Union with Christ

What does Easter mean to the believer? How has the resurrection of Jesus changed those who follow Him? Why is this day so meaningful in the life of Christians?

Matt Maher helps us answer these questions in the opening verse of Christ is Risen:

Let no one caught in sin remain

Inside the lie of inward shame

We fix our eyes upon the cross

And run to Him who showed great love

Today I finished a book (Union with Christ) that I want to recommend to you. It answers the questions above and gives us so much more to chew on. Are you looking for a quick fix to your struggling life in Christ? Do you avoid discomfort or run from difficulty because Christianity should be easier? This book doesn’t promise to give you the answers to those questions that you might be looking to receive. The author (Rankin Wilbourne) instead points us to how Union with Christ is both our anchor and our engine. Kristian Stanfill in the song Jesus Paid It All captures this well:

‘Cause Jesus paid it all

All to him I owe

Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow

Lord, now indeed I find thy power and thine alone

Can change the leper’s spots and melt the heart of stone

Because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross and the reality that He raised to life means we can be certain of our salvation (our anchor) as well as empowered to live in obedience to His joy-giving commands (our engine).

Union with Christ is packed full of truth and promises that our hearts need to hear over and over again as we remind ourselves of the absolute reality that we are eternally united to Jesus in this life and in the one to come. Click the link above to order your hard copy or kindle version to find out the way to know and enjoy God. You will not regret it. Each of us would benefit from renewing our minds of this truth found throughout scripture that we are united to Jesus Christ as those who have placed their trust and faith in Him.

The book is broken down into four sections. What is it and why do we need it? Where did it come from and where did it go? What problems does it solve? And finally, what does Union with Christ mean day by day?

As our lives encounter all sorts of challenges, we need a daily reminder that our lives are forever united to the King of kings, Lord of lords. So as we enjoy this day we celebrate our Risen Savior, let the following words from the song Hallelujah What A Savior ring true in your hearts:

Man of sorrows, what a name

For the Son of God who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim

Hallelujah! What a Savior

 

Stand unclean, no one else could

In my place condemned He stood

Now his nearness is my good

Hallelujah! What a Savior

 

Hallelujah, praise to the one

Whose blood has pardoned me

Oh what a Savior, Redeemer and King

Your love has rescued me

 

Lifted up was He to die

“It is finished!” was His cry

Now in Heaven lifted high

Hallelujah! What a Savior

 

When He comes, our Glorious King

All his ransomed home to bring

Then anew this song we’ll sing

Hallelujah! What a Savior

Hallelujah! What a Savior

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Devoted to God

Are you a Christian? What has your life looked like since you became one? How do you grow to become like Christ? Do I have a role in this or am I only dependent on God to change me? I have been a Christian for 24 years now, and I did not realize until recently that what we believe are the answers to these questions has a dramatic impact on our ability to be successful in becoming more like Christ.

Specifically, the topic these questions fall under is our understanding of the process of sanctification.

Earlier this year, I read a book by Sinclair Ferguson called The Whole Christ that I would highly recommend, which helps the reader see that legalism and antinomianism are problems from the same root, a misunderstanding of God’s grace. With this recent book in mind, I was compelled to read Devoted to God by Sinclair Ferguson.

Devoted to God is ten chapters long. Each chapter is an exposition by Ferguson of the following ten passages: 1 Peter 1:1-25; Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:1-14; Galatians 5:16-17; Colossians 3:1-17; Romans 8:13; Matthew 5:17-20; Hebrews 12:1-14; Romans 8:29.

I recently described reading Devoted to God as an opportunity to guzzle the gospel. The main premise that Ferguson highlights through the ten passages is the following “spiritual logic.”

“Exhortations to be holy are always derived from an exposition of what God has done and provided for us in Christ and through the gift of the Spirit. Indicatives are always the foundation for imperatives even if they appear in the reverse order.

God never throws us back to rely upon ourselves and our own resources. He encourages us rather to grow up as Christians by digging down ever more deeply into the riches of his grace in Jesus Christ. Christ himself is rich and fertile soil in which Christian holiness puts down strong roots, grows tall and bears the fruit of the Spirit. Thus the New Testament always links two things together in an important piece of spiritual logic. The new situation creates the new lifestyle:

God has been or done this – therefore you should be or do that.

