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4. Summary

 

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2: 10)

 

    

Let’s pray:  Oh, Lord Jesus, we thank you, you have been leading us in the study of the “Lectures on Ephesians 2: 1-10” up to this point.  Oh Lord, thank you, for we are your workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.  Oh Lord, how can we corrupt people become your glorious inheritance?  I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to reveal to us so that we can see how wonderful your work is in us; how hopeful you are for our callings; and how great the power you have shown to the believers.  Lord, we thank you and praise you.  We earnestly pray that the Holy Spirit of truth continually reveals to us over and over again, so that we may truly know you.  In Lord Jesus’ name we pray, amen!

The Lectures on Ephesians 2: 1-10 mainly point out to us how God made us into new creations, as well as how he made the newly created men grow in a healthy way.  In order to highlight this central theme, the Ephesians Lectures cover the central idea and main point of the New Life Lessons -- 26 Lectures but do not cover the content of each of the 26 lectures.                                     

1.      For we are God’s workmanship:

(1)    Why does God save us? (Matthew 1: 21; John 3: 16; Romans 5: 6-11; Ephesians 4: 20-24; Colossians 3: 10)

      God created the human race so that we became his witnesses and glories on earth.  God wants to rule the earth through men so we accept and represent God’s authority on earth.  God said to men: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”   That was God’s mind when he created Adam.  At the Garden of Eden, God made a covenant with Adam, and said to him, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”  But Eve was tempted by the snake and was attracted to the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – pleasing to the eye, good for food, and desirable for gaining wisdom, so she took some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband to eat, therefore Adam broke the covenant.  God told Adam, “When you eat of it you will surely die”, so this consequence came upon the world.  Adam himself was dead, at the same time he also sold his offspring as slaves to sin (see Romans 7: 14), and thus sin entered the world.  From Figure 1, we know clearly that “the wages of sin is death”.  It is because of sin, no one can rely on himself to be good to come before God.  God loved the world, he wanted to save us all; God’s purpose of redeeming us was actually also the reason that he created men:  God wanted to have a group of newly created men through the salvation of Jesus Christ.  The newly created man was to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  God wanted to restore in these new men the likeness of God that was lost in Adam and Eve because of sin; and through continual processes of taking off the old-self and putting on the new-self, these new men would gradually renew their knowledge in the image of their creator.

(2)   What did God use to save us?  (1 Corinthians 1: 21-25; 2: 2; John 5: 24)         

      Because the entire human race was controlled by sin and separated from God, so the way God used to save us was to recreate the human race, in order to free all men from the control of the sin nature.  The way of God’s salvation is “by grace and through faith”:  “By grace”, God set up his Son to be the savior of all mankind by being a sin offering to complete the “crossing over from death to life” salvation of the cross; “through faith”, all those who received Jesus Christ as their personal savior were united with Christ to receive a new life and became a newly created man.

(3)   What should we be aiming and striving for in our pursuit?  (1 Corinthians 9: 26-27; Ephesians 4: 20-24; Matthew 16: 24-26; Philippians 3: 9-14)

      Brothers and sisters, please be very careful, don’t treat Christianity as just a religion, thinking that since I am a Christian all I have to do is to obey the dogma, the doctrine, and the framework of the Christian religion.  1 Corinthians 9: 26 says: “Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.”  What are we aiming for in our pursuit?  We should not be pursuing what we ourselves consider to be “good” and “right”, rather we should pursue according to the way and the purpose of God’s salvation for us.  God used Jesus Christ and his crucifixion – the “crossing over from death to life” salvation plan to redeem us, so what we should pursue is following the Lord “by faith from first to last” and fully submitting to take up our cross daily to follow the Lord so as to continually take off the old-self and put on the new-self.

      Ephesians 2: 10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus …”:  Since we are God’s workmanship so God will do his work in us.  What does he do to remake us?  Ephesians 2: 8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith …”; “by grace” means everything was done by God; “through faith” means that because we believe in Christ so we are united with him through faith, and the salvation plan completed by Lord Jesus is fulfilled in us.  In other words, by accepting Jesus Christ and him crucified, we become a newly created man.  After that, this new man, through the process of “taking up his cross daily and following the Lord”, gradually grows up.  This is the only way that the newly created man can do the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do.  This entire lecture series is dealing with how to become a newly created man, and how this new man’s life may grow.  Throughout the process of our being created and being worked on, we must remember that God’s salvation plan is “by grace and through faith”.

2.      Created in Christ Jesus:

      A brother once prayed this way: “Oh Lord, even though we have done many things for the Lord, but because we relied on our own efforts to do these things so they are all done outside of Christ, and are all useless.  Oh Lord, we must live in Christ so that we can be trained to do what God wanted us to do.  Otherwise all is for naught.”  Amen, amen.

(1)   After our ancestor Adam sinned what was the relationship between men and God?  (Romans 5: 12; Ephesians 2: 1; Colossians 1: 21)

·          The relationship between men and God was separation or death:

      Please refer to Figure 1:  After Adam and Eve sinned, not only they themselves were controlled by the sin nature, but also caused all their offspring to be under the control of sin, so they had no choice but to sin resulting in death (separation from God).  Colossians 1: 21 says, ”Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.”  The condition depicted in Figure 1 represents the relationship between the judge and the sinner before the righteous court of God; the “death” is because men are controlled by the sin nature and can’t help but to sin and resulting in their separation from God; if a man does not believe in the Lord and dies, the trial for the sinner will result in death and be sent to a place far away from God – the hades.

·         Humans were separated from the fountain of the living water, so there was no joy of fullness nor eternal blessings:

      God is the eternal life and also the source of the eternal life; he is happy to give his life to all men.  Away from God, we have no eternal life, only death.  God’s life has the joy of fullness and eternal blessings; if you receive this life, you will have the joy of fullness and eternal blessings.  Jesus once told the Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.”  Here “this water” means any person, thing, or object that brings joy to people, but each of these can only do so much for you.  What is the frustration in life?  Even if you have joy but you don’t have the joy of fullness; even if you have blessings but you don’t have eternal blessings, hence “you will be thirsty again!”  Now God wants us to come before him to receive eternal life, and only through this will we have the joy of fullness and eternal blessings, and we will never thirst.

·         The whole world is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5: 19), in the dominion of the Satan (see Colossians 1: 13; 1 Peter 2: 9).

·         Men cannot come before God through their own efforts, because just as Paul said in Romans 7: 14 “I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin”:  We are all controlled by the sin nature, any religion or anyone thinks that we can please God by relying on our doing good is wrong, it is impossible.  Because no matter what we do, it is all done by “us” who are under the control of sin; therefore, everything we do stems from our “self-centeredness”, and thus is hostile to God.

