|Book: Becoming a Secure Christian|
Part 1 : Setting the Scene
Part 2 : A Biblical Security
Part 3 : Personal Security
(Practice and Theory)
Chapter 11: A Two-Sided Coin
We need to carry on thinking about our own personal security. Oh, a warning! Part way through this chapter you may think I'm over emphasising something or I'm out of balance. That's the danger with grace, so please read right through to the end of the chapter, don't stop or you won't get the whole balanced picture. We're going to look at two sides of the life of a Christian, two sides of the coin, if you like.
Side One : NOT NICE PEOPLE
11.1 Good News & Bad News!
God wants to bless me?
When we start off our Inheritance Course, the Course I referred to in the last chapter, I ask people what they think the words “God really wants to bless us” means. The reason I do this is that the years have convinced me that most Christians aren't convinced that “God is for them” or that the Good God purposes good towards them. In our minds we know many Scriptures but in our hearts we aren't convinced.
Now before we go on we've got to face a problem. For some of us, talking about God blessing me speaks of self-centred, pleasure seeking Christianity, and that is bad! If that's what you feel, may I make a suggestion? It's this, that some of us are so spiritually minded we deny our humanity and the reason we do this is because, deep down, we actually feel quite insecure. Of course that same “self” that you want to suppress is what actually denies this.
It takes an amazing amount of humility to face the TWO sides of your life. In the rest of this chapter we're going to look at the TWO sides of this particular coin, and it is very important that we look at both sides.
Side One of the Coin
On the one side is the truth that we're NOT nice people and we can only face that in the light of the whole truth of Scripture. Let me explain what I mean. With our minds we know the various Scriptures that tell us that “ all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God ” (Rom 3:23 ) and “ The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure ” (Jer 17:9) but the problem is that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Some of us have only got half the message and because of that we're fearful of facing the truth of this side of the coin.
There are various wrong responses to such verses and to what I've just said, each of which deny this truth:
Response No.1 : “Yes, I know that's what it says, but I'm a nice person really.” No you're not! Jesus in you is good, but the ‘you' bit is not nice. I'll prove it later on.
Response No.2 : “You say that but I daren't believe it because the Bible says God is against unrighteous people and surely He's not against me?” No He's not, but that's because of what He's done and how He can now view you.
Response No.3 : “Those verses applied to me before I was a Christian. I'm perfect now!” Is that right? Sounds like a case of delusion to me!
To face this thing properly we need to understand what has happened to us through the work of Christ, we need to understand the wider picture.
Note four key truths:
Key Truth No. 1 : Because I have been redeemed and justified, in God's sight, as far as my eternal destiny is concerned, I am perfect. I have been made righteous. This is called “imputed righteousness”. Check out such verses as Eph 1:4, Rom 3:24, 5:9, 2 Cor 5:21, Phil 3:9.
Key Truth No.2 : Part of God's package for me is the impartation of His own Holy Spirit who now lives in me and who expresses the righteousness of Christ through me. This is called “imparted righteousness”. Check out such verses as Jn 14:17 , 1 Cor 3:16 , 6:19 .
Key Truth No.3 : Because
the power of Sin over my life has been broken. I don't HAVE to sin. Check out such verses as Col 2:14,15, Rom 8:1, Col 2:20-23, Rom 8:11 .
Key Truth No. 4 : When you came to Christ he did not take away your personal responsibility and you still have the capability to get it wrong!
11.2 Ongoing Imperfection?
We still sometimes get it wrong
Now this last key truth is the all-important one in respect of the subject of our security and so we'll consider it more fully here.
The New Testament indicates that although we are no longer under the power of Sin, we do sometimes still sin, e.g.
1 Jn 2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin , we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence
Gal 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
Not only that, when Paul is writing to the Romans, in chapter 6 he is speaking against the mentality that says it is all right to sin, i.e. there were people accepting it as normal. Now that is NOT what I am saying. As Christians we are NOT to consider Sin as normal, we ARE to seek to live righteous lives - yet we are STILL very human. That is why Paul again and again instructs his readers to TAKE ACTION against the potential to sin, e.g.
Rom 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
Col 3:1,2 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Col 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry
In fact as I read through the epistles in the New Testament I am struck with the number of instructions on how to live, because the readers were missing the mark - and these were all written to churches, to Christians!
The amazing truth is that in practical everyday terms, God did not wave a magic wand over us at the point of our conversion. He did place His Holy Spirit within us and from then on the process we refer to as sanctification is a partnership of both us and God working, hence -
Phil 2;12,13 (you) continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you
The change that takes place in us happens as God by His Spirit convicts (shows us the need) and teaches us (shows us the way), so that we respond, learn and act, so that He then enables us as we step out.
The Nature of Sanctification
Now this sanctification is both:
Now if, as both our theology books and the Bible tell us, it is an ongoing process, it means that at any point in your Christian life:
It's not only a matter of how much you have pushed individual sins - bad habits, bad attitudes, bad thoughts, bad words - out of your life, it's also a case of how much you have brought the character of Christ - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Gal 5:22,23) - into your life!
