of Leo and Donna Jansens
Life is a comprehensive study of the 3 main areas of Christian experience.
This material has come from adult classes taught by Leo Jansens at East
Kildonan Baptist Church in Winnipeg.
the christian life
Objective: To gain a better understanding of the new life we have through salvation in Jesus Christ so that we will:
- be led to a deeper worship of the Lord out of gratitude for His work in our lives
- have a deeper peace within ourselves as we understand more of the work that God has done and is doing in us
- have a greater assurance and deeper faith in God and his power to help us and keep us
- have a new awareness of the call of God in our life through the new life he has given us so that we will seek to serve Him more
- have a desire to live a holy life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ
- be more aware of the Holy Spirit's leading and more open to follow where and how He leads us
What is the Christian Life? How is it different from the non-Christian life?
The Christian Life is one in which a person responds to three calls God makes on his life:
A. SALVATION (Accepting)
The Christian Life is one in which a new life has begun in us - a new, spiritually alive creation that lives in us in place of the former spiritually dead person that we were before salvation. This transformation is called "regeneration" and the start of the new life is know as being "born again" (born, or made alive, spiritually along with the physical birth we have already experienced). Galatians 2:20 says:
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
2 Cor 5:17 says that we are a "new creation." Elsewhere in the New Testament there are references to the "old man" and the "new man", the old man being the former spiritually dead person as compared to the new, spiritually alive person (e.g. Eph. 4:22-24; Col 3:9-11; Romans 6:6; see also Gal 6:15).
Some have referred to the change from old to new as the exchanged life; others refer to living the crucified life. These are valuable concepts which we will look into.
Note that God's solution for man is not to try to reform the old person, but to create a new spiritually alive person.
1. How are we saved? Salvation is a work that God does; we can contribute no merit of our own. The Bible makes it clear that none of our attempts to be good or to appease God contribute in any way toward our salvation. (Eph 2:8-9). God opens our eyes to spiritual understanding (1 Cor 2:10-14) as we come into contact with the gospel message, whether through spoken word or through writing, and He works in us to convict us of our sin and our need of a Saviour (John 16:8-11). He has completely provided the way to be saved through faith in Jesus; we need only to repent of our sin and to accept his free gift of life (John 1:12) to appropriate all that God has for us. The chart below outlines the steps involved in a person coming to salvation and then describes what kind of things occur in the person's life following that decision.
2. Terms: There are a number of terms which are important to a good understanding of salvation. The following words with their meanings/implications are given below:
a. Total depravity refers to the fact that every part of man has been affected by sin and we therefore are under the condemnation of God (Romans 6:23). it is total depravity because it has affected every part of man, not that man cannot ever do anything good. We are affected by sin in several respects:
b. Grace is God's favour toward us, who by nature are in opposition to Him. Man is not deserving of God's kindness and favour, but God provides His salvation anyway - that is grace. Mercy is when God doesn't give us what we do deserve; grace is when God gives us what we don't deserve. Eph. 2:8 "By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…"After we are saved, God's grace (favour) continues to shine on us in many other ways such as in how he provides for us, for example. We are also said to be in a state of grace (Romans 6:14 - you are nor under law, but under grace.).
- personal sin - we are all guilty of disobeying God, living contrary to his requirements, falling short of his expectations.
- sinful nature - through the disobedience of Adam, mankind lost his original innocence and the human nature of Adam and all his descendants are characterized by sin. There is no one able to live a completely righteous life because, by nature, we are inclined to sin.
- confined under sin (Gal 3:22) - all of mankind is under sin, which is to say that we are all, from God's perspective, separated from him; we are in a condition of being spiritually dead, sometimes referred to as being "lost". This condition is ours whether we have personal sin or not. This came to us through our representative head of the human race, Adam, when he disobeyed God. As a result, we all face the consequence of sin which is death (Romans 6:23).
c. Faith is essentially believing that what God says is true. Abraham was commended for his faith because when God made him a promise, Abraham believed God. Faith is a stronger belief than just thinking something is true; it is being convinced, convicted, assured deeply in the inner person (Heb 11:1) so that one lives according to that belief. There is an inner commitment to the truthfulness of what one believes. This deep faith is the real kind of faith that opens the heart for God's saving work. It comes about through God's word (Romans 10:16). God has said that we are sinners in need of salvation; what faith is agreeing with what God has said and believing that God has provided the salvation we need, just as He has said. Only a mental belief in God is not a saving faith - even the devil believes in God.
d. Repentance means a change of heart and mind, a change of direction, a change of attitude. Before being saved, we all are following a path that is out of harmony with God. Sometimes the path is outright the path of the devil. More often it is a path of our own making where we are depending on ourselves to find success in this life and we live as "the captain of our own ship." Repentance means turning from following our own ways and any other way to following God's path. It is at the point of repentance that conversion/salvation occurs. Acts 3:19 "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."
