Applying Our Complete Salvation
Note: This is part four in a mini-series on the relationship between our salvation and our daily growth in Christ (sanctification). Read part one How We Grow in Grace, part two How to Disagree in an Agreeable Way, and part three How People Change.
No, that’s not a typo. In How People Change, I emphasized the need for a both/and perspective where we highlight Gospel Indicatives (our salvation) and Gospel Imperatives (our sanctification). In today’s post, I will be emphasizing several aspects of our salvation.
I think some people who emphasize Gospel Indicatives seem to talk almost exclusively about justification. As amazing as the grace of justification is, it does not express the fullness of the Bible’s teaching on our salvation in Christ.
So in this post I want to express something of that fullness. I say “something” because no one blog post, no one book, not the entire ocean, could express the fullness of our glorious salvation. Still, I want to expand our thinking when we talk about Gospel Indicatives.
For a much fuller development of the following material, please see Soul Physicians where I devote eight chapters to these vital issues.
Our Complete Salvation and Our Daily Sanctification
The Bible calls us to apply our salvation to our daily life, to our progressive sanctification. Sanctification is our daily, ongoing growth in grace—becoming more and more like Christ so that our inner life increasingly reflects the inner life of Christ.
At times we mistakenly view ourselves only through the lens of depravity. This would be like a heart surgeon transplanting a perfectly healthy new heart into her patient, but then treating her patient as if he still has his old heart in his chest. To avoid this, let’s understand the comprehensive nature of biblical salvation and the implications for our daily growth in Christ.
Justification: New Pardon/Not Guilty—God the Forgiving Judge
Imagine the vilest offender. As cruel as Hitler, as depraved as Manson, as corrupt as Jack the Ripper. Desperately wicked. Self-deceived. Anti-social. Amoral. Mr. Mass Murderer. The day his trial begins, every major news network, cable news station, news magazine, and newspaper in the country, and hundreds around the world, join the coverage.
Shocking every reporter, every spectator, every member of the jury, and even his own legal team, Mr. Mass Murderer pleads guilty. Begs forgiveness. Asks for mercy.
Imagine the worldwide outrage as the judge responds, “Not guilty!”
“What a charade! Fool! He just said he was guilty. What is wrong with you? Have you gone mad? Retrial! Ethics probe! He must pay for his crimes.”
“His crimes have been paid for,” the judge retorts. “By my son. I have judged my son in place of Mr. Mass Murderer. They’ve exchanged places. My guiltless son, charged with nothing—his good standing I now transfer to Mr. Mass Murderer who is now free to go.”
You’ve not been watching The Twilight Zone. Not The Outer Limits. Not even reality TV. But reality. Spiritual reality. New Testament reality!
God our Judge justifies us, declaring us not guilty, forgiving us our trespasses, and reckoning His Son’s righteousness to our account, and our sin and guilt to His Son’s account. This is the amazing grace of justification.
How do people change? We must understand and apply our acceptance by God through grace by faith. For example, when Satan whispers his condemning lies into our ears, we need to remember the truth of Romans 8:1: “Therefore there is now no more condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” We are forgiven and accepted by God by grace through faith. Applying this one truth alone would cure so many spiritual struggles.
But here’s the problem, sometimes that’s exactly what we do. We apply the truth of justification alone. We say, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” But we are not just forgiven. To justification, God adds reconciliation.
Reconciliation: New Peace/Family—God Our Loving Father
Imagine that the spectators in the courtroom were to yell, “But he’s still evil through and through. A man like him can never change. He’s a danger to society. He must be locked up. Looked after.”
“He will live with me,” the judge replies. “Enjoying all the privileges my son enjoyed. I’ve adopted Mr. Mass Murderer into my family. He’s my adult son.”
God the Judge could have stopped at justification—forgiving us and then leaving us on our own. Left to our same old nurture we would return to our same old haunts—the world, the flesh, and the Devil. We would continue our maddening quest for relationship apart from God.
But God the Judge takes His legal robes off, replacing them with relaxed family attire and comfy slippers, inviting us into His home, into His family—reconciliation. Forgiveness (justification) as great as it is, would have been hollow had we remained separated from Father. The Judge becomes our adoptive Father, granting us access to His home and all the privileges of adult children—sons and daughters of God. This is the amazing grace of reconciliation.
How do people change? By applying the truth that God has already changed our relationship to Him from one of enemies to family!
Regeneration: New Person/Purity—Our All-Powerful Creator
The still insistent crowd in the gallery hollers, “That guarantees nothing. All your good intentions, all the love in the world, all the good nurture and best environment in the world does not guarantee that Mr. Mass Murderer will not continue his rampage.”
“I’m not finished. Hear me out,” the judge insists. “I’ve consulted the best medical, psychiatric, and psychological experts on the planet. Mr. Mass Murderer will receive a heart, brain, and soul transplant along with a DNA graft infusing into his very being my very nature.”
As the story of Mr. Mass Murderer correctly indicates, new nurture without new nature is insufficient to change us. What changes us? How do people change? God changes us. As new creations in Christ, we are already changed internally and we need to help one another to live out the new life already implanted within as we put off the old and put on the new.
The Judge of the criminal and the Father of the adult son becomes the Creator, Parent, Progenitor, Begetter, Life-giver of a newborn infant—regeneration. Like Father, like son. We are born again of incorruptible seed. Born from above to reflect the image of our Creator. We are reborn with a new nature—new soul, mind, will, spirit, emotions. Reborn with a renewed ability to relate (to God, others, and our self), think, choose, and feel in Christlike ways. We are reborn with a new heart—new capacities, disposition, inclinations, purity. The old dies. The new lives. This is the amazing grace of regeneration.
Redemption: New Power/Victory—God Our Invincible Champion
The shrill crowd is momentarily silenced. Totally stunned. Then a hand shoots up. “But that only means that he has a clean start. What about all his old acquaintances, his old habits? They will still come around clamoring for his attention, demanding his loyalty and affection.”
“Fair question,” the judge agrees. “We’ve thought of everything. I’ve jailed all his old acquaintances. His foes are defeated. Plus, we’ve infused his new heart, brain, soul, and DNA complex with core power to remain free from and victorious over these past tempters.”
This is the salvation grace of redemption. Freedom from the power of sin. Freedom from bondage and slavery to sin. We need victory. Resurrection power. The Judge of the criminal, the Father of the adult son, the Creator of the newborn infant, is also the Champion, Victor, Warrior, General, and King of the overcomer, of the empowered, freed, victorious soldier.
How do people change? Not through our own power but through tapping into Christ’ resurrection power.
We have been set free from the power of sin and death and united with the resurrection power of Christ. We have Christ’s resurrection power to be victorious over the world, the flesh, the Devil, sin, and death. We are new creations with a new nature: regeneration and redemption. God has implanted a new heart into the core of our being with new power to live godly lives.
These four salvation realities (justification, reconciliation, regeneration, and redemption) about our newness in Christ are the foundation for our sanctification. How do people change? By applying justification, reconciliation, regeneration, and redemption to our daily lives and relationships.
Join the Conversation
How would applying justification, reconciliation, regeneration, and redemption change how we approach our sanctification?