(2)   What salvation plan did God complete through Jesus Christ?  How did this salvation plan fulfill in us and how was Christ our life?  (John 5: 24; Ephesians 2: 8-9; Romans 6: 6; Galatians 2: 20)

·         God must recreate the human race:

      Everyone in the world is controlled by the sin nature, or as Paul described it: “What I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.”  No one can come before God through his own effort.  God loves people of the world and wants to save them, so he must recreate the human race: only through death the old humans who are controlled by the sin nature can be freed from the sin nature; and God intends to build a new human race that is united with Christ.

·         By grace, God set up the salvation plan to “recreate the human race” (refer to God’s Salvation Plan Diagram):

 

o   God appointed his only Son as the savior of men:

            We have repeatedly talked about the fact that there was no one in the world who had kept the whole law and qualified to be the savior of humans, therefore, God had to send his Son to earth in flesh.  Brothers and sisters, when we were sinners what was our relationship with God?  We were enemies of God!  While we were still sinners and enemies of God, God gave us his Son to be nailed on the cross, to shed his blood and to die for us.  This is truly the amazing great love of God.  How wide and long and high and deep the love of God is, it is beyond our ability to fathom.  

o   God’s Son is fully God, the word became flesh and he is also fully man – son of man:

Lord Jesus must come down from heaven to earth (word became flesh) to become fully man, and be united with men to become one of them – the son of man, then later on he may represent all humans to be on the cross to complete the salvation plan; and the people of the world through believing in him may be united with him.

o   There are four terms in God’s salvation plan:

      In Ephesians 4: 23-24, there is a set of terms: “new-self” and “old-self”; in 1 Corinthians 15: 22, 45, 47, we have “in Adam” and “in Christ”; and also “the first man”, “the second man”; “the first man Adam”, and “the last Adam” these terms.

o   God’s salvation plan – crossing over from death to life:

      The Son of God came to earth (word became flesh) to become the Son of man:  Lord Jesus is fully God and also fully man, so he possesses both characteristics of God and man.  The entire life of Lord Jesus on earth can be described as “being tempted in all things” and enduring sufferings; keeping the whole law and never committing a sin; and absolutely submitting to God.

      Lord Jesus completed the “crossing over from death to life” salvation plan:  Lord Jesus took on all the sins of men and like a lamb being led to the slaughter, he was hung from the cross as “the last Adam”.  The precious blood he shed washed away our sins so that we could reconcile with God; his death on the cross signified the death of the old humans, coming out of the domain of “in Adam” and being freed from the control of the sin nature, because anyone who has died has been freed from sin (please note that we are able to be freed from sin is because the death of the old-self, but the sin nature is not dead).  Lord Jesus not only died but was also raised, hallelujah!  Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection brought on the new human race (newly created men), who moved into the domain of “in Christ” with Christ as the head of these newly created men, thus completing the “crossing over from death to life” salvation plan.  Before the birth of Lord Jesus, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “She (Mary) will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins”.  The meaning of sins includes both “the sinful deeds” and “the sin nature”:  Jesus came to the earth and completed the salvation plan, on one hand was to save his people from their sinful deeds; on the other hand was to free them from the sin nature.  On the cross, Lord Jesus’ blood washed away our sinful deeds and his death freed us from the control of the sin nature.  The salvation plan of God completed by Jesus Christ is entirely by grace because men can’t do anything.

      In God’s Salvation Plan Diagram, we can clearly see the salvation plan Lord Jesus Christ completed on the cross:  Only through Lord Jesus’ death on the cross, can the death of the old human race take place, so that “resurrection” and “crossing over from death to life” can follow.  We are moved from “in Adam” to “in Christ”; in other words, we can be freed from all old-self conditions such as “dead in sins and transgressions”, “being under the control of the sin nature”, “living under law”, “living according to the desire of the flesh”, and “being under the dark dominion of Satan”.  God raised Jesus from the dead to become the Lord of life (so that from then on, all those who believe in him can be united with him through faith and become newly created men), to lead the new human race to enter into “being freed from the control of the sin nature”, “living under grace”, “living by the Spirit”, and “Christ’s kingdom of light”.  (Please take special note that Lord Jesus was born in Adam and under law, though he took on the likeness of a sinful man but he was sinless. See Romans 8: 3)      

·         The Triune God working together to complete the salvation plan:

      It was God who prepared the savior for men; it was the great power of the Holy Spirit that guided Jesus Christ to come to the earth in flesh, and guided him all his life to the cross, as well as his death and resurrection.  Therefore, it is the Triune God working together to complete the salvation plan.

·         Through faith: (refer to Figure 2)

      By God’s grace Lord Jesus completed the salvation plan.  How did the salvation plan completed by Lord Jesus fulfill in us?  The only thing we can and should do is to believe:  acknowledge that he is our savior; call on the name of the Lord and accept the salvation plan he has prepared for us; then the salvation plan completed by Lord Jesus will be fully fulfilled in us.  Lord Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5: 24)  That is to say, through calling on the Lord we died with the Lord and also were raised with the Lord.  We died with him so “our old-self was crucified with him”; we were freed from the control of the sin nature.  When we are raised with him, we are united with him so “I no longer live but Christ lives in me”; Christ is our life and our hope for glory.  When we, once for all, sincerely accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior, we change from being old-selves, controlled by sin, and being sinners, dead in sins and transgressions; to become alive – entering Christ’s resurrection to be united with Christ and to become righteous, new men.  We moved from living under law, relying on our reasoning and ability to act, to living under grace, submitting to and relying on the Holy Spirit to act; we come out of the dominion of Satan and enter into the kingdom of light of the beloved Son.  Praise God, we are his workmanship, “by grace and through faith”, God made us to have new life in Jesus Christ, becoming newly created men; the growth of the new men is still “by grace and through faith”.  We can also put it this way:  The new life is gained and made to grow “by faith from first to last”.  An old servant of God once said, “The new life growth is the process of ceding our free wills; that is the process of increasing our faith and continually exalting Jesus Christ to reign in us.  It is also the process of    ‘letting the Holy Spirit be our thought and mind”, or the process of increasing our faith so that our thought and mind would continually submit to the rule of the Holy Spirit.

      Because Adam rebelled against God so he was controlled by sin, which led to his offspring also being controlled by sin.  We are unspiritual, sold as slaves to sin.  Praise the Lord, Lord Jesus Christ through his death freed us from the control of the sin nature and made us unite with him, therefore “I no longer live but Christ lives in me”.  This last phrase is the turning point of my entire life.  For many years I have always been relying on “my own efforts” to do good work; “I” tried so hard to please God but I always fell short, so I was miserable because I couldn’t live out what my heart desired.  Because of that, for years I often sighed and called out to the Lord.  Give thanks to the Lord, because he promised that if we ask we will receive.  Twenty some years ago, God used a few simple words of Andrew Murray: “When you are still thinking about relying on yourself to be good, that means you are not dead yet”, to open my mind.  Suddenly, it was all clear to me:  Jesus Christ completed the “crossing over from death to life” salvation plan, we are now united with him; Christ is my life and my Lord.  Oh, yes, I no longer live so I shouldn’t rely on myself to live anymore.

