Everybody wants to find happiness for themselves regardless of race, wealth and social standing. The poor man wants it as badly as the rich man. So does the hermit and the film star. Yet with all our yearnings to be happy, very few discover the secret to it. So how do we find happiness?
What is happiness?
Synonyms of happiness are joy, gaiety, satisfaction, pleasure, cheerfulness, merriment, etc. But such like experiences are usually temporal and we can obtain these readily through what the world offers. New clothes, a new car, success at work or play, even a newly wed spouse, all portray the promise of happiness. And even though we may seek such things, true happiness retreats like a desert mirage.
True happiness is not an emotional feeling invoked by external influence. It is rather a consciousness of joy that is one’s core and constant state of being regardless of our emotions. Those who possess true happiness have the assurance of peace that fills their heart in spite of contrary circumstances that may surround them.
The Source of Happiness
Tabloids are full of the healthy, rich and famous who are desperate for happiness. They have most of what the world can offer, yet they are not satisfied with life. The heart of man has infinite capacity, therefore, it can never find happiness with anything that has a finite value. Temporal pleasures and good health may ease many burdens of life, but they cannot supply true happiness.
The focus of self
Others try and look for it in religion and the focus of self. Eastern religious thought has infiltrated the church, teaching that to find happiness we are to “connect with ourselves, (or inner spiritual identity)”. Yet they are quick to refer you to teachings that promote various forms of worship, external activities and influences; not to glorify God in love, but to promote self well-being.
Aristotle says that “happiness depends on ourselves”. But if we could find happiness within ourselves, why would we need to search for it? Jesus said, what the heart (spirit) is filled with, the mouth will confess (Matt. 12:34). Hence, our lives will demonstrate the substance of our spirit. Therefore, if happiness existed innately then one would not need to “search within” for it, because we would already be conscious of its existence. And our very lives would demonstrate that fact.
Happiness is a product of goodness
God is eternally happy and infinitely good. He has no want because He is absolutely self-sufficient, and is perfectly content at all times. There is nothing that opposes His state of being, as He created and governs all things. He has no rival, and cannot be influenced by any external persuasion. His goodness is the cause of His happiness, and there is nothing that can be added to, or deducted from His happy state of being. God is the source of all true happiness. Therefore, without God the state of happiness cannot exist.
Man was created to be happy
God made man a moral being, and clothed him in a physical body. His creation in man was with eternal intent. That is; God made man to fellowship with Himself in His blissful, eternal kingdom.
He created man in His image and His likeness (Gen. 1:26). But He did not make us with unique happiness apart from Himself. We were not designed to be independent spiritual islands. He constructed us to live, and move, and have our being solely in Him (Acts 17:28 KJV). Hence, we do not have life within ourselves; but He has breathed and maintains the breath of life within each one of us. It is His Spirit of life within us that gives us our existence.
Now we not only obtain and maintain our lives through Him, but, because God is infinitely happy within Himself, we also, being created in Him, share His happiness. This is His intention for all of His created moral beings. Jesus said: “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy (happiness) may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11).
Man’s fall from happiness
But man fell from God’s fellowship through sin, and subsequently forfeited his infinite state of happiness.
Even though God lives in eternal bliss in Himself, He does not exist in a universal state of goodness, but rather, the universal state of His kingdom derives its goodness from Him. Everything He does is governed by His laws of righteousness. It is therefore, from this state of righteousness that all moral beings live in perfect benevolence and partake of God’s infinitely happy state.
Free will to choose
Now all moral beings possess a free will to choose. For, without the power of choice, there can be no virtue. (For what virtue would there be in any being serving God in loving obedience, if they never had the power of choice?)
Therefore, it is man’s privilege and obligation to choose right from wrong; benevolence from selfishness; faithfulness to God’s word from disobedience. Nevertheless, man chose to disobey God’s word in favor of his own selfishness, and through this, fell from God’s eternal state of happiness, incurring as a result, just and eternal condemnation.
How to find the way back to happiness
But, in God’s foreknowledge, He anticipated man’s fall, and in His eternal plan He made provision to restore the fallen to Himself. And even though transgression of His infinitely holy laws of righteousness deserves eternal retribution, He made a way through the atonement of the eternal Christ to pay for our sins and that, without transgressing His own laws of righteousness.
Because all other beings were created, none but God in Christ could be the appropriate eternal propitiation for man. 1. This was the only way to atone for man’s eternal offences.
Therefore, those who exercise faith in Christ alone are the ones reconciled to God. And through this reconciliation we are reinstated to be partakers of His divine nature (2Pet. 1:4), and consequently, sharers of His infinite happiness.
Our happiness is the direct result of the reality of our faith in the Person of Jesus Christ. (Or as Paul says: “Spirit of Christ”(Rom. 8:9)). And to the measure that we walk in true saving faith in Him, to that measure we will be partakers of His happiness.
This is because when we exercise true saving faith in Christ, our spirit within that was once dead, becomes quickened to life in Him. His Spirit that is now quickened in us becomes us – to that measure that we walk in Him. Now to have the Spirit of Christ within is to have the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy (happiness), peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; (Gal 5:22-23). This is the only way that we can find true and lasting happiness.
But what about bad times?
Times of sadness, being forsaken or forgotten (or both) will always be there. Troubles may be on every side at times. No one is immune to these. Not even our Lord Jesus was when He walked among us.
I do not say that we will not get tempted to become despondent, or feel rejected, or have sad moments. But whatever our situation, if we continue to walk in Christ we will have the peace that surpasses understanding (Php 4:7). Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world (1John 4:4).
The happiness that we have through God cannot diminish. Despondency cannot become desperation when our faith assures us that God is with us.
This is not wishful thinking from vain imaginations. We do not simply quote a scripture verse, or declare a bold statement of triumph and all troubles disappear. That is what foolish religiosity does, but it has no power. It only leaves you doubtful of everything you hear from the pulpit and read in God’s Word. Nevertheless, many will still continue in false religiosity despite there being no power manifested by it.
The answer lies in becoming acquainted with the reality of God in our lives. This changes us. God makes His presence known to us and gives us boldness to resist sin and the world, and to walk in unity with Him, knowing that we live according to His will, whatever it may be for us.
Joy inexpressible and full of glory fills our hearts. (1Pet. 1:8). It therefore becomes impossible for the enemy to subdue us and pull us into the vortex of sin and consequent despair. But it takes learning how to exercise true faith in Christ. (See also How to grow your faith)
We cannot find happiness by any means, either externally or internally if it is by our own doing. We were created to be happy, but that happiness is not our own. It is God’s. Our faithful walk in Him therefore, is the only way that we can truly be happy. Apart from this, we will be left having to be content with false beliefs and temporal external influences to obtain any fleeting self-gratification. For the religions and offerings of this world can never produce a lasting happiness for man.
But God offers happiness to everyone who repents of their life and comes to the knowledge of the truth in Christ (1Tim. 2:4). His infinite happiness is available for the sharing.
Testimony of Dr. William Lane Craig
Dr. William Lane Craig shares his excellent testimony about how he found true happiness only in God.
Is it possible to receive salvation in our final hour?
In short, the answer is – yes, it is possible. All we have to do to receive salvation in our final hour is believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, and exercise faith in His Person to the degree that causes us to be born again. But is it probable?
Story of a condemned man
John Wesley once accompanied a man who was condemned to be hung for his crimes. He volunteered to join the convict in his caged wagon to the gallows in the hopes that he might share the gospel of Christ with him in his last hour. Bystanders took turns in jeering and throwing refuse at the two as they passed by. Their shouts of condemnation rose in waves to the passing of the wagon, only to settle to murmurs again in its wake. Upon their arrival, the condemned man turned to Mr. Wesley and said that he felt peace, and was happy with an assurance that in his final hour he was able to acquire salvation.
True stories like this are rare. And even though it is possible for anyone to receive Christ’s atonement and forgiveness in their final moments, history proves that it is not probable. There are various reasons for this such as:
Will one have the time?
What is the state of their mind at the time?
What is the state of their heart at the time?
Will the gospel be preached in truth to enable faith for salvation?
What do they expect from salvation?
What does it take to be saved?
1) Will one have the time?
Many find their end suddenly. Heart attack, car accident, even dying in your sleep are examples of numerous possibilities of sudden death. People often dupe themselves into believing that they will live their lives as they please and give their last moments to secure their salvation. This is an illusion. We cannot predict how we will meet our end in this life.
2) What is the state of their mind at the time?
We also cannot guarantee that we will be in a fit state of mind to receive salvation.
I remember a man with whom I had tried to share the gospel, and who fought against the truth of it vehemently. A few weeks later he was stung in the neck by a wasp. His throat swelled preventing him from breathing. He soon lost consciousness and never recovered- dying days later in his coma. Some might argue that he could have received Christ in his comatose state. We will never know. But it is standard testimony through the age of the gospel that one who obtains mercy from God will glorify God before men as a result.
Some lose their minds in old age and others are so sick that they cannot comprehend sufficiently to be able to receive the gospel of Christ and consequential salvation in their final hour.
And because we all are responsible for our own repentance, faith and salvation, it is impossible for another, or even a priest to pray to save us. Salvation can only be obtained by ourselves, and to obtain it we must be able to apprehend the gospel message sufficiently enough to fulfill its conditions, which I will cover later.
3) What is the state of their heart at the time?
Would a son who has hated and rebelled against his good father all his life suddenly, in his last hour, come to the realization of his father’s loving kindness and become a faithful son? It is not impossible for he may be able. But it is highly unlikely.
I have known of some who are so lost in self that they just cannot listen to the truth. God has handed them over to a depraved mind to continue in their sinful life (Rom 1:28). Everything about their Maker and His righteousness is offensive to them. The power of their selfishness, arrogance and pride simply will not permit them to grasp the principles of the goodness of God to obtain eternal life. It is not because He is unwilling to receive them, but simply that they will not surrender their hearts to the obedience of faith in Christ (Rom 1:5), nor love God for who He is.
Many only know the Words: “Jesus Christ” as a term for blasphemy. How can one who has used the Name of Christ with dishonor all their life suddenly, at the end of their life, regard it as the Name to be honored and revered above all names to the point where they surrender their life to willful obedience and exercise faith in the Name for eternal life?
God will not be mocked?
God will not be mocked(Gal 6:7). Nor will His Word return to Him void (Isa 55:11 KJV). A person who has lived his life not wanting to know God, invariably finds it impossible to want to know Him in his final hour.
There are various accounts of the last moments of illustrious men who hated the truth of God and His Christ in their lives. Their last words are pitiful, but reveal most assuredly the reality of their lost estate. Voltaire, Sir Francis Newport, Sir Thomas Scott are among those who came to see their life of falsehood but could not receive salvation in their final hour.
4) Will the gospel be preached in truth?
Using the example of Voltaire, Mr. François-Marie Arouet, (his real name); the leading factor to his intense hatred of Christians, the gospel and Christ, was the hypocrisy and false doctrine taught as God’s Word.
But what does the Bible say? For “THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,” just as it is written (Rom 2:24). People cannot respond to the gospel in the absence of truth. And how can they receive Christ from hypocrisy?
The Word of God is true: “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom 10:13). However, Paul continues: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Rom 10:14). And it is only reasonable to understand that the preaching needs to be in truth of God’s Word and without hypocrisy.
If one does not hear the Word of God taught in truth, then on what basis can he build his faith? For faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God(Rom 10:17). Now, how likely will a person, in his final hour, have the opportunity of hearing the gospel taught in truth to obtain salvation?
