The Preacher Says....  
  Great Exectations  
He that overcometh shall inherit all things

This is the day after Christmas and family reunions are about to come to an end. The extravagances of the season now have to be reckoned with-the piper has to be paid-and we are, whether we like it or not, affected by the season. The promise of Christ was so great, that for two thousand years the world has been cruel. Our Lord delayeth his coming.

But the depression that besets so many of us this time of year, it strikes me, is more personal. Speaking personally, this is the time of year when I can't blame other people for my own shortcomings; and I suspect many people feel that way. Perhaps it's from an unfavorable comparison with him whose birth we just remembered. I set goals for the year which I didn't accomplish, and I suspect you did too. I wanted to be good, but I've been so bad. Maybe-it's not that I'm so bad, I'm not even good enough to be real bad, if you understand what I mean. I just-we have in effect been ineffectual in our lives. We can't cope in our own lives much less cope with anybody else's. And it's not so much sinful, although I've known over a long lifetime, thieves, murderers, scoundrels that were brothers and sisters of mine. Bu most of us I suspect are not so much sinful, as we understand that word, as we are tawdry and unbecoming in an unbecoming world. And in that last verse, he that overcometh shall inherit all things,I will be his God and he will be my son, well, that puts a fearful burden on us , because we're supposed to be overcoming something and it doesn't seem we've done it. So let me suggest that I, and I suspect many of you, need an antidote for this spiritual distemper. Let me give you this verse to ponder:

If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation
All things are passed away,
Behold, all things are become new.

So what does that mean? A new creation. It's really very simple: God created our great, great, great, great, great-to-the-Nth power grandfather, Adam,-He gave him a free will; He gave him commandments and He gave him a free will. And Adam broke the commandment. And each of us bears the mark of his disobedience in our own bodies. However, God decided to give us a second chance, and He made a new Adam-a second Adam-just like the first Adam, tempted in all points like Adam. But Christ obeyed. Unlike Adam he was freed from the shackles of sin, which is to say he was freed from the consequences of death, the eternal consequences of death. He was-is-- a new creation. He's different by virtue of the exercise of his own free will to obey his Father. But Jesus is not our Father. Adam is our father. We're all descendants of Adam. Jesus was a descendant of Shem, and we're descendants of Japheth. So how can we be a new creature like Christ was, because he's not like Adam; he's not our father. The secret lies in understanding what it means to be 'in Christ'. Let me just give you three very familiar figures. The first is the account by Paul in his letter to the Romans about what baptism does for us.

Know ye not that as many of us were baptized into Jesus Christ
Were baptized into his death; therefore, we are buried
With him by baptism into death.

In other words, when we get baptized it is as though we died, like Christ died. And as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. We are like him in his resurrection. If we are planted together in the likeness of his death we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. We see that baptism is a figure of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But still, is that what it means to be 'in Christ'? Consider what Paul said to Ephesus in the second chapter,

Those of you who are in Christ, ye are no more strangers and sojourners,
But fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God,
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone,
In whom all the building fitly framed together
Grows into an holy temple in the Lord:
In whom also ye are builded together for an
Habitation of God through the spirit.

OK. So what does it mean to be 'in Christ'? It means that Christ and the apostles and we (in a figure) are all part of a building called 'the temple' and it's all fitly framed together-doesn't come apart-we're all together. Now is that what it means to be 'in Christ'? Finally let me have you consider with me a verse or two from the 5th chapter of Ephesians:

So men ought to love their wives as their own bodies.
He that loveth his wife, loveth himself, and
No man yet hateth his own flesh, but
Nourisheth it and cherisheth it
Even as the Lord the church.
For we are members of his flesh and of his bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother
And shall be joined unto his wife.
And they, too, shall be one flesh.

