Monday, March 3, 2008

A New Way Of Living

In my last article, I quoted a scripture from the book of Romans that is probably familiar to most Christians. What I would like to do here is to go over that same scripture and some related thoughts in order to clarify and expand upon their meaning and relevance to our lives today.

Paul the apostle said this, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do." (Rom, 7:18-19)

In the context of this chapter, what Paul is specifically talking about is the inablility we have in keeping God's law in order to attain salvation. God's law demands perfect obedience, but because of "sin" in our fallen flesh, we do not have the power to keep it perfectly. That is why Jesus came, so that he could keep it for us. And it is through our faith in Christ as our substitute, that we can enjoy the blessings of salvation as if we kept the whole law ourselves.

But more than this, this scripture typifies our condition even "after" we have accepted Jesus as our savior and have been "born again." You see, even though our souls are redeemed through our faith in Christ, our "flesh" is not; at least not yet. Paul said this,

"For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waithing for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." (Rom. 8:22-23)

So, even though we have received the first fruits of the Spirit, (i.e. the born again experience and the promise of eternal life) our bodies are not yet redeemed. That is, our flesh is still mortal, has sin in it, and is subject to the power of sin. Simply put, we still don't have the power within ourselves to fulfill God's requirements in our lives. That is where the word of God and our faith come into play again. Just as our faith in Jesus saved us and supernaturally changed us spiritually, our faith in the word of God will supernaturally "transform" us and enable us to "do" the things we are commanded to do, (despite the sin in our flesh). And as in our salvation, it won't be by our own "trying," but it will be through our faith in God's word and through God's supernatural power.

It is worthy to note here, that the commands we have to live a righteous life after salvation are not intended to keep us in good standing with God. That would be impossible. We would have to keep those commands perfectly to do so. No, we are "... justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Rom. 3:28) The reason that we are commanded by God to live righteously is for our own good and for the good of those around us. Living right has good consequences and sin has bad consequences. God wants us to live right in order to enjoy the benefits of a righteous life and to avoid the consequences of sin, just like any good parent would. (Gal. 6:7-9)

The wonderful thing about all of this, (and the point of this article) is that God provides us with the power to live righteously. And the bible calls this way of living "walking in the Spirit."

Paul says, "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." (Gal. 5:16-17)

If we do not learn what it means to "walk in the Spirit," we will continually be trying in our own strength to please God and to do well, and will be struggling with a flesh that does not have the ability to do either.

"Very" basically, "walking in the Spirit" means to believe in what God's word says about us, rather than what we think about or see in ourselves. It is believing that in Christ we are already what we need to be and already have what we need to have, rather than trying to produce any of it ourself. It is believing rather than trying, and the key to this way of living is the "new birth." It is key because when we accept Christ as our savior a real change occurs on the inside of us; the "spiritual" part of us. We are made into "new creatures" where "all things are of God" and we are once again created in God's image. (2 Cor. 5:17)

Our "new man" is the spiritual person within us that is Christ-like already. And it will be our faith in who we now are in Christ, (rather than the person that we see on the outside), that will empower us to do what we are called to do. It will bring what is on the inside to the outside. Paul called this, being "transformed by the renewing of our mind." (Rom. 12:1-2) It is a new way of thinking, and living, (one of believing rather than trying) but is the only way that will enable us to do the things which we cannot do ourselves.

This does not mean however, that we neglect our natural lives and doing the best that we can. It means that while we are doing the best we can in the natural, we are developing our faith in the word of God in order to enhance and empower our natural lives supernaturally. I have heard it called "putting God's super on our natural."

Most Christians understand that we "are saved by grace through faith," but then try living by works. They try to be the best Christians that they can be. But as Paul said, that is futile. What they don't realize is that it is just as impossible to live the Christian life by trying harder as it is "becoming" a Christian by trying harder. Our call is to believe, not do, and it is the believing that will bring the transformation needed for us to "do."

The Old Testament was about what man was required to "do." And it proved to be impossible. The New Testament is about what man is required to "believe." (It was Jesus alone who fulfilled God's law, so we need first to believe in Jesus for salvation and then believe in whom we become in Christ in order to be able to live the Christian life). It is by believing in God's word that will save us and will also empower us to do those things that we cannot do ourselves. It is the difference between believing and trying, where trying just doesn't work. It has to be by faith, and not by our works or trying for, "The just shall live by faith." (Gal. 3:11)

The bible says, "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest," that is, the "rest" of the finished work of Christ in us. When we begin believing that we are already Christ-like, that we are already as good as we need to be, that we are already pleasing to God, (rather then "trying" to be that way) then we will begin the process of being able to live just like that.

Trying harder and putting demands on ourselves only makes our problems worse. It will actually "strengthen" sin, because, "...The strength of sin is the law." (1Cor. 15:56) BUT, if we "Walk in the Spirit, we shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." (Gal. 5:16, my paraphrase) Without understanding this concept and knowing how to apply it properly in our lives, Christianity will become a vicious cycle of commitments, trying, failure, guilt and disappointment; a life of enslavement to standards that we can never live up to. Freedom, rest, and empowerment will only come by walking in the Spirit.

It really is a matter of understanding what it means to "walk in the spirit." So, because of the importance and the all encompassing nature of this way of life, my articles will always employ facets of this concept. However, if this is new to you or you would like to reinforce the understanding that you already have, I would strongly suggest a book by Watchman Nee entitled, "Sit, Walk, Stand." This little book does a better job than I can do in short articles, and serves as a tremendous foundation on this "New Testament" way of living. No other book that I have read, with the exception of the bible, has helped me to properly align my thinking and my doing to the New Testament way of thinking and doing than this one.

So, if you want to learn how to stop living on a treadmill of exhausting effort; always trying to be and do good enough and never feeling like you quite make the grade, and instead find out how to tap into God's power and freedom and rest in your Christian life, this book is an excellent place to start.

Submitted by John B. Agati

Author of: "Suffering (God's Will?)"

More information about this and an upcoming book "Suffering, Unanswered Prayer, (And How to Fix the Whole Thing)," along with a short bio may be found at:

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