7-THE PLAN OF REDEMPTION AND HOW IT CAME ABOUT
Part 2- God Deals With Our PRESENT and Our FUTURE
By Colleen Donahue
If you are a Christian you may be frustrated that you seem to be in a cycle. You know you were forgiven of your past sins and yet you can't seem to stop sinning. So you go to Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing and with the best intentions you promise to stop doing the "sin that so easily besets you." (Hebrews 12:1). And you do succeed for a day, a week, maybe even a month. Then, one day you are caught off guard and you do the very thing that you don't want to do!
You feel utterly frustrated and powerless, especially since you thought becoming a Christian would solve this problem! You are in good company for the Apostle Paul felt the same as you. Is this how you feel? "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do! .... For I cannot carry it out..... So I find this law at work; when I want to do good, evil is right there with me."
(Romans 8:15, 18b,21)
Since we are born with a sin nature we just naturally keep on sinning --- even though our past was forgiven. If our sin nature isn't dealt with then we just keep repeating a cycle: Sin --- repent --- forgiveness---sin ---repent ---forgiveness. This is where many Christians are stuck today. They seem to have no power to stop sinning and therefore many "so-called Christians" don't look any different from the non-Christian --- except that they are sadder, sorrier and more frustrated.
So what's wrong? Is God's plan for our salvation, and deliverance from Satan's grip flawed? Or is there something still missing? Most of our modern evangelistic methods are deeply flawed. They are focused on providing "fire insurance" (i.e. keeping us out of hell). They focus on only one aspect of God's plan of salvation -- our past. Here's how it goes: "Jesus died for your sins and therefore God has forgiven you. Repeat this prayer....... Now you are a Christian. When you die you'll now go to Heaven instead of Hell. Congratulations!"
Does this sound familiar? It's symptomatic of what becoming a Christian has devolved into. Satan loves it when he can keep us in this state of powerless inability and frustration. He knows that we will never go on to fulfill God's intention for our life and he also knows that we will actually do damage to the cause of Jesus Christ because non-Christians will hear our words for Jesus, see our real lives, and decide they don't want any part of it. Who can blame them? If you are one of these powerless Christians this may be the most important Bible study that you'll ever do!
1. Let me repeat what I have already said many times over the course of these studies. We have been born with a sin nature and so we just naturally sin. It's our nature to sin and this is what makes us a sinner.
Romans 5:12. 15a, 17a,18a / 1 Corinthians 15:22a
2. It's not the case that we commit sins and therefore we are a sinner. NO, the "old sinful self" (or nature) that we inherited from Adam is what keeps us perpetually sinning -- even if we know that Jesus died for our sins and has forgiven them. This is why the Bible says that ALL of us have sinned.
3. Sin is a universal problem.
Psalm 53:3 / Isaiah 64:6 / 1 John 1:8
4. The inheritance of our sin nature that produces sin in us, makes us sinners, and causes us to be born spiritually dead, is not something we asked for. Even worse, we can't do anything ourselves to fix it.
Jeremiah 32:18-19 / Lamentations 5:7
We are like a product that has developed a fatal flaw and needs to be sent back to the factory. Or maybe like a computer hard drive that is corrupt and needs to be entirely replaced.
5. This universal problem, caused by man, could only be fixed by our Creator-God. God took ALL OF US that he created and in a cosmic miracle put us all into His Son Jesus at the cross. He literally reached down through all the centuries to collect each and every one of us. He didn't miss anyone of us! And what did God do? Did he create a quick patch to fix the problem?
God was able to take the "old sinful nature" that we inherited, put it into His Son at the Cross, so that when He died we died (i.e. our old nature was destroyed). The Greek word for destroyed in Romans 6:6 actually means to be "rendered inoperative", "become of no effect" or "make void".
6. As a man, Jesus was able to take the punishment that we deserved for all the sins (plural) we had committed. But as God, Jesus was able to take our sin (singular) nature and destroy it in himself on the cross. This destruction of the sinful nature is a cosmic miracle that has been done for everyone. It was done once and it was done for all.
