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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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11:  How Do I Glorify God in My Body?

11: How Do I Glorify God in My Body?

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The Joy of Sanctification

Regarding the Higher Christian Life, we have discovered some truths that should change our lives.  For one, Jesus said in John 14, we “know (ginōskō)” the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit “dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).  Then, in Romans 12:1, we are urged to “present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service.”  But who do we present our bodies to?  What Person of the Godhead accepts the sacrifice of our body?  It is not the Father, who now sits on His throne in heaven, and has no need of a body.  It is not the Son, who has a body and is now seated at the Father’s right hand.  No, it is the Holy Spirit who lives in each of us as the security of our salvation. It is the Holy Spirit who seeks possession of our bodies to empower us from the inside.  And if this is true, then 1 Corinthians 6 takes on an entirely new meaning.  It says:

Flee sexual immorality.  Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s – 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.

When the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our body, He transforms it into the temple of the Holy Spirit by virtue of His holiness.  Therefore, any sin a person commits “against his own body” is an affront to the Holy Spirit.  It is a sin that pollutes and corrupts the very dwelling place of the Spirit.  And from this type of sin, we are not commanded to fight or resist (James 4:7) but to flee.  To run.  To “hightail it outta there!”

After all, our body is now the “temple of the Holy Spirit who is (where) in you, whom you have from God, and (therefore) you are not your own” (1 Cor. 6:19).  But what does it mean “you are not your own”?  And how can we “glorify God in our body” which are God’s?


How Do I Glorify God in My Body and in My Spirit?

The last verse in 1 Corinthians 6 states:

For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s – 1 Corinthians 6:20.

Note, 1 Corinthians 6:19 ends with “you are not your own,” and this verse begins by telling us why.  Because we have been “bought at a price.”  Our redemption price has been paid, the deed of our ownership has been transferred to the Lord, and all we are now belongs to God (which is exactly what the ending phrase of this verse states, “which are God’s”).  But notice what lies between these two bookends.

“Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit.”

We are to give God glory in our bodies, the seed of our flesh, the part of us that wars against our spirit (Gal. 5:17).  But that is harder than it seems.  Because we always seem to lose the battle against our flesh.  Even Paul expressed his frustration with his war within himself in Romans 7:15.  So what are we to do?

Simply understand this:  You cannot, in the flesh, win the war against the flesh, no matter how hard you try or how determined you are.  The flesh will not allow a sustained campaign against itself.  To place your body in subjection to your spirit, you need outside (or inside) help.  And that comes only from the Holy Spirit.

Hence, we are to relinquish all rights to our bodies, our flesh, by offering them as a sacrifice to the Holy Spirit to do with what He pleases (Rom. 12:1).  And we are to let Him live His life in us and through us, so our flesh is now in submission to the Spirit that empowers our very lives.  Consider the following:

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts – Romans 6:12.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live – Romans 8:13.

And finally,

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad – 2 Corinthians 5:10.

This is the path to the Higher Christian Life.

The Higher Christian Life

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10:  Our Need for the Higher Christian Life

10: Our Need for the Higher Christian Life

The Higher Christian Life

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Whatever Your Need, You Already Have the Holy Spirit

As we have shared, the key verse regarding the blessings of receiving the Spirit and His inaugurating the Higher Christian Life in each of us is found in John 7:38.  Here Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  In this Jesus was speaking about the Holy Spirit, whom “those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).  But the Holy Spirit is now given.  And Jesus is now glorified.  So what does this say about our current need for the Higher Christian Life?

Before we can understand the “why” of the Higher Christian Life, we first must come to grips with the anemic condition of our faith and then somehow dig deep and find the desire and fortitude required to make things different.  Remember, our actions will never outrun our faith.  As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.”  It is equally true, “You’ll only do what you think you can and should do.”  Or, as Solomon said, “For as he (a man) thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7a).

To quote a truth from Facing the Giants, my favorite movie, “Your actions will always follow your beliefs.  If you accept defeat, then that’s all you’ll get.”

And this truth isn’t true for just football.  It is also true in our spiritual lives.

