Walking by Faith – Your New Identity

“We walk by faith, not by sight” (II Cor 5:7) is a short verse with incredible depth.  Set against sight as its opposite, walking by faith is walking in the principles of the unseen world of the spirit.  It helps me to think of our lives as living in two worlds at the same time.  In the unseen and eternal world, you became a brand new person when you received Christ.  All the provisions and promises of the New Covenant came true for you in an instant.  It may sound mysterious, but the unseen and eternal world is just as real as the black letters on this screen or page.

But what about that other world, the seen and temporal world that we are more familiar with?  In this world, you may not have noticed much change at your point of salvation.  In the initial before and after Christ, you may look the same, you may feel the same, your personality may be unchanged, your challenges did not immediately  go away, etc.  In short, the immediate change in your temporal world before and after Christ varies greatly among believers.

So growing and maturing in the Christian life boils down to this.  It is the process, sometimes slow and gradual, sometimes rapid, of taking all you know to be true about the new you – things you know are true by faith – and bringing its application into your every day experience.  Let me put it this way.

Promise in the unseen world:  You have a new identity (II Cor 5:17).  Your new self is “created in the likeness of God; in righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24).  Application to the seen world:  As you begin your life in Christ, you may not feel like righteousness defines who you are.  In fact, you may feel like sin is still your propensity.  You have a conscious choice to make.  Are you going to live by faith – believing you have a completely new and righteous nature – or live by sight?  The apostle Paul calls living by faith “putting on the new self”.  You now have the ability to make large and small choices to live as if the “new self” is who you really are.

When you are tempted to anger and want to blow up at your children, you can literally say to yourself, “Hey, anger is not who I am in my new identity”, and choose patience.  When that ad for a suggestive website scrolls across your monitor, you can literally say to yourself, “Hey, lust is not who I am in my new identity”, and choose to pass on going there.  When you desire to use a power play to gain a leg up on a co-worker in your competitive work environment, you can literally say to yourself, “Hey, seeking their good is who I am in my new identity”, and work to aid their success.

Now this may all sound theoretical and impractical in the heat of the moment, in the throes of temptation, but this is literally what we must learn to do.  We talk back to temptation by reminding ourselves of who we are in Christ.  We talk back to temptation by reminding ourselves of God’s promise of a new power over sin.  And when we do this, we find that what started out as basically a practice in willpower to not sin becomes an experience of His power to overcome sin. We begin to learn, embrace by faith, and experience that sin is no longer my master.

Do I ever stumble?  Of course.  Do I ever sin?  Of course.  The maturing process is just that:  a process.  But what I can guarantee is that as you practice living into your new identity, you will more and more experience God’s resurrection power in the everyday path of real life.

The Necessity of Faith

Several times on this website, I have written about the two parts of the gospel.  The first part of the good news is the gospel for unbelievers.  It centers around the transaction; the move from death to life (Rom 6:23); the transfer from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col 1:13); joining God’s family (Gal 3:26); all brought about by believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life (Jn 6:40).  The second part of the gospel – equally good news – is the gospel for believers.  It is all about how we live the life; how we live the Christian life; how we live the supernatural Christian life.

Both parts of the gospel, the transaction and living the life, are grasped by faith.  The gospel is believed, embraced, attained, and laid hold of by faith.  The initial move from “wages of sin is death” to “free gift of God is eternal life” is by faith.  “For by grace you have been saved though faith” (Eph 2:8).  This universal verse applies to all people who believe; to all who exercise faith in Christ for their salvation.

But Jesus also highlighted the need for faith in His individual encounters as well.  In the last section of Luke chapter 7, Jesus visits the home of Simon, a Pharisee.  While reclining at the table, a woman known to be a sinner crashes the party and begins to anoint Jesus’ feet.  After engaging Simon in a parable about two debtors, Jesus turns to the woman and says, “Your sins have been forgiven…your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Lk 7:48,50).

Just as faith is required to enter the kingdom, faith is also a necessity for kingdom living; the life we live after the transaction.  This is the theme of the apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  He keeps asking his readers, “Having been justified by faith rather than by works of the Law, why are you now returning to the Law to live the life?  It doesn’t make sense.  Just as your initial salvation was by faith, even so your new life is lived by faith.”

The first step to living by faith is to believe that your old man, the man with the sin propensity, has been crucified with Christ.  “For 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” (Gal 2:20).  The experience of living the exchanged life, that is, Christ living His life through me is embraced by faith.

So living by faith essentially comes down to this.  Faith is how we take the promises of the unseen world – Christ living in me by His Spirit and all the newness that entails – and bring them to pass in the seen world where we live each day.  We will start exploring the “how to’s” next post.

“Finders Keepers”

I have a suspicion that my road to becoming a geophysicist was paved by a childhood fascination with finding things; specifically, with finding treasures.  When I was a child, my bedroom was filled with collections of baseball cards, matchbooks, shiny stones, and all kinds of interesting stuff.  I liked finding things.  And my day job shows that I still do.

So you can imagine my attachment to this quote from Dan Stone in his book, The Rest of the Gospel.  “But I have discovered that through union with Christ, I am no longer a seeker.  I am a finder.  Jesus said the kingdom of God is where?  In us.  Every kingdom has a king.  And the King lives in us.  The basic definition of the kingdom of God is the rule and reign of God.  That is exactly what has taken place in our heart.  So we are no longer seeking the kingdom.  We’re finders.  Whatever the kingdom of God may look like in the future in the external, it has already begun internally for us.”

We are finders.  Jesus said in Luke chapter 11, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened” (Lk 11:9-10).  Jesus’ promise is the if we seek, we will find.  It is very easy to get stuck in the seeking…the striving, the laboring, the working to somehow achieve what God has already given us.  The reward for the seeking is not a carrot that keeps moving ahead of us, always just out of our reach.  No, Jesus’ promise is that you will find it.

