By the time I came to know the Lord at the age of 23, I had already lived a life without the Lord that had left me in "a world of hurt".
As a new Christian and for many years to come, I had to learn what it meant to die to self.
I had to understand Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me...", and Matthew 16:24 where Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
My husband would often remind me to "deny self" and to "die to self". And after many failed attempts to do so, I finally said, "I can't die to self myself. That is something that only the Lord can do. I can't do it in my own flesh, but only by His Spirit."
It was when I finally let go of trying to do the work that only the Holy Spirit could do, that I began to grow in His grace.
I learned that not only can I not change others, but I can't even change myself.
And so I learned to entrust the Lord with all the unreconciled hurts of the past. And I also learned to care only about what the Lord thought of me.
And what the Lord thought of me, as His child, was that I was totally loved and accepted by Him always. When a child of God can rest in knowing that, they can then begin to grow in His grace.
I think that if the true grace of God has been shown to us, it will cause us to show grace to others. And that's when we as Christians will begin to love others unconditionally, just as God loves us.
"...for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." - Philippians 2:13
We have died once to the penalty of sin, and so we have peace with God. (“I have been crucified with Christ...”)
We are able to die daily to the power of sin because we stand in grace. (“... it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me...”)
And someday when we are present with the Lord, we will be free from the presence of sin. (“...and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God Who died for me and gave Himself for me.” - Galatians 2:20)
Jesus died once for our sins, and shed His blood for us, so that we can rest completely in His finished work on the cross.
Sometimes we as Christians live as if it isn't "finished". We live as if our sins are not forgiven, past, present and future. And we find ourselves trying to earn God's favor each day.
But we stand in grace, in a permanent state of forgiveness, precisely because "It is finished."
Picture a mean bunch of guys, big rocks in their hands, hate on their faces, kicking up dust in the ancient Judean sun.
"For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God!"
With these amazing words in John 10, the Jews gave their reason for trying once again to stone Jesus.
Not yet ready to die, and certainly not by stoning, Jesus escaped Judea and crossed the Jordan River to where John the Baptist had once baptized repentant Israelites, probably Perea. He stayed there for a while, and many believed in Him there.
When word came to Jesus that his beloved friend Lazarus was deathly sick, He didn't cross the Jordan back to Bethany near Jerusalem to visit his friend on his death bed. No one could blame Him for staying . After all, hadn't the Jews repeatedly tried to seize and stone Him? So the disciples didn't blame Him, and they weren't surprised that He stayed in Perea. It only made sense. Lazarus would have to rely on the comfort of His immediate family, Mary and Martha.
But the disciples were surprised a couple of days later, when Jesus said, "Let us go to Judea again." What?!
They said to Him, "Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are you going there again?"
And He told them He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Do you think they believed Him? I don't. I think Thomas spoke for all the disciples when he said, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him." They thought this was it. The end. Crazy, but hey, He's the Lord. We will follow Him and we will die with Him if necessary.
But they didn't die that day. They went to Bethany, and Jesus spoke the words that thrill our hearts, as believers in Him:
"I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die..."
And he raised Lazarus from the dead.
And later He died on the Cross. They finally got Him. They finally put an end to the One whom they said blasphemed because He said He was God. And the brave disciples who went to Bethany with Him, willing to die, cowered behind a closed door, mourning the loss of their Rabbi, and their dreams.
We appreciate His death now. We know that it paid for our sins. We cringe at the horror of the Innocent One being beaten and scourged and crucified and separated from His Father as He took the fury of the Wrath of God on Himself. We appreciate it. But we don't exactly celebrate it.
What we celebrate is that on the third day, He rose from the dead. He authenticated that He is Who He said He was. He is the Anointed One, God the Son, the Christ, the Messiah! And He is alive! And we say Hallelujah! He is risen!
Even as a historical event, it's noteworthy. But He did it for a purpose. He was "raised for our justification". He was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead, that we might live. He said He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. And in some mysterious way, when He died on the Cross, we died with Him, and when He was raised, we were raised with Him, and seated with Him in the heavenlies, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.
We were made alive spiritually, with the promise that we will be raised physically as well, on that Great Gettin' Up Morning! We became New Creations! Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new! There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus! Hallelujah, what a Savior!
And all because He died for our sins. He became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ!