A Dispensational View of the Christian Life, Part 7

It has been some time since my last post.  I have been busy with teaching, pastoring, studying, and most importantly, being a husband and father.  Recent events in our nation have introduced changes to cherished, God-ordained patterns, as well as stealing individual freedoms once protected by our nation’s Bill of Rights, and overstepping the explicit He That Is Spiritualdictates of our Constitution.  However, these changes, abuses of power, and wanton acts of hubris on the part of many do nothing to change God’s plan, or diminish biblical truth.  With this in mind we continue, and conclude our study of true Christian spirituality as set forth in the pages of Scripture.

In our last outing we examined Scripture’s two negative imperatives, namely do not grieve the Spirit, and do not quench the Spirit, and also the positive assertion that we must walk by means of the Spirit.  The key to obeying these scriptural instructions is found only in Scripture itself.  That will be our focus as we close out this series.

The Word

Paul makes reference to the fact that there is a state of the Christian walk that corresponds to that state of an infant. Returning to his letter to the Corinthians Paul states, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able for you are still fleshly. . . and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:1-3). The criticism that Paul levels at them is based upon their “jealousy and strife” (v. 3). They were grieving the Spirit by their sinfulness and quenching the Spirit through their rebellion and thus they were infants in need of milk and not able to take in the meat of God’s word. From this testimony it is easily seen that believers go through stages of growth, but those stages of growth do not come without the cooperation of the believer himself. To state it a different and somewhat controversial way, growth is not automatic nor is it guaranteed.

Again, when we turn to the book of Hebrews we see a very similar chastisement. The writer states,

…you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their sense trained to discern good and evil (Heb. 5:11b-14)

In carefully reading this rebuke it becomes obvious that these Jews were believers who had regressed in their walk. Instead of growing upward they had actually gone backward. They had been believers long enough that they should have been teaching others. Contrariwise, those who are mature are so because they have practiced faith and obedience in the word. The result is that they have had their senses trained to judge between that which is good and that which is evil. However, they needed kindergarten remedial classes in the truth of God’s revelation. Just as Paul had described the Corinthian church and the writer of Hebrews identifies his Jewish audience, believers today can be immature infants not actively engaged in the growth process. Just as the lack of growth signifies a serious problem in the natural child so it is with the spiritual child. Peter gives a good directive as to the correction of this problem.

In First Peter 2:2 he wrote, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” Peter identifies the fact that growth depends on the intake of the word and gives the imperative to long for God’s word for it is the “mother’s milk” that nourishes baby believers allowing them to grow to maturity in the Christian walk.

These three biblical examples identify the fact that maturity depends on the knowledge of God’s will and “spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that (believers) will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:9-10). The believer is like a well from which the Holy Spirit draws in order for the believer to receive His direction. Without the water of the word (Eph. 5:26) filling the mind of the believer the Spirit’s work is hindered seeing that the believer’s “well” is empty. Thus, maturity is in part dependent upon the knowledge and understanding of the revealed will of God, His word.

The Filling of the Spirit

The filling of the Spirit is, if not synonymous with, closely related to walking by the Spirit. It is not to be confused with the baptism of the Spirit, which is a one-time act, for the filling of the Spirit is a repeated occurrence.[i] The filling of the Spirit occurs when He exercises control over the direction of and actions in the life of the believer. When this is accomplished through His empowerment and the believer’s cooperation the believer lives the Christian life and grows towards maturity.

In the closing statements to the church in Ephesus Paul wrote, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). The clear comparison that Paul made centers on the issues of control and influence. To be Spirit-filled is to be controlled by the Spirit, or, just as one can be under the influence (control) of alcohol, the Christian is to be under the influence (control) of the Holy Spirit. It must also be noticed that the one who has come under the control of alcohol has done so voluntarily. Likewise, the believer who would be controlled by the Spirit must voluntarily submit himself to the Spirit’s influence. Many refer to this as yielding to the Spirit while others prefer to refer to it as depending on Him. This decision to yield to, or depend on the Holy Spirit is a matter that the believer faces following the decision to dedicate oneself to God. It is an ongoing issue in the believer’s life since the filling can only be accomplished when not in a state of grieving or quenching the Spirit and thus must depend upon the consistent confession of sin (1 John 1:19) and obedience to the word of God (John 14:15, 24).

