Needs

Did you know that we have all been created with needs?

 The 5 Needs

We have been created to need love, security, adequacy, acceptance, and worth/value.

The Problem

Our feelings about ourselves, can be influenced by how those needs are met or not met.  Those feelings lead to emotional responses which can be either  positive or negative.  When these needs are met, we experience positive emotions.  When these needs are not met, we experience negative emotions. Ultimately, those emotions can impact how we react to people and the situations around us.

The Solution

The good news is, our needs have already been met.  They have not been met by anyone or by anything.  Our needs have already been met by God, and we have been set free.  In The Gospel According to John, Jesus says, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32).  We are set free when we know that apart from God, our needs can never truly be met.

When we know and believe that Jesus is the only one that can meet our needs, we are set free from Satan using the perception that our needs are not getting met to influence what we believe about ourselves and thus influence our emotions.  Realizing our needs are only met by God also frees those around us from trying to have to meet those needs or from us putting the expectation on them that they have to meet those needs.

As we rely on God and live moment by moment in the Spirit to meet our needs, we are able to live victoriously!

 

The Gift of Righteousness

Lion Reflection in MirrorTake this quiz to find out who you are in Christ!

Popular on Facebook today are quizzes to determine different aspects of your personality. Ranging from the outrageous, What does your belly button say about your personality, to the more ordinary Which cartoon character are you, these quizzes are a light-hearted and fun way to entertain. In that vein, let’s begin this month’s article with a quiz entitled, Who are you in Christ? Take this short true/false quiz to find out!*

  1. A good description of a Christian is a “sinner saved by grace.” T/F
  2. Christians can sin and not know it. T/F
  3. It is easier for a Christian to do wrong than right. T/F
  4. You get closer to Christ through actions of righteousness. T/F
  5. Sainthood is attained in few Christians. T/F

Would you be surprised to learn that all of the answers are “false”? Curious to know why? Continue reading the article for explanations.

1-A Pitiful Description

If you answered true to statement number one, you are not alone. How many of us have heard Christians describe themselves this way? The truth of the matter is that this is probably the most pitiful description ever of a believer in Christ! Why is it that we describe ourselves in a way totally opposite to the way God describes us? Paul tells us that God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). “Sinner saved by grace” and “the righteousness of God” are not synonymous terms. Continuing to call ourselves sinners after experiencing salvation is inaccurate.

2-Biggest Lie of All

How many of us have lain on our beds at night in prayer, asking God to forgive us of “all the sins I did not know I was committing”? A kind of blanket statement to keep a “short account” if you will. It may surprise you to learn that this is found NOWHERE in the Bible! How ludicrous to think that we, as temples of the Holy Spirit, could sin unknowingly! This mentality causes us to focus on ourselves and our behavior rather than focusing on Jesus, the One who has forgiven us ONCE AND FOR ALL for ALL of our sins. It is ONLY the blood of Christ that brings forgiveness. Thinking that it is somehow our responsibility to “appropriate” forgiveness implies that Christ’s sacrifice was not enough. Only the enemy of our souls would want us lose sight of the finished work of Christ.

3-Birth Determines Identity

Christian, do you not who you are? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17—If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Just as by birth, we became partakers of Adam’s sinful nature, making us sinners before we had even committed one sinful act, by our rebirth in Christ, we have become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and are saints in God’s eyes before even committing one “righteous” act (Romans 5:19). God exchanged our old Adamic nature for Christ’s. We are who we are by birth, not behavior. In Adam, we were enemies of God, living a life characterized by sin, condemned as children of Satan. In Christ, however, we are friends of God, living a life characterized by faith, innocent children of God who are righteous saints in His eyes. Therefore, doing anything contrary to this new nature (sinning) is not easy! Our struggle as Christians, is not against our new nature, but against our flesh (see prior newsletter for more on flesh). It is the “job” of the flesh to get us to choose to gain our identity from the soul or the body, as opposed to the spirit, where our new identity is found. So when we make the choice “to walk according to the flesh” (sin) in any given circumstance, we are really going against our new nature, and we are miserable. Walking in the Spirit is the “natural” thing for us to do now—it is simply being ourselves, walking in the actions and attitudes that God prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

4-Can’t Get Any Closer

Ever run around looking for your glasses when they’re right on your face? Feels ridiculous, doesn’t it?  Well, that’s essentially what a lot of Christians are doing when they are trying to “get closer” to God. If you are in Christ, you cannot get any closer to God than you are right now. As recorded in John 14:20, Jesus said I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. How much closer can you get than that? Christian, stop trying to get something that you already have!

