16:  Self-Control and the Higher Christian Life

16: Self-Control and the Higher Christian Life

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Learning How to Say “No” to You

In an earlier post, we discovered the importance of knowing, by faith and experience, the victory we have over the power of sin by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  And this knowledge only comes from faith.  If God says, and He does, that He provided the means for you to have victory over sin, then our task is to simply believe what God has said and avail ourselves to what He has provided.  Nothing else is needed.  This is the key that opens the door of victory.  But then, how do we maintain the victory we have won?  What part do we play in the life of sanctification?  Or, in other words, where do self-control and the Higher Christian Life intersect?

If you remember from Sunday, the Scriptures state Jesus not only provided for our salvation (forgiveness of sin, eternal life, heaven, etc.), but He also “became for us” attributes of God that profoundly affect our lives in real-time, right now, today, and provide for us what is required to live the Higher Christian Life.  In 1 Corinthians 1:30 it says:

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God— and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

Note, Jesus literally “became for us” by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, righteousness, and redemption.  These seem like intangibles that are difficult to grasp and wrap our minds around.  Like something God does for us and we reap the benefits, not fully understanding the gravity of those benefits.  But He also “became for us” what we struggle with today.  He “became for us” the ability to live a holy life right now, without delay.  He “became for us” sanctification, which is also translated as “holiness” and means both “set apart unto God” in a judicial sense and “the power to enable us to be holy as God is holy” (2 Thess. 2:13).  Jesus “became for us” both of these wondrous truths, and so much more.

And just to fully grasp what Christ has done for each of us, the word translated “became” is gínomai which means “to begin to be, to come into existence.”  In essence, Jesus “became for us” or brought into existence attributes of Himself that were not previously found in us, and one of these attributes is the right and power to live holy, and “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16).   This attribute is called sanctification.

Jesus “became for us— sanctification” (1 Cor. 1:30).

Why is Self-Control Vital to the Higher Christian Life?

But that is only the beginning of our journey to the Higher Christian Life.  Once we understand and believe what Christ has provided for us and what it means for the Holy Spirit to live in us, especially regarding our ability to “overcome the world” (1 John 5:4) or “overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:13-14), then the question remains, What is my part in all of this?  What am I to do to maintain the victory in me won by the Lord Jesus?  What is my part, and what is His part?  Or, where does faith end and work begin?

Let’s answer the last question first.  Faith never ends.  And neither does work.  Once the victory is given to us by the Person of the Holy Spirit, it is our job to maintain that victory by living, day by day, even minute by minute, under the power of the Holy Spirit who provided that victory we now enjoy.  This is our decision, our choice.  It is ours for the losing.   This is where we either maintain the victory already gained and given to us by grace, or open the front gates and beg the enemy to come and place us once again under bondage.  Consider the testimony of Paul in this matter.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate (self-controlled) in (what) all things.  Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty (non-resolute, without attending to the prescribed marks or lines). Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline (subject to hardship, mortify, literally, to strike under the eye, to give a black eye) my body and bring it into subjection (to bring into servitude as a slave), lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified (unapproved, unworthy, worthless, rejected, a castaway) – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

What Paul is saying is in spite of his blessings, calling, visions, miracles, insights into the mind of Christ, or whatever great work the Lord accomplished through him, he nonetheless makes it his habit to practice self-discipline or self-control to maintain his intimacy with the Holy Spirit and his victory over his flesh.  And if Paul had to be “temperate (self-controlled) in all things,” how much more for you and me?

Maintaining a holy life is always a matter of choice.  We either do the things that please Him (John 8:29), or we intentionally choose to grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30) because we give in to our lust for some carnal pleasure that only lasts for a moment (Heb. 11:25).  The choice is always ours.

But to seek and maintain the blessings of the Higher Christian Life takes some effort, some self-discipline, some self-control.  It is saying “no” to sin and “yes” to God, continually.  And I pray, as we strive to grow closer to Him, your choice when faced with sin or sanctification, will be easier to make.