(3)   What is the dividing line between “in Adam” and “in Christ”?  What is the dividing line between “Satan’s dominion” and “the kingdom of the beloved Son”?  (Romans 6: 6; Colossians 1: 13-14; 1 Corinthians 15: 22)

·         From God’s Salvation Plan Diagram, it is clear that the dividing line between “in Adam” and “in Christ” is the cross:

We have said before, the sinful nature is connected to Adam; the Holy Spirit is connected to Christ.  In other words, when we live by the sinful nature (i.e. relying on myself to act), all conditions associated with being “in Adam” will surface; when we live according to the Spirit, what surfaces is the condition of being “in Christ”.  We often sigh and say, “I want to die, I want to die, but why I won’t die?”  (Of course we know we are referring not to the death of our physical body but death to our sinful nature.)  How do we die?  Will our sinful nature die away by itself?  Of course not!  So how do we die? Actually, it’s very simple:  It is through calling on the name of the Lord and being united with the Lord that we die and are raised with the Lord.  When we acknowledge that by ourselves we cannot do anything and can only look to the Lord and call on the Lord, then we will experience dying with the Lord for real.  We must remember that it is through calling on the name of the Lord and being united with the Lord that we are able to die by dying with the Lord.  Many people asked why they weren’t able to die, brothers and sisters, God didn’t tell you to die, rather he told you to call on the name of the Lord, to be united with the Lord, and to die with the Lord; it was that simple.  What made it difficult was that we didn’t take the path of “calling on the name of the Lord”; instead we chose to rely on ourselves to die.  Brothers and sisters, let’s pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us, to speak to us that one cannot die by relying on his own efforts.  By faith, turn yourself over to God and be crucified with Christ:  “Oh Lord, I give myself to you.”  After experiencing the death on the cross, the life of Christ will manifest from inside of us.  Therefore we must be clear on one thing:  Once we believed in Jesus and called on the name of the Lord (though we might not understand at that time but in reality our inside had gone through the process of being crucified with the Lord, dying and being raised with the Lord), we were saved and born again; we had been united with the Lord and received the new life, Christ was my life and we were a baby of the new life then.  After that it was still through continual calling on the name of the Lord, and continual being crucified with the Lord that our unification with the Lord became tighter and tighter, and our new life grew gradually – still by the power of the cross!  Hallelujah!  The cross is my glory forever. 

·         What is the dividing line between “Satan’s power” and “the kingdom of the beloved Son”?

Lord Jesus Christ completed God’s salvation plan by being nailed to the cross, shedding his blood, died, buried and being raised.  Lord Jesus Christ crushed the devil’s head on the cross.  Colossians 2: 15: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”  The meaning of this scripture passage is: “Lord Jesus through the cross disarmed the devil and his evil spirit and made a spectacle of them by publicly shaming them.  Jesus Christ forced the devil and his followers to follow his victory procession as prisoners so that all creatures of the world would know the triumph of Christ.  In addition, although the devil held the power of death, Lord Jesus used the death on the cross to enter the hades and “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)  Here “destroy” does not mean to put it out of existence but means to make it unable to do damage, or to render it completely powerless so that it has no effect or it is paralyzed.  Through resurrection:  He has risen, and is holding the keys of death and hades, that proves that he triumphed over death.  Lord Jesus said, “I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!  And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1: 18)  Lord Jesus not only died and was raised, he was lifted up to the third heaven (Satan was the ruler of the kingdom of the air, so Lord Jesus rose through all airs signified his triumph over the devil’s power) and seated at the right hand of the Father God, the throne of the highest authority in the universe.  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ (see Matthew 28: 18); “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.” (Ephesians 1: 21-22)  In Philippians 2: 10-11 Paul proclaimed: “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  We know clearly that Lord Jesus used his death on the cross to destroy the power and authority of Satan and he was raised from the dead to establish and to enter the kingdom of the beloved Son.  So what is the dividing line between “the power and authority of Satan” and “the kingdom of the beloved Son”?  It is still the cross!  Only through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross that we are united with the Lord in death to be freed from Satan’s power and authority (people of the world are all born under the power and authority of Satan); and we are united with the Lord in the resurrection to move into the kingdom of the beloved Son.  This was the case when we were saved and born again; it is also the case for our life to grow:  through our submitting to God and our firm faith, we die with the Lord to fend off the devil and the devil will flee from us.

Let me say one thing in passing:  Those of us who have been saved and born again, and have moved from under the power and authority of Satan to the kingdom of the beloved Son, should heed what God commanded us in 2 Corinthians 6: 14-7: 1, that we must come out from anything that has to do with Satan, idols, darkness, and wickedness; touch no unclean things; and purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.  This is very important, since we have moved out of the power and authority of Satan and into the kingdom of the beloved Son, everything that belongs to Satan’s kingdom, whether it is fortune telling, practicing feng-shui, or any related things, “the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so” (Deuteronomy 18: 14), we must have a thorough and clean break with all these things.  As to this point, in the New Life Lessons there is a detailed explanation, I hope that you all can listen to it carefully.  We must come out from these things because many illnesses in people like depression, schizophrenia, neurosis, and many others of unknown cause, often have possible ties to these things.  

(4)   After becoming a believer, what is it like inside us?  What does it mean to say “the new life begins with the Spirit and attains the goal by the Spirit”?  What does it mean to “attain the goal by human effort?”  (Matthew 7: 7-27; Galatians 3: 2-3; 5: 16, 25)

·         Our inner nature after becoming a believer (see Figure 3):

It is not correct to think that once we believe in the Lord, our old-self is dead and there is only the new-self in us.  We must understand that the sin nature is not dead, it is still in us.  So we have two inner natures after we have become believers:

From Figure 3 we can see that by calling on the name of the Lord we have been saved and born again, and received the new life from being united with Christ.  There are two different lives in us (the new life and the old life), two different paths in us (one is to ask by faith and the other is not by faith but to rely on one’s reasoning and analysis to act), and two different sources of power to live (one is to live by the Holy Spirit, the other is to live by our sinful nature).  In order to have a healthy growth of our new life we must understand our inner natures.

When we are faced with a situation, we have two paths to choose in us:  if I live by “relying on myself” and just do whatever I desire, then we will be controlled by the sin nature and exhibit all the conditions associated with our old-life.  The moment we live by “relying on the Lord”, call on the name of the Lord, and have a tighter bond with the Lord, then our new life will grow and we will be more joyful.  As an example, if my child said something rude to me today, what should I do?  There will be two natures surfacing inside of me, one is “to rely on the Lord”, “Oh Lord, free me from myself; I earnestly ask you to teach me and guide me on how I should handle this matter”, this is taking the path of “calling on the name of the Lord” by faith and letting the life of Christ be in charge in me to act; the other is “to rely on myself” to act, and to teach the child a lesson: “How could you be so rude to your parents?”  This path is to use one’s own reasoning and analysis and to live according to our desires; when “I” am in charge, I am controlled by sin.