5-Not Just for a Select Few

What would you say if I told you that you are a “saint”? Feel uncomfortable with it? Perhaps you would regard such a statement as almost blasphemous? Many of us have believed that sainthood is achieved through our performance and reserved for only a few select Christians, like Mother Teresa. Comparing our performance with that of hers and others who have been declared saints posthumously, we feel unqualified for the title. Well, let’s clear up a few things. First of all, sainthood is not “attained.” It is not something we earn on our own merits by good works done in our own strength. It is a gift of God bestowed upon us when we accept and believe in the finished work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Secondly, it is not a position determined by man, but a position determined by God. Over and over again in the New Testament, believers in Christ are addressed as “saints.” Ephesians 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:2, Philippians 1:1, and Colossians 1:2 are just a few places where the greeting Paul uses to address the Church is “to the saints.” The origin of the word “saint” is “to consecrate”—which is what has been done to us! We have been set apart, declared holy, and been made complete in Him (Colossians 2:9-10a) and can stand before God, holy and blameless, as though we’ve never sinned!  We do not need to wait to “become holy” any more than a newborn baby has to wait to “become human”! Thanks be to God!

Now What?

Why is it that we have no trouble believing that the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins, yet we ignore the fact that he also convicts us concerning righteousness?  In order to live the abundant life found in Christ, we just need to get good at believing what He says is true of us! And what is true of us? We are righteous saints, who don’t want to sin because of the new nature we received at salvation, and who have everything we need for life and godliness because we’re in Him, He’s in us, and He’s in the Father. Can’t get any closer than that! Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15) See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are (1 John 3:2)!  Believe it!

*Quiz questions and answers taken from “Turkeys and Eagles” by Peter Lord found in The True Life Discipleship Counseling Notebook.

Walk This Way!

Tightrope BannerHow do I “walk by the Spirit?”

Good question right?  We get asked this question by many early on in their Discipleship Counseling process.  Sure seems like a solid “to do” answer must be out there to solve this one!  However, there’s a better question we could be asking, and that is:

“Why don’t I walk by the Spirit?”

As we discussed in July’s publication…If God takes us spiritually out of Adam and places us in Christ, gives us a new Life altogether, and we are now new creations with a new identity, then why is it so difficult to be and do what should be natural for me now?

The real question: Why don’t I?”

Yes it’s true, our new “natural” bent as a child of God is total dependence on God, allowing Jesus to be our Life Source for everything (Acts 17:28), through our body! In other words, “Walking by/in the Spirit.” I’m certain there are times when you’ve done this right?  When so, there were several things you did well (all by faith!) without even realizing it.  It seems easier to allow Jesus to be your Life for routine things, yet  in more difficult circumstances or relationships it seems so much harder to give God control and let Jesus do it.

Things we do well (by Faith!) when we “Walk by the Spirit”

Knowing what we are doing well (by Faith!) when we are “Walking by the Spirit” can help us understand when and why we don’t. Even more so…specifically where we may be stuck! They are:

  • Proper Perspective: receiving and believing God’s interpretation of life…especially in trials and tribulations.
  • Brokenness: believing and having more confidence in God’s resources (Christ in me), than my resources (flesh).
  • Surrender: believing God is in control, and responsible for my well-being (soul).

Let’s look at these three areas in more detail:

First: Whose interpretation are we walking in?

As we are living life we have two options for how we interpret what’s going on: our human reasoning (mindset of the flesh) consisting of how we have interpreted circumstances throughout our life, which becomes our “filter” for what’s going on, and what to expect. And, we have God’s reasoning based on Who He is, whose we are, and what He wants to accomplish as we trust Him in the moment.  As we “Walk by the Spirit” He gives us His thoughts because we have “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16)!  Beware though…the Enemy is at work trying to get us to “lean on our own understanding” (Prov. 3: 4), and our emotions seem to confirm that’s what we need to do!  Don’t fall for it! We live by faith with God’s understanding, whether it “feels” true or not.  Be patient – His thoughts will eventually become your experience!

