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The death and resurrection of Christ is God's nuclear grade attack on His enemies. With it he has obliterated demonic hopes of victory and utterly demolished Satan's hitherto, relatively unchallenged, death grip on the world-God's world, I might add. Christ has pounded His enemies; they will never rise up again. He has also made a way of escape for all those under Satan's sway; the gospel is "the power of God for salvation" (Rom 1:16). His victory is final, decisive, irreversible, and of "cosmic proportions."
Just as the victory at Normandy spelled the inevitable emancipation of Europe from Hitler's tyrannical dictatorship, so Christ's resurrection secures certain and therefore inevitable triumph for God and his people-a people under enemy control and needing immediate and direct intervention.
How, then, is a person rightly connected to God? How can you actually participate in Christ's victory? How can you gain a share in the spoils? After all, wouldn't you rather be on the winning side? The truth is, there are two sides to story of how to be rightly connected to God.
On the one hand, there is the human side. We are urged over and over again in scripture, through homily, song, and sermon to trust Christ, to yield our lives to Him. For His part, He has promised to richly welcome all those who surrender and seek his forgiveness.
In other words, before we can share in the conquest of God's King, we must first be conquered by Him. He permits no bartering and takes no prisoners. A full and complete surrender is required, and friendship, surprisingly, is the result. Why not welcome Him today as your Liberator and Friend rather than mistakenly defy him as foe?
So from the human side, faith in Christ is the only way to enter into the blessing of the Father (Eph 2:8-9). Hey, it's not that complicated: you love the Son, His Father loves you (cf. John 14:23). Anyone with children understands the logic.
On the other hand, there is the divine side and the way in which God brings together Christ and His work with fallen people and their need. In short, His purpose is to liberate His people through affecting their participation in the victory of His Son. But how?
In short, God "reckons" believers "in Christ" from before the foundation of the world. He has chosen them "in Christ" as recipients of all the blessings heaven has to offer and makes it actual in their experience when His Spirit leads each individual to faith (cf. Eph 1:3-4, 13-14). But, you might ask, to what extent does God count the experiences and benefits of Christ to be ours? The answer: in every way.
God counts us as having been united with Christ in his death and resurrection and the blessings flowing from his life are transferred to us-at conversion and from then on. The death he died, we died. The life he lives, we live (Rom 6:4-5). His victory over the world, the flesh (i.e., ours), and the devil is our victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil. His exaltation is our exaltation (cf. Eph 2:6-7). Yes, we can share in the spoils! Daily!
It is in light of this new situation in which you and I exist, that is, "in Christ," that Paul exhorts us to holy and happy living throughout his thirteen letters. This is the proper theological framework for all his instruction to the people of God. We are new creations in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:17).
In short, there has been a realm transfer for the Christian-a wholesale and definitive reassignment from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light (Col 1:13-14). No longer do we drudge on hopelessly under the oppression of the Mosaic law, sin, death, and judgment. We are indeed emancipated from crippling fear, liberated from the land of guilt, and delivered into the fresh air of freedom and service to the King himself. We are dancing to a new song!
We receive daily supplies, nourishment, good cheer, and guidance from the Lord of Lords. But even more; He is in the process of training our hands for war, empowering our hearts for victory, and causing us to reign in this life. Again, "we live, move, and have our being" in a totally new mode of existence. We are "in Christ."
Just as his death was our death and his life is now our life, so also His battle is now our battle! Because of our intimate union with him in this life now (Col 3:1-2), we are currently engaged with him in His battle against evil and the spiritual powers that oppose him. In fact, we are ruined for anything else but serving Him.
Now someone might ask, "I thought you said that Satan was a defeated foe. How then can he fight against us?" The answer is simple. God has determined for our benefit and for his own glory to execute the punishment phase of the sentence against Satan in a progressive manner.
Thus the punishment against Satan has already begun in the church's victories over him, continuing each day as redeemed people say "yes" to God and "no" to sin and Satan, and will someday culminate in the Devil's decisive and eternal punishment in the lake of fire.
So for the meantime we are to wage war against the powers of evil and wickedness and the spiritual beings that promote rebellion against God. The war our King is currently waging against sin, death, and the Devil involves our participation, though the weapons of our engagement are not carnal, but spiritual (2 Cor 10:3-4).
Therefore, we pray, love, serve, and sacrifice for Him and for others. We salt the earth with truth and kindness (two concepts not seen together a lot these days), seeking the good of all men. This pleases Jesus and He works through it to deliver people, to overthrow darkness, and to establish righteousness.
It is completely true that we add nothing to the sufficiency of the vicarious death and resurrection of the Son of God. But his cross work is not only the basis of our salvation it is also the pattern of our discipleship. It call us to sacrificial service. Thus we are to fight against the fallen powers of the universe as He himself did.
So there we have it! A quick review of the saving work of God, its relationship to you, the believer, and the fight you have now been called to engage. In light of this my questions are rather straight forward and simple, though the answers may take some thought.
First, do you really understand what God has done for you in Christ? Has it sunk in and is it now flowing through your veins? Is it your life-blood? Or, does it remain something outside the core of your heart, like a person locked out in the cold? Ask the Lord to search your innermost being. Reflect on your choices this week.
Second, do you realize, therefore, that Biblical Christianity is not a self-help religion? It is not about making good men better, but about making dead men alive! There's an entire worldview difference between these two thoughts! The former is rooted in religion, the latter in divine rescue. What does this entail with respect to your need for God's Spirit, strength, and power now (cf. John 15:5-6)? Have you ever really prayed for God to come upon you with power, understanding, and wisdom (cf. Zech 4:5)?
Third, if you were to follow the Lord as a good soldier, what would that look like in your current situation? What would it look like for you and your church to wage war against oppression, drugs, crime, injustice, loneliness, hunger, and spiritual darkness in people's lives, in school yards, on your streets, and in your communities?
Should we wait for people to darken the doors of our churches or should we "head out," aggressively praying for God's intervention? Is it not time for us to go and tell the leaders in our communities that we are here to help in anyway we can? In our willingness to serve, perhaps lives will be changed and a hearing for the gospel won. We may even find Christ already on the street and in the schoolyard ahead of us!
The church is the hermeneutic for the gospel, the grid through which the world should be able to rightly interpret God-His character, will, and ways (cf. 2 Cor 5:20). The reason the world does not understand the gospel, however, is primarily due to the church's actions which speak so loudly that the lost world cannot hear our words.
Now the best way to be heard-at least as far as I know-is not by yelling louder, but by loving more (cf. Matt 5:16). I wonder what that would look like. I think it's fairly clear...the time is now! The time is now for the church to root herself in God and his saving work and to concentrate on living that out. Then the world will begin to understand that the gospel is for us (all men), that is, when they see it working through us (Christians).