The Higher Christian Life

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15:  How to Have Victory Over the Power of Sin

15: How to Have Victory Over the Power of Sin

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You Are More Than Conquerors

Is it possible to know, to actually know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I have victory over the power of sin in my life?  Absolutely!  But not on your own or by your own strength.  To fully understand what the Holy Spirit does for a man totally consecrated to Him, all we need to do is take a quick look back at the early disciples and see how their lives changed once they received the Holy Spirit.  They are, for me at least, the greatest testimony to the power of a life surrendered to the Holy Spirit and one lived in the divine victory over sin.

In the Gospel accounts, we see the men that followed Jesus, ordinary men like us, with all their fears, doubts, weaknesses, and failures publically displayed for the world to see.  They are presented in all their frailty, warts and all.  And if we were a cynic, we would say this works against the life-changing claims made by Jesus.  After all, these men followed Him for over three years.  They heard more, knew more, saw more, experienced more, and listened more than any other believers since then until now.  Yet seeing and knowing all they did, and having a ring-side seat to all of Jesus’ miracles, they still could not grasp the depths of His teachings to somehow get power or victory over the sin in their own lives.

How is that possible?  And if they struggled as much as they did, how are we to fare better?

Over and over again Jesus had to rebuke His disciples for their selfish and unChristlike actions and attitudes.  From wanting to call down fire from heaven on those who offended them (Luke 9:54), to arrogantly correcting Jesus mid-sentence by telling Him he was wrong (Matt. 16:22-23), to selfishly wanting to be secretly picked to sit at His right and left hands above the other disciples without them knowing it (Matt. 20:21), it seemed like these men never learned a thing Jesus was trying to teach them in their three long years with Him.

Then, at the Last Supper, when Jesus said, “I desire to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15), they blew Jesus off like His suffering was nothing because they were more concerned about “which of them should be considered the greatest” (Luke 22:24).

What a motley crew.  Not exactly the stuff heroes are made of.

Can I Experience Victory Over the Power of Sin?

But that was because they still viewed Jesus as God outside of themselves.  His power was available to them, but they had to go get it, like manna, and it didn’t last forever.  Sin still loomed large in their lives and they seemed powerless, like us, to ever get victory over it.  They were still the same old people they were before Jesus came into their lives but now somewhat improved, upgraded, maybe a little bit better (at least when Jesus was around).  Their experience with an outward Christ was not enough to empower them from the inside to have victory over their sin.

But that all changed at Pentecost.

Peter, who had denied he even knew Jesus less than two months earlier, was now filled, baptized, infused, immersed, endued, empowered (or whatever word you choose to describe Acts 2:4), with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus (Phil 1:19), on the inside.  And so were 119 others.  Peter wasn’t following Jesus at a distance.  He no longer walked with Jesus, or beside Jesus, or around Jesus.  The 120 did not have to physically travel to be where Jesus was to see Him.  Just as He promised, He did not leave them as orphans (John 14:18).

At Pentecost, Jesus came to them permanently.  He came to them individually.  And He came to live “in” them and not just be “with” them.  The power to have victory over sin was not something external they had to strive to achieve, like keeping the Law.  No, the power over sin, the power over everything, the Person of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus (Phil. 1:19), now lived in them.  Forever.

And nothing can compare to receiving and knowing the Holy Spirit.  Just look at their changed lives from Acts 2 forward.  Peter preached his first sermon and 3,000 were saved (Acts 2:41).  He boldly confronted the Sanhedrin, telling them by the “name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified” (Acts 4:10) that “nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  And when commanded to cease speaking or teaching in the name of Jesus, Peter said, No! (Acts 4:19-20).

The only difference between Acts 1 and the rest of the book is the fact Jesus no longer lived on the outside of these ordinary men and women.  He now lived in them.  Just like He now lives in you and me.  So if you are searching for victory over your sin, do not look to the outside, to vows, or accountability, or determination, or sheer will, or promises to yourself, or even resolutions, no matter how sincere.  The power to have victory over sin, the ability to live the life of an overcomer (Rev. 2-3), is found within you in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  He will live His life through you, a holy, sanctified life, and give you victory over all that has kept you from experiencing the Higher Christian Life.