e. Regeneration literally means to be re-born (based on Latin words). Jesus said that "unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). The word regeneration is used in Titus 3:5 "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit."
f. Propitiation refers to something, like an offering, which is made to appease or to satisfy. In heathen cultures, offerings are made to their gods in order to change the attitude of the god from anger to acceptance. Our God is not one we have to change as far as making him favourable to us. He already is favourable but we do need to satisfy his just requirement because our sin deserves punishment through death; God's wrath will be poured out on those who are not saved (Eph. 5:6). Christ's death was our sin offering which satisfies God's holiness, righteousness and justice so that God is free to act on behalf of us sinners who cannot otherwise approach God because of our sins. Verses referring to propitiation: 1 John 2:2, Romans 3:25, 1 John 4:10. In the OT propitiation is pictured as the High Priest sprinkled blood on the mercy seat once a year on the Day of Atonement to propitiate on behalf of the nation.
g. Substitution - We are deserving of death because of our sins. God, being a just God, is obligated to punish us for our sins. Christ voluntarily takes the punishment for us in our place; he is our substitute. Isa 53:4 predicted that Christ would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows, being wounded for our transgressions. In order to be a qualified substitute, Christ had to be a human, just as we are, and he had to be sinless. He tasted death for every man (Heb 2:9); the wrath of God for our sins was poured out on Jesus as he hung on the cross for you and me. He is our substitute.
h. Imputation means to set down to one's account. It is a bookkeeping concept. Our account with God is full of debts for our sin. On our account is death through Adam (Romans 5:12). Now, through the work of Christ, our sin is transferred to his account, and Christ's righteousness is credited to our account. (Romans 4:11, 22-24; 5:13; James 2:23)
i. Redemption pictures that we were purchased or redeemed from the slave market of sin so that we will be free of its bondage forever. Once Christ has purchased us, he frees us from the shackles of sin. Christ is our Redeemer; the role of a redeemer is pictured in the OT as Boaz redeems Ruth. Note that one slave cannot redeem another; the Redeemer must himself be free - Christ was free because He was without sin.
j. Reconciliation means to become adjusted to a specific standard. For example, we reconcile our chequebook to the bank statement; the bank statement is the standard. In the spiritual realm, God Himself is our standard and we have been "out of balance" and specifically out of relationship with Him. Through salvation, we are adjusted to God's standards (holiness, righteousness). Reconciliation also carries the idea of restoration of relationship, friendship, etc.; in our case, that relationship was broken through sin, even through the sin nature we have inherited, and it is through Christ that the relationship with Him is restored. Now we become messengers of this reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:20).
k. Justification refers to the divine pronouncement that the one who is in Christ is fully acceptable to God. It has been rightly described as being "just-as-if-I-have never sinned." This is because God cancels our sins through Christ's death, and then starts the new life in us which has the righteousness of Christ. When the Father looks at us, He sees as He sees Jesus, because we are "in Christ" (Eph 1:6). We are justified by his blood (Romans 3:24-26) through the instrument of faith.
l. Sanctification refers to being "set apart" by God to Himself. Although this setting apart happens already initially at the time of salvation (Heb 10:10), it is also an ongoing process whereby God conforms us more and more into the image of Jesus (2 Cor. 3:18). This purifying work comes through God's word (John 17:17). Finally, at the end of our life, we will be fully set apart from this world and its sin. The three types of sanctification are:
Positional sanctification - set apart to God at salvation
Experiential/Progressive sanctification - daily being set apart from sin and being conformed to God's character
Ultimate sanctification - set apart from this world to God's presence
m. Predestination refers to God predetermining that which is to come, and specifically refers to Him predetermining our eternal destiny. This doctrine is based on God's sovereignty (Kingship) over the universe and that He therefore can do whatever He pleases and decides/decrees. Another word used is that God foreordains what will happen in this world. As it pertains to salvation, the word election is used meaning that God chose those who would be saved. This is a Biblical teaching (Eph 1:4, 5, 11; Acts 2:23). God did his work of predestination/election in connection with His foreknowledge (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2). Does this mean that God knew in advance how each man would respond to the gospel message and then he decreed who would be saved and whom not on that basis? This is seen by some as limiting God's sovereignty so that His decree is at the whim of man's decision. They rather see that God's election and foreknowledge run together in harmony, foreknowledge meaning to them that God knew in advance what He would do with each man. This is the heart and core of the debate over Calvinism and Arminianism. Calvin was on the side of God's sovereignty with his Five Points of Calvinism (T-U-L-I-P):
Total depravity of man - as described above
Not everyone accepts all of his positions; those who do are known as "Five-point Calvinists" but there are many Two-point or Three-Point Calvinists as well. Arminius argued totally on the free-will of man side of the issue.