A minister’s tale
One minister related an account of one of his hospital visitations to me: He said that after he was “ministering” to an elderly woman who was in hospital, another called for him to minister to her. Apparently, she had been awakened to her need of a Savior and reached out to the minister to hear the gospel. But this minister was proud to say that he refused the woman, saying that God sent him to minister to the one only. His belief was that God chooses you for salvation or He doesn’t. (Apparently, he believed that God gave him the authority to choose on God’s behalf as minister). With such hypocrisy evident, what chance was there for that woman to receive the word of God’s love in truth, believe it, build up enough faith to receive the gospel in truth to result in her salvation?
For more on how to discern truth from falsehood (lies) go here.
5) What do they expect from salvation?
Most people I have talked with about salvation and the hereafter, want salvation only to escape an eternity in hell. They don’t desire the benevolence of righteousness and love that is the matrix of heaven. If they did they would live it on earth! They expect it to be a utopia of eternal pleasures for self, but do not realize that to benefit from universal benevolence one needs to become part of it, i.e. to be whole-hearted contributors also.
Eternal life is given to those whose supreme love is God, and who desire to live serving Him as an expression of that love. There is no room for selfishness in heaven. For if there were, it would soon ruin the holy matrix of love by which all heaven’s citizens live. Heaven is a place of rejoicing, not over self-gain, but for the opportunity of living with our Savior forever. Jesus is the life of all saints and heavenly beings. He is the glory of heaven and the joy of all the righteous.
Those who live for self-gratification make themselves desert islands in the sea of love. The Bible calls them “stains and blemishes” (2Pe 2:13). They are just out of place in heaven. Those who love their lives of sin cannot receive Christ as they should. For to do so they would need to forsake sin – as it is in heaven. In short, the reality of heaven, other than an escape of hell, would be intolerable to them.
6) What does it take to be saved?
Salvation is free, but it does not come easy.
God paid the infinite price of dying for the sins of the world through Christ His Son. Jesus bore the hardships of the world, shame and final death at the hands of those He came to save. Do we dare to think that a simple belief and heartless confession of His existence and testimony will save us?
So many people look at salvation as the escape from eternal damnation. But this is not how it should be. Salvation is the process of being set free from sin which is, in itself, the cause of our judgement. It is the transformed state of our being that now lives for the love of God rather than the love of self. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christ came to free us from hell. Rather it teaches that He came to free us from sin – the very thing that was sending us to eternal damnation in the first place (Mat 1:21).
When Christ sets us free from sin, He transforms us into new creatures. This also includes the foremost sin of rejecting God in our lives. These new creations have a mind for God. They take hold of Christ as their supreme love, and with thankful hearts for His grace reflected in His great atonement, receive Him to dwell within them forever, which is through faith. But it is a process of hearing the truth, perceiving and then acknowledging it, and finally receiving it to the extent of causing the transformation within.
Jesus preaches to Nicodemus
Nicodemus, the learned Pharisee, came to Jesus to seek the word of truth about eternal life and how to get it. After Jesus’ discourse about being born again, it is apparent that Nicodemus still didn’t understand until much later. Understanding the gospel takes time – even when preached by the Lord Jesus Himself! It is a dawning upon the soul that persuades us to reach out for the Person of Christ, through faith, and to have Him live and exercise His will within us.
Obtaining salvation is based on an instantaneous decision. But being converted to a life in Christ is not just a head consent, but a heart submission to have the Lord Jesus reign within. And to get to the state of making that decision involves a process in time.
But, what about the man on the cross?
Some people point to the man on the cross receiving salvation in his last moments (Luk 23:42-43). They say that this proves that it is not difficult to receive salvation in our final hour. But scripture shows very clearly that this did not happen as many of these advocates propose.
The factors involved in the mind of the the man on that day
The saved man’s only chance of listening to Christ and seeing His witness was on his last day. And even though he knew of Him, he had not witnessed His teachings or experienced His righteousness. He had only hearsay to go on. However, everyone in Jerusalem knew of Jesus, and even more so on the day of His crucifixion. And these included the incarcerated like the robbers being crucified alongside Him.
He still had a fear of God in his final hour, as opposed to the stark depravity of the other man who had abandoned all fear of God (Luk 23:40). When one dies with a conscience one becomes extremely fearful of meeting God in the hereafter. But to those who despise all attempts of their consciences trying to prick them towards repentance, the fear of God is absent. Some have been so depraved in their final hour, that they would even curse God with their last breath, forsaking any chance of salvation. Joseph Stalin is a good example of this, allegedly having died waving a clenched fist to God.
His agony increased his torment and frustration, and he joined the other man for a little while in hurling abuse at Christ. But as he hung there from morning to the time of his repentance, he had plenty of time to contemplate his sinfulness and just deserts. This was particularly so in contrast to the witness of Christ dying silently next to him.
The way Christ conducted Himself in His own agony (Luk 23:34) would have helped to invoke his faith in Jesus.
The working of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit will not move on the heart of the reprobate mind (one handed over to complete and irreversible depravity). But to those who He foreknows will receive His grace, He gives understanding. (See the account of Lydia in Acts 16:14). This is undoubtedly the result of the man who received salvation. There was a huge passage of time for him to process the truth of God’s Son. Not only did he witness Christ personally over the course of the day, but the Holy Spirit would also have given him the witness that Christ was who He claimed to be. (Continue reading to see why).
So to claim the example that the man on the cross received his salvation in his “final hour” as many suppose is just not true to scripture, nor is it reasonable. The Holy Spirit had obviously been at work in his heart for an elongated period of time, foreknowing that the man would respond favorably to truth (See Rom.8:29-30). And no one can believe Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Spirit (1Co 12:3).
The process of salvation
Salvation is a process of internal regeneration. Being born again of the Spirit of God requires a number of factors:
We need to hear the truth of God’s Word in such a manner as to be able to comprehend it.
God’s Word must be desirable to us to enable us to want to change. What we hear and understand we need to apply to our lives so that we can be transformed from within. As in the case of Lydia ( Acts 16:14), God opened her ears to understand because He knew she would be obedient to the truth she heard. (See Rom 8:29-30)
We need to recognize the truth and realize our fallen state from God’s favor and grace. No one gets to heaven by their own merit. All of us are helpless and need to recognize our need of Christ as the only Savior.
We need to repent of our sins, and that with remorse. We have led a life at enmity to the wonderful, loving God who made us. Yet, even while we sinned against Him, He continued to sustain us and give us life. True repentance can only be conducted by a contrite heart, which is not just from fear, but from godly sorrow for the life of offense to God that we have led (2Co 7:11).
We need to be able to exercise faith sufficient to receive pardon for our sins; and surrender our hearts to the Person of Christ as our personal Savior. This faith is to be real, living within us. We will then have God’s translated peace made known to us. For He gives all who truly turn to Him a consciousness of belonging. That is, an assurance that we belong to Him, and He to us (Rom 8:16). This is the time when Christ becomes the love of our lives.
The truth of the matter
All of the above does not take a moment in life; especially when one is trying to deal with the fears and pains of impending death. The truth of the matter is that if a person has denied coming to the obedience of faith and love of the Lord Jesus during his life, he is highly unlikely to be able to receive salvation in his final hour of life either.
God’s Word counsels us to come to Him when we hear Him call “Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS…”” (Heb 3:7-8). God gives salvation freely. However, it is up to us to change the way we think to be able to receive it. And this is a process that rarely takes a moment.
Gullible birds will ignorantly swallow whatever they are fed. Many in church do the same. But with so many conflicting teachings of men, what should I believe?
If we discover truth we will have discovered the key that unlocks the chains that bind us. The responsibility of our souls lie with each one of us to discover truth and to be set free. Truth is readily available. The source in the Bible. We just need to be willing to discover it to truly set us free.
John Wycliffe said that we should read the Bible for ourselves. He knew and taught against the errors of the prevailing doctrines in the church of his day. And even though he served within it, he read scripture for himself and for itself.
There are those who will ask you: “What church to you belong to?” What they want to know is what predefined box you fit into so that they can put a predefined label on you.
My Answer is: “To whatever church Jesus belongs!”
The religious orders of the day were frustrated with Jesus because of what He taught. This was because it did not comply with their teachings. They could not box and label Him by the predefined doctrines of men that were designed to appease God but not to know and love Him. Their religion consisted of rules and traditions of men, but they excluded the life of God. So what should I believe?
Appeasing God or Pleasing Him?
Much of the church today runs along the same path. They formulate what they choose to understand rather than what God has said. It is easier to form a religion that can be included into their life without them actually living for God. They pay tribute to rules and regulations, and doctrines of men that are easy to pay but do not touch the heart of the believer.
God is not a path of man’s systematic theology, or a religion based upon principles of men. He is the way. He doesn’t bow to man’s doctrine but is in Himself the truth, and all truth comes from Him. And whoever wishes to walk in peace with God and obtain eternal life, needs to surrender their own life and walk in His Spirit, for He is the life, and all things have their being through Him (Joh 14:6).
God does not want to be appeased with religion. He desires living, free moral beings who will recognize Him for who He is, and who will choose to live their lives in Him. By this alone can He be pleased with His choice creation in man.
Who can know God?
God designed scripture to enable man to know Him and His purpose for man’s creation. His Word is not confusing. For He is not a God of confusion (1Co 14:33). There is nothing that He will withhold from those who want to know Him, and have His purpose fulfilled in them. Contrarily, the world cannot know Him because their depraved minds cannot accept the things of God (Rom 8:7). But all things are laid open for them who will seek truth for what it is and abide by it.
Some may say: “Who can know God or His intentions?” No one can know the heart of another except the spirit of the other. Similarly, only the Spirit of God can understand God. However, we have been given the mind of Christ so that we may know Him and His purpose in us (1Co 2:12). Therefore, whoever wants to know the heart of God needs only surrender himself to Him and learn to walk in His Spirit.
Test everything you are taught
Don’t let the religion of men get in the way of your life in God. Read and understand what the scriptures say for themselves(1Th 5:21). You will achieve this by:
Sincere repentance and faith in Christ – God only reveals Himself and His truth to those of His own.
Seeking God earnestly in prayer for understanding.
Being prepared to forsake that what you have been taught in the teachings of men should it run contrary to revealed truth.
Being prepared to obey the truth that has been shown you in scripture so that more truth can be entrusted to you (For if you are found faithful in the little you have been given, God will give you more).
What I should believe is found in the source of truth – the Bible. Ask God to verify or negate what is being taught behind the pulpit through His Word. And if you ask in faith without wavering, He will give it to you. (James 1:5-6)
Even prominent leaders can be wrong
If the doctrines of men do not comply with scripture then question their doctrine. Do not glibly accept what is taught just because it comes from the pulpit, even if the teacher is a Doctor or Professor of their doctrines. There are many doctors of religion, and many of these contradict each others’ doctrine. (Hence so many off-shoots of religions and denominations). It stands to reason then that it is impossible for them all to be right regarding any particular doctrine.
I do not say that we are to ignore what teachers say. Going to church is imperative for growth and fellowship. For the gospel can only be spread through the media of faithful men and women who teach the truth. But the responsibility lies with us to verify what they teach by testing it with the Word of God. Test all things. Truth cannot contradict itself. There cannot be two opposing truths to one argument. The antithesis of one truth, whatever it may be, is falsehood. If something seams contradictory to what you believe then pursue it until you discover the truth.
