Did the Pope Really Say What I Think He Said?

Sola Fide

On Wednesday, November 19, 2008, during Pope Benedict’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope made the most remarkable statement:

That is why Luther’s expression, sola fide, is true if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love. That is why, in the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul develops above all his doctrine on justification; he speaks of faith that operates through charity (cf. Galatians 5:14).

Read whole document.

In the Roman Catholic Church, this is the Year of the Apostle Paul. Pope Benedict XVI during this weekly audience is teaching the faithful about Paul’s life, mission, and theology. This particular Wednesday audience focused on the Apostle Paul’s understanding of justification. Simply, justification is the biblical teaching on how we are made right with God.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him, we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Rom 5:1-2 ESV).

In a most extraordinary declaration, Pope Benedict XVI not only expounded the Apostle Paul’s understanding of justification, but also, he agreed with Martin Luther’s interpretation of that doctrine.

Martin Luther’s views have long been a point of conflict between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Luther’s focus on sola fide, faith alone (as opposed to faith and works) as the instrument by which we are granted right standing with God has long been a source of contention between these two great bodies of believers.

Baptist theologian, Wayne Grudem explains:

A right understanding of justification is absolutely crucial to the whole Christian faith. Once Martin Luther realized the truth of justification by faith alone, he became a Christian and overflowed with the new-found joy of the gospel. The primary issue in the Protestant Reformation was a dispute with the Roman Catholic Church over justification. If we are to safeguard the truth of the gospel for future generations, we must understand the truth of justification. Even today, a true view of justification is the dividing line between the biblical gospel of salvation by faith alone and all false gospels of salvation based on good works.

[Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1994), 722.]

Justification by faith alone is the seminal Protestant doctrine: Luther stated that it is by this great doctrine that the Reformation stands or falls. Justification is God’s acceptance of me, a believer to be in right standing with him by the righteousness of Jesus Christ being credited to me a sinner. Christ’s righteousness is accounted to me by faith when I trust in the finished work on the Cross. To be credited as righteous is to be conferred the legal standing of Christ’s sinlessness. This theological truth is called imputation. This imputation is twofold: we receive Christ’s holiness and forgiveness and Christ takes upon himself our guilt and judgment. The imputed righteousness of Christ is a gift; it cannot be earned. Christ’s righteousness can only be received from a grateful heart by faith alone.

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Gal 2:15-16 ESV).

I recognize that Roman Catholic and Lutheran theologians officially signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification on Sunday, October 31, 1999, which agreed between the two great churches to a common understanding of justification. The official signing ceremony was held in Augsburg, the date that Protestantism annually observes as Reformation Day. However, I was never impressed by this document: several important theological problems were not addressed and many of the key terms used in the document could be defined differently as each signing party desired. Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. brilliantly analyzes these concerns in his essay, “Two Languages of Salvation” which was published in First Things journal shortly after the signing. My observation is that two parties agreed to the document, but they meant two different things when writing the same words. “The Joint Declaration, helpful though it is, has not overcome all difficulties. More theological work is needed” (Avery Cardinal Dulles).

This is why last Wednesday was theologically important-Pope Benedict XVI stated clearly that he agreed with Martin Luther’s understanding of justification by faith alone and he said so without ambiguity. Yes, here is a small caveat about faith alone not opposing charity. However, Martin Luther’s favorite verse was, “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). Last Wednesday was a theologically significant day for me and for all believers who desire to observe once again the visible unity of Christ’s Church (John 17: 20-21).

Yes, the Pope really did say what I think he said.


Gospel-Driven Sanctification

Our Acceptance Before God

Our day-to-day acceptance with Father is not based on our performance, but based on Christ’s performance on the Cross.

Gradually over time, and from a deep sense of need, I came to realize that the gospel is for believers, too. When I finally realized this, every morning I would pray over a Scripture such as Isaiah 53:6,” All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” and then say, “Lord, I have gone astray. I have turned to my own way, but you have laid all my sin on Christ and because of that I approach you and feel accepted by you.”

I came to see that Paul’s statement in Galatians 2:20, “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me,” was made in the context of justification (see Gal. 2: 15-21). Yet Paul was speaking in the present tense: “The life I now live ….” Because of the context, I realized Paul was not speaking about his sanctification but about his justification. For Paul, then, justification (being declared righteous by God on the basis of the righteousness of Christ) was not only a past-tense experience but also a present-day reality.

