So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
The reason so many Christians are not enjoying the maturity and freedom which is their inheritance in Christ is because they hold wrong self-perceptions. They don’t see themselves as they really are in Christ. They don’t understand the dramatic change which occurred in them the moment they trusted in Him. They don’t see themselves the way God sees them, and to that degree they suffer from a poor self-image. They don’t grasp their true identity. They identify themselves with the wrong Adam.
Too many Christians identify only with the first Adam, whose sad story of failure is found in Genesis 1-4. Sure, you inherited physical life from Adam. But if you’re a Christian, that’s where the similarity ends. You are now identified with the last Adam, Jesus Christ. You are not in Adam; you are in Christ. You are seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6). The difference between the two Adams in your history is eternally profound. You need to be sure you’re identifying with the right one.
The first thing we notice about Christ, the last Adam, is His complete dependence on God the Father. The first Adam was tempted to live independently of God and chose to believe the serpent’s lie about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But Jesus was totally dependent on the Father (John 5:30; 6:57; 8:42; 14:10; 17:7).
A second vital difference between the two Adams relates to spiritual life. Adam was born physically and spiritually alive. But when Adam sinned, he died spiritually. Like the first Adam, Jesus was born spiritually alive as well as physically alive. But unlike the first Adam, Jesus did not forfeit His spiritual life at some point through sin. He kept His spiritual life all the way to the cross. There He died, taking the sins of the world upon Himself. Now in His resurrected, glorified body, Christ lives on today and for all eternity.
Are you identifying with Jesus Christ, the last Adam, today?
Thank You, Father, for the last Adam–Jesus Christ–through whom I am saved and sealed. I purpose by Your help to live in my true identity today.
God . . . made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life
Walking by the Spirit is not legalism, the opposite extreme from license. Paul said: “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law” (Galatians 5:18). Stringently striving to obey Christian rules and regulations doesn’t enable the Spirit-filled walk; it often kills it (2 Corinthians 3:6). We’re told in Galatians 3:13 that the law is really a curse, and in Galatians 3:21 that it is impotent, powerless to give life.
Laying down the law–telling someone that it is wrong to do this or that–does not give them the power to stop doing it. Christians have been notorious at trying to legislate spirituality with don’ts: Christians don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance, don’t attend movies, don’t play cards, don’t wear makeup, etc. But legalism can’t curb immorality. In fact, laying down the law merely serves to heighten the temptation. Paul said that the law actually stimulates the desire to do what it forbids (Romans 7:5)! When you tell your child not to cross a certain line, where does he immediately want to go? Forbidden fruit often seems to be the most desirable.
Neither will a Spirit-filled heart be produced by demanding that someone conform to a religious code of behavior. We often equate Christian disciplines such as Bible study, prayer, regular church attendance, and witnessing with spiritual maturity. All these activities are good and helpful for spiritual growth. But merely performing these admirable Christian exercises does not guarantee a Spirit-filled walk.
Does this mean that establishing rules is wrong? Of course not. God’s law is a necessary protective moral standard and guideline. But the means by which we live a life of freedom is not the law but grace. Within the confines of God’s law, we are free to nurture a spirit-to Spirit relationship with God, which is the essence of walking in the Spirit.
Prayer: Lord, help me encourage other believers to freedom in their walk with You and not impose on them a religious code of behavior.
Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path
We live in a world where the flip of a switch instantly lightens or darkens a room. The lamps in biblical times, on the other hand, burned brightly but required proper tending. If not cared for, they would become a dwindling flame. God’s Word uses the metaphor of a lamp to teach us about guidance for our lives. And it provides the opportunity for some graphic applications of this teaching.
Earnestly seeking the clear teaching of God’s Word allows the lamp to burn brightly and us to stay on the path. When we fail to acknowledge our theological bias and limited perspective, the light lessens and our path becomes twisted. The lamp flickers when form replaces function and traditions push aside the commandments of God. The light dims when we stay away from God’s Word and the fellowship of believers. It goes out when we serve another master.
Sometimes we overlook the obvious: God’s will is expressed by His Word. As a child, I didn’t struggle with knowing my earthly father’s will. He clearly expressed it to me. I learned early on that we lived together peacefully if I was quick to obey. Being a farm boy, it made sense to help my father establish his kingdom (the family farm). Farmers know from nature that we reap what we sow. Not only that, I stood to inherit the family farm along with my brother and sisters as my father had with his sisters. Yet I wonder how many Christians realize that what they are presently sowing in the kingdom of God is what they will reap for all eternity.