The truth of God alone will set you free
It is only the truth of God that can set us truly free (Joh 8:32). If we choose to believe the doctrines of men that oppose the truth of God’s Word, we will be kept in darkness and the freedom that truth brings will evade us. But if we choose to pursue truth, no matter where it may lead us, we will be set free from the bondages and fears of this world, and will be able to walk in the light of the freedom of God in this life and in the life to come.
How do we select a church that teaches truth?
False doctrines started creeping into the church in the apostles’ day (1John 2:18), and have continued to gain weight ever since. Doctrines and creeds of men have been introduced into the church which were designed to appease God, not necessarily love Him, and for the purpose of self-gain (selfishness). Many of these doctrines have been established not by truth, but by deceit, political influence, slander and often murder. One only needs to research the persecution of many noble saints who were burned at the stake, imprisoned, tortured, excommunicated, banished to other countries, and branded as heretics because their teachings were more truthful than those of the prevailing church, etc.
Today this progression of false doctrines has infiltrated every sphere of church universally. Every denomination claims to have sole ownership of truth, yet these “truths” differ from other churches.
As falsehood was prevalent in Jesus’ time, so it is today. But this does not mean that we cannot obtain sufficient truth to be saved and enter eternal life through having the supreme love of our lives being God in Christ.
God ensures that the earnest seeker will find Him, despite many doctrinal errors in the church universally.
What are the main doctrines that I should believe?
The main focuses of truth should be:
Our realisation and confession of our sin and that it is our sin that has separated us from God and eternal life with Him.
That our punishment is warranted, having sinned against the infinite righteousness of the eternal and infinitely holy God, thereby deserving eternal retribution.
That through the love and mercy of God for His cherished creation – mankind, He sent Jesus as His eternal Son to be the perfect propitiation / exchange and payment for our sin so that we could be reconciled to God through Christ.
That we exercise faith in the truth of the gospel, repent of our sin (for it is our sin that separated us from Him in the first place), and by that faith receive and walk in the presence of God in Christ.
Real, working faith in God is not magical or mystical. It is not something that God gives to certain persons and not to others. Otherwise this would make God a respecter of persons. But we obtain faith by volition – i.e. the free-willed choice of the individual, which corresponds directly with the effort one applies in obtaining it. Read on to see how to grow your faith.
First things first
You may have heard some say: “You only need to believe!” But this is not faith. (See more here)
To live the Christian life and ensure our calling, we need to know how to exercise the faith that produces salvation so that we can enter the joy and life God has promised. Real faith opens doors that have been shut to us. It gives hope for a future. And through it, God gives us strength for the things we need to achieve, and to do that which we have been called to do. Consequently, we will receive the blessings that follow in this life, and in the life to come (1Tim. 4:8).
The neglect of faith – The cause of our first sin
The lack of the true faith in the ever-present God is the cause of sin. This was Lucifer’s sin. It was what resulted in Adam’s sin, and has been the root of all subsequent sin. However, by the grace of God in the atonement of Christ, He has made our reconciliation to Himself possible by calling us to return to the obedience of faith. This was Paul’s principle message and purpose for us, recorded in the book of Romans, i.e. to bring about the obedience of faith (See Rom. 1:5; 15:18; 16:26).
God has called us to “the obedience of faith”
God’s Word commands us to come to the obedience of faith (Rom 1:5), (Rom 16:26). And what He commands He also gives the ability to perform. Hence, God has given the gift of faith to each person (Rom 12:3). Therefore, all we need to do is to learn how to exercise it!
Faith is an act of trust in someone or something. Everyone has the ability to apply faith. Trusting –
that you will get paid your wage at the end of your weekly or monthly labors
in your spouse’s faithful love for you
or even that you will wake up in the morning
are all examples of acts of exercised faith. Some are exercised consciously while others unconsciously.
But what does it mean to come to “the obedience of faith”?
The obedience of faith is a returning to that form of living by which we were designed. It produces a conscious life in God. This is God’s intention for all moral beings, i.e. to exercise that faith with which we were created (Rom 12:3), and subsequently, to walk in loving obedience with Him in all that we do. Let us therefore, learn how to obtain and grow true faith in the reality of God, by which we will receive all we need to gain success in life, and consequently, the assurance of the eternal life in Christ to come.
Here are 7 ways which will help guide us back to real saving faith and a life in God.
7 Principles To Obtain & Grow Your Faith
1) God gives faith to all
We can take heart in that God has given all the ability of faith. We just need to know how to apply and grow it. He has also put into the heart of His creatures the inborn knowledge of His existence (Rom 1:19-20). Therefore, we are fully equipped to have faith in our Creator and enjoy a life in Him.
2) Use scripture
The Bible is the source and foundation of all truth. It gives us all we need to know about God, and to enable us to have confidence in Him and all that He promised to the faithful. So, read scripture. Get to know your God and His goodness. For it is through the Word of God that we have a foundation to grow our faith (Rom 10:17 KJV). Contrarily, those who refuse to avail themselves of God’s Word will have nothing with which to apply and expand their faith. The Bible feeds our faith. It gives substance to our knowledge of God and His will for us.
3) Use reason
Exercising faith in God is a reasonable obligation. For it is by Him alone that we live and move and have our being (Act 17:28 KJV). How many acknowledge the things that surround them, but fail to recognize the very One who created all things? Use reason. God deserves all the glory,and the very first step of us glorifying God is to come to the obedience of faith in Him.
4) Learn the importance of prayer
It is reasonable to acknowledge that those who do not maintain a prayer-filled life in God, lack true faith. Indeed, we can measure our faith and life in God by our prayer life. Selfish prayer has no power, but praying according to the known will of God increases our faith and our expectations of the answers. Exercising true faith in God draws us to prayer. This is our mode of communication to honor Him in conversation, in praise and thanksgiving, and to present our requests before Him (Php 4:6).
Walking in Christ is synonymous with walking in the Spirit, being sanctified / holy, reckoned as righteous, etc. We can achieve this by exercising faith in the omnipresence of the Spirit of Christ. It is impossible to exercise faith in Christ, i.e. having conscious communion with Him and sin at the same time. True faith begets loving obedience to the Object of our faith. Therefore, loving God and loving self-gratification through sin simultaneously is a contradiction in terms. They cannot co-exist. Consequently, you will love the one and hate the other (Mat 6:24).
Whether we choose to believe it or not, it is our sin that separates us from God (Isa 59:2), and stops our prayers from being answered favorably, no matter by which name we call ourselves. Some will go right ahead believing that they have continued favor with God, but they never come to that place of firm assurance in Christ, nor do their lives reflect being hid in Him. Sin condemns our hearts and destroys our faith (1Jn 3:21). But those who choose to walk in conscious loving obedience exhibit great power and fortitude. They love God supremely and have a God-given boldness, consequently, their former love and fear of the things of this world grow strangely dim.
6) Watch expectantly
Our faith is the assurance of all that God has promised. Therefore, we ought to watch expectantly for the results.
Faith covers a universal set of subjects, needs, fears, and hopes. And because we exercise faith according to His will, and are confident that our hearts are for Him supremely, we who walk in true faith know that our God will always supply all our needs and will give us the desires of our hearts.
7) Use your successes
No matter how small they are at first, use all of your successes with God as encouragements to press on and reach for more from Him. It is His will to bless you for His glory’s sake and for you to enter His joy to become a partaker of His heavenly, benevolent kingdom, where everyone serves God as the greater good, and consequently become partakers of that good.
David reminds himself: “Forget none of His benefits” (Psa 103:2). He reminded himself of the successes he had received from the hand of God.
When you are low in spirit, reflect back to how God has provided for you through providence and direct answer to prayer. Let your mind dwell on His goodness, forgiveness and mercy. Then gird yourself with the above principles of obtaining and growing your faith to stand against whatever life throws at you (Eph 6:13). You will be well equipped to conquer!
Break free from sin and live as you were meant to.
This post is for those who know that their transgressions separate them from God and who want to break free from the whirlpool of sin, and walk in the freedom of Christ to live a happy and successful life.
Finding the happiness in life that we were designed to live has been thwarted by sin throughout the history of mankind. Yet, to break free from sin of our own accord is like lifting ourselves in the air by our own boot straps. It is an impossibility! And until we learn what the gospel has won for us, we will continue to cry out: “Oh wretched man that I am. Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24)
As matter is made up of the building blocks of molecules, so too is our destiny shaped by our thoughts. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov 23:7 KJV). And what he has allowed to control his heart over time, will control his thoughts and shape his destiny. (See James 1:14).
Here is a break-down of what makes a destiny:
A temptation entices a thought.
A thought produces a self-willed act.
An act repeated becomes a habit.
A habit creates a life-style;
which in turn produces a destiny.
If the thought is sinful and permitted to grow, it will ultimately produce a lost destiny without God and anything good. But if we learn how to change our thought process to break the bondage of the developed habits, we can change our life-style and win back our destiny of eternal life!
What did Jesus say about thoughts?
The first word that Jesus began His preaching ministry was “metanoia” (translated in Greek), which is again translated in many Bibles as ” Repent”. However, it is a derivative of two root words meaning: 1) to change your way of thinking 2) return from madness Because man is depraved in sin and therefore deprived of fellowship with God, Jesus’ ministry among the people was to persuade them to return from the madness of sin (depravity) by changing their way of thinking, and to have faith in Him. (See Dr. Adam Clarke on Matt. 3:2)
Must we let sin win?
The temporal gratifications of sin can never give lasting satisfaction. There is always a price to pay. Depression, lack of personal integrity and self-worth, fickleness and attention seeking, or the fear of social interaction, broken or estranged family members, etc., and finally, a forsaken eternity are sore examples of the aftermath of besetting sins. The more we give way to sin the more it enslaves us, pulling us closer to the vortex of the whirlpool of sin to be forever-lost.
Jesus said that the one who sins is a slave of sin (Joh 8:34). But how do we defeat the enemy of our souls and change our destiny? How do we break free from the pull of the whirlpool of sin?
Choose to change now
But first we really need to ask ourselves: Do I really want to change?
No matter how old or young we may be, we are at this time the total product of how we have conducted our lives. But we don’t have to accept our current state any longer. We can choose to change it right now. And God is with us to work that change from within if we will just submit to Him. But to do so we need to understand and acknowledge our current estate and how we got there.
Sin never appears as itself
Firstly; sin never appears as itself. Temptation will offer the first sip of the bottle – not the last; the high of any substance abuse – not the depression that follows. The initial satisfaction of venting our anger in cursing and blasphemy conceals the flaming frustration that these expletives can never quench. Sexual lust is shown to gratify the flesh but never shows the loss of dignity and self-respect, shame and lack of any lasting fulfilment. And, after we have sinned, temptation raises its head again, and the currents of the whirlpool of sin continue to drag the sinner ever-downward.
The craftiness of the tempter – know your enemy
We are not tempted so much by that to which we are not enslaved. But given license, the tempter can lead us into any sin he chooses.
For example: One doesn’t start out as a murderer, but if we let our anger and jealousy take root and allow it to grow and build momentum, like Cain did, there will be no end to the evil we can commit.
Volition of sin
Sin does not just happen. It is the result of our conscious volition (free-willed act), induced by the weaknesses we allow to take root within us. The tempter plays on these weaknesses early in our lives. He takes his time. He waits, he watches, and steadily draws us into bondage. His intent is for our destruction but we must master him if we are to break free from sin ( See Gen 4:7).
Temptation to sin will always appeal to our selfishness. The tempter will help us dig trenches of besetting sin deep enough until it seems impossible for us to ever get out. Nevertheless, even acknowledging this fact, many still choose to remain digging the same trenches until their last breath.