To be Spirit-filled the believer must also know and obey the will of the Lord meaning that knowing the revealed will of God in Christ, is a necessity (Eph. 5:15,17,18ff cf. Col. 3:16ff). Remaining in the state of being Spirit-filled is to abide in Christ and in His word (John 14). Jesus told His disciples that in order for them to bear fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, they must abide in Him for, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). To abide means to reside or remain in a certain location or sphere.[ii] In this passage it refers to remaining in fellowship with Christ by being obedient to His commands[iii] (John 15:7,10,14). John explained this very verse in 1 John 3:24; “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” When a believer is not in fellowship with Christ he is no longer being filled by the Spirit. When a believer is abiding in Christ’s words then the Spirit is able to direct him in the Christian walk.

Summation

There is so much more to be discussed and what has been discussed deserves a much greater treatment than what has been given here. I would recommend that each reader take the time to examine thoroughly the references given in this chapter because the Christian life is a vast and deep subject, and we have barely scratched the surface. We have seen God’s provision for the Christian life in regeneration, justification, sanctification, baptism into Christ, and the indwelling of the Spirit. We have seen the importance of the believer’s position in Christ, the problems that the Christian faces both externally and internally as well as what it takes to progress in the Christian life. And all of this has been viewed from a Dispensational perspective. Seeing that we are meant to live “in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God,” (Co. 1:10) it would behoove us to have a firm grasp of what the Christian life is and how we are to live it. I pray that God grace will continue to guide you in your studies.

[i]For a more in-depth treatment of this subject the reader is directed to Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life, 112-114.

[ii] William Arndt and Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000) Logos Bible Software.

[iii]For an excellent discussion of this conclusion the reader is directed to Robert Dean, Jr., “Abiding in Christ: A Dispensational Theology of the Spiritual Life (Part 1),” CTS Journal 7, no. 1 (January-March 2001), http://chafer.edu/content.cfm?id=367#01 (accessed July 10, 2012).

A Dispensational View of the Christian Life, Part 6

He That Is Spiritual

As we continue to look at the Dispensational view of the Christian life, we are pleased to be able to begin to look at the more positive side of the issue.  That is not to say that the content of the teaching doesn’t have negative aspects, but the outcome of those is quite positive.  Having examined the Christian’s obstacles to living the Christian life, it is necessary now to look at what are the positive steps toward actually overcoming said obstacles.  We will endeavor to do that here, and in the following post(s).

The Believer’s Progress in the Christian Life

Lewis Sperry Chafer made a bold statement when he said, “The Christian will always be filled (by the Spirit) while he is making the work of the Spirit possible in his life.”[i] Bold statement or not it is biblical and can be substantiated by careful exegesis. We will now consider this truth very briefly.

Scripture gives the believer much in the way of directives and principles by which he is able to progress in the Christian life. We will examine four main imperatives, one dealing with the first intelligent step toward growth, and three dealing with the believer’s relationship to the indwelling Spirit: 1.) Present yourself to God (Rom. 12:1), 2.) Do not grieve the Spirit (Eph. 4:30), 3.) Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19), 4.) Walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16).

Present Yourself to God

After spending the first eight chapters of Romans developing deep doctrinal truths including the foundation of the believer’s position in Christ Paul begins chapter twelve with a command that serves to shape the remainder of the letter: “Therefore I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God (from the first eight chapters) to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1). Paul spent a great amount of the first three chapters developing the truth of man’s lost estate capping off the section with the pronouncement that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” followed immediately by the glorious news that those who are saved are so by “being justified as a gift by His grace through, the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (3:23-24). Again, the focus is on what God has accomplished on behalf of the believer and this truth is the basis upon which Paul pleads with believers to present their bodies to God.

The idea that Paul is attempting to convey is that, based on the glorious mercy of God in our salvation, we should dedicate ourselves completely to Him. The language used here is reminiscent of the animal sacrifices familiar to both Jewish worshippers and pagan ritualists. The Greek word paristemi is translated “present” in this passage. As to the technical usage of the word in this context, Marvin Vincent states, “It is the technical term for presenting the Levitical victims and offerings. . . . In the Levitical sacrifices the offerer placed his offering so as to face the Most Holy Place, thus bringing it before the Lord.”[ii] What we see then is that Paul is presenting, no pun intended, the fact that the believer has an obligation to offer himself as a real sacrifice to God, which is a total dedication in the same fashion that the Old Testament animals were set apart and dedicated for the purpose of giving their lives for the sins of Israel. The obvious differences serve to further expound the magnitude of the decision, which differences are first that unlike the sacrifices of old it is a voluntary decision, and second, it involves continued living in a state of dedication instead of immediate death of the sacrifice.