Unconditional election - not based on man's decision at all
Limited atonement - Christ died only for the elect
Irresistible Grace - those whom God elects cannot resist His will
Perseverance of the Saints - God keeps all His elect and they cannot be lost once they are saved
n. Security refers to the position that says that once a person is saved, he/she cannot later lose their salvation. This is in keeping with the Perseverance of the Saints as mentioned above. For the person who accepts the teachings of Calvin and the unconditional election of God's children, this is not an issue. For the person who sees their salvation (and election) based on a decision they needed to make, this does become a question as there are many verses which warn against "falling away" (Heb 6:6; 10:29; 2 Pet 1:10; 3:17; 1 Tim 4:1-3; Gal 5:4). The key question in this debate is on whom our salvation depends - on us or on God. Once a person is saved, they are "sealed" by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13) and are "kept" by Jesus in His hand (John 10:28-29). See also (Romans 8:31-39). The issues surrounding this question have a great deal to do with assurance of salvation. Can you be sure? Can you know that you will make it to heaven? See 1 John 5:11-13.
1. Verses against security - followed by the explanation by those in favour of security.
2. Verses for security, followed by an explanation of those against security.
- Matt. 18:23-35 - the servant who was forgiven but wouldn't forgive another had his own forgiveness revoked and faced punishment. Against says this pictures how the person who is saved (forgiven of sin) and does not live out his Christian life correctly could have his salvation taken away. For says that this parable was given to teach about forgiveness, not salvation.
- Matt. 24: 13 - he who endures to the end shall be saved. Against says that this verse shows that salvation is dependent on maintaining faith to the end. For says that this will be a time of apostasy/tribulation with few people of real faith; it is those who endure who show themselves to have real saving faith. A side note is that, for those who hold to a pre-tribulation rapture, this is referring to the tribulation period when the church is no longer here - Jesus was then speaking to the Jews through Matthew.
- 1 Tim 4:1 - in the last days, some will depart from the faith. Against says that this says people who were saved will leave off their faith. For says that this shows that in the last days more and more people will have departed from following the Christian faith, not referring to an individual who was saved and turns from his personal faith.
- 2 Pet 2:1, 20-22 - denying the Lord who bought them; it would have been better to have not known the way and then to turn from it. Against says that this refers to people who were saved ("bought", "knew the way") and turned from it. For says that all have been bought (1 John 2:2) and this doesn't mean they were personally saved; they could come to knowledge of the way of salvation and not accept it, but turn from it instead.
- Heb 6:4-9 - if those who were enlightened, having tasted the heavenly gift, having partaken of the Holy Spirit fall away, they can not be renewed in repentance. Against says that these must be saved Christians falling away as they even had received the Holy Spirit. For says that these were warnings to keep people faithful in difficult times. However, if any would fall away, they would not have been saved, but merely have been led close to the point of salvation. At that point they would have been enlightened in understanding and the Holy Spirit would have been at work on them; it doesn't mean that they were saved.
- Heb 10:26-39 - talks of those sinning willfully once having receive knowledge of the truth, not valuing the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified. They have need of endurance; they should not be of those who draw back to perdition but of those who believe to salvation. Against says that these verses must be referring to a Christian (sanctified by the blood) and talk about the possibility of drawing back to perdition and judgement. For says that these were warning verses to encourage Jews who were led toward belief to commit themselves fully to belief and salvation rather that drawing back from it due to persecution etc. Those so led were sanctfied in the sense that Christ died for all.
- Gal 5:4 - you have fallen from grace. Against says they have lost their salvation. For says that they have reverted to seeking merit through keeping the law rather than living in grace; still saved but going about their Christian life wrong which estranges them from Christ (fellowship marred, still saved).
o. Baptism of the Holy Spirit - we are joined into the body of Christ through the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:13). From the context, it is clear that this is referring to the time of salvation when we receive the Holy Spirit and become part of the church universal. Note that the Holy Spirit is present from the beginning (Romans 8:9-11). After that we are instructed to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18 which uses a continuous form verb which says literally "keep on being filled"). This is not a second experience subsequent to salvation, but an ongoing experience after salvation. It is true that there will be times of crisis and rededication and there often is a point where the claims of Christ's Lordship are recognized by a new believer and he/she may have a significant spiritual experience. However, to then teach that all must have this "second blessing" and call it the "Baptism of the Spirit" as some do is not correct. This wrong teaching often includes that the person must speak in tongues as the evidence of the "baptism" which is also not correct for Scripture says that not all will speak in tongues (1 Cor 12:30).
- Unconditionality of salvation - John 3:16; 5:24; 6:37 For says that these verses do not include condition such as "if you believe and endure, but simply that one believes and is saved. Against says that you have to put all the verses together to get the full picture, not building a doctrine on one generalized verse.
- Power of God to keep - John 10:29, Romans 8:31, 38-39; 2 Tim. 1:12, Heb 7:25 - For says that God will not allow any to take His salvation from those who are his, and is able to save to the fullest extent. Against says that, even though no one else can take one's salvation away, the person himself who had the option to receive it in the first place, also has the option to later reject it and so lose it.
