Tag Archives: Spiritual Growth 102

36: Appendix 2 Pt 1

  The necessity of understanding the background behind the most important text in Scripture regarding sanctification is in order.  Needham reminds us of the challenges the Old Testament believer would have had to embracing the New.  His Appendix 2 is rather long so I have broken it up to span 3 days.  Take your time, understand, and grow.  
This is a review of Birthright by David Needham with study questions added to turn them into lessons. These lessons are part of a wider study on Sanctification by Faith which has as its goal the fulfillment of Gal 5:16

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

I’ve set these studies in a specific order so that all may easily build on the foundation of Christ with the finest materials - gold, silver, and precious stones (1 Cor 3:10-13). God has gifted the Church with amazing evangelists, pastors, and teachers to help us in this building project (Eph 4:11-16). I invite you to study along with me. You can see an overview of the complete Sanctification by Faith study here. To go to the start of the current lesson (Birthright) click here.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess 5:23

Appendix 2: Suggestions Toward an Understanding of Romans 6–8

Fundamental to one’s understanding of any portion of Scripture is an appreciation of its historical setting. Because of this, though our goal will be to grasp the personal implications of Romans 6–8 for God’s people today, our first step must be to attempt to see it through Paul’s eyes and those of his original readers.

Of first importance is that both Paul and a significant portion of his audience had been nurtured in Old Covenant Jewish beliefs that centered on pleasing God through obedience to the Mosaic Law.[1] This nurturing had produced a variety of responses, two of which appear repeatedly in the Gospels. The first was seen in those who responded to both the Scriptures and the teachings of their rabbis with sincere, humble, obedient faith in the love and mercy of God. Theirs was the response expressed in Micah 6:8, “to do justice, to love kindness [more literally, “loyal devotion”], and to walk humbly with your God.” In Luke 1–2 we find Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna; later on, most of the disciples, the seventy sent out to preach the good news of the kingdom, and, at the end, Joseph of Arimathea, “a good and righteous man.” All these, when introduced to their Messiah, responded in deep gratitude and love.

We may assume prior to the resurrection, though they must have been baffled by the deity claims of Jesus,[2] they did not allow this paradox to override their simple trust.*


Though the NT affirms that the OT made direct references to the deity of the Messiah (Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5 [referring to Ps. 2]; Matt. 22:42–46; Mark 12:35–37; Luke 20:41–44; Acts 2:30–36 [referring to Ps. 110]), nevertheless there is no biblical reason to assume even the most devout Old Covenant Jewish believers understood the Messiah would also be God. Rather he would be a most special human descendant of David.

Even after the resurrection, the perspective of the two men on the road to Emmaus illustrates that, though certainly “saved” individuals, having heard and believed much he had taught, they still viewed him as “a prophet mighty in deed and word before God” (Luke 24:19). Up to that point there was not even a glimmer of understanding of the substitutionary significance of Jesus’ death or the implications of his resurrection.*


We may assume this was part of Jesus’ instruction to them as “he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” Soon after, he shared the same with all the disciples (Luke 23:27, 44–47). We may be sure that Thomas was not alone in his response to Jesus—“my Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). As we see later in Acts 9:30–35, there was no confusion in Philip’s mind as to the relation between Jesus and Isa. 53. The substitutionary atonement was by that time truly appreciated.

There was also a second type of response illustrated by the hypocritical, proud, wholly works-oriented Jews, as most vividly evident in the scribes and Pharisees Jesus condemned in Matthew 23.[3] Most of them, we may assume, never responded positively to Jesus, even in the years after his passion, resurrection, and the coming of the Spirit. (See Acts 22–23.)

Though we automatically tend to place the Apostle Paul in the latter group, there is some justification for his belonging to the first group, but as one who had not been introduced to Jesus until that day on the Damascus Road (see first part of chapter 7). One might go so far as to argue that in many ways Paul could be compared with an Old Testament Ezra or Amos, with one crucial difference: the fact that his zeal for God was misdirected due to his own admitted ignorance regarding Jesus (“not in accordance with knowledge,” Romans 10:2, NASB).*


By the time of his writing of Romans (25+ years after the resurrection), Paul considered the individuals of Rom 10:2 as needing to be saved. Had the New Covenant age not yet arrived, perhaps God would have accepted many of them as “saved” as any other zealous believer within the Old Covenant. It is impossible for us to know with certainty the limits of God’s grace during this transitional Old Covenant/New Covenant period. (“Saved” certainly has a relative use in Acts 11:14.)

Though Paul had both Jewish groups in mind as he wrote the Book of Romans (Romans 2:7–10), his prime audience was the first group, which needed to be grounded in New Covenant truth. (Romans 2:1–6, 17–24, initially describes the second group.) Since Paul’s primary purpose for his lengthy epistle was to expound the wonder of the gospel (Romans 1:16–17), were it not for this unique historical context, it would be hard to justify the large amount of space he gave to the gospel’s relation to the Mosaic Law.

It takes some tough thinking to set aside momentarily our modern context in order to imagine the radical adjustments that were required of believing Jews during this unique covenantal “crossover” period of history (from Old Covenant to New Covenant) in which the Book of Romans was written.

Their first adjustment (which his audience had already made) involved their being introduced to Jesus as their Messiah.*


This parallels the adjustment level of at least some of the original readers of the Book of Hebrews.

For the few who were part of that first circle of his disciples, this was not overly difficult. Jesus had provided them with a solid information base on which to build their trust—his words and his works. (Can we imagine what would have transpired if Paul had been among Jesus’ initial disciples? Certainly he would have been another “son of thunder”!) This jolting truth was the focus of Peter’s first two sermons in Acts. The one whom they had crucified was “both Lord and Christ [Messiah].”*


Though Peter may have expounded on the substitutionary nature of Jesus’ death during those early days, what is recorded gives us no hint that repentance and the promise of forgiveness of sins were viewed as different from the Old Covenant pattern of the call to repentance under John the Baptist, except that it involved acknowledging Jesus as Lord. See also notes 1 and 2.

Closely related to this first adjustment was their discovery of their Messiah, Jesus, as God’s agent for their justification before him (deliverance from his wrath) and their reconciliation to him. The Messiah was their Passover Lamb!*


Though “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” identity of Jesus had been introduced by John the Baptist (John 1:29, 36), there is no reason to assume that either he or Jesus’ disciples grasped the implications of this prophetic utterance until after the resurrection. John’s later question reveals his lack of comprehension (cf. Matt. 11:2–6). Note also the disciples’ repulsion regarding Jesus’ announcement to them of his impending death. Cf. Matt. 16:21, etc. According to 1 Pet. 1:10–12, prophets did not necessarily comprehend the messages they delivered.

Although this truth was not foreign to the church at Rome, there must have been some measure of misunderstanding so as to require the detailed arguments regarding the doctrine of justification found in Romans 3–5.

But the external act of justification plus the resulting internal miracle of a heart change toward God and his law (reconciliation) were not ends in themselves. There was a third most wonderful adjustment to be made. It had to do with the second internal miracle, the infusion of Jesus’ life (regeneration) and the mechanics of that life now that they were in a right relationship with him. An initial clue to this is found in Romans 5:10. Having described their being saved from God’s wrath by being “justified by his blood,” he added, “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life” (italics mine).*


It appears, then, the effect of Christ’s resurrection relates more to the truth of regeneration (newness of life) than to justification, although the fact he rose affirmed divine acceptance of Christ’s substitutionary death, enabling God to justify sinners. This issue indirectly relates to Rom 4:24 as to whether Christ was “raised for our justification” (NIV, NRSV), or “because of our justification” (NASB). Harrison provides a careful analysis of both the grammatical and theological issues involved, concluding with a belief that “because of” is the more probable rendering. “Justification, considered objectively and from the standpoint of God’s provision, was indeed accomplished in the death of Christ (5:9) and therefore did not require the resurrection to complete it. Paul does not mention the resurrection in his definitive statement on justification in Rom 3:21–26.” (Everett F. Harrison, “Romans,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 10 [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976], 53–54.)

Both for their present life of practical righteousness and their ultimate salvation, God was now saving them “by his life” through the Holy Spirit. It is this third issue that becomes central in Romans 6–8. Since regeneration is a divine begetting of a new kind of life, these chapters are actually Paul’s enlargement on the truth of John 3:3–8 and 1 John 3:1–9.*


Though on one hand, Paul emphasized the degree to which his message was a product of divine revelation, passages such as 1 Cor. 7:10–12 demonstrate how fully he was aware of the specific truth Jesus had taught his disciples. During his several visits to Jerusalem, we can only imagine the eagerness with which Paul must have consumed every bit of information regarding the words and actions of his Lord. In Gal. 1:18; 2:9 he mentioned time spent with Peter, James, and John. Along with so much else, this undoubtedly would have included the crucial “you in me and I in you” truth of John 14–17. We may also surmise he had a good visit with his fellow Pharisee, Nicodemus (certainly among the true believers, cf. John 19:39).

To put it another way, holiness of life (sanctification), in simplest terms, is the outgrowth of the new birth. A new life has come into being; this is how it grows.*


In his comments on Rom 6, I agree with Showers’s repeated emphasis that the doctrine of regeneration underlies this text. (Renald Showers, The New Nature [Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux Brothers, 1986], 65–67, cf. p. 11.)

I suggest the following steps in Paul’s progression of thought:

(1) Romans 6:1–7:6* Newness of life results from one’s identification with Christ not only in his death, but most especially in his resurrection. (See also Colossians 3:1–4.)


I believe it is more reasonable to understand Rom 7:1–6 as a clarification of the freedom spoken of in Rom 6:18 and Rom 6:22 in terms of the Old Covenant bondage to the law rather than as the beginning of a new section which includes the remainder of Rom 7. Another clue that 7:7 begins a new section is found in the expression “What shall we say then?” (NASB), which is identical with the beginning of chapter 6. Packer also appears to see 6:1–7:6 as a unit. (J. I Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit [Old Tappan, N. J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1984], 128.)

(2) Romans 7:7–25 The crucial nature of this new life source (Romans 6:1–7:6) must be seen over against its absence under an Old Covenant mindset if Paul’s Jewish audience is to understand.

(3) Romans 8:1–17 The Holy Spirit is one’s enabler to fulfill God’s moral absolutes in life now while still in an unredeemed body. (See also Galatians 3:1–3; 5:16–25.)

(4) Romans 8:18–39 Future bodily resurrection is the ultimate life answer both to present suffering and to the necessity of putting “to death the deeds of the body.”

Romans 8:25–39 provides the closing doxology.

Without attempting a verse-by-verse analysis of these four sections, several issues must be considered if one is to appreciate Paul’s progression of thought and its relevance for us.

(Note: Though the NIV represents excellent scholarship and care in many areas, its perceived necessity of rendering “flesh” by “sin nature” or other similar terminology, plus its occasional unjustified efforts at clarifying the text—as seen, for example in Romans 8:5–9—cause me to recommend the NRSV, NASB, or NKJV as more faithfully expressing in English the meaning of the Greek text for these chapters in Romans.)

Questions & Notes

  1. Of first importance is that both Paul and a significant portion of his audience had been nurtured in Old Covenant Jewish beliefs that centered on pleasing God through _________ to the Mosaic Law.

  2. We may assume prior to the resurrection, though the Old Testament believers must have been baffled by the _________ claims of Jesus.

  3. Describe the two common responses to the Gospel that set the background for Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Click on the "Birthright" tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.

35: The Goal Of God’s Miracle Children

  It is impossible to fit in at work without knowing the purpose of your work.  When you understand the purpose of the organization, you gain the wisdom that will help you decide what to do as well as what not to do and even how to do it.  After a year of study on the topic of sanctification by faith, we have a better understanding of the nature of our body and the essence of our spirit.  We can more easily bring these into subjection as we see how we fit into God's plan and purpose for all things.  Needham will explain what that means in this final chapter of his book.  

