond and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has the Father and the Son.”  2 John 9