The following are six truth statements regarding the Higher Christian Life and the condition of the church.  And remember, the church is defined as a group of individuals who collectively make up the whole.  This means, by inference, these six statements that are true of the church, are also true of you and me as individual members of His church.  Once we accept the reality and consequences of our current state, then we can begin to move forward from spiritual apathy to abundance (John 10:10).  And we can then begin to embrace the Higher Christian Life, no matter the cost, and no matter how long it might take.


What is Our Current Need for the Higher Christian Life?

The following are six truths regarding the Higher Christian Life that perfectly described the condition of the church in the 1870s.  And we have, as His church, fallen to new lows since then.  So as you read these, ask yourself if you believe these statements are true.  And if they are, what are you prepared to do about them?

One, it is the will of God for every one of His children that they live entirely and unceasingly under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Two, without a believer being filled with the Spirit, it is impossible for an individual Christian or a church to ever live or work as God desires.

Three, in the life and experience of Christians, this blessing is little used and little searched for.

Four, God waits to give us this blessing, and in our faith, we may expect it with the greatest confidence.

Five, the self-life and the world hinder and usurp the place that Christ ought to occupy.

Six, we cannot be filled with the Spirit until we are prepared to yield ourselves to be led by the Lord Jesus— to forsake and sacrifice everything for this pearl of great price.

And finally, let me reiterate a most encouraging truth found on the lips of all who have made it their aim to discover the Higher Christian Life and be found well-pleasing to God.  And it is simply this, when you are discouraged about the lack of progress you seem to be making towards Christlikeness:

“God never places a desire in the heart of His children that He will not ultimately fulfill.”

Note:  The six statements were written by Andrew Murray (1827-1917).

The Higher Christian Life

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09:  The Aim of the Higher Christian Life

09: The Aim of the Higher Christian Life

The Higher Christian Life

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To Be Well-Pleasing to Him

In a previous podcast, we introduced the importance of living, not for the applause of man or for our own self-gratification (no matter how noble our pursuits may seem), but solely for the pleasure and approval of God.  In other words, we aim to be like Jesus.  Our ambition is to live to hear the Father say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21).  And our single desire should be like that of Jesus, who said, “I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29).  This, and this alone, is the aim of the Higher Christian Life.

But it is usually much easier said than done.  Sometimes we end up running around in circles, like getting lost in a cul-de-sac in our own neighborhood.  But consider the following admonition on how this life is designed to be lived:

Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him – 2 Corinthians 5:9.

Note how this verse begins with a “therefore” and focuses on our Christian life’s “aim” or ambition.  Let’s see what it is saying.

First, the context of this statement is found in the beginning part of the chapter.  Here we find Paul talking about the wonder of being in the presence of the Lord after we discard this “earthly house” (2 Cor. 5:1), our mortal body, and are clothed “with our habitation which is from heaven” (2 Cor. 5:2), our heavenly body.  According to Paul, heaven is lightyears better than “Your Best Life Now” on this fallen planet.

Next, we are assured that God is the one “who has prepared us for this very thing” and has also “given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 5:5) of its truth and fulfillment.  After all, “we walk by faith, not sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

Finally, the “therefore” relates primarily to the passage immediately preceding this one.  And what an incredible statement it is regarding the passion and heart of someone who is experiencing the Higher Christian Life and has eternity in focus.  It says, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

So what is the aim and ambition of someone who desires the Higher Christian Life?

Therefore (a conclusion based on what was written before) we make it our aim (our ambition, purpose, something we aspire to), whether present or absent (in this life or the life to come, on earth or in heaven), to be well pleasing (acceptable, that which God wills and recognizes) to Him – 2 Corinthians 5:9.

Is there more?


The Aim of the Higher Christian Life

Absolutely.  In fact, there is a reason, beyond wanting to live for the pleasure of God, for each of us to desire and strive to make our ambition in this life, not self-actualization or self-gratification, but to be like Jesus, “always doing the things that please Him” (John 8:29).  And that is the simple fact that each of us will have to give an account of what we have done in this life, whether good or bad.  There is a final exam, a judgment, and the time to prepare is now.

