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[FIGURE 1. THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH] TEXT OF EXPLANATION


   Our ancestor Adam rebelled against God and brought sin into the world. As a result, all of us are controlled by our sin (nature) and can’t help but commit sins, leading to our separation from God – i.e. death.

   “For the wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6:23) “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.” (Romans 5:12) It is very appropriate to use Romans 5:12 to explain Figure 1. Let’s take a closer look:

   “I”: is the “I” before Adam sinned, some books called it the “true I”.

   “Sin (Nature)”: Because of Adam’s disobedience sin entered him – “sin entered the world through one man.” Here, Paul personified sin -- it entered the world like a powerful force. We call the "sin" here as the “sin nature.” In the Bible, it is also known as disobedience.

   In other words, it is self-centeredness. In theology, some call it the original sin. Note that although Eve ate the forbidden fruit first and Adam ate it later, but since Adam was the head of mankind, so sin was passed on from him to all his offspring.

   “I am Controlled by my Sin (Nature)”: Because of the disobedience of Adam, sin entered him and through him into the world. Adam was controlled by sin, thus every one of us (his offspring) is also controlled by sin. This is the meaning of "sin entered the world through one man, …. and in this way death came to all men."

   "What is the “Old-Self”? The “I” who is controlled by sin is called the “old-self”. In other words, the “old-self” is a slave of sin. The sin nature is the slave master of “I”. "I am sold as a slave to sin." (see Romans 7:14) When was I sold? It was when Adam broke the covenant with God (Hosea 6:7). As a matter of fact, he entered into a covenant with sin. He sold himself and all his offspring to sin to be the slaves of sin. When Adam was created there were no such things as the old-self or the new-self. However, because he sinned and became the slave of sin, so we call this sin-enslaved “I” as the “old-self” because in God’s future salvation plan a new man (called the “new-self”) will be re-created.

   Body of Sin: According to these scripture passages [Romans 6:6, 12-13 and James 1:14-15], we can derive the following: the “I” that a person is born with is controlled by sin. Through “I” our sin nature commands our body so that “I” follows my selfish desires and commits sinful acts. Therefore, our body which is under the control of our sin nature and can’t help but commit sins is called the body of sin.

   Sin (Nature) and Sins (sinful acts): The sin (nature) is referring to the "disobedient" nature, like a seed sewn into me to control me. The sins (sinful acts) are referring to the inevitable action of a person under the control of sin. Someone made the following interesting remark: "You can blame Adam for the sin nature, but blame yourself for the sinful acts."

   Death: The consequence of our sin is death, that is, separation from God. This is the meaning of "the wages of sin is death." If a person refuses to believe in the Lord to the end then he is forever separated from God. Forever death is to perish. Please note that the death here is referring to the relationship between the judge and the sinner before God's righteous court. That is, God is the judge of all the earth and before God we are all sinners.

 

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[GOD’S SALVATION PLAN DIAGRAM] TEXT OF EXPLANATION


   From Figure 1. we know that everyone in the world is controlled by his sin nature and therefore can’t help but commit sins that lead to death. In other words, every one of us is born separated from God, and we are dead in His presence.

   God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Trinity), the One and Only Lord, true God. He is holy, loving, just, and eternal God. He will fill me with joy in His presence, with eternal pleasures at His right hand. He is life, and also the source of all life, "for whoever finds him finds life and receives favor from the Lord." (Proverbs 8:35)

   God so loved the world that he wanted to save the world: We have seen in Figure 1. that people in the world are born with a sin nature so it’s impossible for them not to commit sins and die. God so loved the world that He would give up His life for them because He didn’t want to let even one person perish. His holiness and His love compelled Him to save the world.

   God’s salvation plan for us is to re-create the human race that is free from the sin nature: Since all people are controlled by the sin nature and have to sin, how can we ever be free from that? God’s only option is to re-create the human race. During this re-creation process, either “the sin nature” or the “old-self” must be done away with. Either let “the sin nature” die, so that it cannot continue to rule over us, or let the “old-self” die, to render the sin nature powerless. Only then they will be separated from each other. If both are alive and together, then the sin nature will always rule over us. God wants to re-create a new man not bound by the sin nature.

   God re-created men and made his Son the Savior of men. The qualifications of this Savior of men are: He must be without sin, must be a man, and cannot perish. (If he is a mere mortal like us then he cannot save us.) There is no one in this world who is a perfect man, therefore God had to send His Son to the world (the Word became flesh) to be a man just like us, to dwell among us and to be our savior.