I labeled this as the first intelligent step toward growth. The reason is simple; it is a step of obedience to the Word of God. This does not necessarily mean that the believer is acting in response to Paul’s words, but it does mean that he is acting in response to God’s work in his life possibly through a series of events that God has used to bring him to the end of his own strength. In conjunction with this positive step it is without question that he will soon thereafter discover that what he has done was in obedience to God’s word.

Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). Chafer correctly expresses the truth of the matter when he described the ChristianL.S.Chafer life as one of supernatural requirements and in constant need of the empowerment of the indwelling Spirit and God’s enabling grace.[iii] With such needs and requirements it is imperative that the believer maintain a fellowship with the Spirit. It is therefore incumbent upon the believer to obey Paul’s message.

To grieve the Spirit is to tolerate known sin in our lives, to live with unconfessed sin. “Grieve” is the translation of the Greek word lupeo in its present active form which likely indicates that Paul was saying “do not go on grieving the Holy Spirit.” Sin is to miss the mark of God’s perfect righteousness or to deviate from His perfect standard. As Chafer states, “where sin is tolerated in the believer’s daily life, the Spirit, who indwells him, must then turn from His blessed ministry through him, to a pleading ministry to him.”[iv] Allowing sin in our hearts to go unchecked places us in an immediate state of carnality regardless of the length of time that we stay in that condition (Ps. 66:18). Yet, God has provided for the remedy for the sins of the believer, which provision also allows an immediate restoration of fellowship between the believer and Himself.

John addresses this subject in First John where he admits that any believer can “walk in darkness” (1:6), and thus he is not practicing the truth but that which is contrary to God’s very nature (1:5). Though still a believer, he is nonetheless living in the flesh (carnal). That walk in darkness proves that the one doing so is not in fellowship with God but out of fellowship. John continues by broadening the subject stating, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1:8). “Sin” here is in reference to the sin nature and not individual sins.[v] If we say that we do not continue to have the very source of sin, the old man, remaining in us we are deceiving ourselves. This is a sure way to live a defeated life and not progress in growth toward maturity. However, John continues: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). Therefore, understanding that we continue to have a sin nature we also understand that we continue to sin and are able to deal correctly with it. In doing so, we can maintain a consistent fellowship with the indwelling, empowering Spirit.

We can conclude that at some point in our lives as Christians we will grieve the Holy Spirit by sinning and not immediately confessing it. We may even remain in that state for some length of time. That state of broken fellowship isolates us from the Spirit’s ministries in us, particularly His work of empowering us to live the Christian life. However, God has offered the means for reestablishing fellowship by simply confessing our sins.

Do Not Quench the Spirit

Another negative command is, “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19). “Quench” is from the Greek meaning to put out (a fire), suppress, or stifle. In the present context Paul was telling the Thessalonians not to resist the out working of the Spirit and of the gifts He gives within the life of the Church (see vv. 12-18 and 20-22). Such resistance would stifle His work in their midst and would be tantamount to refusing to abide by and submit to the Spirit and the spiritual gifts at work. However, the quenching of the Spirit is not limited to the output of the spiritual gifts (vv. 12-18).

When the believer says no to the Spirit’s work, regardless of the form that work takes, he quenches or suppresses the Spirit and therefore limits or inhibits His work in the believer’s life. The Spirit does not abandon the believer, as seen earlier in the distinctions between Israel and the Church, but the believer’s resistance makes the Spirit’s filling impossible until the believer changes his mind (repentance) and confesses his sin. Therefore, the believer, according to Paul, must “stop quenching the Spirit” (present active imperative) by refusing to allow Him to work.

The cure to the quenching of the Spirit is to “present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13). This correlates directly with one’s decision to dedicate himself to God (Rom. 12:1). Christ Himself is the perfect example of this attitude (Phil. 2:5). In Hebrews 10:7 the testimony of our Lord is found: “Then I said, Behold, I have come . . .to do your will, O God.” It is perfect submission and obedience to God’s will.

To sum up, to quench the Spirit is to refuse to obey God’s revealed will. The cure is to have a change of mind (repentance) concerning said refusal and the decision to live in obedience to His will. It is to have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) and to adopt both the knowledge and the attitude associated with it (Phil. 2:5).

