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How Can I Get Closer to God?
The Word of God says, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). In order to have any relationship with God a person must come to God by faith through His Son, Jesus Christ. We must believe in Jesus as our Savior, Whom God sent to die, to pay the punishment for our sins. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23). Both I John 2:2 and 4:10 talk about Jesus being the propitiation (which means just payment) for our sins. I John 4:10 says, “He (God) loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man comes to the Father but by Me.” I Corinthians 15:3&4 tells us the good news…”Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” This is the Gospel which we must believe and we must receive. John 1:12 says, “As many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” John 10:28 says, “I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish.”
So our relationship to God can only begin by faith, by becoming a child of God through Jesus Christ. Not only do we become His child, but He sends His Holy Spirit to dwell within us (John 14:16&17). Colossians 1:27 says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Jesus also refers to us as His brothers. He certainly wants us to know that our relationship with Him is family, but He wants us to be a close family, not just a family in name, but a family of close fellowship. Revelation 3:20 describes our becoming a Christian as entering a relationship of fellowship. It says, “I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in, and dine with him, and he with Me.”
John chapter 3:1-16 says that when we become a Christian we are “born again” as newborn babies into His family. As His new child, and just as when a human is born, we as Christian babies must grow in our relationship with Him. As a baby grows, he learns more and more about his parent and becomes closer to his parent.
This is how it is for Christians, in our relationship with our Heavenly Father. As we learn about Him and grow our relationship becomes closer. Scripture speaks a lot about growing and maturity, and it teaches us how to do this. It is a process, not a one-time event, thus the term growing. It is also called abiding.
1). First, I think, we do need to start with a decision. We must decide to submit to God, to commit to following Him. It is an act of our will to submit to God’s will if we want to be close to Him, but it is not just one-time, it is an abiding (continuous) commitment. James 4:7 says, “submit yourselves to God.” Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you, therefore, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” This must start with a one-time choice but it is also a moment by moment choice just as it is in any relationship.
2). Secondly, and I think of utmost importance, is that we need to read and study the Word of God. I Peter 2:2 says, “As newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby.” Joshua 1:8 says, “Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth, meditate on it day and night…” (Read also Psalm 1:2.) Hebrews 5:11-14 (NIV) tells us that we must get beyond babyhood and become mature by “constant use” of the Word of God.
This does not mean reading some book about the Word, which is usually someone’s opinion, no matter how smart they are reported to be, but reading and studying the Bible itself. Acts 17:11 speaks about the Bereans saying, “they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” We need to test everything anyone says by the Word of God not just take someone’s word for it because of their “credentials.” We need to trust the Holy Spirit in us to teach us and really search the Word. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing (NIV correctly handling) the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 3:16&17 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete (mature)…”
This study and growing is daily and never ends till we are with Him in heaven, because our knowledge of “Him” leads to being more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). Being close to God requires a daily walk of faith. It is not a feeling. There is no “quick fix” which we experience which gives us close fellowship with God. Scripture teaches that we walk with God by faith, not by sight. However, I believe that when we consistently walk by faith God makes Himself known to us in unexpected and precious ways.
Read 2 Peter 1:1-5. It tells us that we grow in character as we spend time in the Word of God. It says here that we are to add to faith goodness, then knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. By spending time in study of the Word and in obedience to it we add to or build character in our lives. Isaiah 28:10&13 tells us we learn precept upon precept, line upon line. We do not know it all at once. John 1:16 says “grace upon grace.” We do not learn all at once as Christians in our spiritual life anymore than babies grow up all at once. Just remember this is a process, growing, a walk of faith, not an event. As I mentioned it is also called abiding in John chapter 15, abiding in Him and in His Word. John 15:7 says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
3). The Book of I John talks about a relationship, our fellowship with God. Fellowship with another person can be broken or interrupted by sinning against them and this is true of our relationship with God also. I John 1:3 says, “Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” Verse 6 says, “If we claim to have fellowship with Him, yet walk in darkness (sin), we lie and do not live by the truth.” Verse 7 says, “If we walk in the light…we have fellowship with one another…” In verse 9 we see that if sin disrupts our fellowship we need only to confess our sin to Him. It says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Please read this entire chapter.