- Jesus Request - John 17:9-12,20; Rom. 8:34; 1 John 2:1, Heb 7:23-25 - For says that we will be kept because Jesus prayed to the Father to keep us and still lives now making intercession and advocating for us to the Father. Against says that even though it is Jesus' desire and prayer that we will be preserved/kept, it still depends on our faith to the end, not willfully rejecting God.
- Child of God - John 1:12-13, Romans 8:15-16. For says that we have become God's children and therefore cannot be undone. No one can lose their place as one of a family's children, even if they die; so we cannot lose our place as a child of God once we are in His family. Against says our citizenship/family status is dependent on our perseverance to the end, even as it says in Romans 8:16 "if indeed we suffer with Him.
- Belonging to God - 1 Cor 6:19 - For says that we were bought by God and therefore not our own. Like a slave redeemed from the market, our master determines our future; once we were saved (bought), our future has been set as heaven. Against says that the point of this verse is that Christians cannot just live however they like but should honour God with their bodies since the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The verse isn't discussing whether the Holy Spirit could be removed from the temple when the Christian rejects God.
- Sealing by the Holy Spirit - Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30 - For says that we were sealed, this being the guarantee of our inheritance. Against - this sealing and down payment pictures a contract wherein the person believes and God pledges "performance". If they later reject God, the "contract" is breached and the person loses their reward.
Comparison of Positions on Baptism of the Holy Spirit
There are basically three positions on this topic:
Arguments for and against the three positions:
- The baptism is the work of the HS in placing us into the body of Christ which occurs at the time of salvation. After that, we need to experience repeated fillings of the Holy Spirit, but not a specific second experience. Tongues experiences, whether considered valid or invalid for the Christian are unrelated to this understanding of "baptism of the Holy Spirit" based on 1 Cor 12:30. The reference to the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:5 (cf. Luke 3:16) which seems to refer more to being overflowed by the Holy Spirit (as in Acts 2) still is understood to be the initial reception of the Holy Spirit, not a second experience. John 20:22 is understood as looking forward to the same event in Acts 2.
- The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an anointing which Christians receive to empower them for service in the same sense that the Holy Spirit "came upon" followers of the Lord in Old Testament times (e.g. Moses, Joshua, Samson, Saul, etc.). Jesus is also an example (Acts 10:38). In this case, John 20:22 may be understood as the time the disciples received the Holy Spirit, and Acts 2 is the anointing of power to serve the Lord (Luke 24:49). It is usually understood as a "second blessing" from which time the Lord moves more powerfully through the person. DL Moody understood it this way and experienced a definite change midway in his ministry after the Lord met him in a special way. R.A. Torrey encouraged people to "seek the baptism." They did not connect the anointing/baptism with speaking in tongues.
- The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an experience in the Christian life subsequent to salvation when the person receives the Holy Spirit in his fullness, and the evidence that this has happened is that the person will speak in tongues as they did in Acts 2. This is the teaching of the Pentecostal Churches as well as the Charismatic Movement and the Full-Gospel Businessmen's Association.
The problem with position one is that it does not seem to give credence to many great men/women of God who have had a significant experience with God through the work of the Holy Spirit and who have then had a different, more blessed, ministry. It also does not seem to answer those who have had an experience as described in position 3. The answer by those holding position one is that we should have many experiences with the Holy Spirit throughout our Christian life, not just focusing on a particular one. We need to be empowered again and again (continually being filled - Eph 5:18). A tongues experience is one many people have had both inside and outside of Christian circles, and therefore cannot be seen as the evidence of spirit baptism. Position one says that the Christian should not be seeking to "get this or that experience" but focusing on being more yielded to the Lord so that the Spirit will not be hindered in flowing through us.
The problem with position two is that is attempts to make a doctrine out of an experience. Our doctrines should be based on biblical teaching, not on someone's experience. That is not to invalidate an experience, but to say that it is not correct to insist that all others must also have the same experience. As well, the biblical examples used to back position two are from the time of the Old Covenant (even Jesus lived in that area), or in the time of transition in Acts. As part of the New Covenant now, the Holy Spirit indwells us from salvation and our experience will be different than under the Old Covenant (we are now in the Church Age). The answer by position two is that their experience is not inconsistent with the examples of Scripture, and that God has not changed.
There are a number of problems associated with position 3, some of them mentioned above. Overall, the main problem is that the focus has shifted from Christ and salvation to the experiencing of phenomena resulting in instability in the Christian life. The answer of position 3 is that God is moving in new ways as we approach the end of the age as predicted in Scripture (Joel 2:28 cf. Acts 2:17-21); this is "new wine" and we should not quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19).