Hebrews 9: 26b
7. What did this cosmic miracle of being "crucified with Christ" do for us?
Romans 6:6-7 (especially verse 7)
This is how God has dealt with our present situation of having a sin nature that keeps us sinning. It may be difficult to comprehend, but we can acknowledge that He is God, and then thank Him that he has worked a universal miracle and we are the recipients of that miracle!
2 Corinthians 5:14
The forgiveness of our sins and the death of our old nature has been done for everyone no matter who they are or what they have done. And this gives each of us a reprieve. A reprieve offers us temporary relief from the death penalty which is what every person must face who sins. Since all of us are born with a sin nature, that means we all sin. Therefore all of us are guilty of death. It's what Romans 6:23a means, "For the wages of sin is death." However, look at the second part of this same verse.
The FREE gift of God to us is eternal life and this has come through the death of His Son in our place. We don't have to face the punishment for our sins. His gift to us is also the FACT that Jesus has taken our old sin nature into Himself on the Cross to destroy it there. It's this gift of God -- (really two gifts) that offers us a reprieve -- or temporary relief -- from the death penalty. And this reprieve gives us the time we need to do a few things.
But before we talk about what we need to do in our time of reprieve, we need to look at the way God has chosen to provide redemption into our futures.
8. When God first made man, what did he do after he formed us?
This "breath of life" is special to this passage and expresses the spiritual part of man that was not formed but breathed into us by our Creator-God. Our bodies were formed to be able to relate to the earth that God made for us. But our spirits, full of God's Spirit was the way that we were meant to relate to God. In this way God made us in his own image.
Genesis 1: 26a, 27
It is God's own Spirit (called the Holy Spirit) indwelling man's spirit and then put inside our shell (the body) that would enable us to live and work on earth having the understanding and wisdom of God to fulfill our purpose.
Adam and Eve were created to start a God-man race of people who would live in partnership with God.
9. God desired a partnership with all the people he created but he did not want it to be forced. Therefore he gave man free will to choose what he was offering. In those early days this free will came in the form of a test.
To eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a choice we were given to live apart from God if we wanted -- depending on our own resources instead of his. What did God promise Adam and Eve if they should eat of this tree?
10. God promised man death if they disobeyed and that's the point where the great deceiver--Satan--tempted Eve.
Eve probably had not been planning to disobey God, but Satan had got her looking, then thinking and the rest is history! Adam and Eve together ate from the one tree that God had forbidden them to eat from. He had given them free will and they had made their choice to live independent from God. For that is what all sin is -- just living by our own knowledge and strength apart from God. And with that choice, God's Holy Spirit left man's spirit, and man died spiritually that day -- not physically but spiritually. Without the Holy Spirit indwelling man's spirit we were cut off from God and could no longer relate to Him. Adam and Eve were now on their own.
11. Man's spirit is the deepest part of us and without God's life filling it we become like a "bag of bones". Without the life of God in us we become dry and lifeless. And that's the exact picture of man that God gave his prophet Ezekiel.
After showing Ezekiel this valley of dry bones what question did God ask him?
And this resulted in God giving Ezekiel a prophetic message.
Ezekiel 37:4-10 (especially verse 5 & 6)
So this is a vivid picture of men without the Spirit of God and then the same men with the Spirit of God.
12. Man can have his sins forgiven and his old nature destroyed in Christ but without the Spirit of God filling man's Spirit we just naturally fall back into our old ways of sin and self. So God's promise to send us back the Holy Spirit was the final key to redemption.
Joel 2: 28-29
13. When Jesus arrived on earth he was God's messenger to tell men that God's kingdom was back on earth and that He (Jesus) was the way into it. When Jesus first started his public ministry what were his first words to the people?
The Kingdom of God was Christ's only message -- a message he both spoke and demonstrated.
While man wants religion, God wants relationship. In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve had only a relationship with God. There were no sacrifices, altars, Bibles, hymnals, incense, etc. When Jesus came to earth he didn't set about improving Judaism or creating a new religion.