We do not lose our relationship as His child, but we must maintain our fellowship with God by confessing any and all sins whenever we fail, as often as necessary. We must also allow the Holy Spirit to give us victory over sins we tend to repeat; any sin.
4). We must not only read and study God’s Word but we must obey it, which I mentioned. James 1:22-24 (NIV) states, “Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the Word, but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” Verse 25 says, “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.” This is so similar to Joshua 1:7-9 and Psalm 1:1-3. Read also Luke 6:46-49.
5). Another part of this is that we need to become part of a local church, where we can hear and learn God’s Word and have fellowship with other believers. This is a way in which we are helped to grow. This is because each believer is given a special gift from the Holy Spirit, as a part of the church, also called “the body of Christ.” These gifts are listed in various passages in Scripture such as Ephesians 4:7-12, I Corinthians 12:6-11, 28 and Romans 12:1-8. The purpose for these gifts is to “build up the body (the church) for the work of the ministry(Ephesians 4:12). The church will help us to grow and we in turn can help other believers to grow up and become mature and minister in God’s kingdom and lead other people to Christ. Hebrews 10:25 says we should not forsake our assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another.
6). Another thing we should do is pray – pray for our needs and the needs of other believers and for the unsaved. Read Matthew 6:1-10. Philippians 4:6 says, “let your requests be made known unto God.”
7). Add to this that we should, as part of obedience, love one another (Read I Corinthians 13 and I John) and do good works. Good works cannot save us, but one cannot read Scripture without determining that we are to do good works and be kind to others. Galatians 5:13 says, “by love serve one another.” God says we are created to do good works. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
All of these things work together, to draw us closer to God and make us more like Christ. We become more mature ourselves and so do other believers. They help us to grow. Read 2 Peter 1 again. The end of being closer to God is being trained and mature and loving one another. In doing these things we are His disciples and disciples when mature are like their Master (Luke 6:40).
How Can I Study the Bible?
I am not exactly sure what you are looking for, so I will try to add to the subject, but if you would answer back and be more specific, maybe we can help. My answers will be from a Scriptural (Biblical) view unless otherwise stated.
Words in any language such as “life” or “death” can have different meanings and usages in both language and Scripture. Understanding the meaning depends on the context and how it is used.
For example, as I related previously, “death” in Scripture can mean separation from God, as shown in the account in Luke 16:19-31 of the unrighteous man who was separated from the righteous man by a great gulf, one going to eternal life with God, the other to a place of torment. John 10:28 explains by saying, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” The body is buried and decays. Life can also mean just physical life.
In John chapter three we have Jesus’ visit with Nicodemus, discussing life as being born and eternal life as being born again. He contrasts physical life as being “born of water” or “born of the flesh” with spiritual/eternal life as being “born of the Spirit.” Here in verse 16 is where it speaks of perishing as opposed to eternal life. Perishing is connected to judgment and condemnation as opposed to eternal life. In verses 16&18 we see the deciding factor that determines these consequences is whether or not you believe in God’s Son, Jesus. Notice the present tense. The believer has eternal life. Read also John 5:39; 6:68 and 10:28.
Modern day examples of the use of a word, in this case “life,” might be phrases such as “this is the life,” or “get a life” or the “good life,” just to illustrate how words can be used. We understand their meaning by their use. These are just a few examples of the use of the word “life.”
Jesus did this when He said in John 10:10, “I came that they might have life and might have it more abundantly.” What did He mean? It means more than being saved from sin and perishing in hell. This verse refers to how “here and now” eternal life should be – abundant, amazing! Does that mean a “perfect life,” with everything we want? Obviously not! What does it mean? To understand this and other puzzling questions we all have about “life” or “death” or any other question we must be willing to study all of Scripture, and that requires effort. I mean really working on our part.
