Intro: Is it possible to be a Christian and not be saved? Anybody can make that claim by profession but not possess eternal life. There is a difference between claiming and being, religious and being spiritual. Religion cannot give eternal life and bring to life a dead spirit. Only Jesus can. One can be in a church all his life and still go to hell, even preachers. I say this because Judas was with Jesus, saw everything He did and yet after more than three years betrayed Him. Religious people can have a form of godliness but denying its power. The apostle Paul qualifies the two different kinds of people, the religious and the spiritual.
“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Cor. 2:14-16
In our reading from Everyday with Jesus Bible last Friday, Jesus revealed to his disciples what was going to happen to Him,
Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them. “We are going to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.” Luke 18:31-34
The disciples lacked understanding because the Holy Spirit was not yet in them. No spiritual discernment. Just like the parables that Jesus spoke of, unbelievers cannot understand the spiritual significance. But those who have the Holy Spirit are now spiritually alive and can understand spiritual matters. So what matters now for the believer is how do I live this new life in Christ.
“God’s Purposes to be pursued”
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Phil 3:10
Last Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. And because He lived, we have this blessed hope. And once any person becomes born again eternal life is certain and one day that blessed hope will become a reality. So how now do we live this new life, having made alive spiritually through this new birth? Paul spelled it out in our text the life to be pursued while still living here on earth. In heaven, there will be no more sin, no more Bible study to know God, no more work but only to serve and worship God.
But first, Paul wrote that this should be true to every born again believer,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ…” 2 Cor. 5:17-18a
It is very clear that without Christ there is no reconciliation with God and so those who are not in Christ will remain separated and eventually spend eternity in hell. But those who have been reconciled, a new life is born which is God’s workmanship created in Christ. The physical body remains the same but the spirit is now alive and in tuned with God. It was dead because of sin but made alive in Christ. Who gives this new birth? Jesus Christ. It is a must to be born again, yet it does not depend on us but on Him who gives us this new life. That’s because He was raised from the dead and is fulfilling what he said, “Because I live, you also will live.” Just as the apostles and disciples were given the Holy Spirit to live in them, believers today are given the same Holy Spirit immediately at salvation when the dead spirit is made alive.
Once alive, what does this born again believer in Jesus Christ do? He needs food, spiritual food in order to grow. This is the first sign of a live birth. There is hunger for spiritual food and that food is the Word of God. This hunger is for life, just like our physical food. We only stop feeding ourselves both foods when we are already in heaven. Here’s what Peter wrote.
“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God…Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” 1 Pet. 1:23; 2:2
I connected these two passages because these are very important truths for us to know that one must first hear the gospel of salvation and by their response to repent and receive Christ they are born again. And the evidence of this spiritual birth is hunger for food, spiritual food for the spirit that is now alive. There is a desire to attend a Bible study, worship and read the Bible. The opposite is true, no hunger for the Word means the spirit is still dead.
Feeding on the Word is imperative to grow spiritually and this ought to be the goal of our life. The first desire of one who has been made alive is to know the One who saved him. Why? Because this is God’s purpose in saving us to know the One we have entered into a relationship with. Jesus revealed His authority and God’s purpose in saving us.
“Father, the time has come, glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:1-3
One cannot know the true God without knowing Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man. Is this automatic? No. Knowing God is a growing process. We grow in knowing God by first knowing Jesus Christ. How He lived out the character of God as a human being, untainted by sin and in all godliness. He also came to reveal the will of God so that we can know how to do the will of God just as Jesus lived doing the will of God. Here’s God’s progressive revelation from the beginning.