Second: Who’s better equipped and capable?

So by faith, we’re living with God’s thoughts as we “Walk by the Spirit.” The next thing we do well as we walk by faith is believe and have confidence that God’s resources (Christ in you) are sufficient and much better than yours!  Seems simple right?  Technically it is…regarding what we have to get good at realizing.  Getting good at it is hard though, and for good reason.  This is where a widely used term among Christians comes into play—“brokenness.”

Okay, so what’s God trying to break?

We get many well-intentioned answers to this question typically centered on God “destroying us,” or God “dropping the hammer,” all based on our bad behavior.  Well, one of the best verses that describes what God is wanting to “break” is in Paul’s letter to the Philippians in chapter 3 and verse 3 — “for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” There we have it!  Part of God’s plan in sanctification includes us losing confidence in our flesh. It must not come naturally since Paul describes the process, and what it was like for him in the rest of chapter 3. A basic definition for brokenness might read like this:

“Brokenness is a state of being in which placing confidence in my flesh (my way using my resources) as a way to live life is understood to be futile, or useless. I now live by the truth, which says, in effect, ‘Jesus, I can’t do it. Apart from you I can do nothing.’”

So as mentioned earlier, it’s not complicated, yet it is hard to practice. And for good reason. Remember when we were “in” the flesh, it was up to us to live life.  The resources we developed were necessary for us to generate or cope with life, and it seemed like they were working. The result then is that we gained “confidence in them.”  “Whether ugly resources or nice looking resources, we use them because we have confidence in them.”

Consider this, as we’re living we cannot have confidence in two resources at the same time, right?  So God uses the process of brokenness, hoping our confidence transfers from our resources (flesh) for living life, to His resources (Christ in us).

Lastly: Surrender

Generally speaking, surrender is an attitude of the heart that says, “God, you can do with me whatever you want to do.”  Now this attitude is the result of having settled two things:

First… a proper concept of God discussed in June’s publication, which allows me to trust Him in all things.  Second… the issue of who is best suited, God or me, to plan, provide for, and to live the life I’ve been given.

So what am I actually surrendering?

Most would answer this question,“I’m surrendering my circumstances or my relationships.” Others might answer “the outcome of my circumstances or my relationships.” Both answers are good for sure, yet maybe not specific enough in some cases, because sometimes it seems whatever we’ve surrendered, we keep taking back!  Why is that?   The answer to this question is something we call “rights” and subsequently “releasing our rights.”  What are rights?

“These are things that I demand or expect in my circumstance, from God and others.”

Think of it this way — apart from God we need a “system” for living. That system is a list of demands, expectations, or “rights.” It started in our earlier years, all centered on generating love and acceptance, or avoiding pain and rejection. In general they sound like this:

Circumstances must be a certain way…

People must be a certain way…

I must be a certain way…

in order to be okay!

Why would we want to recognize and then release our rights?

You see, God created us with a free will, the ability to choose, which leads us to the ultimate choice of independence from God, or total dependence on God.  A choice of independence is tied to “my rights,” as I perceive them.  Demanding my rights prevents me from trusting in and depending on Jesus. Releasing my rights will shut the door to my flesh. In other words…my flesh will have nothing to do!  Think of it this way–because God has made us righteous (okay!), loved, acceptable, adequate, and valuable through Christ, and our union with Him in our spirit, do I really need any rights?  Of course not! When we release our rights and walk in the Spirit, we will experience true freedom and rest in Christ.

So…aren’t you glad?

As I walk by the Spirit…by faith I’m receiving:

  • God’s interpretation of life…especially in trials and tribulations.
  • Confidence in God’s resources (Christ in me).
  • Knowing God is in control, and responsible for my well-being (soul).

Living from His abundant, unlimited resources is the only way we will experience the “fullness of life” that Jesus came to give!

In our next publication we will be discussing our New Character, centered on the topic of Righteousness.

Heaven on earth—how is that possible?