However, the power of the tempter is limited to persuasion only. He has no power over the soul or the will. He cannot force us into sin. So he has to develop craftiness to lead us step by step, tempting us with the bait of our own nurtured weaknesses (See James 1:14). But we can choose to break free and pursue the persuasions of God instead.
Points to use to break free from sin
* Focus on the reality of the alternative
See where your sin is taking you. It is a lost journey of temporal pleasures heading for an eternity of misery. Then use the fear of the Lord to initially break you out of the yoke with which you have bound yourself. Fear of the Lord is the first sign of wisdom (Pro 9:10). Without it there is no starting point. So, realize the destiny that sin produces compared to the alternative of safety and happiness of being with God through the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:26).
* Look ahead at the peaceful fruit of righteousness
Those who have learned to walk in Christ have the peaceful fruit of righteousness within (Heb 12:11). They walk with God without fear of condemnation because they are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1).
The law is not for the faithful, but for sinners only (1Ti 1:9), and who are left to walk in fear of its condemnation. (See the difference between sinners and saints here). For it is the purpose of the law to restrain the selfishness of the sinner. But those who walk by the Spirit of God do so in loving obedience, and therefore have no need for the law, as they have the law of righteousness written on their hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 2:14-15). These do not need the written law to stem their flow of sin; God has washed them clean and it is their love for Him and His righteousness that now governs their hearts.
Many professing Christ as their saviour, love to believe that they are free from obeying the law of God. From the written laws of rites, ceremonies, observations of holidays and sacrifices we are indeed redeemed. But we are never free from the obligation to obey the righteous law of God. It is the law of Christ that ought to be governing our hearts (1Co 9:21). And this is through an abiding faith in the conscious presence of our Lord Jesus, strengthened with gratitude for His saving grace.
Learning to love righteousness is not a religious thing. It is the appreciation and high value one places on the worthiness of right being.
* Learn to love righteousness.
We need to learn to love the law of righteousness. For it restores the soul and rejoices the heart (Psa 19:7-8).
The reason we need to learn the laws of righteousness is because of our acquired and nurtured fallen state. God’s righteousness does not appeal to the carnal heart of man. This is because his heart is bent on self. After we have come to Christ, having chosen Him as Saviour, then Lord over our lives, we need to learn the ways of God to be pleasing to Him (Eph 5:10). Jesus said that we are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. It is a doing thing! As we seek to know Him, He will disclose to us the wonders of His righteousness.
The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart.
Sin brings only misery and condemnation. But if we break free from sin, and walk according to God’s law of righteousness, He will grant us peace and happiness. And the Bible says that those who believe otherwise “have no knowledge of God” (1Co 15:34). We are to direct our minds to right thinking.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell (think) on these things. (Php 4:8)
* Know that the love of God is universal but is also extremely personal.
“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love”. (Joh 15:9).
God is infinite love, and upholds that love universally as the framework of His benevolent kingdom. Even though He loves us as a created species, His dealings with us are close and personal. It took me a long time to realize this, but believing and accepting this great truth allows us the freedom to walk with Him intimately. He is right here, right now. He knows what you are thinking, and He waits for you to surrender to the obedience of faith in Him, so that He can lead you out of the bondage of sin and into the freedom of righteousness.
Our personal importance to God
God seeks a people for His own possession, but this people is made up of individuals chosen by Him according to His foreknowledge of our obedience of faith (1Pe 1:2; see also Rom 8:29). Therefore our salvation and all the graces that come with it are personal. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His (2Ch 16:9). He constantly watches over His creation to find those who will break free from sin and surrender to Him, so that He can have intimate fellowship with them, enabling them to walk in His grace.
This love God has for us is not just based on the testimony of scripture; but those who choose to walk in Him, receive His love personally, which He conveys through His spirit. This is more than a feeling or mere knowledge (Eph 3:19). It is a consciousness deep within, and it is received by those who surrender their lives to His persuasions. And the more we surrender and exercise faith in His keeping power, the deeper our consciousness will experience His love.
* Accept that godliness requires the discipline of faith.
Nothing is free. Not even salvation is really free. Jesus said that those who wish to follow Him must take up their cross… That is; we are to crucify our old selves and be buried with Him, so that we may be resurrected to a newness of life (Rom 6:4).
But salvation cannot be earned
We cannot earn our salvation because our sins have already disqualified us from the life of God. This is because any sin is primarily an act of willful disobedience to God’s universal law of righteousness. (Sin is the transgression of the law (1Jn 3:4 KJV)). God is infinitely holy and thus any sin against Him and His kingdom warrants an eternal condemnation. It is therefore only through God’s grace that gives us the opportunity to receive the free gift of the eternal atonement in Christ; that is, we have the opportunity to receive pardon for our transgressions, and reconciliation to God.
But faith without works is dead
However, faith without works of righteousness is not true faith but only belief (Jas 2:20). For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead (Jas 2:26). Saving faith (walking in the Spirit) is that faith in the consciousness of the presence of Christ that leads us to live holy before Him. Abiding with faith is fear (reverence) and love for God. This faith is the overall motivating factor that keeps us holy and apart from sin. And it is by this very fact that we are born again of God. “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world (sin); and this is the victory that has overcome the world – even our faith”(1Jn 5:4).
But it is not just our faith in the ever-present person of Christ. It is our faith in His righteousness. What I mean by this is that when we exercise faith in what is right, even in the midst of temptation, we will pass through unscathed. We need to fix our minds on the successful outcome of resisting sin and walking in faithfulness with our present Saviour. When we come out the other side of the storm of temptation and look back we will be glad that we were faithful. Exercise faith in this fact. Our victory then serves to encourage us to press on and break free from sin to overcome new trials in life.
* Rejoice in the knowledge of forgiveness
The very moment you have truly repented in your heart for the sin committed you are cleansed.
It is God’s desire for all to come to repentance and be washed clean from a defiled conscience. And once you experience your cleansing, walk in it, rejoicing that you are free from condemnation, and free to walk in righteousness. (See Rom 6:22)
But how do we know when we have been cleansed?
For those who continue to believe that they are destined to sin everyday regardless of what scripture teaches and what Christ has done for them, cannot experience forgiveness. They are left to have the assumption only that God somehow will forgive all of their sin, with or without true repentance. But Paul said:
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! (Rom 6:15) Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? (Rom 6:16)
Do not be mistaken. Those who sin without repentance forfeit forgiveness and remain under the wrath of God (John 3:36). While they have this mindset they will never know the peace of God. This is why many get caught up in emotions at worship services and walk away having their ears tickled with false notions that in spite of their sin God still forgives them. But once they have left the service they are back where they started, remaining condemned by the Lord for their stubbornness and continued sin.
But many of these choose to believe (and take refuge) in the false teaching that Paul continued in his sin. For the truth of this see The Romans 7 Scenario unveiled!
The consciousness of being cleansed
People know deep within that their sin bars them from the presence of God. Their prayers, reading the Bible, talking with others, etc. are often done by route. Christianity here becomes nothing more than a religion – like any other. Their consciences condemn their heart and therefore, even though they profess to the contrary, they have no real abiding faith in Christ. (1John 3:21-22). Hence the desire for temporal, emotional highs in worship.
But for those who wish to have an abiding peace with God, and the deep consciousness that they are truly free from condemnation, will cast aside their sin and cling to Christ for forgiveness.
And God who is gracious will translate His love and peace to them through the Holy Spirit, and they will have the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Eph 3:19). This becomes a deep awareness within.
Then once you have this consciousness, walk in it. Keep it in the forefront of your mind. Love the experience of being free from condemnation and reconciled to God. By this we can have assurance (not assumption) that we can come to God with a pure heart, without condemnation, to be freely received by Him. And while we have this consciousness it is difficult to fall into sin, for both God and we ourselves are jealous of our unity in righteousness, and sin is pushed outside so that it does not contaminate our relationship with Him.
Disciplines to help you break free from sin
Study, meditate and memorize scriptures in God’s Word – the Bible
Learn to love the unseen God
Take every thought captive
Learn to recognize the result of sin
Practice resisting the tempter
We must realize that we are to be a holy people in the conduct of our lives, i.e. in thought, word, and deed, so that we can secure the holiness Christ has won for us. To this end we need to learn the disciplines of faith that produce godliness for the benefit of this life and also for the life to come (1Ti 4:8). Here are some of the major principles to obtaining and building strong faith which will enable us to change our thought patterns and secure our destiny:
1) Be productive in what you do
An idle mind is the devils playground. If we are not pursuing a productive life we will always fall prey to temptation. And if our minds are idle then there is no battle for the enemy. Our minds become easy prey for temptation to take root and for sin to develop.
2) Exercise faith
Even though everyone has been given a measure of faith (Rom 12:3), it is up to the individual to exercise that faith in all the aspects of Christ. That is; in His presence, atonement, love, righteousness, and His keeping power through the Holy Spirit that indwells us. This takes discipline. But like any physical exercise, the more we practice faith the stronger it is developed.
3) Study, meditate and memorize scriptures in God’s Word – the Bible
Faith comes by hearing / reading the Word of God (Rom 10:17). Without knowing God’s word we have very little upon which to base and grow our faith.
The Bible holds the truth that will set us free from sin and keep us set free, if we will only read and follow it. Learn scriptures that pertain especially to defeating sin, and in times of temptation recall them to memory and let them become real within you.
Meditate on the truth of God’s Word. It says that we can overcome if we apply our faith. So build up your most holy faith on God’s Word, exercising diligence (2Pet. 1:5) so that you can extinguish the flaming missiles of temptation.
Prayer is the only mode of communication we have with God. Praying correctly, and with the right intention is paramount to having any real relationship with God. We need to cultivate a prayer life if we are ever going to have a life with God. For our prayer life measures our relationship with Him.
But developing a prayer life is difficult because of the flesh not wanting to spend time alone with the unseen God. This exercise involves faith, and faith requires persistence to enter into that realm whereby we become conscious of God’s presence. It takes work to rid the mind of the fleshly beckoning, but earnest diligence breaks through. So press on in your prayer life. Make the time by scheduling prayer time. Treat it as an appointment and other than emergencies, never cancel it. For it is the bloodline to faith and overcoming the enemy of your mind.
5) Learn to love the unseen God
Love for anyone is a learned experience. It is not infatuation. Nobody rightly really “falls” in love with another. They become attracted to another through what they perceive the other to be. Love that is not spurious is not an instantaneous occurrence. Affections grow into love through a learning experience of that person. So is it with God.
As we learn about God, particularly as our heavenly Father, and commune with Him, the Holy Spirit will give us understanding of His wonderfulness. The more we wish to learn of God, the more insight He gives us. But without a genuine love for God we have no quickened life in Him. Loving God supremely is the first and foremost commandment (Mat 22:37). And even though it is our absolute responsibility and privilege to love God with our all, it is a growing, dawning experience.
6) Take every thought captive
We are taught in scripture to destroy everything that raises itself against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive and bring it to the obedience of Christ (2Co 10:5). That means we are to weigh up everything that we do, say or think against what we have learned in the Bible. Whatever is contrary to God’s Word is to be discarded as sin. Can you see why it is so important to get to know the Bible? (To see more on how to discern truth go here).
To overcome an enemy, the place of attack should always be directed at their weakest point. The tempter is our enemy and we are his. And his tactic to overcome us is striking at our thought process.