Because of our two inner natures, the choice of our free will is very important; if my choice is to rely on the Lord then my new life will grow; if I choose to rely on myself then I will live in the state of “being temporarily separated from God” (we will discuss later that the choices made by our free will is the result of our continual drawing from the elements of new life growth and the renewing and transforming of our heart and mind).      

·         Begin with the Spirit:

By grace, Lord Jesus completed the salvation plan on the cross; through faith, when we sincerely accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior, the Holy Spirit enters into our heart to cause our rebirth, so we receive a new life as a result of being united with Christ, this is the meaning of “to begin with the Spirit”.  In other words, we cannot receive the salvation by our deeds; rather we have to rely on calling on the name of the Lord and being reborn by the Holy Spirit to have the salvation and the new life.  Take a look at Figure 2, how are we saved and born again?  When I call on the name of the Lord, the Holy Spirit works in me so that I am united with the Lord; my old-self is crucified with Christ and I am released from the control of the sin nature and set free to be united with Christ to receive the new life – to begin with the Spirit.

·         Begin with the Spirit and attain the goal by the Spirit:

      What does “attaining the goal” mean here?  It refers to the completion of the entire salvation process, and our new-selves gradually become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

      So how does the Holy Spirit begin?  It begins with our calling on the name of the Lord and the Holy Spirit giving birth to our new life.  To complete the entire process of salvation and to grow our new life, so as to gradually attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, we likewise must also rely on calling on the name of the Lord and on the Holy Spirit to attain.  That is to say, we begin with the Spirit – we receive new life by calling on the name of the Lord and letting the Holy Spirit do his work in us; we attain the goal by the Spirit – we likewise rely on calling on the name of the Lord, and the continual work of the Holy Spirit to grow the new life and to gradually become mature. 

·         Beginning with the Spirit but trying to attain the goal by human effort:

In Figure 3 there are two branches:  The upper branch depicts when “I” rely on myself, or rely on my own effort to act, though against my will but unbeknownst to me, once again I am controlled by the sin nature.  Once under the control of the sin nature, I have no freedom and can’t help but to commit sins which leads to death (temporary separation between the Father and son).  The lower branch depicts when I choose to rely on God and to call on the name of the Lord, the Holy Spirit does his work in me, I just follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act, and my life grows gradually.  The upper branch of Figure 3 is to attain the goal by human effort; the lower branch is to attain the goal by the Holy Spirit.

For many years I was on the upper branch of Figure 3, although through calling on the name of the Lord the Holy Spirit gave me a second birth with a new life, but often times I still relied on my own effort to act; instead of taking the path of calling on the name of the Lord.  Even though I have experienced the joy of being saved by the grace of God and the miracles of being helped or protected by God in dire situations, but the fortress in me – the stubborn “self-centeredness” remained.  Looking back, my life didn’t grow healthily.  Many of my actions in life were dead to God (this death means my relationship with God was broken temporarily).  This is what it means to begin with the Spirit but trying to attain the goal by human effort.     

(5)   What does it mean by “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace”?  (Romans 6: 14)

·         What is “the law”?  What is “under law”?

Here “the law” means the righteous requirements of God for people of the world; it has nothing to do with the common laws of the nations of the world.

What is “under law”?  In the secular world, it means to rely on one’s own effort to be good (i.e. to do the best you can).  As for Christians, the term “under law” means to rely on one’s own effort to meet God’s requirements.

 We must understand that “the law” and “under law” are two completely different things.  The requirements of “the law” must be met; and to live “under law” is to try to meet the requirements of the law by one’s own effort.

·         What is “under grace”?

The difference between “under law” and “under grace” is what power source you rely on to meet the requirements of the law.  Living “under grace” means to not rely on one’s own effort but to rely on the great power of the Holy Spirit to meet the requirements of God’s law.

·         Sin shall not be our master, because “we are not under law but under grace”:

o   Sin shall not be our master:

Thanks to the salvation of Jesus Christ, through our believing in Jesus Christ our old-self was crucified with him and we are freed from the control of sin; we have moved from the domain of “in Adam” to the domain of “in Christ”, sin shall not be our master; Christ is the Lord of our life.  However, whenever we stray away from the road of faith and live by relying on ourselves, then sin will secretly control us again (secretly, because our lawful master is Jesus Christ).

o   You are not under law but under grace:

Before you believe in the Lord, you live under law – relying on your own effort to be good, but because you are controlled by the sin nature so you always fail.  Thanks to the salvation of Jesus Christ, because of our believing in Jesus Christ we move from “in Adam” to “in Christ”, and sin shall not be our master, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me.”  We no longer live under law but under grace, no longer rely on our own effort but rely on the great power of the Holy Spirit to live.

Give thanks to the Lord, we understand now:  Sin shall not be our master, because we are not under law but under grace.  We also know that whenever we live under law, i.e. we want to rely on our own effort to attain God’s requirements, we will once again be controlled by sin and all old-self conditions will surface.

For years, I have been zealously working for the Lord, spreading the Gospel, leading congregational meetings, doing visitations, etc., I was really busy.  However, when I encountered anything that didn’t agree with me or didn’t go my way, I would explode in anger and even complained that I was so busy why couldn’t others be more considerate towards me.  Why did I get mad?  Because I didn’t let Jesus be my master in my life, and was relying on myself or living under law, so I was controlled by the sin nature.

(6)   What factors did God prepare for the new life to grow and to transform us through renewing of our mind?  (Philippians 4: 6; Psalms 146: 1; Romans 1: 17; 12: 1; 1Peter 1: 14-16; 2: 1-2, 5; Matthew 28: 19-20; Ephesians 2: 19-22; 4: 11-16, 23; 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27)

      In order for the new life to grow, God provides us a variety of factors that will make the life grow.  For the sake of time, we will limit our discussion to only two: Bible reading and praying, these two are very fundamental and important.  Because Lord Jesus said in John 15: 7: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”  It is through prayers that we remain in the Lord and his words remain in us.  Bible reading and praying are the fundamental keys for us to be united with the Lord, they are extremely important.  Praising is a part of praying, when we excitedly and boastingly acknowledge that he is the Lord and the source of all goodness, we can be united with the Lord very easily.

      Brothers and sisters, I want to especially emphasize the importance of doing your daily devotional here, we must take our daily devotional seriously.

