Monday, June 11, 2012

In Christ Alone (practical Christianity as explained by an orthodox rebel)

"For Christ also has suffered once for sins, that just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but quickened by the Spirit...[and He] has gone into Heaven, and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject to Him. [...] For inasmuch then as Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind, for he that has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he should no longer live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God." I Peter 3:18, 22; 4:1-2

Peter laid down the precedent that we should be different because we are different (1:15, 23). He then unpacks that precedent, explaining what is our purpose and identity (2:9, 15-16). He then gives some practical examples of being different, relevant both to his time and (in many ways) ours (3:1-9). Now he comes to the end of the matter, and that ending is about the beginning, i.e., the foundation for the precedent that he began with. We have seen that we are different as well as what that difference looks like, but the question remains: on what grounds are we different? Granted that we have been changed into new creatures and thus should act accordingly, by what right, power, or authority have when been made new so that we might live new? The answer that Peter gives is the Gospel.

Christ died and rose again "that He might bring us back to God" (3:18), and since He has brought us back to the One who is holy, so we ought to and can be holy as He is holy. Thus, the Christian's one foundation is Jesus Christ the Lord, not just in matters of justification but also in sanctification and glorification. In truth, the whole of salvation belongs to Christ, and none belongs to us. This is an essential truth that we lose constantly, for how often, day-by-day, do we attempt to live holy lives in our own strength and power? And how often do we inevitably fail and wallow in the mire of self-pity? We would be free and much happier if we would understand and embrace the truth that the Christian has neither the right nor the power to be holy on his or her own.

Neither the right, because we have done and could have done nothing to save ourselves. All of our best intentions and best-laid plans crumble into ruin before the awesome ledger of God's perfection. Holiness could not be purchased by us, for all of our currency is filthy rags. Not only are we broken cisterns, but all of our wells have run dry. We will never earn holiness, but rather we must accept it as a gift from the one who has it, viz., Christ, who has become our righteousness (II Cor. 5:21). Thus, we have no right to glory except in Him (I Cor. 1:30-31). Nor the power, because we have neither the strength nor the will to be holy, for it is a divine attribute, and we are mortal, made of dust. Only a holy quickening (Eph. 2:4-8) could make us fit to live the life of God (Rom. 8:10-17; Gal. 2:20).

So you see, though we are different and ought to live differently, neither the right nor the power to be different was ever ours. It has been bought with a price, therefore we glorify God, who has made us fit to be partakers of His difference, and that is the key. The difference that we are and that we live and can live in Christ does not originate in us but in God, for He alone is holy. He alone is not like us. He alone is God. And He alone has raised us to walk in newness of life, to sit together in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, to be holy as He is holy. So let the final word of those who are holy be this: I will not boast in anything---no gifts, no power, no wisdom; but I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. We have gained from His reward, and by His stripes, we are different. Now and forever. Amen.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

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