It is difficult for us to try to change our life-style, or even habits in our own strength. This is because our sins are already deeply entrenched in us, and have too much momentum from repeated acts. But we can choose to change how and what we think. Therefore, whenever we are tempted we should immediately focus our attention on that which is holy – exchanging a wrongful temptation for a rightful thought. We are counselled to train our minds to think on the things above – not just with fleeting thoughts, but to direct our minds to dwell on them.
7) Learn to recognize the result of sin
When you get tempted – and we all do, look ahead and see the result that sin will produce. See the guilt; the fallen place from grace it will bring; the necessity of the process of repentance to obtain restoration and reconciliation with God. James teaches that those who befriend the world (i.e. through sinning) make themselves an enemy of God (Jas 4:4). The aftermath of sin is never worth the temporal gratification it promises. Plus, you will have strengthened the devil’s foothold again in your life, entrenching yourself deeper in the bondage of sin.
8) Practice resisting the tempter
The more we resist the tempter the more we break his power over us. James said: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7).
I knew a man who couldn’t give up smoking. So one day he said to himself that the next time he wants to light up he will wait five minutes before doing so. (Bear in mind this was not, by any measure, a godly man). After the five minutes had passed he reckoned to himself that if he could resist lighting up for five minutes he could do it for ten. He continued lengthening the time to an hour. Seeing his success after an hour, he promised himself a cigarette after two hours. He kept this practice up and months turned to years. This happened more than forty years ago and he still hasn’t lit that cigarette.
We not only have the power of free choice, and the in-borne knowledge of good and evil (our consciences), but also the knowledge of God’s Word coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. To break free from sin we need to arm ourselves with these things. Peter said that God’s divine power has granted us everything pertaining to life in Him and godliness (2Pet. 1: 3). But to exercise them we need to apply diligence in what is already available to everyone. (See 2 Pet. 1: 5 -7). (For more on growing your faith go here)
9) Be careful how you walk
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, (Eph 5:15)
This could be a new post by itself. All of the above is fruitless unless we are careful in how we walk in life. We only fool ourselves if we put ourselves in positions that leave us wide open to temptation.
Here is something you can test with yourself to prove my case: Look back at your most recent sin. See where it started.
No, it did not start at the temptation! Look further back. The Holy Spirit warns those who are wanting to belong to God about impending temptation. But look at what you did. Even though you knew your weakness, you walked into the arena of temptation anyway, reasoning to yourself that you won’t be caught out.
When we see the danger (and those who walk with God will ALWAYS be warned), we must not try to reason with temptation. Know your weaknesses, made so by habitual sin, and where possible, avoid all areas where you can be tempted. God teaches in His Word that if you continually resist sin, its pull on your life will get weaker and weaker. And sooner or later, we can look back and marvel at how our active faith in the present Christ has brought us through to triumph over the sin that once so easily beset us.
But what if we sin after our repentance?
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; (1Jn 2:1) (See the full explanation of this verse here)
John does not give us an excuse for continued sin in 1John2:1. This scripture is not to be used as a parachute to protect us while we willfully skydive into sin, but is a safety belt to protect us from wrath should we fall prey to sin. But he shows the grace of God during our walk with Him. The epistle is to encourage us to stop sin in our lives, and protect us from its condemnation. However, should we succumb to evil temptation and fall into error, we have Christ who acts as our advocate with (not against) the Father. This enables us to repent again of sin and to continue in reconciliation with Him.
We must break free from sin to win the war of our souls
Let us not fool ourselves. We are at war. The flesh wages war against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh (Gal 5:17). Our eternity is the prize, and we should spend all costs on securing our victory.
God is for us and it is His desire for us to accomplish the obedience of faith in Him, loving Him from a heart undefiled. He has given us all we need to win, and empowers us by the presence of His Spirit if we will only entrust ourselves to Him through an abiding faith.
The whirlpool of sin will get ever-stronger if we let it. But now is the time to break free from sin and its pull, and live the life for which we were designed. This is a life of integrity, self-respect, and greater than all, reconciliation and favor with God.
Does the Sovereignty of God earn Him the right to all the glory?
Some say that God deserves all the glory because He is Sovereign. God is indeed supremely sovereign, but does His position alone warrant Him receiving all the glory?
If the devil reigned supremely, should he get all the glory? No?
There is glory in everything.
The sun, moon and stars have their glory (1Co 15:41). The heavenly and earthly have their own respective glory (1Co 15:40). There is the glory of man and woman (1Co 11:7). Everything has glory according to its own intrinsic value. This value is not credited to something for its stature only, but also for its relationship with everything else.
There are two types of glory:
The glory of eminence – This is the glory that is demanded and expected due to position of power or eminence. A king has glory as the sovereign ruler of his people. Whether the people want to give it or not, externally, they must give the glory that is due him whilst in his kingdom. This is their obligation, and to refuse to recognize the glory that belongs to that king would be regarded as treason.
Then there is the glory of merit – Even though everyone has glory according to one’s stature in creation, no one has glory of merit unless that merit is earned. A king’s sovereignty may warrant him glory as to his eminence in society, and this glory may be evident among his subjects in external behaviour, but do they glorify him in their hearts? The glory due to someone according to merit is what he deserves as a person and not for his position.
Why God gets all the glory
* Because of His Sovereignty
God is ruler over all that He created, and He created everything! There is no place we can go that does not belong to God. Our very existence belongs to Him. Everything has its own glory, yes; but that glory comes from the hand of God and for God. So, whether we like it or not, God created us all in subjection to His domain. Hence we all belong to God. Therefore, according to His eminence as creator, God deserves all the glory that is due His high sovereignty as ruler Supreme.
* Because of His Merit
God is infinitely good. All virtue stems from the heart of God. This means that everything He does is done in righteousness for the good of Himself and for the universal benevolence of His kingdom. He never created us to live for ourselves, but for us to be entwined as partakers of the Divine nature (2Pe 1:4). God is love – He is also infinitely holy, which means that He is good in every aspect of the word. When He created everything it was for His good pleasure (Gen 1:31); and because He takes supreme pleasure in righteousness (Ps 11:7) He made all things to contribute to, and benefit from that righteousness. He is therefore worthy of all glory due to His goodness.
* Because He is life
He has created all things after the likeness of His own heart of righteousness and He lives to support that goodness for all. All things were made to co-exist in perfect harmony with His very own nature. Further; not only did He create everything, but God continues to uphold the existence of all creation, natural and spiritual, by the Word of His power (Heb 1:3).
Everything that is, is because of God. He gives us our every breath, and keeps our heart mysteriously beating in its rhythmic cadence of life.
All matter is made up of molecular structures of life. These in turn are composed of complex atoms, which, in themselves are not the smallest units of life. Each atom has a nucleus made up of protons and neutrons with electrons revolving around them.
But what makes electrons fly in their respective orbits? And, like the the planets in a solar system, what prevents them from shooting out of orbit with centripetal force, or centrifugally crashing into the nucleus; for the nuclei and electrons of all atoms exist as opposite poles of electrical charge? It is the life of God that upholds all things in perfect balance, and in symbiotic harmony with everything else.
The sum of God’s glory
If the devil was supremely sovereign (as he would like to be) we would be obliged to obey him, at least in outward obedience – such as in communistic or tyrannical societies. But, even if he were to have legal reign over us to give him outward obedience, he would not deserve our loving obedience. This is because he isn’t worthy of it.
Our Lord God the Almighty, on the other hand, commands and rightfully expects our absolute loving obedience to glorify Him not just because He is supremely sovereign, but because He moulds the work of goodness into everything He does. The matrix of His kingdom rule is love, and He lives to support that love for all who wish to enter as benefactors and contributors. He gives life and existence to everything by the power of His own life. Without God there is nothing! He is life and the source of all existence.
Therefore, God gets all the glory not because of His sovereignty alone, but because by merit, He is worthy. We owe Him all honor, glory and praise from our hearts because of Who and How He is. Those who choose to deprive Him of all glory cannot become partakers of eternal life with Him. For they would be strangers to the loving benevolence that reigns universally in His heavenly domain. But those who recognize His infinite goodness and worth from the heart by thought, word and deed, He welcomes into His eternal kingdom to be partakers of His infinite goodness forever.
It is imperative that we understand the concepts and difference of justification and sanctification. For both are required for our salvation. But does justification or sanctification come first? Or do we receive them both together? Does it matter? And, if justification saves us, do we need to be sanctified?
Many say that justification is immediately received by faith, and sanctification is a life-long process culminating at or prior to our last breath. But is this true to scripture, reason and life? Does God have two requirements: justification by faith, and sanctification by a life-long process? Discover the impact this belief has had on the church and possibly on your life.
What is justification?
Some use the term: “just as if I never sinned” to describe how God treats those who have been justified.
This means that we have been reconciled to a position of legal and guiltless sinlessness – i.e. regarded as being without sin, or without ever having committed offenses against God. This is necessary because it is our sin that separated us from Him (Isa 59:2), and without our iniquities (sins) being atoned for, we would still be guilty and separated from God. The guilt of our former sins has been expunged based on the merit of the eternal and sinless propitiation1of Christ. Therefore, present justification is synonymous with having the promise of eternal life with God.
Belief cannot be the cause of being justified by God, otherwise the demons would also be justified. For they believe and shudder (Jas 2:19). They have even witnessed the physical incarnation of Christ and His crucifixion, yet they have no part in God. So belief alone cannot be the way to justification.
What justifies us?
The Bible says that there are many factors that influence our justification. We are justified by faith indeed; but we are also justified by:
Our words (Mat 12:37)
Jesus said that the mouth speaks that which fills the heart (Mat 12:34). It is the heart that is converted to Christ. Therefore, our words either justify us or condemn us depending on the state of the heart.
A free gift(Rom 3:24)
Justification is a free gift of God. There is nothing that we can do apart from the obedience of faith (Rom 1:5) that can obtain our justification, for our sins have already disqualified us from eternal life in God, and sentenced us to eternal separation from Him. Social justice demands eternal condemnation, or eternal propitiation. (This is why only God through the sinless, eternal life of Christ could stand in as the required atonement for our sins). It is God’s free gift given to those who will fulfill the condition of walking in Him.
His blood (Rom 5:9)
The blood of Christ has no magic or mystery in regard to justifying us. If it were so, then the whole world would be instantly justified the moment Christ’s blood was shed. The blood does however, belong to the eternal Son of God and is part of the whole redemptive plan. The atonement of Christ includes not only His blood but His endurance of pain on the cross, bearing the shame of humiliation, sorrow and heaviness of heart, obedience unto death, the offering of His body, etc. etc.. “By His blood” signifies His death as a sacrifice for us, and it is His whole offering of Himself that justifies us.
His grace (Tit 3:7)
The grace of God is only one of the character traits of His divine nature. Without His love, mercy, patience, long-suffering, foreknowledge etc. there would be no grace either. Therefore it is also by His entire good nature that we are justified. (For more on the foreknowledge of God see: how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.)
Works (Jas 2:20-22)
Scripture says that we are not justified by faith alone but also by works (Jas 2:24). Our works “perfect” (Jas 2:22) or manifest our faith. Faith without works (manifestation) is useless (Jas 2:20-22). Good works are the natural expressions of the life that has truly received justification. So, we do not receive justification by faith alone, but by all of the above.
So, why did Paul say that justification is by faith alone?
