There are no good works apart from regeneration(new birth). Sanctification(works of) without regeneration is like a well-dressed, cosmetically-primped corpse in the plushest mahogany casket money can buy; it offers great effort with external results, but in the end death still reigns.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:27-28 ESV)
Every time I hear ‘woe to you’ it strikes a chord of fear and shame in my thoughts because I can relate as the guilty party; as the scribe and the pharisee. I can relate as the ‘hypocrite’. Do I like these realities and these memories? No…
BUT GOD– I thrill to the abundant grace filling up those two words! ‘But God’ has released me from the fear and the shame of my sin through the Wonderful Cross. And whether I hear it proclaimed in Ephesians 2 or here in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “…And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”, I respond with delight/excitement/gladness and my heart catches in my throat as joy floods in. No more fear of punishment! No more shame that would prevent me, ultimately (I still experience shame for my sinning), from running to my Redeemer for more grace… more mercy… more help.
The truth of saving grace poured out on me, rich in mercy, and perfectly complete in its plan, purpose and accomplishment is why I am no longer a whitewashed tomb or a cosmetically-primped corpse. No– Jesus called me up from the grave and I will never abide there anymore. Yet, though alive in Christ, I still live in this world, among the dead; and it can become easy to act like the dead (those patterns/ruts run deep, don’t they?). I am often tempted to walk in my own strength… my own deadness… the old me and my old ways. Those ways might be overtly sinful or it might readily be the fact that I’ve turned aside from walking by faith to working for acceptance from God, from others, and even from me — apart from the Cross.
So I take hold of more and the same good news… like this exhortation in Colossians 2,
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:6-23 ESV)
I was dead. I was brought from death to life by the love and grace of one Man, Jesus Christ– Son of Man and Son of God (the Sovereign God of All Eternity who came to earth and took on human form) . For many years, I was dead; but now I have a ressurection story to tell…:) “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— ” (Ephesians 2:1-5 ESV)
My after-death experience is an experience and a reality of life, new life, Real Life… Eternal Life through Jesus Christ, the risen and reigning Son of God and Son of Man. Through His death for MY SIN, Jesus Christ paid MY DEBT for all my sin/sins and I believe it! I believe He did what He said he came to do… and I will follow this Savior who has forgiven my sin through His death and who has given me Life, through His own ressurection from the dead… victorious over sin and death. Thank You, Jesus. I don’t want my old life anymore. No, I’m heading in a new direction because my heart now desires new things… eternal things… to Your credit, only and completely!
Won’t you come too, won’t you turn from Death to Life? Won’t you believe the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus Christ died to pay the just penalty(eternal death/Hell) for your sin in order to set YOU free… forgiveness; not like you and I ‘forgive’, but like a Perfect God forgives, completely and perfectly. You can be saved from eternal death/Hell to live eternally for the God who loves perfectly and who gives us the desires of our hearts…. delight yourself in God. Today, call out to this God who saves, forgives and embraces… today.