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2. He Made Us Alive (Ephesians 2: 1, 5)

 

(5) The wonderful transformation in us the moment we believe

 

    

Prayer:  Lord, we thank you for giving us the opportunity to work together to explore the salvation plan you have completed in us, as well as your will and purpose for our lives.  May the Holy Spirit continue to lead us into the truth, let us see that the path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.  Thank you Lord, In Lord Jesus’ name, amen!  

Thank God for his grace, he sent his only Son to the earth in flesh to complete the salvation plan; and when we were dead in our transgressions and sins, he made us alive.  The moment we believe in the Lord, what wonderful transformations will take place in us?  Many brothers and sisters gave their testimonies saying how joyful they were and how amazing it was when they were saved and born again.  Before believing in the Lord, many felt their lives were without purpose and goal; there were profound emptiness and unfulfilled feelings in their heart – a constant feeling that something was missing.  However, after believing in the Lord, they are now bonded with Christ, they have a relationship with the eternal God; and there have been huge changes in their lives: becoming the children of God, gaining a new life, fulfilling of the spiritual needs, and having a heart filled with thanksgiving to the Lord.

Romans 5: 12-21“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world.  But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.  Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.  But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For it, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.  Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.  The law was added so that the trespass might increase.  But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”         

1.      What is “being united with Christ”?  What is the result of “being united with Christ”?  How can we achieve “death to the self”?

(1)      What is “being united with Christ”?

What is “believing in Jesus”?  Believing in Jesus is:  “By grace”, God had already prepared the salvation plan, and we “through faith” accept the salvation plan God had prepared for us and accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior.  The moment we accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior, we are united with Christ and God puts us in Christ.  Why do we get to be in Christ when we believe in Jesus?  Our union with Christ is all by God’s work in us, we didn’t have to do anything.  1 Corinthians 1: 30 says: “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”  Romans 6: 1-5 say: “What shall we say, then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”  This scripture passage uses baptism to illustrate the fact that we are united with Christ.

(2)      Leading a religious life on the outside does not necessarily mean that you are truly “united with Christ”:

If you want to have a relationship with Jesus Christ you must sincerely open up your heart to accept Christ as your savior.  Just having a devout religious life on the outside does not mean that you are guaranteed to be saved.  Many parents hope their children will believe in Jesus also (as it absolutely should be so), but they often only pay attention to the outer formalities:  “Did you pray?  Did you read the Bible?  Did you go to church?”  They don’t pay attention to whether their children’s spiritual hearts are open.  The children, though praying along with the parents, are not guaranteed to have opened their hearts.  Since I was little, I prayed with my grandma for countless times but I didn’t have a relationship with the Lord then.

(3)      What is the result of being united with Christ?

Lord Jesus said in John 15: 5: “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  Our union with Christ is like the branches connecting to the vine.  Lord Jesus is the vine and we are the branches; Jesus is the source of our lives.  Brothers and sisters, how eager are we to bear much fruit!  To bear much fruit, we must be closely united with Christ because the more closely the union, the more fruit we bear.  Although the moment we believe in Jesus we are united with Christ, and begin to have a relationship with Christ that can never be severed; however whether this relationship is close or not will directly impact how our lives grow.

(4)      How do we achieve “death to the self”?

How can we achieve “death to the self”?  Many people will sigh and say: “I hate my ‘old-self’, it’s a real pest; how come it won’t just die?”  God didn’t ask us to put our old-self to death by our own effort, rather we must through calling on the name of the Lord and being united with Christ the Lord in death and in burial, to achieve the death to our “selves”.  The very first time we sincerely called on the name of the Lord, we were saved and born again; from “being dead in transgressions and sins” we were made alive (becoming a baby of the new life), because we were united with the Lord “in death” and “in resurrection” as we all understand.  The growth process of the new life is through continual deaths to the “old-self”.  How to put the old-self to death?  It is also through “calling on the name of the Lord” to be “united with Christ” ever so closely, so that my old-self experiences death and burial with Christ and when I am raised up with Christ, it will be my new-self (new life).  Repeated cycles of this process represent the gradual growth of our new lives.

