Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Shield of Faith

We are struggling with the belief aspect of our growth, because we are still struggling with the belief aspect of our growth: who we are in Christ. With the helmet of salvation firmly on, we see ourselves for who we really are, it is imperative to our growth and maturity in our ministry of reconciliation.

God’s basic goal for our life is character development, but there certainly are a lot of distractions, diversions, disappointments, trials and traumas which come along to disrupt the process. Paul reminds us that the tribulations we face are actually a means of achieving our supreme goal of maturity.

People tend to look for quick-fix solutions to difficult situations, but God’s plan is for us to hang in there and grow up. We need occasional mountaintop experiences, but the fertile soil for growth is always down in the valleys of tribulation, not on the mountaintops.

When we stop believing that God is in control; that he is working everything out for our good; that whatever happens is for the ultimate best of everyone involved, however little it seems to be that way. The more time and energy we invest in contemplating our own plans on how to live our life, the less time and energy we have to seek God’s plan for our ministry of reconciliation.

When our faith in God’s omnipotence and care is strong, it is impossible for Satan and his forces to break through our shield of faith and land an attack. Satan and his forces are actively involved in trying to distract us by peppering our mind with their thoughts and ideas.

The first thing we need to understand about the battle for our mind, the main targets which must be destroyed, are the strongholds. Strongholds are negative patterns of thought, which are burned into our minds either through repetition over time or through one-time traumatic experiences.

Before we were born anew, all our stimulation came from the environment of this hostile world. Every day we lived in this environment we were influenced by it and preconditioned to conform to it. The worldly stimulation we were exposed to was both brief and prevailing.

Brief stimulation includes individual events, situations, places and personal encounters we experienced. We were influenced by books, movies, music and traumatic events we experienced or witnessed. We learned a way to cope with these experiences and resolve the conflicts they produced.

Prevailing stimulation consists of long-term exposure to our environment, the influence of our family and friends, our neighborhood or our jobs. We developed a philosophy about how to survive, cope and succeed in this world apart from God. Once a stronghold of thought and response is entrenched in our mind, our ability to choose and act contrary to that pattern is virtually nonexistent.

That is why Paul insists that we be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Strongholds in our mind are the result of conditioning; we can be reconditioned by the renewing of our mind, anything that has been learned can be unlearned. 

Satan and his forces have no power over us except what we give them by failing to take every thought captive and thus being deceived into believing their lies. If Satan and his forces can get us to believe a lie, they can control our life. If we fail to take a thought captive to the obedience of Christ, but believe it, they will control us.

Since Satan and his forces primary weapon is the lie, our defense against them is the truth. Dealing with Satan and his forces is not a power encounter; it is a truth encounter. Satan and his forces know just what buttons to push to tempt us.

They have observed our behavior over the years and they know where we are vulnerable, and that is where they will attack. Our temptations will be unique to our area of vulnerability. The moment we are tempted, we are at the threshold of a decision, and if we do not immediately choose to take that thought captive, we will begin to consider it as an option.

If we begin to mull it over in our mind, immediately our emotions will be affected and the likelihood of yielding to that temptation is increased. We need to take every thought captive by practicing first-frame thinking, evaluate every thought by the truth and do not give place to the lie. 

Our emotions play a major role in the process of renewing our mind, our emotions reveal our perceptions and here is where the shield of faith comes into play. Our emotions are a product of our thought life, and if we are not thinking right, if our mind is not being renewed, if we are not perceiving God and his word properly, it will show up in our emotional life.

If we fail to acknowledge our emotions, we may make ourselves a slow-moving target for Satan and his forces. We are not shaped as much by our environment as we are by our perception of our environment. Life’s events do not determine who we are; God has determined who we are, and our interpretation of life’s events determines how well we will handle the pressures of life.

In reality, we have very little control over our emotions, but we do have control over our thoughts, and our thoughts determine our feelings and our responses. If what we believe does not reflect truth, then what we feel does not reflect reality. When we believe what we feel instead of the truth, how will our ministry of reconciliation be? As inconsistent as our feelings.

The important process of renewing our mind includes managing our emotions by managing our thoughts and perceptions. Satan and his forces are always hurling their fiery darts of fear, doubt and worry in our direction, but the only time they can hit us is when we let our shield of faith down.