In last month’s article we discussed man’s problem of being born “in Adam,” spiritually dead at our very core, separated from God’s life and power. But God… had a plan to reconcile us to Himself through Christ which included giving us a new life, His Life, by the Holy Spirit coming into us and becoming one with our spirit. Instantaneously we became new creations, alive to God with His power. Because we now have Spiritual Life in our spirit, God can now fill our soul with everything it needs for living life, resulting in our physical body moving the way He plans (2 Peter 1:3,4). Wow, what good news! This month, in the fifth of twelve topics of our discipleship-counseling process, we’re going to discuss how God designed us in such a way that we can experience our new Life (Christ in us!) in practical ways, all for God’s glory, and actually experience Heaven on earth.

So, what happens where?

The primary aspects of how God made us are found in Paul’s prayer for the believers at Thessalonica. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23, we read his words: “I pray that your whole spirit, and soul, and body may be presented blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”Let’s look at each one of these parts.

We are basically three part beings:

The first aspect of a person’s makeup is the spirit. This area is at the core of us and is our deepest area of life. It is here that the difference between a believer and an unbeliever is distinguished. It is in this area that our identity is determined, or we might say “whose family we are in…Adam’s or God’s.” It is the spiritual component in which we worship the Lord (John 4:24), where we fellowship with the Lord (Romans 8:16), and where the Holy Spirit dwells within us (1 Cor. 6:17).

The next aspect is the psychological part of man—the soul—which consists of three main components: (1) the mind or “the thinker,” which is our ability to be able to process information; (2) the emotions or “the feeler,” which is our ability to be able to experience or feel our thoughts— important to note, our emotions follow our thoughts; and (3) the will or “the chooser,” which is our ability to be able to make decisions.

The final aspect of an individual is the physical. This is, perhaps, the simplest to understand, but, in truth, it is very complex. David said in Psalms: “We are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Our physical body is material, and contains our spirit and soul which are immaterial. The body contains our senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch). It also contains our organs (liver, kidneys, etc.). One organ worth mentioning is the “brain.” Our brain is the most complicated organ because it does so much chemically, working with our senses. Most importantly for us to understand though is that it also “stores information”—both facts and processed facts, or in other words, “what we will do when life happens.” We’ll discuss this more.

To sum it up:

As you can see, God made everyone with basically three functioning areas, each individual, yet working together. We could state it like this: “the spirit uses the soul to express itself through the body.” Now, it’s in this area that the world view of man and God’s view differ. The world’s view is that man is essentially a body, with a spirit and/or soul. God’s view is that man is essentially a spirit, who has a soul, and lives in a body. There is a very important distinction here in that the world primarily identifies with our physical body as what defines us. Our looks and behavior basically represent who, and how we are, where God primarirly identifies with us based on our spirit…and whether He’s in there or not! God is a spirit Being and we were created in His image…so we are spirit beings, too. He certainly knows our thoughts and sees our body move, yet it’s the spirit area of us that determines how He relates with us. Good thing, right? We are either alive to Him in our spirit, or not.

We were all born with a spiritual problem!

Romans 5:12 reads: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man (Adam), and death (spiritual separation from God) through sin, so death spread to all men (us!).” We are born with a spiritual problem: separated from God, with no spiritual life. The result of this explains everything! When we show up here on earth, it’s up to us to live life, attempting to fill our souls from the “outside.” Wow…what a task! Remember the soul? Well God created our souls to “thirst” for Him (Psalm 42:1-2, Lamentations 3:24, Psalm 63:1). His plan is to fill our souls with everything we need (love, acceptance, worth/value, security, adequacy, wisdom) from the “inside,” but He’s not in our spirit to do it, so it’s up to us. And guess where we look to fill our souls? The world, through relationships, achievements, possessions, etc. Paul describes it like this to the church in Ephesus before they became alive to God in their spirits: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world…— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” No wonder Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…and you will find rest for your souls.” Our spirits were without spiritual life. No wonder our souls become weary!

