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A Country Called Heaven series
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In our last lesson we learned that God deals with the human race on the basis of two men—Adam and Christ. Adam is God's first man; Christ is God's second Man.
God's first man, Adam, disobeyed God and brought sin and death into the world. Because Adam was the head of the human race, what he did affected the whole human race, and it affected you and me.
What did God see?
When God looked at me in my sinful condition, what did He see? He saw three things:
- God saw my many sins.
- God saw a sinner.
- God saw me in Satan's kingdom of darkness.
My condition seemed hopeless. I had done many wrong things; I was a wrong person, a sinner; and I was in the wrong place—Satan's kingdom of darkness.
In seeking to get right with God, we usually begin at the wrong end. We begin with ourselves and try to work our way to God, but this is the wrong way.
God is a Savior-God, and we begin the right way when we begin with God and what He has done for us in the Person of His Son. Let us see how God has delivered us from everything that stood between Himself and us.
How did God deliver me from my sins?
God dealt with my sins by laying them on His Son on the cross. The Bible says that Christ "bore our sins in His own body" on the cross. The blood of Jesus Christ takes away all my sins. God does not overlook my sins, but He forgives them because He sees the blood of His Son which was shed for them.
How did God deal with me, the sinner?
Because the Lord Jesus died for my sins, God has forgiven me of all my sins forever. The Bible says, "…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses me from all sin" (1 John 1:7b).
But I have a deeper problem: I am a sinner. I am the one who commits the sins, and the Bible says, "The soul that sins, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4).
Where do my sins come from? They come from my heart. They come from my sinful nature. All kinds of sins come from within—out of my heart. The Lord Jesus said,
"For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil [lustful] eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man" (Mark 7:21-23).
What good would it do if God forgave me of all my sins and left me here as a sinner in Satan's kingdom of darkness? God must deal with my deeper problem, what I am.
How did God deal with me? God dealt with me by putting me in Christ on the cross. When Christ was crucified, I was crucified with Him. My old sinful self, which the Bible calls "the old man," was crucified with Christ.
God's Word says, "Knowing this, that our old man [my old sinful self] was crucified with Him [Christ]…" (Romans 6:6).
You may be thinking, "But Christ was crucified 2,000 years ago. How could I be crucified with Christ?"
To help us to understand this, let us take a piece of paper and cut out a little man. Now take the little man and place him in a book. Where is the little man now? He is in the book and he will stay in the book.
Suppose we put the book on the floor. Where is the little man now? He is in the book on the floor.
Suppose we place the book on the table. Where is the little man now? He is in the book on the table.
Suppose we wrap the book with the little man in it and send it to another city. Where is the little man now? He is in the book in the other city.
Suppose I take the book with the little man in it and hold it under water. What happens to the little man? He is still in the book, under the water.
In this illustration the book represents Christ and the little man represents me. Just as we put the little man in the book, so God put me in Christ.
Once the little man was put in the book, whatever happened to the book also happened to the little man because he was in the book. The same is true of me also. God put me in Christ on the cross and whatever happened to Him also happened to me because I was in Christ.
When Christ was crucified, I was crucified with Him. When He died, I died with Him. When He was buried, I was buried with Him. And when He rose again, I rose again with Him. Whatever happened to Him happened also to me.
In myself I have not died, but these things are true of me in Christ. Remember the little man in the book. God put me in Christ on the cross. When He was crucified, I was crucified with Him. When He died, I died with Him.
When Christ was buried, I was buried with Him. In God's sight that was the end of my old life. When Christ was raised from the dead, I was raised with Him as a new person.
God created me as a new person in Christ! I still have the same body, but I am a new person inside. The Bible says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation [a new person]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I am a new person in a new place!
I am no longer in Satan's kingdom of darkness. I am a new person in a new place! I am now in the kingdom of God's dear Son. The Bible says,
"Giving thanks unto the Father… Who has delivered us from the power [kingdom] of darkness, and has translated [transferred] us into the kingdom of His dear Son" (Colossians 1:12a, 13).
Christ has delivered me from everything that was against me.
It was a happy day when I learned what Christ has done for me. He has removed everything that stood between God and me.
What about my sins? My sins were laid on Jesus. He shed His precious blood for my sins. God has forgiven me of my sins for Jesus' sake. The Bible says, "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake" (1 John 2:12).
What about my old sinful life? My old life ended with my death with Christ. The apostle Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ." I can say this too, because Christ is my Savior. I am not the person I once was. I am a new person in Christ.
What about Satan's kingdom of darkness? I am no longer in Satan's kingdom of darkness. God has transferred me out of Satan's kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of His dear Son.
God sees me in Christ.
When I was born, I was born into Adam's sinful family. God saw me as being in Adam. God sees every unsaved person as being in Adam.
When I trusted Christ as my Savior, God put me in Christ on the cross. I was crucified with Him. That was the end of my old life in Adam.
