Monday, June 15, 2009

Things I Wish I had Known as a New Christian

We had such a great discussion in our mentoring group this morning studying True Spirituality by Francis Schaeffer Chapter 6, and it is so packed with nuggets, I thought I'd summarize in writing what we much for myself as for y'all!! I wish I had known this as a new believer and not until so many years after conversion!! I would have been spared a LOT of pain and confusion....

1. Because of the Fall we wake up each morning in an ABNORMAL world. We shouldn't be surprised when we face "thorns and thistles and weeds" in our relationships and tasks.

2. The victory over sin has already been decisively achieved, though we don't see the full extent of the results yet. We are to live to bring the reality of the victory and the power of the Kingdom into our day TODAY! Eternal life is not some far off place of another time, it begins at our conversion is to reform and redeem all of the spheres of influence we walk in.

3. The Christian life is not only true but supernatural. We touch the supernatural and are transformed by the supernatural as we live by faith. Christ is formed in us the same way the Physical Christ was formed in the Virgin we believe the Word, the Promise, of God. Luke 1:38: Be it done TO me according to Your word. When we face sin we are to feel as helpless as Mary in conceiving her Child on her own...she could not do was a HUMAN IMPOSSIBILITY...but what is impossible with man is possible with God. He calls into being that which was not, like He did at creation, by the Word of His Power...that is HOW the Christian life works! He calls into being spiritual fruit and supernatural change that we can not bring about by all our efforts and strategies.

4. A critical element to faith is latching hold continually to the promise of JUSTIFICATION. We are to live moment-by-moment in the reality of our justified standing: God, sitting behind the Legal Bench, is both Judge, Jury and Prosecutor. We ARE ALL guilty, both through Adam's sin and our own sins. We have no defense of our own. We are hopeless. Christ enters the courtroom as our Defense Attorney and pleads His own obedient life and death as our Proxy and Substitute. God then bangs the gavel and DECLARES us not guilty. But more than that, The Father does what no earthly judge can ever do: He not only declares us NOT GUILTY, He declares us PERFECT, SPOTLESS, BLAMELESS and HOLY in His sight. We are declared as PERFECTLY RIGHTEOUS as Jesus Himself. Christ's perfect RECORD of obedience legally becomes OUR VERY OWN record before God! See the Heidelburg Catechism Question 60.

5. A second critical element for faith to cling to is the promise of ADOPTION. Christ is uniquely The Son of God. He is the Second Person of the Trinity...He is God Himself. Yet, through union with Christ by Spirit baptism by grace through faith, EVERY believer becomes a child of God, an adopted son or daughter...with ALL the same rights, privilege, standing before the Father AS CHRIST HIMSELF. Because of union with Christ, the baptismal pronouncement over Christ, "This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased," becomes the Father's declaration over every believer in Christ!!

6. As we BELIEVE in Christ and the Gospel Promises of JUSTIFICATION and ADOPTION, we are transformed supernaturally by the Spirit of God. It is by GRACE experienced through FAITH in the Gospel Promises that the Holy Spirit transforms our lives. When we believe God's promise of our justification and adoption when we FEEL we LEAST DESERVE to believe it, that is precisely when the power of the Spirit most fully falls upon our lives. Again, keep in mind Luke 1:38--"Be it done TO me according to Your Word."

7. A third critical element for faith to cling to is the promise of REGENERATION. We are born again by God's Spirit. According to the Old Testament promise in Ezekiel 36:25-29, God will cleanse us from all our idols, He will sprinkle clean water on us (symbolized by New Testament baptism) He will give us a new heart and put a new spirit within us. He will removed from us the heart of stone (symbolized by Old Testament circumcision) and give us a soft heart toward Him. He will put His Spirit within us and CAUSE us to walk in His commands!! That is regeneration....the supernatural removal of the Old Man in Adam and making us new creations, new creatures in Christ. With new natures, new hearts and a New Spirit, we are now ABLE to say no to sin and yes to we walk by faith in the Gospel Promises. We are now responsible...response-able.

8. Sanctification occurs much the same way conversion grace through faith. Even our Doctrinal Standards teach this: See the Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 35, Larger Catechism 75. The Holy Spirit applies the benefits of the life and death of Christ to our hearts in ever increasing fashion resulting in the supernatural transformation of our lives. One difference between justification and sanctification is that sanctification occurs in varying degrees while there are no degrees to justification...we are fully justified from the moment we believe, but we are progressively sanctified each day as we walk in repentance and faith.

9. Sanctification occurs as we believe the Gospel (Galatians 3:1-5, Colossians 2:6, John 6:29, Isaiah 30:15, etc). Sanctification occurs as we learn to WALTZ--the spiritual "3-step" dance with Christ of "Repent! Believe! Fight!" There are ups and downs, ebbs and flows to the spiritual life. Growth begins with repentance: acknowledging our sin and helplessness before God. We can no more change ourselves by sheer effort and discipline than we could save ourselves by sheer effort and discipline. But we must not stop at repentance or we will wallow in despair. Repentance must lead to fresh faith. We are to BELIEVE the Gospel Promises afresh that our standing before God never changes because of our sin. Through union with Christ we are unchangeably justified before God and eternally adopted sons and daughters. We can do nothing to cause God to love us more than He already does in Christ; and we can do nothing that would ever cause God to love us any less than He loves Christ Himself (John 17:23!!). It is AS we BELIEVE these promises that the Power of the Spirit is unleashed in our lives (Galatians 3:5). This is what it means to ABIDE in Christ--we abide by faith...grace apprehended by faith strengthens our union with the Branch, Christ, so that His life-giving "sap" courses through our lives with transforming power. We are to BELIEVE that just as there is a "converting" power to the blood of Christ that saves us from hell, so there is a transforming power of the blood that delivers us progressively from the power of sin. As the old hymn, Rock of Ages, reminds us: the blood of Christ provides the DOUBLE CURE: it cleanses us from both sin's guilt AND power! Then, equipped with fresh faith and reminded of reality of our regeneration, we are to FIGHT the good fight and WAR against the world the flesh and the devil. We are to renounce the flesh and present our lives to righteousness. Then, if/when we fail, we continue waltzing!

10. We Do NOT arrive this side of eternity. There is NO ARRIVALISM, NO TRIUMPHALISM. Waltzing doesn't FIX us! Waltzing is how broken, limping sinners saved by grace are progressively becoming whole and healthy...but we are not completely healed until the Return of Christ. Grace enables us, empowers us and motivates us to persevere in faith so that grace by the Power of the Holy Spirit will continually transform us.

"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in BELIEVING, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may about in hope!"
Romans 15:13

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