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Preface to ¡°Path of New Life Growth¡±
The Right and Wrong Way to New Life Growth (The Diagram of Lazarus Resurrection)
Illustration of the New Life Growth Process
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TEXT OF EXPLANATION


   “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) After we have been saved, born again and become new men, we mistakenly think that all we have to do is to serve the Lord with all our heart and all our strength, and that all of our works will be deemed meaningful and valuable like the works of silver and gold in God’s eyes. And “I” who serve Him so faithfully and passionately will surely be pleasing to Him. Little do we know that although we are saved by His grace and through our faith, born again and become new men, we are still only babies as newly created men. We must continue to be sanctified by God “by grace and through faith”, only then will the newly created man gradually grow up, mature and be able to do the good works that God had prepared in advance for us to do.

   In this diagram we use Lazarus as the symbol for someone who has been saved. Through the story of “Jesus Raising Lazarus From the Dead” (John 11:38-43) together with (Ephesians 2:1-10) we will discuss how our One and Only God created us so that we may have life, and how He continued to build us up so that our life may grow (gradually put off the old-self and put on the new-self). The key point of this diagram is: How to be on the right path to grow our life as believers.

   We were originally dead in trespasses and sins (Illustration 1). He raised us from the dead; we were saved and born again (Illustration 2). But notice our whole body was wrapped in linen strips (grave clothes – symbolizing our old corrupt nature and sinful acts). Lord Jesus commanded: “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” That is, to take up the cross daily to follow the Lord, and gradually put off the old-self (grave clothes) and put on the new-self (the likeness of the Lord, our creator) (Illustration 3). Only then we are able to do the good works which God prepared for us to do. If we do not follow the way of the Cross, but rely on our own efforts to do good and to restrain and cover up our old nature (Illustration 4), then our life will not only be very hard, but also cursed by God (Galatians 3:10).


   Good works are rare, indeed,

   But evils are common in this world;

   Acknowledging not the creator, our Lord,

   Dead in sins, seperated from the life of God.


  

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Illustration 1. Lazarus in the Tomb

   Lazarus was dead, wrapped up in linen strips, symbolizing our relationship with God – dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In God’s eyes “there is no one righteous, not even one”; “we all, like sheep, have gone astray” (Romans 3:10, Isaiah 53:6), therefore, “we are darkened in our understanding and separated from the life of God…….” (Ephesians 4:18), we are all like the dead man in the tomb.


   Died on the cross, Jesus secured our salvation,

   My sins were washed away by His blood;

   Granted us freely the new life, by His grace,

   Joys to all who are heavenward bound.


  

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Illustration 2. Lazarus Wrapped in Linen
Strips Came Out of the Tomb



   Jesus said, “Lazarus, Come out!” Lazarus came out, his hands and feet wrapped with linen strips. This can represent us, that through faith we are raised from the dead (Ephesians 2:1).

   Give thanks to God for preparing this plan of salvation, through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, saved the world. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “By grace and through faith,” we are united with the Lord in death, resurrection, and rebirth to become the newly created men (to have new life).
   After coming to Christ, we are naturally filled with the first love and joy for Christ, eagerly wanting to live for Jesus, and to please Him with all our heart and all our strength. Unfortunately, when we have just been saved and born again, we are only babies in the new creation (i.e. we are only infants to begin the journey of our new life). “But if Christ is in us, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10). That is to say, we have new life, but our body is still full of the old nature and behavior. As demonstrated by Lazarus in Illustration 2, though raised from the dead, his whole body was still wrapped with linen strips so he couldn’t live a normal life.


   Take up the cross of your daily life,

   Trust and obey the Holy Spirit who indells;

   Little by little, put off the old-self,

   And put on the full glory of the Lord.


  

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Illustration 3. Take off the Grave Clothes
and Let him go - Shedding the Linen Strips

   Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." This means that we must shed our old nature and old behavior so that we can live a true Christian life, and really live for Jesus. Our old nature and behavior can be gradually eliminated only if we live a life that is “raised up with Christ" (Ephesians 2:6). What does this mean? Ephesians 2:1 and 2:5 said that God made us alive with Christ already, so why must we be raised up with Christ again?
   God has a plan for all those who are saved and born again to be built up and to grow their life (i.e., the plan of putting off the old-self and putting on the new-self). To accomplish this plan we are required to take up the cross daily. Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." (Luke 9:23-24) What we need to do is to bring our daily cross (i.e., everything in our daily life that doesn’t go our way) to the Lord, acknowledge that He is the Lord and let Him take care of it. This way, we will experience dying and being raised with the Lord and the mighty power of Christ’s resurrection will be manifested. Through the daily cross, we, by grace and through faith, can continue to experience "raised with Christ” again and again; to gradually take off the grave clothes and put on the glory of the Lord.


   Frustrated to be bound by the linen strips,

   Though I tried to rid them, but I was powerless;

   Still living inside me, are my unholy old habits,

   What good does it do to cover them up in bows.


  

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Illustration 4. Adding more layers to the Grave Clothes

   If we are not on the path of living "by grace and through faith in God", and instead we are on the path of relying on our own efforts to do good works, then we are making three mistakes. First, it is impossible to attain the good works that we are striving for by our own effort. Second, this approach will make us hostile to God because it is cursed by God (Galatians 3:10; Romans 8:7). Third, we cannot get rid of our old nature. Despite our efforts to cover up, to restrain ourselves, to use harsh treatment of our body to control ourselves, etc., we cannot get rid of the old nature (Colossians 2:20-23). Just like the person in Illustration 4, he is just adding more layers to the grave clothes to cover up what’s underneath. The end results surely will be more struggles, sufferings , and laments: "What a wretched man I am!" (Romans 7:24)
   Thanks to the grace of God, Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, and our faith, the Holy Spirit makes us born again in Christ. We have a new life. Let us continue to walk on the path of faith. Take up our cross daily to follow the Lord, trust and obey the Holy Spirit in everything we do, so that we may continue to put off our old-self (grave clothes) and put on our new-self (the likeness of our creator, the Lord). Therefore the newly created men may grow up gradually to do good works which God prepared in advance for us. Any human efforts and approaches to eradicate the evil acts of the flesh will be in vain. "Salvation is found in no one else" (Acts 4:12). Since we became believers by the Holy Spirit, so we should also let the Holy Spirit guide us to attain righteousness. (see Galatians 3:3, 5:25).

  


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