Walk by the Spirit

Finally, we find a positive command from Paul. He says, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). This is the believer’s exercising positive volition in deciding live in dependence upon the indwelling Spirit’s power and guidance.

To walk by the Spirit refers to living by means of the indwelling Spirit. In other words it is a moment-by-moment dependence on the Holy Spirit’s guidance in taking every step of life by faith in God based upon the knowledge of His revealed will in Scripture. Ryrie agrees, “Actually walking is, by its very nature, a succession of dependent acts. . . .Walking can only be done successfully by successive acts of faith in the power of one’s feet. Likewise the Christian walk can be done successfully only by a constant dependence on the Holy Spirit’s control over one’s life.”[vi] Remember, the Christian life is one of supernatural requirements such as understanding God’s will and choosing to live in obedience to it. This is made possible only through reliance upon the indwelling Spirit, the one “who is at work in [us], both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). When a believer grieves the Spirit by allowing sin to remain unchecked in his life he allows sin to interrupt the Spirit’s continued guidance. When a believer quenches the Spirit by refusing to live in obedience to what he knows the will of God to be he suppresses the Spirit’s work in his life. However, when the believer responds in obedience to God’s revealed will and chooses to depend upon the Spirit to do so he is walking by means of the Spirit.

Walking in the Spirit is living moment-by-moment under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit. It is to walk step-by-step under His guidance by not allowing personal sins to be left unconfessed and thereby not grieving the Spirit, and by choosing obedience to God’s revealed will thereby not quenching the Spirit. The positive decision to depend on the Spirit results in walking by means of the Spirit, or the Spirit’s filling. We will address the Spirit’s filling in the final section to follow.

It is therefore to the Christian’s benefit to strive to walk by means of the Spirit. Only in doing so will the believer find victory in the Christian life. However, we must not confuse this striving with the self-generated attempt to gain holiness by mere self-effort. Instead it is accomplished in the one who is being motivated by the Holy Spirit through knowledge of God’s revealed will and who is empowered to do so by the indwelling Spirit to choose to obey God.

Each of the previous subsections of the believer’s progress in the Christian life are related to the maturation progress involved in growth as a follower of Jesus Christ. In addition to these truths there must be added at least two others that have direct bearing upon a Christian’s ability to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).

The Christian life is reflective of natural life. Within the believing one is born a new man. That new man is meant to progress forward from the initial stage of birth to the final stage of full maturation. There is a definite process to this growth. The ultimate goal is to progress to the point that Christ is formed in us (Gal. 4:19). The Christian life, when healthy and normal, follows the same process as natural life. That is, just as a newborn baby must go through the stages of growth on his way to maturity, so the newborn Christian is a baby that must progress toward maturity. One of the failures of the Church is that there seems to be a mindset that believes every Christian is automatically on the course toward maturity simply because they believe in Christ for salvation. Merryman offers a clear and helpful explanation, “…[A] new Christian cannot be mature because maturity involves time plus knowledge of truth and application of truth (m = t + kot + aot). The same is true in physical life: at age 1 a person can be an absolutely healthy organism just as at age 20; but at age 1, it is impossible to be as mature as at age 20.”[vii] Sadly, there are many believers who are twenty years old in Christ but are babies in their maturity level.

[i]Chafer, Spiritual, 67.

[ii]Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), Logos Bible Software.

[iii]Chafer, Spiritual, 43.

[iv]Ibid., 70.

[v]Both Chafer and Merryman address this issue. Chafer states, “Sin is what we are by birth, while sins are the evil we do in life” (Chafer, Spiritual, 114). Merryman addresses the issue in the following: “John is not referring in this verse to “sins” (as he does in verse 9), rather to their source, the animating sin that continually resides in us. . . . It is the animating sin nature that he is focusing on.” See Ron Merryman, The Passion War: Spiritual Conflict in Every Believer (Casa Grande, AZ: Merryman Ministries, 2002), 5.

[vi]Ryrie, Christian Life, 114-15.

[vii] Ron Merryman, Spirituality…Maturation…Retrogression… (Casa Grande, AZ: Merryman Ministries, 2004), 6 (emphases in original).

What Southern Baptists can expect from Russell Moore and the ERLC

This is an extremely important, and informative piece that Dr. White has written.  As a former Southern Baptist pastor, and longtime member of the SBC tradition, I was quite concerned with the appointment of Russell Moore.  I appreciate Dr. White’s work, and writing on this topic.  Moore’s poor understanding of Scripture and God’s overarching plan for His world will further permeate the SBC and lead it further down the road to compromise and globalism.