Paul lived every day by faith in the shed blood and righteousness of Christ. Every day he looked to Christ alone for his acceptance with the Father. He believed, like Peter (see 1 Pet. 2:4-5), that even our best deeds–our spiritual sacrifices–are acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ. Perhaps no one apart from Jesus himself has ever been as committed a disciple both in life and ministry as the Apostle Paul. Yet he did not look to his own performance but to Christ’s “performance” as the sole basis of his acceptance with God.

So I learned that Christians need to hear the gospel all of their lives because it is the gospel that continues to remind us that our day-to-day acceptance with the Father is not based on what we do for God but upon what Christ did for us in his sinless life and sin-bearing death. I began to see that we stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son. Therefore, I don’t have to perform to be accepted by God. Now I am free to obey him and serve him because I am already accepted in Christ (see Rom. 8:1). My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude.

Jerry Bridges, “Gospel-Driven Sanctification” Modern Reformation Magazine (May/June, Vol. 12, No. 3, 2003),13-16.

“The Risen One Is Always the One Who Has Been Crucified”

Pope Benedict XVI on St. Paul and the Cross

A selection from Pope Benedict XVI’s teaching catecheses delivered yesterday, October 29, 2008, in St. Peter’s Square.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul:

In the personal experience of St. Paul, there is an indisputable fact: While at the beginning he had been a persecutor of the Christians and had used violence against them, from the moment of his conversion on the road to Damascus, he changed to the side of Christ crucified, making him the reason for his life and the motive for his preaching.

His was an existence entirely consumed by souls (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:15), not in the least serene and protected from snares and difficulties. In the encounter with Jesus, he had understood the central significance of the cross: He had understood that Jesus had died and risen for all and also for [Paul], himself. Both elements were important — the universality: Jesus had truly died for everyone; and the subjectivity: He had died also for me.

On the cross, therefore, the gratuitous and merciful love of God had been manifested. Paul experienced this love above all in himself (cf. Galatians 2:20) and from being a sinner, he converted to being a believer, from persecutor to apostle. Day after day, in his new life, he experiences that salvation is “grace,” that everything descended from the love of Christ and not from his merits, which in any case, didn’t exist. The “gospel of grace” thus became the only way to understand the cross, the criteria not only for his new existence, but also the answer for those who questioned him. Among these were, above all, the Jews who placed their hope in works and hoped to gain salvation from these; the Greeks as well, who opposed their human wisdom to the cross; finally, there were certain heretical groups, who had formed their own idea of Christianity according to their own model of life.

Read the entire message here.

“We Need the Light of the Holy Spirit to Teach Us the Character of God”

 

Charles G. Finney on Sanctification

When I was a young Christian working as a staff member with the Agape Force Ministry (Lindale, Texas), we were required to read Finney’s Systematic Theology as a condition for seeking ordination. Little did I realize that the Holy Spirit would use Finney’s section on sanctification to set me free from several long-standing struggles. Imagine that a systematic theology would be used by the Holy Spirit to set someone free. That is exactly what God did in 1980 with the vital truths of sanctification by faith.

I learned from Finney that not only was my justification (getting right with God) was by faith, but also my sanctification (Christian growth) was by faith (1 John 5:1-5). My victory over sin came as I trusted in a particular attribute of Christ’s character or by standing on a particular benefit of Christ’s finished work on the Cross.

We need the light of the Holy Spirit to teach us the character of God, the nature of His government, the purity of His law, the necessity and fact of atonement to teach us our need of Christ in all His offices and relations, governmental, spiritual, and mixed. We need the revelation of Christ to our souls, in such power as to induce in us that appropriating faith, without which Christ is not, and cannot be, our salvation. We need to know Christ, for example, in such relations as the following:

1. As King, to set up His government and write His law in our hearts; to establish His kingdom within us; to sway His scepter over our whole being. As King He must be spiritually revealed and received.

2. As our Mediator, to stand between the offended justice of God and our guilty souls, to bring about a reconciliation between our souls and God. As mediator, He must be known and received.

3. As our Advocate or paracletos, our next or best friend, to plead our cause with the Father, our righteous and all prevailing advocate to secure the triumph of our cause at the bar of God. In this relation, He must be apprehended and embraced.

4. As our Redeemer, to redeem us from the curse of the law, and from the power and dominion of sin; to pay the price demanded by public justice for our release, and to overcome and break up forever our spiritual bondage. In this relation, also we must know and appreciate Him by faith.