Statement:  Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him – 2 Corinthians 5:9
Question:  Why?  For what reason should we make that the aim and ambition of our life?
Answer:  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad – 2 Corinthians 5:10

There are so many things we can place as the aim and ambition of our life.  Some are self-serving, such as money, fame, pleasure, popularity, pride, acceptance, independence, self-sufficiency, and however we define happiness.  And some are nobler in nature, such as a life devoted to helping others, ministry, philanthropy, serving, giving, and other time-honored attributes of a generally accepted “good” person.  But there is only one aim in life that has eternal benefits, and that is to live in such a way that is well-pleasing, or acceptable, to God.

After all, we are to live for the smile of only One.  And His name is Jesus.

Oh, and the benefit for us today for living a life that is well-pleasing to Him?  Consider this promise:

But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” – 2  Corinthians 2:9.

Do you believe this statement to be true?  Good.  All the more reason to make it our aim to be “well-pleasing to Him” as we strive for the Higher Christian Life.

The Higher Christian Life

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08:  The Holy Spirit as Your Burden-Bearer

08: The Holy Spirit as Your Burden-Bearer

The Higher Christian Life

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Learning More About the Holy Spirit

In looking at the testimonies of great men and women of the last church age and their experience with the Higher Christian Life, I want to pause today and examine just one more, the life of Adoniram Judson (A.J.) Gordon (1836-1895).  He was an American Baptist preacher (who ministered alongside D.L. Moody in his Northfield Conventions), writer, composer (“My Jesus, I Love Thee”), and founder of Gordon College and later Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  But more than that, he was a man who had an experience with the Holy Spirit that changed his life and ministry.  And in almost every talk after that experience, he continually revealed how the Lord baptized him in the Holy Spirit by showing him, as Christ is our Sin-Bearer leading to salvation, so the Holy Spirit is now our Burden-Bearer leading to empowerment for ministry, and can be trusted with our lives once we surrender them to Him.

Let me give you but a taste of this podcast by posting a few quotes and statements about the Holy Spirit from Dr. A.J. Gordon.

“Whenever, in any century, whether in a single heart or in a company of believers, there has been a fresh effusion of the Spirit, there has followed inevitably a fresh endeavor in the work of evangelizing the world.”

Regarding the Person of the Holy Spirit, Dr. Gordon said this:

“I had known the Holy Spirit as a heavenly influence to be invoked, but somehow I had not grasped the truth that he is a Person of the Godhead who came down to earth at a definite time and who has been in the church ever since, just as real as Jesus was here during the thirty and three years of his earthly life.”

Then, once this realization of the Personhood of the Holy Spirit became real to him, Dr. Gordon said:

“How many true Christians toil on, bearing burdens and assuming responsibilities far too great for their natural strength, utterly forgetful that the mighty Burden-Bearer of the world is with them to do for them and through them that which they have undertaken to accomplish alone!  Happy also for these if some weary day the blessed Paraclete (Comforter, Advocate, the Holy Spirit), the invisible Christ, shall say to them, “Have I been so long time with you and yet you have not known Me?”

When asked about the cost of the Higher Christian Life and ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit, he said:

“It costs much to obtain this power.  It costs self-surrender and humiliation and the yielding up of our most precious things to God.  It costs the perseverance of long waiting and the faith of strong trust.  But when we are really in that power, we shall find this difference: that, whereas before it was hard for us to do the easiest things, now it is easy for us to do the hardest.”

But there is more.


How is the Holy Spirit our Burden-Bearer?

Regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Dr. Gordon testified:

“On the whole, and after a prolonged study of the Scripture, we cannot resist this conviction:  As Christ, the Second Person of the Godhead, came to earth to make atonement for sin and to give eternal life, and as sinners must receive Him by faith in order to have forgiveness and sonship, so the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Godhead, came to the earth to communicate the ‘power from on high’; and we must as believers in like manner receive Him by faith in order to be qualified (equipped) for service.  Both gifts have been bestowed, but it is not what we have but what we know that we have by a conscious appropriating faith, which determines our spiritual wealth.  Why then should we be satisfied with ‘the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace’ (Ephesians 1:7), when the Lord would grant us also ‘according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man’? (Ephesians 3:16).”