What Southern Baptists can expect from Russell Moore and the ERLC.

A Dispensational View of the Christian Life, Part 5

In our last post we delved into two of the three main difficulties that a Christian faces as he/she faces in the daily challenge of living life in obedience to the Holy Spirit, otherwise known as the spiritual, or Spirit-filled life.  We will look at the third aspect of this triumvirate of problems the Christian faces.

The Internal Struggle

It is this environment of maintaining the proper motivation in the Christian life, and overcoming the various impediments into which a new creation is placed (2 Cor. 5:17) and the new man is born. The inner tension that Paul warned about in Galatians 5:16-17 exists between the Spirit and the flesh, or the new creation and the sin nature of the old creation. To use different biblical terminology it is the struggle between the new man (creation) and the old man. That term, “old man,” directs our attention back to Romans 6:6. The New American Standard Bible reads, “knowing this that our old self was crucified with Him.” However, the Greek uses the exact phrase “old man” (palaios anthropos) in place of “old self.” In the act of co-crucifixion we are transferred from our natural born position in the first Adam to our new position in the Last Adam (Rom. 5:12-21, cf. Col. 1:13-14). Paul’s further testimony concerning his own struggles is helpful. The Holy Spirit found it necessary to have Paul describe these struggles in order for believers to understand that the new position in Christ does not eradicate the old man in the present. In fact, we should remember Paul’s emphatic exclamation at his own plight, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24) This statement alone illustrates the fact that the sin nature, the old man, the flesh is indeed somehow intrinsically tied to our current physical state. It is our inheritance from the first Adam and cannot be expunged from this present body, but it is the complete removal of this nature to which we look with anticipation.

With the new man born in the believer the internal struggle begins in earnest. This is not to say that we are schizophrenic or possessed of two personalities. Ryrie offers an excellent explanation of the unity of the believer:

Although man is a many-faceted being, and even though these facets of man participate in the conflict between the old and new natures when a person becomes a believer, still man is a unity and acts as one. What I do, I do, not a part of myself. . . .True, certain aspects of my being may originate an action, but that action is performed by me, not part of me. . . .

Galatians 2:20 . . . says not only that Christ lives in me but that Christ lives in me, and the life is a life which I live – to be sure by faith – but nevertheless I live it. Whatever is done, whether for good or evil, I do, for there is no other way for the old nature, the new nature, the soul, the spirit, or any other aspect of my being to express itself than through me.[i]

It is within the context of this internal battle that the following is issued: “. . .[L]ay aside the old self, . . .and put on the new self . . .” (Eph. 4:22, 24). Our new position in Christ means that positionally, the old man is put off. The everyday experience, or our experiential or progressive sanctification, is where the battle to live the Christian life takes place, and the old man will not go quietly.  We must actively, and consistently strive to put off the old man, and replace him with the new man, the man who is to be transformed by the renewing of his mind (Rom. 12:2), replacing the old way of thinking with “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16) to which every believer has access.

The victory of the new man over the old man is, on the part of the believer, dependent upon a positive volitional response to biblical commands such as the one just mentioned. In a word, victory for the new man over the old is through obedience. The power to make the correct decision is provided by the Spirit, “for it is God who his at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Col. 2:13). Therefore, the desire is produced by the new man in conjunction with the divine enablement of the Spirit, the positive volition belongs to the believer, but the power to overcome belongs to the Lord.

It is clear from what we’ve seen that there is a great deal for the believer to overcome. Between the various impediments that the multiple enemies place in his way and the internal struggle that is faced on a moment-by-moment basis the battle is seemingly hopeless for the believer. Yet, God has not left believers to fend for themselves. The indwelling Spirit provides the power for the believer’s victory and progress in the Christian life.

[i]Ryrie, Christian Life, 32-33.

A Dispensational View of the Spiritual Life, or, Homage to He That Is Spiritual, Part 4

He That Is SpiritualIn this He That Is Spiritual article we will continue our discussion of the spiritual life from a Dispensational, therefore Scriptural viewpoint. I don’t say that simply to poke the nose of Reformed Covenantalists who believe Dispensationalism is wrong. I say that based on points made earlier in the previous three articles. Before anyone decides to berate me for saying it, please read the three other articles in this series.