5. As the propitiation for our sins, to offer Himself as a propitiatory or offering for our sins. The apprehension of Christ as making an atonement for our sins seems to be indispensable to the entertaining of a healthy hope of eternal life.

(Section Thirty-Seven)

More from Finney’s Systematic Theology here.

More about theologian, pastor, evangelist, Charles G. Finney here.

The Life of Jacob & The Law of Consequence

 


How God Uses Difficult Authority to Transform Our Character

Gen. 28:16-29:29

(Fulfilling the Your Ministry to the Full Series)

Illustration:

 ‘I’m in David’s situation, and I am in agony. What do I do when the kingdom I’m in is ruled by a spear-wielding king? Should I leave? If so, how? Just what does a man do in the middle of a knife-throwing contest?’

The answer is, ‘You get stabbed to death.’

‘What is the necessity of that? Or the good of it?’

You have your eyes on the wrong King Saul. As long as you look at your king, you will blame him, and him alone, for your present difficulty. Be careful, for God has His eyes fastened sharply on another King Saul. Not the visible one standing up there throwing spears at you. No, God is looking at another King Saul. One just as bad–or worse.

God is looking at the King Saul in you.

Gene Edwards, The Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness (Augusta, ME: Christian Books, 1980), 21.

Life Lesson: God allows a Saul in your life in order to kill the Saul in you.

Proposition: What is the law of consequence and how does God use authority to transform our character? How does God make me into a man or woman of God?

Fallen Condition Focus: God sovereignly uses circumstances to deal with our selfish selves.

 Exposition of Gen. 28:16-29:29

1. Heart for God Forsaken (Gen. 28:17). At Bethel, continuous communion with God is rejected. Jacob is not ready to make Yahweh, the God of his grandfather, Abraham, and his father, Isaac, his sovereign Lord and Ruler.Jacob still wants to run the show. Jacob sidesteps the opportunity of having God as his the constant, conscious companion.

Definition: Communion issharing in the presence of God: speaking and being spoken to by Him. Communion is participating in the life of God: an encounter that is loving, grace-filled, and life changing. Psa. 23

2. Heart of Manipulation Exposed (Gen. 28:20). Bargaining with God betrays Jacob’s manipulative, deceptive, and untrustworthy character. Jacob’s heart is not yet consecrated to God and his purposes.

Definition: Consecration isthe abandonment of my life without reserve to the loving purposes of God. A conviction held deep within my being that my life is God’s. I do not reserve from Christ’s Lordship any rights, gifts, possessions, relationships, or privileges.

The whole man must make the decision before the heart can know any real satisfaction. God wants us all, and He will not rest until He gets us all. No part of the man will do.

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1984), 107.

3. Heart Problem Disciplined (Gen. 29:5). Jacob is excited about finally meeting his family at Paddam-Aram. Little does Jacob know that he has finally met his match in Laban. God allows a Laban in Jacob’s life in order to kill the Laban in Jacob: a twenty-year school of discipline (Gen. 31:41).

Definition: Brokenness is a heart yielded to God; ready and willing to obey the Holy Spirit whenever and wherever He directs.

By nature, we are so strong, so able to think and plan and do, and God must bring us to the place of weakness, the place where we cannot think or plan or do apart from him.

Watchman Nee, Changed Into His Likeness (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1987), 128.

4. Heart Trust Betrayed (Gen. 29:22). Jacob reaps what he sows (Gal. 6:7). Laban’s wedding deception mirrors Jacob’s own deception of Isaac (Col. 3:25).

Definition: Consequences are the result of my actions. Sinful choices will revisit me as others do to me what I have done to others. No one sees my selfish actions. I am not caught. I pretend to myself that everything is okay. However, God is all seeing and all knowing, he makes sure that I am penalized for my selfish acts. The Lord makes certain that selfish actions are exposed.

Be not misled: you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature (Gal. 6:7, NLT).

For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality (Col. 3:25, ESV).

Jacob receives at his wedding the consequences for the deceptive actions of stealing Esau’s ancestral blessing (Gen. 27:1-38): he pretended to be Esau and Leah pretends to be Rachel, his bride. Jacob deceptively wears Esau’s clothing and Leah wears Rachel wedding dress. Jacob, the younger, steals Esau, the older brother’s blessing. Leah, the older, marries Jacob instead her younger sister, Rachel. Jacob exiles himself as he flees Esau’s wrath, and now, Jacob will live twenty years as a de facto slave to his father-in-law, Laban, as dowry payment for the two sisters.