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Heb. 1:1-3
Therefore, anyone who is not born again is spiritually dead and cannot know the true God. He revealed and affirmed this to His disciples,
“If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, doing his work.” John 14:7-10
The disciples who were with Jesus did not believe in Him by faith because they were seeing Him in person. They saw him, heard him and touched Him. They did not need faith in that. Yet after Jesus was resurrected, and returned to heaven, they now have to live by faith that everything that Jesus had taught them and promised, He would fulfill. They were no longer following the Jesus they can see but by faith believe that He was still leading them and was with them. We don’t have that privilege to see Jesus in the flesh but we are blessed by the faith that He gave us through the Word. So what is this lifetime goal for every born again believer in Jesus Christ? “To know Christ.” This is the first purpose and goal also for our church “To Know Him.” But to know Christ does not come to us served in a silver platter. Paul said, “I want to.” There is that craving. When you want something in this world like, to own a 2012 car, what would you do? You would work more hours or get another job to raise the money. Keep yourself from buying other stuff to save the money to buy what you want. This is a poor illustration and I don’t know if one can have that passion for a car. I believe there is this passion to know Christ in the believer, how we can glorify Him and be like Him. And by knowing Him we can know the power we have to overcome sin and to live a holy and blameless life. A believer will have new desires and hate the sins he did in the past. We will not want to return to our old life of sin which we have already turned away from. Otherwise you are like a dog going back to eat what he vomited as illustrated by Peter. We are a new creation like Paul, the apostles and other born again believers who are experiencing transformation. It comes by knowing the God who created the universe from nothing and has control over the movements of the galaxies, the weather, the calamities but most of all what He will do and does for us. Scriptures says,
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Phil. 2:13
What about the “fellowship of sharing in His suffering?” Will we really suffer as part of being a Christian? This is another evidence of this new life.
“For it has been granted to you in behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” Phil. 1:29-30
The apostle Peter can say amen to this because he too also suffered.
“Dear friends do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name… So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” 1 Pet. 4:12-16, 19
We are told that when we suffer for doing good and persecuted for being a Christian, we will experience the closest fellowship with Christ. When Stephen was being stoned to death for his preaching of Christ, (this is another of our purpose “to make Him known”) where was Jesus at that time? He was closest to Stephen, for he was full of the Spirit of Christ and so Stephen became like Jesus in His death.
“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Acts 7:59-60
Why was he able to say this without any hatred in his heart for those who stoned him? Earlier this is what happened before he was stoned to death.
“When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:54-56
This was the closest fellowship recorded by one who has experienced Jesus while suffering for Him. And this made Stephen like Jesus in His death. No hatred, forgiving his persecutors and totally surrendered to the will of God for His glory. And he got a standing ovation from his Lord and Master. And whom did God forgive because Stephen forgave among those who persecuted him? The apostle Paul who was formerly named Saul.
“And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.” Acts 8:1
“And so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” I believe we can somehow experience the resurrected life here on earth while still in this body. I believe Paul was writing that out of his experience while still alive. A resurrected life that sin cannot touch. A life that can delight without any complaint for whatever one goes through in his service to Christ. A life that has known Christ to the fullest and have become like Christ while still in the body of flesh. And we too can have that life because that is the will of God for everyone that has been given by God to His Son to be saved.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might become the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called and those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Rom. 8:29
Why is there no mention of sanctification? Sanctification is a growing process to conform us into the likeness of Christ that may take a lifetime. I believe we can experience the resurrected life while still in the body.
Let me close this by addressing our young people. You, who are young in age and are growing to become adults. I am not referring here to adults who are spiritually young and young people who are referred to by John as young men. Here’s word from the man whom God gave wisdom to teach us about what really matters in life.
“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them…” Ecc. 12:1
Solomon is exhorting you by what he experienced in life, the life he lived without restraint to all the pleasures that he could find, because of all the wealth he possessed and power he had in his hands. Here’s what he said,
“Meaningless! Meaningless! Says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!” Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed in judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.” Ecc. 12:8, 13-14
And the Psalmist also said and exhorts you and every one of us.
“How can a young man make his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Ps. 119:9-11
All these are possible to the one who knows the author of the Word, Jesus Christ.