God’s will is revealed to us in His Word. There is no substitute for being “diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The Bible is a light to your path.
Prayer: Father, don’t let anything enter my life today that would dim Your glorious light. I choose to find my way by the light of Your Word.
In the early 1980s I counseled a Christian young woman who was languishing in deep spiritual, mental and emotional torment. She wrote:
Where are You? How can You watch and not help me? I hurt so bad, and You don’t even care. If You cared You’d make it stop or let me die. I love You, but You seem so far away. I can’t hear You or feel You or see You, but I’m supposed to believe You’re here. Lord, I feel them and hear them. They are here. I know You’re real, God, but they are more real to me right now. Please make someone believe me, Lord. Why won’t You make it stop? Please, Lord, please! If You love me You’ll let me die.
A Lost Sheep
Many Christians I deal with are filled with such confusion that their daily walk with Christ is unfulfilling and unproductive. When they try to pray, they begin thinking about a million things they should be doing. When they sit down to read the Bible, they can’t concentrate. When they have an opportunity to serve the Lord in some way, they are brought up short by discouraging thoughts of self-doubt.
Having found freedom, “The Lord Sheep” penned a response to her own prayer based on her new understanding of God’s provision in Christ.
My Dear Lost Sheep,
You ask Me where I am. My child, I am with you and I always will be. You are weak, but in Me you are strong. I am so close that I feel everything you feel. Be crucified with Me and I will live in you, and you shall live with Me. I will direct you in paths of righteousness. My child, I love you and I will never forsake you, for you are truly Mine.
Prayer: Loving Shepherd, thank You for tending me and feeding me daily, showing me that I am precious to You.
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! . . . There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
Romans 7:22, 23, pinpoints the battleground for the contest between me and sin: “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.”
Where does my desire to do what’s right reside? Paul uses the phrase “the inner man,” referring to my new self where my spirit and God’s Spirit are in union. This is the eternal part of me. And where does sin wage its war to keep me from doing what I really want to do? In the physical members of my body (James 4:1). Sin operates through my flesh, that learned independence that continues to promote rebellion against God. This is the temporal part of me. Where then do these two opponents wage war (Galatians 5:17)? The battleground is my mind. That’s why it is so important that we learn how to renew our minds (Romans 12:2) and to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Paul concluded his description of the contest between sin and the new self with the exclamation: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). Notice that he didn’t say, “Sinful man that I am !” Wretched means miserable, and there is no one more miserable than the person who has allowed sin to reign in his mortal body. If we use our bodies as instruments of unrighteousness, we give the devil an opportunity in our lives, and he brings only misery.
The good news is that Romans 7:24 is followed by Romans 7:25 and Romans 8:1: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! . . . There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The battle for the mind is a winnable war.
Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for knowing me, understanding me, and providing for me a way of escape for every possible temptation.
He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature
What does the Bible specifically say about our nature? The Greek word for nature is used in this way only twice in the New Testament. Ephesians 2:1-3 described the nature we all shared before we came to Christ: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins . . . and were by nature children of wrath.” What was your basic nature before you were born again spiritually? You and every other Christian “were by nature children of wrath,” dead in sin, subject to Satan’s power, living completely to fulfill sinful lusts and desires. This is the condition of every unbeliever today.
The second occurrence of the word is in 2 Peter 1:4 describing our nature after we came to Christ: “He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature.”
When you came into spiritual union with God through your new birth, you didn’t add a new, divine nature to your old, sinful nature. You exchanged natures. Salvation isn’t just a matter of God forgiving your sins and issuing you a pass to heaven when you die. Salvation is regeneration. God changed you from darkness to light, from sinner to saint. There is a newness about you that wasn’t there before. If God hadn’t changed your identity at salvation, you would be stuck with your old identity until you died. How could you expect to grow to maturity if you didn’t start as a transformed child of God? Becoming a partaker of God’s nature is fundamental to a Christian’s identity and maturity.
We are no longer in Adam; we are in Christ. We can still choose to walk according to the flesh, but why should we want to? “You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9).