  My version of God's purpose goes like this:  Everything God made brings glory to God because He is perfect and good.  God created angels and angels brought evil into the world.  God made man to solve the problem of evil (Genesis 3:15).  God made man male and female (Genesis 1:27).  God made family to multiply His solution around the globe (Genesis 1:28).  God made nations to protect families (Genesis 10:5, 20, 31-32; Romans 13:1-7; Acts 17:26-27).  God made Church to protect the truth behind all this (1 Tim 3:15).  When we learn to let God use us in line with all these things, we become fully satisfied and God becomes fully glorified.  We grow into that which God intended us to be – the image and likeness of God.  

  Although this is the last chapter of the book, Appendix 2 is very important and very long.  I will cover that in the next couple of days.  
My job is to put the cap on the toothpaste. As seen at movingpackets.net

10: The Goal of God’s Miracle Children

You and I worship a fabulously creative God. We began this book with this truth. He tells us that creation—the entire universe—bears witness to his “invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20, NIV). And indeed, we agree it does, no matter in which direction we might look:

Up into the vastness of the heavens with its myriad forms of gaseous nebula, stars, galaxies, black holes, dark matter, quasars, and who knows beyond that.

Or down into the infinitesimal smallness of sub-atomic structures that only tantalize us with their unsolved mysteries.

Or all around us, the mysterious electromagnetic world we are just beginning to uncover and use.

Or that more touchable world of birds singing a thousand different songs, of reptiles, mammals, and fishes with fantastic varieties of shape, size, and color that boggle our minds. Of a myriad different butterflies, along with the tens of thousands of distinctly different insects. Spiders weaving masterpieces sparkling in the morning dew. Each kind of tree and plant with its own distinctive shape of branch, leaf, bloom, and fragrance. And all of it flowing from the unbelievably inventive mind of God!

Indeed, we worship a God who is so fantastically inventive as to paint the colors and shape the forms of myriad flower petals and endless sunsets, plus mixing in the fragrances, tastes, and sounds that surround us (Genesis 1:31; 2:9; Psalm 19:1–6; 65:5–13).

Yet when we stand back and attempt to evaluate the flow of human history—its tragedy and tears, its confusion and cruelty, its seemingly endless cycles—it appears to fall far short of expressing the creative touch of a truly wise, powerful, and good God. So much appears haphazard, full of apparent mindless, cruel happenings—city slums, homeless children, battlefields by the thousands, broad fields of white crosses, and mounds piled deep with the unknown wretches of the world.

In addition, the Bible asks us to believe that, sprinkled about this paradoxical world, are a variety of supernatural aliens whose true home is heaven and who bear witness to a God of love and grace (Matthew 7:13–14; Luke 12:32; Philippians 3:20).

How does this harmonize with the marvelous creativity of the God we see elsewhere in his universe? Does it not sound much more like the feeble efforts of a less-than-sovereign God, trying his best to reclaim something good from his botched-up Edenic plan?

It’s strange, yet often true, that some of God’s most beautiful masterpieces of creativity arise out of the very opposites of those masterpieces. From the dead and decaying marshlands, the lilies grow. From rotting fir needles and slimy leaves, trilliums sprout and bloom. And so it is that out of the darkness and gross evil of a justly cursed humanity, God has chosen to produce the crowning product of his new creation—his most captivating creation—a Bride for his Son (Ephesians 5:25–27; Revelation 19:6–8).

Think again of God’s creativity in the universe. Try, for example, to hold carefully in your mind the image of a perfect rose. Imagine all those well-nigh incomprehensible, scarcely understood chemical, electrical, sub-microscopic DNA and RNA processes that brought that one rose blossom into existence. Yet this creative God of ours produces a myriad roses, mostly hidden away in the wildernesses of the world only God sees.

If this is so, is it not the ultimate of human folly to assume that such a God who demonstrates his perfections in billions of momentary blossoms would approach the ultimate, eternally existing exhibition of his creativity—the church, the people of God—with haphazard weakness? Is it not far more reasonable to believe this remarkable God has at least an equal masterfulness of perfection in mind as he creates a Bride for his Son?

Should we not assume this strange process, which has now spread over thousands of years of gathering together “a people for his name,” is guided by a God who is acting with matchless wisdom and purpose? Though we remain humbled by the mysteries that harmonize God’s sovereign will and human choice, we dare not miss his joy over every lost sheep that is found—here and around the world—each one adding a special touch to the ultimate beauty of the Bride.

Is it not much wiser for us to assume that we are simply too close—like microscopic bugs walking across the surface of a rose petal—to see the grand design? Like the proverbial

Inch worm, inch worm, measuring the marigolds,
Why don’t you stop and see how beautiful they are?

Or better still, too close—like single threads woven among countless other threads over thousands of years—to see a tapestry being created with absolute perfection? Indeed, someday all creation will gasp before the glory of the unveiling of the saints! (Romans 8:18–21) Even now, his church, his new creation, as yet physically unredeemed, continues to display itself like the late winter blossoms on some trees—unexpected, not yet overly beautiful, but still the harbinger of spring.

“Not yet overly beautiful” surely is an understatement when one considers with embarrassment the mottled history of the church. Though here and there among its dark pages are sparkling examples of God’s individual miracles, the overall history of the church has been more a display of his patience and grace than of the church’s grand successes.

This should surprise us were it not for the fact that his Bride, rather than being the goal of history, is actually exhibit A of God’s true goal—his own glory. What is his glory?[1] The displayed splendor of all of his attributes.

I confess that the first time I realized the goal of everything was the glory of God, my response was, “That sounds too self-centered.” The more I thought, the more disturbed I became. I don’t like people who are self-centered. It isn’t right to be self-centered. Then I made a simple discovery.

Imagine a living room with a concert grand piano as the centerpiece. With great expectations, all eyes focus on one person who happens to be a master pianist. Yet repeatedly she refuses our invitations to play. “No! I will not do it. All it would do is glorify myself. I would become the center of attention. No, I will not play.”

Momentarily we are taken by her humility, but not for long. Instead we become disgusted, angry, that such a gifted person would keep those gifts to herself. They deserve to be heard! We might become so bold as to say “Well, if that’s the way you feel about it, forget it. Be selfish, if you want. Keep your gifts locked inside. We don’t like you anyway.”

The same could be said of an artist who will not paint, an inventor who will not create, a wise judge who will not take his seat in court, a lover who keeps to himself.

Why then should we be so surprised that God, the possessor of limitless qualities of infinite perfection, should so choose to display them? What rightness could there be if the possessor of absolute love and grace, patience and justice, power and wisdom never allowed them to be seen?

This then is the reasonableness behind that great statement: “His eternal purpose according to the counsel of his will, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism. Cf. Is. 46:9–11; Eph. 1:4–12; Romans 11:33–36; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rev. 4:11.) How then do we handle this captivating mystery? How are we to respond to such a God?

We should find much security and joy in the fact that his plan of creating a Bride for his Son was in his mind from eternity past—“just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4). He has also told us this masterpiece of his creativity is “according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will” (Ephesians 1:11).[2] Clearly, this captivating mystery of the Bride was no midcourse correction after his first plan in the Garden of Eden went awry. In fact, with purpose it included the cross and the resurrection, as God unfolded his own wisdom and power (1 Corinthians 1:18–24).

When at last the moment of all moments arrives and the Son lifts up the kingdom to his Father, when at last every dazzling facet of the diamond of God’s own Being is fully revealed—marvel of marvels, we will be there, standing “in the presence of his glory with rejoicing” (Jude 24). No longer knowing in part, but “then [we] will know fully, even as [we] have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We will be there. Only then will we experience in its fullness that to be alive for the first time is to be alive forever.


Having exchanged the mortality and oft morbidity of our unredeemed flesh for the inexpressible glory of the image of the man of heaven, we will be there. Dare we imagine the true nature of our resurrection bodies that will be as radically transformed as a plant is from the seed from which it came? We do know “we will be like him, for we will see him as he is” (1 John 3:2; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:37, 47–48).

With uninhibited freedom—all flesh/spirit conflicts removed—we will be there, unendingly fulfilling the destiny for which we were made as the receivers, the responders, and the displayers of God’s love (Philippians 3:12–14).

Have all our questions about the miracles of grace been answered? Far from it. Mysteries remain that stir our curiosity. But until then we must rest easy, knowing that when at last all creation beholds the Bride, you and I will be there lifting our transformed voices with emotional energies beyond our dreams, shouting “from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever, Amen” (Romans 11:36).

Appendix 1: A Summary of the Practical Values of a Biblical Perspective on New Covenant Life

[Which of these do you consider the most important to you at this time?]

1. This perspective delivers me from the frustration of believing that if I am to do the will of God and live for him, I must go against myself and all I desire in life. True, I must go against my flesh, but I am never called upon to go against my authentic personhood, myself as God’s newly created child.

2. It allows me to have a positive, wholesome sense of self worth and yet protects me from pride due to the fact that the fundamental nature of my true personhood is one of absolute dependence upon life which flows from God. It delivers me from the morbidity of some of the “crucified life” approaches to spirituality.

3. It protects me from a variety of extremes, such as believing that my flesh in itself is essentially evil, or that I am really two persons—a good one and a bad one—or that my ultimate deliverance is when at last “self” is forever eliminated (when I get to heaven) as though somehow being a “self” is bad.

4. It liberates the biblical concept of Christian liberty. If my basic nature is righteous even as Christ is righteous, then I am totally free to fulfill life. I am truly free to do what I want to do! As Paul says, “for me to live is Christ.” Because of this a delightfully positive tone is added to the entire picture of the Christian life.

5. Through understanding why I sin, I can retrace my way back to the cause and really do something about it.

6. Since by the new birth all the “equipment” is present for a God-oriented, meaningful life, it directs my attention to the fundamental necessity of the energizing power of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 3:14–21 becomes overwhelmingly significant.

7. It opens the door to a much fuller appreciation of every believer I meet realizing that he, too, whether it is outwardly apparent or not, is God’s inner workmanship, his pure creation. Since there is no evidence that would lead us to think that there are varying degrees of quality or value in God’s individual creations, it allows me to show the fullest respect for every child of God.

8. It frees me from a warped emphasis on the values of various aspects of my mortality. I am not less of a person if I am not married, if I cannot walk, or if my mental faculties are not in the best shape.

9. It encourages me to enlarge my concept of my spirit (used here as a synonym for “inner man”) so as to see myself fundamentally as a spiritual being, regardless of what might happen to my physical brain or any other part of my mortality.

10. It brings new sense into Paul’s statement “my spirit prays” (1 Corinthians 14:14–15; cf. 14:2, 4, 28). Regardless of one’s particular view concerning present-day tongues speaking, at least the concept of private praying in tongues can be understood as being a means by which one’s spirit, the deepest level of his personhood, may offer praise to God. The resulting edification occurs, then, apart from the management by one’s mortal brain of the nature of that praise.

11. In a simple manner it replaces the very complicated approaches to spirituality which are often marketed today. In so doing it corresponds to the obvious simplicity of operation of the first generation believers.

12. It enables me to appreciate by direct parallel how the earthly life of my Lord Jesus can be an actual working example for me.

13. It frees me from having to believe in the well meant “double talk” of so many popular explanations of Romans 6 which teach that victory comes only when a dead man is being controlled, or that by some mysterious exercise of faith a positional truth becomes actual, but only as long as you are believing it to be so. (I am referring here to the view that “reckoning” makes the crucifixion of the old man a reality.) It therefore allows a variety of Scripture passages to speak with fresh authority rather than being bridled by the well meant rationalizations of some Bible teachers.

14. It encourages me to greatly value the faceting process which God is undertaking in my life. And even though it is painful at times, I can truly rejoice because I know that the process only increases the potential of meaning, of glorifying God—which is ultimate meaning—both in time and eternity.