Paul was expressing that works to obtain righteousness (justification) was impossible. (For who would we think we are that we could possibly “buy back” an eternal debt with anything that we could do or offer?). In particular, certain leaders were teaching a pseudo Judo-Christianity. They said that certain Jewish ceremonial laws were still pertinent, and particularly circumcision. Paul, on the other hand, explained that we cannot obtain justification by “acts” of the law, but he did state that the act of obedience to the moral law was a natural consequence of exercising saving faith in Christ. He says:
to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. (1Co 9:21)
When we exercise faith in God through Christ for salvation, our faith is a trust in the whole of Him and His salvation plan and purpose for us. That is, that we exercise faith in
God’s infinitely good nature and all the attributes thereof, such as grace, mercy, lovingkindness, etc.. If we cannot trust God’s good nature to save us and maintain our salvation in this life, we have no basis to believe He will grant us eternal life.
the historical testimonies of Christ – His purpose for His incarnation, His eternal essence, His sacrificial life and atonement for our sins etc..
Christ’s resurrection. For if Christ never rose again from the grave we would have no confirmed hope of Him raising us from the dead. Therefore we would still be dead in sin and set apart from God (1Co 15:17).
the indwelling Holy Spirit, who gives the internal witness that we are born again, children of God (Rom 8:16).
our eternal Saviour who perpetually intercedes for us before the Father (Rom 8:34).
What is saving faith?
The above describes what some great theologians call saving faith. It is the accumulative faith in the all of Christ that results in salvation.
Saving faith for justification is an active, abiding, working faith in the whole plan of God’s salvation for us through Christ. It comes with a fear (reverence) of God’s sovereignty, and a love for Him, with appreciation for the grace He has afforded us – (those of us who are willing to repent and surrender their hearts to Him).
Therefore, justification is the process of the persuasion that the Holy Spirit performs on our hearts to surrender to Christ. This can be on instant recognition of the truth, however, it usually takes a length of time, depending on the hardness of the hearer’s heart. However, when he decides to relinquish his stand of enmity against God, receives the gift of Christ after he has repented of his sins, God reckons his saving faith as righteousness (Gal 3:6), and he is therefore justified.
What is sanctification?
Some teach that the meaning of sanctification is to be “set apart”. But sanctification cannot hang “set apart” in mid air. Sanctification is that state of being set apart from sin and set unto God. Those who are sanctified are exclusively His. The world no longer has ownership of their hearts. They now use the world only for God’s glory and the furtherance of His kingdom(1 Cor. 7:31). Consequently, God deems them as holy; i.e. set apart for God’s purposes only. This is biblical sanctification.
Who is responsible for our sanctification?
Many that I have talked with and counselled, believe that sanctification is purely God’s responsibility, and that being justified by faith (belief) only is what saves them. They therefore sense no obligation to lead a holy life. These rely absolutely on the premise that their righteousness (justification) was “imputed” to them (Rom 5:13). However, they fail to see that justification is the result of walking a holy life, and that God bestows upon us (imputes) the righteousness of Christ to cleanse us from all PAST (previously committed) sins (Rom 3:25) after repentance and faith. This is the faith that we exercise to entrust our souls to the safe keeping of Christ. (i.e. keeping us from sin by faith in the consciousness of His presence). See more on exercising saving faith here.
The initial work
It is the initial work of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of men that leads them to the obedience of faith, so that they can be sanctified. This is through the “washing of the Word” (Eph 5:26). (See more in the post How do I know if I am Saved?). It is not a random work on people God specifically chooses. For God is impartial and loves the whole world of men (John 3:16).
God’s Word enlightens man (give understanding) to the truth of the Gospel (John 1:9) through the power of persuasion. To those who will hear and obey, God will give understanding, and they thereby will be able to receive the gift of Christ’s atonement. For those who allow reason to persuade them, will repent of their sins and follow after Christ. The result will be their sanctification (Rom. 6:19 & 22). Therefore, sanctification is the work of the Spirit and of our faith (2Th 2:13). Both parties are are involved!
When does sanctification take place?
When we surrender to the lordship of Christ we sanctify Him in our hearts (1Pe 3:15). This means that we separate Christ as our supreme love over all other things. We cannot have indwelling sin and Christ in our hearts simultaneously. They cannot co-exist. We must select either one or the other (Matt 6:24). And, just like justification, we also receive sanctification by faith (Act 26:18).
Therefore, it is the very moment we consent to the lordship of Christ over our hearts that His work of purification is applied to us. We are then forgiven of all previous sins (Rom. 3:25), and are sanctified. For the infinite power of God to sanctify does not need the process of time to do its work.
Sanctification is a dawning experience. We will know when we are sanctified, because God will give us the assurance that we are indeed children of God. But this He can only do when we are walking in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14).
Sanctification in not the state of angelic perfection. It is the state of a heart totally committed towards God even during our growth towards Christian maturity.
The impact on the church
Because of many people’s selfishness, they prefer to believe that we are justified initially by faith ( “faith” as in belief in the testimonies of Christ) and receive as a consequence, our salvation. They say we are then “purified” (sanctified) by a life-long process while we gradually relinquish our sins. In reality, very few forsake their sins in this state, and continue in the false belief that faith (belief) alone saves them.
The impact this has had on the church is disastrous, because it leaves no sense of urgency to be sanctified – i.e. live holy lives before God and man. The witness we then show the world is weak as we demonstrate that Christ cannot save us from our sins like He promised (Mat 1:21), therefore nullifying the entire purpose of Christ’s incarnation and life, and in reality, leaving us in a state of the Romans 7 scenario i.e. bondage to sin and still separated from the life of God.
Scripture says that without the sanctification we will not see God in peace. (Heb 12:14)
Therefore, it is imperative that we understand our obligation to be sanctified in our walk with Him. For it is our sanctification as well as our justification that brings about our salvation (2Th 2:13). Notice then that the sanctification process is not a life-long experience, but we receive it the moment we exercise saving faith (as demonstrated above). Paul addresses the church in Corinth as those who have been sanctified (1Co 1:2). Hence, they had already received their sanctification! It is not a life-long process but an instantaneous reception through faith. And God’s Word obligates us to maintain our sanctification through continued faith in Christ who abides within us.
This does not mean that we can never sin again. The Spirit within us does not remove the possibility to sin, but it does remove the propensity.
If, not when – (as is often taught – see “Is it if or when we sin?”) we sin again, we turn to our Advocate, Christ (1Jn 2:1), and appeal to God again for a good conscience (1Pe 3:21).
Sanctification doesn’t make us angelically perfect, but it does purify us so that we can have a perfect heart towards God. And as we grow in understanding and faith, the Spirit will continue His work within us to make us perfect (Php 3:15) in Him. (Perfect here is “teleios” Gr. meaning – complete, mature). The mature in Christ do not live a life of sin. They might stumble through the weakness of fallen man, such as ignorance, forgetfulness, omission of duty, miscalculation, etc., but they no longer live in willful, deliberate sin.
So does justification or sanctification come first?
What does Paul say? “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God”. (1Co 6:11)
Paul’s order of the sequence of our reconciliation with God is as follows:
Firstly; but you were washed (by the word of truth) (Eph 5:26),
Secondly; but you were sanctified,
Then lastly; but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Justification and sanctification are the results of saving faith. It is the Holy Spirit’s unction on the soul that leads us into both of them. But both have the prerequisite of our faith. Justification is God’srecognition of a converted heart to Him; sanctification is the direct result of us turning our hearts to Him. We achieve both as a result of our faith. You cannot have one without the other. In fact, in order for God to recognize us and declare us justified, we need to have already sanctified our hearts before Him.
Therefore, sanctification has to have taken place first – before justification, so that we can be justified by God. Even though sanctification is a prerequisite of justification, the timeless Father declares us justified the instant we are sanctified. Our sanctification therefore, begets our justification.
Did Paul struggle with sin and live in a Romans 7 scenario?
Have you been taught that “Paul struggled with sin” in Romans 7? What would the result be if it were true? What are the consequences if it is false? God has granted us liberty in Him, but very few find it. He has given the assurance of salvation to all true believers, yet few have a settled confidence in their eternal future. Many who profess Christianity live their lives in sin and defeat, and wonder why. They live in that desolate land of sin – the Romans 7 Scenario. But they don’t have to.
Here is a look at the truth concerning the doctrine of “Paul’s struggle with sin”. I also outline the way which Christ has given us to have peace with God now, and receive as the result, the assurance of our salvation for the life to come.
Living in the desolate land of sin – A Romans 7 scenario
There are some who profess Christ, who hear the truth of the gospel, but are aware that they do not have the assurance of salvation. They understand that their slavery to the world of besetting sins of various kinds separates them from real peace. This is as a result of not knowing how to walk in that newness of life in Christ Jesus that God promised. They don’t want to return to the world completely because of conviction; but they also can’t truly fellowship with God because of condemnation. These are in that barren place that continuous sin produces – a Romans 7 Scenario.
But God has given the ransom to redeem us from this state. He has granted the way to enter into that land of peace with Him. Read on to discover the truth about Paul’s supposed sin in Romans 7, and how we can possess a confirmed assurance of salvation.
What is the Romans 7 scenario?
Romans 7:14-25 is a portrayal of a sinner who understands the requirement of the law, and gives consent to the fact that it is holy and righteous and good (Rom 7:12). But, try as he may to walk by the law, he finds that sin that is within him pulls him away from righteousness, perpetuating his death and separation from a life in his Maker. The law is infinitely holy and obeying it produces life being encapsulated in two commandments: to love God with our all and, love others. We therefore contribute to the benevolence of God’s kingdom and consequently become partakers also.
But upon his discovery of the law, the sinner learns that his past sin has already disqualified him from an eternal life with God (Rom 7:9-10) making vain all attempts of reconciliation through works of righteousness. Seeing his terrible and helpless estate, he cries out: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24)
But is Paul speaking about his own sin in Romans 7?
Many understand this scenario in Romans 7 as the place that supposedly describes Paul’s confession of his own struggle with continued sin in his life. According to them, even though Paul taught holiness of heart and life, and death to the body of sin, he continued to live with it (i.e. committing sin continually). But did Paul have continued sin in his life?
If Paul was speaking about his own prevailing sin, then we would be justified before God to continue in ours. After all, if one of the greatest pillars of the early church continued in sin and was justified at the same time, then we too can sin and keep our justification. (See justification vs sanctification for more on the subjects of sanctification and justification).
Further; if this were so, then there would be no point in desiring to be holy, and free from sin. We would be destined to live out the rest of our days in defeat, enslaved to besetting sin as our master. But if we apply the principles of discerning truth to their claim will it be found true?
1) What does the Bible say?
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.(Heb 10:26-27)
If Paul was indeed testifying to his own life of sin in the account mentioned in Romans 7:14-25, it would be antithetical to what he teaches just prior to those verses in the previous chapter where he admonishes us to consider ourselves dead to sin (Rom 6:2) and, to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4), which is to live separated from the world of sin. In fact, Paul teaches in all his writings that we are to live holy lives without continued sin.
There are hundreds of scriptures that support the converse to the claim that Paul was speaking of his own sin. But for the demonstration I only need to use scriptures from the previous chapter (Romans 6) to put chapter 7 into context of Paul’s epistle of Romans. Here is a comparison between the two chapters. I place scriptures in Romans 7 that seemingly support their claim that Paul lived in sin in the first column, and antithetical scriptures of Romans 6 in the second column as follows:
Because scripture cannot contradict itself, it must be obvious to the reader that Paul cannot be speaking about his own prevailing sinful state. But let’s press on, for all three principles of discerning truth must apply to any claim of truth to test it and establish whether it is true or not.
