While waiting to board a plane at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, I experienced a very special conversation with a medical doctor and his wife. After watching several planes jet into the darkness, the wife wistfully remarked, “I wish I could vanish into space just like that plane and start life all over again.”
Why do people want a new start? Because life is incomplete and disappointing and sinful. We know what is good and right, and yet on every side we experience evil and wrong. Daily we’re confronted with corruption in government, dishonesty in business, and cheating in marriage. Our faith in others and even in ourselves is shattered.
We were created for fellowship and friendship with God. However, the original condition of mankind has been broken by disobedience and sin. Isaiah the prophet writes: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). By our attitudes, words, and actions, we continually cry, “Give me more.” And yet, always, there’s a big hole begging to be filled. We pour into the vacuum an astonishing collection of things: work, entertainment, athletics, volunteer service, education, friendships, substance abuse, and more. But if we’re honest, we have to admit that any satisfaction gained through our efforts only creates a greater longing for something more.
The chance for a new start is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, on the cross, freely became our sin bearer, so that we might experience God’s salvation. The apostle Paul said, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). Based on his or her reception of Jesus Christ, each person is either in Christ or not in Christ. There is no middle ground.
When a person is “in Christ,” he is justified before God. Christ’s death makes the sinner acceptable to God, as stated in Romans 3:24 and 2 Cor-inthians 5:19-21. Justification, applied to the believer, is that judicial act based on the merit of Jesus by which we are declared righteous. This is one of the results of God’s salvation. Upon our profession of faith, we are declared righteous. All that Christ is, God places to our account so that we stand fully acquitted and forgiven in His sight.
In Christ, we are also sanctified. This is another result of salvation. The word sanctified means “set apart,” and is from the same root as the words “holy” and “saint.” There are three aspects to our sanctification. First, as believers in Jesus Christ, we are “set apart” positionally by becoming members of God’s family (1 Corinthians 6:11). Next, we are also “set apart” for God’s glory in our day-to-day attempt to be like Christ (1 Peter 1:16). Though we are not sinless, as we grow in grace we will sin less and less. This is the practical aspect of a day-by-day sanctification. Finally, each believer in Christ will be with Him forever, totally set apart from sin, so that our practice will fully correspond with our position (Ephesians 5:26-27; Jude 24-25).
When a follower of Christ grasps, even in a limited way, God’s great love, or catches a glimpse of God’s absolute holiness, or understands God’s condescension to visit Earth in human form at Bethlehem, or realizes the willingness of Jesus to bear our sins in His body on the cross, or enters into His sufferings for our sins—the only reasonable response is to give ourselves to Him so that His purpose will be fulfilled in us. God’s plan for each Christian is stated plainly in Scripture: “To be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). To miss this is to miss the Christian life.
—Adapted from How to Continue the Christian Life by George Sweeting
The person who has begun to understand God’s holiness is a person who is changed. The idea of an unchanged Christian is a contradiction in terms. If you are not pursuing holiness, there is a good chance you are not a child of God. —Bruce Goettsche