5. Heart Plan Delayed (29:30). Jacob will not return home in matter of days as Rebekah reasoned (Gen. 27:44). God has a plan that plan involves molding Jacob’s character and defeating his fleshly pattern of manipulation, deception, and lying.

Application: What do I do if I find myself living in a cycle of sowing and reaping, reaping and sowing? Repent at the foot of the Cross. If I repent, God takes the sin I committed, uses that painful failure, and transforms that situation for his glory and my good. It is not God’s will that I sin. However, if I repent of my selfishness and pride, God can use my self-imposed disaster for my good.

By faith, the law of consequence is nailed to the Cross and the cycle of endless retribution ends.

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmedthe spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross (Col2:13-15, NLT).

Conclusion: God places in authority people who have the same weaknesses in their lives that I have in mine. He uses their weaknesses to put to death the same sinfulness in me.

Supernatural Ministry: A Sermon on Psalm 23

On Saturday, October 18th, 2008, St. Michael’s Seminary, Central Gulf States held it’s first session for the course, Christian Preaching. As a teaching method, I preached a “model” sermon to illustrate principles taught in Bryan Chapell’s book, Christ-Centered Preaching. My sermon addresses a need in every believer’s life: how can I have a ministry that affects lives and changes hearts?

Supernatural Ministry:

Life-Transforming Ministry to a World Scarred and Marred by Sin:

An Exposition of Psalm 23

Canon Glenn E. Davis

Proposition: What is supernatural ministry? What constitutes a vibrant personal ministry? Specifically, how can I have an effective ministry that changes lives and gives hope to the hurting?

Fallen Condition Focus: We all struggle in ministry: What do we say? How do we say it? Can we say anything that would change a life? Yes, we can meet Christ and through us, He can change lives.

Illustration: Johannes Tauler was broken by God of his arrogance and pride; as a result, become a vessel for God’s use: a life poured out without reserve to God.

‘Master Tauler,’ he [i.e., Nicholas of Basle] said, ‘you must die!’ ‘Die,’ said the popular Strasburg preacher, ‘what do you mean?’ The next day Nicholas came again and said: ‘John Tauler, you must die to live.’ ‘What do you mean?’ said Tauler. ‘Get alone with God,’ said Nicholas, ‘leave your crowded church, your admiring congregation, your hold on this city. Go aside to your cell, be alone and you will see what I mean.’ His plain speaking at first offended Tauler, and his resentment only proved how accurate was the diagnosis at which Nicholas has arrived. Tauler was a long time coming to the end of himself.

Johannes Tauler cited in J. Gregory Mantle, Beyond Humiliation: The Way of the Cross (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Publishers, 1975), 143.

Definition: Brokenness is a heart yielded to God; ready and willing to obey the Holy Spirit whenever and wherever He directs. Brokenness is a work of grace achieved by the Cross and established by the Holy Spirit. “By nature we are so strong, so able to think and plan and do, and God must bring us to the place of weakness, the place where we cannot think or plan or do apart from him.” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

Watchman Nee, Changed Into His Likeness (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1987), 128.

Definition: Consecration is the abandonment of my life without reserve to the loving purposes of God. A conviction held deep within my being that my life is God’s. I do not reserve from Christ’s Lordship any rights, gifts, possessions, relationships, or privileges. “The whole man must make the decision before the heart can know any real satisfaction. God wants us all, and He will not rest till He gets us all. No part of the man will do” (Phil. 3:7-9).

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1984), 107.

Testimony: In my own life, the Holy Spirit brought me to a place of utter and complete surrender. After years of being in trapped in dread of people and events, the Lord brought me to the end of myself. The Lord spoke, “Do you love me more than your fears” and that night I came to Christ. I knew that I could not go on being in bondage to fear.  He gave me grace to overcome my fears and live for him. At that moment, I surrendered and met Christ as my Shepherd-the warrior king of my heart.

When the Holy Spirit brings us to that place of utter surrender, then and only then, are we able to understand the truth of supernatural ministry found in Psalm 23.

Read the entire sermon here: supernatural-ministry-sermon .