2.      The condition of the world when they were “dead in their transgressions and sins”:

Believers’ Status Change Diagram

 

 

The first Adam rebelled against God and became the head of the old men – the first man.  He brought sin into the world which enslaved people into old-selves or sinners.  Because of sins, people’s hearts turned against God and they were separated from God.

Before believing in the Lord, we didn’t know and didn’t seek the one and only true God, which in God’s eyes was hostile to God.  We didn’t know the purpose of life, like a small boat in the ocean that drifted and blown to wherever the wave and wind took it.  We often had the feeling of “not being able to help it”:  On one hand, we had the desire to do something but just couldn’t seem to get it done right; on the other hand, things often didn’t turn out the way we had hoped for; we had no control over our future, and so our life was aimless.  In summary, the condition of “being dead in our transgressions and sins” from the perspectives of individual, family, and the kingdom is as follows:

(1)      We were all our old-selves before believing in Jesus:  The above diagram talked about when Adam sinned, he was enslaved by the sin nature and became an old-self; he also cursed all his offspring into the life of being old-selves -- enslaved by the sin nature.

(2)      The old-self was enslaved by the sin nature, dead to God and alive to sin:  The old-self was a slave of sin because he was controlled by the sin nature; he was alive to sin so sin was his master and his relationship to God was dead.

(3)      We lived under law:  What does it mean to live under law?  That is to rely on your own effort to try to attain the set requirements (such as living with a clear conscience).  But because we were controlled by the sin nature, we couldn’t help but to sin (the signature of the biggest sin is “self-centeredness”), we could only manage to keep a façade of being good but in our heart we would always fail to live up to God’s requirements.  Therefore, Galatians 3: 10 says: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

(4)      We followed the desires of the flesh:  When one is under the control of the sin nature, all day long, he is chasing his own tail with matters concerning his “self”.  When one rely on “himself” to act, he is following the desires of his flesh.  Before coming to the Lord, we all relied on ourselves to act, so we were all following the desires of our flesh.     

(5)      We were the prodigal sons far away from God’s home:  Who is considered to be a prodigal son in God’s home?  A prodigal son is characterized by “not knowing where the next meal is coming from” and “not being able to take charge of one’s own future”.  Truthfully, we all say that we have a family but our lives have no foundation, no direction, and no value.  Even if you think your life has value, it probably applies only to your small immediate family.  Just think about it, you were truly like a prodigal son, couldn’t guarantee what tomorrow will bring, couldn’t guarantee that you’ll never go hungry, and couldn’t guarantee that you won’t get sick.  That’s right, no guarantees – a prodigal son is someone that has no assurance in life and can’t be counted on to achieve a goal.    

(6)      We were not a member of God’s family:  We had no relationship with God so we didn’t belong to God’s family.

(7)      We were in the hands of the evil one, lived under Satan’s dark dominion.  Everyone in the whole world (regardless of the country) before his or her conversion, was ruled by the devil.  

In summary:  Before we believe in the Lord, no one could come before God by his or her own efforts.      

1.      Amazing transformations occur when we believe in the Lord.  The condition of “he made us alive” can be summarized as follows: 

Give praises to God, when we were dead in our transgressions and sins, he made us alive:  He moved us from the domain of “in Adam” to the domain of “in Christ”.  What is the condition of being “in Christ”?  The last Adam – Jesus Christ, because of his obedience to God, became the head of new men – the second man, so that all those who believe in him (all those who call on the name of the Lord) are united with Christ and justified by faith.  By the blood of Christ he washed away our sins so that we are reconciled with God; we died with the Lord so that we are no longer enslaved by the sin nature; we are raised together with the Lord to become new men and can come before God.  We give thanks to the Lord!  Lord Jesus Christ completed the salvation plan on the cross, which enabled us, by faith, to be united with him in death, in burial, and in resurrection.  Only by death are we able to leave from under the rule of Satan; only by death are we able to be freed from the control of the sin nature.  This is a very important statement that I will repeat many times in the future.  May the indwelling Holy Spirit constantly remind us that by death we have “crossed over from death to life”.  We will also discuss that through faith, we have “crossed over from death to life” in status; and over time as our faith grows stronger and our old-self dies more and more each day, then our “crossing over from death to life” will not be in status only, but gradually becomes true in practice, namely, our new life gradually matures.  Let’s summarize the amazing transformations that occur when we come to the Lord:     