A shield deflects; it keeps the darts of the enemy away from our mind, the shield moves with the attack. When we allow doubt to creep in, an actively raised shield of faith prevents this otherwise inhibiting fatigue, so the shield is the first line of defense, the enemy has to get past the shield first. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Helmet of Salvation

The only ones who can take up any piece of God’s armor, and the only ones who are involved in this struggle against Satan and his forces, are those who have been placed into Christ. The fact that the helmet is related to salvation indicates that their blows are directed at the believer’s security and assurance of being placed into Christ.

This helmet covers our mind, intellect or reasoning. The two dangerous edges of Satan and his forces broadsword are discouragement and doubt. We did not receive our righteous standing before God by the things we have done in the past that we might consider to be righteous.

We certainly do not maintain it by the things we continue to do or what we promise God that we will do that we might consider to be righteous. Our justification was something accomplished for us by God’s grace. God has already set everyone in Christ apart as holy.

Everyone who is in Christ stands perfectly righteous or perfectly holy, justified according to God’s gift declaration of righteousness. We that believed Paul’s gospel, we have the very righteousness of Jesus Christ himself credited to our account. Our being set apart is not contingent upon the degree to which we set ourselves apart. 

We can become vulnerable to Satan and his forces deception in this area if we fail to daily put on this helmet of salvation. They are committed to fouling up our life through their deception that nothing really happened when we were born anew.

They may disrupt our daily victory, but they can do nothing to disrupt our new identity in Christ. However, if they can get us to believe that we are not in Christ, we will live as though we are not in Christ, even though we are secure in him.

Religion is Satan’s invention and many people involved in religion’s domain are dealing with God on the basis of probation, rather than salvation. Then God must make a decision in their minds, whether or not to save that individual.

If they will simply dedicate themselves to no longer sin, that is the idea promoted by Satan’s ministers of righteousness, their suitability for heaven depends upon their turning away from all of their sins. God testing over and over again the validity of that dedication, then God will knew if they are truly devoted to him, then God will be able to finally make a decision as to whether or not they are heaven worthy.

Then there are people who believe that God’s grace as it relates to salvation is something that has to be tapped into, new sins requiring new grace and new forgiveness. Satan’s purpose in this age of grace is to confuse Paul’s gospel with a gospel so nearly to it.

We can be sure that confusion concerning that gospel through the use of a counterfeit gospel; a gospel that looks so much like Paul’s gospel that we would not know the difference, if we did not clearly know Paul’s gospel, will be Satan and his forces focus in this age of grace. 

Putting this helmet on daily is important, God has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation, to tell the world God is not imputing their trespasses unto them; so we see the world still thinks he is. This ministry of reconciliation is not to the saved, we know we are reconciled, but now all have access to God, a change in status for the entire world.

Does this mean the entire world is save? No. We have to have an individual change of status and that takes place when we accept what God’s son accomplished for us. The issue with God is what his son accomplished, not sin. What is the world going to believe about what God’s son accomplished, or do they still think God is counting those sins against them and God is coming back to haunt them at some point in time.

We need to put that helmet of salvation on daily, because when Paul talks about a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new, he is not talking about sin in an individual’s life, he is talking about the identity we once were in Adam prior to salvation. We have a new identity in the second Adam, God has sealed us in Christ. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Impossible! I'm of the body of Christ.

If Satan cannot touch the body of Christ, then why did Paul instruct us to put on the armor of God, to resist the devil, to stand firm, and to be alert? If we are not susceptible to being wounded or trapped by Satan, why does Paul describe our relationship to the powers of darkness as a wrestling match?

Those who deny the enemy’s potential for destruction are the most vulnerable to it. Even though our eternal destiny is secure and the armor of God is readily available, we are still vulnerable to Satan’s accusations and temptations. If we give into these, we can be influenced by Satan, and if we remain under his influence long enough, we can lose control, if we fail to stand against him.

Ownership is never at stake, Satan cannot touch our new identity, but as long as we are living in this fleshly body, we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable targets to all Satan’s fiery darts. How do you think Satan carries on his worldwide ministry of evil and deception?

He is a created being; he is not omnipresent, omniscient, or omnipotent. He cannot be everywhere in the world tempting and deceiving millions of people at the same moment. He does so through an army of emissaries “fallen angels called evil spirits” who propagate his plan of rebellion around the world.

The Bible does not attempt to prove the existence of evil spirits any more than it attempts to prove the existence of God, it simply reports on their activities. If these evil spirits can get us to listen to the thoughts, they plant in our mind, they can influence us, and if we allow them to influence us long enough through temptation and accusation, they can control our ability to carry out our ministry of reconciliation.