In conclusion, we need to search the Scriptures personally and prayerfully to determine what the truth is (Acts 17:11). As may be seen from the above, anyone can put forward a teaching and back it with Scripture. All three positions above can be taught with verses to "prove them" and examples to illustrate them. It takes a discerning mind to separate the truth form the error, and for that we need the help of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:10-14). The cults are filled with people who have heard teachings backed with Scriptures; usually these were accepted and believed without prayerful, discerning study.
Further, we do well to love one another in the body of Christ, even those who think different than we do on non-essential matters. Essential matters are those which involve salvation. Issues such as the one above are not "essential" - whether you hold one or the other position, you are saved through Christ and that is most important. Jesus desires love and unity more than doctrinal precision.
B. CONSECRATION (Yielding)
We have spent a lot of time on the foundation of our Christian life - the doctrinal truths about our salvation. We need to have a good grasp of these foundational truths to build on, but from there we need to see the practical outworking of the implications in our lives. This practical aspect is the direction we will be going next. It involves our consecration to the Lord in light of what He has done for us.
As a beginning point, I am going to use the outline of Watchman Nee's book "Sit, Walk, Stand" as my outline. This book discusses the three main relationships we have in our life as Christians under these headings:
- our relationship with God
- our relationship with those around us
- our relationship with the enemy
The basic position of a Christian is that he is "in Christ". This identification with Christ means, essentially, that when Christ died on the cross 2000 years ago, we died at that time too because we were "in Him". When he rose, we did too, and when he ascended to heaven, we did too so that we, in Christ, are seated with him in the heavenlies (Eph 2:6). In Christ, we have so much:
All these things are ours now - we do not have to strive to get them, to earn them. They are accomplished blessings right now, because we are in Christ. What we need to do is to accept them as ours, as completed facts, and REST. What does God think of us when we try to achieve any of these things, to reach the point of attaining these when He has already provided them for us? Our relationship with God is a finished work. By faith, at salvation, we become one of those in Christ, and from then on, as far as our relationship with God is concerned we can be seated - rest. (Cf. Matt. 11:28-30; Heb 4:3). John writes about the same thing when he tells us to "abide in Christ" (John 15:4-8).
- every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3)
- chosen in Him before time/creation (1:4)
- adopted as sons (1:4)
- accepted [by God] (1:6)
- redeemed/forgiven (1:7)
- knowledge of His will (1:9)
- an inheritance (1:11)
- the sealing of the Holy Spirit (1:13)
- made alive (2:1,5)
- raised, seated in the heavenlies (2:6)
- no condemnation (Romans 8:1)
At the beginning of this series, we talked about the Old Man and the New Man. The Old Man is our old self prior to salvation. The Old Man did try to find acceptance with God and achieve the favour of God, usually through works. Once we are in Christ, we are no longer the Old Man but a new creation (2 Cor 5:17) - the New Man. It is as the New Man that we can rest. The Old Man cannot rest for it can never achieve peace with God. In fact, it died through our salvation and the New Man took its place. (Gal 2:20). As a regenerated Christian, we may find the Old Man still "hanging around" as the pull is there to revert back to old ways. Formerly we did not have the strength to resist some of those ways, but in Christ we now do. The way we must handle the temptations is to live in the New Man - this is done by "reckoning" the Old Man as dead (Rom 6:11-13) and yielding ourselves to the Lord for righteousness. Our action is to yield and let the Lord live out His life in us and through us. We do this on the basis of the finished work of Christ.
In view of what God has done for us, He now asks us to live out our life accordingly. This outworking is our conduct or our walk, as Paul refers to it. Our walk is supposed to be as follows:
The walk, however, is not our striving, or should not be anyway. It must be the life of Christ being lived out through us ("according to the power that works in us" Eph 3:20). This is the secret of the Christian life. Paul writes, "Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal 3:3). In effect, it would be like us trying to live out the Christian life in the Old Man (the "flesh" or "carnal nature"); this is impossible because the Old Man is dead. There cannot be spiritual fruit from the Old Man. Spiritual fruit comes only from letting the Holy Spirit live through us (John 15:5,8,16). That is why, in the middle of his "walk" section in Ephesians Paul says that we need to "be filled with the Spirit" (Eph 5:18).
- worthy of our calling (Eph 4:1)
- with humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance (4:2)
- endeavouring for unity and peace (4:3)
- not lying; speaking truth (4:25)
- not stealing; working and giving (4:28)
- not speaking corruptly; speaking with grace (4:29)
- being kind, tender, forgiving (4:32)
- walking in love (5:2)
- walk as children of light (5:8)
- walk circumspectly (5:15)
- wives submitting to husbands (5:22)
- husbands loving/cherishing their wives (5:29)
- children obeying parents (6:1)
- parents not provoking children (6:4)
- servants (employees) obeying bosses; serving cheerfully (6:5)
- employers treating employees well (6:9)
"Abide in Christ, and our position there ensures the power to walk worthy of Him here." (W.Nee).
