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

Oh Death…

A reality that we will all face in our lives is death. And a likely event to occur on our journey toward death is the death of someone we love.

Yesterday my wife and I attended a memorial service for Mr. Bill Saunders who I had the privilege of knowing and spending some time with over many lunches and small group meetings the past three years. He was 71 years old and had been married for 47 years to his wife Kathy. The memorial service yesterday was preceded by the news that my grandfather passed away the night before. He was 93 years old and had been married for 65 years with my grandmother, who was by his side with my mom and her twin sister when he passed.

Death of loved ones…

Last Sunday the pastor of our church opened a new sermon series by reading the whole book of Hebrews as his sermon. You can listen to it by clicking here. While hearing God’s word read out loud, it was fascinating to see what phrases and words repeat throughout the whole book. As it turns out, Hebrews talks a good bit about death. But the death Hebrews points to is the very specific death of Jesus.

Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Someone died a death that was tasted for everyone. More specifically, Jesus died a death that was tasted for all of us who believe in Jesus. When Jesus died, God’s own Son experienced death. It was a death of a loved one. 

Death of loved ones…

The weight of death is just difficult. No matter when you see it coming or know it’s certainty, it’s difficult. We look at it and wonder, “What good is there in death?” Yet, we learn when reading the Bible that God has turned death upside down. In the most remarkable way, God used death to bring about life.

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he (Jesus) himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Through death, Jesus destroyed the one who has the power of death, the devil, and delivered the offspring of Abraham, which are those of us who believe in Jesus, from the fear of death to give us life. Through Jesus death we have life. How is this possible? Jesus became like us in every respect so that through his death he would satisfy God’s wrath (propitiation) for our sins. So God most clearly turned death upside down with the death of His loved one.

Death of loved ones…

But how do we cope when we lose the ones we love? How do we cope when the trials in life seem to multiply instead of decrease? Yesterday’s memorial service and the news of my grandfather’s passing are just two events in the midst of many other things that seem to pile up and magnify the weight of each thing. How can we bear it all at the same time? I think the answer is that we can’t. We need to find that answer outside of ourselves.

Hebrews 2:18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 5:7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.

As we encounter all kinds of trials and difficulties, we are tempted to turn our attention and focus to our suffering. Jesus has experienced our suffering, and he has given us an example we can follow in our suffering. Jesus, although the Son of God, still offered prayers and requests to God, someone outside himself. Part of our coping is to pray to a God who lost His loved one in order that He can answer our prayers and love us for eternity.

Death of loved ones…

So as we remember our loved ones and think of memories that make us both joyful of their life and sorrowful that they are no longer with us, we must be trusting in something outside ourselves to endure these heart-wrenching times. As much as Jesus is our example as we stare worry and anxiety in the face, Jesus is still more than that for us. We most certainly need to behold Jesus as the perfect Son of God, but we also need to be held by Jesus to get through this. Behold Jesus and be held by Jesus.

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he (Jesus) is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 

Hebrews 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Behold and be held. Let us look to Jesus who endured the greatest trial any man will ever face, sympathizes with our weakness, and ultimately succumbed to death in order that we all might experience life. In doing so, Jesus saved us to the uttermost such that we can draw near to God as Jesus himself is making intercession for us right now. Jesus is praying for us in the midst of our trials. As we behold Jesus, we can believe and trust that we are being held by Jesus. The more we behold Jesus the greater we will be drawn to him. He does not push us away but holds us even closer and gives us mercy and grace in our time of need.

As our hearts our sad and sorrowful today and many days ahead, let us draw near to the throne of grace through Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. And we will see that Jesus will never disappoint us. Join me as we lay our troubles at the foot of Jesus, him we behold, in order that our hearts might be held. Behold Jesus and be held by Jesus.

Why Zambia?

In November of 2013, one of our good friends Isabelle St. Clair (Izzy) was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Just a couple of months previous to that, Izzy had returned from Zambia where she attended Camp LIFE with Family Legacy. Little did we know that within the next ten months, we would watch Izzy pass away before our eyes on September 12, 2014.