Prayer: Lord, may my understanding of who I am in Christ grow today so that I may walk in the victorious life You secured for me.
He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son
Perhaps you have heard the illustration of the two dogs. Some people say that we have two natures within us vying for control of our lives. They claim that our old sin nature, which we inherited from disobedient Adam, is like a big black dog. Our new nature, which we inherited through Christ’s redemptive work, is like a big white dog. These two dogs are bitter enemies, intent on destroying each other. Whenever you involve yourself in worldly thoughts or behavior, you are feeding the black dog. Whenever you focus your mind and activities on spiritual things, you are feeding the white dog. The dog you feed the most will eventually grow stronger and overpower the other.
This dramatic illustration may motivate Christians toward saintly behavior, but is it accurate based on who we really are in Christ? Since God “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13), can we still be in both kingdoms? When God declares that we are “not in the flesh but in the Spirit” (Romans 8:9), can we be in the flesh and in the Spirit simultaneously? When God says that “you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8), can you possibly be both light and darkness? When God states that “if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17), can we be partly new creature and partly old creature?
But be careful. Can a Christian sin? Of course! “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). But having sin and being sin are two completely different issues. When we choose to walk by the flesh we will sin, but, as 1 John 2:1 reminds us, we don’t have to: “My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin.”
We will spend the next few days exploring the scriptural bases for this truth.
Encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing
Jesus’ primary call to His disciples is seen in His words “Come to Me” (Matthew 11:28) and “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19). Mark records: “He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons” (Mark 3:14, 15). Notice that Jesus’ relationship with His disciples preceded His assignment to them. Discipleship is the intensely personal activity of two or more persons helping each other experience a growing relationship with God. Discipleship is being before doing, maturity before ministry, character before career.
Every Christian, including you, is both a disciple and a discipler in the context of his Christian relationships. You have the awesome privilege and responsibility both to be a teacher and a learner of what it means to be in Christ, walk in the spirit and live by faith. You may have a role in your family, church or Christian community which gives you specific responsibility for discipling others, such as husband/father, pastor, Sunday school teacher, discipleship group leader, etc. But even as an appointed discipler, you are never not a disciple who is learning and growing in Christ through your relationships. Conversely, you may not have an “official” responsibility to disciple anyone, but you are never not a discipler. You have the opportunity to help your children, your friend, and other believers grow in Christ through your caring and committed relationship with them.
Similarly, every Christian is both a counselor and counselee in the context of his Christian relationships. A good counselor should be a good discipler, and a good discipler should be a good counselor. Biblically, they are the same role. Your level of maturity may dictate that you do a lot of Christian counseling. But there will still be times when you need to seek or receive the counsel of other Christians. There will never be a day when we don’t need each other.
Prayer: Father, help me remember that I will never be so mature that I need not receive godly counsel from my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness
The Talmud , a collection of ancient rabbinic writings, relates the story of Rabbi Akiba, who was imprisoned. Rabbi Joshua brought him some water, but the guard spilled half of the container. There was too little water to both wash and drink, and Rabbi Akiba faced the possibility of death for lack of water if he chose to use the water for ceremonial washing. He reasoned, “He who eats with unwashed hands perpetuates a crime that ought to be punished by death. Better for me to die of thirst than to transgress the traditions of my ancestors!”
Jesus responded harshly to such reasoning: “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24). The Lord cautions that the weightier matters of the law (such as justice and mercy) are overlooked when attention focuses on strict observances of religious practices. This leads to a corresponding negligence of the eternal laws of God. Jesus told people to pay more attention to cleansing their hearts and not be like their leaders who cleanse only their hands.
The laws of God are liberating and protective. They are restrictive only when they protect us from the evil one. The rules of any institution should ensure the freedom of each individual to reach his or her God-given potential. They should serve as a guide so we don’t stray from our purpose, and they should protect us from those who abuse the system.
The principle that Jesus modeled could be stated as follows: If people are commanded to follow a traditional practice that makes life more difficult and no longer contributes to the purpose of the organization, then we must not participate as a matter of religious conscience. Jesus simply didn’t observe such traditions, and He defended His disciples for not observing them as well.
Prayer: Thank You for reminding me, Lord, that the law kills but the Spirit gives life. Help me walk in that freedom today.