            (1)   From old-man (old-self)  →  new-man (new-self):  We were old-men and were controlled by the sin nature.  When we call on the name of the Lord, unite with the Lord, and die with the Lord, our old-self is crucified with the Lord; then we are raised with the Lord, so I no longer live, but Christ lives in me – I am a new man with a new life.

            (2)   From being enslaved by sin and alive to sin    people of the Lord, righteous people, alive to God, and belonging to the Lord.  The “old-self” is “I” under the control of the sin nature; when we call on the name of the Lord and be united with the Lord, this “old-self” is crucified with the Lord and dies, thus setting the “I” free.  When set free, the “I” is united with Christ and becomes dead to sin and alive to God.  We sincerely call on the name of the Lord and receive a new life, become new men; all this happens in a flash (of course the salvation plan went through the sowing and planting processes for a very long time with God); however, during the process of new life growth we continue to die with the Lord, to die to sins, to rise with the Lord, and to be alive to God; this is a life-long process.

            (3)   From living under law   under grace:  Before believing in the Lord we live under law – relying on our own efforts to act.  Now that we have died with the Lord, we are also dead to the law that bound us.  We are freed from the law that bound us -- no longer under law; and we serve the Lord not in the old way of the written code.  I think especially for Christians who are willing to please God, the most difficult problem is the law; because we often use a standard to judge people (ourselves or others).  When we died with the Lord, we died to the law that bound us, so we are no longer under law; that is to say, we needn’t and shouldn’t rely on our own effort to satisfy the requirements of the law; when we are raised with the Lord, we live under the law that gives freedom, i.e. we live under grace and we serve the Lord in the new way of the Spirit.  Since God saved us, we are dead to law, and Lord Jesus has created another new law – the law that gives freedom – we no longer rely on our own effort to obey the written codes of the law but just submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our heart (according to our individual stage of growth); and through the mighty power of the Holy Spirit to gradually guide us to meet the requirements of the law.  Let me say it again:  What is under law?  That is to rely on one’s own efforts to try to attain the requirements of God.  “Not under law” means I have died with the Lord – dead, not relying on my own efforts to reach the requirements of the law; “to be raised with the Lord” means to rely on the grace of God to meet the requirements of the law in a step by step fashion.

            (4)   From follow the desires of the flesh    unite with the Lord in death and resurrection, and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act:  When we died with the Lord we have already nailed to the cross our flesh and its evil desires, so we no longer follow the desires of our flesh; rather we are raised with the Lord and act according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  In the past, I often only pay attention to the first half – now that you have died so you shouldn’t rely on yourself to act and you are not under law.  However, we not only have died with the Lord, we have been raised with the Lord also.  That’s right, we shouldn’t rely on ourselves, but should live according to the Holy Spirit.

            (5)   From being a prodigal son far away from God’s home   becoming God’s children, God’s heirs:  We were dead in our transgressions and sins and through death with the Lord we shed our past identity (prodigal son); by being resurrected with the Lord we are united with the Lord and become children of God.

            (6)   From being an outsider to God’s family  a member of God’s family:  We must first go through “death”, to satisfy the legal formalities to end our old relationships.  God made us alive so that we may enter new relationships.

            (7)   From being in the grasp of the evil one, living under Satan’s dark authority   died with the Lord and freed from Satan’s authority; and being raised with the Lord to enter the kingdom of light of the beloved Son, becoming citizens of Heaven.

