Living as a Christian
Study 5. Where Do I Stand?
(A LOOK BACK)
1) According to First Corinthians 15:3, what is the purpose of the death of Christ?
2) What is the basic meaning of the word "grace"? And how does it relate to God's plan of salvation?
INSIGHT: In the last lesson, we considered what it means to be a Christian. We saw that a Christian is one who has put his faith in Christ, and in His death on the cross and His resurrection. He has trusted Christ as his Saviour from sin, saying, in effect, "I believe that Jesus died for me; He took sin's punishment in my place." We now need to look more closely at the results of this step of faith. What does it mean in the life of the individual?
A. A FULL CLEANSING
3) When a person trusts Christ for salvation, what happens to his sins (Ephesians 1:7)?
INSIGHT: In ancient times, when the Romans executed a criminal by crucifixion, they would nail a list of his crimes above his head, on the cross. Symbolically speaking, this is a picture of what God has done with our sins.
4) Where did God nail the list of our sins (Colossians 2:13-14)?
5) And how many of our sins were affected by this (Colossians 2:13b)?
B. A NEW LEGAL STANDING
INSIGHT: We need to understand two important aspects of the work of salvation. It certainly affects us in our hearts, as we'll see in a moment. However, it also affects our legal status in God's sight. When we trust in Christ as Saviour, a kind of business transaction takes place between us and God (almost like what happens when we go to the bank). Salvation involves a transfer of our debt of sin to Christ's account, and a legal transfer of His righteousness (His perfect rightness or goodness) to the believer's account. The transaction is described in Second Corinthians: "He [God the Father] made Him [Christ], who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
6) Whose righteousness has been credited to our account, according to this verse?
INSIGHT: Another verse says, "Of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us... righteousness..." (I Corinthians 1:30). This means the righteousness credited to us is perfect, without a single flaw.
7) What is the result of this, as to our standing with God (Hebrews 10:14)?
INSIGHT: "Those who are being sanctified [meaning set apart]" refers to those who are being saved out of the world of sinners, those whom God is claiming as His own. It is liberating to realize our standing with God is not based on our own righteousness, but on that of Christ. Until He sins (and He never will!), our salvation is secure.
INSIGHT: One day the Lord Jesus used a graphic word picture to describe how deceitful and dangerous false prophets can be. He said they were like wolves in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15). It was as if a hungry wolf had covered itself with a sheepskin, in order to be accepted as a sheep, with nasty intent! But there is also a positive and wonderful application of this idea. The one who is saved is viewed by God as if he or she were forever clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). This has to do with our legal standing in God's sight. It is as though, when God looks at us He sees His perfect Son, and we are accepted on that account.
INSIGHT: There is a little phrase used repeatedly in the New Testament to describe the Christian's legal standing in God's sight. The phrase is "in Christ," or "in Him." We are viewed by God the Father as being in Christ.
8) What is one benefit of this legal standing (Romans 8:1)?
9) What other benefits are described in Ephesians 1:3? And Ephesians 1:6?
C. NEW SPIRITUAL LIFE
INSIGHT: As well as the truth of our legal standing in Christ, we need to consider our state, or what we are inside. When God saves us, as well as changing our legal position, He radically changes our spiritual condition.
INSIGHT: The Bible describes the sinner as spiritually "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1, 5). That spiritual deadness refers to the inability of the unsaved to properly understand God, relate to God or please Him. What he needs is an infusion of spiritual life. That is provided by the Spirit of God through something called the new birth. This is a second or spiritual birth, in addition to the physical (natural) birth we all experienced.
10) What problem does the individual have who has only experienced a physical or natural birth (I Corinthians 2:14)?
11) What other problem does he have, according to Jesus (John 3:3)?
12) How can an individual receive the new birth (John 1:12-13)?
INSIGHT: This spiritual birth gives us new, spiritual life, the very life of God. God's purpose in this is to empower us to become more like Christ. He wants to reproduce the loving character of Christ in us. But while we are credited with the righteousness of Christ as to our legal standing, and this legal standing remains constant, it is not the same with our state, or our daily experience. Our degree of "Christ-likeness" will depend on our daily obedience to God's Word.
Compare it to being a citizen of Canada. Our citizenship has to do with our legal status. But we do not always act in accordance with what we are. We may break the law, and fail to honour the standing we have been granted. It is the same for the Christian. Through faith in Christ, we become citizens of God's heavenly kingdom (Colossians 1:13), but we don't always act in a way worthy of our standing.
However, God has promised to complete His work in us, so that what we are as to our standing will one day be fully true of us as to our state as well. This will happen when we go to be with Christ eternally (Philippians 3:20-21; I John 3:1-2).
But what are we to do in the meantime? God does not want Christians to simply drift along as spiritual babies, waiting for the day of their perfecting in heaven. In the physical realm, it is sad when an individual fails to mature, and continues to think and behave as a child into his adult years. Likewise, it is God's desire that those who are born again go on growing toward spiritual maturity.
13) What is the standard by which we are to assess our spiritual growth (Ephesians 4:13).
14) What is the spiritual food that can strengthen us and help us to grow (I Peter 2:2)?
INSIGHT: Just as with physical babies, spiritual babies should not go on living on spiritual "milk" alone. As we grow, we also need solid food.
15) If we keep on living on milk, and are not ready for solid food, what might be the problem (Hebrews 5:12-14)?
16) What is one evidence that a Christian is not growing as he should (I Corinthians 3:1-3)?
INSIGHT: One of the ways the Bible frequently (about 50 times) describes the Christian life is with the word "walk." When God saves a sinner, he becomes a "new creation" in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17). From that point on he is called to "walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4). Walking is a good way to describe the Christian life. Our "walk" is our lifestyle, and our daily conduct.
When we walk physically, our brain sends a message to our foot and the foot obeys. There is also an element of faith involved. Stepping out throws us temporarily off balance, but we trust that the ground (or floor) beneath will hold us up. Similarly, the Christian "walk" involves a habitual repetition of this process of faith and obedience toward God.
17) How should the Christian walk, according to Ephesians 4:1? And what will this mean in practical terms (Ephesians 4:2-3)?
18) What is a key quality of our Christian walk (II Corinthians 5:7)?
19) What else should be a part of the Christian's walk (Ephesians 2:10)?
INSIGHT:Some define "love" in terms of mere sentiment and feelings. Others think in terms of physical sexuality. But in the Bible, love is first of all an act of the will. It is the sacrificial giving of one person to benefit another.
20) How did God demonstrate this kind of love (John 3:16)?
21) If we truly love God, what will be the result in our lives (II John 1:6; or see I John 2:5)?
22) The extreme opposite of a Christian walk is described in Philippians 3:17-19. What are four key characteristics of this sinful walk?
23) In contrast, what three things ought to characterize the Christian walk, according to Colossians 1:10?