Romans 6:3-4Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4. Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (NASB).
While it is true that we are partakers of Jesus’ death and His resurrection, many have not embraced the new life. Even though, in Him they are new creatures (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), to a large degree, their lifestyle doesn’t reflect it. Behavior in itself is not the sole indicator of the new life, but it may indicate an un-renewed mind. We are seated in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus, but many don’t walk from that position (see Ephesians 2:6). They’re children of God, yet they still act as if they are slaves to the world. Why do people struggle to be Christ-like?
For one thing, even though Jesus made them kings and priests (see Revelation 1:6; 5:10), they don’t think like kings and priests.
They don’t understand the ways of the Kingdom of heaven. Part of their lack of understanding is entrenched in their belief system. They believe they will enter into the Kingdom of heaven when they die, not realizing it actually is in them now through the Holy Spirit. Luke 17:20-21And when He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21. Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you (KJV). That means we’re now in the Kingdom. We’ve already entered into eternity, even though we haven’t physically died yet. We entered in through the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Remember, His death is counted as our death. Since we’re counted as dead, we’re qualified to live from an eternal perspective.
The Holy Spirit’s nature is eternal; therefore, every spiritual principle is eternal by nature as well. In order to be spiritual, we had to be born again.
“Born again” actually means to be born from above.
That ties in with Jesus being the Firstborn among many brethren (see Romans 8:29-30). Being born again qualified you to be a child of God (see Romans 8:14-17). You are no longer a slave. As a long as someone believes he’s a slave, he’ll think and act like one.
Why do some believers appear to walk in greater authority than others? One reason is they truly believe they have that authority based on their God-given position. Others don’t see themselves as having such, since they don’t recognize their own position in Jesus Christ. As you recall, we’re seated in the heavenly places. Our citizenship now is in heaven (see Philippians 3:20). Citizenship carries authority. Citizens have certain rights and privileges. If you don’t believe you’re one now, you’ll cripple your ability to walk in your God-given authority.
Every child of God carries kingdom authority, yet some believe only “special people” can do kingdom work. Yes, there are specific anointings and mantles for specific ministries, such as a pastor of a church; however, the Holy Spirit can manifest through any believer (see 1 Corinthians 12:7-11). If, for example, the Holy Spirit dwells in you, He will also empower you to do signs and wonders. That makes you just as special as someone else through whom the Holy Spirit operates.
Another issue some believers are dealing with is sin. They fail to recognize their sins have already been dealt with at the Cross. They believe sin still is part of their lives. In essence, they believe the old man is alive and well, so they try to counsel him into being good. Jesus does not send the old man to therapy, He crucifies him. Romans 6:5-7For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6. knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7. for he who has died is freed from sin (NASB). If you died with Him, how could the sin nature still exist?
Perhaps whatever people struggle with is not the issue. It’s what they believe about the issue that is getting in the way of their God-given victory.
When it gets down to it, our thinking has to catch up to our new nature. For example, Ephesians 4:24 says, “Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (KJV). 2 Corinthians 5:21 explains that Jesus is our righteousness. Therefore, if we believe we are righteous and holy (in Him), our thinking and behavior will change to match our belief. By putting on the new man, we put off the old man with his deeds.
The real matter at hand is submission. The fruit of the Spirit is vacant of those things relating to the old man. By yielding to the Holy Spirit, we actually took on His nature, and His nature is light. Light always vacates darkness. For example, Fred has been dealing with anger for some time. He decides instead of trying to gain some sort of control over it; he submits to the Holy Spirit. He realizes that anger is part of the old man. He then counts it as dead. By filling the void where anger once occupied his thoughts with the fruit of the Spirit, anger no longer has a place in his life. By changing his default thinking, he quit choosing anger. Even though the old nature is dead, you can still choose to use its ways. Grace empowers us to choose whether to follow the new nature, which means we still must decide what nature we will follow. We can still pick anger over love if we want. Although, the new nature will not allow us to be comfortable with that choice. The conviction of the Holy Spirit most certainly will not.
People tend to use what they’ve relied on all their life.
If their default button for handling a crisis is anger, they will push that button. By replacing the anger button with love, anger will not have the ability to function anymore. When we’re tempted to resort to anger, we need to take a deep breath and yield to the Holy Spirit. Notice the phrase, “resort to anger.” That means people and circumstances don’t actually make us angry, we choose to be so. Grace says you don’t have to resort to it any longer. Conviction says, “you need to stop manipulating people through anger. Anger may feel powerful, but it’s destructive. Obviously, some use other things besides anger; nonetheless, the principle applies to them as well.
The mind of Christ enables us to think differently. By submitting our thought-life to the Lord, He will renovate the way we think. The more we think like Him, the more we will be like Him.