      The factors affecting the growth of your new life go beyond praying and Bible reading, they also include keeping the faith; dedicating yourself to God; submitting to God; following God’s will; pursuing a life of holiness; defeating the devil; overcoming the worldly temptations; etc.  To grow our new life, besides these various factors supplied by God, our heart and mind are also very important:  we must have the heart and mind of willing to suffer and willing to trust and obey, adding the factors for the life to grow, we will be continually transformed by the renewing of our mind, so that our life gradually matures.  

(7)   What does it mean to “take up one’s own cross daily and follow the Lord”?  How to submit to and rely on the Holy Spirit to act?  (Luke 14: 25-35; Colossians 3: 15; Hebrews 12: 14)

·         What does it mean to “take up one’s own cross daily and follow the Lord”?

·         God has a set of plan for his children to grow their lives:

Since God has given us new life through rebirth, he will certainly raise us also so that our life will have a healthy growth.  God has a set of plan for his children to grow their lives – by drawing on the factors for life growth such as Bible reading and praying and be transformed by the renewing of the mind.  On the outside, God uses the daily cross (all people, things, and matters that do not agree with us or go our way) to build up our character of holiness.  When we take up our own cross daily and follow the Lord, continually put off the old-selves and put on the new-selves, our new life will grow.

·         What is our daily cross?

All things that we face each day that do not agree with us or do not go our way are our cross.  Brothers and sisters, to God’s children there isn’t one thing that happens by chance, all things that we encounter are for the purpose of building up our character of holiness.  It is God’s will to use our daily cross – all things big and small that happen to us, to train and build us up.

·         What is “taking up one’s own cross daily to follow the Lord”?

      “Daily” and “one’s own” cross:  We don’t have to go out and search for our cross, every day we surely will face many things that cause us to frown.  If what happens to us is something significant, we will definitely pay attention, however, for trivial things we often take them lightly.  For example, we generally treat the arguments between husband and wife, the rebellious behaviors of our children, etc. as things that we are so used to, that we lose (waste) the opportunities to be edified by God.  Therefore I suggest that everyone should keep a log for himself:  On this day these were the things that I encountered that made me unhappy, didn’t go my way, or didn’t agree with me; and this was how I dealt with them.  After you have done this for several days, you will have a deeper understanding of your daily cross and you will increase your sensitivity to notice your cross.  Brothers and sisters, the cross that we face each day is measured according to the level of our life growth and allowed by God to happen to us, so it will never be too much.  Please be assured that we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear; and God will also provide a way out for us so that we can stand up under it.

“To take up”:  means “to assume” or “to bring forth”.

“To take up one’s cross daily and follow the Lord”:  means to bring the cross that you are facing to the Lord, acknowledging the Lord, exalting the Lord, calling on the Lord, handing yourself over to the Lord and letting him rule in you: “Oh Lord, I acknowledge that you are the Lord, even though I don’t know why this is happening but you are the Lord, and since you let these things happen to me, I know that you are doing good things in me, I thank and praise you!”  This is what we mean by “following the Lord”.  Putting it another way, it means that in all things we should use prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to tell God what we want.     

·         Submit to and rely on the Holy Spirit to act

o   Begin with the Spirit and attain the goal by the Spirit:

The first time we sincerely prayed to Lord Jesus we were led by the Holy Spirit who gave us a new life through rebirth.  Now, we take up our own cross to follow the Lord and God raises us up with Christ; that is, in all things we use prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to present our request to God, God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask him, and the Holy Spirit (the law of the Spirit of life) works in us so that we submit to and rely on the Holy Spirit to act and our new life grows gradually, this is the meaning of attaining the goal by the Spirit.

o   Submit to and rely on the Holy Spirit to act:

Praise God for what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God used Jesus Christ’s salvation plan fulfilled the law of the Spirit of life, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

Submitting to and relying on the Holy Spirit to act then you are not under law (see Galatians 5: 18), and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature (Galatians 5: 16):   Please see Figure 3 again, the lower branch, when we exalt the Lord and rely on God, the moment we call on the Lord, the Holy Spirit is at work in us to give us that extraordinary peace and joy; sometimes the words of the Lord will come to us, sometimes it is a hymn …., all we need to do is to follow this inner peace to act.  Let’s look at the upper branch:  If we rely on our own efforts to be good then we are living under law and controlled by sin (this is done in secret because sin is not our lawful master).  Once sin is in charge of you, you have no freedom not to follow the desires of the sinful nature, so the parts of your body are being offered as instruments of sin.  Obviously, you are trying to please God but because of relying on your own efforts, you immediately are living under law, which can only lead to death, it is the law -- because we have been sold to sin.  Whenever we live by relying on ourselves, the sin nature will appear and says to us that we were once sold as slaves to sin.  Because of the salvation of Jesus Christ, I have died so sin cannot do anything to me.  Whenever we live by relying on our own efforts (i.e. living under law), our old-self comes alive and thus sin is back in charge.  We do not live by relying on our own efforts or under law; rather we live by the Holy Spirit.  Figure 3 tells us clearly that it is through exalting the Lord that we naturally will live by the Holy Spirit and not under law.  This is also the meaning of “He must become greater; I must become less”.

“Zealous for God but the zeal is not based on knowledge”:  In the past I was very zealous for God, for the sake of the Lord I did a lot of things such as organizing meetings, preaching the gospel wholeheartedly, skipping meals, working day and night ….; I was really zealous to the extreme.  I thought that as long as my actions were out of loving God then they must be guided by the Holy Spirit.  So during this period I encountered a lot of disharmonies:  I couldn’t hear other people’s different opinions, I only heard others’ complaints; I felt that I was very, very wronged so I would fly into a rage in my room and even took it out on whoever that was with me …. .  Give thanks to the Lord, for a long time this imbalance between “zealous for God” and “disharmonies with others” had prompted me to seek the answer to the question: “What is the guidance of the Holy Spirit?”  Now I realize that when I was zealous for God I was still living under law.  It was indeed a case of “zealous for God but the zeal is not based on knowledge”.  Give thanks to the Lord, the Holy Spirit has opened my spiritual eye.

What is the characteristic of “being guided by the Holy Spirit”?  How do we know that we are submitting to and relying on the Holy Spirit to act?  How do we know that we are following God’s guidance and not our own ideas?  The characteristic of “being guided by the Holy Spirit” is that on the basis of “being pure” (i.e. on the basis of not going against the fundamental truth), there is inner peace and outer harmony.  Regarding this we have explained in detail before.  Andrew Murray said that if there was any hint of disharmony then it was not of the Spirit.  We have talked about many factors that can affect the harmony around us.  I suggest that we all should keep those scripture passages that deal with the factors affecting harmony in our hearts; whenever we encounter situations of disharmony we should pause and ask the Holy Spirit to shine his light on us so that we may know the cause of disharmony.

