Recently I saw a Christian patient whom I was encouraging to stop smoking. He told me that he cannot stop smoking as nicotine is his life. He had been deceived by the evil one and in bondage to his addiction. He was also afraid of dying.
I felt led to remind him of the truth that Jesus, and not nicotine, is our life. The good news is that we have been crucified with Christ and that it is no longer we who live but Christ. And when Christ is our life, to die is not a loss but our gain. Furthermore, we can do all things through the strength of Christ who is in us.1
How true it is that "a change in one's lifestyle doesn't bring about salvation." But salvation will always bring about a change in one's lifestyle. It is only by leading others to Christ that their morals and lifestyle will ultimately change. For the root cause of all the problems in our society is sin - our separation from the love of God.2
Last Sunday was the day in the liturgical calendar when we remembered the baptism of Jesus. In his sermon at Queenstown Lutheran Church, Rev Lim Kim Hock posed the question, "Are we missing something?" He drew our attention to the important truth that we have been baptized in the name of Christ and have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit.
His message together with my encounter with my patient opened my eyes to the truth that we will live without the power to love and face suffering and without the wisdom to overcome evil when we do not fully grasp the gospel truth of Christ crucifixion, death and resurrection. We will struggle with our weaknesses and sins when we do not fully appreciate what our baptism in Christ means.
David Eckman made the point that we need to see the emotionally significant events in our lives from God's perspective through the cross of Christ.3 It is only when we do so that we will be able to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ, to be alive in Christ and to live by the power of the Holy Spirit.
If we live by the truth that we in fellowship with Christ's suffering, it will change our attitude towards the pain and suffering we face in our lives. If we have experienced the reality of our baptism that we have died and buried with Christ, this will empower us to overcome the temptations of this world and the evil one. If we believe that we have been raised with Christ and are new creations in Him, we will seek to discover our new life in Christ.
Like a seed planted in the ground, the dying to our old self does not occur overnight. Like a pupa that is in the process of being transformed into a butterfly, we need time for our spiritual formation. So let us remind ourselves of God’s great salvation as we sing Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Love divine, all loves excelling”:
Let us see thy great salvation, perfectly restored in thee:
Changed from glory into glory
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love and praise.”
1. Galatians 2:20, Philippians 1:21, 4:13
2. Greg Laurie – Beyond, page 24
3. David Eckman – Becoming Who God Intended, page 159-160