“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we became Christians and were baptized to become one with Christ Jesus, we died with him? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” Romans 6:1-4 New Living Translation
Why did you become a disciple of Jesus Christ? Were you brought up in a home where Christianity was a part of your every day life? Or maybe you have rejected Christianity completely. What about the pervasive thought that you don’t need a church or organized religion dictating how you worship? There are more than 41,000 Christian groups, or so the current statistics declare! How did we ever get to that number? What has caused the followers of Jesus to become so difficult to get along with, especially as He prayed we would be filled with Him, the Father, and the Holy Spirit? Jesus prayed we would be so loving in our relationships with each other our witness to the world would prove who He was and who sent Him.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked that way, has it? Otherwise why would we need 41,000 different groups declaring their commitment to Jesus? What went wrong? Why does it continue to go wrong? We are told there are more churches closing every week than are opening. Philip Yancy, author of several books on grace, in his latest book “Vanishing Grace”, notes the reputation of Christianity is at an all time low. Actually, the reputation is considered sinister in that Christians are associated with hating not loving! The reputation of Christians is exactly opposite to what he prayed, what He desired for those who became His disciples! Is it any wonder the witness of the church is without power, is stagnant, has become lifeless, a valley of dry bones as seen by Ezekiel? What did God ask? “Son of man, can these dry bones live?” “This is what the Lord God says to theses bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you will live!” Ezekiel 37:5
Is it possible the Christian community has fallen into the same trap that caught ancient Israel? That age old lie infiltrating the Body of Christ convincing too many there is a need to “work” out some form of self-salvation. It is cleverly disguised in many forms, Health and Wealth Gospel, the Positive Faith Gospel, The Name it and Claim it Gospel. Anything that puts us in the driver’s seat, the place belonging to God, is extremely dangerous! No matter how it is disguised, anything that places you in the position of being in control is not from God and isn’t found in God’s grace process for your life. “… I will put breath in you so that you come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel. 37:6b New Living Translation
There are several places where God announces it is His intention to make sure His followers respond to His plans for them. He says outright, “I will cause you to obey!” In the New Testament the word believe as used in John 3:16 means “entrusting Jesus Christ for your spiritual welfare.” I believe the witness we have been told is ours becomes sidelined by what Jesus called the “cares of this world”. When we forget who is in control of our life, our future, even in mitigating our past and its impact, we become confused as to our role. We are unable to clearly divine the will of God from our own prejudices. What must change is how we understand God and how intimately and passionately He desires us to be in relationship with Himself.
If any generation or group of believers is, we are that valley of dry bones. It describes the Christian community of today. Our dryness comes from the self-focus we entertain chronically, constantly, continuously keeping us struggling and feeling lifeless! All because we refuse to trust God is really involved in our lives and seeking what is best for our welfare spiritually, emotionally, mentally, even physically!
We are much like those ancient Israelites; we have forgotten what God offers. We don’t trust He will carry through with what He offers, therefore we find ourselves offering God exactly what He doesn’t need, our HELP! Remember the story of Abraham and Sarah and how they decided to give God a helping hand? Their help created a mess that continues today.
So what is the answer? God’s Grace is always the answer, it always has been. When there is an option to experience God’s Grace or to continue on the course we have been wandering down, I believe the choice we need to make is obvious. Then why do we find ourselves making the wrong choice over and over? Is it possible that we ultimately find ourselves caught up in the confusion of sin? There is a reason sin is closely connected to Babylon, the city of confusion! Confusion describes exactly where sin leaves us rather than being all God wants for us!
There is an enemy who wants to be seen as the god of this universe, bringing in a reign of confusion! He wants to make you think that by sinning you can manipulate God to make grace greater and more abundant than the sin. It is instead a bait and switch con game that leaves us losing every time. The enemy seeks to lure as many as possible into the trap of Sin vs. Grace, knowing he will win every time, unless we remember and recognize God’s Grace has already won every victory we will ever need.
We have been buried, resurrected, and now live in Jesus Christ; He is our all in all! It is He who controls our destiny, offering the reality of victory in our lives. We experienced death with Him and we experienced resting with Him, then we experienced the resurrection with Him. Finally we will know eternity with Him! Each day offers opportunities for us to experience that life in our reality of today!
It’s all about Jesus, always has been, always will be, and would we have it any other way? Each day we have the choice of accepting anew the mercies, the grace, the immense love of God that transcends everything the enemy throws at us, trying to destroy us with daily! He was, is and remains one who is defeated. In my mind we often worship the enemy by giving him way too much credit for anything! God remains greater, stronger, the One who desires for us only that which is of the most beneficial to our development in Him!
Our New Life in Christ, made possible by Him through His life, His death, and His resurrection guarantees our salvation as it is secured in Himself! It is this that changes everything in our lives as we begin and continue the process of becoming like Jesus in every way. In reality this is what is happening in your life and mine, made possible by Jesus for us.
“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” Ezekiel 36: 26-27 New American Standard