Bad habits and sinful thought patterns were established when we learned to live our life independently of God before we were born anew. Our environment taught us to think about and respond to life, and those patterns and responses were ingrained in our mind as strongholds.

These evil spirits perpetual aim is to infiltrate our thoughts with their thoughts; they know if they can control our thoughts, they can control our behavior. They can introduce their thoughts, tempting us to act independently of our ministry of reconciliation, as if they were our own thoughts or even God’s thoughts.

These evil spirits can put thoughts in our mind even as Satan did with David (1 Chronicles 21:1). If we do not conquer their tempting thoughts right at the threshold of our mind, we will begin to mull their thought over, consider them an option, and eventually choose to act them out.

Repeated acts form a habit, and if we exercise a sinful habit long enough, a stronghold will be established in our mind. Once a stronghold is established, we can lose the ability to control our behavior in that area. Next to temptation, perhaps the most frequent and insistent attack from these evil spirits to which we are vulnerable is accusation.

Accusation is a deep-seated sense of self-deprecation; I am not important, I am not qualified, I am no good. We become paralyzed in our witness and productivity in our ministry of reconciliation by thoughts and feelings of inferiority and worthlessness.

These evil spirits often use temptation and accusation as a brutal one-two punch. They come along and say, “Why don’t you try it? Everybody does it.” Then as soon as we fall for their temping line, they change their tune to accusation: “What kind of believer are you to do such a thing? You are a pitiful excuse for a child of God.”

Many believers are perpetually discouraged and defeated because they believe their persistent lies about them. When we leave a door open for these evil spirits by not resisting temptation and accusation, they will enter it. If we continue to allow them access to that area, they will eventually control it.

Many believers today who cannot control their lives in some area wallow in self-blame instead of acting responsibly to solve the problem. They berate themselves and punish themselves for not having the willpower to break a bad habit. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Dying to Self

The most common view in the religious world today is that God actively chooses who he wants to save and who he does not want to save and they say it is absolutely impossible to have faith, to believe, unless God steps in and gives it to you.

God did not predestinate us to believe, he predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his son, because he knew who would believe. God has given everyone the opportunity to be saved, but only he knows for sure who will accept that opportunity. God has foreknowledge of faith.

Almost 2000 years after God took care of the issue of sin, religious people in their minds think God is waiting for man to make a decision, so he can forgive them of their sins. Is Christ going to be crucified again for every lost person who makes that decision? Of course not, but that is what they really believe.

There are people in the church; the overall visible church today, that are lost, those who falsely believe they are saved. Do they really believe with all their heart that Jesus Christ did in fact pay for all their sins? Reconciliation, it simply means a change in status or restoration to favor, that is what forgiveness is all about.

Today, it is not something we work for or wait for, it is not a future event, nor does it happen at the point of belief, it is something the world already has. Flesh wants to say if I broke it I can fix it. God is not asking us to turn from anything to be saved. God is asking us to believe Christ accomplished salvation for us and we are simply to believe it.

Christ did it all, there is nothing left for us to do. God did all the giving. We do only all the receiving. The issue of salvation is understanding the reconciliation where your sin is concerned that Christ accomplished. God is reconciled where the totality of the sin debt of all man is concerned and sin is no longer the issue on the table of God’s justice today.

Is there anything that you could do, whereby you would not be saved? You who say you believe on Jesus Christ, is there any sin that can be put to your account now? If you really believe that, then you do not believe that Christ paid for all of them. We can take God at his word, why can’t we stand with God on what he accomplished through Christ, THAT IS FAITH.

Is God going to judge sin all over again, which means that God is hiding the sins of the world behind his back for future judgment. What do those religious people think happened to the sins Christ died for, either God did not accept the payment of the sin debt Christ paid for, or the payment Christ paid for was not sufficient? It really is as simple as that.

God forgave us, not because he had to, but because it was his desire too. God accomplished through Christ what we could never do on our own. God did not wait for us to do the first step. God had a choice, Jesus Christ had a choice, and they chose to do it. Christ believed that his sacrifice would settle the sin issue once and for all, and that God would raise him from among the dead.

That is what the faith of Christ is all about, a lot of people today believe in Jesus Christ and they are not saved. They have not committed their salvation unto Christ and quit fooling with it; they are still trying to gain salvation themselves. You either trust Jesus Christ as your savior, or you do not trust him as your savior.