   God’s salvation plan – The way of "Crossing over from death to life": See God’s Salvation Plan Diagram. The salvation plan God created for men was accomplished through his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, who became flesh to dwell among us and then died on the cross for us. What does "Crossing over from death to life" mean? "Crossing over from death" means to get out "from the dead in trespasses and sins," and "crossing over to life" means "to enter the resurrected life of Christ." In this diagram, the cross is in the middle. Let’s look at the left hand side -- the Son of God became flesh into the world to be the Son of Man. We have already mentioned a very important point: to put in place the savior for mankind, God must use a man in the world. However, because there was no perfect man in the world, so God sent his Son (who was without sin) to become a man (Son of Man) to be with the people of the world. Jesus Christ, who is fully God, but is also fully man (He possesses the full qualities of both God and man). Jesus was born in Adam, and was born to live under law. Although he had the likeness of a sinful man (refer to Romans 8:3), he lacked the sin nature, was not under the control of the sin nature (see Hebrews 7:26), and was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Our Lord Jesus lived a life of suffering on earth, but he was absolutely obedient to God and abiding to the law all his life. In the diagram we see an arrow pointing from the left side to the cross in the middle. This refers to Jesus, as the Last Adam and according to the will of God, put an end to everything that was in Adam, and died on the cross for the sins of all mankind. 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 mentioned the first man Adam, the last Adam, as well as the first man and the second man. The first man Adam brought sin into the world, so all men (offspring of Adam) can’t help but commit sinful acts. The last Adam wanted to rid us of our sins and save us from the grip of our sin nature. The last Adam, through shedding his precious blood, took on our sins; and through his death and burial, freed us from our sin nature. He buried the old-self and ended everything that was in Adam. The Lord Jesus Christ’s death and burial allowed Him to “cross over from death” (referring to coming out of the state of being separated from God – death, or to come out of the state of being “in Adam”). When he was resurrected, he became the second man, the head of all re-created new men. Therefore, "crossing over to life" means to enter into Christ's resurrection. Then he ascended to heaven and sat at the right hand of the Father God. Our Father God sent the Holy Spirit to the world in Jesus’ name to carry out the salvation plan. (see John 14:26)

   " In Adam and In Christ", "the first man – head of the old men and the second man - head of the new men", "old-self and new-self", "live under law and live under grace", " Under Satan's authority and in the kingdom of the beloved Son": Refer to God’s Salvation Plan Diagram again, to the left of the cross is labeled as “in Adam” and to the right of the cross is labeled as “in Christ”. All human beings are born "in Adam ". The Lord Jesus Christ died and rose again created a new human race that is "in Christ". To be “in Adam” is to be in “the first man" and to be “in Christ” is to be in “the second man (head of the new men)". A person who is “in Adam” is known as the “old-self” who is ruled by the sin nature and is a sinner dead in trespasses and sins. A person who is “in Christ” is the “new-self” who is free from the control of the sin nature and is united with Christ. The old-self lives under law and relies on his own intelligence and effort to act. Lord Jesus has created a new-self who lives under grace and is obedient to and follows the Holy Spirit. The man in Adam is under Satan's authority; and Jesus created a new human race so as to move them into the kingdom of the beloved Son (the kingdom of light). Therefore, what the Diagram of God’s Salvation Plan talks about is how God devised and completed the salvation plan “by grace”. Everything is by grace. God has done everything for us. Praise the Lord!

 

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[FIGURE 2. THE WAY OF “Crossing Over from Death to Life” – Through Faith] TEXT OF EXPLANATION


   In God’s Salvation Plan Diagram we have seen that, through being crucified, the Lord Jesus Christ came out of the "in Adam" domain and into the "in Christ" domain thus paving the way for “crossing over from death to life”. God completed the salvation plan in Jesus Christ solely by his grace (it’s not by one’s work, for one can freely receive it). So how can we receive the salvation? It is through our faith! What is faith? "Faith" is to accept. "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:12) When we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, we say, "Lord, I confess that I am a sinner, I sincerely accept Jesus as my personal Savior." As soon as I call on His name, I am united with Christ and my old-self is crucified with the Lord. Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection were both representative and inclusive. Not only did Jesus die for me, but also I died with Him. Not only was He buried and resurrected for me, but also I was buried and resurrected with Him. Therefore, once I call on the name of the Lord, I am naturally united with the Lord in death, in burial, and in resurrection. Isn’t it true that when we accept Jesus as our Savior, we can immediately feel a new life inside us? For a seeker who is willing to believe in Jesus, all you need to know is this truth: when you accept Jesus as your Savior you will be saved and be born again to become a child of God. As to the growing process of our new life, it has been clearly revealed to us through the Bible.