15. It tremendously heightens my vision of the prospects of manifesting holiness.

16. It increases my appreciation of the continuity between my life here on earth and my life in heaven. Since the Bible does not teach that there will be any change in my authentic personhood between the moment I die and my arrival in heaven, it then logically underlines the sacredness of my present union with Christ. Naturally it also causes me to joyfully anticipate the time I will receive a redeemed body to match my presently redeemed spirit.

Questions & Notes

  1. What is God’s glory?

  2. He has also told us this masterpiece of his creativity is “according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will” (Ephesians ___:___).

Click on the "Birthright" tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.

33: Things I Must Do Pt 2

This section of Needham's teaching reminded me of Miles Stanford's Abide Above that we went over earlier. What I liked about that Green Letter series is how it teaches us to trust God for sanctification like we trust God for justification. Needham reminds us of that here.
As seen at truecar.com
This is a review of Birthright by David Needham with study questions added to turn them into lessons. These lessons are part of a wider study on Sanctification by Faith which has as its goal the fulfillment of Gal 5:16

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

I’ve set these studies in a specific order so that all may easily build on the foundation of Christ with the finest materials - gold, silver, and precious stones (1 Cor 3:10-13). God has gifted the Church with amazing evangelists, pastors, and teachers to help us in this building project (Eph 4:11-16). I invite you to study along with me. You can see an overview of the complete Sanctification by Faith study here. To go to the start of the current lesson (Birthright) click here.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess 5:23

The Key: Renewing the Mind

Because of all of this, it comes as no surprise when we are informed by the Apostle Paul that if a believer is ever to know a transformed life, there must be a renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2).*


“The New Testament calls upon us to take action; it does not tell us that the work of sanctification is going to be done for us. That is why it does not put us into a clinic or hospital where the patient is told ‘It will be done for you,’ and ‘Allow the Lord Jesus to do it for you.’ It calls upon us to take action, and exhorts us to do so. And it tells us and commands us to do so for this reason, that we have been given the ability to do it. If we had not been given the ability, if we had not received the new nature as the result of the new birth, if we had not been given the new life, if the Spirit was not in us, then, of course, we should need someone to do it for us. But as we have been given the power and the ability and the capacity, the New Testament quite logically, and in perfect consistency with itself, calls upon us to do it. ‘Do not let sin reign in your mortal body’ it says. ‘Do not present your members as instruments unto sin or unrighteousness.’ Do not do it! This is something that you and I have to do; it is not going to be done for us.” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, The New Man [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972], 179.)

We should thank James for telling us that genuine faith doesn’t just sit there, it takes action. Therefore, I must participate in the renewing of my mind by removing myself from the circumstances that not only will add more trash to my memory bank, but will make temptations increasingly accessible.*


Sometimes individuals discover they are a terribly weak-willed people. They feel helpless even to begin the process. What do they need? Using my earlier illustration in which a person’s will is their car battery, what they need is a “jumper cable” linked to some strong-willed person to temporarily support their weak will until their own “spiritual engine” is able to carry on its generating task. One-on-one supportive relationships and “caring groups” are invaluable. If your own church is not actively participating in such a program, perhaps God will use you to awaken in that local body a fresh commitment to fulfill Scripture’s commands. “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” “And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them” (Gal. 6:2; 1 Thess. 5:14).

Sometimes it will be as simple as:

changing channels or turning off the TV,

putting down what I am reading,

ceasing to look in a particular direction.

But most of the time it requires something much more difficult. I must force myself to change the direction my thoughts are moving. I must repudiate my brain’s usurped authority to continue down a particular path of thought.

So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:26–27).

For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification (Romans 6:19).

What part of Paul’s body did he discipline the most? What member did he make his slave? Not his hand or foot or eye, but his body’s control center: his brain, his mind. I fear we have been so accustomed to giving in to our thoughts, we are not sure that controlling them is possible.

Many years ago I subscribed to Mother Earth News. What’s so bad about that? Nothing. But for me, it became my Leeks and Garlic Picture Book. You see, I grew up on a ranch way out in the country and I loved every moment of it. Today we live in the middle of a large city. In fact, right in front of us, two major freeways bisect.

Though I made a small space for a garden, I knew that having a few animals, raising chickens, and living that simple “back to nature” life was no longer an option. So instead, I nurtured my fantasies. With the arrival of each new magazine, I found myself slipping into my dream world, planning, building, even smelling the life I would never live. Was that okay? No! Bit by bit I became less content with our city lot and its tiny garden. My fantasy bred discontent like rabbits. Soon it spread a dull gray over everything I did. It even interfered with my prayer times. Too easily my mind slid into my Mother Earth dream world right in the middle of my worship.

Something had to go; I was miserable in between. Was I hopelessly trapped? No. I simply had to do that hardest of tasks. I had to take charge of my thoughts. Canceling the subscription was the easy part.

Of course, during those times when something such as our job requires our total concentration, imagination is not difficult to control. There simply is no room. But what about all those times when concentration is not demanded? When imagination fills the emptiness? We will think. But what will we think about? Our answer to that will determine so much.

Tough Decisions

Does this mean there is no place for escapist times? A good book, a movie? I haven’t the slightest doubt God is pleased to program into our lives an ample supply of lazy afternoons and evenings of doing nothing more than sitting on the porch and watching the sky until the last of the sun’s rays fade away and the first evening star glimmers its way into existence. I imagine he delights even in a few vacation trips out of which dreams are made.

But we must ask ourselves, “Will these thoughts I entertain refresh me for the real world, or will they only add to my reservoir of the ‘if onlys,’ the ‘might have beens,’ and the ‘what ifs’ of my imagination?”

Each of us is different. Perhaps you are the type who can happily be engrossed in some gripping story and then in a moment switch back into the real world with no carryover at all. I envy you! Instead, I find myself, though back in the real world, yet still living other peoples’ lives—hours later—inwardly shedding their tears and grasping at their dreams. It is strange how my very active imagination can at times be my best friend or my worst enemy! Paul’s expressive words, “Taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” are words I must live by if I am to live in the real world.

Let’s face it. Fantasy is a little secret room you can enter at a moment’s notice. You are the god of that room. You create whatever you wish. From the swish of a skirt you can create that forbidden weekend. In a moment of rejection you can step into a churning stadium with yourself the center of attention. From one word, Maserati, you can conjure up your own Grand Prix, complete with all the sounds and tingling suspense, right up to passing under the checkered flag. Fantasy is amazing!

Cheryl Forbes, in her book Imagination, states that “Neurophysiologists have discovered that the brain responds to these mental images as if the activity were actually happening. There is no difference in the brain wave whether an athlete is swinging a bat or only seeing an image of himself doing so.”[1] Little wonder that Jesus equated entertaining sinful thoughts with sinful action.

A life of personal holiness will always be an illusion apart from a disciplined mind and a godly use of the gift of imagination.[2] Without this discipline, I might someday hear myself praying,

“Please, God, don’t ask me to give up my fantasy room. No one can reject me in that room, Lord. I’m not lonely there. I’m not bored there. Strange, but sometimes I don’t want to come out of my fantasy room. My real world isn’t going the way I hoped it would. I can control my fantasy world; my real world I can’t. I’m the god of my fantasy world. And you are the God of the real world. And sometimes I think that I’m a better god than you.”

Yet the renewal of our minds is far more than simply exercising brain power. A crucial “how” of holiness is inseparable from knowing the truth of God’s Word, but it must be more than simply quantitative information. It must involve a participant, relational type of knowledge, which in the Bible is inseparable from the power of its Author.[3] Instead of simply telling us to “memorize the Bible,” Paul prayed,

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power (Ephesians 1:17–19).

The fact that this requires supernatural enablement leads us to our most crucial third action step.

3. I must repeatedly affirm my total dependence upon the Holy Spirit to enable me to express the power of Jesus’ risen life.

Why is it so easy to sin? Obviously, our flesh still has its bent toward sin. That’s no surprise. It came equipped with its own built-in drivenness to fill up its own emptiness by seeking out its own meaning, significance, and love—and to do so independently from God. But still, if we are new creations, why do we as Christians find it so much easier to sin than to practice holiness? The answer leads us to this third action step.

Not only did our flesh come well equipped to try to satisfy its own desires; it also came equipped to actually fulfill (at least in some measure) the desires it feels. Normally, one’s will is followed by action. I will to move my arm and it moves. I will to bite my tongue and “ouch!” In the same way, I will to tell a lie and there it is. I just do it. If, with my fleshly mind, I desire recognition, I can make it happen (if I know the right stings to pull). If I seek to fulfill some lustful desire, I can make that happen, too, if no more than in my fantasies. In other words, both the desire and the power to sin are resident in my flesh.

But to move—to produce holiness, to produce love—requires dependence upon a power source distinct from my will. It involves dependence upon the power of another person, the Holy Spirit. (Remember our illustration of the light underneath the tracing table?)

Though both the desire and the power for holiness (the Holy Spirit) are within, God has purposed that the release of that power comes only as a result of a life of active dependence upon him, the Source of our life.*[4]


This explanation is in sharp contrast with the common nonbiblical answer which says Christians find it easier to sin than to produce holiness because their essential natures are sinful.

When you were born again, God could have at the same moment poured into you a reservoir full of spiritual power you could draw upon at will to last you until you died. He did not do that. Why? Why did God make it more difficult to produce holiness than to produce sin? Just so we could say “I fought a good fight”?

No. He did it by design.

Remember, God did not save us simply to use us. He did not save us to get such and such quantity of holiness produced. He saved us for love— for a dependent love relationship with him in the context of living and loving both with our brothers and sisters in Christ and the world outside. Once God calls us home, we will never walk by faith again. It is here and now alone that we have the challenge to “fly by the instruments.” As children of the light, he greatly values our trusting him in the dark. It is in this context as we are confronted by our own total flesh inadequacy that we cry out, “Lord, I cannot live apart from your life! I have no life unless you pour your life into me. I have jettisoned all back-up systems. I will live because of you, or I will die” (See John 6:57; Romans 8:6, 13).

We simply cannot escape the fact that the Christian life is strictly supernatural, nor should we want it any other way. And that life, above all else, is marked by supernatural love.

I believe the most scathing exposure of how much apparent holiness can be done apart from that first fruit of the Spirit—love—is found in 1 Corinthians 13:1–3. Those verses (read them if you don’t remember) undercut virtually every other traditional measurement of Christian success:

  • spiritual gifts;*
  • biblical and theological knowledge and the abilities to express them;
  • dramatic exercises of faith;
  • personal sacrifice, including all that I have given up for Jesus, even to the sacrificing of my body as I burn out for Jesus.


Paul recognized that no matter how successfully he exercised his spiritual gifts, God still might have judged him as “disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). The primary spiritual gifts in this case may have included the gifts of apostleship, teaching, and evangelism.


Because of the deception of flesh-produced righteousness, it is worth our time to look at one of the most amazing, comprehensive prayers in all the Bible—the most important prayer I know to pray! It is found in Ephesians 3:14–21 (NIV).[5] Let’s spread these verses out so that we can take a good look at them.

For this reason
I kneel before the Father,
from whom his whole family
in heaven and on earth
derives its name.
I pray that out of his glorious riches
he may strengthen you with power
through his Spirit
in your inner being,
so that Christ may dwell* in your hearts


The emphatic verb form used could be rendered as “be at home.” Clearly Christ is in every true believer (2 Cor. 13:5). Paul’s prayer moves beyond this fact.

through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
may have power, together with all the saints
to grasp how wide
and long
and high
and deep
is the love of Christ,
and to know this love
that surpasses knowledge—
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do
immeasurably more
than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us,
to him be glory in the church and
in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,
for ever and ever!

Yes! The kind of love God wants to give us is supernatural, beyond anything we could imagine.*


It is tragic when Christians are misled into thinking that the truly great demonstrations of God’s power are seen in miracles of healing rather than in believers who spread the fragrance of the love of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit, wherever they are.

