Thursday, July 27, 2006

The New Creation, Christ’s Bride

*This sermon was preached at the GBCB youth camp last month*


Introduction:


Over the last few weeks we have talked a lot about the how a man can be made right before a perfect and holy judge. This knowledge is foundational, and is required for what we are going to talk about. Today I want to talk about the church; and without the salvation we have already spoken of there could be no church. In Ephesians 5:25 we see just how important the church is to Christ, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” This designation of “the Church” sets us apart. There are no other institutions or organizations like the church, because Christ has died only for the church. We are the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, purchased by the blood flowing from His own veins. Even the term church has immense meaning. The Greek word that we have translated as church has the idea of a calling. This makes the Church a group of people summoned together by God. What an amazing thing! God has worked out his plan not only to save individuals, but also to create a world-wide community of these individuals. If the church is so important to God that He sent Christ to die for her, then it should be important to us as well. This is why I want to talk about the church this. Before we can get a discussion of the church body we must first talk about the individuals within that body. The church is a community that is made of “new creatures.” But what are these new creatures? To answer that question we need to start at the very beginning.

I. The New Creation

a. Regeneration

The place that we must begin when talking about the new creation is the doctrine of regeneration. If conversion refers to the response of man to God’s calling, then regenerations is the other side of conversion. Regeneration is God’s transformation of an individual so that they can accept Christ. In this act God, or more specifically the Spirit, renews a person so that they are no longer unable to seek God because of their sin. The most extensive explanation of this concept is found in John 3:1-8. Here the Lord Jesus Himself describes this concept of regeneration to Nicodemus. In this passage Jesus answers the question that Nicodemus didn’t even ask. Jesus knew Nicodemus’ heart, and that his true need was for spiritual regeneration. What we see here is that this regeneration is not something that can be achieved through human effort. In fact, the key to understanding this concept is understanding man’s need for transformation. The human being is spiritually dead and thus needs a new spiritual birth. We will find the origin to this spiritual death in Genesis 3. In Genesis 2:17 God told Adam that “in the day” that he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would “surely die.” In Genesis 3 we find that Adam did eat of that tree, but physical death did not occur. Instead, Adam died spiritually. Just as the second birth that Jesus spoke of was spiritual birth rather than a physical birth, so to the death of Adam was spiritual rather than physical. Christ understood this need completely when He said that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” In short, regeneration is the work of the Spirit to take a person who is spiritually dead and makes them alive. The act of regeneration is no small thing. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul, describing this concept, said “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” By this supernatural work humans can be transformed, and spiritually brought back to life.


b. Sanctification

We would view regeneration as an instantaneously complete event, but it is not an end in itself. Regeneration is a beginning, but there is much more to come. In Philippians 1:6 the apostle Paul made this point clear when he wrote “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Later Paul refers to the manifestation Christ’s work in your life as the “fruits of the Spirit.” These fruits of the Spirit are the direct opposite of the fruit of the old nature, the flesh (Galatians 5:19-23). This continuing work is what we would call sanctification. Sanctification is the work of God in the life of the believer, making him or her holy. The definition of holy can be complicated, but for our purposes I want to make it as simple as possible. Thus, our working definition of holy will be “bearing an actual likeness to God.” From here what we must understand is that sanctification takes place subsequent to justification. This means that when God is working out your sanctification He is causing your moral condition to catch up with your legal status before God. Let me explain. After regeneration we are able to repent and put our faith in Christ. At this time we are justified; that is to say God looks at us as being justified because of the work of Christ. However, even though God has declared us to be justified we still have sin in our lives. Our minds are stilled filled with the pollution caused by a sinful life. Here is where the doctrine of sanctification comes in. Sanctification is an actual transformation of the character and condition of a person. It is the cleaning out of the remaining pollution from sin. This does not happen all at one time; it a progressive work that is accomplished over the entirety of the believers life.
To this you may be thinking, “That’s great. I am glad that God is doing this work, and I am glad that I know the logical sequence of events that go into salvation. But how does this affect my life?” Let me tell you how it will affect your life. As we have already seen Scripture is very clear in teaching that this is a supernatural work of God in your lives. But Scripture also teaches us that we have a responsibility in our sanctification. Philippians 2:12 says “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” This verse does not refer to salvation by works (it can’t Ephesians 2:8-9), but rather the believers responsibility to pursue obedience to God in their sanctification. This is something that you should be actively working on everyday. The question that we are left with is, how? First of all, we must remember that it is the presence of the Spirit in our lives that works this sanctification out. And as we have said many times, it is the Spirit of God working through the Word of God that makes a lasting change in our lives. By this we mean that the chief tool that the Spirit of God uses in the process of your sanctification is the Bible. Thus, in order to work out your salvation and clear your mind of sinful pollution you must immerse yourself Scripture. This is exactly the picture that is painted for us in Romans 12:2. Our minds must be renewed by the Spirit through Scripture. In order for this to happen we must be in Scripture. If you want a radical change in your life to rid you of the evil stain that sin leaves in your life, then you must immerse yourself in God’s Word.
At this point you may be thinking about the times that you have fallen short of this, and even now the lack of time you spend in God’s word. Let me encourage you in two ways. First of all, you are so young. If you will develop habits in your life that are spiritually profitable, and responsible they can last you a life time. Learn to make time for God’s Word every day, just like you would make time for food. Second, know that if you are a true believer in Christ Jesus then you can be assured that He will complete the work that he began in you. We saw in Philippians 2:12 that we must work out our own salvation, and if we go on to verse 13 we read “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” This is the new creature that has been created by God; these are the individual that make up the Church.

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