   Let’s take a look at Figure 2. now. The upper branch: "I was controlled by my sin nature and became the old-self, turned my body into the body of sin which couldn’t help but commit sins resulting in death (separation from God)." This is exactly what we have shown in Figure 1. Let’s look at the lower branch: "I now call on the name of the Lord to be united with righteousness (Christ), so that my old-self is crucified with the Lord. Christ has set me free from my sin nature to be united with Him (though the sin nature is not dead but it shall not be my master) to become new-self (receiving new life – eternal life). At this point we are just at the infant stage of our new life. "The old-self was slaves to sin. That is, the sin nature was the master of the old-self. When we call on the name of the Lord, our old-self is crucified with Jesus. In other words, the status of old-self (slaves to sin) is dead. Since the old-self is dead, "I" am freed from the status of being slaves to sin and no longer under the control of the sin nature. The "I" who is set free cannot exist independently without a master (refer to Matthew 6:24). So the newly set free “I” is united with Christ and become the new-self and Christ is the master of my life.

   Please note that in God’s salvation plan there is a very important point, that is, our sin nature is not dead but “sin shall not be your master.” (Romans 6:14) Ever since the day of my salvation I have surrendered myself to Jesus. I belong to Jesus. Sin shall not be my master, only Jesus is the legitimate master of my life. Hallelujah!

   How thankful we are to the Lord! We are saved by grace and through faith. By grace, the Lord Jesus completed the salvation plan on the cross. Combining Figure 2 and the Diagram of God’s Salvation Plan we can see all that Jesus Christ had accomplished on the cross is realized in us by way of being united with Him through faith – moving us from “in Adam” to “in Christ.” We were old-selves, controlled by sin, slaves to sin, and dead in trespasses and sins. Now we are united with Christ through faith and have crossed over from death to life. We are resurrected to be righteous new-self belonging to the Lord. We were once “in Adam”, living under law and relying on our own intelligence and ability to act. Now through faith, we moved to be “in Christ”, living under grace and obeying the Holy Spirit. We were “in Adam” which was under Satan's authority, now through faith, we are in the kingdom of the beloved son. Hallelujah! Amazing grace! Wonderful salvation!

 

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     Rely on myself: have our mind set on: "relying on human beings’ (including myself or others) insight, wisdom, and ability to find solutions for whatever we encounter.”

   Trust in God: No matter what we are faced with, have our mind set on: “acknowledging our own corruptness and inadequacy; acknowledging that we cannot and should not rely on human efforts but rather should depend on God; acknowledging that we should look up to Christ as our life, He will save me from my corrupt nature, and will fulfill everything in me.”

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[FIGURE 3 My Choices and their Consequences] TEXT OF EXPLANATION


   In Figure 2, we have seen that mankind was originally controlled by the sin nature and was "dead in trespasses and sins." Because of God's mercy, love and grace, he sent his only begotten Son into the world (the Word became flesh) to complete the salvation plan (the way to cross over from death to life), so that whoever called on the name of the Lord would be united with Christ in death and be freed from sin; and also be united with Christ in resurrection to become a new man. Now I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. Hallelujah! Christ is my life and he is in me to do all things for me. We are saved, oh how eager we are to please God! Please forgive me for repeating this fact: in God’s salvation plan, the sin nature does not die, it is still in us. But it cannot be our master. In Figure 3., we will see that after one is saved and born again, whether he will live by faith and let Christ be his master or live by analytical reasoning and let the sin nature be his master will produce two very different results: “the growth of the new life” or “broken relationship between Father and son.” If we live by analytical reasoning and the sin nature becomes our master then all the conditions of our “old-self” will re-appear. That will surely lead to death (broken Father and son relationship – still of the flesh and only an infant in Christ), bearing unspiritual fruit such as envy, selfish ambition, disorder, evil practice and other bad traits (see James 3:16). If we trust and obey the Spirit and constantly lift the Lord’s name up on high, then we will be more tightly bonded with Christ, and the result will be the growth of our new life, bearing spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, etc.

The differences between Figure 2 and Figure 3:

Figure 2 describes what happens to us the moment we change from non-believers to believers: As non-believers, we were ruled by the sin nature (old-selves). The moment we become believers (accepting Jesus Christ as our personal Savior), we are free from the control of sin and become new-selves united with Christ. We are newborn infants to the new life. Although the sin nature is still in us but it shall not and cannot be our master.