It can be very disappointing when a brother or sister falls. Whether it’s a well-known believer or a lesser known, sometimes a sense of betrayal accompanies the disappointment. Depending on the sin, some react to the fall in various ways. Some have compassion. Some are indifferent. Yet, some become angry and even hostile, becoming very critical of their fallen brother or sister. How do you deal with it?
The religious tend to shun the fallen. While there is biblical precedent to turn one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (see 1 Corinthians 5:1-13), there is also the call for restoration (2 Corinthians 2:1-11). Nonetheless, some outright turn their backs on the fallen. In essence, they’ve become judges (not in the sense of discerning). A religious spirit says, “They deserve to burn!” Because of either religious pride or the fear of man, some are afraid of guilt by association. They’ve lost touch with love.
Some become angry out of fear. What they witnessed testifies against their own heart.
In other words, like a mirror, the action of another reflects back to them that they too could fall if they don’t guard their walk. Perhaps some are battling with the same issue, even though they haven’t acted on it. It’s called exposure –the Mirror of God. What it also reflects they are in an identity crisis. They still haven’t had the revelation of who they are in Jesus Christ. Hence, they still trying to face their fears apart from grace, not understanding the Lord is compassionate and passionate about their victory over sin. The positive is it opens the opportunity for repentance. If they simply ask God to show them what they need to see and how to respond, they themselves could walk free. The plank would be removed from their own eye, which empowers them to graciously restore another without fear of failure (see Matthew 7:1-5).
Proverbs 17:17A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity (NASB). How can one be a true friend if he or she turns his or her back on the one who falls? Who will the fallen turn to when he seeks repentance? In his time of need, will he find compassion?
Another question to consider: where was the friend before the fall?
Often, there are signs leading up to failure. To be sure, everyone has to take responsibility for his or her own actions; nonetheless, friends do intervene whey they know something’s wrong. If a person turns a blind eye to a friend’s waywardness, and doesn’t confront the situation, didn’t he fail as a friend? Typically, few like confrontation, but with God’s wisdom one can take a stand to protect a friend. It’s a matter of letting the Holy Spirit lead us. If a person did not at least pray for his friend, how can he be so hard on him? As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are supposed to bear one another’s burdens. Naturally, everyone has to ultimately decide what course of action he or she will take. Even God leaves our decisions and choices to us. He may intervene to help us make the correct decisions, but we still have a will of our own. Even so, with the right influence, people tend to do the right things.
The Bible talks much of God’s mercy and compassion on Israel, and that He would even heal Israel’s backsliding if the people repented (i.e. Jeremiah 3:12, 22). If you study its history, there was a lot of backsliding. God said He would have compassion; not vengeance. He didn’t talk about what they deserved; rather, He revealed His mercy. God is a loving Father. He’s not some critical ogre who despises those who fail. He desires repentance and restoration. There are so many factors involved with why believers fall from grace that we couldn’t possibly address them now. Just know we are called to love one another, and as a result, restore the fallen when possible. Here’s a couple passages of Scripture to consider:
Galatians 6:1-5Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 2. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 3. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. 5. For each one will bear his own load (NASB).
James 1:19-20My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20. let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (NASB).
As disciples of Jesus Christ, out of devotion to Him and the Father, we should have a disciplined walk. That discipline is filled with purpose, and that purpose includes being Christ-like. As a result, we devote specific times for prayer, study, corporate worship, and so on. Keep in mind that prayer is actually an ongoing activity that’s not limited to a certain time. Nonetheless, it boils down to putting first things first. That is to say, we give God our first fruits. He gets the best of us.
That discipline takes on habits, or as the Bible says, customs. For example, And He (Jesus) came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read (Luke 4:16).
Here’s something to consider: His customs or habits were based on the will of the Father.
Habits are our default patterns or routines, if you will. They help us maintain order. As long as they’re held with a proper perspective, they can be a good thing. Habits automatically carve out times of focused devotion. They have their own defenses in that they tend to resist anything that comes between us and our time with God. As long as it’s attached to devotion which is mindful of our relationship with Him, it is very good. “This is the time I get to spend with God.” We need to be wary of that phrase changing to “I have to spend time with God.” The difference is one is based on relationship, while the later one has now become a religious exercise.
Discipline rooted in devotion should regulate our habits.
True devotion operates by love, which means our discipline does as well. If our habits become traditions (of men), we will lose sight of love. At that point, habits become self-serving. If God Himself cannot interrupt your “normal time” without you getting frustrated or even angry, something shifted. Our relationship has to be both solid and fluid at the same time. We are firm in the faith, and as a result, God has the freedom to lead us when, where and how He desires, without our resistance. How does that look?