14. The arrival of Jesus Christ on earth inaugurated a greater period -- the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
Matthew 11: 11-12
John the Baptist introduced us to the King (Jesus), who then re-introduced us to his Father, the King of Heaven on earth. In its essence the Kingdom of God is the rule of God once more in men's hearts through the Holy Spirit dwelling there.
One of the consequences of sin was that the Holy Spirit left man's spirit (leaving a huge void in each of us) and in doing so left the earth. Jesus came to reconnect us to his Father's kingdom and that connecting link is the Holy Spirit. Christ's ultimate assignment was to make way for the coming King by reintroducing men to the Holy Spirit.
15. John the Baptist knew that the best he could do was encourage repentance of sin and baptize people with water, but he knew that Jesus would play a far greater role. Why?
16. It was in Jesus that the Holy Spirit returned to earth. Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit, led by the Holy Spirit, and operated in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Luke 1:15 / Luke 4: 1, 14
17. When Jesus was alive, the people could see the power of God working through Him by all the signs and wonders he did. That's why Jesus read this prophesy in the synagogue and startled them all by saying that he was its fulfillment.
But -- this power wasn't working in anyone else yet. When Jesus breathed out the Holy Spirit on his disciples before ascending into Heaven, He restored the Holy Spirit to their own spirits.
Later, at Pentecost they would receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit with power.
Acts 2: 1-4
And so the promise that God gave to Ezekiel, Isaiah, Joel and others came about.
Acts 2: 17-21 (These verses are quoted from Joel 2:28-32)
It's the Holy Spirit in us that enables us to understand what we see in Jesus and hear in his teaching. And then it's the power of the Holy Spirit that gives us the power to live out Christ's teachings. Any man or woman filled with the Holy Spirit has the Kingdom of God (or rule of God) dwelling within them. We become the God-man race that God originally meant us to be and this enables us to fulfill our calling and purpose on earth.
And so we leave this study with a question to be answered. "How can I become part of the Kingdom of God?"
Those of us who have become Christians but still battle with sin on a regular basis often feel caught in a cycle: sin--- repent --- forgiveness --- sin ---repent --- forgiveness etc. We wonder if salvation is so great, then why am I so miserable?
We are grateful to Jesus that he took the punishment we deserved at the cross so that we could be reconciled to God, but our lives seem powerless to do anything but keep sinning and so we struggle.
The problem isn't with God and an inadequate salvation. The problem lies today in our modern evangelism. We are sold "fire insurance" instead of being told the full gospel. A well-meaning Christian has told you that Jesus died for your sins and if you'll just recognize that and thank Him you'll be saved from going to Hell and will get eternal life instead. So you pray a little prayer and say, "Amen", thinking that all is well. But the next day you act the same way as before you prayed the prayer, and now wonder if you said the words "sincerely enough".
The part of the gospel you were not told deals with your present and future. Even though your past sins are forgiven (because Jesus took the punishment in your place), you still have the sin nature you were born with that keeps you sinning.
Therefore in a cosmic miracle, God put each and every one of us into His Son Jesus at the cross so that when He died our old nature was destroyed. Now you have your past forgiven and your old nature "rendered inoperative" and this give you a clean slate so that you can invite the Spirit of Jesus (called the Holy Spirit) into your spirit.
When the Holy Spirit takes up residence within your spirit, it's like God has pressed a reset button. This is the way we were meant to live -- in partnership with God.
The Holy Spirit can not dwell within sinful hearts. But because Jesus took care of your past sins and your present sin nature at the cross your spirit is now cleansed for becoming the dwelling place of God. The Holy Spirit is the very Spirit of our Creator-God and he is the Spirit of Jesus (Romans 8:9)
When you invite the Holy Spirit to take up residence in your spirit, he does that, and you now have the Spirit of Jesus himself dwelling within you. He is the one that changes us from the inside out. He is the one that gives us the ability to understand the word of God and how to apply it to our lives. And he is the one who gives us the power to overcome sin in our life.
In our next study we'll look at how we can partake of the full gospel that God has for us. It's through a process called "the new birth" and it is the doorway into real life and purpose.