What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity/Part 5
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. Bill Gillham; ©2005|
|Does the Bible teach that Christians stand holy and totally accepted before God because of Christ? If so, why do many not feel holy and act holy? How has God provided for believers to progress in holy living here on earth?|
What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity – Part 5
Does the Bible teach that Christians stand holy and totally accepted before God because of Christ? If so, why do many not feel holy and act holy? How has God provided for believers to progress in holy living here on earth?
Dr. John Ankerberg: Are you a Christian? If so, I hope you won’t mind if I ask you a personal question. Do you know how to live each moment of your life in relationship with Jesus Christ? He is in your life, right? Do you realize He wants you to bow to His gentle leading and let Him live His life through you? You may say, “John, I am a Christian and I love the Lord, but I know very little experientially about what you’re talking about.” If so, I’d like you to listen to Dr. Bill Gillham.
Dr. Bill Gillham: Gang, we get one shot at it here on planet Earth. One shot. This is the only place we ever have an opportunity to suffer or to go through hard times or to trust God and walk by faith. Once this is over, we never get another opportunity to do that. And it’s critically important that we understand that and that we trust Christ through us to give us that good shot.
Now, there’s a big long word in the Bible—sanctification. A lot of big words like that. What does sanctification mean? Sanctified means kind of “holified,” you might say. Sanctified, you might say, is behavior that is kind of being dipped in bleach. It’s pure, holy behavior.
Now, can a plain vanilla layman ever hope to live in a sanctified way? Do you have to go into the ministry to do that? What’s the deal here? Gang, it is normal for a Christian to live in a sanctified manner a great deal of the time. By allowing Christ to live through us, we can do that. The problem is, a lot of us are living just like the Old Testament Jew—a committed Old Testament Jew who lived his life doing the best he could to obey God’s law and calling on God for help when he hit a snag.
Gang, that describes the way I used to live as a Christian. That is not sanctified behavior. We’re equipped far better than that guy was. We are filled with the Spirit of Christ Himself, who is the only One who can live the overcoming, sanctified, holified, purified life on planet Earth. And He wants to express that life through me. I’m the one who has to bring Him on line by faith, which I’m desperately doing right.
Now, then, in order to do this, gang, you’ve got to take up your cross daily and follow Him. And gang, the cross is not an instrument of service. You die on a cross. The cross is an instrument of death. And we’re not talking about skipping down the yellow brick road strewing rose petals, you know, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. We’re talking about serious stuff here. This is serious as a heart attack. In order to buy into this idea of Christ living His life through me, I’ve got to come to the end of myself and I do that by just making that choice.
Ankerberg: Now, do you know how the Bible identifies you before you were saved and after? Do you fully understand that your performance before God is not the thing that determines your true spiritual identity? Rather, both in your physical life and your spiritual life, birth identifies who you are, not performance. Bill Gillham explains:
Gillham: Now, physical appearance and performance do not determine identity. A toad is not a toad because it hops and it croaks and it eats bugs. You could do that but that’s not going to make you a toad. Hey, when your mom was in labor with you, did she lie there between pains and pray, “Oh, God! Oh, God, please, please let it be human.” Why, that’s ridiculous, man! Birth is going to determine that this is a human infant that’s going to be born.
Now, this holds true in the spiritual realm just as it does in the physical realm. Birth always determines identity. Physical appearance and performance do not determine identity.
All right, with that in mind, now, there are two kinds of sanctification or purification or holiness, as I understand the Word of God, and they are completely different to one another. Yet they’re both based on the finished work of Jesus Christ.
First of all, there’s sanctified identity, which we just discussed a minute ago. You are a saint by your new birth in Christ. You didn’t perform to merit this. You didn’t do a thing except come to Christ as a needy beggar, as you might say, and repent of your sin, invite Christ to come into you and change you. And He did, automatically. That is not necessarily a feeling. It’s a fact—because God says so.
Now, secondly, there’s the issue of sanctified behavior, sanctified performance. This is attainable to every Christian. In fact, it’s normal for every Christian by allowing Christ to express life through, by your faith and obedience. In other words, if Christ is my life and I’m a married man, if I by faith bring Christ on-line to express life through me toward my wife, how am I going to be acting if you see me in my home?
Will I be helping her wash dishes? Will I be helping her set the table? Will I be helping her carry the heavy clothesbasket to the laundry room? That’s a nobrainer. Of course I’ll be doing things like that. Will I treat her nicely in public and in private as well? Of course I will. Now, I don’t always do this, gang, but when I trust Christ as life, that’s the way I behavior around my house.
Now, never confuse these two kinds of sanctification. But wouldn’t you know that the devil has skewed it to where the whole world has got it wrong? The world looks at a person like Mother Teresa and we call her a saint because of her excellent performance. Gang, that is not Bible. If Mother Teresa was a saint, she got there by being born again, not because she went to India and ministered to all those folks.
Ankerberg: Now, have you ever wondered what happened when our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned, what they passed along to us, and why we all need a Savior? Bill tells us what the Bible teaches and what happened the moment you invited Christ to come into your life.
Gillham: Let’s look at it this way. Adam passed along certain physical characteristics to you—arms, legs, eyebrows, and so forth. Then there are the spiritual characteristics that he passed along to you—a dead spirit (meaning dead to God and alive to the devil), lost, sinner man, unrighteous, without hope, and so forth. Now, those characteristics came automatically to you. They were not due to your performance; they were part of the birth package that was passed along to you from the first man, Adam.