Ways we get it wrong
The bad news is that left to our own devices we get it wrong. You're still not convinced, you still think there are “nice” people around? It's time to be honest! Let's think about our lives:
God's Men who got it wrong
Are you still quibbling? Let's go back to the Bible then. I write verse by verse Bible studies and have covered a very large proportion of the Bible. You know the thing that hits me in the Old Testament? The way that God chose and interacted with such imperfect people! Consider some of them for a moment:
If you think God hasn't got a sense of humour, have another look at the list of kings in Matthew's genealogy (Mt 1:7-11) from David up to the exile. Not a pretty bunch! Yet Jesus isn't ashamed to call them his family!
The four women in the genealogy are pretty interesting as well! Tamar (v.3) who brought about her pregnancy to continue the family tree through some rather unusual ways (see Gen 38), then Rahab (v.5), a Gentile prostitute (see Josh 2), then Ruth (v.5) another Gentile foreigner (see the book of Ruth), and finally Uriah's wife (v.6) who was stolen by David.
The Pharisees of Jesus' day couldn't stand sinners, but Jesus showed he loved them. He identified with them in that genealogy, he identified with them in the streets, and he identified with them on the Cross. And the good news is that that army of sinners includes you!
Lk 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.
Because I had begun to realise how important this truth was, I once took a liberty with our people when preaching. I needed their attention, I needed them to remember this truth. In the middle of the sermon I said quite strongly, “Folks, I've something important to say. You are a bunch of pigs!” I think for a second people stopped breathing and so before they could react any more I quickly added, “and us pigs have got to stick together!” There was laughter and appreciation. OK, a bit strong, but do you get the point?
Messed but Loved
If we are really going to be secure in who we are in Christ, we have first got to realise and be honest about what we're like - and then realise that God still loves us like this! Now, if you have a touch of the Pharisee in you you'll have trouble with that. Surely God can't love the unlovely! Excuse me! You haven't been listening to what I've been saying over these last few pages.
If you're still struggling with this, the truth is probably that you are struggling with all the emotions within you as the result of years of being told to keep the rules, years of being told you're a failure and no good! But you've just said we're failures! That's right but I've added the most important thing that takes the emphasis away from your failure, it's that God loves you despite your failure.
Responses to the Truth
When that really grabs our hearts it should create various responses, and that's what makes this side of the coin so important.
Response No.1 : Thankfulness & gratefulness.
The more we realise what we were REALLY like before we came to Christ, and the more we realise what we're REALLY like today (and there is a big difference!), the more we'll understand the wonder of God's love towards us, and when we understand that it must create a sense of wonder and thankfulness.
Response No.2 : Relief!
When we truly realise that we are loved as we are, it takes a whole load of pressure off us. While I realise He loves me so much that He doesn't want me to stay like this and has something better for me, I realise I can relax in His love and not get so stressed about having to be right, having to achieve, having to succeed.
Response No.3 : Change!
As I relax in His love I find I'm no longer pressurised by particular prevailing sins, they have lost their power over me, they cease to be important, and what is more - they cease! As I said earlier in the book, I've come to realise the thing that changes me most is being loved.
Transformed by Relationship
Another thing that has hit me, as I've done detailed studies in the Old Testament, has been the amazing changes that took place in each of these men over the years, as their relationship with God developed and His love transformed them. It wasn't by keeping the rules that they changed but through their relationships with God, tried, tested and developed in the fire of circumstances.
The apostle Paul realised all this when he was writing to the Colossians. He had to tell them that external rites (circumcision - 2:11), keeping rules (2:14), being picky over what you can or cannot eat (2:16), keeping special days (2:16), special experiences (2:18), i.e. all such human based standards or rules, would not have power to change their lives (2:23). It is only being “in Christ” and knowing the love of God that will transform you.
In the meantime relish the truth that God loves you, knowing everything there is to know about you! Yes He knows your past, He knows your failures and hurts that you have never dared tell another soul. He knows your present, and knows the unreality of your spiritual life that you sometimes feel, knows the failures you try to hide from other people, knows the struggle you have to bottle up wrong emotions. He knows that next week, next month, next year you might blow it. But knowing all these things, He still loves you.
I have been perplexed and amazed in the past as I have watched great leaders fall - and there have been some. How, I wondered, was God able to so mightily bless and use some of these men, knowing that in the future they were going to fall, in some cases into apparently straight forward unbelief and lack of the faith, and in other cases into obvious sin? The answer is that God accepting us or using us at all is pure grace. It came as a great revelation when I once heard someone say, “The amazing thing is not that God saves some, but that He doesn't destroy us all.” When we see the reality of sin, the depth of it in us, it truly is a marvel that God hasn't destroyed every one of us.