And what is it that we will find?  Christ in you the hope of glory (Col 1:27).  God’s kingdom in you (Lk 17:21).  God’s Spirit in you (I Cor 6:19); guiding you, energizing you, empowering you.  You will find Christ literally living His life through you (Gal 2:20).

Now, you may be thinking that all these discoveries sound swell in theory.  You may be convinced that somewhere in the unseen world all these things are true about us.  But when you look down into the world where we live each day, faced with sometimes challenging and with sometimes outright terrifying choices, how do we put these eternal principles into every day action?  How do we put the promise – our new life hidden in Christ, wrapped up inside and out with His presence – together with the reality of our experience each day?

The short answer is to live by faith.  The word faith appears about 240 times in the New Testament alone.  And it is vital to experiencing the supernatural in the world we inhabit.  The long answer is to live by faith and we will take the next several weeks exploring its implications.

For now, let’s celebrate our new life in Christ; a life filled with resurrection power that is yours for keeps.  It truly is “finders keepers.”

Our Counterattack – Prayer and Faith

(8 of 9 in a series on “Why do bad things happen to good people?”)

In Mark 9:14-29, we have a story of demon-possession that includes a long conversation between Jesus, a distraught father, and the disciples.  As Jesus returned from the mountain of His transfiguration, he found a crowd gathered.  While He was away, His disciples had failed in their attempt to drive a demon out of a child and the desperate father turned to Jesus.  After describing the child’s pain, the father pleads, ” ‘But if you [Jesus] can do anything, take pity on us and help us!’  And Jesus said to him, ‘ “If you can?”  All things are possible to him who believes.’  Immediately the boy’s father cried out, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.’  When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.’  After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, ‘He is dead!’  But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.  When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, ‘Why could we not drive it out?’  And He said to them, ‘This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer‘ ” (Mk 9:25-29).

Our first weapon in our counterattack is our prayers.  An absolute requirement in overcoming Satan’s evil schemes against us is prayer.  And it is prayer saturated with faith.  Notice in verse 23 of our passage, Jesus places great importance on the father’s faith, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23).  This leads to our second weapon in our counterattack; our faith.

Faith takes the spotlight in the Matthew account of this same story.  In Matthew chapter 17, Jesus gives a slightly different answer when the disciples quiz Him about their failure to drive out the demon.  “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’  And He said to them, ‘Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you’ ” (Mt 17:19-20).

Here the emphasis is on the weapon of faith.  In the Mark passage, the emphasis was on the weapon of prayer.  Both are critical in our counterattack on Satan’s evil interventions in our lives.  I know it sounds simple, but it is really, really critical and must be put into practice.  When we interpret the bad things that are happening to us as attacks from Satan, we have a counterattack strategy.  We don’t get angry, we don’t blame others, we don’t lose hope, we don’t abandon our commitments.  We fight Satan’s attacks with prayer and faith.  So when faced with the devil’s roadblocks:

  • Pray for deliverance.
  • Pray for strength.
  • Pray for lessons learned.
  • Pray for God to intervene.
  • Believe that God exists and lives inside you.
  • Believe that He hears you when you pray.
  • Believe that God is good.
  • Believe that you see “the glory of God in the face of Jesus”.

Beyond these short points there is much more about prayer and faith in the New Testament to bring into the picture and I pray you discover these things as you study God’s Word and allow it to impact your life.  Let me close with two verses that highlight our role in the fight.

“With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph 6:18).

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb 11:6).

Prayer and Faith.  Our weapons of power against the dark enemy; the author of evil.

Entering the Believer’s Rest

Last time we posed the question “How do we enter the believer’s rest?”  How do we go from wilderness Christian to God’s promised land experience in the here-and-now?  The author of the book of Hebrews gives us some insight.

Starting first with the Old Testament example of those who refused God’s promised rest.  “Today if you hear My voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw my works for forty years.  Therefore I was angry with this generation and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they did not know My ways;’ and I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest’ ” (Heb 3:7-11).

With this picture of the children of Israel missing God’s rest firmly in view, the author now brings us into the story in the next verse.  “Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God” (Heb 3:12).  This is not falling away from salvation, but falling away from the promised rest of God due to an unbelieving heart.

The author continues in this chapter with a more specific point about what kept the children of Israel out of the promised land.  “For who provoked Him when they had heard?  Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses?  And with whom was He angry for forty years?  Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?  And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief” (Heb 3:16-19).

What was the sin (vs 17) that kept the children of Israel out of the promised land?  It was the sin of unbelief (vs 19).  What keeps us from experiencing the believer’s rest?  It is the sin of unbelief (vs 12).  They are one and the same.  The key to experiencing the promised land rest of God in the here-and-now for New Testament believers is faith.  It is not some super acts of spirituality.  It is an act of faith.

“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience” (Heb 4:11).  Do not follow Israel’s example.  Their “disobedience” was their unbelief and their lack of faith cost them the promised land experience.  Don’t let unbelief, a lack of faith, keep you from experiencing the precious rest of God this very day.

Again, unbelief here does not refer to salvation.  Your salvation is secure.  Unbelief refers to not believing the new covenant promises of God.  Not believing that your old sin nature died at the cross with Christ.  Not believing you have a new heart with God’s law written upon it.  Unbelief is not believing the Holy Spirit lives inside you and is influencing and forming your spiritual walk.  If unbelief in these promises describes your experience, repent, turn around, leave your wilderness living and enter His rest.  It is available to you right now.  Won’t you enter in?  Let’s believe all that He says to us!