Izzy made an impact on every person she came in contact with because her personality and heart for Christ was so infectious. As a result, through her death, Izzy’s House was born. Through the gifts and donations from family, friends, and companies that Izzy worked for, Izzy’s House was built on the Family Legacy grounds as part of their Tree of Life Children’s Village where eight young women are cared for with a bed of their own and the love and care of a house mom.

Because these funds were raised, Izzy’s House was built and opened in July 2015, just ten months after her passing. To oversee the preparations of Izzy’s House and help it open for the first time, some of Izzy’s friends and their husbands (Izzy’s Crew) traveled to Zambia in July 2015 to open the house.

Little did we know that opening Izzy’s House would be just one of multiple life changing experiences during our time in Zambia. In addition to opening the house, we participated in Camp LIFE just like Izzy did two years prior. For five days, we met, cared for, prayed over, shared Jesus, and came to love and call our own twenty Zambian orphans.

When we returned home, all of us were able to find sponsors for our Zambian kids where they now receive education, a nutritious meal a day, and discipleship in Jesus Christ through Zambian leaders.

For my wife and I, the impact has continued to reverberate in our hearts, whereby, we were convinced that God would provide a way for our whole family to attend Camp LIFE this year in July 2016.

Through the prayers of our family and friends, God graciously provided the funds through generous giving by so many people that our whole family is headed to Zambia July 14, 2016.

Our prayer is that God would use us and all our friends while we are in Zambia and that God would use the Zambians to transform our hearts to another degree of glory in the image of Christ as part of our daily sanctification through the power of the Spirit.

Please pray with us as we travel to and back from Zambia from July 14-24, 2016. Thank you!

Sinner or Saint?

How do you address those in the family of God, the church? What do you remind them of? That they are sinners or that they are saints? Is it appropriate to call those saved by the blood of Jesus sinners or is there a more appropriate term?

These were questions running through my mind, which caused me to consider how the letters in the New Testament are addressed to the believers and churches by Paul, Peter, James, and John. The results surprised me.

Romans 1:7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.

1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. (Also see 2 Corinthians 1:1b)

Ephesians 1:1b To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:1b To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi.

Colossians 1:2a To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae.

The overwhelming biblical evidence for how Paul addresses fellow believers is as “saints.” As a body of believers, he clearly sees the family of God as a membership of saints and not sinners. But Paul does address believers in other ways as we see in Colossians above. He also notes throughout his letters in the New Testament that fellow believers are his “brothers.” Consider 1 Thessalonians 1:4:

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.

See also Romans 1:13; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 1:8; Galatains 1:11; Philippians 1:12; Colossians 4:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 4:21, and the other 94 references to brothers in Paul’s letters.

The other writers of the New Testament address believers the same way.

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.

2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

1 John 1:13 Do not be surprised, brothers,that the world hates you.

James, Peter, and John all address believers as “brothers.”

Is there an appropriate time to call out believers as sinners? Paul is likely are best resource to answer this question. Without calling believers “sinners,” he reminds believers about their previous position as sinners.

Ephesians 2:12 Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.

Paul reminds believers about their status in the past tense. They were separated. They were alienated. They had no hope.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Colossians 1:22 He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.

But right after calling the believers’ attention to what they were, he turns their attention to what they are now. In Christ Jesus we are brought near by the blood of Christ. We have been reconciled. We are presented as holy and blameless in God’s sight as a result of Jesus Christ.

Someone might ask, what about Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul calls himself wretched or sinner. When considering the context of that statement and the very next verse, this is a great example of Paul remembering who he was apart from Christ but then landing on the sure and certain promises of Jesus Christ. Romans 7:25 follows with, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” While Paul knows that apart from Christ he is wretched, he overflows in praise to God for Jesus Christ our Lord who has saved us from our bodies of death. Paul’s point is for us to look to and remember who has delivered him, Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection. Paul’s point is Jesus Christ!

