Thursday, October 27, 2016

What does Jesus do for the believer?

I would like to give a seven-part answer for this question, as there are at least seven major things that Jesus does for the believer. First, he loosens our chains. We are bound fast by our chains of sin and blind to our awful plight. Picture Jacob Marley wrapped in his heavy clanking chains, and you have an adequate idea of what it is like when you are blinded by sin. Jesus breaks the chains that would so strangle us, providing another way for us to go.

The freedom of loosed chains cannot be overstated. Paul tells us in Romans that our old man is considered to be crucified with Jesus, that our sins are to be nailed to the cross as surely as the Lord was. And this nailing is for one specific purpose—that we should no longer serve sin (5:6). We are to turn away from old lifestyles, all of which are unfaithful before we come to know Christ. It is fashionable today to scream tolerance at every Christian, and in many ways this is what our society is doing, but it is not tolerance to ever accept sinful lifestyles. Rejection of the sin is always to be firm, just as love for the sinner is always to be present. Jude reminds us to hate even the clothing stained by sin, even while snatching the sinner from the flames. Chains, if you will.

How are chains forged? One link at a time. The saint can bind himself unwisely with all sorts of chains. Perhaps it first starts off with drinking as a young man, and finding it an enjoyable pastime. One link is forged. Soon the drinking becomes a daily habit. Another link is formed. It begins to interfere with work. Yet another link is formed, and still the young man disdains the three links of chain and continues to plunge into his sin. Not realizing that the stoutest chain is built one link at a time and because he is not able to discern the weight of each added link, he thinks it is all of no import. Until he finds himself in his old age with chains encircling his body and he cries out in the depths of his misery to God, “Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” And yet his chains are self-inflicted, and as an older man, I have looked and noticed that God does not seem to burst the chains all apart, as he often does when we first come to Christ. Instead, the church recovery groups seem to do well in placing emphasis on removing those awful chains, one link at a time, one day at a time.

But the salvation experience seems to be different. The new saint is called from an awful darkness, some more awful than others, and it seems to me that the chains of sin are often just blown up. The light, newly come into his life, seems to scatter all of the shadows, and the new believer, if he will, finds victory over sin. How we ought to remember our calling and walk carefully!

But Jesus does so much more than free us from the chains of sin. He sets us free, the second thing Jesus does for us. “I am come that you might be free”, and free he has made us. What is that freedom? I do not think it is well-understood in our day. It is the freedom not to sin. For the first time, the saint finds himself in a new place, a place where he can choose to walk away from sin, and walk after God. Any human being, apart from the glorious salvation of God, must find himself in sin. Oh, he may live a very moral life, and walk circumspectly towards his fellow man, but the inside has the stain of filth and corruption. I believe that is why Jesus said he is not come to call the righteous. The righteous are so busy following their rules carefully that they cannot even see their need. It is not at all that they do not have the need; rather it is that they choose not to see their need. Psalm 14 would remind us of this, “They are all gone aside, they have all together become filthy, there none that doeth good, no not one.” We must notice our chains before we can be freed.

So many times the world looks at Christians and measures them by what they cannot do: they cannot dance, drink, or party. The list actually grows longer the more we think on it. How many of us have been apologized to by someone using a random cuss word, and then they realize that you are in their company? Is that really the way to define Christianity? I fear that many of my fellow Christians define it in the same way. They do not see that their freedom is given so that they might choose to follow God.

There are two brief points I would like to make about this negative categorizing of what Christians are. First, the is some merit to the charge, but only if you think it through but halfway. Follow the logic through, and the conclusion becomes quite different. Yes, there are things we say no to. But it takes the very strength of the Spirit to find success in saying no to a great many of them, and, for the first time in our lives, we can say no. But what of those who do not say no? What of those who are not Christian? So don’t they get all the fun? Look at their lives. Those who chase alcohol never find life in the bottom of the glass. So many of those who spend their lives doing what we would disdain find, at the end of their lives, that it has all been futile, that they have lived empty lives. And this is not to mention the judgment, which we must all face. The logic is relentless. Power over sin does not diminish us; it equips us both to face hostility, and to pursue righteousness.

And that is the third point. For the first time in our lives we have the choice to pursue righteousness. Not in our own power, but in the power of the Spirit. God himself comes inside of us to do that which we cannot seem to do of ourselves. God gives us power over sin, if we choose to follow him. Look at some of the older people in your church; they are in every church, and are stalwart examples of what happens to people who have followed God all of their lives. Not that they would tell you so, for they are humble, and remember the many times they have stumbled, and gone astray. Yet, their lives are continuously surrendered to God, and their white hair is a testimony to a life that has been victoriously lived. How much attention the young should pay, so that they one day will be found themselves being conformed to the image of Christ! They should endeavor to keep those chains short, and break the links as they come, that under the mighty power of God they should find victorious lives.

Next, Jesus redeems us. You might say that redemption is in all the steps that are above, and you would be right. But he has actually and literally redeemed us. Paul tells us that we are bought with a price. What is that price? God chose his Son to come and bear the penalty for our sin. Imagine what that must have cost God! The Bible teaches that he created both the heavens and earth in six days, and on the seventh he rested. All of that work of creation, all of the universe, the earth with its seas and lands must surely have been an enormous cost. Yet, next to the sacrifice on the cross that cost of creation must pale. Think of it this way. God, in paying the price of his Son’s life, gave his everything for you. He could not have paid a higher price, for now he had reached to his limits. Having given everything for your redemption, there is nothing more that he could have done.
But more than that, oh so much more has Jesus yet done for us! He has made a place for us! “I go now to prepare a place for you, that where I am you may be also.” One day, perhaps soon, he is going to reach down from heaven, sending his angels to the four winds, and gather us up together. Together we shall go and see where Jesus has dwelt for eternity past. We shall at last see heaven, but not only heaven, for does he not tell us that he goes to prepare a place for us? He has had nearly 2,000 years to prepare for his church, his bride, and I can’t wait to see the finished product! There the church and Christ will be married. There will be the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. There will be the communion cup renewed in a great fellowship that will endure through all eternity. Make no mistake, the Lord fully intends to return to earth, and where will we be at that time. Scripture assures us that throughout eternity we will forever be at the feet of Christ, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. I am convinced that until that time comes, there is a sense in which we have never been home. Indeed, we long for what we do not even know yet, but still somehow we know that we are not home. In that day, we will all exclaim, “I am home at last!”

And last? God relates to us in a deep and eternal matter. We shall never get tired of singing His praises, and he gives us all eternity that we might do that. Both John and Paul tell us that we will reign with Him, here on earth. What that means or entails, at this point in time, God alone knows! But whatever he gives us to do, we will find ourselves faithful in doing, for has he not removed our sin? We will no longer struggle, but will step into that secure relationship which knows no end. It just does not get better than that!

What Jesus does for us
1. Loosens our chains
2. Sets us free
3. Gives us power over sin
4. Redeems us
5. Establishes us
6. Places us
7. Relates to us

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