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PART 5 YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?
In this chapter, we are going to look at another roadblock, which I think for many believers acts upon them in a habitual manner; for example, something like the reoccurring of the same day events in the movie “Groundhog Day.” This roadblock, if not addressed, will occur over and over and over again, thus severely inhibiting our walk with God. Let’s see what this roadblock is all about.
How Can I Address My Weaknesses?
I believe this is one of the most neglected topics in the church today. Many churches will present their standard teachings on forgiveness, eternal security, predestination, the offices of the church, giving financially, etc. along with encouraging the assembly to get more involved in church activities so that they might be examples of Christ-likeness to others. They claim that evidencing Christ-likeness is determined by focusing on changing one’s behavior. If Christians try as hard as they can to not commit certain overt sins, obey the teachings of the church, and do good for others, then they say this is the evidence of godliness. This sounds right, doesn’t it?
Is this the protocol that we as Christians are to follow to show evidence of godliness?
All have sinned
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3: 23)
All of us are born with a sin nature and as such the human race does nothing except commit sin18 thus falling short to the likeness of God that each man is intended to bear.
What characterizes the sin nature?
…the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Galatians 5: 24)
This sin nature (the flesh) has affections [innate forces resident in the evil nature; propensities (a natural inclination or tendency)]19 and lusts (forces reaching out to find expression in the gratification of these desires; to the goings forth of the soul towards objects which it is wrong to pursue).20
How can these affections and lusts be subdued?
Old things are passed away
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5: 17)
When a person repents (a change of mind about their sin; the denial of ourselves; the displeasing of ourselves) to God the Father and believes in his Son Jesus Christ, he becomes a new creature (creation). Old things (the things that characterized the pre-Christian life) are passed away (come to an end; finished and gone), and all things become new (previously non-existent, begin to be far different from what they were before).21 What this verse appears to be saying is that when a person repents to God the Father and believes in Christ, his sin nature is no more in control; and his new life in Christ is now characterized by that which was previously non-existent.
Is it true that when we repent and believe, our sin nature is no more in control, having been eradicated (removed)?
Let’s take a look at another verse that might provide us with more clarity on this.
And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh
And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Galatians 5: 24)
Through our belief in Christ, being now as those who are His, as He died to sin once on the cross, so we were identified with Him in his death at this point of time in the past, which resulted in the breaking of the power of the sinful nature over our life. This victory over sin, which the Lord Jesus procured for us at the Cross, is made actual and operative in our lives as we yield to the Holy Spirit and trust Him for that victory.22 Thus, the Holy Spirit has a twofold ministry in the saint, that of making actually operative in the life of the Christian, the victory over sin which the Lord Jesus procured for us at the Cross, and that of producing in the Christian's experience His fruit.
But this He is only able to do in a full and rich measure as the saint puts himself definitely under subjection to the Spirit.23 Our sin nature was not eradicated (removed) when we repented to God the Father and believed in His Son Jesus Christ. However, at salvation we received another member of the Trinity (that being the person of the Holy Spirit) who came inside our bodies to indwell, thus providing us with a new divine nature.
So, the question is, how does a Christian put themselves under subjection to the Spirit so that they are no longer under the power of the sin nature with its affections [innate forces resident in the evil nature; propensities (a natural inclination or tendency)]24 and lusts (to the goings forth of the soul towards objects which it is wrong to pursue)?25 This is the dilemma for many churches that have the indwelling Holy Spirit residing in its members.
Preaching the Gospel, having evidence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, providing teachings on various Biblical topics, along with a yearning for the Spirit’s presence is the modus operandi. This appears to be all that is needed for a Christian to be under the subjection of the Spirit. Right? Is this all that is required?
Upon further investigation of the teachings of some churches, two things stand out. In some cases, there is a tendency to stress belief in the many doctrines of the church whose content is derived from some of the Gospels, the book of Acts, the Epistles, and the book of Revelation without any teachings on how to address the weaknesses of one’s flesh. In other cases, doctrinal teachings are mixed, meaning that Old Testament theology is blended with New Testament theology. Adherence to obey certain aspects of the Mosaic Law is what is constituted as being obedient to God. Fasting, tithing, observing certain days and weeks, obedience to attending worship service, Bible study, conferences, etc. where the message of following the example of Christ as relating to these ceremonial observances is repeated over and over.
What does this mean concerning the person and work of the Holy Spirit? This doesn’t mean that in either case the Holy Spirit is not yearned for or doesn’t show up. What it means is that the assembly is impacted by God during worship service, but is unable to address personal weaknesses and/or strengths of their flesh throughout the remainder of the week.
Why is this the case? It’s because they haven’t learned how. They are taught that following Christ’s example has to do with either trying to copy His behavior or obeying the tenets of the Mosaic Law. I would beg to differ with this approach and say that exhibiting Christ’s example in a believer’s life occurs only when they are walking in the Spirit.
How does a Christian walk in the Spirit?
Put off…the old man…and be renewed
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; (Ephesians 4: 22-23)
We are to put off our former habits, which are a result of us being dominated by the totally depraved nature, whose lusts are excited by deceit, i.e. by deceitful influences seducing to sin, by being renewed in our mind, i.e. to be spiritually transformed, to take on a new mind. This renewal of our mind occurs by means of the word of God and the evidence of the Holy Spirit with our human spirit. Through Christ, once and for all, at salvation we have been given a new position in His new creation, but day-by-day, we must by faith appropriate what He has given us. As the mind understands the truth of God's Word, it is gradually transformed by the Spirit, and this renewal leads to a changed life. Physically, you are what you eat, but spiritually, you are what you think.26
So, if we want to be in subjection to the Spirit, we need to put off the thoughts of the old man and put on the thoughts of the new man. Let me give you an example of how to do this. Over the past couple of years since my retirement, I have been working, albeit on a limited basis, with a friend doing odd construction jobs. Some of these jobs were for pay while others were for charity. Recently, I noticed that my friend was no longer calling me to assist him. He apparently had secured the services of two other men. One was a fellow believer I had introduced to him when there was a need for one extra person to assist in moving a huge refrigerator in a prior job.