It involves “all the fullness of God.” Our automatic response should be, “Paul—no! That’s an impossible dream.”

“It is not!” Paul responds. “Our God is the God of the impossible—able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” And how? By the Spirit’s power “at work within us.”

Christian, are you listening? Are you allowing yourself to be stretched as you never have been stretched before? Remember, it is not only for yourself, but it is “with all the saints.” Remember, too, the end in view is not self-centered. The end is the glory of God. The glory of God “in the church and in Christ Jesus…for ever and ever.”

(At this point, if space allowed, I would add another action step: I must actively participate in a local body of God’s miracle children. God has no interest in “lone ranger” saints. Ephesians 4–5 and Colossians 3–4 express so well the necessity of believers functioning within a local body.)

Oh, what an open door! Walk through it! And then keep on walking in moment-by-moment, total dependence upon his enablement.

Holiness as Sanctified Stress

“Moment by moment”—that is so easy to say but impossible to do. Life with all of its demands simply will not allow me to consciously do that. Of course, God knows this is so. Happily, even though moment-by-moment dependence is our prayer, its fulfillment does not require our constant attention. In other words, God has not asked us to exchange one kind of stress—the stress of the world—for another kind—the stress of holiness. (This is so important to see.)

How dreadful our lives would be if we believed God expected us to seek his will and his enablement prior to every decision we make. Life is saturated with decision making. Some decisions are major; most are minor. But we never can tell when a minor decision actually turns out to be radically life changing.

I remember one completely flip—and by all measurements, insignificant—decision I made forty plus years ago, which to my surprise resulted in spending an afternoon with a young woman who is now my wife. I have no doubt God was actively participating in that “incidental,” deciding moment.

When Paul urged us to pray without ceasing, I am sure he had in mind our living in the context of an ongoing walk with God, resting in his supernatural, personal involvement right in the midst of the multitudes of activities and demands that surround us. In such times, instead of my prayer having a formal beginning and ending, it is rather snatches of an ongoing conversation sprinkled through the day—a silent “I need you” here, a “take this burden, Lord” there. But most of all are those whispered “thank-yous” by the dozens that pass between my Friend and me.*


I believe it is no coincidence that immediately following “Pray without ceasing,” are the words “In everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:17–18). Each of us will have to discover the most effective ways of developing this important habit. I discovered years ago that my best prayer times were when I prayed audibly with my eyes open as I took long night walks with God. This has made it easier to nurture the practice of this ongoing, often interrupted, conversation during the day.

Rather than thinking of those long spaces when duties require my total concentration as interruptions, I am sure God wishes me to assume our praying relationship has not been interrupted at all. They are simply silent times we both accept as being all right.

This reality points to another crucial truth that is fundamental to a life of continual dependence.

Building on a disciplined pattern of regular times given over to nurturing our ongoing friendship with God in prayer, we begin each day affirming both our desire and expectation that the hours awaiting us will be filled with the life of Jesus. Having done that, God expects us to assume he is answering our prayer until we have good reason to believe otherwise. In other words, God does not want us to live on pins and needles, worrying as to whether it is happening. Of course, the moment we are aware of entertaining sinful motives, thoughts, or actions, we must quickly drink in his cleansing and then realign ourselves with life (1 John 1:7).

Questions & Notes

Notes 9

19. I have purposely omitted a variety of “Disciplines of Abstinence” as listed by Dallas Willard (The Spirit of the Disciplines [San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988], 158), including solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, and sacrifice, because I understand these activities to be appropriate by-products of one’s ongoing response to both the heart and will of God and one’s resulting love for people rather than their being disciplines which one sets about to practice in order to promote spiritual maturity. Instead of their being tools God uses to change our lives, they are among the evidences (if rightly understood) that life has been changed. It is noteworthy that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness rather than that he planned to perform a particular discipline. I would imagine it would have taken a tough act of discipline not to go. On the other hand, those “things I must believe” along with “things I must do” as described in this and the preceding chapter are indeed tough disciplines out of which fullness of life flows. For example, I am convinced when Paul described his own harsh discipline of buffeting his body, the toughest buffeting involved his thought life rather than some form of physical deprivation. Always preceding physical acts are mental decisions (see 1 Cor. 9:27).

20. To see this more clearly, let’s take a very graphic illustration. I have a nose that prefers good smells over bad ones. Let’s assume God places me in some filthy aboriginal village where the stench is so intense I can scarcely breathe—even through my mouth. In this state I will find it most difficult to be content. And to be discontented with the will of God is sin. Obviously the mechanics of my problem are quite simple even though the resulting sin is among the most pervasive of all sins. My nose simply sends a message to its control center in my brain. Because of its urgency, it interrupts all other communications with one loud “I can’t take this any longer! I deserve some fulfillment. I demand something pleasant to smell.” Before long the console of the conscious department of my brain flashes in bright red, “Coveting.”

Unless my true personhood comes across with overriding decisiveness, I will be in real trouble. Either I will struggle on, bombarded with guilt and repeated confessions, or I may simply pack up and leave. But wait a minute. Life for me is not what I smell. “Sorry nose, you simply are going to have to suffer. Life for me is in displaying Jesus, and believe me, this place needs Him—‘a fragrance of life unto life!’ ” In dealing so harshly with the desires of the flesh, I am really only agreeing with the ground on which I stand.

21. Can you imagine standing before God’s judgment seat some day and hearing him say to you, “Well done, my child, you discovered a cure for cancer—you won an Olympic medal—you made it to the top of your chosen field—you fulfilled the American character.” Or even “Well done, my child, you didn’t let your birth defect, your blindness, your miserable childhood break you. No, instead you proved to the world that you could still earn that college degree, support your family. Congratulations!” What will God say? How will he measure the quality of the lives we have lived? Certainly he will evaluate our stewardship of every aspect of life. But the fundamental, overriding issue is Christ. The sphere of expression may be the Olympics or a medical lab, health or sickness, abundance or poverty. But the sphere will always be secondary to the essence—dependent resurrection life. This is the great leveler, the great equalizer of the relative significance of each believer’s life.

22. It is for this reason that the expression “the Spirit-controlled life,” is not only inadequate but contrary to Scripture. The ministry of the Spirit is to energize, to enable, to lead. “Control” suggests that I must be “restrained,” as though the direction I desire to move is opposed to God’s direction—as though God and I were at odds. We aren’t, regardless of what our flesh may signal. Righteousness is our deepest desire. We are to “walk” or “live” by the Spirit. He is the enabler. It is by the Spirit. Happily, in keeping with this truth, at least some scholars agree that the phrase “so that you do not do what you want” (Gal. 5:17, NIV, as parallel with Rom 7:14–23) expresses the wish to do righteousness, which is possible through living by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 18). See James Montgomery Boice, “Galatians,” Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 10 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976); Walt Russell, “The Apostle Paul’s View of the ‘Sin Nature’/‘New Nature’ Struggle,” Christian Perspectives on Being Human: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Integration, ed. J. P. Mooreland and David M. Ciocchi (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993), 217. Regarding this passage J. P. Packer writes, “Any idea of holiness as a manful refusal to do all that one most wants to do must be dismissed as the unregenerate mind’s misunderstanding. True holiness…is the doing of that which, deep down, he now most wants to do, according to the urgings of his new, dominant instincts in Christ.” (J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit [Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Pub. Co., 1984], 108.)

23. Though many are familiar with 1 Cor. 10:13, there is a remarkable message hidden away in Isa. 28:23–29. God describes the wisdom he gives to farmers as they carefully plant different kinds of seeds, and with equal care, thresh the seeds at harvest time. Dill and cumin are soft seeds with thin hulls. They need only the careful tapping of a rod to release the seed. Barley has a tough hull which requires the heavy turning of the cartwheel. As the farmer, so also with our God. He knows the kind of seed you are. Perhaps you are a “barley” kind of personality, needing the cartwheel—what to the dill seed would appear terribly harsh treatment. But to release you—to free you to experience life in its fullness—it is perfect, because our wise “farmer” God will never allow the cartwheel to turn one too many times. It is also good to remember that to the “dill,” the tap of the rod would seem as harsh as the cartwheel to the barley. How sensitive we need to be in accepting the varied “faceting” methods God chooses to use in the lives of his distinctively different children! “This also comes from the LORD of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom.”

  1. Forbes, Imagination, 29–30.

  2. A life of _________ _________will always be an illusion apart from a disciplined mind and a godly use of the gift of imagination.

  3. The renewal of our minds must involve a _________, _________ type of knowledge.

  4. Though both the desire and the power for holiness (the Holy Spirit) are within, God has purposed that the release of that power comes only as a result of a life of _________ _________ upon him, the Source of our life.

  5. The most important prayer I know to pray! It is found in Ephesians ___:___.

Click on the "Birthright" tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.

32: Things I Must Do Pt 1

  In this section Needham reminds me to believe that I can rise above the chaos created by the sin of another against me. I know that if another sins against me, then I can respond as God does to me.  But, I can also bring the mind of God to understand why that person sinned in the first place.  Understanding this frees me and removes me from taking a personal hit in the dire situation.  The person holds no control over me while he holds no control over his own life (he sins).  He's like a car going down the street that has lost its steering.  I understand why people sin.  In a sense I see them more as victims being manipulated through temptation and the devil than someone who has a personal vendetta against me.  In addition, Needham gives another powerful illustration to move our minds into doing the right thing.
As seen at kochava.com
This is a review of Birthright by David Needham with study questions added to turn them into lessons. These lessons are part of a wider study on Sanctification by Faith which has as its goal the fulfillment of Gal 5:16

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

I’ve set these studies in a specific order so that all may easily build on the foundation of Christ with the finest materials - gold, silver, and precious stones (1 Cor 3:10-13). God has gifted the Church with amazing evangelists, pastors, and teachers to help us in this building project (Eph 4:11-16). I invite you to study along with me. You can see an overview of the complete Sanctification by Faith study here. To go to the start of the current lesson (Birthright) click here.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess 5:23

9: The Mechanics of a Miracle Life


Passivity—even spiritual passivity—will never produce holiness, nor, for that matter, will our passionate pleading with God. Happily, he has laid out for us both those things we must believe (chapter 8), plus a variety of things we must do. With those two questions, “Why is it so easy to sin?” and “What can I do about it?” still before us, it is time we look at four crucial action steps directly linked to those things we must believe.

I. I must clear away the clutter in my life by drinking in God’s forgiveness and freedom from guilt.

I will never forget a night long ago out under the stars when I discovered forgiveness as I had never known it before. I had always believed Jesus’ death on the cross had paid for my sins. But this particular night those words from Isaiah 53, “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” and “he bore the sins of many” came alive. Yes, Jesus took the punishment I deserved, I knew that. But he did more than that. He actually took my sins and made them his own! He “became” my sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).

It is one thing to imagine myself standing before a judge, condemned to pay an impossible debt for sins committed, then watch as someone volunteers to pay my debt in full. The judgment is gone, I am free—but not free. Why? Because my guilt remains. I still did those evil deeds and I will have the weight of that guilt pressing down upon me as long as I live!

It is quite another thing to grasp the truth that God’s kind of forgiveness removes the guilt as well as the debt. This is simply amazing. That night, one by one, as I verbalized dozens of specific sins I had committed, I handed each one to Jesus, affirming they were no longer mine, but his. Symbolically I acted out what actually happened ages ago at the cross. Over and over I repeated these words, “This sin which was mine became his.”

So hard to believe? Yes, but that night I believed.

Yet it was more than the dozens of sins I could remember. It was more than all the sins I ever had or ever will commit.

Somehow on the cross, Jesus became what I had been—a sinner.

I—I had been crucified with Christ.

Is Jesus still taking the punishment I deserved?

No. He finished it.

But does he still bear the guilt he took from me when he made it his own?

No. He finished that, too!