Any disharmonies that arise become God‘s requirements of us (our daily cross), and we are still on the path of taking up the cross to follow the Lord, and living by the Holy Spirit.  In the last lecture we discussed a very important topic -- all disharmonies in my life become God’s requirements of me, for the purpose of building up my character of holiness; and is the first step of getting rid of my cross of old natures.  We should not blame others for what happened; instead we should just examine ourselves.  Because when we take up this cross to die and to be raised with the Lord, the great power of Christ’s resurrection will not only discipline us but also discipline others.  When you are willing to give up your own sovereignty and let the Lord be in charge, whom do you think will do a better job, you or the Lord?  Who is wiser, you or God?  Who is stronger, you or God?  Of course we will say that it is better to let God be in charge.  But often times we acted as if we were wiser and stronger than God, so we always relied on ourselves to try to resolve the situation, or to argue our case for fear that we would be taken advantage of if we didn’t put up a defense.  Brothers and sisters, please be assured!  God will not abandon us to the grave, nor will he let his Holy One see decay, he surely will raise us up with Christ.       

(8)   How does God “raise us up with Christ” to continually take off the old-self and put on the new-self?  (Luke 9: 23-24; Romans 8: 11; Matthew 21: 42-44)

·         Ephesians 2: 6 says: “And God raised us up with Christ ….” what does it mean?

      Ephesians 2: 1-5 talk about the “crossing over from death to life” salvation plan God completed through Lord Jesus:  “We were dead in our transgressions and sins, God made us alive in Christ (we were saved by grace)”.  It is by grace, because God did all the work so that we may receive life through faith.  Give thanks to the Lord, we have already been made alive; so why does Ephesians 2: 6 say: “God raised us up with Christ”?  Ephesians 2: 1-5 talk about our having been saved and born again to receive life; Ephesians 2:6 refers to after receiving our new life, God wants us to use our taking up our cross daily and following the Lord to continually experience dying and being raised with the Lord – “and God raised us up with Christ”, so that our new life will grow.

·         Raised up with Christ to continually take off the old-self and put on the new-self:  When we take up our cross daily, exalt the Lord, look up to the Lord, and call on the Lord, our cross (things that don’t agree with us or go our way) is united with the Lord’s cross, so that we are also united with the Lord in death and resurrection.  This is the meaning of “and God raised us up with Christ”.  Brothers and sisters, this is extremely important.  When you take up your cross you must follow the Lord, only if your cross is united with Christ’s cross you will be raised up with Christ.  If you take up your cross and go all over places to argue your case, it is of no use because you are not dead and not raised with the Lord.

      We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus:  When we earnestly called on the name of the Lord for the first time, accepting Jesus Christ and him crucified, we moved from “in Adam” to “in Christ, and received new life that came from being united with the Lord.  At that moment, we were babies of the new life; after that we continued to look up to the Lord, to exalt the Lord, to call on the name of the Lord (i.e. to be in Christ), and to take up our cross daily to follow the Lord.  Through continually losing our life and also being raised with Christ, we gain more of the life that came from being united with Christ; and continually take off our old-self and put on the new-self so as to grow our new life.  Through being “in Christ” we receive the new life; and through continually “staying in Christ” our new life grows, any activity outside of Christ is unspiritual.  Brothers and sisters, take up our daily cross that has been tailored for each one of us, and rise to follow the Lord!      

(9)   How does God make us, the newly created men, have a healthy life growth?  (Ephesians 2: 8; 1 Peter 4: 1-2; Romans 1: 17; Philippians 2: 12-16; Luke 9: 23-24)

      We have discussed previously that “by grace and through faith”, God’s “crossing over from death to life” plan completed by Lord Jesus has made us, who were dead in transgressions and sins, alive to receive the new life as a result of being united with the Lord, and became newly created men.  God has a set of plan for every newly created man to build up and to grow his life.  This plan includes both transforming our inner heart through the renewing of our mind and our taking up the cross daily to “cross over from death to life” and being raised with Christ, so that we do not live under law but under grace and live by the Holy Spirit.  When we were saved and born again, we crossed over from death to life to become babies of the new life; then we faced our daily cross and continued to look up to and exalt the Lord, and acknowledged that he is the Lord, “Oh Lord, I am not able to do anything, I look up to you to take charge in me”, “Oh Lord, I thank you, I am so powerless to stop getting angry, I look up to you to work in me so that I can stop getting angry.  Lord, you take charge in me.”  When we cry out in prayer like this, we continually experience “crossing over from death to life”, and our new life will have a healthy growth.  We can also put it this way, the key to our new life’s healthy growth is who lives in us?  Who is the master of our life?  Is it “we” who live or is it Christ who lives in us?  Is it “I” who is in charge or is it Christ who is the Lord in me?  Of course it is when Christ lives and when he is in charge that our new life will grow healthily.

      Let’s briefly describe how the new life may grow healthily:

·         To draw on the factors affecting the growth of the new life:

      How can a newly created man grow healthily?  Give thanks to God, he has provided all sorts of factors affecting the new life growth for us to draw on.  God wants us to read the Bible, to pray, to pursue holiness, to be submissive children of God, etc.  In other words, he wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind and to be more closely united with him.

·         To take up one’s cross daily to follow the Lord:

      Through the cross we face daily God is building up our character of holiness.  When we face anything that does not agree with us or does not go our way, let us practice “I no longer live but Christ lives in me”, by first coming before the Lord and telling the Lord what is no our mind.  “Oh Lord, I praise you, all that I am facing are for the purpose of building up my character of holiness, I thank you!”  Maybe it will be hard at first for us to accept what is happening to us, even so you can still tell the Lord, “Lord, I have been wronged, I can’t understand why things are the way they are; but Lord, you save me, free me from myself, even though I treated him so well, he didn’t seem to appreciate it, it’s really baffling!  I ask you to save me and free me from myself; I am at the end of my wits.”  Just confess that you are powerless like this.  You can also fellowship with brothers and sisters for the purpose of supporting each other to go before God to pray together.  What we shouldn’t do though is when things happen to immediately make a lot of phone calls, asking questions, complaining about how you have been mistreated, or trying to make your case known.

·         To live by the Holy Spirit:

      Take up your cross daily and follow the Lord, the Holy Spirit will begin to work in you; if you just follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act, then your heart will be set free and your life will grow.  The new life begins with the Holy Spirit and the goals are attained also with the Spirit, and not by human effort.  If someone advises you to not get angry at a person saying that you should love him like how the Father God would love him; and this someone also uses many scripture passages to teach you and to give you encouragement.  This is all very good and necessary.  But we must understand that we should live by the Holy Spirit, and should never think that because of our ability to orate or having the gift to comfort and to exhort others that people will heed our words.  If you think this way then you are trying to attain the goal by human effort.  Instead, you should pray for him, ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen the power in his inner being so that he may accept the fact and be united with the Lord and be exhorted (see Ephesians 3: 14-17).  We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.  If you exalt the Lord, you will attain the goal of becoming a new creation; if you don’t then you can’t attain the goal.           