This is what the Psalmist (Psalm 1:2) recommended and what God commanded Joshua to do (Joshua 1:8). God wants us to meditate on the Word of God. That means study it and think about it.
John chapter three teaches us that we are “born again” of the “spirit.” Scripture teaches us that God’s Spirit comes to live within us (John 14:16&17; Romans 8:9). It is interesting that in I Peter 2:2 it says, “as sincere babes desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby.” As baby Christians we don’t know everything and God is telling us that the only way to grow is to know the Word of God.
2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to show thyself approved unto God…rightly dividing the word of truth.”
I would caution you that this does not mean getting answers about God’s word by listening to others or reading books “about” the Bible. A lot of these are people’s opinions and while they may be good, what if their opinions are wrong? Acts 17:11 gives us a very important, God given guideline: Compare all opinions with the book that is totally true, the Bible itself. IN Acts 17:10-12 Luke complements the Bereans because they tested Paul’s message saying they “searched the Scriptures to see if these things were so.” This is exactly what we should always do and the more we search the more we will know what is true and the more we will know the answers to our questions and know God Himself. The Bereans tested even the Apostle Paul.
Here are a couple interesting verses relating to life and knowing God’s Word. John 17:3 says, “This is eternal life that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent.” What is the importance of knowing Him. Scripture teaches that God wants us to be like Him, so we need to know what He is like. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “But we all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
Here is a study in itself since several ideas are mentioned in other Scriptures also, such as “mirror” and “glory to glory” and the idea of being “transformed into His image.”
There are tools we can use (many of which are easily and freely available on line) to search out words and Scriptural facts in the Bible. There are also things God’s Word teaches that we need to do to grow into mature Christians and be more like Him. Here is a list of things to do and following that are some on line helps that will help in finding answers to questions you may have.
Steps to Growth:
- Fellowship with believers in church or a small group (Acts 2:42; Hebrews 10:24&25).
- Pray: read Matthew 6:5-15 for a pattern of and teaching about prayer.
- Study Scriptures as I have shared here.
- Obey the Scriptures. “Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only,” (James 1:22-25).
- Confess sin: Read 1 John 1:9 (confess means to acknowledge or admit). I like to say, “as often as necessary.”
I like to do word studies. A Bible Concordance of Bible Words helps, but you can find most, if not all, of what you need on the internet. The internet has Bible Concordances, Greek and Hebrew interlinear Bibles (the Bible in the original languages with a word for word translation underneath), Bible Dictionaries (such as Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Greek Words) and Greek and Hebrew word studies. Two of the best sites are www.biblegateway.com and www.biblehub.com. I hope this helps. Short of learning Greek and Hebrew, these are the best ways to find out what the Bible is really saying.
How Do I Become a True Christian?
The first question to answer in regard to your question is what is a true Christian, because many people can call themselves Christians who have no idea what the Bible says a Christian is. Opinions differ as to how one becomes a Christian according to churches, denominations or even the world. Are you a Christian as defined by God or a “so-called” Christian. We have only one authority, God, and He speaks to us through the Scripture, because it is the truth. John 17:17 says, “Thy Word is truth!” What did Jesus say we must do to become a Christian (to be a part of God’s family – to be saved).
First, becoming a true Christian is not about joining a church or religious group or keeping some rules or sacraments or other requirements. It is not about where you were born as in a “Christian” nation or to a Christian family, nor by doing some ritual such as being baptized either as a child or as an adult. It is not about doing good works to earn it. Ephesians 2:8&9 says,” For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works…” Titus 3:5 says, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus said in John 6:29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
Let’s look at what the Word says about becoming a Christian. The Bible says “they” were first called Christians in Antioch. Who were “they.” Read Acts 17:26. “They” were the disciples (the twelve) but also all those who believed in and followed Jesus and what He taught. They were also called believers, God’s children, the church and other descriptive names. According to Scripture, the Church is His “body,” not an organization or building, but the people who believe in His name.