In conclusion, the appropriate way, per the Bible, to address fellow believers is to call them saints or brothers and sisters. Additionally, if we call to mind that we were once sinners then equally we need to call to mind the truth of the gospel that we are now righteous in the eyes of God on account of Jesus Christ whereby the pervading thought in our minds is what we are in Christ Jesus saved, redeemed, and belong to God.

Furthermore, it does not appear appropriate to call out believers as sinners especially keeping Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians in his second letter in mind:

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Remind and Remember

If you have kids, how often do you remind them to clean their room, pick up their laundry, brush their hair, take a shower, brush their teeth, clean up their dishes, and go to bed? In our house, all of those things are a daily occurrence, and some days, it can wear you out to constantly remind our kids to remember what they are supposed to do. The same can be said in your work environment where you are regularly reminding co-workers to follow company standards and to remember company rules.

I’m pretty sure the standard didn’t change from the day before, and yet, they need constant and daily reminders.

One day in the midst of these multiple exhortations to do what they should already know to do, I wondered if I was seeing a real life picture of my own failure to remember the promises of God that I have read and have been taught from the Bible. In fact, does the Bible anticipate this forgetting on the part of the believer in their daily life. What does God’s word tell us to remember or what are we to remind ourselves and others about?

In every instance that the Bible says to remember, this would mean that the audience had already heard this promise or command at least once if not more even when the speaker is asking God to remember His covenant with His people as we see throughout the Old Testament. Or when the Bible says to remind, it is causing the hearer to refer back to something they have already heard once before but should remember. To no one’s surprise, there are many things to remind and remember, which would indicate, we do forget a lot if not daily what we should already know and live out.

Ephesians 2:12-13 Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

2 Timothy 2:8-10 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

The apostle Paul tells the Ephesians (and us) to remember what they were before Christ and to remember what they are now in Christ Jesus. We were separated from Christ, without hope, and without God, but now in Christ Jesus we are near God, with God, and in a relationship with God by the blood of Jesus. Our tendency is to forget these things, so we need to daily remember.

Why should we remember? Because our remembering brings us comfort in the midst of suffering. This is why Paul tells Timothy to remember the person of Jesus Christ. He is the risen Savior, alive, at God’s right hand, which is why they word of God is not bound. Therefore, Paul, Timothy, and us can endure everything for the sake of the elect, who are those who have already received Christ and those who will one day receive Christ. But how do we endure? We must remember Jesus Christ because we forget him so quickly in the midst of suffering or any kind of trial.

While we are to remember these things, the Bible also speaks to promises and commands that we are reminded to believe and do.

1 Corinthians 15:1-2 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.

2 Peter 1:12-13 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body,to stir you up by way of reminder.

The apostle is reminding believers (Christians) in Corinth of the gospel. If they have already received Christ, why do they need to be reminded of the gospel? Because Paul says that the same gospel that saved them is also sanctifying them (by which you are being saved). Paul is calling to mind the gospel as the power for salvation and for their sanctification.

The apostle Peter is reminding believers to practice the qualities of the gospel, which he notes in verses five through seven as faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. How does Peter remind believers to practice these qualities? They were to remember they were “established in the truth.” Peter was calling them to remember the truth of the gospel in which they were saved is also needed to produce those gospel qualities.

Maybe the best example of this remember and remind is found in Titus 3:1-8.

1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

The apostle Paul tells Titus to remind believers to follow these commands. But how are they to follow them? By remembering what they once were (foolish, disobedient) and what they are now (by the goodness and kindness of God, saved) they can live out righteousness in their lives. Through the gospel, they have received the Holy Spirit, and they needed to be reminded of all those truths of the gospel in order to live out the commands of the gospel.

So when you find yourself annoyed or frustrated at the number of reminders you need to give your kids or your co-workers, let that be a wake up to remember the gospel that once you and I were separated from Christ, but now we are in Christ Jesus through his redeeming blood. And by that salvation, we now have the Holy Spirit to live righteous lives that glorify God in our homes and workplaces.