As I began to reflect about this, I became upset wondering why I was no longer getting called. Why did I introduce a fellow believer to him in the first place, if I knew that he could potentially take my position? This is the natural way that an unbeliever would think about this situation. But I’m not an unbeliever. However, I was thinking like one. The first thing I needed to do, which I did, was to recognize that this thinking was fleshly and self-centered. The next thing that I needed to do was confess my attitude as sin to God the Father.
My attitude toward my friend was that he was inconsiderate. My attitude toward my fellow believer was that he took work away from me that I should have at least had first crack. Situations like this bring us to an awareness as to whether our thoughts are fleshly or spiritual. While the manner in which my friend chose to use certain people to work on certain construction jobs might seem to be inconsiderate, I can’t say for sure whether or not he was. I have a responsibility to think with the mind of Christ in response to my friend’s decision to hire whomever he chooses and for my fellow believer to accept the work that he was offered.
How did I obtain victory over this wrong mental attitude that I was harboring? Well, as stated previously, I needed to recognize that my thinking was fleshly and confess it as sin to God the Father. If this were all there was to it, then there really wouldn’t be any personal victory in this area of weakness.
Here is what I mean. During a time of war, it is essential to both combatants that they take territory away from their enemy. If one side defeats his enemy in a nearby territory but doesn’t go forward and occupy the ground, then more of the enemy forces eventually will return and re-secure the stronghold. This holds true as well in the spiritual realm. Acknowledging and confessing sin doesn’t secure the victory. We need to go in and take over the land.
How is this accomplished in the spiritual realm? This is accomplished by going to God the Father in prayer and asking Him for guidance in receiving a verse or verses that would provide the needed spiritual perspective on which to reflect. Only then can we become overcomers in this area of weakness.
Is there a verse or verses that could help me regarding the mindset I was harboring that my friend was inconsiderate?
Believeth all things
Charity … Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7)
According to the Koine Greek, the word believeth means to believe the best of every person; will credit no evil on any, but only on the most positive evidence. This word is telling me that I am to believe the best of my friend and my fellow believer and not credit them with any evil unless there is clear evidence of such. Now that I have the divine perspective in this area, in order for it to benefit me I need to make the decision to memorize and meditate upon this section of the verse believeth all things along with the related meaning of the word believeth (will credit no evil on any, but only on the most positive evidence). Otherwise, there will be no victory in this skirmish.
How many believers are continually defeated in the skirmishes of life because their church doesn’t provide teachings that will help them address their carnal thinking? Day after day they recognize that their thoughts are wrong, and they admit so to God, but victory is never in their grasp.
Would you like for me to provide you with one more example of renewing our minds?
Be content with such things as ye have
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have… (Hebrews 13:5a)
I have owned a taxi business where I live for over seven years. During this past season, I noticed a fellow taxi owner not sharing his calls with the entire fleet of thirty-two cabs. Instead, he was calling taxies in his inner circle. On the other hand, I was putting any extra calls I received on the VHF radio so that any closest empty cab could take the call. I was upset that this taxi was not sharing as I was. He had every right to run his taxi business the way he chose, but my dwelling on these thoughts toward him caused my mental attitude to be critical and divisive.
My payback was to try to figure out how to bypass him when I would put my extra calls on the radio. Finally, I realized that this way of thinking was not spiritual, but natural (carnal). Somehow, I needed to be able to get out of this toxic preoccupation. As I thought about my mental state, I realized that I was not content with the situation at hand. I confessed this sin of discontentment to God the Father and realized that I needed His divine perspective. This perspective is found in the following verse.
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Hebrews 13:5)
This verse is saying, let your conversation (the disposition of the heart) be without covetousness (monetary greed; love of money), and be content (be happy; be satisfied; depending on God’s providence) with what God has given us. The words of part of this verse be content with such things as ye have needs to be memorized and meditated upon along with the definition of the word content (to be satisfied; to be depending on God’s providence) with what God has given us.
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8: 32)
As we choose to learn, appropriate, memorize and meditate on God’s Word in relation to the trials of life, this verse will begin to become more and more relevant to us.
And, by the way, what about the Holy Spirit?
What is His response when we choose to put on the new mind of the new man?
But whoso keepeth his word
But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. (1 John 2:5)
If any believer keeps (watchful care; keeps on continually keeping) God’s word (all that he has made known to us as his will in regard to our conduct) then in him in reality will the love of God, which is produced in the believer yielded to the Holy Spirit27 be perfected (be shown exemplified by him; be manifested in him). When we continually keep God’s word in our minds and respond with this mental attitude of divine perspective toward the circumstances that occur in our lives, then the Holy Spirit will fill us with His spiritual qualities of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.
Another roadblock that we will look at can trouble believers until they go home to be with the Lord. What is it you ask? Let’s move forward to the next chapter.
20The Pulpit Commentary Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, 04 Feb. 2016 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
21Thayer’s Greek Lexicon Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, 05 Feb. 2016 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
26The Bible Exposition.
New Covenant Ministries - Ministerios NuevoPacto
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Harbor Church, Block Island
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