So let’s see what Jesus taught about becoming a Christian; what it takes to enter His Kingdom and His family. Read John 3:1-20 and also verses 33-36. Nicodemus came to Jesus one night. It is apparent that Jesus knew his thoughts and what his heart needed. He told him, “You must be born again” in order to enter the Kingdom of God. He told him an Old Testament story of the “serpent on a pole”; that if the sinning Children of Israel went out to look at it, they would be “healed.” This was a picture of Jesus, that He must be lifted up on the cross to pay for our sins, for our forgiveness. Then Jesus said those who believed in Him (in His punishment in our place for our sins) would have everlasting life. Read John 3:4-18 again. These believers are “born again” by God’s Spirit. John 1:12&13 says, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His Name,” and using the same language as John 3, “who were born not of blood, nor of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” These are “they” that are “Christians,” who receive what Jesus taught. It’s all about what you believe Jesus did. I Corinthians 15:3&4 says, “the gospel which I preached to you…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day…”
This is the way, the only way to become and be called a Christian. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father, but by Me.” Read also Acts 4:12 and Romans 10:13. You must be born again into God’s family. You must believe. Many twist the meaning of being born again. They create their own interpretation and “re-write” Scripture to force it to include themselves, saying it means some spiritual awakening or life renewing experience, but Scripture clearly says we are born again and become God’s children by believing in what Jesus has done for us. We must understand God’s way by knowing and comparing Scriptures and giving up our ideas for the truth. We cannot substitute our ideas for God’s word, God’s plan, God’s way. John 3:19&20 says men don’t come to the light “lest their deeds should be reproved.”
The second part of this discussion must be to see things as God does. We must accept what God says in His Word, the Scriptures. Remember, all of us have sinned, doing what is wrong in God’s sight. Scripture is clear about your life style but mankind chooses either to just say, “that’s not what it means,” ignore it, or say, “God made me this way, it’s normal.” You must remember that God’s world has been corrupted and cursed when sin entered the world. It is no longer as God intended. James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has been guilty of all.” It doesn’t matter what our sin may be.
I have heard many definitions of sin. Sin goes beyond what is detestable or displeasing to God; it is what is not good for us or for others. Sin causes our thinking to be turned upside down. What is sin is seen as good and justice becomes perverted (see Habakkuk 1:4). We see good as evil and evil as good. Bad people become victims and good people become evil: haters, unloving, unforgiving or intolerant .
Here is a list of Scripture verses on the subject you are asking about. They tell us what God thinks. If you choose to explain them away and continue to do what displeases God we can’t tell you it is OK. You are subject to God; He alone can judge. No argument of ours will convince you. God gives us free will to choose to follow Him or not to, but we pay the consequences. We believe Scripture is explicit on the subject. Read these verses: Romans 1:18-32, especially verses 26&27. Read also Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13; I Corinthians 6:9&10; I Timothy 1:8-10; Genesis 19:4-8 (and Judges 19:22-26 where the men of Gibeah said the same thing as the men of Sodom); Jude 6&7 and Revelation 21:8 and 22:15.
The good news is that when we accepted Christ Jesus as our Savior, we were forgiven for all our sin. Micah 7:19 says, “Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” We don’t want to condemn anyone but to point them to the One Who loves and forgives, because we all sin. Read John 8:1-11. Jesus says, “Whoever is without sin let him cast the first stone.” I Corinthians 6:11 says, “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.” We are “accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6). If we are true believers we must overcome sin by walking in the light and acknowledging our sin, any sin we commit. Read I John 1:4-10. I John 1:9 was written to believers. It says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
If you are not a true believer, you can be (Revelation 22:17). Jesus wants you to come to Him and He will not cast you out (John 6:37).
As seen in I John 1:9 if we are God’s children He wants us to walk with Him and grow in grace and “be holy as He is holy” (I Peter 1:16). We must overcome our failures.