But how? God says, “The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life that he lives, he lives to God” (Romans 6:10). When Christ arose, he not only completed the punishment, but he also left the guilt behind.

What about me? The same? Yes, the same. I, too, am risen with Christ. As new and clean and guilt-free as my risen Christ! That is Romans 6.[1]

Christian, have you quenched your thirst for cleanness by taking huge gulps of both God’s total forgiveness and deliverance from guilt?[2] Then to top it off, why not add a few big swallows of his patience, his faithfulness, and his steadfast love? Remember, too, that this thirst-quenching fountain is always there, for every sin—those past and those that may yet take place.

Acting on What You Don’t Feel

I suppose the act of accepting this marvelous gift from God could lead one into a casual attitude toward sin, were it not for the fact that such an attitude would mock the love relationship which exists between ourselves and God. Remember, even deeper than our thirst for forgiveness is our thirst for purity and transparency in that relationship.[3]

But to believe what you may not be able to feel is so hard to do! Imagine being a pilot, who, after great effort, has obtained an instrument rating. Up there alone, high in the sky, you suddenly find yourself enveloped in a huge cloud with every visual point of reference gone. Before long, you begin to feel a terrifying sensation—your plane is going into a steep, curving dive out of control! Though the instruments tell you that you are straight and level, momentarily you find yourself unable to resist moving the stick in response to your feelings. What must you do? You know! You forcibly repudiate how you feel. You place full confidence in the instruments…and you make it!

We must do that with Scripture. It is true the temptations you may be feeling are totally real. The sins you irresponsibly permit to happen are equally real. But what God has said is an overriding reality. You must, as an act of trust, drink in his forgiveness.

Though as a child I could have quoted John 3:16 and 1 John 1:9 in my sleep, I still pictured God as a very sober Sovereign who loved me with sad love. I assumed whenever he looked my way he observed with great disappointment. Why? Because he had reason to be disappointed. Wasn’t I always failing him in some way?

I find it just about impossible to rejoice in anyone who I know is unhappy with me. How long can you smile at God if he is not smiling back? So what happens? With no genuine joy, we search for some other kind of response to him. We turn to worship, awe, humbleness—even thanksgiving. But most of all, we pour out our confession. We may even talk about his love, but love without joy is like the sun hidden behind the clouds.

Yes, God loves me, but does he rejoice in me? He rejoiced when he saved me (Luke 15:6, 9, 32), but does he rejoice now? How important it is to discover we worship a God whose dominant emotion is joy (See John 17:13; Nehemiah. 8:10; Proverbs. 8:27–31; Phil. 2:13; Eph. 1:5, 9; Heb. 2:12.) and who deeply wishes us to respond to him with joy. Though momentarily we may grieve the Spirit, Jesus said, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).[4]

Whenever we have confessed some sin and received God’s forgiveness, we face a crucial choice. We may either spend the next five minutes (or however long we want) groveling in the awfulness of what we did, meandering through our miseries, castigating ourselves for being such dumb jerks: “Won’t I ever learn? How could God ever put up with me?” Or, after we pause long enough to identify where it was we lost our bearings—where we lost our perspective and opened the door to sin*—we can turn our eyes upward and gaze into the face of our most marvelous, forgiving, gracious, smiling God: “What a God! What a Savior! The slate is clean. I see the sunshine of your joy shining on my path.


Taking the time to reflect over the sequence of events that led up to any particular sin is crucial. As we follow the sequence, we must not be satisfied until we have identified the real why? for each wrong step we took. In searching for the answers, we must avoid the cop-out of the simplistic answer, “It was just my sin nature acting up.” By understanding the true whys of any sin, we have some reason to hope we might avoid the sequence the next time—now that we understand where and why we went wrong. Sin is not avoidable if we continue to remain ignorant regarding this.[5] (See Action step 2 in this chapter.)

O, thank you, Father! Your arms are open wide and I run into your embrace.”*


In the past I have found this kind of response difficult to do. The reason I found it so hard to imagine that God was smiling at me was because this is not the way it is in most human relationships. If I have offended or hurt someone, it seems to take time for that hurt to heal; time for the one I grieved to be convinced of my sincerity; time to restore their trust in my love for them. Happily God is not bound by these time necessities. His grief changes to joy in an instant because he knows automatically the sincerity of my heart. How quickly we need to enter into the awareness of God’s joy! (See Zeph. 3:17; Hebrews 9:14; 10:19–22.)

It is time now for us to confront those two questions that ended our last chapter. As we discover God’s answers to the first one, “Why does sinning seem to come so easily?” we will also find his answers to our second question, “And what can we do about it?” These will be expressed in three additional action steps.

2. I must actively participate in the renewing of my mind.

One of the most common answers to the question, “Why is there so much sin in the lives of Christians?” is, “Well, the devil sure is busy these days.” Yes, he always has been busy and we must reckon with his devious ways. But if we use the devil as an escape-hatch explanation, we will miss the heart of the answer.

I believe the most powerful force behind sin is the misuse of the most precious gift God has given us—our ability to think.[6] In fact, I am convinced the overall reason believers sin is because they have allowed themselves to lose sight of where authentic life, significance, and love are to be found. They have forgotten who they are and who God is and the relational implications of both. During those forgetful moments, their flesh rushes in to fill up the vacuum none of us can endure.

Therefore, the starting point for “what I must do” is simply, I must think about what I believe. I must repeatedly hold each marvelous truth out in front of me—turning it around in my mind to see it in all of its wonder. I know of no better way to do this than while praying, while meditating before the face of God and affirming to him the glories of what I am seeing.

“To live is to think and to think is to do.” We noted this back in chapter 2. Our choices and ultimately our emotions flow from this one source. Perhaps there are times during our sleep when thinking stops, but other than that, we are always thinking. And always behind our thinking is that inescapable drivenness to make some sense out of our existence. We simply cannot handle emptiness, meaninglessness. For every conscious moment of my life I must have a reason for existing.*


“Most defense mechanisms, adjustment-to-need conflicts, are attempts to maintain self-equilibrium. This urge for balance expresses itself most fundamentally in the universal human need for meaning in life, without which some measure of the person will cease to exist. The organization of personality around some focal center designates the locus of meaning—reason for being.” (C. Carl Leninger, “Man’s Basic Need for Meaning,” Church Administration, January 1972, 12–13.)

Either we will fill it with life from God—the flow of love from the Father, which in turn flows out to others—or we will fill it with “all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches [arrogant display*]” (1 John 2:16).


The Greek word, alazonia, “describes a pretentious hypocrite who glories in himself or in his possessions.… ‘Pride of life’ will be reflected in whatever status symbol is important to me or seems to define my identity.” Glen W. Barker, “1 John,” Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 322.

Either we fill it or we die—if not physically, at least we die inside.

The Gift of Imagination

Inseparable from thinking is a marvelous quality we call imagination—that ability to form mental pictures or images, not simply of things, but of ideas. It is imagination that enables us to conceive beyond the limits of what actually is (creativity); or for that matter, beyond what ever could be (fantasy). Without imagination, language would almost cease to exist. Not only do we use numerous figures of speech, but most individual words are worthless unless they are in some way imaged in our minds. Imagination is that important. Rightly used it allows “streets of pure gold” and “gates of pearls” (each gate one pearl?) to become more than words (Revelation 21:21). We actually see them. How good of God to give us such a gift!*


Cheryl Forbes has done a beautiful job of presenting the positive aspects of the gift of imagination in her book, Imagination: Embracing a Theology of Wonder (Multnomah Press: Portland, Ore., 1986). Though I suggest she went beyond Scripture when she stated that imagination is the image of God in us (pp. 19, 39, 185), she nevertheless rightly emphasizes its importance.

Yet wrongly used it can turn our lives into despair and remorse. It is in the misuse of imagination that most sin takes place. In fact, sin becomes an empty word without imagination. It was imagination which got the human race into the mess it is in.[7] Eve imagined before she ever took one bite. Only because of this ability could the love of money be “the root of all evil.” Virtually every battle we will ever fight with sin will be won or lost on the turf of our imaginations.

Strange, isn’t it? Something so precious, so enriching and enjoyable can also be so self-destructive. This is especially true of fantasy, where we move into the world of make-believe, where imagination reigns supreme. Stepping into that world—the world that Disney, Spielberg, and Lucas like to capture—can either renew us so that our real world is reentered with fresh gusto, or it can so captivate us that our real world becomes ever more unfulfilling, depressing. For a Christian, fantasy as a refreshing diversion is healthy; as a substitute for life it is sick.

Because this is no minor issue, let’s take a closer look at fantasies that are sick. We have all had them. With artistic flair and creativity we have dreamed into life our own secret world of tingling, pungent relationships, adventures, intimacies, possessions, and emotions that far surpass Dorothy’s as she stepped out of black-and-white Kansas and into full-color Munchkinland. But instead of clicking our magic shoes, homesick for reality, we step back into the real world, disillusioned to find it is just as we left it, drab and boring.

None of us should blame a non-Christian for this type of fantasy. Reality is dark. Life without God is futile, meaningless, a “striving after the wind.” It is quite understandable for a lost world to creatively manufacture one fantasy on top of another. Billions of dollars are smartly invested every year on pictures, books, TV, music, drugs, lotteries, and casinos in order to sell temporary escape from dead-end street reality.

But for us it should be totally different. For us, reality is limited only by the infinite imagination of a God who always functions in the real world. Certainly, the manna in the wilderness for forty years did seem at times a bit bland in place of the leeks and garlic back in Egypt, back in the slave days. But that was all right—they were on their way to a land flowing with milk and honey. And it was perfectly okay to dream about that! That was reality. But to sneak out my cherished book of Twenty Best Leek and Garlic Dishes from behind my tent flap and then, one by one, to turn those picture pages of Egyptian gourmet delicacies while the manna simmered in the pot—that was not okay. It was sick. (And don’t forget, those forty years were never God’s intention in the first place.)

The trouble is, too many of us who are Christians do not see ourselves as all that different. Because we don’t, we have become fair game for the world’s fantasy mongers. In the process, all too often we somehow find the resources actually to go back to Egypt, to transform our fantasies into reality as gross perversions of the reality our loving Father had waiting for us just around the next bend.

Is Holiness Getting Harder?

Some of us can remember long years ago when we were challenged to live lives “separated from the world.” Remember those all-too-legalistic lists of Do’s and Don’ts? No, I would not wish their return. But somehow we need to be jolted—shaken—into a fresh awareness that a large share of the things that claim the imaginations of the world are not simply a waste of time. They are diabolically destructive to New Covenant life and holiness.

Is a truly godly life more difficult to live now than in the past? If we say yes, someone is bound to remind us of other morally monstrous pages of history.

But the answer is yes. Our “pure minds” (2 Peter 3:1) are more at risk now than ever in the history of the world. Never before has human imagination been so exploited, so bombarded, as in our present mechanized, media-mad electronic age. Without realizing the consequences, we are now not only racing along the “information/imagination highway,” we are also racing down the twisting street of increasingly sick fantasy that dead ends in the dehumanizing impact of virtual reality.

Could there be a greater paradox than to be part of an “advanced” society that proclaims so loudly its repulsion of demented human behavior (which in other times and places was taken in stride, often as forms of entertainment such as town square hangings and burnings at the stake, plus all sorts of dehumanizing practices, the more brutal, the better), but in its place, rents the videos and privately fantasizes the same brutalities (or worse) while maintaining a respectable public conscience?*


As a general rule, Christians have appeared to be more righteous if the culture in which they lived maintained more rigid moral boundaries. In our times, as culture collapses morally, Christians tend to collapse in tandem. Clearly, culturally conditioned righteousness is neither the product of the Holy Spirit nor evidence of the power of resurrection life, but rather a product of conformity.

Even within evangelicalism we are seeing truth being bartered away for whatever stirs the heart* and increases the numbers.