And finally, my favorite quote from Dr. Gordon is found in his book, The Ministry of the Holy Spirit, which states,

“It seems clear from the Scriptures that it is still the duty and privilege of believers to receive the Holy Spirit by a conscious, definite act of appropriating faith, just as they received Jesus Christ.”

I am sharing some of these testimonies with you, of the saints of old, to build your faith and show you the way to fulfillment, power in ministry, and the “bearing of much fruit” to glorify the Father and affirm we belong to Jesus (John 15:8), is by a filling, baptism, enduement, or immersion in the Holy Spirit by a conscious act of faith.   And, even if your friends and fellow church members aren’t talking about the Higher Christian Life, rest assured that many people of generations past that the Lord has used mightily in His service have continually pointed to the power of the Higher Christian Life.

Maybe we’re the ones who are missing something that these men and women found.  And if so, there is much we can learn from them.

The Higher Christian Life

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07:  The Process for Receiving the Higher Christian Life

07: The Process for Receiving the Higher Christian Life

The Higher Christian Life

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How Can I Receive the Higher Christian Life?

There is a process each of us goes through that leads us from where we are in our spiritual life to where we desire to be.  Or, from the nominal Christian experience that most of us fixate at, to the Higher Christian Life, the “abundant life” Jesus promised (John 10:10).  Everyone goes through it.  Some stay at one stage longer than others.  And some move quickly through many of the early stages only to get hung-up on a latter one.  The process or stages in our awareness of this Higher Christian Life are general in nature and differ in detail from person to person.  But the value is in seeing there is a process for receiving the Higher Christian Life that everyone seems to go through.  So be encouraged wherever you find yourself in the process.

This “process” or stages in our experience with the Holy Spirit and the Higher Christian Life should not surprise us.  In fact, we see a similar process revealed in Romans 8 regarding our salvation.  In this process, God moves in our lives in distinct ways, in separate stages, some of them unknown to us at the time, to bring about His will for our lives.  And what is His will?  That we will be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29).

Consider the process God brings those through who have embraced the Higher Christian Life:

One, there is an awareness of our need for more of Him.  We find this truth in John 7:37, where Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.”  Before the refreshing given by the Lord, there must first be an awareness of our need.

Two, there is a troubling in our soul, a growing, deep dissatisfaction with our present spiritual state.  In other words, “I now know that I am thirsty, and I am miserable until I get this need satisfied.”  Remember, those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” will be filled or satisfied (Matt. 5:6).

Three, there then must come a time of absolute surrender of self to the Lord Jesus.  It is what is called the point of total abandonment to Him.  This is when “you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).  This is the point of commitment, the point of no return.  From this step forward, success or failure depends on the desire you have for the Higher Christian Life and your willingness to suffer the costs of true discipleship (Luke 14:25-33).

But the best is yet to come.


Is There More to Receiving the Higher Christian Life?

Absolutely.  Since you have made your commitment and crossed your Rubicon, this is the part of the process that comes with the most blessings and the most difficulty.  Let me explain.

Four, after your commitment of total surrender to the Lord, there must come a time of trust, assurance, and acceptance by faith that “He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).  You must appropriate by faith the confidence that God is able, as He promised, to “keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).  Remember, you are saved and then blessed to experience the Higher Christian Life by faith, and nothing else.

Five, now it is time to rest, live, dwell, make your home, or “abide” in Him and His love.  After all, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4).  This is part of the process whereby you begin to experience His power for service and ministry (Acts 1:8) flowing into you to allow you, as a great privilege, to bear His fruit much as a branch does to a vine (John 15:8).  But be warned, your ability to remain in the blessing of the Higher Christian Life is dependent on your desire, as a branch, to remain connected to the vine, to “abide in Him.”

“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” – John 15:6.

And finally, the Higher Christian Life, the exchanged life as it has been called, is a life of “abundance” (John 10:10), adventure, and excitement.  And this abundant life you are given is promised to produce “rivers of living water” (John 7:38) as the Holy Spirit ministers to many through you.

Quite honestly, it doesn’t get any better than this.  And this life is yours for the asking, for the surrender, for the exchange.  So ask today and see what the Higher Christian Life is all about.

The Higher Christian Life

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