A simple example would be our time being interrupted by an unexpected visit by a friend. We should be able to greet him or her with love and affection, minus any resentment for “taking our time.” Especially, if he or she is in need. There are times the Father will break into our routine and send us out. He may want us to go talk with someone, and the best time to do that is during our devotional time. We have to stay open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Wouldn’t it be considered devotion if Jesus said, “Lets go have coffee with Joe,” and we obeyed His voice? It’s all part of the relationship. He wants us to love people well, and that’s something to which we should be devoted. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
It is important to guard our time with Him; yet, we should be careful not to fall into the trap of habits becoming dead works. If you should happen to miss your set time for an unforeseen reason (i.e. oversleep), don’t put yourself on a guilt trip.
Be careful not to equate your devotional time with some sort of badge of holiness.
There’s no such thing as being a “better Christian.” Jesus alone makes us holy. Going to church regularly is a good thing; but again, be wary of tradition. Don’t lose sight of worshipping God in spirit and in truth (see John 4:23-24). When we worship for the sake of worship, it’s no longer true worship. Please don’t misunderstand, that doesn’t necessarily mean we sleep in because we don’t feel like going. That’s where discipline comes into play. You know, deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Jesus (see Matthew 16:24). Conversely, there may be a time when you need to sleep in, and that is the Father’s desire for you that day. Don’t make yourself go when you’re supposed to stay home. That’s not being Spirit led, nor is it forsaking the fellowship of the believers when you obey. Jesus is our Sabbath! He is our rest; and we rest when we cease from doing our own works (see Hebrews 4:9-10). Deny yourself means you don’t insert yourself into the situation; it means surrendering to the will of God.
Devotion leads to discipline, and discipline leads to habit. But these three are rooted in our love for God!
Believers know to ask God for wisdom when they lack it; however, some question whether they are receiving His counsel or counsel from another source. What does wisdom from above look like? James tells us that it is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy (James 3:17). The true counsel of God is going to give rest to your soul; whereas, anything else doesn’t give such wholeness.
With pure wisdom comes peace.
This is a major clue in ascertaining what counsel we are receiving. God will never bombard us with fear or terror, especially when He sent us peace through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to begin with. If you become fearful listening to counsel from someone, or from what what you feel is a direct Word from God, something is wrong.
That icy grip of anxiety doesn’t come from the Holy Spirit.
Think about it. James told us that godly wisdom is peaceable and gentle. Since when does gentleness strike terror in your heart? Either it’s the wrong spirit, or you have a wrong heart in the matter. 1 John 4:1 tells us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God.”
Fear does not confess Jesus Christ (see 1 John 4:2-3). It leaves you hopeless, and yet Jesus is our Hope. What if it truly is from God and you still experience fear? It could be exposing something in your heart that is contrary to His nature. For example, one may have an excessive desire for something, and is afraid God’s answer will not coincide with it. Something may be on the way to become his god. James 3:14-15But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 5. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing (NASB). Selfish ambition alone will use fear against you. Have you ever heard of the fear of failure?
Some people are afraid of what He might say or even ask of them. The bottom line is they don’t trust Him. They don’t believe the Father has their best interest at heart. They doubt His love for them.
They’ve already started with a disadvantage: they started with the fear that is a counterfeit of the fear of the Lord.
If their foundation is fear, they’re standing on shifting sand. If you fit in this category, ask God for a revelation of His love. After all, perfect love casts out fear (see 1 John 4:18).
One aspect of God’s nature is that there is no variation or shadow of turning in Him (see James 1:17). Because He is the same yesterday, today and forever, the wisdom of God never wavers. It’s rock solid. You never have to worry about whether He’s going to pull the rug out from under your feet. The Father doesn’t tell you something, only to change it moments later. He isn’t constantly changing the rules. He does not vacillate like that.
One problem that arises in relation to His wisdom and counsel is our wavering. When we are tempted to doubt or question whether or not we actually heard from God. These are times we can be double-minded. Believers also vacillate when they have desires that are contrary to His counsel, in which case, they may try to change it. “Did God really say that?” These are moments it’s important to settle things in our heart. Get quiet before the Lord, and listen. Sit still, and remember His Word and nature. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, cast down the wrong imaginations, and let every thought be taken captive to the obedience of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). For some, it may be a matter of returning to their first Love. Yep, repentance. Time to change their way of thinking. Secondly, get honest with God and yourself. Hash it out with Him. Leave nothing off the table, and tell Him what’s going on. Of course He knows; however, it’s about the relationship. Receiving the wisdom and counsel of God centers on our relationship with Him. God’s counsel requires an honest heart!
It’s in our fellowship with God we are able to relinquish a double-mind. It is where we have the mind of Christ, and the Holy Spirit speaks to our spirit about the things of God. Holy Spirit (think relationally now) knows the heart of the Father, so commune with Him.
Keep your heart open to the Lord, so He doesn’t have to stand at your door and knock!