As a child of God, and a citizen of His kingdom, we will find ourselves on the other side of a great spiritual battle. Before our salvation we were aligned with the devil because he is opposed to God, His plan, and his works. At salvation, we were redeemed (i.e. bought) by Christ and are now aligned with him. As a result, the devil is now against us and will seek to undo us in every way he can. We are called upon to withstand him - Eph. 6:13-18:
Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to
Withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore.."
having all the pieces of the armour of God in place…
The picture here is that we have a kingdom and its territory to defend. We do not have to conquer new ground - it has been conquered by the Lord - He is victorious already through the Cross; we need to stand based on what he has already done to defend against the enemy who is attacking us. The command is to stand, not to march. All the weapons above are defensive weapons. We do not have to try to overcome the enemy - that is already done. We stand in the victory that Christ has won (Col 2:15 "Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them triumphing over them in it.")
- preparation of the gospel
- Word of God
…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being
Sit, Walk, Stand - all three of these are rooted in the work of Christ, not our own work. It becomes clear that the Practical Christian Life is not one of our own doing, but rather one of letting God do His work through us. It is to the extent that we learn and practice this that our life will be truly spiritual and fruitful to the glory of God.
4. THE SELF-LIFE
The essence of the above is that, in reality, the greatest difficulty to growth in our Christian life is actually ourself. There is a daily battle that goes on within us where, our old nature (the "self-life") tries to resurrect itself and take charge. Old habits, natural responses, reliance on our own abilities, etc. become the modus operandi for our day. In opposition to this, the new man under the control and direction of the Holy Spirit desires to respond to life by letting the Lord's power and strength flow through us. This means "letting go" and "letting God" live through us. This is the common, regular struggle of the average Christian.
Traits of the Self-Life (taken from a Western Tract Mission tract)
- A SPIRIT OF PRIDE - an exalted feeling over other people because of some success or promotion, because of your excellent training and natural abilities, because of your good looks and personality. A spirit which loves human praise, a longing to be noticed, love of supremacy, a tendency to draw attention to oneself in conversation.
- AN INDEPENDENT ATTITUDE - an attitude which says "if you won't help me, I'll do it myself!" and then complains and feels hurt when no one notices the sacrifice.
- AN IMPATIENT DISPOSITION - impatience which you feel is justified when others foil you good plans; a touchy spirit when someone doesn't say what you expected them to say; a spirit of resentment and retaliation when someone disapproves of your actions or contradicts what you have said; a desire to use barbed words toput yourself back in the proper light.
- A SPIRIT OF SELF-WILL - a stubborn, unteachable attitude; a spirit that is slef-sufficient, knows everything and is insensitive to those around; and argumentative spirit, even without factual basis; harsh, sarcastic expressions when talking about others; a driving, commanding spirit which whips God's people into service rather than leading them; a disposition to criticize and pick out falws when you are set aside and left unnoticed.
- A SPIRIT OF FEAR - fear of man; shrinking from the possibility of ridicule and responsibility; a fear of embarrassment before someone you respect; a shrinking from ministering freely to those who are rich and hold public office.
- A JEALOUS DISPOSITION - a spirit of envy; bitterness when others have success; a tendency to speak of the faults and failures of those more talented and used than yourself.
- A SPIRIT OF DISHONESTY - evading and covering up the truth; hiding of your real needs; creating a better impression of yourself that what is actually true; false humility; exaggeration.
- AN UNBELIEVING ATTITUDE - a lack of confidence in God's timing; a disposition to worry and complain about problems; lack of faith and trust in God's dealings; worry.
- A SPIRIT OF FORMALITY - lack of concern for unsaved neighbours; dryness in devotional life; lack of power in prayer.
Dealing with the Self-Life
- Daily acknowledgement of our union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection (Romans 6) and that we have been set free from the power of sin through Christ.
- Daily asking the Holy Spirit to renew the spirit of our mind so that our patterns of thinking will be changed (Romans 12).
- Daily being refilled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18). D.L. Moody said it well: "We are leaky vessels and we need to stay under the fountain all the time."
- Daily realizing that the blood of Christ keeps on cleansing us from sin; we need to confess and receive His cleansing (1 John 1:9).
5. THE SPIRIT-FILLED LIFE (as per Bill Bright of Campus Crusade's Blue Book)
Oh, to be saved from myself, dear Lord,
Oh, to be lost in Thee!
Oh, that it might be no more "I"
But Christ who lives in me.
What is personal revival? It is moving from the "carnal life" to the "spiritual life" as illustrated in the circle diagrams in the blue book. It means getting ourself of the throne of our life and having Christ on the throne.
6. THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST
One day everyone will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:10). What does "Lord" mean? It is based on the Greek word kurios and the Hebrew word adonai, meaning master or ruler. The early church had "Jesus is Lord" as one of its earliest affirmations. If Jesus is Lord, what does it make us? We are his servants. For Jesus to have mastership, rule in our life, we need to surrender our will to his.