Response No. 4 : Acceptance of others
The Pharisee in each of us delights in pointing the finger at others. However, when we truly come to see what we're like we realise we have no room to condemn others. Our heart is broken and we realise we're all in the same boat, we're all sinners who deserve death. Suddenly as this grips us, we find a growing compassion for those who are outside the boat, drowning. We realise the folly of their position but we anguish for them. We long for them to be brought into the boat to receive the mercy and grace that we've received. The effects of this truth will affect the way we respond to every person we meet, the non-Christian out in the street and the Christian in the church. It will affect every area of our life and ministry.
Side Two : AMAZING PEOPLE
11.3 The Other Side of the Coin
So far in this chapter we've been majoring on the reality that, of ourselves, we're not nice people. Now we've got to turn the coin over and see the other side which is equally as true. Very often we have problems because we've only seen one side of the coin.
Here is the second side: it is that in Christ, you are wonderful and you are loved! Again, our flesh, the old sinful nature, the self side of us, rebels against this. Most of us swing somewhere between acknowledging (really acknowledging!) the truth that of ourselves we're not nice and the truth that in Christ we're wonderful and truly loved. We find what we see as the two extremes difficult to face. It simply means we've never let the truth of Scripture really get to us!
The probable reason for this is that in truth we feel quite insecure in ourselves and it first makes it difficult for us to acknowledge that we're not nice, but then it also makes it difficult for us to acknowledge that we are truly wonderful beings, children of God, much loved by Him.
Let the Bible Speak
So how can I now say you're wonderful, especially after a number of pages of saying you're not nice! The key words here are “in Christ”, an expression that comes up again and again in Scripture, e.g.
Rom 6:23 the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord
Rom 8:1 There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
Rom 8:39 (nothing) in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus
1 Cor 1:2 To the church of God …. to those sanctified in Christ Jesus
1 Cor 1:4 his grace given you in Christ Jesus
1 Cor 15:19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ
2 Cor 5:17 if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation ; the old has gone, the new has come!
Gal 2:4 the freedom we have in Christ Jesus
Eph 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ
Eph 2:10 For we are God's workmanship , created in Christ Jesus to do good works
Eph 2:13 now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near
Eph 4:32 in Christ God forgave you .
Phil 4:19 my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Col 2:10 you have been given fullness in Christ
Take all these things and they are you! You, who the Bible calls a “child of God” (1 Jn 3:1,2, Jn 1:12), because you now have Christ in you by his Spirit, and because you are now in his body, one with him, you are or have all these things.
What do those verses above say? Because you are in Christ you are a new creation, the workmanship of God, holding the fullness of Christ, separated out to God, brought near, forgiven, no longer condemned, a recipient of every spiritual blessing with every need met, a recipient of his grace and love, free, with a hope set in the eternal life that is ours. We are indeed amazing creatures today.
Let's keep going with this, let's keep declaring more of this wonderful truth: We've been called out of darkness (Col 1:13) into the light of Christ's kingdom, a place where all our needs will be met in Christ (Phil 4:19), a place where we're seated with Christ (Eph 2:6), with everything therefore beneath us (Eph 1:22), where we work out the lives God has planned for us (Eph 2:10), as His sons (Eph 1:5) bringing glory to Him here on the earth (Mt 5:16) so that even in the heavenly realms He is praised and glorified (Eph 3:10).
Not a Worm!
Some of us have joked over the years about false humility and being “just a worm”. A worm? No, you're a child of God, you're a son of God. Yes grab this truth in passing, you're a son of God (Rom 8:14). “Sons” in the Old Testament held a very special place. When you were a “son” you were an heir to the father's business and as you grew up you began to learn the father's business and, even more importantly, you learned the father's heart, the father's intentions, and gradually you took on more and more responsibility in the business. And we are now called “sons” of God!
Sometimes I've advised some of our people, “You know, when you get up in the morning, you need to stand in front of a mirror and say out loud, ‘Wow, you're incredible, you're wonderful!'” If you have a problem with that it probably means you've never appreciated the wonder of what God has made you in Christ, and that you're allowing your past, and jibes from the enemy, to make you less than you are.
11.4 Holding the Balance
For us as individuals to be secure in God we need to hold the balance of these two sides of the coin. On the one side is the realisation that left to ourselves we are not nice people - yet we are still loved by God.
That awareness helps
On the other side is the realisation that I am now a child of God, a son of God, a wonderful new creation with potential and destiny, much loved by the loving Father. That awareness helps us
But remember, they are both needed. When the enemy comes in with accusations: “You've failed! God is angry with you! You're useless!” the answer to him has to be two pronged. How do you answer that when you are secure?
“Yes, you're right, I have failed. I'm like that, but you know God still loves me. You know something else? Jesus has died for me and he's taken my guilt and shame and punishment, so I'm free because I've confessed it to Him. Not only that, I'm not going to be put off by this failure because I'm a child of God and He's got a future for me because He loves me - so go away!”
Jas 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Yes, that's the order for security: get in close relationship with God and know His love, then resist the enemy with the truth about that love!
11.5 And So?
So, as we come to the end of this chapter what are the questions we need to be checking ourselves with?
Can I face the truth about my own weakness -
Can I face the truth about my own greatness -
Again, these are profound questions and the whole of our personal security hinges on these questions and our honest answers to them.