Figure 3 describes our life growth process after becoming a believer: When we become a believer we are no longer ruled by sin, because we are united with Christ and we belong to Him now. However, Christ does not control us like the sin nature did before we became a believer. God’s salvation plan calls for us to be totally submissive out of our own free will (see Romans 12:1; Corinthians 5:18). Thus, depending on the choices of our free will, either trusting in God or relying on ourselves [i.e. to live by faith or by sight (analytical reasoning)] will lead to two totally opposite results – “the growth of the new life,” or “broken Father and son relationship (i.e. still a newborn living in the flesh)." Healthy growth of the new life is found under the condition of "by faith from first to last." By faith: I believe Jesus was crucified for me and was resurrected, so I am saved and born again. From first to last: I am crucified with Christ, and I choose the “way of the Cross”, namely, "taking up my cross daily to follow the Lord and living by the Holy Spirit”, to transform from the old-self to the new-self and to grow my new life. The way of trusting in God is the way of living by faith. It is also the way of the Cross. When faced with difficulties and disappointments in our life, we should acknowledge that God is in charge (He is the Lord) and call upon His name. We should lift up His name on high and praise Him until we have extraordinary peace in our heart (this signifies that we have completely surrendered to Christ and the Holy Spirit is working in us freely). Because of this extraordinary peace in our heart our outward actions will naturally reflect that and become harmonious. (For details please see Lectures on Ephesians 2:1-10 under the topic of “And God Raised Us Up with Christ”.) God intends for us to grow the new life, it is what pleases him.

   Now we will use Figure 3 to discuss this question: Why does a saved, born-again Christian who is so eager to please God and to serve him with zeal, often find himself deep in "struggles, sufferings and discords”? In other words, what is the relationship between “the choices made by a child of God’s free will” and “the right and wrong way to please God”?

   Follow the upper branch of Figure 3: I choose to rely on myself (when we live under law, it is, in reality, "relying on myself”), once again I am controlled by sin (see Romans 6:12-14), exhibiting all the conditions of my “old-self”, thus my body becomes the body of sin, can’t help but commit sins leading to death – broken relationship between Father and son. In other words, in our daily life if we act according to what the Bible says and rely on our own ability (that is to choose trusting in myself, which is living under law), then the sin nature in us will come alive again to control us (see Romans 7:5,11,21-24). Please note that because Christ is our rightful master now, the sin nature has no right to control us, so it has to do this covertly. Once we are controlled by sin, the conditions of our old-selves will surface and make us give in to the desires of our flesh, committing sinful acts resulting in death (broken relationship between Father and son). This is why Romans 8:6 says, "the mind of sinful man is death" or “the mind set on the flesh is death.” A person who is saved and born again but yet lives by trusting in himself is called to be in the flesh. "To have mind set on the flesh" is to focus one’s thoughts on solving problems through one’s own efforts, and the consequence is death. The “death” referred to here and the “death” in Figure 1 are not the same. The death in Figure 1 is what God, the righteous judge, hands down to a sinner in His court of righteousness or commonly known as the fate of going to hell or separation from God. How about the death here? You have been saved, born again and entered Father's house; but because you trusted in yourself instead of Him, your relationship with God is temporarily broken. We all have experienced this: we have such strong desires to please God, such zeal to serve Him; but we often "only trust in ourselves and not in Him” and ended up creating all sorts of disharmonies. And in times like these our prayers were powerless also.