2) What does reason say?
If a righteous man married a poor prostitute, and was willing to love and care for her on the premise that she give up her sin, would it not be deemed absurd for her to continue in her past sin? Would not everyone think her to be utterly selfish in her desire to have the benefits of a new life yet continue in her past vices? Could that righteous man accept her on these terms?
God, who, bear in mind, is infinitely holy, loves mankind so much that He came to earth, through Christ, as an atonement for our eternal damnation. This was to liberate us from the life of sin and its resulting eternal judgement, and to enable us to walk in a newness of life in Him.
Let the reader note:
The infinitely holy God of all things, who made the universe, chose to die (through Christ) for the wretched sinner. He did this so that sinners could understand God’s righteousness as eternal Judge (Rom 3:25). He demonstrated through His own death in Christ the eternal offense and judgement of sin, because only God in His eternal capacity could qualify to be the propitiation and satisfactory atonement for our sin. Thus satisfying public justice for His righteous kingdom on behalf of the sinner.
But it also demonstrates His infinite love for us so that we would be happy to forsake our sin, which is the very thing that separated us from Him in the first place (Isa 59:2), and return to Him with grateful hearts for the love He demonstrated in the atonement (Isa 44:22). With such a great demonstration of love for us, can we continue to think that He would accept us with unforsaken sin? (Heb 10:29)
Therefore, how can Paul, particularly chosen of God, who, by his own confession, led an exemplary sinless life (Act 24:16), teach others to live a life without sin, yet all the while continue in his own sin, as they claim he confesses to do in the passage of discussion?
3) What does the testimony of life say?
We can only assume the holiness of the leaders of the early church by the writings of such men. However, the world today still has true saints who walk in sanctification, which is purity of heart and life. I do not say that it is impossible for them to willfully sin. Walking in the Spirit of Christ does not take away the possibility of sinning, but it does remove the propensity!
Therefore, if men of today can walk in purity, having escaped the bondage of sin, then it is certain that one such as Paul could, which, in itself, nullifies the claim that Paul had sin in his life.
Listen to what the man said about his own life:
What is a Pauline scripture?
A Pauline scripture is one that identifies a passage of scripture as being typically of Paul. Romans 7 is a typical example where Paul uses himself as the example to bring home the truth more forcibly. Here is an earlier example of this:
“But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? (Rom 3:7) And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just.” (Rom 3:8)
Every reasonable, thinking reader would clearly see that Paul was not admitting to being a liar in the above passage.
Dr. Nijay K. Gupta, in his post: Paul’s fight with sin? in crosswalk.com, describes this method of using one’s self as an example as “a literary technique from the Graeco-Roman world called “speech-in-character””.
James, the pillar and ruler of the Christian church in Jerusalem used a similar tactic in Jam 3:2 and Jam3 :9-10. He certainly is not confessing to stumbling in many ways, or admitting that he too curses men!
Paul’s subtle transition to get to the first-person in Romans 7
Beginning with “you”…
See how Paul subtly transitions to get to the first person in Romans 7. In the beginning of Romans 7, Paul uses the second person “you“(Rom 7:1). He addresses particularly those who knew the Jewish law. He proceeds to give an example of our relationship with a wife to demonstrate the similitude of the church’s relationship with its new “husband,” Christ (Rom 7:2-3). For we, the church, are the bride of Christ (2Co 11:2).
Then he subliminally changes his address in verse 5 to the first-person plural – “we”.
“For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death” (Rom 7:5).
Like James in James 3, Paul softens his discourse by including himself in the “we”. Jesus used the very same method in (John 3:11).
Note also that Paul was referring to our sins of the past in verse 5 and not present sins.
And then “I”…
By the time we get to verse 7, Paul switches to the first-person singular “I” to bring home the message. He focuses on the awful state of the personal consciousness of those who knew the law and its holiness, yet at the same time knew they had transgressed it and had therefore been found condemned by it.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”(Rom 7:24).
But he uses himself as an example, for demonstrative purposes only. Yet, there are leaders that have ignorantly, (or intentionally) used this portion of scripture to justify sinners in their sin and thereby weaken the gospel message in God’s church.
What Peter says of Paul’s writings:
Peter recognizes Paul’s writings as being inspired by God, i.e. being scripture. Therefore, what Paul says must be true.
“… as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2Pe 3:16)
Christ’s mission in saving us
Jesus came to:
save us primarily from our sin (Mat 1:21). That is; not only from the penalty of sin, but from the power of it also.
sanctify us through the atonement of Himself (Heb 10:10). For without being sanctified we cannot see the Lord in peace (Heb 12:14).
If we are saved from living in sin through repentance, having received the atonement of Christ by faith, and are walking in His Spirit, we will be sanctified. (Sanctification is that state where the believer is set apart from sin and the world, and set unto God). Jesus did not come to save us primarily from hell! He came to save us from the sin that sends us there (Mat 1:21). His atonement covered our past sins (Rom 3:25), and His Spirit now saves us from perpetual sin – breaking its power over us, so that we can walk in newness of life, free from condemnation. Then and only then can we apply Romans 8:1 to our lives and confidently believe that we are truly in Christ and therefore are not under condemnation.
This does not mean that by attempting to correct our sinful state we can “earn” our salvation. Read on to see my explanation.
Let the reader understand
What I need the reader to understand, is that without true repentance there is no starting point. We will not be able to exercise faith for salvation. For without repentance of sin there can be:
no reconciliation to God, because our refusal to give up our sins will perpetuate our separated condition (Isa 59:2).
no grounds for real faith, because our hearts will condemn us (1Jn 3:21). Consequently, our attempts in obtaining our sanctification and eternal life through faith will be vain (Rom 6:22).
If we are walking in the Spirit of Christ we will not carry out the sinful desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16). Therefore, we will not be transgressors of the law of God (See 1Cor 9:21). Consequently, there will be no condemnation for us (Rom 8:1) because walking by the Spirit, through continual faith, frees us to walk in holiness of life (Rom 6:22). It separates us from the power of sin, condemnation and death.
Paul said: Therefore, there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ…(Rom. 8:1). If we are found to be in Christ, sin is no longer master over us, compelling us to sin. For we have a new master – the master of righteousness (Rom 6:18). We have put on Christ having removed the old man of sin (Rom 13:14). Now we live in the freedom of the Spirit who indwells us, and leads us in the path of righteousness so that we can obtain the inheritance promised to those who are indeed children of God (Rom 8:16).
How do we obtain the assurance of salvation?
In Romans 6 Paul teaches that we are to die to self and rise in newness of life in Christ. This life gives us the assurance that we have favor with God and eternal life with Him.
In the latter half of Romans 7 Paul gives the example of a frustrated man in bondage to sin and, looking for a way out, he turns to the law – only to find that instead of the law saving him, it condemns him (Rom 7:10).
Then in Romans 8 he shows us how to walk in that newness of life in the Spirit through faith. The result is being freed from the power of sin. He teaches that we are to set our minds on the Spirit and not on the flesh. This is the only way to escape the slavery of sin. The answer is then to exercise faith in the abiding presence of Christ and to walk consciously in Him. Walking in the consciousness of Christ’s presence naturally compels us to do only those things that are pleasing Him.
Change our way of thinking
God calls us to change our way of thinking. We are to choose the love of righteousness in lieu of our previous love for sin. For it is through this choice of right thinking and action in following after righteousness that God gives us the assurance of salvation. That is; faith in Christ as God’s atonement as a propitiation for us; His mediatorial position with the Father on our behalf; and His abiding presence through the Holy Spirit to keep us on the path of righteousness. This is the only way we can be reconciled to Him.
Steps to the assurance of salvation
Perceive the holiness of God and His righteous law that governs all of His universal kingdom in the natural and spiritual realms.
See our fallen estate from the grace of God because of our sin and the just separation from God and His eternal good.
Repent (with a contrite heart) and forsake our sin, knowing that it was our sin that separated us from the fellowship and favor of God.
Recognize and believe what God has done for us in Christ to reconcile us to Himself.
Receive, with thankfulness, His great eternal gift in Christ as the only propitiation (payment and exchange) for our sin (which brought about our eternal condemnation).
By faith continue in life walking in loving obedience in the conscious presence of the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9).
Conquer besetting sin
The only way we can conquer besetting sin is if we set our minds on the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:5). His presence is real and universal (Rom 8:9). And it is by faith that we become conscious of Him. By the same faith we surrender ourselves to loving obedience to Him; and consequently, receive the quickening of His indwelling Spirit which will motivate us to live pleasing to God.
But how will we know if we have this consciousness (faith)?
When we are walking in Christ He gives us:
a reverential fear of God. This is not a fear of condemnation any longer. It is the fear of separating ourselves from the love of God through sin. We who truly love God walk fearful of offending Him after having come to know Him and His righteousness.
a peace found in communion with Him that is beyond comprehension (Phil 4:7). This is a peace that nothing in this world can give (John 14:27).
But if we continue to walk according to the fleshly desires, we will set ourselves at enmity with God. Therefore, we will not be able to walk in the Spirit of Christ, or in subjection to the law of God (Rom 8:7-8). Consequently, we will not possess the assurance that He gives; but we will be left with the wrath of God’s displeasure abiding over us (John 3:36).
Paul did indeed confirm that he was not perfect as he would be in his transformed, resurrected state (Php 3:11-12). He was still subject to human error as in forgetfulness, omission, ignorant mistakes, lack of angelic intellect etc.. But the perfect he calls for is the same “perfect” that Christ calls for when He said: “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”. This perfection is the obedience of faith – that which the mature in Christ walk.
Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; (Php 3:15)
This is the evidence of such is a holy walk, and the result is our salvation.
Paul’s purpose for writing the book of Romans
Paul’s whole purpose for writing the book of Romans was to “bring about the obedience of faith in Christ”. This is evident throughout his epistle to the saints in Rome. (See Rom 1:5; 15:18; 16:26). Professing Christians often use the false doctrine of Paul’s struggle with sin in Romans 7 to justify their own sinfulness. However, the honest reader can see that this excuse for our sin dissipates in the light of scripture and reason.
Living in sin is a contradiction of the principles of truth, and negates the very purpose of Paul’s ministry. Let us not look for excuses to justify our sin. Rather, let us look at the gospel for what it is. Paul lays out the path to our freedom from sin in this life, so that we can be reconciled to God, and gain as our inheritance, eternal life.
No matter what state we may find ourselves, we have whatever time that remains of our lives for making the change to victory. But we will not be doing it alone. It is God’s desire and design to bring each one of us to that high place in Him (Jer 29:11). We do not need to fear the insurmountable feat of winning victory. For even though the victory in life is won for us, the battle is His.
It is God’s nature to restore
It is always surprising to see what great change can take place, and in such a short time, when one gives himself over to the moulding hands of the Lord Jesus.
Some years ago, Kenya had the worst drought it had had for centuries. Water sources dried up and wild life perished in their thousands. The elephants sought moisture from the trees and utterly destroyed what the drought didn’t kill. The result was that they too died off in their thousands, reducing the number of elephant herds to dangerous levels. There was nothing that the government could do to resolve the problem.
But twenty years later, a relatively short space of time to nature, the rains returned in abundance; trees grew, and the elephant population was restored.
Droughts, volcanoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters cause havoc to vast areas, but nature soon heals herself in the hands of God. He will have His benevolent balance! It is in the nature of God’s goodness to heal the natural and spiritual. His ever-present love looks to and fro for those who will allow Him (2Ch 16:9) to revive them to the position He has planned for them. It is only our stubbornness that prevents Him.
