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3. God Raised Us Up With Christ

 

(1) Take up your own cross daily and follow the Lord

 

    

Let’s pray:  Lord, we give thanks to you!  You not only made a way for us to “cross over from death to life” to have new life, you also want our new life to grow.  Oh, Lord, I ask you to enlighten us so that we may understand the meaning of “and God raised us up with Christ”.  Lord, I ask not only for us to understand clearly knowledge-wise, but also for us to live it out in practice.  In Lord Jesus Christ’s name I pray!  Amen!  

Thanks to the grace of the Lord, that God so loved the world, even when we were dead in transgressions and sins, he gave us his Son to complete the salvation of “crossing over from death to life”, so that whoever believes in him is made alive in Christ and justified by faith; moving from under Satan’s control to the kingdom of the beloved Son; through Jesus Christ’s death and our faith in him, we are crucified with him and freed from the control of sin, we are no longer salves of sin; through Jesus Christ’s resurrection and our union with him, we are raised with him with a new life, and Christ is the Lord of our lives.  God didn’t stop at just having Jesus Christ complete the “crossing over from death to life” salvation plan so that we can receive new life through faith; after we are saved and born again, he also wants our new life to have healthy growth and not just doing whatever we desire.  God had a plan for growing the life of his children, that is, on one hand, God gave us the Bible as the food to nourish our new life; he further gave us the privilege of praying so that through Bible reading and praying – key elements in new life growth – our union with Christ becomes closer and closer and our hearts and minds are renewed and transformed.  On the other hand, through taking up our own cross daily and following the Lord, our new life grows continually.

“God made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ ….” (Ephesians 2: 5-6).  By grace and through faith we are united with Christ in death and resurrection, so we have been saved and born again – a baby of new life.  Likewise, by grace and through faith we take up our own cross daily and follow the Lord, time and again experiencing death and being raised with the Lord, and thus our new life gradually grows.  This is the topic of this lecture: “And God raised us up with Christ” – take up our own cross daily and follow the Lord.   

1.      You have been saved “by grace”, what salvation plan did God complete?  (Ephesians 2: 8; John 5: 24; 1 Corinthians 2: 2)

      We are saved by grace.  The salvation plan God prepared for us includes the previously discussed part: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son to complete the salvation plan …., now, in particular, we want to discuss that Lord Jesus paved a new and living way for us.  Before, none of us could come before God, why?  Because we were sinners so we couldn’t go before God, but Jesus Christ paved a new and living way for us, so Hebrews 10: 22 says “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”  “With a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” means to sincerely confess before God that we are sinners and accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior.  Give thanks to the Lord for his grace; he paved this new and living way so that we are moved from the “in Adam” domain to the “in Christ” domain; from under Satan’s control to the kingdom of the beloved Son; and from dead in transgressions and sins to being made alive, and receiving a new life.  All of these are impossible by human means because we have no merits; it’s all by God’s grace.  What is grace?  Romans 4: 4-6 says: “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.  However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.  David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works;” and Romans 11: 6 says: “and if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”               

2.      What is the meaning of “through faith”?  (Ephesians 2: 8; John 1: 12)

      Ephesians 2: 8 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.”  God had already prepared the salvation plan, so “through faith” means we just have to believe and accept so that the objective truth that Lord Jesus Christ had completed the salvation plan can become our subjective experience.  “You accept” and “you do not accept” are legal terms.  The blood of Lord Jesus had already shed for all people in the world, however if you don’t accept it then God’s salvation will not happen in you, you will not be credited as righteous, will not cross over from death to life, will not be able to move from under the rule of Satan to the kingdom of the beloved Son, etc.

3.      We receive new life through our faith in Jesus, but what will make the new life grow?  (Romans 1: 17)

After becoming a believer and knowing that I have eternal life, somehow the question of “how to make my new life grow” has never crossed my mind.  All day long what occupied my mind and what I longed for was:  What should I do to become a good Christian?  I always thought that I should do whatever the Bible says.  After reading Matthew Chapters 5, 6, and 7, I thought to myself:  This is impossible!  So I decided to just do my best and leave it at that.  As a matter of fact, I didn’t understand at all the complete salvation Jesus Christ had accomplished for us.  We have said this before, as a believer, if you still rely on yourself to be good then you are hostile to God (see Romans 8: 7); because when you rely on yourself to do good; you are living under law and will be cursed (see Galatians 3: 10), it’s like doing a thankless job.  Some people judge whether a person is a good Christian or not by looking only at his work: he is very enthusiastic, spreads the gospel all over, he is very loving, loves all brothers and sisters; but ignore his life and attribute the facts that he quarrels with his family, he is at odds with co-workers, or not getting along with his children as human frailties.