The Apocrypha: CEC Statement

Statement on the Canon of Scripture from the US House of Bishops of the Charismatic Episcopal Church:

We, the US House of Bishops, unanimously confirm the original teaching of the ICCEC, that the 66 universally accepted books of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, containing all things necessary unto salvation.  As regards those several works commonly referred to as the Apocrypha or Deutero-canonical books, we further reaffirm the position which we have embraced as a communion since our founding, that while beneficial for edification and teaching, they are not to be considered part of the canon of Holy Scripture.  They may, therefore, be read in public worship, but not used to establish dogma or doctrine.  The US House of Bishops recommends this position to the Patriarch’s Council for adoption in our Canons.

The Apocrypha: An Evangelical-Catholic Perspective

The Apocrypha: An Evangelical Catholic Perspective[1]

Canon Glenn E. Davis

Overview

The Morning Star of the Reformation, John Wycliffe, voiced in the fourteenth century a love for scripture that Evangelicals embrace today:

Christian men and women, old and young, should study well in the New Testament, for it is of full authority, and open to understanding by simple men, as to the points that are most needful to salvation. Each part of Scripture (i. e. Old and New Testaments), both open and dark, teaches meekness and charity; and therefore he that keeps meekness and charity has the true understanding and perfection of all Scripture. Therefore, no simple man of wit should be afraid to study in the text of Scripture.[2]

For Evangelicals there is nothing more important than God’s word for in it is found “the infallible rule of faith and practice.”[3] However, Evangelicals disagree with Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox as to exactly what books make up the canon-or the official list of books of scripture. This debate began in second century A. D. and magnified in significance during the Reformation. This disagreement persists to this day between Protestants, Roman Catholics and Orthodox, raising passions and intense theological debate concerning the nature of inspiration, the authority of the church, and the weight of Tradition. This dispute concerns the “Apocrypha,” a collection of fourteen or fifteen books (or parts of books) not included in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible, but translated in the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible called the Septuagint (LXX). These books were written during the last two centuries before Christ and the first century of the Christian era. The following are the titles of these books as given in the Revised Standard Version (1957):

1. The First Book of Esdras

2. The Second Book of Esdras

3. Tobit

4. Judith

5. The Additions to the Book of Esther

6. The Wisdom of Solomon

7. Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach

8. Baruch

9. The Letter of Jeremiah

10. The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men

11. Susanna

12. Bel and the Dragon

13. The Prayer of Manasseh

14. The First Book of the Maccabees

15. The Second Book of the Maccabees

Three theological convictions dominate the discussion of the merits or deficiencies of including the Apocrypha as canon of  Scripture. The Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles state that the Apocryphal books are not Holy Spirit inspired, but are instructional.[4] The Evangelical position is that they are not Holy Spirit inspired but are useful only for historical study.[5] The Roman Catholic Church considers them as the inspired Word of God.[6] This essay will explore the early disagreements and focus on the Evangelical opposition to the inclusion of the Apocrypha.

Read the entire essay here: the-apocrypha-an-evangelical-catholic-perspective-blog-version.
Canon Glenn E. Davis

Canon Theologian, Southeast Province, CEC


[1] Lutheran Theologian, Carl Braaten, coined the term, “Evangelical Catholic.” An Evangelical Catholic is a believer who holds to the Tradition of the Early Church Fathers and regards the Reformation Period as a much needed corrective for a drifting Historic Church. Evangelical Catholics believe that the Western Church was losing her theological and moral direction in the Medieval Age and needed renewal. “By becoming more evangelical, the church will become more catholic; and by becoming more catholic, she will become more evangelical.” (Mother Church: Ecclesiology and Ecumenism).
[2] John Wycliffe, The Wicket, Christian Quotation of the Day, December 31, 2006; available from http://www.cqod.com/.

[3] “The Lausanne Covenant,” Article Two, The Authority and Power of the Bible (The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization website); available from http://www.lausanne.org/Brix?pageID=12891.

[4] Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, Article Six, (The 1662 Book of Common Prayer website); available from http://www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/articles/articles.html#6 “And the other books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine.”

[5] Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter One, Article III (The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics website); available from http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ . “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.”

[6] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Paragraph 120 (Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church website); available from http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s1c2a3.htm#120.

The Exchanged Life

The Exchanged Life

The Exchanged Life is the one-sided trade of my sins, inadequacies, and numerous failings for Christ’s forgiveness, life-sufficiency, and overcoming victory. Ultimately, the greatest of all exchanges is Jesus Christ, the one who is fully man and fully God, truly innocent and without sin, taking upon himself at Golgotha all my selfishness, rebellion, sin and hatred and substituting his righteousness, forgiveness, restoration and love. I can live the Exchanged Life because Christ by his gracious grace made the Great Exchange of my sin for his righteousness on the Cross.