The Flesh:

The flesh is not referring to physical flesh, but a mindset or attitude from which a person operates, out of their own strengths and resources, in order to get a sense of fullness and contentment, in their soul. Paul refers to the flesh often in his letters to the churches, and its insufficiency to satisfy us, or fill us the way only God can (2 Cor. 1:8-9; 2 Cor. 12:7-10; Phil. 3:3-9). Most importantly he states in Romans 8:8 “Those who are in the flesh (still in Adam) cannot please God.” So we might sum it up like this: man’s basic problem is that he is separated from God and therefore, without Life!

God’s solution…salvation!

So because God created us for a relationship with Him, He had two problems to solve: (1) penalty for our independence (sin); and (2) no Life (Holy Spirit) in our Spirit. He addresses both through Christ!

Ephesians 1:7 states:In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…”, and in Romans 5:10 we read:For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Finally Paul addresses the lack of spiritual life in Romans 8:11: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Problems solved! But it gets better! At the moment of salvation, God literally (spiritually) transferred us out of Adam’s family and placed us into Christ and His family (Col. 1:13). The result of our death, burial, and resurrection with/in Christ (Romans 6:4, 5), is that we become a new person with a new identity (2 Cor. 5:17). Saul (pre-salvation name) was renamed Paul when he received the Holy Spirit, and a new identity. We don’t get a new name like Paul (maybe we should!), but the same transformation and identity occurs!

So what about the Flesh?

What about the flesh (mindset or attitude from which a person operates, out of their own strengths and resources, in order to get a sense of fullness and contentment, in their soul)? The one who has been saved still has to deal with flesh. Because the flesh is primarirly an attitude (not a person), it is still present, mostly as facts and processed information (flesh patterns) stored in our brain. Throughout Galatians chapter five and the first part of Romans chapter eight, the problem of the flesh for the saved person is revealed as an ongoing problem.

Why is the flesh such a problem?

We are instructed in Galatians 5:13: “Do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh.” And in Galatians 5:16: “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” So why is the flesh such a problem? Let’s look at the problem Christians face by examining two types of people and how their “Life Messages” (April publication), or programming, contrasts with God’s will for us to walk by the Spirit.

Negatively Programmed Flesh:

When major life experiences and people in an individual’s life have been primarily negative, the individual learns negative ways to deal with life. The result of many major negative experiences is the mind having a distorted view of God, self, and life. This is because each person develops “beliefs,” or a grid through which he evaluates life. When the experiences are predominantly negative, that grid distorts one’s perception. The result of a distorted view of life is a distorted emotional response (i.e., anxious, worthless, incompetent, insignificant, unacceptable, “a failure,” hopeless, helpless, unloved, used, and so on). Because of the distorted thinking and negative feelings, the response is to resort to the flesh as the best way to deal or cope with life’s situations (i.e., self-pity, escapism, withdrawal, drugs and alcohol, fits of anger, etc.). The goal of the flesh in this case would be to avoid further pain and rejection, and maintain the perception “I’m safe.” This feels or seems to be natural, as it is the only way to live based on the perception of life learned from the experiences of life while “in” the flesh. Along with the distorted view and emotions that follow, stress related physical health problems can develop. But not all the situations in life are negative. They are usually a mixture of both negative and positive. What happens when life experiences are predominantly positive?

Positively Programmed Flesh:

The result of mostly positive experiences and many positive influences leads to the mind being distorted so that the view of God, self, and life, even though positive, still doesn’t line up with the new truths of God regarding who we are in Him. The emotions corresponding to our distorted views would look good to most people (i.e., strong, confident, competent, significant, successful, secure, worthy, loved, etc.). The problem though is that they are based on a strong self-centered concept, and self-effort. In this case, relying on flesh to deal with life leads to attitudes such as pride, judgmentalism, self-righteousness, and performance-based acceptance, or, in other words, “performaholics”! The goal of the flesh in this case would be to generate and/or maintain love and acceptance, as well as the perception of “I’m good, or okay.”

In either of these scenarios, whether negatively or positively programmed flesh, when a person depends upon his own strength to cope with present pressures and past rejection, the result is ultimately conflict and frustration, and flat out weariness!

So does God want to strengthen or weaken my flesh?