So rest in Him.  Yield to Him.  Surrender to Him.  Present your body to Him (Rom. 12:1).  And let His victory become yours.

The Higher Christian Life

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14:  Self-Examination and the Higher Christian Life

14: Self-Examination and the Higher Christian Life

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Why is Self-Examination so Important?

We have previously written about the process each of us goes through in receiving the Higher Christian Life.  However, truth be told, one of the most important, yet overlooked aspects of receiving the Higher Christian Life is a time of honest self-examination whereby we prepare ourselves for more of Him.  And since holiness is the primary attribute of the Holy Spirit (hence, the word Holy), we should expect to have a time of spiritual house-cleaning before we invite our Holy Guest to possess more of us.  But be warned, although the end result of spiritual self-examination is wonderous, the actual process can be quite painful as we come to grips with who we really are, and not who we imagine we are.  So let’s look into the importance of self-examination in the Higher Christian Life.

In the Old Testament, in preparation for Passover, the children of God were required to search their homes and rid them of any semblance of leaven, which is a type of sin.  For those who failed to do this and tolerated leaven in their home, they were cut off from the “congregation of Israel” and forfeited the blessings of the Lord bestowed by the Feast (Ex. 12:19).  It was a very serious matter.

And so it is also a serious matter when we come to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1) to the Holy Spirit.   We are asking Him to live in us and to make us into His temple, the “temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you” (1 Cor. 6:19).  Therefore, as with any other guest we invite into our home, we must make sure our home is clean and presentable to honor our invitation.  And in much the same way, each believer must go through a cleaning process, a time of acknowledgment, confession, repentance of sin, and a commitment to righteousness, before we ask the Holy Spirit to take full control of us and enter into the Higher Christian Life.

Let’s look at some areas in our lives that need to come under the spotlight of the Holy Spirit before we move forward in this journey.

And What Are We Looking For?

These are some areas we need to examine in our lives to see if we have let our guard down, lived in disobedience, and have tolerated leaven in ourselves.  And we must begin this process by asking the Holy Spirit to reveal things about us personally that we would rather not know, or that we would even deny.  After all, the best One to know what is not holy is the Holy Spirit Himself.

First, ask Him to examine your secret life.  This is the life of your thoughts, motives, emotions, imaginations, and desires.  It is the part of you that is kept hidden, repressed, that only you know about, or so you hope.  But there is Another who knows all that goes on in your heart (Mark 7:21).  So confess these sins to Him and receive His blessing of forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9).

Next, ask Him to look at every other aspect of your life, both hidden and public.  Examine your entertainment choices, your social interactions, your business dealings, your personal habits, the way you manage your home and your relationship with your family, your religious life, everything that makes up your day.  Place it under the microscope of His Word and see if He is pleased or not with how you spend the life He has given you as a gift.

Then, examine your personal life.  Ask Him to show you those you need to forgive as well as those from whom you need to ask for forgiveness.  Examine how you spend your free time, how faithful you have been in fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20), and if your life conforms to the Spirit living in you or the world in which you live.  And remember, we are not to “love the world or the things in the world.”  Why?  For, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15).  And to make matters even worse, “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world (something less than love) makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Finally, once the Lord has pointed out to you, during your self-examination, things that grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30), it is time to take matters into your own hands.  Confess them, one by one.  Repent of them, one by one.   Renounce them, one by one.  And then receive the joy of forgiveness and restoration as you prepare yourself to embrace the Holy Spirit in ways you cannot imagine.

And be blessed, because you are getting closer to saying, like Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.  How awesome is this place!” (Gen. 28:16-17).

The Higher Christian Life

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13:  What is the Higher Christian Life?

13: What is the Higher Christian Life?

