Maturing Toward Wholeness in the Inner Life

New Life Comes Forth From Death

It Is No Longer I Who Live, But Christ Who Lives In Me

1 – “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev 21:5) God is renewing creation. He has made full provision for each of us to become a new person.

2 – Making things new is not the same as making them the first time. It is re-making them. In the fullest sense, salvation is about re-creating.

3 – What does the process of re-making something look like? 1) The old must be removed, making place for the new. 2) The new can then be formed.

4 – What does the process of re-making a person look like? 1) The old life must first die. 2) Then new life—Christ’s life—can be formed within.

5 – What are the outcomes of a person being re-made? Forgiveness of sin? Heaven when one dies? Absolutely! Is that all? No! More—much more!

6 – My sins indicate the ruined, lost person I have become. Would God work forgiveness and heaven but leave character—who I really am—unchanged?

7 – Being born again is not an end result. It is to birth a process by which I am gradually re-formed into becoming like Jesus on the inside.

8 – Two megatrends inform and empower the process: 1) I allow Christ’s death to work in me. 2) I rely on Christ to form new life in its place.

9 – I do not control my re-creation. God does. But I must choose it. I cannot speed it up, but I can slow it down by unbelief and disobedience.

10 – “Death” here has nothing to do with self-abuse or condemnation. It is a grace-filled offer for removing the effects of wrongness within me.

11 – “For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Rom 6:7) This is a death I must choose moment by moment. God will not force it on me.

12 – These two processes—1) I allow Christ’s death to work in me 2) Christ forms his new life in me—permeate teachings of Jesus and the apostles.

13 – Jesus: “For whoever would save his life will loose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:25)

14 – The apostles: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)

15 – But it wasn’t just their teaching—it was also their life experience. For Jesus and the apostles, new life came forth from death.

16 – Jesus: “…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death…on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him….” (Php 2:8-9)

17 – The apostles: “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Cor 4:10)

18 – Throughout Church history Christ’s followers have discovered that the path to life in God’s Presence and Kingdom leads through death.

19 – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who stood against the Nazi terror in his native Germany, wrote, “Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death.”

20 – That new life emerges from death is a principle seen throughout nature. Jesus used this observable reality to illustrate his teaching.

21 – “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (Jn 12:24)

What Must Die? The Self-life!

22 – In order to receive new life in Christ, why is choosing to die so unavoidable? Because of the root from which all sin grows—self-worship.

23 – God created mankind for a relationship with him of mutual agape love. We were the center of his affection; he was to be the center of ours.

24 – This arrangement would allow God to meet our every need directly, moment by moment. He designed for us a life of joy, meaning, fulfillment.

25 – But our first parents violated this God-intended order. They turned from God as the center of their affection and entered into self-worship.

26 – Separated from God by their own choice, they were separated from the Source who alone could meet their needs. So they relied on themselves.

27 – But they could not meet their needs by relying on themselves. They slid increasingly into neediness, and then into damage, ruin, lostness.

28 – Self-worship produced self-reliance, self-will, self-effort. Self-worship drove mankind into the darkness and lostness of the self-life.

29 – The “old man” or “natural man” of Scripture is produced by the choices, thoughts, emotions and behaviors generated in self-worship.

30 – We need to be saved from the self-life. It was formed as we sought fulfillment in all the wrong ways. It yields emptiness, pain, darkness.

31 – “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Rom 1:28)

32 – The ruined self-life must be put to death and replaced with new life—God’s eternal life. I must choose it, but I don’t do it—God does.

The Christian Believer Is “In Christ”

33 – The process whereby the ruined self-life is put to death and replaced by God’s new life takes place “in Christ”—a framework of God’s design.

34 – By repentance and faith we turn again to God. He then sets us “in Christ.” This is a mystery. We don’t access it by unaided analysis.

35 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor 5:17)

36 – God setting me “in Christ” creates a new reality for me. But it is up to me to access its benefits. How? By daily choices to trust and obey.

37 – What does it mean to be “in Christ?” One way to understand it: Rather than me trying to hold on to Christ, he is actually holding on to me.

38 – What does it mean to be “in Christ?” God has united me with him in his death and resurrection. When he died, I died. When he rose, I rose.

39 – “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Rom 6:5)

40 – This may feel very unreal. I died to sin? It doesn’t feel like it! I often fail when faced with temptation. I must rely on it by faith? How?

41 – “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:11) “Consider” means to rely on this being true and to act on it.

42 – “Do not present your members to sin…present yourselves to God…and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” (Rom 6:13)

43 – Our “members” are our bodily parts—perhaps also our wills, thoughts, emotions. Spiritual practices assist us in presenting them to God.

44 – To accept a truth by faith is more than cognitive assent. We make choices, take action, based on the truth. Faith without obedience is dead.

45 – As I vacillate between yielding to the self-life or dying to it, I am vacillating between choosing to live in unreality or in reality.

46 – To yield to the self-life is to obstruct formation in Christlikeness. To die to self is to co-operate with formation in Christlikeness.

What Does This Look Like In Practice?

47 – Limiting these truths to the realm of theology renders them sterile—inoperative. They must shape my choices, my actions. Some examples:

48 – #1. I allocate time to be with God—to practice his Presence. To do this I must say “no” to some things–even good things. I “die” to them.

49 – #2. I choose not to demand my own way. When my will is crossed, I lay it down. I “die” to it. I make space for my Father to work his will.

50 – #3. I “die” to desire to win over others, to be more important, more successful, more praised. I thank my Father for the life he has for me.

51 – #4. “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all the servant of all.” Mk9:36 I “die” to self and allow Jesus to form this heart in me.

52 – #5. When wronged, I may take steps to protect myself, but I reject retaliation. I accept God’s role as Judge. I “die” to anger and revenge.

53 – #6. I choose to release my felt need to control. I accept that it is God, not I, who is in control. I marvel in the deep peace this brings.

54 -#7. I choose spiritual practices that train me in dying to self. Example: Fasting shows that I need not be in bondage to bodily appetites.

55 – #8. In each situation I seek to learn how to love. Love is choosing to set aside self in order to serve another. Jesus modeled the way.

56 – This teaching must never leave us focused on death. The whole point is life. In Christ, the way of the cross is the way to fulness of life.

57 – Christ’s ways gradually mature us into a life characterized by victory. Yes, there will be failures along the way, especially as we begin.

58 – Failures offer fresh chances to “die”. I 1) admit my failure, 2) repent, 3) reaffirm being “in Christ,” and 4) go forward relying on Him.

59 – “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (Php 3:10)

 

Draft: Updated—May 25, 2015

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