Or:

Be this, or become that – because this is who God is and what he has done.” – page 93

It is incredibly refreshing and energizing to think of sanctification in these terms. We can be successful in becoming more like Christ because of “the riches of his grace in Jesus Christ.” We have hope to change from one degree of glory to another on the basis “of what God has done and provided for us in Christ and through the gift of the Spirit.”

I highly recommend the reading of this book to cement in your mind and heart how sanctification is to work in the life of a Christian. You will be given the tools to determine if preachers are motivating you biblically or are trying some other means that simply sound biblical when in fact they are not rooted in the truths of the gospel. In fact, Ferguson gives some great questions to consider on page 119:

“The key test of any formula for sanctification is: Does this enable me to overcome the influence of sin, not simply in my outward actions but in my inner motivations? And, in particular: Does it increase my trust in and love for the Lord Jesus Christ? Is it a Christ-centred sanctification I am being offered?”

Below you will find some quotes that I found especially insightful and/or helpful when considering how we are to become more like Christ. Enjoy!

A fundamental way in which Christian character is strengthened is by stress. The friction God builds into the Christian life is, therefore, not accidental. It is deliberate, strategic, and intended to produce growth in holiness. – page 27

How strange it is that people think (as many seem to do) that they will be happy pursuing holiness there and then in heaven, if they are singularly unhappy about the calling to pursue it here and now on earth. No, there is continuity. Love holiness now, because we love the Holy One and we will love it all the more then, in the presence of the Holy One when we see him face to face. – page 28

When God urges us to be holy he is not throwing us back on our own resources to pull ourselves up by our boot strings and to do better. Rather he encourages us to swim into the sea of God’s love, to immerse our lives in his grace, and to live on the basis of the resources he has provided for us in Christ. To change the metaphor, growing in holiness and sanctification requires that we put down deep roots into the soil of the gospel. – page 32

If we are to understand the nature of sanctification and successfully pursue it, we must immerse ourselves in appreciating the grace of God expressed to us in Jesus Christ and applied in us by the Holy Spirit. – page 35

The weightier the indicatives the more demanding the imperatives they are able to support. The more powerful the proclamation of grace the more rigorous the commands it can sustain. – pages 39-40

This, perhaps, is the most obvious contrast between life in sin and life in grace. To the unregenerate, God’s will is inevitably unpleasant, simply because it is his will and not their will. They do not know that he wills much better for us than we can ever will for ourselves. But to those who are being transformed, God’s will brings pleasure. – page 52

The gospel turns the duty of doing and experiencing God’s will into a delight. – page 53

Jesus lived a life of complete obedience and perfect sanctification. – page 58

Thus, everything Christ did he did for me in obedience to his Father. All that he has done is therefore mine as a gift. He gave himself for me, in his love to me; and now through the Spirit all that he did is mine. – page 59

Paul is grinding spectacle lenses for us according to the gospel’s prescription. We need to wear these spectacles in order to see ourselves more clearly and to recognise and benefit from our new identity in Christ. – page 65

We have been too busy doing to take time to reflect on being. As a result we suffer from a loss of our Christian identity…But grasp the indwelling of Christ and a new dynamic is released, and a new melody is introduced into our devotion. – page 67

An important aspect of sanctification: thinking through the logic of the gospel corrects, cleanses, recalibrates, transforms, and sanctifies us emotionally as well as intellectually. – page 77

We may have given our whole lives to Christ; but it will take the rest of our lives to work that out in practice. And we can only do that if we keep on walking in the Spirit. – page 102

The more sensitive we are to the fact that we are living in a warfare context, the more successful we are going to be in living in the Spirit. – page 104

We battle with the flesh. But it is never enough to concentrate our attention only on the flesh. We must give our attention to the Spirit. – page 108

We must never stress the negative (‘put to death’) on its own. That would lead to spiritual disaster. It must be accompanied by the positive (‘put on’). – page 129

Thus, growing in sanctification means:

  • Understanding that I am a new man or new woman in Christ.
  • Recognizing the traits in my life that are inconsistent with that new identity.
  • Dealing death blows to my sins.