·         To have the willing attitude of mind to choose:

      Brothers and sisters, getting on the path of receiving and growing the new life is all by God’s work, our faith is also granted to us by God, so there is really nothing we can do; however, it is very important that we make the choice with a willing attitude of mind.  All we need to do is to sincerely offer up our willingness: “Oh Lord, I want to please you; I don’t want to live by following my own will, I am willing to walk on the path of the new life.”  I often pray like this: “Oh Lord, my heart is so undisciplined, I ask you to disregard the pain that I may have and use your rod and staff to bring me back to the right path.”  The Lord for sure will fulfill our heart’s desire (see 2 Corinthians 8: 12; 2 Timothy 1: 12), and guide us to walk on the path of the new life.  All we need to do is to have the willing attitude of mind to choose to walk on this path, God will see to it to enable us to attain the goal.  If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 

·         The growth of the new life is a lifelong process:

      Psalms 23 describes how God guides us throughout our life; it is exactly what we will go through to grow our new life.  God’s plan for building up our life always starts from our outer visible behaviors, then gradually moves to our inner thoughts and motives; God wants to transform us from passive submission (we humans are rebellious in nature) to active submission.  During this process, we will experience countless dark nights of failure due to our relying on our own efforts, and the bright daylights of victory through relying on God’s salvation.  Our old natures are exposed through our repeated cycles of weakness and failure; our feelings of discouragement, frustration, and desperateness eventually drive us to admit that “I am done for; I am just such a corrupt person”.  As Paul said in Romans 7: 24: “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?”   Give thanks to God, only when we are desperate like this, can we truly lift up our head and look up to him, then we are there:  Only those who really see their corruptness, and only those who recognize that they are done for, can truly look up to the Lord’s salvation, ceasing completely their own struggling and fighting and accepting that “Jesus is my life and is in me to fulfill everything for me.”  For example, sometimes we get angry, instead of feeling bad we kind of enjoying it, so we just keep it up; Satan will take advantage of the situation and channel through our thoughts to let us stay being angry, and thereby distance us from the Lord.  I have had this experience many times; I tried not to get angry but I can’t help it; so after repeated struggles, I finally admitted that on my own I was powerless to stop getting angry, and when I did that my problem went away.  Another example, when we encounter something that does not go our way or agree with us, it is a fact that it is hard to overlook it; however, “not being able to let it go” is because of our “self-centeredness” so we need to call on the Lord: “Lord, I don’t have the ability to let this thing go, even though I know that I should let it go.  Since I can’t, Lord, I hand myself to you; I believe you will complete the work in me so that I can let it go”.  Another example, when we failed to receive the kind of response that was due us, naturally we would not be pleased, but you can tell the Lord, “Oh Lord, I am very angry at the way that person treated me, I don’t understand, Lord!  Save me.”  If you are still bitter about it, you may continue to pray, “Oh Lord, I lack strength, I just can’t let it go, I can only ask you to give me faith so that I know that you will surely complete the work in me for me to let go.  Oh Lord, I don’t even have this faith, Lord, give me the faith, I can’t let it go, I can’t do it; but I thank you for you will complete in me the work of letting go.”  An amazing thing is that when you totally admit that it is impossible for you to let go but you are sure that the Lord will complete the work of letting go in you, then you are letting go at that moment – this is a necessary step.  Praise the Lord, we are God’s workmanship and God will not rest until he is done with us.  He continually does the work of “I am done for” in us, in other words, God is doing in us the work of “it is done (attaining the goal)”.  As long as you have the willingness to let go, God will work in us for us to let go.  Amen.  Therefore, the new life growth is a process of “he must become greater; I must become less”; is a process of changing from “being passively relying on the Lord” to “actively relying on the Lord”; is a process of continually “taking off the old-self, and putting on the new-self”; and is a lifelong process of being build up.

·         What meaning does the Diagram of Lazarus Resurrection convey?

      This diagram uses four illustrations to explain how we receive our new life and what the path for a healthy growth of the new life is.

      We were dead in our transgressions and sins, just like Lazarus lying dead in the tomb wrapped up in linen strips:  The “linen strips” represent our old nature and old behaviors.

      He made us alive, just like Lord Jesus’ loud cry, “Lazarus, come out”:  Lazarus joyfully came out of the tomb, wrapped in linen strips.  This represents our being saved and born again, full of joy but still burdened with old nature and behaviors.

      Lord Jesus said, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go”:  this represents after we have become believers we take up our cross daily and follow the Lord, live by the Holy Spirit, not under law but under grace; so that we gradually take off our old-self and the old-self behaviors, this is God at work unwrapping the linen strips.          

      If we don’t walk on the path of grace and instead living under law, with many self-imposed rules like “Do not handle!  Do not touch!” (Colossians 2: 20-23), then we not only are not taking off the linen strips, on the contrary, we are adding on additional layers of wrap to conceal the linen strips; we even top it off with a beautiful coat (euphemistically being regarded as of high moral character).  This does nothing to help us in ridding our old nature and old behaviors, and we will find it miserable being a Christian.  This is what I was like for the first 20 years of my 50 years in serving the Lord.  My happiest moment was when I was saved and born again, then I started to serve the Lord, but gradually I noticed that I was having many issues with co-workers, such as different opinions or different viewpoints, resulting in many disharmonies.  Isn’t this a contradiction to what Jesus said: ”If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  Where was my freedom?  Where was my joy of fullness and eternal happiness?  Why?  Because I was on the wrong path!  Therefore, the central theme of Ephesians 2: 1-10 is “How to take off the grave clothes and let him go” -- it is not to rely on one’s own effort to do good works; rather one should be on the path of taking up one’s cross daily to live by the Holy Spirit.  This way, the linen strips will come off gradually and one will continually take off the old-self and put on the new-self.  The Bible says: “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shinning ever brighter till the full light of day.”

3.      What God prepared in advance for us to do are good works:

Praise God, through Jesus Christ he completed the salvation of “crossing over from death to life”, so that through faith we enter into the domain of “in Christ” and are united with Christ to receive the new life.  How joyful it is for a person who has been saved and born again, and is attracted to and inspired by the love of Christ that he wants to live not for himself but for the resurrected Lord.  But we must admit at that time we were only babies in the journey of the new life, though full of zeal but we lacked the knowledge of “how to live for the Lord”, or “how to please God”; therefore we did everything through our own efforts and as Romans 8: 8 says, “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”   A person who has been saved and born again must follow the path of the new life growth, through the daily cross to be build up (i.e. continuing growth) in Christ, so that we can do good works that God prepared in advance for us to do.  In other words, the new life we received “in Christ” can grow only if we remain “in Christ”.  And only those who mature “in Christ” (also called “the newly created men”) can understand the will of God and live by the Holy Spirit, and do the good works commanded by God.