The Believer’s Problem in the Christian Life

At some juncture in the believer’s life, whether it is immediate or sometime later, he will desire to live a life pleasing to God.[i] At least three major issues immediately come into play for the new believer and they will remain a mystery to him until he is made aware that these issues exist.

Motivation

The first issue is intimately tied to our position in Christ. What is it that motivates us to live the Christian life? Are we motivated by a sense of duty or fear of being cast off by God? Is it a sense of trying to do something to make ourselves acceptable to Him? Or are we motivated by the fact that we know and understand who we are in Christ and the riches to which we are privileged? Chafer describes this necessary knowledge as resulting in “intelligent motives.”[ii] “The Christian who is perfected forever, being in Christ, has, nevertheless, a life of imperfection to live so long as he is in this world.”[iii] It is the lack of this knowledge that causes some believers to live in a perpetual state of defeat and impotence in their daily lives. Because of ignorance of these truths believers become disillusioned and frustrated when they realize that they are not progressing towards maturity and continually struggle with sin. They attempt to obtain and live in holiness are based on faulty knowledge. Thus they struggle to make themselves holy and acceptable to God not knowing that based on their position in Christ they are already holy and acceptable. An excellent description of this is found in Paul’s own life:

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate….For I know that nothing good dwells in me that is, in my flesh;…For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want….Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:15,18a,19,24,25a)

Chafer offers an excellent analysis of the predicament in which the uninformed believer finds himself:

The new problem which he confronts, …is not one of how he should live that he might be accepted and perfected before God, but rather of how he, an accepted and perfected person, should live after these stupendous realities are accomplished by the grace and power of God. Until this vital distinction is comprehended and received, there will be no progress made in the extensive field of truth which directs the Christian’s life and service. Until positional truth is recognized and received to the extent that the saved one acknowledges that he is saved and perfected in the sight of God on no other ground than that, on his part, he has believed on Christ to the saving of his soul, and on God’s part, he is justified, being both forgiven and constituted righteous through the immeasurable twofold substitution of Christ…there can be only confusion and misunderstanding about the true motivating principle in the Christian’s daily life.[iv]

Therefore, the believer’s motives for living a Christian life become a central issue. Without properly grasping these truths an immature believer will go about attempting to please God in order to become acceptable instead of living to please God because he is already acceptable in Christ. He will attempt to become holy through physical means when in truth he is already holy because of divine intervention through his union with Jesus Christ, and so on. Once again Paul describes the issue when he asks the church in Galatia, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3). Thus we must assert that it is imperative that the believer know and understand his newfound position in Christ.

Impediments

The world, the flesh, and the Devil are the three enemies common to all believers. Identifying and learning to do battle with these enemies is the second of the three issues. It is appropriate to begin with the world since it is in this sphere in which we conduct our physical existence.

The New Testament uses three different Greek words translated as world. The one used in the vast majority of passages is the word kosmos. Of its many meanings, one prominently featured in the New Testament is the idea of a designed, ordered, and purposeful system that has been put into action by an architect. The ruler of this system is identified variously as “the ruler” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), or the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), which is Satan. The world has its own standards by which it operates (1 Cor. 1:21; 3:19). These are in opposition to God’s standards and wisdom (1 Cor. 1:21,25), and to adopt the world’s standards is to become the enemy of God (James 4:4).

Believers are warned not to love this kosmos system (1 John 2:15-16). In fact, part of the mission of the believer is to destroy the “fortresses” containing this worlds “speculations (man-made philosophies) and every lofty (pretentious) thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and taking every thought (false belief) captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:2-5). This feat is not easily accomplished since the believer must be matured in “the knowledge of God” (v.5) in order to do so. Chafer offers valuable insight into how to experience victory when he states, “The Biblical, as well as practical, cure for “worldliness” among Christians is so to fill the heart and life with the eternal blessings of God that there will be a joyous preoccupation and absent-mindedness relative to unspiritual things.”[v] In other words, to overcome the poisonous “wisdom” of this kosmos system it is absolutely necessary to avail ourselves of the “mind of Christ” that we possess because of our union with Him (1 Cor. 2:16). This may be accomplished only in the believer who knows and understands this truth, and it is made possible only through the power of the indwelling Spirit and the application of the word of God to everyday events of life (1 Cor. 2:10-13; John 17:17 cf. 2 Pet. 1:3-4).

