There Is More to the Cross than Forgiveness
God Wishes Christians Knew…There is More to the Cross than Forgiveness!
(from his book What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity Harvest House, 1998)
I’m convinced that many Christians focus on one gracious facet of what our magnificent Champion, Jesus Christ, accomplished for us: the forgiveness of our sins. God forbid that I am minimizing our forgiveness! But Jesus accomplished two additional miracles for us that I was unaware of for years: He had changed my identity from sinner-man to saint-man and had crucified my old Adamic life and given me His life. You might say that Jesus has given us three glorious weapons which enable us to do a good job of “laying aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, [so we can] run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). As new creatures in Christ, we
- are forgiven of all our sins
- have undergone a change in our identity from sinner to saint
- have received new life—Christ as life—to replace our former life.
Someone may say, “Bill, I’ve never thought of it that way. When I came to Christ, all I understood was that by the shed blood of Jesus I would be saved. Are you saying that when I asked Jesus to come into me and forgive me of all my sins, that I didn’t really get saved? Are you saying that I must come back to Jesus and ask Him to accomplish these two additional miracles for me: change my identity from sinner to saint and give me His life in exchange for my old one?” Great day, no, I’m not saying any such thing! When you were physically born, you were given more than skin. You got eyes, stomach, kidneys, bladder, and so on. As I came to Christ, I understood one fact: I was forgiven of all my sins. I was “saved to the uttermost.” But, in addition to my forgiveness, there were benefits which came to me through Jesus Christ that I was unaware of.
Look at it this way. The Lord led a friend of our ministry to purchase computers for all of us. I received mine. It now resides in my office. I don’t check five times a day to see if it’s still mine. I thank God for its word-processor function. But I find that there is something going on among our staff that distresses me. These Christians receive more benefit from their computers than I do. This makes me feel like a second-class citizen. They try to ease my pain by telling me that my computer has the same abilities as theirs. They testify that life will be easier for me if I’ll simply study the manufacturer’s handbook to learn how much more I received in addition to a word processor. Folks, I have the same computer that they have. I am a citizen of computer heaven, just like they are. But I don’t enjoy the power that they do. I don’t embrace all the functions that my colleagues benefit from.
I believe multitudes of Christians are in a similar boat. Although they have all the components which make up the salvation package when they came to the Savior, they benefit from only one: the forgiveness of their sins. What a marvelous, gracious gift! But isn’t it just like God to give us even more! He changed our identity and gave us new life.
The gospel of Christ details that through the finished work of Jesus we can be forgiven, transformed, experience intimate fellowship with God and the body of Christ, bring honor to Christ on earth by our godly obedience, and finally reign with Him forever.
Every new creature in Christ embraces the wondrous, liberating truth of forgiveness through the blood of Christ (Romans 5:9). But life on earth is far more complex than being forgiven of our sins. For example, the wife whose Christian husband mistreats her finds no comfort in knowing that he’s forgiven! She wishes he would treat her like Christ treats His bride. Such a husband desperately needs to understand that he already possesses the key to victory over his ungodly behavior. The power of a changed life came into this man at his salvation, but because he fails to comprehend this, he does not experience it. He continues to be dominated by his old, fleshly ways.
“Christ Who Is Our life”
One Person alone has lived an overcoming life on earth: Jesus Christ. That one Person said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Christ is the vine in this metaphor; we Christians are the branches. Branches have no independent life. Branches “live and move and have their being” by the life of the vine. So long as branches abide (draw their life from the vine), they experience a fruitful existence. Notice that Jesus says branches “bear” fruit. That’s because branches never produce fruit; branches bear the fruit that is produced by the life of the vine through them. Should they try to live independently, they will die. Without vine life, they “can do nothing.” Jesus said that without His life flowing through us, we are impotent, powerless.
Let me pose some questions. What if our salvation encompasses a new kind of life in addition to the forgiveness of sins? What if eternal life is not a mere extension of our old life, but a literal, new life? What if eternal life is actually the life of Jesus Christ? That may be a new concept to you, but just because you may not understand it, please don’t stop reading. My intention is not to be confrontational or argumentative. I love you. Let’s reason together from the Scriptures, trusting the Holy Spirit to reveal truth. What if the Spirit of Christ who indwells us is intended to express life through us? And what if it is His life through us that gives us power over the world, our own flesh, and the devil? If this were the case and a Christian husband understood how to let Christ live through him to minister agape love to his wife, would this make a huge difference in their marriage? Would Christ through him treat his wife like a precious gift from God? Would the fruit of the Spirit begin to become evident in this man behind the closed doors of his home as well as publicly? That’s a no-brainer. Christ living through this man would radically change his behavior for the better. Folks would want to find out more about the secret to such power.
Are you aware that the terms eternal life and everlasting life are not synonyms? Whereas everlasting describes something which has a beginning but no end, eternal describes something which has neither beginning nor end. The natural man has everlasting life. His life began at birth and extends forever into infinity—dwelling in hell by his own choice.
Although a translation of the Bible may mistakenly say that Christians have everlasting life, this is not supported by the Greek or Hebrew. We Christians have eternal life. Eternal life is not a phenomenon, nor an it, but a Person, Jesus Christ. Eternal Life should best be capitalized because this is another name for Jesus Christ. The Bible documents this: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us” (1 John 1:1-2). This passage reveals that Christ and
Eternal Life are one and the same. Jesus said, “I am…the life” (John 14:6). “In Him was life” (John 1:4). “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed …” (Colossians 3:4). Eternal Life is a Person, Jesus Christ. When you came to Jesus, He did not “come into your life”; He exchanged His powerful, obedient life, for your old rebellious, independent, self-serving life. Jesus Christ is our life, folks, and we have the glorious privilege of cooperating with Him by trusting Him to express His life through us on earth. What a magnificent difference that makes!
Christians are individually members of the body of Christ on earth. Metaphorically speaking, I’m a toe, you’re a thumb. Although we’re different, we each have the same life: Christ. This is puzzling; it’s a mystery (Colossians 1:27) which is to be believed and acted upon, not necessarily understood (See Prov. 3:5). God is not obligated to explain everything to us, gang. We are to see it and then act like it’s true in us. If our emotions don’t agree, rain on ‘em.