Walking by Faith – Overcoming the Enemy

You may recall this encounter between Jesus and one of Satan’s minions from Matthew chapter 17.

“When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before him and saying, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.  I brought him to Your disciples and they could not cure him.’  And Jesus answered and said, ‘You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you?  How long shall I put up with you?  Bring him here to Me.’  And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.  Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not drive it out?’  And He said to them, ‘Because of the littleness of your faith’ ” (Mt 17:14-20).

“Because of the littleness of your faith.”  Our primary weapon against the attacks of Satan is our faith.  Now be aware that life is complicated.  And I don’t believe that we can just snap our faith fingers and Satan goes running.  But one thing I do understand is that I don’t want the littleness of my faith to be the reason Satan is winning a particular skirmish.  I don’t want a lack of faith to be the cause of my or your downfall.  Our faith matters.  Our faith makes a difference in the outcome.

Yes, Satan is a defeated foe, an assured loser in the war on God.  But until that final battle, Satan is working to disrupt God’s rule upon the earth.  And he is quite adept at throwing accusations, reasons for discouragement, and temptations our way.  We defeat Satan by our faith, that is, by believing God’s promises in the face of Satan’s accusations.

God’s promise in the unseen world:  Your old nature was crucified with Christ (Rom 6:6); sin is no longer your master (Rom 6:14).  Application to the seen world:  Don’t believe Satan’s lies.  Satan makes his living by lying, and he makes his living among believers by lying to them about God’s divine facts.  He highlights our sin and minimizes our victories.  He accuses us in the areas of our besetting sins and diminishes God’s promised power over sin in our lives.  His lies and accusations are overcome by faith; by believing the promises of God.  God says that your sin nature was nailed to a cross with Christ (Rom 6:6).  God says that sin is no longer your master (Rom 6:14).  God says you are His holy and beloved child (Col 3:12).

Paul comes back to the faith and Satan theme in his famous passage about the armor of God.  “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph 6:16).  The shield of faith – put into action by walking by faith – is our primary weapon in the fight with Satan.  May you wield it often.

Walking by Faith – Your New Heart

As I reflect on the promise of Good Friday and Easter, I am excited to write about another of God’s gifts that were secured by Christ’s death and resurrection.  The gift of a new heart.

Promise in the unseen world:  You have been given a new heart (Ez 26:36).  Your old deceptively wicked heart has been removed.  Application to the seen world:  You can trust your heart.  The heart, as used in the Bible, is the center of your will, thoughts, motives, understanding, and actions.  It represents the essence of who you are.  And suffice it to say, your old deceptively wicked heart was too far gone to clean up.  So God removed it and gave you a new heart to go along with your new birth.

Your new heart has a natural bent toward God.  You may not feel it all the time.  In fact, you may think there are some pretty close similarities to your old crummy heart.  But as we have seen all along, we believe by faith in the gifts of God that we cannot see with our eyes or feel with our skin.  And one of these gifts is a new heart.

So now you can trust your heart.  You don’t always have to be second guessing your choices and motives.  We are so often taught that basically if we think it up it must be wrong since our heart is “deceitful and desperately wicked”.  But you do not have that heart anymore.  It has been sent to the trash heap.  Your new heart is in tune with your new master, Jesus Christ.

Do we always feel like it is in tune?  Do we always act like it is in tune?  No, as with all things on this faith journey, it is a process; a practice in walking by faith.  But Christ is the Master Tuner.  And your conscience – the seat in your heart of your right and wrong choices – is being trained by the Master.  You can trust your conscience.  It no longer has an ounce of depravity in it.

God’s ways, God’s laws, God’s mind is standard equipment in the new heart (Heb 8:10).  It is not a option that only the super saints possess.  Thank the Lord today that your old heart and your old nature were crucified on the cross with Christ this very day so many years ago.  And show your thanks by living into all the new you now possess.  Happy death, burial and resurrection weekend!

Walking by Faith – The Spirit Inside

Let’s look at some more ideas of how we put God’s promise of a new identity into action.

Promise in the unseen world:  God’s Spirit now lives inside you (Rom 8:11).  Application to the seen world:  Because you believe the promise by faith, you act like His Spirit is living inside you.  You can’t see it, you probably can’t feel it, but you know God lives in you.  So you begin to live as if it were true.  What does “living as if it were true” look like?

For starters, you believe that your body is God’s dwelling place (I Cor. 6:19).  So you change some habits that you know God would not do dwelling inside you.  In the face of temptation, you literally ask yourself, “How would God act or react to this situation if He was living here inside me?  O wait, HE IS!”

You also begin to understand that God is not only dwelling inside you, but is speaking to you as well.  So you start to seek God’s voice.  You develop an ear to hear His guidance and direction.  Is the direction always clear?  No, there are often loud and competing voices.  But we believe by faith that He is speaking, so we keep listening…and following.

Another promise in the unseen world:  You have joined God’s family; God’s seed dwells in you (I Jn 3:9).  Application to the seen world:  You now have a family resemblance to God and His Son, Jesus.  It is not a physical resemblance, it is a moral resemblance; a likeness in righteousness and character (I Jn 2:29).

Think about how resemblance works in your physical family.  When our daughter Elizabeth and I were working in the same downtown building, I got on the elevator one day with her and her co-workers.  She immediately introduced me around, but before she got very far, her friends exclaimed, “Of course, we know that is your dad.  You can see the family resemblance.”

God intends it to work the same in the moral world.  As a new creation, He has created me to look like Christ in character and righteousness.  So I check myself.  How am I doing at living into the resemblance; at looking like Christ?  In the small town where I grew up, I was known as Adrian’s son.  And a desire to keep my father’s reputation intact was one element of my effort to stay on the straight and narrow.  Likewise, one of my motivations to resist temptation and to imitate Christ is to keep my Father’s reputation intact.  People will judge what God’s character is like by how His family members conduct themselves.

The important thing to remember is that this is not a family resemblance that we earn through some probationary period of good works.  The resemblance is already planted by God’s seed.  It is now up to us to live, in the seen and temporal world, as if it were true; which, of course, in the unseen and eternal world, IT IS!

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.