If we use the illustration of a house representing our life, salvation it is like giving Christ the front door key to let him come in to live in our house. However, we may still have retained the keys to many of the interior rooms in our house. A full surrender to the Lordship of Christ means turning over the "keys" to all areas of our life.
Some one was struggling with the call of God on his life - he felt the Lord asking him to serve Him in some particular place or way and was not wanting to go. In consulting with his pastor, he explained how he felt. The pastor understood, saying to him that in effect he was trying to say "No, Lord!" However, that statement in itself is a contradiction. He wrote the two words on a paper and asked the person to go to another room and cross out one of the words as the two could not truthfully stand together. The person did so and eventually crossed out the "No" leaving the word "Lord".
To live out the Christian life, we need to be under the lordship/rule of Jesus Christ. When we are, we will also be experiencing the free work of the Holy Spirit as He fills us (controls us).
C. SERVICE (Giving)
As mentioned at the outset, as a Christian, we need to respond to three calls God makes upon us: salvation, consecration and service. We have dealt with the first two - now we come to service, which is essentially the giving of ourselves to God and others. This progression is seen in the outline of the book of Romans:
Salvation and the Jews
...moves us toward service
Romans 12:2 talks about knowing God's will through the renewing of our mind. How is this done? Proverbs 3:5,6 - by not leaning on our own understanding, and acknowledging God as our master instead. As we turn from ourselves and seek Him, we will come to understand His will (cf. John 7:17).
- involves knowing God's will (12:2-3)
- involves using our spiritual giftedness (12:4-8)
1. Knowing God's Will
The term "will of God" is used in the Scriptures, but basically in two senses:
When we talk about finding God's will for our life, we are talking in terms of finding His desired will for us - we cannot know his determined will. We need to be aware of the two ways the term is used in Scripture in order to understand the passages correctly.
God's Determined/Decreed Will (Sovereign Will) - involves God's Sovereignty and predestination whereby God declares the end from the beginning. From the beginning of time, God predetermined all of history which includes the fact that man would sin and that a Saviour would be needed. God provided for that salvation in Christ from the beginning: "He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world." (1 Pet 1: 20).
Eph. 1:11 refers to this aspect as God working all things according to the counsel of His will (that is His master plan). This predetermined plan includes both good and evil; this is different from the second meaning.
God's Desired Will - is what God would like to have happen. This involves aspects such as that we should live righteously, in obedience to God, with love toward our neighbours, and can involve whether we should do this or that. If we do wrong and sin, that is contrary to God's desired will, but will be part of God's determined or decreed will because it includes all that will happen throughout time.
God's Desired Will also involves two aspects:
How to Find God's Will - There have been many models/suggestions as to how to find God's will for your life. They range from "Bible-dipping" (opening your Bible at random and seeing which verse your finger lands on) to complex systems of evaluating all the factors/options involved in a particular decision. However, there are a few commonalities involved:
- Revealed Will (Moral Will) - God has revealed principles for us in the Scriptures. We need to study the Scriptures so that we can be instructed in God's ways and become wise. In many cases, decisions we encounter can become clear simply by applying the direct Scriptural principal that address the issue.
- Not Revealed (Individual Will) - We also encounter decisions where there are no direct Scriptural instructions for us. The decision is not between right and wrong, but between a number of right possibilities. What does God desire for us then? Does God have a preference? Some say that he doesn't (e.g. Gary Friesen in his book Decision Making and the Will of God), as long as the options are in harmony with God's revealed principles. Most do think that God wants to be involved in these details of our lives by helping us find our way through the decisions we face.
There are at least four main models I am familiar with for determining God's will.
- There is a situation where there are options/various possibilities, all of which may not be in conflict with Scriptural teachings/principles.
- We want to know what God's preference is so as to make the best choice.
- By some means we seek to be assured that God is directing us to do this or that.
- We will finally need to make the decision, or we will wait until others or circumstances make the decision for us.
A. Classic Model - God will confirm his will to us when the following areas "line up" and agree in a particular situation:
Just as a pilot on a ship can bring a ship safely into harbour by "lining up" the channel guide lights, so the Christian can steer a safe course by lining up these three factors in a specific situation.
An expansion of this may be to consider additional factors:
1. External Factors
2. Internal Factors
- Counsel of Others
- Common Sense
- Compulsion (prompting of the Holy Spirit)
- Contentment (inner peace from God)
Cautions in using this model are to not confuse inner emotions with the leading of the Spirit (emotions come and go), to not overemphasize the circumstantial factor as God can change/overcome them, and to select your counsel carefully as the counsel of one can contradict the counsel of another.
