Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Believer's Two Natures (Part 4)

Case Study #2: Regaining joy 

“I want you to pray for me because years ago I was sure that I was saved, but then I backslid and was living in sin for several years. A few months ago I became so sick of sin and the world that I prayed and asked God to forgive me for having drifted so far away. I believe He did, but for some reason, I do not have the joy I once did. Doubts come to mind that perhaps I never really have trusted Jesus completely. 

“This was my experience. As I prayed I saw a hand writing my name. I stopped praying until it was finished. Then I said out loud, ‘Thank You, dear God.’ I spent most of the next day on my knees thanking Him. I believed with all my heart that my name had been written down in the Book of Life. I was so happy I told everyone God had saved me. I began to read my Bible and for the first time I saw Jesus as He is revealed in the Bible. I was so happy for a while, but then I began to grow cold and drifted away. I’ve wondered why I did that if I really was saved.” 

There are two things that you need to see more clearly to understand your experience and the reason for your doubt. 

In the first place, you are basing your assurance on your experience rather than on the finished work of Christ. Experience, however precious, is neither the foundation of our eternal security nor the basis of real assurance. Christ died for our sins; that alone is the basis of our security. He died for our sins and bore the condemnation and judgment that is due us not only because of our sins but also because of our sinful nature. Sins, whether in thought, word or deed, are only the outworking of our sinful nature. 

If you had only a holy nature you could not sin because your holy nature would so abhor sin that you would reject every temptation to sin. That is what we see in Christ. He had an absolutely holy nature and therefore repelled every temptation. His food was to do His Father’s will. He never sought His own will but the will of the Father who sent Him (Jn. 4:34; 5:30). But we have a fallen nature that loves its own will and wants to have its own way regardless of whether it is pleasing to God. So Christ not only had to die for our sins, but our sinful nature had to be condemned and judged with death. 

When Christ was on the cross for you, all your sins (past, present and future) were before God. What is more, your sinful nature with all its sinful thoughts, feelings and deeds were all under His eye; for God sees the future as well as the past. Time does not count with Him. Christ took your place and God dealt with Him instead of you. He treated Christ as though He was what you are and had done what you did, are doing and will do. That is what 2 Corinthians 5:21 means: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us.” 

Further, He condemned our sinful nature and sentenced it to death. In sovereign grace and love for us, God passed our death sentence over on to Christ who took it in our place. That is the reason He cried in agony, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46). He was forsaken because of what you are and what you do. He took your place and bore your sin. As you look at Christ dying there and bearing God’s judgment against sin, you can say, “Death and judgment are behind me.” 

Where is Christ now? Is He dead? No, He is at the right hand of God. God laid your sins upon Him and judged Him for you. Could Christ be in glory if there was even one sin left that He had not satisfied God about? Certainly not! God could not allow Him in His presence if there were any of your sins still on Him. So this is the great thing to see: “He was delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). When Christ was delivered up on the cross He had all your sins upon Him, but when God raised Him from the dead, it was because all your sins had been completely washed away by His blood. 

There is no sin that can be charged against you now that you have believed in Christ, because God has already charged them all to Christ who bore all the judgment of them. Christ has left all the sins and judgment behind Him when He arose from the dead and sat down at the right hand of God. So now you are justified and cleared from all sin. 

In John 5:24, Christ said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” Why? Because He was judged and condemned for us and bore our full penalty on the cross. Now that He is risen again all who believe in Him have passed from death unto life. 

Another great point to see is that when you receive Christ you also receive a new life in Him. You were “made alive.” The Spirit of God makes you a partaker of that life which Christ received when He was raised from the dead. That is why we read in Colossians 2:13, “You, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” 

God has given you a new life together with Christ. You were dead in your sins. There was no life there for God, but now He has made you alive with the same life that He gave to Christ when He raised Him from the dead. Now this life, that you have received together with Christ, can never come under judgment since Christ received this life after He had passed through judgment and left it all behind Him. 

We stand before God identified with Christ who has been accepted at God’s right hand after He passed through death and judgment. This is the basis of your acceptance before God and this is where you must look for assurance. You are in Christ. His death is yours, His life is yours and His place of acceptance at God’s right hand is also yours. 

So you not only have a new standing before God in Christ who is risen from the dead, but you also have a new life in Him. The very nature of this new life is to love God and to hate sin. That’s why you felt so miserable and unhappy when you were living in sin after you backslid. 

Although you have been born again and have a new nature, you still have your old sinful nature. That accounts for all your conflicts. The new nature hates sin, the old nature loves it. Besides, your conscience disapproves of sin and the Holy Spirit is dwelling in you to convict you of your sin and to make you unhappy with it. You saw your sins and felt them and then began to question yourself: “If I am saved, why do I do these things?” The very fact that you asked yourself such a question shows that you are looking to your experience to know whether you are saved instead of looking to what Christ has done for you. 

Your salvation, acceptance and security depend upon Christ and His work for you on the cross, not on anything you do. But if you do give way to your old nature and sin, it is bound to make you unhappy. You don’t lose your salvation or your security, but you lose your joy. 

What has to be done then? You must confess your sins to God, judge yourself and surrender your will to Him; then you will be happy again. You may not have the same feeling of joy you had at first, but you will have real peace of heart. 

How can you get victory over your old nature so you won’t backslide again? Certainly not by struggling against it or fighting it. If you try to gain victory in your own strength, you will fail.

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