Sunday, December 13, 2009

We Are Not Who We Were

 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.

 1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. 5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. (1 Peter 3:18-4:6, New King James Version)
Christ's sufferings bring us into the very presence of God.  Our servitude to our flesh has ended and we are made alive by the Holy Spirit to live new lives.

This same Spirit, in an act that remains somewhat of a mystery to us, is how Jesus went and preached the gospel to those souls in prison.  Those Old Testament people who lived even before the establishment of God's covenant with the people of Israel, before even the flood, were now presented the gospel so that even though they had suffered the judgment of death on earth, they might have the chance to take part in eternal life. (verses 3:19 and 4:6)

Just as Noah and his family demonstrated their faith by going into the Ark, and so were saved, we by faith choose to take part in Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, and we demonstrate that decision with baptism.  The act of baptism itself, the act of dunking our flesh into the water the water  is not what saves us, otherwise taking a bath would have the same result, the death and resurrection of Christ is what saves us.  It is the cleansing of conscience by His resurrection that we need, not just the cleansing of our flesh.  Baptism is simply how we show our decision to take part in the resurrection.

Because Christ died and rose again for us, and because we have symbolically taken part in that death, burial, and resurrection through baptism, we should no longer live in sin.  When we decided to follow Christ, we decided to die to sin, this death is represented in baptism by our body being dunked under the water, just as a dead person is placed under the ground.  However, we didn't stay under the water!  We didn't just decide to die to our old life of sin, we were also making a choice to live anew for God!  This resurrection to new life is represented by our rising back up out of the water, just as Christ rose up from the grave.  So now, having died to sin and risen again to a new life in Christ, we should not live to please our flesh, but should live to do God's will.

Enough of our past lifetime was spent in sin.  We now live a new life, who wants to waste time in this new life by walking in sin? 

Those who knew us in our past life think it is strange that no longer live as we used to.  They may speak evil of us, but we can rejoice because we know that we have life in Christ.  Our judgment for sin is finished.  The penalty has already been paid.  So we can rejoice over that rather than be worried about what others say about us or do to us. 

In fact, rather than hating them, we can pity them, for unless they choose in this life to judge their own sin and accept Christ's payment for it, unless they choose to begin a new life in Him, their sin will be judged in the next life, and they will have to pay their own penalty.  We can pity that, because we too were deserving of judgment, no better than they, the only difference being that we have recognized that and have accepted the free gift of salvation.

So we should pray for them and try to live lives that point them to Jesus.

Lord, I praise you that you have given me new life in You.  I thank you so much for this free gift Lord.  I did nothing to earn it, could do nothing to earn it if I tried.  I am saved, and can't become more saved or less saved by my works, praise you for that Lord, because surely I'd mess up and end up "less saved" if that were the case! However Lord, Your word does teach that my works matter, not in the sense of earning my salvation, but in the sense of glorifying You, and being used by You to draw others to Your Kingdom.  Help me Lord to glorify You today in all that I do, all that I think, and all that I say.  I pray in Jesus' name.  Amen.

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