For a comprehensive description of this present tragedy, see David F. Wells, No Place for Truth: Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1993).

Flashy ideas peddled by shortsighted Christian entrepreneurs sparkle, sputter, and die only to be outdone by a new show next season. In the process, personal piety, nurtured in those very private contemplative times with God, has been replaced by deafening decibels of mass enthusiasm. And our precious gift of imagination continues to be tossed about at the whim of jugglers who have unknowingly learned their skills from the master deceiver himself.

If I am committed to holiness, I must face up to the fact that I am surrounded by an incessant bombardment from both the world and the prince of this world. They are calling out to me in sounds and shapes and ideas that precisely conform to the desires of my insatiable flesh. Already, countless automatic, sinful, chain-reaction thought patterns have been stored away in my brain, ready for instant recall. I hope it is not too late for Christians to welcome the radical, personal disciplines that will enable the church to start behaving as strangers in Vanity Fair.

Questions & Notes

  1. See Appendix 2.

  2. Christian, have you quenched your thirst for cleanness by taking huge gulps of both God’s total forgiveness and deliverance from guilt?

  3. Remember, even deeper than our thirst for forgiveness is our thirst for _________ and _________ in that relationship.

  4. See David C. Needham, Close to His Majesty, chapter 4, “Happiness Is Holiness” (Portland, Ore.: Multnomah Press, 1987), 70–79.

  5. Sin is not avoidable if we continue to remain ignorant regarding what?

  6. I believe the most powerful force behind sin is the misuse of the most precious gift God has given us—our ability _________ _________.

  7. It was _________ which got the human race into the mess it is in.

Click on the "Birthright" tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.

31: Things I Must Believe Pt 4

  Another helpful illustration is given here by Needham.  What part of the car do you think represents the Holy Spirit in a believer's life?  What part do you think represents your will?  As we learned earlier in this series on sanctification, spiritual growth follows principles of life.  Respect those principles and life takes over. 
As seen at clipartbest.com
This is a review of Birthright by David Needham with study questions added to turn them into lessons. These lessons are part of a wider study on Sanctification by Faith which has as its goal the fulfillment of Gal 5:16

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

I’ve set these studies in a specific order so that all may easily build on the foundation of Christ with the finest materials - gold, silver, and precious stones (1 Cor 3:10-13). God has gifted the Church with amazing evangelists, pastors, and teachers to help us in this building project (Eph 4:11-16). I invite you to study along with me. You can see an overview of the complete Sanctification by Faith study here. To go to the start of the current lesson (Birthright) click here.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess 5:23

Is Personal Failure Always Sin?

There is another false assumption I have made regarding sin. I have assumed that personal failure was always a sin. Of course, sometimes it is. But failure as a result of poor judgment or poor memory, for example, may not have any sinful overtones. So many decisions we make and actions we take are not related to moral issues at all. They are simply matters of judgment. I am embarrassed to admit how much precious time I have wasted grieving over these kinds of failure as being not simply failures, but sins before God. To put it simply, just because something may be stupid does not necessarily mean it is sinful.

Of course, if I fail to seek the counsel of those who are wiser because I am too proud, or if I forgot to do something because I was wrapped up in my own self-centeredness, I must admit to sin. But I must call the sin “pride” or “self-centeredness,” rather than poor judgment or forgetfulness.

How encouraging it is to find Romans 14:1–6 in the Bible. Even in issues in which a lack of spiritual maturity might result in opposing opinions, God encourages us to remember that he looks at our motives and not only welcomes us, but makes us stand accepted before him, even if our judgment is not the best.* What a relief!


Though we may be encouraged that God evaluates motives, we should be sobered by the fact that when the Scripture draws clear lines regarding moral issues, our disobedience is sin no matter how good our motives may appear to us. For example, it is always a sin to break up an unhappy marriage no matter how much you may think another prospect is in need of your intimate devotion. It is always a sin to fudge on our income tax even though the money we save goes to missions. Pure motives will always be rooted in our joyful acceptance both of who we now are and the resulting spheres in which life will be found.

5. I must be convinced a miracle life is impossible without the Holy Spirit’s power.

This is so easy to say. Who needs to be convinced? We all know it is true even if our lives are saying the opposite. Sadly, the fact that we know a truth so well may cause us to place it in some dusty back room of our consciousness. To do so frees us up to give our attention to far more interesting matters—the hottest religious controversy, the newest prophetic fad, the latest moral crusade. We pride ourselves that we are living on the cutting edge of the church. Could God be saying to us, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?…Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing” (Galatians 3:1, 3–4).

Carport Christianity

You’ve seen, perhaps, the children’s books where an automobile takes on human characteristics? The smiling grill, the blinking headlights…get the idea? We’re thinking of a car as a person. This happens to be a Christian car. His reason for existing is to glorify God. Remember, a receiver, responder, and displayer of the life—the love of God. How does he do this? By moving. He was created to move.

Of course, this car can do many other things as well. There are windshield wipers to swish, a horn to honk, CDs to blast, lights to blink—all sorts of interesting gadgets and tiny motors ready to adjust your seat and lower your windows. In fact, with all those fascinating things to toy with (and the manuals to read!) one might get so wrapped up he misses the main purpose of the car—which is to move.

Though all of these accessories get their power from the battery, the battery is not the core of the car at all. The core is the engine.

For the Christian, the engine is the inmost self, the deepest level of selfhood. The battery is the will.[1] Sadly, it is possible for a Christian to become so involved in all the varied potentialities of his flesh—his mortal being—that he may begin to think that life is right there, in the accessories. With radio blaring, horn honking, wipers swishing, lights blinking, he may have everyone believing he is a productive Christian. But where is he? Still in the carport. He has not moved at all.

On the other hand, this Christian might honestly realize the reason for which God saved him. Therefore he exerts his will to roll forward. (At this point his will would be the actions he takes, expressive of his deep, truly godly desires. See Romans 7:18, 22.) Of course, he finds it very difficult. He presses on the starter with the gears meshed and—ah!—that good ol’ battery comes through. The car lurches forward. (At least some cars used to do this!) How far? About two inches. Somehow he knows that moving must involve something more significant than this. An inch here, a lurch there. And anyway, the battery is bound to wear down.

Hmmm. Well, it’s back to the turn signals or the CD—something that isn’t quite so hard on the battery.

Maybe someday he’ll get the hang of this moving idea. But then, none of the other cars around him seem to be moving, so why should he? Everyone else seems satisfied with their electronic gadgets and accessories. No one seems to disapprove of their lifestyle. Maybe this moving idea is something you are to take by faith. One thing for sure—the scenery hasn’t changed a bit.

Distinctive Honks and Fine-Focused Fog Lights

Ah, thank goodness for the books and seminars that specialize on personality types and individual gifts. This Christian can now focus on his personhood—the distinctive honk of his horn or the fidelity of his stereo. He finds his identity as a “pre-programmed seat adjustment” person in contrast with someone else who happens to be a unique “4-wheel drive” or “variable, intermittent-wiper” person. And, of course, that makes each one very special and of unique worth.

Yet, even with all this, the whole thing is depressing because the battery (his will) keeps running down and he has to find someone to charge it up again. Happily, there always seems to be some new thing going on in town that provides the necessary jump to keep him going.

Of course, all these variables between individual cars opens a very disturbing potential: He may start comparing himself with someone else and either become depressed or jealous (or both) if he senses he is not nearly the car the other is. Or he may become very proud because he decides it is just the opposite. No matter how he feels, it always hurts when some new model comes out.

“Oh God, I Want to Move!”

And then one day he stops and thinks, really thinks. Just what am I doing? Something inside me—way down deep—is crying out for action. Real action—moving action! Who am I? What is my identity? I am a person created by God as a receiver, responder, and displayer of the life of Jesus in the world. I was created to move! “Oh God, I want to move!”

Quickly he turns to his Bible and begins to read with diligent study. Maybe, he thinks, if I knew more of what this book says, that would make me move. So with his will he sets his alarm to go off half an hour earlier in the morning. With his will he rejects the urge to tap the snooze button on his alarm. With his will he opens the Bible, reads the verses—even takes notes and memorizes a verse or two. He closes with a prayer and his day begins.

But is he moving?

We all know that our simple wills cannot produce holiness, any more than a battery can make a car go. No, he isn’t moving.

“Well, what next? I’ve tried Bible study and prayer, maybe if I volunteered to take an evangelism class or opened my home for a group Bible study? Maybe …”

What then can produce holiness? What does it take to get the car moving? How about the fuel tank? Can we, with all respect and reverence, make the fuel the power, by the Spirit, of the risen life of Jesus? Finally our illustration begins to fit. How does a car move? In layman’s terms, I think it happens like this: Drawing initially on the resources of my battery, I press down the clutch pedal (or shift into Park), turn the ignition key to the On position and, holding it there, turn the engine over. In so doing, fuel is drawn into the fuel injector where it is prepared to join a spark from the battery. A series of inner explosions begin, the gears are meshed…I move.


Consider the similarities in our lives as Christians. A Christian’s will in itself does not produce holiness. But it does initiate the circumstances in which holiness can be realized. That most important act of drawing in the fuel with the ignition key to On and the gears disengaged parallels an essential spiritual event: one’s conscious openness, dependency, and expectation of receiving the necessary risen-life energy by the Holy Spirit. That openness to him and his supernatural empowering must be an attitude of the mind, not simply a passing thought.[2] I resolve to say yes to anything he might wish to do in and through my life—he is sovereign. It is then that I find myself moving into an entirely new dimension of living. The scenery is changing. I am moving. Jesus is being seen through me!

My will does in fact set the alarm to go off. And that same will continues to function as I open my Bible and read words and sentences using my intellect. But I find that I cannot credit my will (battery) with the adequate power to move, even though it is fundamentally part of the power system because it is wired to the engine (my inmost self). The credit goes to God the Holy Spirit. He, “the Spirit of Christ,” is my life! He is my strength (Romans 8:9; Philippians 1:19).

Why Is It So Easy to Sin?

This all sounds so wonderful. But still we wonder, “Paul, John—God! Is a life of victory possible?”

Their answer is “Yes!”
“But is it reasonable?”
Their answer is still “Yes!”

“Then please, why—even though I believe these things—why does sinning seem to come so easily? And what can be done about it?” With these weighty questions, we now turn to our next chapter.

Questions & Notes

  1. For the Christian, the engine is the inmost self, the deepest level of selfhood. The _________ is the will.

  2. That openness to him and his supernatural empowering must be an _________ of the mind, not simply a passing thought.

Click on the "Birthright" tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.

30: Things I Must Believe Pt 3

  Needham provides a better way to think about yourself when faced with temptation and sin.  He also points out an interesting contrast between the Old Testament and the New Testament that I don't recall learning about. I don't think I will ever unsee that now.  
As seen at twomeasuresfoolish.org
This is a review of Birthright by David Needham with study questions added to turn them into lessons. These lessons are part of a wider study on Sanctification by Faith which has as its goal the fulfillment of Gal 5:16

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

I’ve set these studies in a specific order so that all may easily build on the foundation of Christ with the finest materials - gold, silver, and precious stones (1 Cor 3:10-13). God has gifted the Church with amazing evangelists, pastors, and teachers to help us in this building project (Eph 4:11-16). I invite you to study along with me. You can see an overview of the complete Sanctification by Faith study here. To go to the start of the current lesson (Birthright) click here.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess 5:23

Giving Up Prime Rib

Ready for a bit of imagination? Try to visualize yourself in the restaurant of an airline terminal, eating a thick, juicy slice of prime rib (or whatever tantalizes you the most) while waiting to depart to some far-off, exotic place. Suddenly you hear the final call for your flight. Even though you see, there on your plate, those last, choicest morsels, you push away from the table and race to claim your dream. If there was a voice saying “Just one more delicious bite,” you never heard it.

