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THE SAVING LIFE OF CHRIST
THERE IS SOMETHING WHICH MAKES CHRISTIANITY MORE THAN A religion, more than an ethic, and more than the idle dream of the sentimental idealist. It is this something that makes it relevant to each one of us right now as a contemporary experience. It is the fact that Christ Himself is the very life content of the Christian faith. It is He who makes it 'tick.' 'Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it' (1 Thess. 5:24). The One who calls you is the One who does that to which He calls you. 'For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure' (Phil. 2:13). He is Himself the very dynamic of all His demands.
Christ did not die simply that you might be saved from a bad conscience or even to remove the stain of past failure, but to 'clear the decks' for divine action. You have been told that Christ died to save you. This is gloriously true in a very limited, though vital sense. In Romans 5:10 we read, 'If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.' The Lord Jesus Christ therefore ministers to you in two distinct ways---He reconciles you to God by His death, and He saves you by His life.
I would like to examine with you what this implies. The very first word of the gospel is a word of reconciliation, so that 'we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God' (2 Cor. 5:20). This is a call to the sinner to be at peace with God Himself. How is this possible? Only by virtue of the fact that 'God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself' (2 Cor. 5:19a).
God in righteousness has no option but to find you guilty as a sinner---by nature dead in trespasses and sins--- and to pass upon you the sentence of death, the forfeiture of His Holy Spirit, and alienation from the life of God. But more than nineteen hundred years ago, God in Christ stepped out of eternity into time, and there are extended to you today the nail-pierced hands of One who suffered, 'the just for the unjust,' to bring you back to God (1 Peter 3:18a). He bore 'our sins in his own body on the tree' (1 Peter 2:24a). This is what makes the gospel at once so urgent! Mental assent is not enough---a moral choice is imperative! Christ is God's last word to man and God's last word to you, and He demands an answer.
Your response to Jesus Christ will determine your con-dition in the sight of God---redeemed or condemned! This, however, is but the beginning of the story, 'for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled [now an accom-plished fact] we shall be saved [as a continuing process] . . . by his life' (Rom. 5:10). The glorious fact of the matter is this--- no sooner has God reconciled to Himself the man who has responded to His call, than He reimparts to him, as a forgiven sinner, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and this restoration to him of the Holy Spirit constitutes what the Bible calls regeneration, or new birth. Titus 3:5--6: 'Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.'
On the third morning after His crucifixion, the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples. He instructed them for some forty days and then ascended to the Father. On the first day of Pentecost He returned, not this time to be with them externally---clothed with that sinless humanity that God had prepared for Him, being conceived of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary---but now to be in them imparting to them His own divine nature, clothing Himself with their humanity, so that they each became 'members in particular' of a new, corporate body through which Christ expressed Himself to the world of their day. He spoke with their lips. He worked with their hands. This was the miracle of new birth, and this remains the very heart of the gospel!
'Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.' The One who calls you to a life of righteousness is the One who by your consent lives that life of righteousness through you! The One who calls you to minister to the needs of humanity is the One who by your consent ministers to the needs of humanity through you! The One who calls you to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, is the One who by your consent, goes into all the world and preaches the gospel to every creature through you!
This is the divine genius that saves a man from the futility of self-effort. It relieves the Christian of the burden of trying to pull himself up by his own bootstraps! If it were not for this divine provision, the call to Christ would be a source of utter frustration, presenting the sorry spectacle of a sincere idealist, constantly thwarted by his own inadequacy.
If you will but trust Christ, not only for the death He died in order to redeem you, but also for the life that He lives and waits to live through you, the very next step you take will be a step taken in the very energy and power of God Himself. You will have begun to live a life which is essentially supernatural, yet still clothed with the common humanity of your physical body, and still worked out in the things that inevitably make up the lot of a man who, though his heart may be with Christ in heaven, still has his two feet firmly planted on the earth.