Two weeks ago we celebrated Easter, which commemorates the destruction of death. Is “the destruction of death” an overstatement? Well, in fact, that is precisely the claim which Scripture makes (2 Timothy 1:10; John 5:24-25; 11:25-26). Last week we met an ancient hymn which rehearsed key truths about the true identity of Christ (1 Timothy 3:16). There are realities which we cannot see with physical vision—but they are true. If you only accept what you can perceive with your five senses, then you’ll miss these spiritual realities. Jesus was much more than the naked eye could perceive. Yes, he looked average, but he was not. His origin is in God, and everything he did was in harmony with God’s character and law.
Similarly, human beings, made in the image of God, will either share his glory, or, those who remain in rebellion, will experience an eternity estranged from him. There is no such thing as a “mere man”. Humans are more than we appear. Romans 8:10-17 says “If Christ lives within you… we are God’s children. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.” The Scriptures teach that God is graciously allowing us rebels to inherit his glory. It’s not what we deserve—it almost seems immoral that we should share in his glory. But clearly it’s not; it’s grace! Romans 8:17 says that “we will be glorified with Christ.” It is mind-boggling. In the “mega mystery of godliness” (1 Timothy 3:16) God credits his perfect righteousness to our accounts, and then begins working to make us righteous in our actual behavior. So, we have to ask ourselves: “Am I actually growing in godliness?”
How does growth happen? It begins with believing what our “common confession” says about Christ. Many people—even Christians—think of Jesus as the solution for some problems for some people. You know, “religious” problems. And even then, just for those who choose Christianity. But this is not the biblical doctrine of Christ. Jesus is no “niche solution”, no “optional add-on”! Ephesians 1:20—2:6 claims: “God raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at his right hand in the heavenly realms. Now Christ is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself…God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. God raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.”
Those of us who believe that Jesus is more than he appeared to be must also believe him when he says that we’re more than we appear to be. Our passage says that God raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. We don’t look like we’re “seated with Christ in the heavenly realms”—but we are. These are spiritual realities which are not visible to the human eye.
The exalted spiritual realities of Christ and of his children is just as true as our physical bodies, but they’re just beyond the abilities of our senses. So, our common confession of Christ is the mega mystery of godliness—these spiritual realities which we confess have the power to change our behavior into actual godliness. In Romans 6:11-19 Paul tells us how this truth will produce actual godliness: “Believe yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus… Then, do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God… Sin is no longer your master… Previously, you were slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification.”
We must truly believe that we used to be slaves to sin—that sinners sin because they can’t not sin—but that now we have a whole new spiritual capacity. Now, sin is a choice. We must believe this if we are to change. Then, because of this spiritual reality, we make daily choices to not use our bodies for evil, but to use our bodies for righteous living. When tempted toward evil, we agree with God that we are no longer slaves to sin; we cry out to him for power to obey; and we choose no to do evil, and instead to do righteousness. And then, three seconds later when the temptation returns, we cry out again!
One final caution: don’t confuse “complexity” and “difficulty”. Something can be simple, but hard. Dunking a basketball is simple—but that doesn’t make it easy. Spiritual growth is simple—believe what God says about your new identity and the resources he’s given you, and then present your body to him for righteousness rather than for sin. But that doesn’t make it easy. God has given us three resources for life-change: his Word, his Spirit, and his people. And we’re going to need to consistently make use of all of God’s resources in order to consistently—not perfectly, but increasingly—honor him through obedience.
Application / Challenge
- Realize that you are no “mere mortal”—there is no such thing. For all eternity, each of us will either reign in glory with Christ or suffer an unending torment. Make “our common confession” (1 Timothy 3:16) your own.
- If you have believed our common confession, then it is God’s will that you grow and change in tangible, concrete ways. Let TCC’s discipleship and counseling staff help you (<firstname.lastname@example.org>).
- If you’d like to get some training in how to help others grow and change, join us for “Counseling and Discipleship Training” this fall. At <tcc.org> enter “Counseling and Discipleship Training” in the search box.