Many of us are taught from the time that we are very little that we need to believe in Jesus as our Lord and savior; and like good little boys and girls, many of us believe what we are told without question because most times it is our parents or someone we trust doing teaching us. I am not about to say that we have been told a bunch of lies but I am asking, how many of us know why we believe what we believe?
Growing up I remember being a seasonal church goer. I mean that the only time I remember going to church when I was little was at Easter. I used to hate it. Either a week or just a few days before Easter (I don’t really remember), we had to go down to Mt. Rose Episcopal church with all the other kids from the neighborhood to participate in the “Easter Program.”
That usually meant learning a short scripture like the 23rd psalm or participating in some sort of Easter pageant or play. During the years I did this I don’t think I ever learned a single significant thing about God or why we were even there. All I knew was that there was going to be Easter eggs and candy later. That’s what the holiday meant to me.
We didn’t really start going to church on a regular basis until we moved to a new neighborhood. We were pretty much the only black family there at the time. I think someone invited my mom to come to church at Baptist Temple and of course, we kids had to go also. Now that we were going regularly to Sunday school I began to get a sense of what church was about though it didn’t really strike me as something I necessarily needed in my life. I was in the 6th grade when I started.
I mostly went because lots of the kids from the neighborhood went there. It was good to have some place to be as young teens. I don’t ever remember forced to go. In fact, after the 8th grade, I quit going on a regular basis. It was kind of hit and miss. Mostly misses. It was not until I was in my early 20’s that I had any sort of spiritual awakening.
I was working at a restaurant at the time when I first heard anyone talk about Jesus in any real way. Shirley was a breakfast cook there who worked the early morning shift. When I would come in at 9 to prepare for the lunch shift I would always hear her talking about Jesus. And she talked as if she’d had coffee with him earlier that morning. She sounded as if she actually knew Him and that intrigued me, thus my spiritual awakening had begun.
Several months passed and during that time I had begun to read the bible (Matt, Mark, Luke, John). I devoured everything I read. It was like I had never seen the scriptures before. I was completely into this Jesus character. I’m thinking to myself, “what a bad dude!” And slowly I began to understand that the scripture was telling me, this is the Son of God. Why I didn’t know that before I can’t tell you, but I was beginning to know it now.
Of course, I went on to believe that He was who He said He was, and, I still believe that today. However, now I am starting to understanding just a little bit more about this Jesus Christ. Oddly I am getting new understanding from the same scriptures I’ve known for most of my Christian life. There are some things I have changed my mind about; things that were taught to me in my early years of Christianity. However, I’m thinking I don’t want to get into that right now.
Here is what I have come to understand and believe about Jesus Christ. Perhaps many of you understood this stuff right from the start. I didn’t. So here is where I live in scripture right now.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. (Romans 5:18)
About 2 years ago I was really depressed. Not because of any particular circumstance in my life, but, because of perceived sin in my life. I had been a Christian for nearly 24 years. The way I was living the “Christian” life was killing me. I was walking in death. I was trying to do it in my own strength.
I was trying to be like Jesus but holy crap that’s hard, and I’m not talking about the miracles He did. I was just trying to “live right.” There was, and, sometimes still is a particular sin that beats me every time the temptation comes. Maybe you have some habit or problem you can’t seem beat. Anyway, the more I tried the more I failed.
I began to wonder if I was saved at all. I wondered if I’d been changed at all. I wondered if the power of God was just a myth. I wondered if I was the only one having this struggle. It got to the point where I just wanted to quit, and by quit I mean I wanted to die. You know you’re sucking when you just want to give up and die.
I figured out with a little help from Steve McVey and Ralph Harris that I was trying to live my life according to the law. I was trying to control my flesh which is to live out of my own effort. I knew how I wanted to live but no matter how I tried the very opposite happened. Romans 7:7,8 says this:
..Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ”You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.
In another place the scriptures say, The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. In other words, sin comes alive or can be powered up against you when you try to live by the law or, live by your own efforts. We cannot tame the flesh and it is not God’s intention to do so.
I have come to understand that God’s solution to our sin problem was to destroy the flesh. Romans 8:3 says For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh… This satisfied the righteous requirement of the law. Now instead of trying to live through our own efforts (by the law), we can live by the Spirit.
My problem was I didn’t understand nor believe the scripture. We were in Adam (descended from) and as such trapped in sin right along with him trying to live life in, or, according to the “knowledge of good and evil,” but failing because of sin. When the Son of God, whom the world was created by, and through, and in whom we exist, came down wearing a suit of flesh like ours we were saved, because though we are in Adam, the Son of God came down to take the reigns as the head of humanity, and, He, of course, was able to keep the law and satisfy its requirements. As the new head of humanity, we are now in Him. His plan from the foundation of the world was to die and take us with Him into death. That’s why Romans 6:4 says We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death… And here is the best part… Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, that we too might walk in newness of life.
Our flesh was destroyed when Christ died. Here is where the magic happens! We are dead! And that is a good thing. For one who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:7)
And this is where I was missing it. I had read these verses countless times and I always thought of them in terms of what I should be shooting for or trying to achieve. However, these are statements of fact. What the scriptures say about us as to who we are in Christ is true about us right now. It is not something we need to attain or work to get, for not only did we die with Christ we also were resurrected with Him in newness of Life.
We now have His very nature. And we DON’T have two natures like some denominations teach because the bible teaches that we have been crucified with Christ. The old sin nature or body of sin has been done away with in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It is His life being lived out in us right now.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
This is another statement of fact. The more I understand and accept these statements as fact the easier my life gets. The sinful habits I spoke of earlier are not much of a problem now. Instead of trying to control myself and my habits my goal now is to rest in the fact that I am in Christ and He is in me. The more I focus on Him and His awesome life and power within me the less I focus on myself and sin.
In Christ, I am already justified. I am already free of sin. I am accepted by the Father. I am loved by God. In fact, I am sure He even likes me. The more I focus on the love of my Father and become enraptured in Him, the more I can see what He sees in me. And I know what He sees! It’s His Son. And He also sees me and He is satisfied. The Apostle Paul says ..the one who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (1Corinthians 6:17)
What I believe about Christ and who I am in Christ is all that matters. These are life changing beliefs. My life is hidden in Him. I don’t have to work to gain His approval. Even when I’ve messed it up and gotten tripped up by one of my old habits His feelings about me remain constant. He is my constant strength. He is my unmovable foundation. Because of Him, I am more “holy” by accident than I ever was while trying to live life in my own strength. I’m holy because He is holy. I am righteous because He is righteous. And I’m cool cuz Jesus is cool. What He does I do because we are one.
I hope this article isn’t too scatterbrained for you to understand what I’m trying to express. Let me know if it helped you.