Good question…but it’s a “trick” question! God doesn’t want to strengthen or weaken our flesh, but to reveal its insufficiency, so that we might exchange the Self-life for Christ Life! Paul says it best in Phil. 3:3: “For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” Further, God spoke directly to Paul about this in 2 Cor. 12:9 when Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power (Christ’s resources in me) is made perfect in weakness (my flesh revealed as insufficient).” Paul responds, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak (my flesh revealed as insufficient), then I am strong (Christ life in me is sufficient).”

The Marvelous Exchange!

We just discussed what it’s like when a Christian relies on his flesh to live life, instead of living from the Spirit. It’s a life of conflict and frustration, and being worn-out! Certainly not the “abundant life,” or “life to the fullest,” right? Well let’s look at what God is doing as we choose to depend on Christ moment-by-moment.

Our mind is being renewed to the truth of who we are now: Col. 3:10 tells us to “…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” The things of the world no longer control or define us. We see this in Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”

Because our mind is being renewed, our emotions are gradually healing. We find this is many places throughout the scriptures: Psalm 23:3— “He restores my soul…” Psalm 107:9— “For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” Jeremiah 31:25—For I will satisfythe weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”

Our will (what we want to do), or decision making, comes from God as we walk by the Spirit, rather than from our flesh and its “want to’s.” Gal. 5:16 tells us, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.”

So as we walk by the Spirit, Jesus living His Life through us (filling our soul, moving our body) is the abundant life, or life to the fullest!

Aren’t you glad?

With all these truths revealed, aren’t you glad that God made us in such a way that:

  • We’re not one “glob” inside…moving around based on what we’re feeling like.
  • We have a spirit in union with the Holy Spirit.
  • We have a soul that gets weary and burdened at times…BUT, in our spirit we are never weary or burdened because that’s where God lives and He wants to fill or replenish our soul.
  • Our body (behavior, looks, performance)is not the problem; it moves based on the choices made in our soul.
  • Oh…and by the way, ALL FOR GOD’S GLORY!

Next month we will further discuss God’s desire for us to live in a moment-by-moment attitude of surrender to Him.

From Death to Life

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Dead man walking. Ever heard the phrase before? One definition of the phrase is “any person in a doomed or untenable situation.” This basically describes man’s spiritual condition upon conception. “Unfair!” you may shout. What has he even yet done to deserve such a fate?” The sad, but true answer is nothing. He had to do nothing more than simply inherit the spiritual condition of his parents, who inherited that of their parents, and so on, all the way back to Adam.

Dead to God, Alive to Sin

What exactly is this spiritual condition? Paul writes, in Romans 5:12, “… through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men…” When Adam and Eve chose independence from God by eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they experienced spiritual death—at the very core of their beings, they were separated from God’s life and power. At this point, their condition changed; their human spirits, which had been alive to God prior to the Fall, were now dead to God and alive to Sin. It is this dreadful condition into which we are all born. Just as a genetic predisposition to a physical condition may be inherited through one’s genes, our spiritual condition is also a matter of who we were “born in.” Since we were all “in Adam,” when he sinned, we sinned. When he died spiritually, we died spiritually and were left to our own resources. When he was condemned, we were condemned. When he became a sinner, we became sinners.

Death Sentence

So, man, even before birth, is sentenced to death, and lives life futilely trying to avoid the pain of this reality, searching for meaning and significance in situations, circumstances, and others, which only results in a life filled with conflict and frustration. As the years pass, and no fulfillment is found living from his own resources, man is left wondering what the purpose of his life is. What he really needs is to be rescued from his hopeless situation and to be given a new set of “spiritual genes.” He begins to cry, like Paul, “Wretched man that I am? Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24)

God’s Remedy

Adam and Eve’s sin, in choosing to live life independently of God, was no surprise to God. In fact, He had a wonderful plan to restore them and their descendants (us) to Himself from before the foundation of the world. Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.” Because of God’s great desire to be in relationship with mankind and that we be connected to Him as our very Source of living, God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross as our way out of our hopeless situation. When we choose to accept this indescribable gift, we experience salvation from our hopeless situation, and at that moment, God takes us spiritually out of Adam and places us into Christ’s life—eternal life. Eternal life is something we enter into and become a partaker of at the moment of salvation. It is receiving a new life altogether—Christ’s life. Colossians 1: 13-14 tells us that “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Essentially, Father God did the impossible—He rescued us from our life in Adam and transferred us into Christ.