At the foundation of the Christian life lies vicarious atonement, which in essence is a transfer of guilt from the sinner to the Saviour. I well know how vigorously this idea is attacked by non-Christians, but I also know that the wise of this world in their pride often miss the treasures which the simple-hearted find on their knees; and I also remember the words of the apostle: “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Cor 5:21, NLT).

This is too plain to miss for anyone who is not willfully blind: Christ by His death on the cross made it possible for the sinner to exchange his sin for Christ’s righteousness. It’s that simple. No one is compelled to accept it, but at least that is what it means.

A. W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian (Harrisburg, Penn: Christian Publications, 1964), 32.

The Exchanged Life is practical day-by-day trusting in an all-sufficient Christ who lives within me by an all-powerful Holy Spirit. This same Holy Spirit enables me to live the life of Christ in a world gone mad. Christ’s life is my life when I receive his life by faith. As Christ lives his life in and through my life, my life becomes an abundant life. As a result, my Christian life becomes a life of spontaneous joy. Joy is that deep, supernatural fulfillment that comes in knowing that I am experiencing and expressing the one who is true satisfaction, Jesus Christ. Joy is knowing that I am unconditionally loved, graciously forgiven, and eternally kept. Joy is released in my life when I cultivate Christ’s conscious, constant presence. The Exchanged Life is the direct daily application of the Great Exchange—a continual substitution of my weaknesses, shortcomings, and failures for Christ’s strength, adequacy, and victory. The Exchanged Life is Christ changing me:

You can never have a changed life until you experience the exchanged life. Christians are continually trying to change their lives; but God calls us to experience the exchanged life.

Bob George, Classic Christianity: Life’s Too Short to Miss the Real Thing (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1989), 108.

The exchanged life is passive in that Christ works in me, but it is active for Christ empowers me to make righteous right choices. I must choose to walk in the Spirit, put on the new man, and trust my heavenly Father’s guidance and direction. As I maintain the confidant expectation that God will be faithful to his promises, then I can anticipate and expect his gracious exchange of my weaknesses for his strength.

But those who wait (or hope) on the Lord shall renew (Hebrew: exchange) their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isa. 40:31, NKJV).

The Great Exchange of the innocent, sinless Christ who takes my judgment upon himself is the greatest act of love and grace in the history of humankind. Below is a list of the wonderful benefits of God’s most gracious act—the death of Christ upon the Cross.

The Benefits of the Cross

He was born to die, so I could be born to new life.

He suffered temptation, so I can experience victory.

He was betrayed, so I might know his faithfulness.

He was arrested and bound, so I could be rescued from bondage.

He stood trial alone, so I might have an advocate.

He was wounded, so I could be healed.

He endured mockery, so I could know dignity and joy.

He was condemned, so the truth could set me free.

He was crowned with thorns, so I might crown him with praise.

He was nailed to the Cross, so I might escape judgment.

He was stretched out between thieves, so I could know the reach of his love.

He suffered thirst, so I can drink living water.

He said, “It is finished,” so I could walk by faith.

He was God’s Lamb, Slain, so I could claim His sacrifice as my own.

He was forsaken by the Father, so I would never be rejected.

He chose the shame of weakness, so I can know the hope of glory.

He shed his blood, so I can be white as snow.

Michael Card, A Violent Grace (Sisters, Ore: Multnomah Publishers, 2000).

When I believe and receive the benefits of the Cross, my act of faith is most pleasing to God. For I take the Lord at his word, I recognize that the Cross is the great expression of his unconditional love. I will bring joy to God’s heart if I allow him to live his life in and through me. Christ in me, Christ through me, Christ upon me and Christ ever before me that is the Exchanged Life. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9, NIV).

It is a marvelous thing to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but a more marvelous thing to know that He is the Son of God in me.

Oswald Chambers, The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers (Grand Rapids, Mich: Discovery House Publishers), 482.

Let us pray:

Grant, O Lord, that in your wounds I may find my safety, in your stripes my cure, in your pain my peace, in your cross my victory, in your resurrection my triumph, and a crown of righteousness in the glories of your eternal kingdom.

Jeremy Taylor quoted in The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers

A Holy Nature

The Gift of a New Nature

Christ died, not that we might be able to form a holy nature in ourselves, but that we might receive one ready prepared and formed in Christ for us, by union and fellowship with him.

Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1999), 36

HT: Of First Importance.