B. Mueller Model - George Mueller of Bristol has often been looked up to as a spiritual giant (we must remember that he was human too, with faults), and he had the following model for finding God's will:
C. Listening to God Model - This model says that God's voice will guide you as you draw near to Him by deeper, surrendered, contemplative, listening prayer. Most of the time, we Christians tend to spend our prayer times telling God what our will is, rather than asking Him what His will is for us. The deeper, listening type prayer is imbedded in a meditative worship of God, whereby we think about God, express our worship to him, and become quiet before him, adoring him from the deepest part of our heart. Being quiet like this in the presence of the Lord creates a context in which God can speak to our heart by the still inner voice. As we recognize His voice and obey Him, we will be directed by Him as to what we should do.
- I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter.
- Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If I do so, I make myself liable to great delusions.
- I seek the will of the Spirit through, or in connection with, the Word of God.
- Next I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God's will in connection with His Word and Spirit.
- I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me aright.
- Thus, through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgement according to the best of my ability and knowledge.
This model is based on Scriptures such as:
D. Wisdom Model - This model suggests that God is not concerned about the day to day details of our lives. He has given us a free will to make decisions. He has given us the Word of God to instruct us. We may pray for wisdom and by His Spirit He will make us wise and better able to make sound decisions. Whether we serve the Lord in this way or that, in this place or that, is not the issue - the issue is that we are serving the Lord and that our heart is pure toward Him. (This view best described by Gary Friesen in Decision Making and the Will of God). Some have found this model very freeing; others have found it troubling, as if God doesn't care about out day-to-day needs.
John 10:27 - My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me.
It can also be somewhat mystical or experientially based. One should be careful to not become so subjective or led by impressions that one moves away from the solid foundation of God's Word.
Isa 30:21 - Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it."
There are merits to each of the above models, and many similarities between them. In the end, to know God's will, we must go to Him. God does answer prayer and he can help us when we ask Him to do so (James 4:2 "you do not have because you do not ask.") The more we are surrendered to God, the more He will transform us, and we will more and more find out God's will (Romans 12:2).
3. Spiritual Gifts
There are several passages in the New Testament that speak about spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are God-given abilities which the Holy Spirit gives to each believer. This happens at the time of salvation. These are the passages that describe the spiritual gifts:
Why were the various gifts given to believers? Eph 4:12 "…for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." 1 Cor 12:7 "…the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all." God intends us to minister to one another in love (that is to be one another's servants). Each of us have unique ways that we can serve on another, based in part on the unique gifting that God has given us. Our service should not be restricted to those areas where we are particularly strong, but we do have a responsibility to use those special gifts God has given us - it is God's intention for us to do so:
"Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them… (Romans 12:6).
"As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10)
Since these gifts are entrusted to us as stewards, the accountability is there: "it is required in stewards that one be found faithful." (1 Cor 4:2). One area in which we will be evaluated in the judgement before the Lord will be how faithful we were in the use/development of our gifts (as in parable of talents Matt 25:14-30.)
Points to consider in relation to spiritual gifts:
The Sign Gifts
- Spiritual gifts are different from natural abilities which we may have as non-Christians also have them. Spiritual gifts involve the special working of the Holy Spirit through us, so are distinctive on that account.
- Spiritual gifts make it possible to accomplish something beyond normal human ability because it is God doing it.
- Having a spiritual gift does not mean that we are free of sin.
- Gifts are to be used with humility and love, not pride.
- Identifying spiritual giftedness in an area does not exempt us from ministering in other areas. Some approach spiritual gifts as the way to find out where to serve to the exclusion of all other things. That was not God's intention.
- Using our giftedness will bless us, but more importantly, will bless others as God works through us to encourage, strengthen and develop others.
There are a number of gifts in the lists that are referred to as sign gifts (as opposed to speaking gifts or serving gifts. This distinction comes from 1 Cor 14 where the discussion centers around the greater value of prophecy rather than tongues because prophecy edifies (builds up) the church (vs 4), but tongues are for a sign (vs 22). The so-called sign gifts are:
Tongues, Interpretation, Healing, Miracles
Some people (many baptists) argue that the sign gifts are no longer operative today based on 1 Cor 13:8 - "where there are tongues, they will cease." Note that this section doesn't specify when they will cease and it is not a well-founded conclusion based just on that one verse. However, there are many problems related to use/abuse/misunderstandings, etc concerning the sign gifts, for which reason many conservative Christians tend to shy away from considering them as valid today. My personal position is that I will not deny the possibility that some of these gifts are real and from the Lord. I doubt that all the claims concerning them are valid. Because of the pitfalls associated, I do not seek them or emphasize them. I believe it is more important to focus on those gifts that do involve ministry to other believers and the building up of the church - this was Paul's point in 1 Cor 14.
How to Discover Your Spiritual Gift(s)
There are many good books written on the topic - check the church library. Some basic points to help in the process:
- What are my deeper desires within for ministry?
- What do I see developing in myself in terms of my service to others?
- What do others see in me?
- Pray for God's help to understand your gifts and how to use them.
- Learn by trying. Success and failure too can help us to find our gifts.
| pen and paper