This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. In the first letter to the church at Colosse he describes this mystery in a different way. He says this mystery is Christ in you, the hope of glory, so if you're in Christ , twain flesh becomes one, and if Christ is in you, you have the hope of glory. And Paul calls this the mystery. What is the solution to the mystery? That you are Christ. If that figure offends you, let me say it to you differently. Paul calls it a mystery because it appears to be a figure of speech, but let me suggest to you it's more than a figure of speech. You are disguised, if you will, as Christ. But it's a perfect disguise. You're not just-this is not just pretty language, but if you are baptized, something happens to you. Like Christ, it is no figure to say it was not possible for death to hold Christ. Of course it is possible for death to hold Christ because he was a man like us, but God chose to raise him. It is possible for death to hold us-that same figure applies to us now that we are disguised in Christ; death cannot hold us, we must be raised. And it is more than just a figure. And that's all there is to it. It's very simple. But you're gonna say to me, oh it's more complicated than that. Much more complicated than that. It has to do first of all, this promise, this being in Christ requires first of all that you be a Jew, a descendant of Abraham. He wasn't a Jew, but he was the father of the Jewish nation because of something he did. We have to understand the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and what the law of Moses stood for; not only that, there are a lot of people who are not going to be saved. And that's not fair, you say. You are painting a picture of the simple truth that is false, because it's not so simple. But I suggest to you that it's more complicated than I just said, but not as complicated as you want to make it. But even if it were complicated, who are you to tell the rule maker how to make the rules? God has given us rules to live by: the ten commandments, the beatitudes, all those things that are exhortations to be just and fair with one another. But those are rules He gave to us to -among other things-deal with each other. He's not bound by those rules; they are not His ways. My ways are not your ways, says the Lord. God is by definition arbitrary, because there's no standard by which He can be judged. And if He makes the rules, they can't be good or bad as judged by some standard outside of God Why? Because He is the standard. People are stubborn. They don't want to buy the idea that the God they think the Bible describes is not a just God and is not like He ought to be. But I think you can dissuade yourself once and for all of that idea if you just think about this: God could have chosen to create a race of beings on Mars. Having created such a race of beings, we wouldn't be there, for lots of reasons. But one of the reasons-a principal reason-is we couldn't stay alive because there's no oxygen. There's not enough oxygen on Mars to sustain life. The point I'm making is that it's really silly to try to make God in our own image which we all try to do from time to time about what's fair and what's not fair, and what God should have done. We wouldn't even have the power to rationalize in that way had He chosen to create a creation on another planet. Well, I think this time of the year is a particularly good time to humble yourself and to recognize it's a time for humility, because it's the day after Christmas and we compare unfavorably with our Lord. Peter, in his general epistle said,

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God
That He might exalt you in due time.

That's wisdom: to humble yourself before God, and be willing to believe that you are a new creation. You are a new creation. You are something special. You're something special in the eyes of God. And if you're something special, you have to act special, don't you? The other night I was watching television and I saw Louis Farrakahn on television. I'm sure some of you know who he is. He's a charismatic black Muslim and really one of the most magnetic speakers I've ever heard in my life. And there's just enough truth in what he says to surround himself with a faithful following. And if you have the chance, look at the people who follow Louis Farrakhan. They consider themselves something special. The men are dressed in sober, well tailored suits, have on white shirts, neckties tied properly, haircut, very erect, physically fit, they are followers of Louis Farrakhan and they're something special. Have you ever known any 7th Day Adventists? I've known a few. You can tell that they are something special, or that they think of themselves as being something special. Not because they are egotistical, or proud, but because there's a look in their face-they live longer than other people, they adopt a very healthy lifestyle. And so we need to be special and people need to be able to see that you're special. We're admonished to let our light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father, right? Beware the leaven of the Pharisees. Paul said-using the editorial "we"-he says that we are not ignorant of Satan's devices. But most of us are ignorant of Satan's devices. And see, that's the danger of trying to act special. Trying to act special, you suddenly find that you aren't ignorant of Satan's devices, that is to say, that the deceitfulness of sin blinds you to your own inadequacies. You're wise in your own conceits. Conceits, by definition, are false notions about what you are. You don't set out to act special. Being special is a consequence of doing the works of Abraham. What were the works of Abraham? Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. It's the belief, the faith, that consequentially makes you act special. Faith without works is dead and you've got to meet a certain standard or you're not going to get in the kingdom. And so you say to yourself, well I gave clothes to the Salvation Army; there was a man on the corner who needed money and I gave him my last twenty dollar bill. Let me suggest to you, that if you think you are meeting the standard set by God on a planet with its countless billions of inhabitants, I wonder where we'd be. How many millions of people would we fall behind in meeting His standard. So I say to you, if you think you are going to be judged by a standard, that standard of work that you have to live up to, then we all better get busy.