Allow God to be gracious
Our God is gracious; full of patience, mercy and lovingkindness. He made all thing to work together in harmony (Rom 8:28), and is ever-present to uphold His creation, to heal and restore where He rightfully is able. But He will not accommodate sin to do so.
When one comes to his senses, repents of his sin, and turns back to God through Christ alone, he is immediately reconciled. Through faith in God’s promises, healing and restoration begins the instant one’s heart acknowledges the privilege into which he has entered . And, even though man’s sin may have repercussions, God always gives grace to endure and overcome; and the measure of grace received is always according to the faith and obedience we exercise.
God is quick to respond in love
Because God loves righteousness and hates sin, He is quick to respond to a heart that turns to Him. He wants to see His fallen creation redeemed and re-established. He releases captives – if they will let Him, and brings them into loving fellowship with Himself. Through His goodness, He will heal the brokenhearted and restore what the locust (life) has devoured (Joe 2:25). He will be the lifter of their heads, if only they will forsake their sin and turn to the Maker and Guardian of their souls. They will be amazed at how quickly they can find victory in life, regardless of the depths they have fallen.
A late starter is better than a non-starter
One who comes to God early in life saves himself from the ravages and regrets of a multitude of sin (Ecc 12:1). However, as I have personally discovered, a late starter is better than a non-starter! But the longer we leave off turning to God with our whole heart after coming to the knowledge of the truth, the more difficult it will be for us. If we delay our surrender, our hearts will become harder and our necks stiffer. And he who hardens his heart falls into calamity (Pro 28:14).
Most often than not we will experience no immediate penalty for our sin, and therefore, will be tempted to continue our way of life set apart from God by our continued willful disobedience to His law of righteousness. But we need to understand that it is His patience and loving kindness that gives us time to repent (2Pe 3:9). Let us not be foolish, but rather come to our senses and make use of the time our heavenly Father affords us while we are able. Let us not disregard the reason for Christ, nor regard as unclean the blood of His covenant, neither spurn the spirit of His grace (Heb 10:29); but rather use it to strengthen ourselves, and to live in the victory our God desires for us.
Light a fire to your past failures
Our time before was time enough for sin (1Pe 4:3). We have entered into the kingdom of God through repentance of our rebellion against His righteousness, accepting Christs offering of Himself to pay for our transgressions. The Spirit of Christ is here to strengthen us and give us a confirmed hope and courage to obtain the victory over our constant enemy of sin in this life. For we only have the remainder of this life to make it right. But our reward is to live in the eternal life to come in peace and happiness with our God and Savior.
Light a fire to the your past failures. They have brought you only death. Grab onto what remains, no matter what your age or state of being, and allow your heavenly Father to resuscitate you with His breath of life, and lead you to the victory that He has won for you.
To learn how to live in victory we need to learn how to break free from sin. The method God gave us is easy to follow. To learn more about how to break free from sin click here.
Why do so few receive answers to prayers? Here are some insights.
God is serious about our prayers if we are. Many pray, but few truly receive favourable answers to their prayers. Prayer is not casting words into the air and hoping for a good return. The results of wishful thinking are very different from those of faith-filled prayer. The proof is in the pudding! So, if you are looking for ways to get your prayers answered favourably, then here are some things you need to know and adopt to boost your faith and increase the blessings of God that you pray for.
There are three types of prayer:
Word-based faith-filled prayer
This is that prayer which is performed religiously. It has no real heart or purpose, but the petitioner has a mild hope – or wishful thinking that by praying prayers by route, chants, cliché professions, etc. God will give him a favorable audience. But Jesus said that this type of prayer bears no fruit (Mat 6:7).
The truth is that God always hears our prayers. He is omnipresent and therefore hears, sees and knows everything (Mat 6:8). He must, or else how could He be the Eternal Judge? But does He hear any of these prayers and answer them favorably?
God hates religious prayers (and religious ceremonies) (Isa 1:14) where the petitioner has no real heart for God or for the prayers they are offering. They pray for selfish reasons, and these types of prayer receive no positive answer from God (Mat 15:8-9).
Some will say that their prayers are often, or even always answered. However, I have also come to witness that many of these so-called answers were obtained through self-effort. In fact, what some say they have received by prayer is very doubtful to have had any active involvement of God at all.
Such people know deep within that they have little to no favor with God and therefore must work their own answers. Here, they pray for something that they want from God (sometimes publicly) so that when they obtain it (by their own hand) they can justify it as being a “blessing from God”. A new car or holiday that they can’t afford, or an unnecessary career, or home move, and other such extravagances fit into this kind of prayer. This method won’t get your prayers answered.
Word-based faith-filled prayer
Prayer is the only medium we have with which to communicate with God, so that He will act on our behalf and to meet our needs where we are unable. Furthermore, God loves to respond faithfully to His people’s prayers. He loves the fellowship that true prayer brings, and is glorified in their manifested answers (Joh 15:8). But we need to learn how to pray aright.
Pray right and receive right
The principles of praying right to receive right are not complicated. If we remove self from the equation, and replace it with the purpose of glorifying God, we will be able to solve all the problems that hinder our prayers, and receive that for which we ask.
How to pray aright and get your prayers answered
Believe that God is, and is a rewarder
Believe that God is, and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6). Without the elementary belief in the existence of God in His omnipresent form, faith in His love and that He will reward our faith, we have no starting point. God rewards faith-filled prayer because He loves us and is pleased that we receive from Him. He wants to be our provider as a loving father who has means and loves to provide for his children.
Having our prayers answered glorifies God (Joh 15:8). This glory is what supports all moral beings as partakers, and is be covered in my post Why should God get all the glory? Let us be encouraged to pray in faith knowing that God is right here for us, His children, and willing to give us what we need. For without this faith it is impossible to please Him.
Pray at all times in the Spirit (Eph 6:18)
What does this mean?
God is Spirit and in this state, is omnipresent. For us to pray successfully we need to realize this fact. Not only is God omnipresent in the natural sphere, but also in the spiritual realm. Nothing escapes His presence (Pro 15:3). Our desires, thoughts and motives are all laid bare before the eyes of the Lord. So, to pray in the Spirit is to pray with this conscious understanding that we are in the presence of God, and we do this in faith, which has been ignited and fanned into flame by the knowledge of Him through His Word.
Pray in the Name of Jesus, not in clichés
We need to understand the difference between tagging religious clichés of “in the name of Jesus” at the end of our prayers, and praying in the name of Jesus. These are two different things altogether. The first is religiosity. It is a cliché that many like to add to prayers in the belief that somehow it authenticates our prayers with God (Mat 6:7). But this is not how you will get your prayers answered.
When the apostles would do something “in the Name of Jesus” they used the expression as a confession of whose power and authority was being revealed. Miracles, signs and wonders were performed by these great men of faith, and they confessed that it was through the power of Jesus that they were being performed.
However, nowhere in the Bible did men of God authenticate their prayers by tagging on “in the name of Jesus” at the end. They addressed God as Father (Mat 6:9), Lord (Act 1:24), and Jesus (Act 7:59), among other titles.
So, what does it mean when Jesus commanded us to pray in His name?(Joh 14:13-14).
Praying in the name of Jesus is praying under the authority of that name
Praying in the name of Jesus Christ is praying under that authority. Jesus came in the authority of the Father (Joh 5:43), but He did not attach: “in the name of the Father” to His prayers. Rather, He addressed the Father directly in prayer (Joh 17:1). It is through Christ that we are in a right position to pray to the Father. Without surrendering to the lordship of Christ first, i.e. abiding in Him, we can achieve nothing (Joh 15:5). Whoever rejects the Son also rejects the Father (Luk 10:16). Therefore, praying in the name of Jesus is recognizing, abiding, and having our being in that name (Act 17:28 KJV).
God knows those who are in His name
God knows those who are in the name of His Son (2Ti 2:19). Therefore, it is superfluous for us, when addressing the Father, to cliché our prayers with the Name. Should one believe in a false deity and then try to come to God Almighty for favor they would be praying in vain because they would be rejecting the only means by which we can approach God (Joh 14:6). For they would not be coming to God in the name of Jesus. Consequently, their prayers would not be heard with favor from God.
We who are His, acknowledge and receive the gift of His Son to be reconciled to Him. This we demonstrate by our holy conduct of life. But tagging the name of Jesus at the end of our prayers, especially if we have rejected loving obedience towards Him and His Word, wins no points with God.
Pray according to the will of God
This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him (1Jn 5:14-15). Therefore, before we pray we ought to ensure that we are in God’s will. But how do we know?
God’s general will for us Through reading God’s Word, we come to understand His general will for our lives, and get to know His holy nature. By this we can determine much of what is and what is not His will. Whatever we pray for against His revealed will He will not grant.
God’s specific will for us Through loving obedience to His revealed will in His word, and through prayer, He gives us His Holy Spirit to reveal His specific will for our lives. The more time we spend getting to know God in communion, the more we will be able to discern His specific will for our lives. Thus, when we come to Him in prayer for the fulfillment of His discerned will, we shall have the confidence and faith to receive whatever we need from Him (1Jn 3:21).
Pray in faith
This may seem simple enough, but without actually believing that you will receive your answer, God cannot grant your petition. For without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Jesus said that when we pray we are to believe that we have actually received and then we will receive it. (Mar 11:24). This means that we are to believe that our prayers have already been answered when we pray. There is no waiting to respond with God. The very instant we apply our faith He answers.
Now the realization of the answer may take time, but it is always in accordance with our faith. Jesus prayed for the disciples to be one, as He and the Father were one. And even though He must have received the assurance of it immediately, it took time to manifest. In this case it was after His ascension. We are to pray believing that we will receive and wait for its arrival. (See more under the sub-heading Watch the flight of the arrow below).
Walk in loving obedience
When we walk in loving obedience our conscience reinforces our faith to receive. If we think that we can obtain favor from God whilst walking in known sin we fool ourselves. Those who turn away from obeying God’s Word will not be heard favorably by God in prayer (Pro 28:9). (See also Jon 9:31). When we walk in known sin, we cannot exercise faith to receive from God. This is because the Holy Spirit is not quickened within us. God cannot fellowship with us because our sin separates us from Him (Isa 59:2). Furthermore, should we then attempt to come to God in prayer, our hearts will condemn us, thus making it impossible for us to exercise real faith to believe that God will grant us our petition (1John 3:21-22). (Suggested reading: How do we know if we are saved?)
Watch the flight of the arrow
What do we do once we have prayed?
When we pray to God we are mindful of Him and His presence. We pray with specific purpose. For God can do nothing with random prayer.
Praying is like shooting an arrow. We do not shoot our prayers aimlessly into the air. When any good archer shoots his arrow, he first draws the bow, anchors his string hand, aims, takes a breath and holds it, considers distance, wind, trajectory, etc. Then he releases. But he does not stop here. As his arrow leaves the bow he watches its path to see if it hits the mark. If he misses, he analyses his shortfall and realigns for another shot.
…In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.
Praying is similar. Before we offer our prayers up to God we should be thoughtful for what we are going to ask. Then after presenting our requests to Him we wait watchfully for the result (Ps. 5:3). If we miss the mark and do not receive, we analyse where we went wrong through the Word and prayer for wisdom (Jas 1:5), adjust our prayer (or intention) and pray again.
Sincerity, patience and perseverance are what cause success in all aspects of life. Prayer is no different. Practice the disciplines of praying aright and you will get your prayers answered favorably by God.
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