Why did you push away the plate? Was it because you did not want to disappoint your rich uncle who lovingly bankrolled the trip? Was it because you were part of a very rule-conscious tour group?

Nonsense! You did it because you most deeply wanted to. To miss going would be to miss life.

Before our new birth, we were like a person with no reservation and no ticket in a terminal where there weren’t any real flights, anyway. Only fantasy flights. So where is “life” for that person? Life for them is the terminal—the curio shop, the magazine stands, the restaurant, the bar, and perhaps a coin operated flight simulator. For that person, it would make no sense at all to shove aside the prime rib.

Do you see the point? We must stop believing that living a godly life is a sacrifice we should be willing to make for God.

Changing Our Beliefs

For many of us who have been shaped by a duty-failure-confession-forgiveness-oriented Christianity, it is so hard to change our beliefs. We slip back so easily into those old ruts. Sure, being a Christian is exciting as long as something exciting is going on. Some special music group, stirring speaker, mega rally, glowing report of evangelistic successes, TV extravaganza. But how is it away from that, in those awkward, private times when my self-image has to stand by itself—alone? There I am, faced with an impossible task of being a self-centered sinner whose purpose in life is to produce God-centered holiness. Since this is too painful to endure, I search for one of those threadbare counterfeits;

“Maybe I could give myself to intense, personal discipline—to ‘walk the line.’ Then at least my outward behavior would look Christian.

“Or, I could become the best salesperson for God around, crossing land and sea to make new converts. (See Matthew. 23:15 for Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees’ evangelistic zeal.) There’s no doubt about it. I do have a wonderful product to offer—forgiveness now and heaven when you die!

“I know! I could teach theology, the Bible. Since I can’t change my nature, I can at least improve my knowledge and multiply that knowledge in my students.”*


Though the product and the purpose are completely different, it is possible for the Bible teacher, pastor, missionary, or evangelist to discover their identity precisely the same way as any hard-driving insurance salesperson whose goals may be measured in terms of monthly quotas, earning gold keys, or having one’s name mentioned for special commendation at the next conference. Biblical scholars may find fulfillment in their word studies on the same mind-flesh level as the scientist who analyzes the vocabulary of a chimpanzee. Similarly, a Christian teacher may go over her books, sharpen her notes, develop stunning illustrations, utilize modern audio-visuals, and assume that if she does these things she is fulfilling life. Truthfully, she may be scarcely touching life at all—authentic life, resurrection life. To compound the loss, many Christians will put such individuals on spiritual pedestals.

As a Bible college teacher, this last one hits close to home. With each fresh year, it seems, I find myself increasingly captivated by the truth God has seen fit to share with us in his Word. It is pure pleasure to anticipate the exciting discoveries my students will make while adding to their reservoir of biblical knowledge. I visualize myself as God’s park ranger standing—not in front of Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park, but in front of the “Fountain of Living Water“—with my students looking right past me as they observe the majesty of God’s glorious fountain.

The Divine Fountain

During their stay in Bible college, they will analyze the fountain with great care—its freshness, its flow, its purity, its clarity, its beauty. They will write papers on the fountain, pass exams on the fountain, preach sermons on the fountain. Together we will even have times of worship before the fountain. Maybe, eventually, they will find their own “Christian park ranger position,” traveling to the ends of the world, spreading the good news about “the fountain of living water.”

But God’s fountain was never meant simply to be a “look at it,” “talk about it” fountain, but a “drink from it” fountain. One day in the temple, Jesus “cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.’ ” To the Samaritan woman by the well, he said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 7:37; 4:13, 14). Our Bibles end with the words “Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17, NIV).*


Standing in our theological orthodoxy, we as evangelicals may pride ourselves that we have not forsaken the fountain of living water as Judah did so long ago (Jer. 2:13). Instead, we may well be missing the fundamental purpose of the fountain. Somehow that seems even more tragic.

Pride and its counterpart, shame,* dissolve when we discover that God did not save us first to use us, to get us to perform. No, he saved us to love us, to keep on giving himself to us!


Shame is the expression of that agonizing assumption that I in myself should have been able to behave properly, that I should not have messed up, that I have lost the respect and honor I could have had if only I had done better. Shame is a direct product of a denial that “in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” It is in that sense that shame is a counterpart to pride.

There is not much space for pride when you are bending low enough to drink from the spring of Living Water. The new birth begins there. The Christian life stays there.[1]

Yes, we must know the truth. But truth has a goal. That goal is drinking in life. The new birth is the beginning of that life. How it grows as we continually drink in Christ’s risen life will be measured by the outflow of a life full of meaning—significance—love.

Actually receiving (drinking) says it all.

We were saved by receiving God’s love—his self-giving (John 1:12).

We then respond to God’s love by fulfilling his command to love him by giving ourselves to him. How? By lifting up to him our lives as empty dishes so that he may fulfill his heart’s desire by continuing to pour his love—himself—into us.

The result? His life, his love spills out and splashes on everyone around—from our lives! They become the visible expression of our receiving God’s infinite self-giving. (See diagram below.)

His love has no limit;
His grace has no measure;
His pow’r has no boundary known unto men.
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.[2]

4. I must be convinced that God’s expectation for his children is that they do not sin.

Even though we confronted this truth in chapter 6, I admit I still find myself hesitating to type that statement. It simply sounds too radical. We are so used to assuming that sinning is normal—that we are always failing God in one way or another. As we noted earlier, not only did John in his First Epistle repeatedly deny such an idea, but New Covenant truth in general denies it. John stated,

I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous.

Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them, they cannot sin, because they have been born of God (1 John 2:1; 3:9).

Though John allowed that sin was possible for a child of God, to sin would be nothing short of temporary insanity.[3] The Apostle Paul expressed the same perspective to the Christians at Corinth when he said, “Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more; for some people have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:34).*


The fact the epistles repeatedly urged the early churches to stop whatever sin was occurring argues strongly for the apostles rejecting any thought that sinning was normal behavior. Though under the Old Covenant, God’s people were also challenged to holy living, a major emphasis was placed on the expectation of their failure. A classic example of this is found in Solomon’s failure-obsessed intercessory prayer. (1 Kings 8:30, 33–36, 46–50. For another example, see Deut. 31:16–29.) This radical contrast between the Old Covenant expectation of defeat in sin and the New Covenant expectation of victory in holiness was central in Paul’s mind as he wrote the book of Galatians. See also Jesus’ intercessory prayer in John 17 (not even a hint of any expectation of failure). Since justification by faith and reconciliation were realities under both covenants, the difference lies in the distinctives of the New Covenant miracle of resurrection life—regeneration—wrought by the “Spirit of life.”

Rather than assuming that some measure of sin was to be expected, the epistles as a whole—whether written to correct or to encourage—share in common the belief that sin is both abnormal and irrational behavior for a child of God.[4] (Among the many examples, see Romans 8:12–13; Galatians 5:16, 21; Ephesians 4–6; Colossians 3–4; Titus 2:11–14; Hebrews 12:14; James 3:10–12; 1 Peter 2:11, 21–25; 4:1–4; 2 Peter 1:3–9).*


Observe Paul’s repeated question, “Do you not know?” 1 Cor. 6:2, 3, 9, 15, 16, 19; cf. 3:16 in light of 3:3. Clearly, Paul was shocked as to their ignorance regarding the radical miracle that took place when they were saved. Their values were wrong because their concept of themselves was wrong.

When Does a Temptation become a Sin?

Closely related to this is the importance of being able to identify when sin is actually taking place. Too readily we Christians have assumed we have already blown it the moment we discover an evil thought registering itself in our consciousness. (Remember, there are a myriad such thought patterns already programmed in our brains.) As we noted earlier, it is so humiliating to admit to myself, much more to anyone else, that my flesh—the mind of my flesh operating independently from God—is just plain lecherous. I hate to admit how often thoughts have burst into my consciousness that are just plain sick. I would blush to make a list—but you know them, too. My first reaction to that awareness is both shock and dismay. “How could I ever think something that bad?”

In the past, my automatic assumption was that since I was already conscious of the thought, I already had messed up. If this was so, what difference did it make whether I let the thought linger for a while? What’s the use of fighting it when I have already lost? If such thoughts came during my devotional times, which so often happened, they ruined any prospect of happy fellowship with God. Even if I confessed my sin, it seemed as though no time went by before the whole cycle would recur. I had no difficulty agreeing with one writer who said that “we resonate with confession.”[5] Sadly, I had failed to distinguish a temptation from a sin.*


“James clearly distinguishes sin from evil desire and temptation. Evil desire ‘gives birth to sin,’ but it is not sin. Temptation may lead to sin, but it is not sin. We must not get down on ourselves because we are tempted to sin, nor because we hear the voice of evil in our thoughts. These occur because of our human condition. We cannot help that. Sin occurs when we heed that evil voice and yield to that temptation. To overcome these and listen rather to the voice of God is the perseverance of faith.” (William R. Baker and Paul K. Carrier, James and Jude [Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Co., 1990], 26.)

This is a classic example of calling something a sin even though we are directly contradicting Scripture. James 1:14–15 is quite specific in separating the existence of a sinful thought from the entertaining of a sinful thought.[6] What an important distinction! We have not sinned until we make the choice to entertain an evil thought.[7]

This is a most encouraging truth. When we recognize the myriad megabytes of uncensored trash filed away in the computers of our minds, how thankful we may be that God does not measure our personal holiness by evaluating the contents of our brains. (This paragraph is worth reading again!)

If in that moment of awareness, I repudiate the right of that thought to contaminate my consciousness and immediately affirm righteous thoughts, I have not sinned.*


See chapter 7 regarding this concept and the temptations of Christ.

I have not sinned any more than if I instantly reject something I have seen or heard which, if given a chance, would stir my fleshly passions. Rather than those thought patterns arising from who we most deeply are,* they find their source in what Paul calls “the law of sin which dwells in my members” (Romans 7:23, italics mine).


It might be argued this disagrees with Jesus’ words “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mark 7:21). In response, it first should be noted that Jesus said this in order to underline the simple truth that defilement does not come from the outside in, but from the inside out. As with so many words, heart is used in a variety of ways in the Bible. Here, it is more probably a synonym for the mind (see Col. 2:18). It is unnecessary contextually to require the word to take on the deeper spiritual sense of one’s inmost self as used in Rom 7:22, which Paul equates with his mind (Rom 7:23, 25). Since animals produce many of the sinful expressions listed in Mark 7:21–22, yet are nothing more than flesh, one needs to look no deeper than the fleshy mind in human beings to explain the same attitudes. True, for the unregenerate individual, there is no life deeper than flesh. Therefore their “heart” or “mind” is indeed what they most deeply are. What a beautiful contrast we find in “the pure in heart” who will see God! (See Matt. 5:8; cf. Titus 1:15; also those who possess a “sincere [pure] mind,” 2 Pet. 3:1, Gr. dianoia.)

Questions & Notes

  1. The spring of Living Water – The new birth _________ there. The Christian life _________ there.

  2. Annie Johnson Flint, “He Giveth More Grace” (Kansas City, Mo.: Lillenas Publishing Company, 1941).

  3. Though John allowed that sin was possible for a child of God, to sin would be nothing short of temporary _________.

  4. Rather than assuming that some measure of sin was to be expected, the epistles as a whole—whether written to correct or to encourage—share in common the belief that sin is both _________ and _________ behavior for a child of God.

  5. Tremper Longman III, How to Read the Psalms (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 28. As we have noted, such an obsession with confession is far removed from the perspective of 1 John.

  6. James ___:___ is quite specific in separating the existence of a sinful thought from the entertaining of a sinful thought.

  7. See Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), 596–98.

Click on the "Birthright" tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.