   Let’s look at the lower branch: I choose to trust in God and live by the way of the Cross, “call on the name of the Lord, lift up His name on high, ask Lord to save me from myself, to have a tighter bond with the Lord, and make my body live by the Spirit”, so that my mortal body may live again, to have righteous deeds, and my new life gradually grows. Whenever I am faced with challenges, trust not in myself but in the Lord. "Lord, oh, Lord, save me. Lord, oh, Lord, I thank you and I praise you; for all that’s happening to me is for the purpose of building a holy character in me." Do you know what happens when you pray like that? I love to share this testimony again and again. An elderly brother called a brother from the church to give him a ride to the Wednesday prayer meeting. However this brother forgot. On Saturday, the elderly brother called this brother again to remind him to give him a ride to church on Sunday. Although this brother promised that he would remember, but he failed to show up again. When I saw the elderly brother the following weekend, I said to him, "Uncle, it must be really frustrating to be in such a situation." The elderly brother replied, "Give thanks to the Lord! Praise the Lord! Everything that happened was God's will. This brother, he is a good brother in Christ; it was God who allowed him to forget. I thank the Lord for that." If the same thing happens to someone who trusts in himself and not God, then he would probably think this way, “No, I’m not going to get angry; I must not get angry. Why did he forget again and again? Does he have something against me? ……. No, I shouldn’t even think this way; I should glorify the Lord.” I do not want to think about it! This is “you” trying to control yourself and not giving the matter to “God”. By controlling yourself you are simply trying to bottle up your emotions. We can imagine with all these emotions bottled up you are bound to let it out sooner or later, am I right? Even if you succeed in controlling yourself this time, if it happens again and again, then at some point you are bound to blow up and therefore committing sins. Isn’t it so? The consequence of relying on oneself and not relying on God is death. The most obvious manifestation of "sin" is “being self-centered”. The elderly brother could have said, “So, you don’t really think much of me. Do you think I am just a useless old man? …..” But instead he chose to trust in God, "Thank you Lord, oh Lord, I sincerely ask you to save me from myself. Praise Jesus, oh Lord, I accept everything that you allow to happen. Whatever challenges I might face, they are there to enable my life to grow and be more pleasing to you. Thank you Lord!” When something doesn’t go your way and you choose to pray and thank the Lord then you will have a tighter union with the Lord (follow the lower branch of Figure 3 above). Once you thank the Lord and call upon His name, God will give you the Holy Spirit (see Luke 11:13), then all you have to do is to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Instead of complaining or arguing (See Philippians 2:14), in every situation we face each day, no matter how small or insignificant, we should call upon Jesus’ name, give thanks to Him, praise Him, and just follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then we will be united with the Lord in His death and resurrection. In this way, our mortal bodies will receive a little life through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11-13; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Philippians 3:9-11), and gradually put off the old-self, and put on the new-self (Ephesians 4: 22-24). Our behavior that merits us to receive a little life is the righteous act. The righteous requirements of the law cannot be attained through the efforts of the flesh, rather, we must "trust and obey" the Lord, and "live by the Spirit" (see Philippians 2:12; Galatians 5:16,25), so that "by faith, we eagerly await through the spirit the righteousness for which we hope;” (Galatians 5:5) and thus step by step, "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.” (Romans 8:4) This is the only way the righteous requirements of the law can be fully attained by us and it is known as "the righteous acts of the saints." Brothers and sisters, please listen to this, "Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory, for the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:7-8). Give thanks to the Lord, Jesus paved a new, living path for us: "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming ……." (Romans 10: 8-10) Hallelujah! How light is my burden and how free is my spirit. "Come now, let us leave!" (John 14:31)

   The Diagram of Lazarus Resurrection also addresses this subject. Besides the schematic diagram, there are four illustrations also. Illustration 1 shows that we are dead in trespasses and sins. Illustration 2 shows that Jesus raises us from the dead. Illustration 3, we are called to be united with Jesus in resurrection and to live by “the way of the Cross” -- take up our cross to follow the Lord: "We praise Jesus and give thanks to God! In everything we see God’s wisdom. Yes, glory be to the God most high, thank you Lord." When we constantly lift up the Lord’s name on high each day, we will continue to experience dying with the Lord and being raised from death with Him. This way, we gradually remove our grave clothes, i.e. we gradually put off our old-selves and put on our new-selves. That is exactly what we are talking about here that we gradually rid of our sinful acts and gradually take up righteous acts. Illustration 4 shows that if we are not willing to take up our cross and follow the way of the Lord, and instead trying to achieve righteousness by self-control: "I don’ t want to think about that; I don’t want to talk about that; and I don’t want to... ...." When we try to control ourselves like this, we are simply adding more layers of grave clothes onto us. Sometimes we even use beautiful clothes to cover up our grave clothes (i.e. to dress up our old-self). This is a tough way to live your life and no wonder you don’t want to pray any more.

   Therefore, we see that, the right way to please God and to reach God's righteousness is to exercise your free will to choose to live by “trusting in the Lord" and by following “the way of the Cross”. If your free will chooses "to live by relying on yourself" to please God, then you are on the wrong path. So, Figure 3 and The Diagram of Lazarus Resurrection are consistent with each other. To live by relying on myself is to struggle to control myself; that is a hard way to live. To live by trusting in God is to take up my cross daily to follow the Lord; it is a life full of peace, freedom, liberty and joy.





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