When we believe in Jesus and cross over from death to life to have the new life, we are babies of the new life.  Another way of looking at this: we have only entered into the elementary teachings about Christ.  How did we receive the new life?  By faith!  How to grow the new life and to attain perfection?  It is still by faith!  This is what Romans 1: 17 means by: “a righteousness that is by faith from first to last”.  We are justified by faith, that is to say, by faith we have been credited righteous; as our faith grows more and more (from first to last), then we will gradually become truly righteous.  Brothers and sisters: let us all hear this well, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.”  By grace and through faith, we have been saved and born again, also by grace and through faith that our life after re-birth may grow gradually.  It does not depend on us doing something, rather it relies on our calling on the name of the Lord unceasingly so that we may continue to take off our old-selves and put on our new-selves. 

4.      What is the principle of the cross – no new life without death?  (1 Corinthians 15: 36)

      As we have clearly explained in Figure 1, that because we were all under the control of the sin nature (called the old-self); it’s impossible for us not to sin and no one can save himself to come before God.  It’s impossible for us to rely on ourselves to change and be good, because no matter what we do we can only deal with our problem superficially.  God so loved us, he wanted to save us; he wanted to recreate the mankind that is free from the control of the sin nature.  By grace, God used Lord Jesus Christ on the cross to complete the salvation plan, he died and was resurrected – ending the old creation and enter into the new creation; by faith we are united with him in death and in resurrection and thus become the newly created men.  If I want to live then I have to die – this is the principle of the cross, that is, only when I die in Adam, I am able to be freed from the control of sin; I must conclude the old creation in order to enter into the new creation; if you want to be born again then you must die first, this is the essence of the principle of the cross.   

5.      What is our daily cross?  What is taking up your cross daily and following the Lord?   (see Hebrews 12: 1-13; Luke 9: 23-24)

(1)   A heart of willing to follow and please the Lord:  The majority of brothers and sisters who have been saved and born again, are attracted and motivated by the love of Christ, and have been given by God a heart of willing to love, to follow, and to please the Lord.

(2)   For his children, God has a plan to cultivate and grow their lives:

·         Our lives are transformed through the renewing of our inner hearts and minds: Through believing and accepting the salvation plan of Jesus Christ, we have crossed over from death to life and received new life.  Every day we draw on the key elements for life growth – reading Bible, praying, etc., just like a toddler drinking milk, even though he may not know what he is drinking, but as long as he drinks he will continue to grow.  Likewise, through reading the Bible and praying we can continue to renew and transform our hearts and minds.   

·         On the outside, it is through our daily cross:  For every person who is willing to please him, to serve him and to walk in his way, God has a plan to cultivate and grow that person’s life: that is to continually renew and transform his heart and mind from inside, and use his daily cross to train him on the outside.  The Lord, who is in charge of everything in the universe, personally oversees the execution of this plan.

o   What is our daily cross? (see Hebrews 12: 1-13)

§  Everything that happens to us every day which does not go our way is our daily cross:  Hebrews 12: 2, 3 talk about Lord Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame; namely he endured the opposition from evil and sinful men.  In other words, if you are faced with any things of discord, these things are your cross.  Why do you have the feeling of discord?  Because these things go against my old nature.       

§  Everything that happens to us is allowed and designed by God, so it is just right and everything works together to build our righteous character.  The Bible says: “In all things God works for the good of those who love him;” also without his permission not even one hair will fall off.  Are any of the things that happen to us smaller than a hair?  As the scripture says, God has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands and has wrapped up the waters in his cloak; he establishes the force of the wind and measures out the waters; makes a decree for the rain and a path for the thunderstorm.  So even if what we face today is like pouring rain, or thunderstorm, or fierce rising stream, they are all there to build our holy character and to make our life grow.   

o   Our attitude towards the daily cross:

§  Do not take it lightly and do not be discouraged; since the daily cross is there to build our character of holiness so do not be discouraged by thinking that the matter is too enormous or too burdensome; nor should we overlook it or take it lightly because it is such a trivial thing.  An example on “not being discouraged”: I was born with a bad temperament and I sulked easily; when I was in a bad mood, I could go for days without saying a word.  It was some 30 years ago, one day I got mad and didn’t speak to my husband for several days.  One day I heard a shrill cry from outside the house, it turned out my three-year old daughter’s stroller overturned and she had a broken arm.  At that moment, I had to open my mouth and deal with the situation!  God used the cross to pry my mouth open!  About 10 years later, my old problem returned, I wouldn’t talk to my husband.  That day, I drove my daughter to the dentist’s office, on the way I noticed that smoke was pouring from under the hood.  Fearing the car might catch on fire so I pulled over.  It turned out water had leaked out of the radiator and I was stranded on the freeway so I had to “open my mouth” and call my husband.  God really knows how to deal with us, as long as we are willing to please him, there is nothing he cannot do.  God is extremely patient in teaching and training us to rid our old nature.  An example of “not taking it lightly”: I remember 20 some years ago, my son told me one time: “Mom, I sense that you haven’t spent much time talking to us, you should make an effort to talk to us from time to time.”  This seemed to be a trivial thing, but God didn’t want me to get off the hook easily.  So I prayed to the Lord: “Oh Lord, how should I adjust my schedule and how should I rearrange my workload so that I may have time to talk to my children?”

§  Obedience:  Although the things that happen to us are not all reasonable, and sometimes it’s the other party’s fault, but we must acknowledge that all things happen to us are from God and for our good.  Do we submit to God for his sovereignty over our environment?  Do we submit to the Lord for his teaching through everything that happens to us?  If we love and respect our earthly father who disciplines us then how much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!  The basis of our submission is the cross.  For example, when my husband and I were talking, he would often say, “Why do you use such harsh language?”  Then the Holy Spirit would remind me that God was working on me.  If I retorted and said, “You should listen to yourself sometimes”, then I was not taking up my cross but was confronting.  To follow the Lord is to acknowledge the Lord and ask him what to do: “Lord, today my husband told me that I used harsh language.  I am such a corrupt person, I ask you to save me.”  That is “taking up the cross and following the Lord.”  I am truly grateful that a person like me who often talks back to people – especially my husband, can take up the cross and follow the Lord so that my talking back has become less and less.  Now, I don’t have the feeling of being hurt if I don’t talk back, because I have been handing over the criticisms to the Lord instead of keeping them in me; I have a firm conviction that when “death” is taking root in me then life will start in others.  As long as I die with the Lord, I will be raised with him; I die to “talking back” and “the life of Christ” will be in charge to take care of everything.    

o   What is “walking in the way of the cross”?  Luke 9: 23-24: “Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.’”  Taking up one’s own cross daily and following the Lord, that is walking in the way of the cross.

§  The daily cross:  Lord Jesus did not say the cross of a certain day; rather he used the word “daily”.  Many brothers and sisters said to me that if it’s daily then there will be too many crosses to bear.  But that’s the reality.  The day of the second coming of Lord Jesus is getting closer and closer, and the wedding of the lamb is nearer and nearer.  I often think that I used to have a lot of bad old nature, and through the daily cross God allowed the fierce winds and thunderstorms to hit me in order to grow my character of holiness, and to make me take off my old-self and put on the new-self.  Not only that, even now on tiny things God will not cut me any slack at all.  Give thanks to the Lord, I know I will be seeing him soon; God loves me so much that he wants to rid me of not only my visible old nature but also my hidden old nature; he wants me to be prepared to wait for the wedding day of the lamb.      

§  Take up:  means to assume and to exalt

§  Follow the Lord:  we are not to take up the cross and run around everywhere to complain about our being wronged.  Rather, we should take up our daily cross to follow the Lord, to call on the Lord, to look up to the Lord, and to exalt the Lord.

§  Take up the cross daily and follow the Lord:  means to face the things that happen to us every day; for example, my son told me that he wished I could spend more time with the family, sounded like he was complaining that I didn’t give them any time at all.  To take up the cross means to face this matter and follow the guidance of the Lord; first acknowledge the Lord, then ask the Lord what to do, then call on the Lord, “Lord, my son said that to me, how should I handle this situation?” or when my husband criticized me, say “Lord, today my husband said that I used some harsh language.  Oh Lord, that’s right, I am such a corrupt person; I ask you to save me.”  This is what it means to take up your cross daily and follow the Lord.