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Show Me And I’ll Believe

For those who truly desire to experience more intimacy with Christ, one of the stumbling blocks that will hinder you from embracing the Higher Christian Life is the so-called lack of Biblical examples of what the Higher Christian Life is all about.  And this hindrance is often the result of not looking into the Scriptures with open eyes, but with a presupposition to a particular theological bent.  For example, if you come to the Scriptures believing God no longer moves among His church as He did in the book of Acts, you will discount and ignore and try to explain away passages that show otherwise.  And if you have not yet experienced the Higher Christian Life, yet know others who have, the self-defense tendency is to downplay their experience as something emotional or fleshy, and not Biblical (otherwise, it makes us feel like we are somewhat deficient in our relationship with the Holy Spirit).  So to guard against this, let’s look at the Higher Christian Life from the pages of Scripture to get a clear picture of what this life with Him is all about.

The Higher Christian Life is also known as a holy life or a life of holiness.  And this really shouldn’t surprise us.  After all, it is the Holy Spirit (emphasis on Holy) that now lives in each of us.  So if we surrender to Him and allow the Holy Spirit to live His life through us, we could naturally assume the outcome would be a life that emulates the very character of God Himself, which is holiness.

So let’s take a moment and look into the Scriptures to see what a holy life looks like.  For this is the life the Holy Spirit will live through all who yield themselves to Him and, by doing so, embraces and experiences the Higher Christian Life.

The Higher Christian Life can be described this way:

•   One that has such close intimacy with God it can be said they “walk with God” – Genesis 5:24
•   Is so connected to Jesus, they rest, dwell, live, make their home, or “abide” in Christ – John 15:4
•   Walks with Christ and is “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith” – Colossians 2:6-7
•   Has been “crucified with Christ” so “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” – Galatians 2:20
•   But at the same time, lives a resurrected life since we are “raised with Christ” – Colossians 3:1
•   Is “hidden with Christ in God” – Colossians 3:3
•   Yet again, at the same time, our life is “known and read by all men” – 2 Corinthians 3:2
•   It is a life lived in the love and assurance of the Lord – Jude 24
•   And a life lived “by faith in the Son of God” – Galatians 2:20
•   Most importantly, it is also a life lived “in the Spirit” – Galatians 5:25
•   One that “walks in the Spirit” – Galatians 5:16
•   A life “led by the Spirit” – Galatians 5:18
•   And one “strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” – Ephesians 3:17

But this is only the beginning. There is so much more waiting for those who seek the Higher Christian Life in Him.

What Does the Higher Christian Life Look Like in the Bible?

In Psalm 24, we have both the pressing question of the ages asked, and then answered.

Question:  Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?  Or who may stand in His holy place?
Answer:  He who has (1) clean hands and a (2) pure heart, who has (3) not lifted up his soul to an idol, (4) nor sworn deceitfully – Psalm 24:3-4.

The question summarizes the “why” for those, like you, who seek the Higher Christian Life.  But the answer clearly shows we cannot “stand in His holy place” without help from the Holy Spirit.

Answer one and two speak of “clean hands and a pure heart.”  The Jews tried to maintain “clean hands” by keeping the Law to a fault.  And to that effect, they were far more outwardly righteous than the best Christian is today.  Even Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).  And our outward righteousness isn’t even in the same league as the scribes and Pharisees.  But even they could not have a “pure heart” (Matt. 23).  And neither can we, unless our heart is surrendered to the Holy Spirit and changed into something that glorifies God and de-deifies us, meaning our flesh, our lives, our very beings.

And if you notice answer three, it is not our flesh the verse is speaking about (such as physically bowing down to or uttering words of worship to an idol), but our soul, which is the seat of our mind, will, emotions, personality, volition, basically, everything that makes us, us.  And idols aren’t always carved images or bronze statues.  Idols can also be money, fame, pride, ease of life, self-gratification, reputation, the love of self, the love of pleasure, which results in “having a form of godliness but denying its power (or where the power for godliness comes from).  Do these sound familiar?  They should, they are taken from 2 Timothy 3, showing the condition of the “perilous times” that will come (2 Tim. 3:1), and are upon us now.

Without a deep desire for more of God, of the Holy Spirit living His life through you (as you step aside and offer Him the control of your life), you will never experience all the Lord has provided for you in this world, and in the world to come.  Never.