So where were we when Christ died, was buried, resurrected, and ascended? Since God placed us “in Him,” we, too, participated in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Paul speaks of this death of our “Old Man” in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” It is only through faith in this glorious exchange that we can experience the victorious abundant life that Jesus came to give.

A Moment-by-Moment Choice

Why is it, then, that our lives as Christians often seem anything but victorious? The answer to this lies in the fact that now we have a choice to make in every situation and circumstance in our lives. We must ask ourselves—Am I going to go back to living out of my own strength—my old ways of doing life—or am I willing to allow Christ in me to live through me? It is a moment-by moment choice to live out this truth of exchanged life, a Christ-centered life rather than a self-centered life that “puts no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3), that will allow us to experience the reality of our identity “in Christ.” We rejoice in the liberating truth that because we are now “in Christ,” we are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17), having passed from death to life.

Next month we will further discuss God’s desire for us to live in a moment-by-moment attitude of surrender to Him.

Which God Do You Know?

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If asked to describe God, what would you say? Would you talk about a harsh, authoritative judge whose demands must be met in order to win His approval? Perhaps you would characterize God as passive, uncaring, or disinterested. Or maybe an image of a loving gentle father comes to mind. Regardless of how you would describe Him, it is imperative that our image of God lines up with the truth about who God is.

In our first two newsletters, we talked about the way that we attempt to have our basic needs met in life through our relationships and circumstances and how doing so helps us develop our personal belief systems or “life messages.” Moving through life, we put unrealistic expectations on others in an attempt to feel okay, always resulting in unmet needs. As our flesh struggles for happiness and satisfaction, we become disillusioned and frustrated with our lives, others, and even God. We may begin to question His love and goodness, and maybe even doubt His existence. We formulate our own “concept of God” and relate to Him and others based on our interpretation of who we believe He is. Sadly, there is often a huge difference between what we feel to be true about Him and Who He really is.

A God of Our Own Making

So how is it that even Christians often have misconceptions about who God is? Similar to the way we receive our unique life messages, we also develop our ideas about God, resulting in a “god of our own making.” Because we are born “in Adam,” we begin life with a marred concept of God due to sin. We are born believing the lie of the serpent to Adam and Eve that God cannot be trusted and that He is “holding out on us.” This lie is reinforced through our earthly relationships. Beginning at a very early age, we form our concept of God from our family relationships and experiences, or lack thereof. We compare Him to the performance of these people, as well as our own, drawing conclusions that are often erroneous. It is easy to see how unhealthy relationships can reinforce faulty beliefs about God, yet even healthy ones can have the same effect simply because they cannot satisfy our need for love, acceptance, security, value, and worth that only God was supposed to meet.

The Choice is Ours

Certainly realizing that we have misconceptions about God is the first step in beginning to truly know Father God. An understanding of His character by learning what He says about Himself is also necessary. It is through His Word and His Son, Jesus Christ, that God has revealed His character to us. Jesus said, in John 14:9, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Therefore, if we really want to know who God is, we need only look to Jesus. Allowing Jesus to reveal Himself to us by trusting in Him to meet our needs as we go through the trials of this life is the only way we will ever live full and satisfied lives. Again, we have a choice to make. We can struggle through life, attempting to get our needs met by the god we have “created” or we can trust in the one true Source of Life, the only One who “will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Next month we will begin looking at just how God went about making provision for our every need by changing our status from “in Adam” to placing us “into Christ.”

The Flesh: Living Life Independently of Christ

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Why Do Christians Sin?

Last month we looked at Life Messages.  These are messages we received (good or bad) from situations and relationships about ourselves. We internalized these messages and formed beliefs and experienced feelings which affected our choices and relationships. Let’s take a look at the effects of those messages. Why do Christians sin?  It seems the harder I try to obey God’s Word, the more I experience?  This was the Apostle Paul’s experience as well.  “For that, which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate….”Romans 7:15-21.