(1)   After we have been saved and born again, did we try to please God with what we thought was the zeal?  (Romans 10: 1-4)

In the past, for a long time I thought that I was very zealous and loved God so much that I would use all my brain power to come up with ways to please God.  The moment I began to think “how ‘I’ should do”, I was not “in Christ” but “in the sinful nature”, this point has been discussed over and over again before.  It is good to want to please God, but you cannot rely on your own efforts or do according to what you consider as zealous actions to please God.  We should exalt the Lord, and pray over everything.  For example, for the ministry of the ECHOUSA website, we should pray like this, “Oh Lord, how do you want us to approach this ministry?  Just command us, Lord.  We crave to hear your instructions like King David, when speaking of the layout of the holy temple, said: “all this, I have in writing from the hand of the Lord upon me”.  Lord, we are also eager for you to write down your vision for the website.”  Another example, today I want to go out and preach the Gospel, I would pray this, “Oh Lord, I want to go and preach the Gospel, I ask that you lead me to where you want me to go, do your work in those whom I will be speaking to, and prepare my heart ….”  We know that God’s ark was not carried by an ox-cart; rather it was carried by men.  If we treat God’s ministries as the ark, let us use prayers every day to carry them and to carry out the works that God wants us to do.  We cannot and should not serve God with our own notion of being zealous; rather we should do them according to God’s will.  Leviticus 10: 1-2: Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command.  …. and they died before the Lord.”  We should take this as our lesson.    

(2)   What is the true knowledge that is pleasing to God?  (Galatians 2: 20; John 8: 12; 14: 6; Romans 10: 8; Ephesians 2: 8; Hebrews 4: 10-11; Luke 9: 23-25)

      The salvation plan completed by Lord Jesus made us into newly created men.  Therefore, the true knowledge that pleases God are:  We live by faith; Christ is my life who fulfills everything for me; “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me”; walking on the path of faith – “acknowledging the Lord and calling on the name of the Lord”; “the word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart”, that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10: 8-9); and live by the Holy Spirit. 

      In the past, I would always do whatever I wanted, as long as it was for Jesus.  Now I know, I shouldn’t do as I please, instead I should ask God first and wait for his guidance to act.  Because Christ is my life, in all things I should let Christ be the first priority in me.

(3)   What are the good works that God prepared in advance for us to do? (Ephesians 2: 10)

      “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  (Micah 6: 8)

      This scripture passage clearly tells us what the good works God has prepared for us to do are.  On one hand, we should continually pursue “acting justly, loving mercy, and being humble”; on the other hand we must “walk with God”.  In other words, we must live by the Holy Spirit – if we submit to and rely on the Holy Spirit to act, our heart will be more and more leaning towards “acting justly, loving mercy, and being humble”, and living by the Holy Spirit is “walking with God”; depending on the stage of our life growth, God has different requirements for each one of us.  Faced with God’s requirements of us, we must acknowledge that he is the Lord of our life, call on him and live by the Holy Spirit.

      The good works God has prepared in advance for us to do, are “whatever God wants we will do”, and not “I will do whatever I want to do; or I do what I think is good”.  It is also not by some general principle or knowledge to determine how they should be carried out; or use the principles of the Bible to decide how they should be done.  Brothers and sisters, listen carefully, I am not saying that you shouldn’t follow the Biblical principles to act; the question is how should we apply the principles of the Bible?  As we said earlier, the Bible tells us to do what it says, this is Biblical principle.  But how do we actually do what it says?  We are not to take what the Bible says and try to come up with ways to do what it says.  To do what the Bible says is to keep the teachings of the Lord in our head (listening to the words) and in our heart (believing in the words), so the Holy Spirit at any moment can move us through the words of the Bible – this is the anointed teaching, and all we have to do is to follow it to act.  Therefore, we must do what the Bible says, but we do it according to the anointed teachings.  If the Lord tells you to be a watchman guarding the door but you insist on being a floor sweeper, because you think guarding the door is too easy and sweeping the floor is more laborious so you rather take on the heavier load of work; but this is not what God asks of you.  As Samuel said, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”   God cares not what you do, he cares whether you are obedient and whether you walk with him.  God wants us to be ever more obedient, so we should continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, do everything without complaining or arguing, so that we may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which we shine like stars in the universe.  Since God has prepared the good works for us to do, may he bless and guide us to: pray in all things; let Christ be the head and reign in us; and live by the Holy Spirit.  These are the good works God wants us to do.

(4)   What are the source, the path, and the goal of the good works that God prepared for us to do?  (see Matthew 7: 14, 17-18, 24-25)

      Ephesians 2: 8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  The salvation plan God prepared for men is all God’s doing, all by God’s grace, and it’s all granted by God (including our faith).

      God prepared the source of the good works that he wanted us to do:  Christ is my life; he lives in me to fulfill all things for me.

      God prepared the path and goal of the good works he wanted us to do:  That is through the path of calling on the name of the Lord, taking up our cross daily to follow the Lord, and letting Christ fulfill all things in us to achieve the goal of pleasing God.

      Brothers and sisters, in order to please God, you must have the attitude of mind of willing to suffer.  Because our daily cross means things that don’t agree with us or don’t go our way, so they are not what we would be happy about, right?  By your reasoning, you most definitely will ask:  Why?  Why should I be taken advantages of?  It just doesn’t make any sense!  Therefore, we must arm ourselves with the attitude of willing to suffer, it is of great importance.  Oh Lord, I am willing to suffer!  Though I don’t understand why, but I put this thing into your hands!  Brothers and sisters, walking on “the way of the cross” is not to cause you grief or to silence you; rather it is to teach us that when we face a situation, we shouldn’t rely on ourselves to handle it (we always jump right in to take charge), instead we should let the Lord be the master, and then just follow the guidance of the Lord to act.  Thus, today let our eyes look up to the Lord only; as the eyes of the slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy.  Hallelujah!  We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.    

            Prayer:  Oh Lord!  Thank you!  The wonderful Lord, you took this corrupt and rebellious human race and made it into a newly created race; you also let this new man have a healthy and gradual growth, so that we may regain what was lost in Adam – the likeness of God and the sharing of power with Christ!  Oh, Lord, we thank you and praise you!  May the Holy Spirit continue to reveal to us this truth, so as to keep us on this path to have a healthy growth of our lives; let us hear the words of Lord Jesus: “If anyone would come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me.”  Oh Lord, let us hear “You are saved by grace and through faith”; God has completed everything there is to do, let us follow “by faith from first to last”, let us submit and then submit some more, and with fear and awe to complete the work of salvation.  In all things we do there will be no complaints or arguments.  In Lord Jesus’ name we pray!  Amen!  

 

 

 

 


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