The believer has a precarious balancing act to perform in that he must live in this world (John 17:11,15-16) without becoming tainted by it (James 1:27). Only by knowledge of the Word of God and the power of the indwelling Spirit (2 Pet. 1:3-4) and faith (1 John 5:4) will the believer overcome this world system.

The devil also presents a major impediment for the believer who desires to live the Christian life. Recall how Paul described our pre-salvation existence; “you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world” (Eph. 2:1-2). This system is governed by one who is directing its course, which is “according to the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). This ruler is Satan, the Devil, the accuser of believers (Rev. 12:10). Peter warns believers to “be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Again, Paul warns believers to be prepared with the armor of God in order to “be able to resist in the evil day,” having taken “the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:13,16). He is a formidable foe for whom the believer must be on guard. Without proper knowledge and preparation the believer will be powerless in the spiritual battle that he faces.

Finally, the third of the identified enemies that stand in the way of the believer’s successful execution of the Christian life is his own flesh. This is a somewhat controversial idea, but it should not be since it is clearly biblical. The flesh composes the inner source of our sinfulness. The Greek word sarx is translated as flesh. It can refer to human or animal flesh, the physical body, but also speaks of what is more than physical in man. It often refers to “man’s nature generally.”[vi] Chafer says that “it includes in its meaning the whole of the unregenerate person, – spirit, soul and body.”[vii] Unlike the other obstacles to the Christian life, this particular enemy is internal and its influence cannot easily be overcome. Paul makes the clearest statement concerning the fact that believers are capable of living by their flesh and thus reflecting the actions of the old man, the lost man. In 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:4 Paul identifies three separate types of men; natural, spiritual, and men of flesh. It is the third person that he names is of concern to us. He chastises the Corinthian church for living like “men of flesh,” which is the translation of sarkinos, a word related to sarx. Paul’s admonition is that they stop acting like infants in Christ, like mere natural or lost men, and grow to maturity as a spiritual man (2:15). Knowing the background of the Corinthian church allows us to see that it is indeed possible for a believer to live as if he is a lost man, as a carnal believer who is out of fellowship with God. It is a difficult task to overcome the flesh and not live as “men of flesh.” However, Scripture is clear that we can overcome even our flesh.

Paul declares, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). As we will see in the section dealing with progress in Christian life, walking in the power of the indwelling Spirit of God is key to living out His will in our lives. Notice how Paul describes the means of walking, or living. One instance is by the Spirit, or by means of the Spirit while the other is carrying out the desire (epithumea – craving, longing, lust) of the flesh. The inner war is seen in the competing desires as Paul explains, “For the flesh sets its desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (v.17). What Paul is describing here are two competing forces. The one of concern at this juncture is the flesh. Chafer further describes the moral use of the word flesh correctly when he wrote that it “implies that it [flesh] is still alive and includes that which makes it alive and that which expresses itself through the physical body.”[viii] Scripture attests to this in numerous places either by direct pronouncement or strong implication (2 Pet. 2:18; 1 John 2:16; Rom. 7:18; 13:14; Eph. 2:3).

[i]It seems highly improbable that a new believer will not have the desire to live pleasing to God, but typically that zeal will fade, and later at some point in his life he will face a time of upheaval that will bring the need and desire into focus more clearly.

[ii]Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1973), 6:162-65.

[iii]Ibid., 162-63.

[iv]Ibid., 163.

[v]Ibid., 181.

[vi]H. G. Liddell, A Lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996) Logos Bible Software.

[vii]Chafer, Spiritual, 111.

[viii]Ibid.

“The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven” Recants Story, Rebukes Christian Retailers [UPDATED!!!!!]

A-boy-who-came-back-from-heavenSome time back I wrote a series of articles expressing the truth that the Bible is sufficient for all of life.  Too many people within the church are willing to abandon that truth, seek extra biblical signs and messages from God, and grope around for miraculous illustrations of people receiving messages or visions…or going to heaven and coming back to tell of it.  Hey!  Who needs the Bible anyway.  We can just sit around and wait for a special message from God.

Well, books have been written, and millions of dollars made on them all the while people with little to no discernment are duped.  Their spiritual maturity is retarded, and they remain in a terminal state of immaturity…maturity is attained through the word of God only – Eph. 4:12-14; 2 Tim. 3:16-17.

Well here is a story of what has happened with one of those many books that were written concerning a trip to heaven and back.  It was all made up…and so are the rest of them.

“The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven” Recants Story, Rebukes Christian Retailers [UPDATED!!!!!].