What Benefit Did You Reap?

Jesus painting close up

What I hear a lot of is this:

Jesus did his part but now we must do ours.

I used to believe this.

I used to believe this – in the way that many Christians believe it today.

But what we’re actually saying is this:

Jesus’ crucifixion wasn’t good enough to cleanse us from our sin.

The blood of Jesus wasn’t powerful enough to destroy sin.

Jesus did not die to sin “once for all”, as Hebrews tells us.

It wasn’t ‘finished’ as Jesus shouted, pouring out His blood, from the cross.

No.

Jesus did his part but now we must do ours.

Brilliant English theologian John Stott says this:

We resent the fact that we have no part to play in our own salvation, so we stumble at the stumbling block of the cross.

– The Cross of Christ.

You see, either Christ ‘did away’ with sin on the cross or He didn’t.

But He did.

Christ appeared once to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

– Hebrews 9.26

Paul tells us how.

He made Him who had no sin to be sin for us.

But this is a little confusing.

What does it mean exactly?

I like this translation:

GOD’S WORD.
God had Christ, who was sinless, take our sin.

However we phrase it, when Christ died, our sin died with Him.

All of our sin – past present and future.

This is great news!

This is the gospel!

On the cross, our sin died with Him.

But Paul goes further:

Anyone who was baptized into Christ was crucified with Christ. We were therefore buried with Him, through baptism, into death…

and

If we were united with Him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.

If we are not yet a believer, we are still living with ‘sin.’

And, as Paul says:

The wages of sin is death.

But – and this is the good news – if we are in Christ we died with Him.

Crucified on the cross.

But, Paul says:

If we died with Him we believe that we will also live with Him.

– Romans 6.8

and

If the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead lives in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal body through His Spirit who lives in you.

– Romans 8.11

It is only in Christ that we can rise from the dead.

We will rise as He is risen.

This is the good news!

It is nothing to do with if we mess up, make mistakes, or ‘sin’.

And –

Where sin abounds, grace super abounds!

– Romans 5:20

Super-abounding grace!

We are free!

“But that means we are free to sin!” I hear someone say.

I answer with Paul’s words:

What benefit did you reap from those things you are now ashamed of?

– Romans 6:21

Really, what benefit did you reap in the past from your wrong doing, from your selfish, destructive behavior, from your mistreatment of yourself and others, and from your unwise choices?

I know what benefit I reaped: shame and soul-destroying guilt.

Sin has terrible, life damaging consequences.

And…

The wages of sin is death.

But…

The law of the Spirit of Life has set us free from the law of sin and death.

– Romans 8.2

We have been set free from sin and death.

In Christ we have life!

Eternal life!

In Christ we have everything to live for!

This is the gospel.

The true gospel.

The amazing gospel!

Amen!

Steve Edwards

Gaze on Him

But we with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory. This comes from the Lord, who is The Spirit.

(2 Cor 3:18)

As we gaze on Jesus and how beautiful He is, we become more and more like Him.

I love the way Paul says it’s like looking in a mirror. We simply reflect His glory by looking at Him, by focusing on Him, by resting in Him.

That’s why I cringe when I hear preachers tell us we should try to ‘be more Christlike.’

We cannot be more Christlike in our own effort. We become more Christlike by gazing on Him. As we spend time with Him, we reflect Him.

We are the fragrance of Christ, as Paul says.

Trying to be more Christlike in our own strength – i.e doing good works – is self-effort Christianity, which Clark Whitten, author of Pure Grace, says is ‘a lie that has demoralized and defeated the Church for centuries.’

We cannot please God by obeying the law.

He gave us His righteousness as a free gift, which comes through our faith.

In Philippians chapter 3 Paul tells us  he considered himself faultless according to the law, yet when he discovered he had been given God’s righteousness as a free gift, he considered his own efforts ‘rubbish.’

…more than that, I consider everything rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my LORD…not having a righteousness of my own which comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ. A righteousness that comes from God and is by faith!

Paul couldn’t believe it. He was righteous by faith. No work involved. Simply by believing! Could it possibly be true? No wonder he couldn’t stop banging on about it! Him and Isaiah:

I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God, for He has draped me in a robe of His righteousness!

(Isaiah 61:10)

We cannot become like Christ through our own self-effort. The only self-effort God requires is the effort to gaze on Jesus, and that takes no effort at all once your realize how beautiful He is. Does gazing at something beautiful take effort? Gazing at a flower, a face or the amazing beauty of the eyes of your lover?

The amazing thing is, when God gazes at us He sees us as beautiful as Jesus. Because of the cross, God consumed all of the sin that separates us from Him – once for all – so He is able to see us the way He made us. We are the creations of the One who created the galaxies, rainbows and supernovas. To God, we are intricately as beautiful. We are the icing on the gateaux of creation. We are the apple of His eye.

We are beautiful Princes and Princesses, children of The King of Kings.

Our self-efforts to achieve righteousness – I must do this, I must do that, read my bible more, pray more, be more holy – puts the burden on us, whereas the gospel says:

By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who have been made holy.

(Hebrews 10:14)

His sacrifice has made us holy, once for all.

We cannot make ourselves holy.

He did it.

If we could do it ourselves, why did Christ have to die?

If we think we can add to our righteousness by our own good work, we are stripping the glory from Christ, taking His prize, saying His suffering was for nothing, because we could have done it on our own.

Pharisee.

In the movie 127 Hours young Aaron learns a tough lesson, that if he hadn’t been so selfish, if he hadn’t believed he could do everything ‘on his own’ he wouldn’t have to endure the extreme suffering he goes through.

Yet, unlike in that shocking biography, thankfully God didn’t leave us to endure extreme suffering on our own – even though we deserved it.

Jesus suffered for us. He experienced eternal hell for us.

Saying we can achieve righteousness ourselves says Christ’s suffering and sacrifice wasn’t enough.

It’s Christ, plus us. 

Self-effort Christianity.

As John Stott says:

“We are offended at the idea that we have nothing to contribute to our own salvation, so we stumble at the stumbling block of the cross.”

(The Cross of Christ).

But we have nothing to add to the blood of Christ.

We have no eternal suffering to endure.

He did it, and all the praise and glory goes to Him.

Without Him we can do nothing.

He did it.

He has made us holy by His finished work.

And as we gaze on Him He changes us.

He changes us. We do not change ourselves.

This comes from The LORD, who is The Spirit.

From glory to glory!

“And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

(2 Corinthians 3:18)

Notice Paul doesn’t say the Spirit is changing us from sinners to glory – because he knew, if we are in Christ, we are already glorious.

Glory means ‘a beauty and majesty distinctive to God.’

When we accept Christ God clothes us with His very own glory – His beauty and majesty!

We have the beauty and majesty of God!

And the more we gaze on Him, the more we reflect Him and become more and more glorious – or as some translations put it: with ever-increasing glory.

The Spirit changes us into His image with ever-increasing glory; with ever-increasing beauty and majesty!

We start glorious, and become ever-more glorious the more we gaze on Him.

Hebrews says: ‘By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who have been made holy.’

We are already perfect in Christ, but we become more and more perfect! More and more glorious! More and more of the beauty and majesty of God!

Now doesn’t that make you feel good?

Like a child of The King of Kings ?

‘Look at the flowers, if that is how God clothes the grass of the field, how much more will he clothe you?’

With His glory, His beauty and majesty, ever-increasing … from glory to glory!