Now, then, as time marches on, you marched on and you began to mature, and you reached a point in time where you became mature enough so that you were lost. Now, the term “lost” means, “I used to own it but I don’t anymore.” You used to be okay, you used to be “safe,” declared innocent by God because of your immaturity. But you reached this point of maturation and, bingo, at that point you became lost and you needed a Savior.
Now, you realized this later on and you invited Christ to come into you. You repented of your sins, turned to Christ in faith, invited Him to come in, and He did, and you are now a new creation in Christ Jesus. So you have this new present identity. You also know that you have a new future. And you’ve got this glorious future in Heaven. You’re all aware of that and you’re going to live forever and ever and ever in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Now, here is a dynamite truth, especially for those of you who have a lot of garbage in your background. And a lot of Christians don’t seem to know this. Remember now, you are a spirit creature who lives in an earth suit [a physical body]. You’re not a physical creature with a spirit. And you got a new spiritual past in Christ Jesus when you got saved. The cross of Jesus Christ is part of your spiritual background now because you were crucified in Christ.
So let’s bring the cross to bear here now and watch Adam and you’ll see that your life, your spiritual life from Adam, came to a screeching halt at the cross of
Jesus Christ. Here’s how God dealt with your old unsanctified life: He crucified it in Christ, buried it in Christ, and then in Christ’s resurrection you were born anew and in Christ’s ascension you were raised to walk in new life and you ascended in Christ where you are now seated in Christ at the right-hand of the Father. Wow! What a person you are! How well you’re equipped to live a righteous, holy life on planet Earth now. But you’ve got to understand how to do this. It’s all based on the lovely Jesus Christ.
Ankerberg: Did you know that when we live for God our own way and in our own strength, sometimes we can be successful in the eyes of men, but we have lost our reward before God? Why? It’s because we did those works in the flesh— we didn’t let Christ live through us by faith. And someday, we’ll give an account at the Judgment Seat of Christ for those deeds done in the flesh versus those we did trusting Christ to live through us by faith. Bill explains:
Gillham: Now, sanctified identity, we’ve covered that. That’s by birth. But now we’re going to be talking about sanctified behavior. How can I perform behavior that is acceptable to God? It’s got to be merited, people. I’ve got to do it. I’ve got to allow Christ to live through me by faith. And how well I’ve done that is going to be revealed by what the Bible calls the Judgment Seat of Christ. The Judgment Seat of Christ is going to evaluate sanctified behavior and sanctified thought life versus unsanctified or fleshly behavior and fleshly thought life.
Do you know how God showed this to me? I was a university professor in Oklahoma, a brand new one. I was standing up in front of my class and my notes went cold. I just turned into a human mime up there. I mean, I was a blank. And through that process of failing like that over and over and over in my class, I began to cry out to God.
And through all that, He showed me that He wanted to do it all through me and for me. And as I began, by faith, to act like Christ was carrying the mail, that it was His responsibility to do it through me and acting that way by faith, it began to work. Then I began to apply it to my marriage and just to life in general.
And gang, it’s still working. Oh, there are some times when it doesn’t seem to be working, but God can’t let it work every time or I’d begin to walk by sight, you see. But I have to walk strictly by faith. Gang, that’s the way you do it. You pray and claim that by faith and then start acting like it’s true. And it’s so imperative that you do that. Look here. The Scriptures say about the Judgment Seat of Christ that each man’s work will become evident because the fire will test—and this is the literal translation—“of what sort each man’s work is.”
“What sort it is.” What does that mean? Well, it means, “Is it flesh or is it spirit?” Is it your work, your fleshly offering to God? Or is it Christ’s work through you as you offer yourself as a living sacrifice to Him to allow Him to do His will through you.
Now, the judgment is going to be gold, silver, or precious stones, the Biblesays, versus wood, hay, straw. Now, what is that? That is a “pass/fail” judgment.
God doesn’t grade on a curve with Jesus setting the curve. He doesn’t grade A, B, C, D, F. It’s “pass”/”fail.”
Gang, your acceptance by God is a “pass/fail” acceptance. If you’re in Christ, you pass. If you’re not in Christ, you flunk. Your approval by God of your performance is also “pass/fail.” If it’s Christ through you by faith, you pass. If it’s not, you flunk. Jesus said, remember, apart from Him how much can you accomplish? Nothing! Even though it may look like you’re accomplishing something, it’s going to be burned up at the Judgment Seat of Christ because it’s mere flesh attempting to perform out what you think is Christian behavior.
Now, maybe the devil is whispering in your head, “Oh, Bill, I don’t care about all this stuff. Just so I get a little shack right inside the gate. That’s all I care about.”
My brother, my sister, you’re being blind-sided. If you want the Christian life to work for you, if you want to enjoy your fellowship with Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Dad on planet Earth, what we’ve been discussing is the way you do it. You embrace your true identity in Christ—that you’re sanctified, you’re holy, you’re blameless, you’re forgiven, you’re accepted by God. And that Christ is in you to fellowship with you in there and express the overcoming life through you. I tell you, there is nothing like it. It’s the joy of your salvation.