29: Things I Must Believe Pt 2

  Do you believe this statement? The Christian's deepest level of self, his truest self, NEVER desires to sin.  Needham explains in part how this is.  If this is true, how does this change what you do today and how does this change your perception of what goes on inside you?
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This is a review of Birthright by David Needham with study questions added to turn them into lessons. These lessons are part of a wider study on Sanctification by Faith which has as its goal the fulfillment of Gal 5:16

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

I’ve set these studies in a specific order so that all may easily build on the foundation of Christ with the finest materials - gold, silver, and precious stones (1 Cor 3:10-13). God has gifted the Church with amazing evangelists, pastors, and teachers to help us in this building project (Eph 4:11-16). I invite you to study along with me. You can see an overview of the complete Sanctification by Faith study here. To go to the start of the current lesson (Birthright) click here.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess 5:23

3. I must be settled once and for all as to who I most deeply am and therefore where life is to be found.

This, of course, touches the heart of this book. Like scuba divers on the floor of the sea, the apostles knew they were living in an alien environment. They were not of this world any more than Jesus was (John 17:14, 16). Life for them had to come from above—from their true home. Though to the world, they may have appeared a bit strange—like sea creatures with flapping fins, masks, and wetsuits—they knew they were aliens. Because of this, they looked at life through different eyes. Their awareness of their new identity automatically produced in them a revolutionary change as to why they were alive—as to who and what it was that gave purpose and significance to their existence.

No longer was meaning or personal worth measured by prosperity or worldly acclaim. As needs arose, Christians willingly sold their lands and houses to share with those who had less. Paul must have echoed the testimony of many when he said, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have.… In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need” (Philippians 4:11, 12, cf. Acts 4:34).*


One may assume that since Paul said “I have learned,” he was describing an extended process. Indeed, he learned through each experience over the years. Yet we dare not deny the radical transformation following Pentecost in which contentment in suffering came so quickly to so many.

In Hebrews 10:34 we find that remarkable statement, “you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting.” (How many of us are comfortable with that statement?) To whatever degree this awareness of life is missing today, to that degree holiness will be perverted.

For instance, if I wrongly assume that holiness comes in saying no to all of my desires in order to say yes to God (since I am primarily a sinner with sinful desires), then, on top of all the normally expected trials and disciplines and Satanic pressures, I will have to carry the added burden of my own self-pity. How radically opposite to this is Paul’s declaration when he said, “I have suffered the loss of all things…that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). In view of the positive (which was his desire) he considered the loss but rubbish. He knew that to say death to the flesh was indeed saying life not only to the glory of God but also to himself as a future partaker of that glory as a joint heir with his Lord. Christians who really know this can truly be themselves without being selfish!

Why Is This So Hard to Do?

If this truth is so biblically reasonable, and certainly wonderful, why is it that some Christians find it so difficult to believe that their greatest worth, their truest identity, is deeper than flesh (natural mortal humaness)? I believe the most common reason is they have already found their self-worth somewhere else:

in their physical attractiveness;
in their high intelligence, even their grasp of Scripture;
in their talents, abilities, giftednesses, even in their ministry successes;
in their material possessions;
in their warm fulfilling relationships with spouse, children, friends;
in their positions of power or control over others;
in their determination to fulfill their passions, even the biblically acceptable ones, and their success in doing so; in their spiritual disciplines;
and in the honor, admiration, respect, and acceptance they receive.

Why seek (or even be open to) any deeper self-worth or identity if these are working well enough?

Well then, how did this come about? In addition to the natural bent of flesh to seek worth in itself, most of us, from childhood on, have been programmed by our culture to measure our worth on a strictly flesh level. (Of course, there are many aspects of our mortal humanness that we should value.)

Because of this, it is not easy for any of us to have a wholesome respect for flesh level self-worth while at the same time rejoicing in a far deeper level. The first step is to at least admit that we have a shallow evaluation of our worth as God’s spiritual masterpieces.

Not the Whole Show

But awareness of identity is scarcely the whole show. It rather enables you to go forward in your discovery of meaning. Once identity is a settled thing, your focus is no longer self, but on life right there in front of you.[1] Though the initial focus is on identity, the lasting focus must be on life. “And this is eternal life,” Jesus said, “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). John later added that if we truly know God, our active reaching out in love toward people would be the proof that our life indeed was from God (1 John 4:7–12). Hence, authentic life is always relational, both vertically and horizontally.[2]

Yet if all of this is to be a working reality, I must be sure I have made that jolting discovery that my flesh—especially my inborn mental programming—is an inveterate liar. In fact, I must be prepared for frontal lobe attacks by my fleshly mind, stirred up by the devil himself, that none of the above is true. Sometimes these attacks will be so disguised they may even look spiritual. I can expect to be bombarded by proud assertions that if I really worked at it on my own, I could find not only significance and love, but I could even satisfy God.

We see this vividly described by Paul in Romans 7. “There was a time,” Paul says, “when I thought I was alive—a good, decent, God-fearing Jew. Then I made that devastating discovery that righteousness involved more than performance, more than duty, it involved desire—‘Thou shalt not covet.’ I couldn’t handle that. How could I stop wanting what I wanted?” And in that moment he watched life as he knew it shrivel up and die.*


See Rom 7:9–11. It is in light of this realization he then cries out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from the body of this death?” (7:24) This sense of hopelessness as to finding life (a sense of personal worth, significance and love) is what Paul meant by the word “death” in Rom 8:2, 6, 10, 13a. This unique use of “death” should be seen in sharp contrast with his references to life in the same verses.

Often we hear of the need of brokenness. This is what brokenness is all about. It is that painful, pride-shattering discovery that “in my flesh dwells no good thing.” Before I will welcome with joyous enthusiasm God’s entirely new perspective, I must force myself to be devastated by the lecherousness of my flesh—it “lusts against the Spirit” (Galatians 5:17).*


“Lecherous flesh” is the same flesh (functioning independently) which must be made a slave to righteousness. When this is taking place, a believer’s flesh takes on a beautiful significance as being the means by which the life of Jesus is expressed, physically, emotionally, and verbally by the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

Happily, Paul saw the door swing wide open to authentic life as he wrote, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.… If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:2, 13). Not only had God changed his heart (reconciliation), but he also made the joyous discovery that he was now alive to an entirely new dimension of existence: life in the spirit by the Spirit (regeneration).[3]

Another Look at an Opposing View

Since understanding the mechanics of holiness is so important, I can think of only one other way to underline what is so much on my heart, and that is to take another brief look at an opposing view that seems to be so common today.

This view appears to be built on the idea that whenever you are feeling sinful desires, you are actually encountering your fundamental nature—a sinner. In those hot, pressured times, you either follow through with those desires and do what you want, or you by God’s strength resist them and end up doing what you ought.

Whenever you end up in one of those “interior cabinet meetings” by deciding to go against what you want in order to do what you ought, you discover a variety of emotional responses. On one hand, you may feel good because you know you’ve made some points with God by obeying his urgings. But on the other hand, you may also feel a sense of loss by your decision because you know you have missed out on what you really wanted to do. (Remember the illustration of watching TV?)

Yet whether or not you obey the “oughts,” you still must reckon with the true nature of the kind of person you assume yourself to be—at heart, a sinful person. According to this view, the choice to go against oneself is called “dying to self” or “getting self off the throne.”*


I believe Ray Stedman has done an excellent job of exposing the inadequacy of viewing a Christian as having either ego (self) on the throne or Christ on the throne. (Ray C. Stedman, Authentic Christianity [Portland, Ore.: Multnomah Press, 1984], 90–91.)

Those holding this belief would say this is what Jesus meant when he said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Didn’t Paul express the same thing when he wrote of “not seeking my own advantage” and of doing “nothing from selfish ambition or conceit” (1 Corinthians 10:33, Philippians 2:3)?

But self-denial may be understood either as denying selfishness and self-centeredness, or denying one’s essential personhood (because of its supposed evil bent). Before we choose the latter, we need to face the fact that Jesus, too, knew “self-denial.” He not only denied the desires of his flesh for food when he was tempted, but we may assume there were many other similar flesh desires he rejected because they interfered with his deepest desire to do his Father’s will.*


The one Scripture section around which there is a special mystery is the record of Christ’s struggle in Gethsemane. There it would appear that he expressed a wish contrary to the will of his Father. “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want” (Matt. 26:39; cf. Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42). Some have suggested this was simply an expression of his human will that naturally would draw back from the cross. I suggest an alternate view. Could the repulsion he felt rather be the expression of his essential will as a person of absolute righteousness and spotless purity who most properly would react not so much against the impending suffering as against the impending reality of being “made sin” (2 Cor. 5:21)? The “will” of holiness would rightly stand against personal contamination. How could it ever properly be the will of a holy person to become unholy? Only the overriding purpose of his Father—which encompassed not only holiness but love, grace, and the necessary satisfaction of his own righteousness—would be adequate for the Savior to say, “Your will be done.”

Certainly for him there was no “sinful self” to take “off the throne.”

Fulfilling the Self We Most Deeply Are

Whether or not we realize it, the desire of our inmost self is the same as Paul’s—“for me to live is Christ!” It is correct to speak of Christian self-denial within the limits of a sense of selfishness or self-centeredness, both of which are enemies of dependence. But it is also fully biblical to say that I as a Christian—a self, a person—am to do the exact opposite of denial.*


Concerning self-denial, 2 Cor. 5:15 needs to be evaluated. It is important to see that the statement “those who live might live no longer for themselves,” comes right in the middle of an important progression of thought. Paul begins the chapter by making a clear distinction between one’s deepest self and his mortal house. This follows with a contrast between those who take pride in appearance, who recognize people according to the flesh, over against the fundamental fact that a Christian is God’s new creation, God’s ambassador. To make the “oneself” concept of 5:15 a reference to one’s deepest self would be to go against the entire flow of thought. Paul would say “sad are the Christians who live as though they were still out to fulfill life as if they had not died with Christ, as if they were not ‘a new creation’.” Paul is saying essentially the same thing as Gal. 2:20. This distinction is most important. The Bible repeatedly asserts as sinful anything that is selfish, anything that manifests one’s concern or interest in oneself without regard for others. Thus Paul stated, “for Christ’s love urges us on” so that “those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” Jesus expressed words quite similar when He spoke not only of the proper self-denial of his followers, but also of his own self-denial (see Mark 8:34; Mark 10:45; John 8:28).

I am to fulfill the self I most deeply am, even as our Lord Jesus fulfilled the self he was and is. Galatians 2:20 very pointedly underlines these distinctions.*


In Gal. 2:20 Paul was not declaring that he had lost his own distinct selfhood; he pointedly stated, “I live.” But the “self” he was now was alive because it was inseparably linked to the will and life of Christ. The “self” that he once was—the “old self” of Rom 6—that “self” had been “crucified with Christ.” Nevertheless for very practical reasons, this risen, New Covenant life which now was his, was being lived “in the flesh.”

How very important it is for Christians to be taught quickly that when they were saved, not only were they justified, but God also performed those interior miracles that changed the focus of their selfhood from flesh to spirit.[4]

Their deepest level of self, their truest self, never desires to sin. That self is always in perfect agreement with the “oughts” of God’s moral law.

Tragically, if in their early Christian years “justification by faith” was all they knew, they may struggle for years before discovering that the “oughts,” which so often seemed opposed to their “wants,” were not some nagging warnings of their conscience or God, but rather the longing cry of their own reconciled, regenerated selves. I fear the voices of well-meaning teachers have drowned out the voice of the Spirit who “bears witness with our spirit that we are children [born ones] of God” (Romans 8:16). (This might be a good time to turn back and reread chapter 4.)

Questions & Notes

  1. Once identity is a settled thing, your focus is no longer self, but on _________.

  2. Authentic life is always _________.

  3. Not only had God changed his heart (_________), but he also made the joyous discovery that he was now alive to an entirely new dimension of existence: life in the spirit by the Spirit (_________).

  4. How very important it is for Christians to be taught quickly that when they were saved, not only were they justified, but God also performed those interior miracles that changed the _________ of their selfhood from flesh to spirit.

Click on the "Birthright" tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.