So stay with us as we continue towards the life everlasting.

The Higher Christian Life

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12:  The Higher Christian Life is Not About Seeking Signs

12: The Higher Christian Life is Not About Seeking Signs

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Salvation and Signs Are Not the Same Thing

Often, in our search for the Higher Christian Life, we can be easily led astray from simple, child-like faith to demanding a sign or some miraculous proof to believe.  And this detour from what pleases the Lord (faith) to the abyss of doubt can happen subtly, under the cover of darkness, like a growing cancer, until we no longer seek for more of Him.  Instead, we seek more of what He can do or how what He does makes us feel.  Seeking signs or “attesting miracles” is the opposite of faith.  Please understand, we can have faith in signs themselves, but that is not faith in Jesus.  It is faith in what Jesus has done, or will do, or how He “wow’s” us with His majesty, but it is not faith in the Person of Jesus Christ nor the Person of the Holy Spirit.  And the Higher Christian Life is not about seeking signs, but about seeking more of Him.

For example, Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest, January 2nd, says the following:

Have you been asking God what He is going to do?  He will never tell you.  God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is.

Read the entry again this way,

Have you been asking God what He is going to do?  Fair question.  Nothing wrong with seeking the will of God.
He will never tell you.  God does not tell you what He is going to do.  Why not?  Because faith doesn’t grow by knowing the future or having all the answers in advance.  Faith is built by knowing the One who knows the future and resting in Him.
He reveals to you Who He is.  And that should be enough.  A child doesn’t need an explanation from his father about how the house payment is going to be made each month or what steps have been taken to make sure breakfast is on the table each morning.  He just needs to know the character and trustworthiness of his father and rest or abide in that.  So it is with the Lord.

Or, to put it another way, “Lord, I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but You promised never to leave me nor forsake me.  But I am afraid and worried and full of doubt.  Would you please do (you fill in the blank with a sign or miracle that fits your situation) so I will trust You when I see the miracle You will perform?  Just give me this one sign that Your Word is true and You keep Your promises, and I will never doubt again.”  This is not faith.  It is disbelief until God proves Himself, disguised as faith.  And God seldom, if ever, honors this kind of non-faith, especially when we seek the Higher Christian Life.

The Danger of Seeking Signs

When we pray to surrender our lives to the Lord, to sort of test-drive this Higher Christian Life, we often end our prayers expecting something out of the ordinary to happen.  We’re not sure what, but if something doesn’t happen to make us go, “Wow,” we assume nothing spiritually happened.  Therefore our faith rests in the sign, the something or lack of something that did or didn’t happen, rather than in the Word of God or the promises of Jesus.  Then doubt sets in.  Deep.

“Well, I prayed like they told me to, and when I finished, I didn’t feel any different.  I thought something would happen, maybe get some warm fuzzies, or sense some type of peace, or speak in fluent French, or maybe have Jesus stand before me and bless me… I don’t know, just something!  But since nothing happened (which means no signs or special feelings or goosebumps that last an hour), then I guess this stuff doesn’t work and I’d be better off not even trying anymore.  Hey, I gave it a shot, and hit nothing.”

But the Higher Christian Life is not found in the seeking of signs.  It is found, like salvation, by faith in the Word of God and the trustworthiness of Jesus.   Our faith must be in the Person of Jesus and not in the signs He performs.  And the difference between these two, basically in the object of our faith, is the difference between truly experiencing the Higher Christian Life or going home with a worthless participation trophy for just being on the team.

And nobody wants that, do they?

So as your faith grows to the point that (1) you believe the Higher Christian Life is possible, and (2) you believe it is possible and meant for you, consider the following promise of our Lord.  And ask yourself, “Do I believe His words to be true?”  And if so, then rest in them.

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give (who) the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” – Luke 11:13.

If we ask, He will respond.  And He will gladly give the Holy Spirit to us like the best father you know would give good gifts to his children.  So let your faith rest in His promise, and not in a sign, He may choose to give, or not give, you.

The Higher Christian Life

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