§  Lose life and surely will gain life:  When we call on the Lord and lift up the things that we are facing, we are in fact losing our life.  What does it mean by losing life?  That is to stop paying attention to ourselves – stop paying attention to our feelings, to our reasoning, and to stop making irrational argument for ourselves.  When “we give up on ourselves” then we are in fact dead.  When we take up the cross and follow the Lord, it appears that we are dying for the Lord (to die with the Lord), but in reality, we are gaining life (to be raised with the Lord), and our new life will grow.   

Regarding “take up your cross and follow the Lord,” let me share some more:  Nowadays I often come to appreciate Lord Jesus’ words: “Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘no,’ ‘no’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”  In the past, I always had to get more words in, and a little bit later, I would add more.  At those times my husband would criticize me by saying: “You are always forcing irrational arguments on people and make it sound like you are the reasonable one.”  Before, I would think: “Of course, my arguments are correct.”  But I give thanks to the Lord; God let me realize that I need to take up the cross daily.  Now if my husband says that to me, I would just pray, “Oh Lord, this is how I am, I am just so irrationally argumentative, oh Lord, you save me.”  This is “taking up the cross daily”, and when you follow the Lord like this, you will lose your life, you will not make irrational arguments; on the contrary, your life will flourish and you will have Christ’s life.  Therefore, if we want to take up the cross we must deny ourselves, i.e. we must have the attitude of suffering.  Peter said that we should arm ourselves with the attitude of suffering.  Without the attitude of suffering then we will for sure talk back: “Who are you to criticize me?”, because our old-selves are all self-centered.  So in order to take off the old-self and to put on the new-self, we must have the attitude of suffering.  When we take up our cross daily to follow the Lord, our cross and the Lord’s cross are bound together, and we experience dying and being raised together with the Lord; thus the great power of resurrection of the cross is manifested.  When we just start to take up the cross, we may have the feeling of being wronged, because this process is against our old nature.  The old nature has been in us for many decades so we will suffer a little bit.  However, when you truly are taking up the cross, God has relieved all the pain and suffering associated with death so you will suffer no more.  When you are actually walking in “the way of the cross” you will experience total freedom.              

6.      What is the relationship between “Lord Jesus’ cross” and our daily cross” and “our receiving and growing the new life”?  What does it mean that “God raised us up with Christ”? (Ephesians 2: 6; Luke 9: 23-24)

(1)   Give thanks to the Lord, when we become believers of Jesus, we accept Jesus Christ and his death on the cross so that we may have new life.

(2)   After receiving the new life, through our taking up the cross daily and following the Lord, we continually putting off our old-self and putting on the new-self, thus our new life gradually grows.

·         Lord Jesus’ cross:  Since ancient times, many have been crucified; but how many have been resurrected after being crucified?  None.  Only Jesus Christ has been resurrected after being crucified.

·         Our daily cross:  As mentioned previously, our daily cross are those things that we encounter daily that are not to our liking, are against our wishes, and are discord in nature.  For example, my son complained about me, my husband criticized me, someone gave me a dirty look today, someone had a grudge against me and won’t speak to me, my son received  a failing grade at school, my son’s teacher gave me an earful of his poor behavior at school, etc., are all our daily cross. 

·         Taking up our own cross daily and following the Lord:  When we acknowledge the Lord and call out “Oh Lord!”  Our cross and the Lord’s cross will be bound together so that we will experience dying and being raised with the Lord.  When Jesus was nailed to the cross, there were three crosses on Calvary: one for Jesus and the other two were for robbers.  Only one of the robbers acknowledged that: “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he also said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  This robber who acknowledged the Lord and called on the Lord, so his cross and the Lord’s cross were united.  What did Jesus say then?  Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”  Brothers and sisters, give thanks to the Lord, God is faithful, he will not let us be tempted (the cross) beyond what we can bear, he will also provide a way out …. “.  Praise the Lord, all things work together to build our character of holiness.  May the Lord give us a spirit of obedience so that we can become obedient children of God.    

(3)   If you take up your own cross but do not follow the Lord:  The cross that God gives you is perfectly measured out for you, the question is how do you respond to the cross given to you by God?  Do you take it and go all over town, calling and complaining to whomever that may lend you a sympathetic ear?  If that’s what you do then you are nowhere near drawing from the great power of Christ’s resurrection, and can only lead you to suffer from anger, depression, bitterness, and anxiousness; this is definitely not “dying with the Lord”, so you will not be raised with the Lord either.   