And simultaneously

  • Clothing myself in the graces of Jesus. – pages 137-138

There are no spiritual gains without pains. So we must be willing to act with spiritual violence against our sins. – page 146

The motivations themselves carry with them the impetus to live wholly for Christ. – page 153

Love was always at the heart of God’s law. It was given by love to be received in love and obeyed through love. – page 162

Love provides motivation for obedience, while law provides direction for love. – page 163

The law-maker became the law-keeper, but then took our place and condemnation as though he were the law-breaker. – page 179

Sometimes pilgrimage can seem a lot harder than bondage. – page 192

Christians have a significantly different form of the maxim: ‘Know thy sinful self.’… It is ‘know your Christian self!’ – be conscious not only of what you are by nature, but of who and what you have become in Christ. For we must never lose sight of what we are in Christ when we are reflecting on what we are in ourselves. – page 199

Know your sin, but know also the power of God’s grace…Not even sin and its strength should be allowed to loom so large in our thinking or feeling that it covers up the sight of Christ and his people. – page 203

It is as though struggles, suffering, trials, are, in the Spirit’s hands, the raw materials out of which he creates glory in us. – page 219

Grasp this and it sheds light on our path. Is my life more rather than less challenging now that I have become a Christian? Am I puzzled by what the Lord seems to be doing in the circumstances of my life? Do I face trials and experience affliction, even forms of persecution I never expected? Am I discovering more sin in my heart than I ever imagined before I became a Christian? Then he is sanctifying me. And this is a much bigger, wider, longer, deeper work than I first realised when I became a Christian. God is not interested in short-term results but long-term, permanent (everlasting!) changes. – pages 219-220

befriend

Is friendship something you struggle with? Have you been burned recently and, as a result, you are more cynical toward friendship? These are questions that I have asked myself lately. Therefore, when I saw the title and subtitle of this new book by Scott Sauls, my curiosity got the better of me resulting in another book purchase.

Now that Sara and I have both read the book, I’m glad I purchased the book. We now have new eyes regarding friendship, and these eyes for friendship go beyond my small radius of community or society but now extends to the entire world and culture out there. Scott Sauls does a great job of helping you see what you can’t see right now and exposes you to people that we can now befriend as a result of our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

In order to wet your appetite, I’m going to post a few quotes that Sara and I found impactful throughout the book. I pray that you enjoy them!

You can purchase the book here.

love is complete, love is at its most healthy place, when the duties of love are driven by the delights of love. – page 189

When we prioritize the duties of love and cease nurturing the delights of love, what used to be our greatest source of companionship becomes our greatest source of loneliness. – page 190

When we lose our intimacy with God, God isn’t the one who has moved away. – page 190

when we walk with him only side-by-side and not face-to-face, it’s just a matter of time before we turn ourselves back-to-back with Jesus. – page 192

For when you are face-to-face with Love himself, you become more loving. When you are face-to-face with Kindness himself, you become more kind. When you are face-to-face with Generosity himself, you become more generous. When you are face-to-face with Hospitality himself, you become more hospitable. It’s how Jesus works. He rubs off on us. – page 194

Aim first at delight, and you will get duty thrown in. Aim first at duty, and you will get neither. – page 193

Real friends not only agree but disagree; real friends not only applaud each other’s strengths but challenge each other’s weaknesses; real friends not only enjoy life together but struggle through life together; real friends not only praise one another but apologize to and forgive one another; real friends not only rally around their points of agreement but love and learn from their points of disagreement. – pages 4-5

Shame-the disquieting, vague sense that there’s something deeply wrong with us, that we are not enough-keeps us preoccupied with ourselves and inattentive to the needs of others. – page 11

Jesus has lifted our shame off of us, nailing it to the cross. – page 13

Grace comes before ethics. No condemnation comes before the morality discussion. Kindness leads to repentance. Love-the broad embrace of Jesus’ narrow path-creates the most life-giving experiences you’ll ever be part of. – page 19

We must become convinced that Love has to be a person to us before it can become a verb. – page 23

Faithful are the wounds of friends who show me a mirror, who praise the good in me but who also point out what’s hurtful, because such wounds are surgical, not punitive. Such wounds are restorative, not insulting. – page 56

Remaining calm, loving, and nondefensive, no matter what the political outcomes, is the way of Jesus-and of his followers who have their kingdoms rightly ordered. “Do not fear, little flock, for I am with you,” says the King. Do not rejoice when you find yourselves in temporary positions of power and influence, Jesus says, “but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” – page 177