Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at The New Covenant P29 (07-28-21)
Growing to Maturity in Christ
What does it mean to mature in Christ? Do we become more holy? Do we sin less? Is it about what we do? Or is it about coming to grasp what God alone accomplished for us, understanding the finality of the cross and letting Christ live His life in you and through you? Certainly it is not about trying to obey the letter of the law, for the law is what put us to death. Certainly we are to sin less, but to stop sinning completely, as if that is the goal of the Christian life, is not possible for us in our sin-indwelling flesh, where the desires of the flesh are in conflict with the desires of the Spirit. We are told in scripture to walk by the Spirit so we will not carry out the desires of the flesh. That is why we are under a New Covenant of grace now. What we could not do in the energy of our flesh, God did for us by who He is, perfect love. What we could never do, God did for us. We still cannot live the Christian life, not in the energy our flesh. And we cannot live the Christian life. We have to let the Spirit of God live His life in us and through us. Without Him we can do nothing. Ponder over the meaning of the parable of the vine and the branches in John 15.
Have you been made competent as a minister of the New Covenant? Do you know what the New Covenant is that replaced the old? We are told that He will remember our sins no more and where these have been forgiven there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. You cannot be competent as a minister of the New Covenant, which is what God called us to, if we continually put ourselves back under the law. If we keep asking God to do for us what He has already done, we cannot mature in Christ. What did God in Christ already do? He took away the sins of the entire world from the eyes of God never to see them again.
This is what people do who have not understood the finality of the cross, who have not understood that God in Christ already reconciled the world unto Himself, not counting their sins against Him. They do their 1 John 1:9, incorrectly thinking it is written to believers, keeping short accounts with God, going direct to God to ask God to forgive them when they sin so they can get all their sins erased, to get a clean slate. This is what others do. They continually go to a priest to get their sins forgiven. This is what the Jews did. They went back to the day of atonement to shed the blood of a bull and a goat. You would have to wonder if they even came to Christ to begin with and were ever born again. They need to make up their mind as to what to believe concerning Christ’s finished work on the cross, where He said the sins of the entire world are paid in full.
But if you have forgotten that you have already been forgiven of your past sins, you cannot mature in Christ. Your real issue is you stopped trusting God and what He said is true. You have forgotten what sin really is. Everything that does not come from faith is sin. How easy is it for us to be so forgetful and sin? How many times are you anxious or give into worry? How easy is it to take your eyes off trusting Jesus? How forgetful we are. How many times did Jesus say to his disciples, “How slow of heart are you to believe all that is written?” or “Have you forgotten? Did I not just feed the 5000?”
God in Christ reconciled the world unto Himself, not counting our sins against us. When you ponder over the meaning of the word “reconciliation”, it is an accounting term, of balancing the financial books. It is like a man who goes bankrupt. The company or person who he owed the money to, that debt is erased from the books. But if the one who is in debt refuses to believe the debt was written off, then what kind of relationship would he have with the one he owes? He would either avoid him, for fear he would be asked to pay the debt, which he knows he can never pay, or he would be so afraid to be with him, and whenever he is with him, he would continually say, “I promise I will get that debt paid off”, while all the while he is saying back to you, “That debt has already been paid. Forget about it.” In any case, he cannot come to see the person he owes a debt to as a friend and does not feel comfortable coming to him at all. There is a strain in the relationship.
So it is with us. God already wrote off all your debt, all you owed to God because of your sins, and yours sins were in the future when He died. God is saying to us, “Your debt is paid in full. I reconciled your debt in Christ. So now I implore you to freely come to me for life. Be reconciled. It is finished. It is over. Trust me in that so you can freely receive all that I have in mind to give you, for I am full of grace and truth.” So if you have forgotten that your sins have been forgiven, what kind of strain does that do in your relationship with the living God. How can you grow to maturity in Christ when you are not trusting Christ in the relationship He has with you? For without faith it is impossible to please God.
Jesus nailed all your sins on a cross. It is over and it is finished. How can you boldly go to the throne of grace if you still think you have a debt of sin to pay to God, that you have to ask Him to forgive you? When you sin you thank God for what He already did, and then you go to the Lord for the renewing of your mind, and start trusting Him in what He said is true concerning you and all His great and precious promises. You focus not on not sinning but on living in the new way of the Spirit. When you focus on not sinning, your focus is on the law, on punishment and on what you have to do, and the law stirs up sin, the fleshly desires within you. That kind of thinking can make you proud, that since I obeyed the law, what kind of a spiritual man I am. Instead you walk by the Spirit of grace who lives in you, and you praise God for His wonderful work within you. You focus on Christ alive living in you, and that you are a child of God. Consider the words of the apostle Peter in regard to growing in Christ, particularly verse 9.
2 Peter 1:3-11
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So one of the biggest hindrances to growing in Christ is the comingling of law and grace. We hear ministers continually quoting Old Testament scriptures that have to do with Israel and applying it to us, telling people that you died to ceremonial laws but that you are still under the big ten. No, you are not. If you are still under the law, then you are under a curse, for cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the law. What kind of a relationship with God can you have if you think you are under a curse? You are under grace, not the law. Grace frees you to go boldly to the throne of God for help.
You do not go to Mt. Sinai, but you go to the empty tomb and there you find the risen Christ, who wants to live in you to guide you into all truth, not by letters written on stone. The Spirit of God is to live in you to guide you into all truth. You are led internally now by the Spirit of God who lives in you. You have been made into a new creation and you have the mind of Christ. So, to live in the new way of the Spirit is to trust Jesus who lives in you, to have your minds renewed with truth and to remember that truth, to hold onto it and allow that truth to set you free. That is the key to maturity, to come to the measure of Christ by trusting Him in all that He has said to you, revealing truth to you.
Sadly, in so much of modern Christianity, there is a comingling of law and grace. The apostle Paul even addressed that in his letter to the Galatians, calling them foolish for thinking they can perfect themselves by means of obedience to the law. You have been made complete in Christ by believing what you heard. You hold onto what is true, that God has given you everything you need for life and godliness. In much teaching today, there is mixing truth with error, keeping believers immature and unstable in their walk with Christ, by saying one thing but then contradicting what they just said. Someone says, “I believe Jesus died for all my sins”, but then says something so contradictory, that when you sin you still have to ask God to forgive you. Two contradictory statements cannot both be true, for that goes against logic, and if you try to believe both you are unstable in all your ways. So when you hear preachers say things, do you test it out with what you know to be true from the word of God, by the Spirit who lives in you, who reveals truth to you?
So what is our role as ministers of a New Covenant? When Jesus was asked, “What is the work of ministry?” Jesus replied, “To believe in the one who was sent.” In other words, to trust Jesus, to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. What is the work of an evangelist? To teach people to trust Jesus for their salvation. What should the work be of a pastor-teacher? To equip people for works of service. What is their work of service? To teach people how to walk trusting Jesus.