God created me as a new person in Christ. I am no longer in Adam; I am now in Christ. I am no longer identified with Adam; I am now identified with Christ. God no longer sees me in Adam. He now sees me in Christ. That is the way He will always see me—in Christ.
I am to "reckon" (count on the fact) that I am a new person in Christ. I can say "No" to the sins and habits of my old sinful self. The Bible says, "Likewise you also reckon yourselves [count on the fact that you are] dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11).
The prodigal son
In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus shows us how the Father receives us when we come to Him, trusting Jesus as our Savior. He forgives us fully and freely. He loves to forgive us!
When the prodigal son returned, his father saw him while he was yet a great distance away. He ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. It was not just a little kiss on the cheek. In the original language, the Bible says that the father "covered him with his kisses."
In that moment the prodigal son knew two things. First, he knew that he was fully and freely forgiven.
Second, he knew how his father felt toward him. He knew his father's heart attitude toward him. By his actions, his father was saying, "I love you! I love you! I love you!"
This is a beautiful picture of how God receives me when I come to Him in repentance and faith. He "covers me with His kisses." I am fully and freely forgiven of all my sins. Every believer can say, "God has forgiven all my sins because of Christ." There is no question about it.
Not only am I forgiven, but I know how God feels toward me—He loves me with all His heart! God's forgiveness is the flowing out of His boundless love toward me in Christ.
It is God folding me to His heart, even as the father put his arms about the poor prodigal son and folded him to his heart. It is God saying to me, "I love you! I love you! I love you! I am so happy that you came back to Me."
God so wants me to know His love and how He feels toward me that He gives me the Holy Spirit to dwell in me. The very first thing the Holy Spirit does is to fill my heart with God's love. The Bible says, "…the love of God is shed abroad [poured out] in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us" (Romans 5:5).
The secret of the parable
The surprising thing about the parable of the prodigal son is that we are not told the secret. The secret is the death of Christ on the cross.
How can God receive a sinner like me? How can He "fold me to His heart and cover me with kisses" when I am still in "my dirt and rags"?
God receives me and accepts me on the basis of what Christ has done for me. The death of Christ on the cross was great enough and precious enough to God to put away all my sins forever.
In the Old Testament, God told His people to offer animals, usually lambs, as sacrifices for their sins. Lambs were sacrificed every day, day after day, because they were imperfect sacrifices, and they could never take away sins.
When Jesus came, John the Baptist, cried out, "Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
Jesus is "the Lamb of God"—the sacrifice which God Himself provided for our sins. Because God's Son died for our sins, there need never be another sacrifice for sins.
Some of God's children live their entire lives never being quite sure that all their sins are forgiven. But we can know that we have been forgiven. The thing that gives me real peace concerning my sins is realizing that God is perfectly satisfied with the sacrifice which He Himself has provided.
What does God want me to do? He wants me to love and appreciate Jesus Christ—the One who died for me.
God's great salvation
God's great salvation is the mighty power of God doing for me what I could never do for myself. God has removed everything that was against me. He has taken me out of Adam's sinful family and put me in Christ's family.
All my sins are gone. My old life ended with my death with Christ. God has made me a new person in Christ. Best of all, I know God's heart-attitude toward me. I know how He feels about me—He loves me with His boundless love.
What to do about our cares
Becoming a Christian does not mean that you will have an easy life. Christians, as well as unsaved people, have problems, burdens, and cares. God's Word tells us what to do about our cares.
- "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).
This is a command from the Lord. We are to rejoice always. We are not commanded to rejoice in our circumstances but to rejoice in the Lord.
- "Let your moderation [gentleness] be known to all men. The Lord is at hand" (Philippians 4:5).
We have abundant cause for gladness at all times. Why? Because of the presence of the Lord. He lives in us, so He is with us at all times.
- "Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6).
Cares come to us every day—little cares, middle-size cares, and big cares. We get anxious and distressed, and this robs us of our joy.
What am I to do with my cares? The Lord tells me to pass them on to Him. "Casting all your care upon Him; for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).
"In every thing"—little things as well as big things, I am to go to God in prayer and let my requests be made known to Him. The great importance of prayer is that I bring God into my situation.
Does God promise that I will get everything I ask for? No, He does not promise this, but He promises something better—"the peace of God." The Bible says,
- "And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).
When I am troubled about anything, the first question is: Have I been to the Lord about it? I am to go to Him "in everything." I am to put the matter into His hands and say, "Lord, please settle this in the way that pleases You."
I show my love for God and my perfect confidence in His goodness when I lay my situation before Him and leave it up to Him to do what pleases Him. I do not tell Him what to do.
When I have prayed, has the situation changed? Perhaps not. But a wonderful change has taken place in me. I have been to my Father about my cares and my needs, and I am changed. Before I talked with Him, I was worried and anxious, but not now. A wonderful change has taken place, not in my circumstances, but in me! I have "the peace of God" in my heart.