The saying is trustworthy, for if we have died with Him, we will also live with Him.

2 Timothy 2: 11

There are things that are really hard to give up. Some fall under that heading that we call “guilty pleasures”. These include such things as certain television programs, candy and ice cream, and buttered pop corn. Actions like smoking and driving too fast can actually cause harm. Other tenacious aspects of who we seem to be are more sinister. These might involve an addiction to pornography, habitual lying, out of control anger, and other forms of attitude and behavior that are rooted in sinful reliance on our selves as opposed to engaging in radical trust in and dependence upon Christ. All people are born into this world separated from God and His truth and darkened in our understanding of actual righteous living. These sinful aspects of our lives that continue on after we come to know Christ are the remnants of our birthright.

An even more challenging sort of change involves the attitudes that we hold toward our world and the people in it. Christ came into this world to bring an alienated humanity back into intimate relationship with our Creator, God. This salvation and reconciliation are for everyone. There are no exclusions, no exceptions, and there is absolutely no greater and lesser order to this acceptance of people by God. Most of us struggle with this idea. Even if we can readily say that we think that Christ came, suffered, died, and was raised for all, we simply don’t actually believe that this is true. There are always some people, either individuals or groups, who we do not like or trust. It is human nature to consider those who are different and who believe differently as being suspect. We tend to find that it is much easier to extend grace and reach out in loving embrace to people who we do not fear and who look, speak, and think essentially like us. Yet, Christ did all of these things for all of the people He encountered. God’s love, mercy, grace, and redemption are offered to each and every person on this earth.

Whatever it is that each of us is dealing with by way of unrighteous thought and action, big things and small, the foundation for change is ours to pursue. First off, we need to desire that change. Truth is God’s catalyst for change. His Word contains the narrative account of the way that our Lord desires for us to think and to live. Emersion in it is the starting place and the ongoing road to discovery of who God is and who He calls us to be. Time in God’s Word is best accompanied with prayer and meditation. These are times of speaking our hearts to God and of listening to His voice. Study of the word and prayer are inseparable, and these are times when the Holy Spirit speaks God’s deep truths into our hearts and minds. Additionally, God desires for us to live in community. Although real transformative work in us is done by God through His Spirit, He often uses the agency of His body, the church and its people, to support, counsel, and bring accountability to that journey. God has called us to join Christ in death, that is, the death of our birth-life of wastefulness and sin, and then the Lord takes us into the new life of freedom that comes in following our Savior through every step of the day.   

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;

by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,

make many to be accounted righteous,

and he shall bear their iniquities.

Isaiah 53: 11

 

Isaiah wrote these words about 700 years before Jesus was born; yet, He describes exactly what Jesus would accomplish in His short time with us on earth. He truly suffered in many ways. Jesus felt what the Father also feels, for the weight of people’s sin was heavy upon Christ throughout the days of His life. He walked in the paths of our pain, and He responded to the needs of our souls for reconciliation with God and for the deep healing that would bring about a return to dwelling in the presence of our Lord. Then, after living among us and entering into our lives for a period of time, Jesus took all that we had done to separate ourselves from holiness and He also grasped to Himself every aspect of sin that would come in the future so that anyone who would choose to be reconciled to God could be so saved. This great sacrificial act was needed so that you and I could know the fullness of life and enter into the reality of being alive for eternity.

 

So, Jesus brought many people out of death and into life. His offer of grace and peace with our Creator is extended to everyone; yet, some say yes to it and others continue to reject this free gift that Christ holds out to us. Because of the fact that many do not choose to hear and to accept the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God calls all of us who do know Him to speak out about this faith that has saved us and to live openly in the freedom that Christ has given to us in order for the world to see how and why submission to Christ brings about the sort of joy and peace that it does. Christ desires that each of His people would live so that our lives would be an on-going testimony to His great love and to the way that we have been released from captivity to sin. In Christ, we have a purpose in life that is noble and that conforms to God’s desire to redeem the world and that joins in His plan to accomplish this goal.

 

On that day over two thousand years ago Jesus carried away my sin, and He did the same for everyone else, too. Now we each are granted that opportunity to embrace God’s gift of redemption. If we have already done so and entered into the new life that Christ’s presence grants to us, then we are traveling along a road that leads ever farther into God’s will. This is a journey of faith that asks us to continually submit to the Lord and to yield ourselves to His transformative work within us. It is also a life of entering into the deep joy that comes from dwelling in Christ’s presence. For people who have not accepted the gift that Christ’s death and resurrection provide, this day grants to them an ideal time to turn life around by surrendering to the only one who can save the soul and to the singular source of that new life, Jesus Christ.