Brothers and sisters, let’s be clear on one fact:  We were dead in transgressions and sins, and went through the death and resurrection with Christ to become alive.  Our God is a just God and a righteous judge; he doesn’t take things lightly or handle them carelessly, and is incapable of unrighteousness.  We didn’t just come alive from our death in transgressions and sins, rather it was through the death of Jesus and our union with him that we were able to shed our old identity; and through our being alive with the Lord that we entered into a new status and identity.  Don’t forget, it was through the crucifixion that Lord Jesus was able to “cross over from death to life”, to depart from “in Adam” and enter “in Christ”.  Without crucifixion, none of these would follow.  For a long time, I didn’t understand the true meaning of salvation.  I always thought that through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and my union with him in death and in resurrection, I was saved and born again becoming a Christian, then I should focus my energy and try hard to do all I could to serve the Lord.  Wrong!  It’s not wrong to focus your energy to serve the Lord; what’s wrong is to try to work hard by your own efforts.  The new life is not gained by us doing something, rather it is “by grace and through faith”; likewise, to grow our new life, it’s not by us doing something; it is also “by grace and through faith”.  We should “through faith” continually maintain a close relationship with Christ, experience death and resurrection with the Lord daily, so that our new life may continue to grow and mature.            

2.      What is the “old-self (old-man)” and what is the “new-self (new-man)”?

“Old-self” is:  The “I” who is under the control of the sin nature.  “New-self” is: The “I” who is united with Christ.

So how many different “I’s” are there in us?  Actually, there is only one “I”, except this “I” has many different subordinate statuses and identities.  To whom does this “I” belong?  Before having been saved, this “I” belongs to the sin nature.  After having been saved, this “I” is freed from the control of the sin nature to be united with Christ, so it belongs to Christ.  Christ is the Lord of our lives and sin shall not be our master.  But after we have been saved, whenever we follow our own will to live, sin will sneak up to (secretly and unlawfully) control us; however at moments like these, if we call on the name of the Lord then our normal status will be restored, because Christ is forever the Lord of our lives.  

3.      What are the relationships between the “old-self” and the “sin nature”, and between the “old-self” and God?

            The old-self is enslaved to the sin nature.  The relationship between the “old-self” and God is:  The old-self is dead to God (separated from God), but alive to sin.                

4.      What are the relationships between the “new-self” and the sin nature, and between the “new-self” and God?

The new-self is a life that has been freed from the control of the sin nature and has been united with Lord Jesus Christ.  The new-self is alive to God and dead to sin.

7.      Now that we don’t live under law, how do we serve the Lord?

      Now that we don’t live under law, does it mean we are not subject to the law?  No!  We are not “under law” because we are “under grace”.  “Under grace” means Christ created a new law for us on the cross – the law that gives freedom, also known as “the law of the Spirit of life”; it teaches us to serve the Lord not in the old way of the written code but in the new way of the Spirit.  That is to say, we don’t rely on our own efforts to act but to rely on the great power of the Holy Spirit and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act, “in order that the righteousness requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”  So how do we follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act?  We will discuss this in future lessons.

8.      What are the two different driving sources of action for “living in Adam” and “living in Christ”?

            Romans 8: 5“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what the nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”  This scripture passage talks about two different sources of driving force for action:  “In Adam” is following the desires of the flesh and only thinking about what that nature desires, and using the ability of the flesh to act; “in Christ” is following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, having one’s mind set on what the Spirit desires, and acting in accordance with the Holy Spirit.

       

            Prayer: Lord, we thank you, because we were dead in our transgressions and sins and you made us alive.  Hallelujah!  How amazing are the transformations in us!  Originally sin was my master, and I lived under law, so I couldn’t help but live a life of slavery to sins.  Lord, we thank you, when we called on the name of the Lord, we were united with you, we died with you to be freed from the control of the sin; we were raised with you to enter Christ’s resurrection.  Christ is our life, he holds the power in us, and we follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act.  Praise Jesus!  You are the source of our power to live, the direction of our life, and the goal of our life, we praise you.  You are the meaning and value of our lives and we have the fullness if we have you.  Give thanks and praises to the Lord!  In Lord Jesus’ name, amen!

 

 

 


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