God’s Word boldly declares, ”I am crucified with Christ: it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” (Galatians 2:20 NKJV), and “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
You may say, “I know I’m in Christ by faith. I realize I am a new creature, but I still struggle terribly with a habit. It makes me so discouraged.” Satan would love to convince you that God has given up on you. He wants you to think God sees you as dirty, filthy with sin. It’s all a lie. What you’re experiencing is the flesh battling against the Spirit in you. This battle is common to all believers, and when you’re in the middle of it, Satan wants to convince you that the “old man” is still in control.
Here is the truth. No matter what your condition, God does not waver in his love for you. He never stopped loving Adam’s race, despite all its wickedness, idolatry and lustful ways. He has preserved us throughout history to the last days when he stepped in with his rescue plan. God made it possible at the cross to redeem every one of us, Adam and all his descendants.
We must stand firm in the knowledge that our standing with God is based on one thing: we are victorious because of the cross. This victory doesn’t come through any good thing you or I do. As Paul says, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body isdead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:8-10).
Our victory comes solely through repentance, faith, belief and trust in God’s care for us. Our part is to stand firmly on the position he has graciously given us in Christ. His Word assures us, “You may fail at times. But when I look at you, I see only my Son, Jesus. You’re going to come through this battle victorious, with no guilt and no condemnation.”
Where can you find Christians wholly devoted to the Lord who have easy, trouble-free lives? Show me a Spirit-led, God-filled follower of Christ, and I’ll show you one who is chased, chastened, often baffled, and well-acquainted with deep waters and fiery furnaces.
Those who seek to avoid difficulties seldom get the revelation of God’s fullness. They attempt to use faith to exempt themselves from crisis, not realizing they are robbing themselves of the greatest opportunity to find out what they are made of. Then one day when trouble inevitably shows up, they cave in, having no proven source of inner strength.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul prayed, “that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16 NKJV). He was saying that the Lord needs Christians who are not tossed about by every wind and wave of doctrine; who have discernment; who aren’t seeking out the next charismatic teacher with a “new revelation”; and who do not depend on others for their happiness and spiritual strength. He needs people who have been tested and demonstrate that the very life of God is in them. They draw their sustenance from their inner man who has been reborn through grace in Christ Jesus.
We can learn valuable lessons from King David’s experience when he and his men came upon the utter devastation left behind by the Amalekites at Ziklag. Although his heart was anguished, “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God”(1 Samuel 30:6). It is imperative that we also know how to encourage ourselves in the Lord so that we are prepared when trouble comes our way.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I beseech you to open your eyes to the mighty power of God at work in you, and to appropriate the completeness of the Lord Jesus Christ. No matter what fiery furnace we may be cast into, our God will walk us through it.
“There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered his rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:9-10 NKJV). You may wonder, “What does it mean to enter this promised rest? What should it look like in my life?” Simply put, entering his promised rest means fully trusting that Christ has done all the work of salvation for you. You’re to rest in his saving grace by faith alone. I pray that God will remove the scales from our eyes and allow us to truly understand this.
When Jesus urges, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), he invites us to stop all fleshly striving and human efforts to obtain peace. He wants us to totally rely on him and his work for us.
Our battle is not against flesh and blood; it takes place in the spiritual realm. The Old Testament makes this crystal clear. Time after time, Israel made empty, futile promises to God: “We want to serve you, Lord. We’ll do whatever you command us to do.” History proves they had neither the heart nor the ability to follow through on their word. God had to strip them of all faith in themselves.
Everything we need comes from our precious Lord. Paul states, “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us; for in him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also his offspring.’”(Acts 17:26-28). This speaks of uninterrupted fellowship. Through the victory of the cross, our Lord has made himself available to us every hour of the day and night.
We have to make a decision and say, “I want Christ in my life. I want to be set free from all flesh. I am therefore going to move forward into his presence and claim my possession. I want Jesus to be my all, my only source of satisfaction.”
There was a time in his youth that Moses was held in high esteem. He had a stellar reputation and was respected in the halls of government. He moved with prestige among the wealthy and was one of the most famous men of his time. By the time God spoke to him out of the burning bush (see Exodus 3:5), though, Moses had hit bottom and had faded into obscurity.
God couldn’t use him until he tore Moses away from his worldly attachments. Who knew Moses now? Hidden away, out of sight, silenced and without influence, he had no outlet for his great energy.
The very moment Moses reached zero point — when his reputation was totally lost and there was nothing left of the old, self-assured Moses — he was on holy ground!
How long did God wait by that bush, ready to break forth in a glorious new revelation? He waited until that moment when Moses truly no longer cared about his work or his reputation. When he gave up the last scraps of self-reliance, he found revelation.
The Lord Jesus stood on this same holy ground. The scriptures say Jesus “made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant…” (see Philippians 2:7 NKJV). Shunning reputation and becoming a servant was a willful choice. Thank God for those who once again are being called to such holy ground, prepared for servanthood and seeking to decrease so that God may increase.
One great man of God wrote, “The man of God who truly preaches the Word will finally give up the idea of being known. If he preaches Christ, his reputation will constantly decrease, and Christ will increase. True prophets die unknown. God gives them their dues only after they die.”
I believe that if we seek a larger, more widespread reputation, something is missing in our message. Self is too prominent. Christ should be gaining, and we should be losing recognition. We should be less known as the years go by until, like Paul, we end up shut in with God. May we all decrease! May he alone increase! God help us to get back to this holy ground.
Whatever the circumstances of your life, God is able to change them for his glory. This biblical principle is not just a theory for me. I have met many people who were transformed by God despite horrors in their past. I know a young man from the streets of Des Moines, Iowa particularly well who experienced this magnificent and radical transformation.
His father abandoned him as a new born baby and showed all the symptoms of bipolar disorder. As a teenager, however, he became what he had always hated. Alcohol, drugs, anger, delinquency, lies and violence were his lot. Until he was sixteen, he was completely out of control, disappointing and hurting everyone who came into contact with him. How many mornings had he woken up in a jail cell after a robbery, stealing a car, selling drugs, fighting, possession of a deadly weapon and so much more.
One evening, a policeman told his mother, “Don’t worry, Madame. One day you won’t have him on your hands anymore. Cases like him end up in prison or the cemetery.”
I was that boy. My circumstances predisposed me to reproduce the evil that had made me suffer so much. However, God in his grace came to find me. He took my heart, broken by beatings and rage, and changed it into his image. Our God transforms lives!
Years later, I still consider myself very imperfect, but scripture promises, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV). God made me a faithful husband, a committed dad, a love-struck grandpa and a man of God devoted to his service. God transforms circumstances and hearts.
Do not limit yourself to what you once were. Do not limit your children to who they are today. God is greater than all of that. Your family has no pain that the Lord cannot heal. Declare this truth in your heart for your spouse, your family, your children and your future. If it is true that all our traumas are relational, then so are our healings. In our relationship with God and his people, let us be renewed. What might have been for our harm, God can and will ultimately turn into good.