The Flesh: Living Life Independently of Christ

Paul is talking about the Flesh.  The Flesh is the condition in which my focus is primarily on myself, in which I am living out of my own resources in order to cope with life, solve my problems, and meet my needs or, in other words, living life independently of Christ.   God created us with a need for an intimate personal relationship with Him. In this relationship He promises to meet our need for which our love, acceptance, security, adequacy and worth.  In the circumstances of our lives and our relationships with others we experience unmet needs, pain, fears, disappointments, and anger.  Often this causes confusion as to why we are experiencing pain and why God has not met our needs or healed our wounds.

The Effects of Flesh Wars

Flesh is a by-product of what happened to Adam in the Fall.  When Adam disobeyed God, he chose not to place his faith in God but in Satan.  Adam rejected the TRUTH and power of God’s Word and accepted Satan’s lies.  Enter the FLESH! When Adam sinned, he died spiritually and became a child of wrath. So the nature of the problem is functioning without God as the center of life. Using the soul, we develop a self-centered functional approach to life, where the mind and heart is set primarily on ourselves.  Patterns of thinking and feeling result in behaviors motivated to meet our needs and solve our problems. A defense strategy or battle plan develops to try to make life work for us.  Flesh tries to function in its own way.  Flesh responds by doing things based on our own understanding of circumstances, myself, others and God.  Apart from God, our needs remain unmet because the Flesh cannot interpret life or relationships according to God’s truth. The Flesh wars against the things of the Spirit.  In as much as the Flesh struggles for happiness and satisfaction, the effects are always the same: conflict and frustration. So how do we eliminate this conflict and frustration from our lives? As believers, we now have a choice to make: whether to live by the flesh or to live from the Spirit. Choosing to rely on Christ’s life is the only way to experience the abundant life He came to give.

Put to Death the Deeds of the Flesh and Live!

“So then brothers, we are debtors, not to flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live by the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh you will live.”  Romans 8:12-13 As we continue to move through True Life’s Discipleship Counseling process, next month we will discuss how our “Concept of God” affects our relationship with Him.

Life Messages

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What Are Your Life Messages?

Have you ever found yourself wondering if there was more to this Christian life? Do you feel like everyone is happier and living a more fulfilling life than you? Do you wonder if somehow you’ve missed something? Perhaps you’ve found your mind flooded with thoughts like I’ll never amount to anything. I can’t do anything right. I should have done that differently. It’s my fault. If they only knew. I must keep my feelings to myself. I must do this to be okay. I feel so anxious about the future with all the uncertainty in the world. I go to church, read my Bible, and pray, yet I just don’t feel like God hears my prayers. Maybe I’m not even saved.

Why is it that so many Christians are plagued by these condemning thoughts, which often leave them feeling unloved, insecure, inadequate, unacceptable, and worthless? Is it any wonder that Christians often seem more miserable than their unsaved friends and family? How is it that these thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are even in the mind of a believer?

Our Personal Belief System

We must consider the way our beliefs are established. From the moment we are born, we begin to develop our self-concept based on our interpretation of the feedback, both negative and positive, that we receive from the circumstances, as well as the people in our lives. All of this “data” is internalized and becomes our very own unique belief system—the lens through which we view all of life, ourselves, God, and others, as we attempt to answer the question, “Who am I?” For example, a young girl who is neglected by a parent who favors her sibling, may come to believe the lie that others are more important than she is. Over time, these feelings of rejection may translate into the erroneous belief that she is unlovable and unacceptable. These beliefs may continue, even after she comes to Christ. Sadly, this is the case for many believers.

Transformed by the Renewing of our Mind

All of us, as we move through life, look for relationships and circumstances to fulfill us and make us feel “okay,” allowing these things to define us, often failing to realize that at the moment we received Christ we were “redefined.” It was then that it became all about what God thinks about us, and no longer about what the world says about us. The only thing left for us to do is to choose to believe what our loving Heavenly Father says about us by “being conformed no longer to what the world has told us, but by being transformed by the renewing of our mind.” (Romans 12:2) By choosing to believe what God says, our faulty beliefs can be renewed by His life-changing truth, resulting in a transformed mind and a new belief system from which to live the life of freedom Jesus came to give!

Life Messages is the first part in the True Life – Discipleship Counseling process. In our next publication, we will be discussing how our messages become our unique version of “The Flesh.”