If you are confessing your sins every day trying to gain yourself salvation by doing so, you do not trust Jesus Christ as your savior. If you think your salvation depends on that, it would not be of grace. When God justified someone, then God cannot see sin that that individual’s life, the sins that they commit was imputed to Christ, every sin that they could ever do, Christ paid for. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

"IN" Jesus Christ

The idea of not walking after the flesh is a concept that speaks not to a person’s behavior, but to a person’s belief, not to our manners, but to our mindset. When we believe what Christ accomplished for us where our sins are concerned, we are as just as we will ever be in the eyes of God at that point.

Sin has no more effect on us; it cannot change our relationship with God, because we are in Christ. Those who are “IN” Jesus Christ are those who are NOT walking after the faulty assumption that their righteousness is related to their performance. Those who are “IN” Jesus Christ are those who place no confidence in their flesh, but understand that “in their flesh dwells no good thing”.

Christ had to crucify our identity with the flesh, the old man. Paul wants us to agree with God to reckon our identity with our flesh as dead and gone, but the sin nature has not died. Do we need to change our minds about the seriousness of sin and God’s answer to that serious dilemma we find ourselves in? Yes, we do.

God has been longsuffering in holding back his wrath because he hopes that we will consider his goodness through his son, his goodness on our behalf and flee to his grace. God wants us to change our mind about who we are from fleshly perspective apart from Christ. God is not patiently waiting for us to change our mind about what we do; many have done that, thinking it gains salvation.

God has not held back his wrath because he is happy with who we think we are, or because he is satisfied with who we are trying to become. Our justified standing with God is something that cannot be handed back to God as some teach today, because it depends not on the believer’s promise or performance, but solely upon Christ’s faithfulness and his faithfulness alone.

It is not determined by our doing something or not doing something, or deciding in our minds that we want to give it back to God. We cannot give it back because it is dependent upon Christ’s faithfulness and we are sealed at the point we take God at his word concerning what his son accomplished.

God’s integrity is at stake in doing what he promised he would do, we can have security of mind that we have Christ’s test score written on our paper in Heaven.

Sanctification can also be a source of great comfort and assurance because sanctification like justification is proof positive that once a person takes God at his word concerning the accomplishment of his son, that person remains in a sanctified position before God forever, performance notwithstanding. We cannot lose by way of our poor performance what we never gained by way of our good performance.

We can never improve or eliminate the sin nature. The sin nature will remain in the earthly tent of every believer with all its capacity to sin until we receive our glorified bodies. God has dealt with that problem of sin, and the issue with sanctification is not about sin, but about perfection.

Paul told us in this sanctification cornerstone how God perfected us, made us as equally righteous as God himself. God has set every believer apart by placing them into his son. Based upon the fact that we are already sanctified, already “IN” Jesus Christ, there is now no condemnation for us.

We can rejoice and we can give all the glory and the praise to God for the fact that even though that sinful nature is strapped onto our fleshly backs like a rotting corpse, God does not see us in our flesh from his judicial perspective.

God does not relate to us on the basis of our performance in the flesh, but on the basis of our new identification “IN” his son, he views us in our glorified identity, he sees us as being joined to his son. “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.” It is new identity! 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sanctified Postition

One of the most horrible, most cruel forms of punishment in Paul’s day was a method employed by the Romans to put people to death, was to take a corpse, someone who had already been executed and to strap that corpse onto the body of a live person.

One can imagine what it must have been like as that corpse began to rot, what an abhorrent presence that would have been. Paul paints that very picture when he illustrates the ever-present problem that his sinful nature presented to him.

Paul could not escape his sinful nature no matter how fervently he tried. We can rejoice and we can give all the glory and the praise to God and to our savior Jesus Christ for the fact that even though that sinful nature is strapped onto our fleshly backs like a rotting corpse, God does not see us in our flesh from his judicial perspective.

Our fleshly bodies will never be worthy of heaven in that they will never be able to perform to the measure of the righteousness that is true of God. We are alive because of our position, not at all because of our practice. God no longer views us in our human flesh, he views us in our position in the second Adam (Jesus Christ), he views us in our glorified identity. 

In our position in Christ, now we can bear fruit unto God, but it is only in our position in Christ, not through this fleshly body in which we dwell. Only when we come to see ourselves as God sees us and are able to fully appreciate and understand who God has already made us to be and who he’s made us to be in Christ, can we become in our behavior what he wants us to be in that aspect of our lives. 

We need to be less interested in trying to become something, or trying to do something, and we need to become a whole lot more interested in learning about who we already are, that is the key. As we understand what God accomplished for us through his son, we build upon that foundation the truths of who he has made us to be when he placed us into his son, we begin to view ourselves as God views us, and there is great security to be found in doing so. 