(4)   The meaning of “God raised us up with Christ” is:  When we became believers, we were united with the Lord in death and in resurrection to receive new life, so we were babies in new life.  After that, we took up our own cross daily and followed the Lord so our cross and the Lord’s cross were united and we continually died with the Lord as well as were raised with the Lord, leading to our new life growth.  This continuing process of dying and resurrecting with the Lord is the meaning of “God raised us up with Christ”.  In other words, it’s not sufficient just to be a believer and a baby of the new life, rather, we must take up our own cross daily to follow the Lord, unceasingly experience “dying with the Lord” and “being raised with the Lord” to grow our new life.

7.      What is the meaning of: “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God; for the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength”?  Why does the Bible say “For since in the wisdom of God …. God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe”?  (1 Corinthians 1: 21-25)

The way of the cross is to call on the Lord in all things and circumstances.  In the eyes of men, Christians appear to be weak, do not have their own ideas, have to consult God on everything, and always have to pray and pray, really too foolish.  Let’s take a look at the results of God’s nature, God reigns, and human reigns:

·         Psalms 93: 1: “The Lord reigns …. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.”  God is the creator and ruler of everything in heaven and on earth; God is the fountain of life (Psalms 36: 9); is the Father of the heavenly lights, and the source of all good and perfect gifts, as James 1:17 says: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

·         But because of the fall of Adam, sin was introduced into the world and people were all “sold to sin”, controlled by the sin nature and became slaves of sin, living in the state of “self-centeredness”; alienated from God and were enemies in their minds because of their evil behavior.  In Jeremiah 2: 13, the Lord Said, “My people have committed two sins:  They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

o   Have forsaken the spring of living water:  “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away.”

o   Have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water: “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greek look for wisdom,” it is the world that had forsaken God and sought to use their own ability and wisdom to build the kingdom of peace and to enjoy the wonderful life.  Today, the world is so chaotic, dark, and corrupt because we are all controlled by the sin nature and are living in the state of “self-centeredness”.  If you forsake God, no miraculous signs or life philosophy will bring you true peace and joy, or a satisfying life.

·         Jesus Christ through his crucifixion wants to free the world from the control of the sin nature and to pave a new and living way so that we can return to God through our faith.

·         God makes all those who believe in Jesus Christ unite with him, and also makes him (Christ) our wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and salvation.  Praise the Lord, when we are united with Christ and return to God through faith, Christ’s all becomes our all.  When we live in self-indulgence, we are controlled by the sin nature – i.e. we live in the root of evil, self-centeredness; when we exalt Christ then sin cannot control us and God’s wisdom and power will be manifested in us.  Hence we say that Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God.

      The world see us calling on the Lord in all things and wonder if that really solves any problem.  In the eyes of men we are weak, but in reality we are united with the almighty God; in the eyes of men we have forsaken our wisdom and ability, but in reality the power and wisdom of Christ are manifested, hallelujah!

8.       What is the relationship between “the principle of the cross” and “our wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and insights”?  (Colossians 1: 9)

       Colossians 1: 9: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

      We have already discussed that the cross is “calling on the Lord in all things”; just present your request to the Lord and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Now that God has given us wisdom and understanding, yet the cross is “calling on the Lord in all things”; then should we make use of our wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and insight?  We all have a brain and didn’t God use Paul’s wisdom to write the Book of Romans and many other epistles?  The answer is yes, of course!  The problem is “I no longer live but Christ lives in me.”  We must turn over our wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and insight to God, let God be in charge of them, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to apply our wisdom and understanding, this is what “spiritual wisdom and understanding” mean.  Therefore, when we are praying for a project, and we have peace inside after we have said our prayer (indicating the Holy Spirit is in charge), then we may proceed with the project.  When we start to do the project, we need to use our wisdom, need to use our hands to do things and our feet to go places.  Because we have prayed so our wisdom and understanding are being guided by the Holy Spirit, then we just follow our minds and thoughts that bring peace to our heart to act.  Brothers and sisters, we should pray in all things, pray continually: “Lord, I cannot do anything; I can only look up to you.”  When we look up to the Lord, the Spirit of God is at work in us, because Christ is our life who manages our wisdom and understanding through the Holy Spirit.            

            Let’s pray:  Our Father in heaven we praise you, praise you!  You not only give birth to us, but you also raise us; externally you use the daily cross and internally you use Bible reading and praying to renew and transform our hearts and minds, so that our life may grow gradually.  Give thanks to the Lord for such guidance, thank you Lord.  The cross is the wisdom of God and the power of God.  The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.  Oh Lord, we give praises to you!  In Lord Jesus Christ’s holy name we pray, amen!   

 


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