God’s love for those who are joined to his son is the same unalterable and unending love God has for his son. That is how closely connected we are to Christ, no sin, no circumstance, no member of creation, no amount of time, no measure of distance will ever be able to diminish God’s loving attitude towards those who are united to him by way  of being in his son. 

Our perfectly righteous standing in the eyes of God is not something we accomplish for ourselves through time whether by way of better performance or by way of our most sincere promise. Positional sanctification is not a process, it is a past tense accomplishment that can never be revised, reduced, or retracted.

We cannot lose the perfectly righteous standing we have in God because it came by way of our sanctified position in God’s son. We are justified through our sanctified position in Christ; we have a new identity. It is impossible for a believer to lose his salvation, but a believer can die physically.

If that believer decided every morning before eating cereal, that they are going to coat their cereal not with milk, but with a fifth of whiskey, what is that believer going to do to their body? A believer can die functionally in that they can serve no further useful purpose here on earth, no heavenly purpose on earth to those to whom they become an ambassador. 


Motivation is the key component when it comes to self-sanctification. Do we have a self-sanctification in the positive sense of separating ourselves from those things we know that are not good for us or not good for others, not in order to merit any more righteousness before God through that performance, but in light of all that God has already made us to be IN Christ (Our new identity).

On the opposite end of that self-sanctification spectrum, we have those who suppose that their behavior is the source of their right standing with God, that is self-sanctification negatively. They suppose that becoming more righteous in practice will make them more righteous in God’s sight, faulty thinking on their part, Paul called it foolish.

It will not gain them Heaven, it will not help them avoid the second death. Paul lets us know that in the book of Romans that God did not make Heaven for good people, God made Heaven for sinners who are justified freely by God’s grace.

Paul did not set himself apart in order to gain a greater righteousness before God through his performance, but that he made his life-style (to the best he could) conform to who God had already made him to be in his sanctified or set-apart position being joined to Christ that he might more affectively reach others.

That was Paul’s key motivation; there is a vast difference in those two motivations. Setting oneself apart for holiness is one thing, setting oneself apart because of the holy standing God has already given that individual in Christ is something altogether different.

People have a difficult time separating their performance in the flesh from their position in Christ and it was the question from the religiously minded people of Paul’s day that remains the question from the religiously minded people in our day. Most people think in those terms because most people fail to properly understand justification, the cornerstone that comes prior to sanctification.

If we misunderstand justification, we are going to have a difficult time understanding sanctification. Since people link a justified standing before God with performance of their own, they also link a sanctified standing before God with their own performance. And as a result they believe the degree to which they stand sanctified in God’s eyes depends entirely upon the degree to which they remain holy in behavior.

If they do not see themselves as being holy in conduct, they do not believe that God sees them as being holy, either. And consequently, if they do not see others as being holy in their attitude and actions, they do not think God sees them as being holy either! Holiness linked to performance is what religion is all about, a new reconciliation over and over and over again.

If we think that our justified standing before God, our sanctified standing, is contingent upon the presence of holy deeds and the absence of unholy deeds in our life, we are going to think that God’s attitude toward us and therefore, our position with him in Christ is of a fluctuating nature.

If we think our relationship with God is of a fluctuating nature, we never know where we stand. So, people’s minds are up and down and all around, an emotional roller-coaster as to where does one stand with God? God may be happy with me today, he may very well be angry at me tomorrow is how it is often reasoned.

Where do people go to see how far they have removed themselves through their behavior from God’s favor? More often than not, they go right back to the Law of Moses taught in the halls of religianity by ministers of righteousness. That can only lead in one direction, instability.

It is the “I have been good, I have been bad, God’s happy, God’s mad” mindset; a mindset that results in people having to be dishonest with themselves as to their own practical holiness. The religiously minded begin to believe they are indeed measuring up as righteousness becomes relative to those people.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are people walking away from a God they perceive as being unfair in having created them to fail in the first place. Some take it to the extent of a total denunciation of God altogether. If God does exist, how can he demand perfection? If God does exist, the fact of his fairness or unfairness does not really matter, does it?

You see, no matter where on the performance spectrum one happens to sit, whether it be the perceived safe-haven of religion or avowed atheism on the other end, a misunderstanding of the need for and the manner of justification (Our righteousification) and sanctification (How we are set apart in Christ), resides at the core of that unstable thinking.