God does not abandon or disown His children, unlike human fathers can. John 10:28 says, “I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish.” John 3:15 says, “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This promise is repeated three times in John 3 alone. See also John 6:39 and Hebrews 10:14. Hebrews 13:5 says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 10:17 says, “Their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.” See also Romans 5:9 and Jude 24. 2 Timothy 1:12 says, “He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” I Thessalonians 5:9-11 says, “we are not appointed to wrath but to receive salvation…so that…we may live together with Him.”
If you read and study Scripture you will learn that God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness does not give us a license or freedom to continue to sin or live in a way which displeases God. Grace is not like a “get out of jail free card.” Romans 6:1&2 says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” God is a good and perfect Father and as such if we disobey and rebel and do what He hates, He will correct and discipline us. Please read Hebrews 12:4-11. It says He will chasten and scourge His children (verse 6). Hebrews 12:10 says, “God disciplines us for our good that we may share in His holiness.” In verse 11 it says of discipline, “It produces a harvest of holiness and peace to those who have been trained by it.”
When David sinned against God, he was forgiven when he acknowledged his sin, but he suffered the consequences of his sin for the rest of his life. When Saul sinned he lost his kingdom. God punished Israel by captivity for their sin. Sometimes God allows us to pay the consequences of our sin to discipline us. See also Galatians 5:1.
Since we are answering your question, we are giving an opinion based on what we believe the Scripture teaches. This is not a dispute about opinions. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” God does not hate the sinner. Just as the Son did with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11, we want them to come to Him for forgiveness. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
How Do I Hear From God?
One of the most perplexing questions for new Christians and even many who have been Christians for a long time is, “How do I hear from God?” To put it another way, how do I know if the thoughts that enter my mind are from God, from the devil, from myself or just something I have heard somewhere that just sticks in my mind? There are many examples of God speaking to people in the Bible, but there are also lots of warnings about following false prophets who claim God spoke to them when God says definitely that He did not. So how are we to know?
The first and most basic issue is that God is the ultimate Author of Scripture and He never contradicts Himself. 2 Timothy 3:16&17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” So any thought that enters your mind must first be examined on the basis of its agreement with Scripture. A soldier who had written orders from his commander and disobeyed them because he thought he heard someone tell him something different would be in serious trouble. So the first step in hearing from God is to study the Scriptures to see what they say on any given issue. It is amazing how many issues are dealt with in the Bible, and reading the Bible on a daily basis and studying what it says when an issue comes up is the obvious first step in knowing what God is saying.
Probably the second thing to look at is: “What is my conscience telling me?” Romans 2:14&15 says, “(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)” Now that does not mean that our conscience is always right. Paul talks about a weak conscience in Romans 14 and a seared conscience in I Timothy 4:2. But he says in I Timothy 1:5, “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” He says in Acts 23:16, “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” He wrote to Timothy in I Timothy 1:18&19 “Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.” If your conscience is telling you something is wrong, then it is probably wrong, at least for you. Feelings of guilt, coming from our conscience, is one of the ways God speaks to us and ignoring our conscience is, in the vast majority of cases, choosing to not listen to God. (For more information on this topic read all of Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 and I Corinthians 10:14-33.)
The third thing to be considered is: “What am I asking God to tell me?” As a teenager I was frequently encouraged to ask God to show me His will for my life. I was rather surprised later to find out that God never tells us to pray that He would show us His will. What we are encouraged to pray for is wisdom. James 1:5 promises, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” God promises to give us wisdom if we ask, and if we do the wise thing, we are doing the Lord’s will.
Proverbs 1:1-7 says, “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young – let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance – for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The purpose of the Book of Proverbs is to give us wisdom. It is one of the best places to go when you are asking God what the wise thing to do is in any situation.
The one other thing that helped me the most in learning to hear what God was saying to me was learning the difference between guilt and condemnation. When we sin, God, usually speaking through our conscience, makes us feel guilty. When we confess our sin to God, God removes the feelings of guilt, helps us change and restores fellowship. I John 1:5-10 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” To hear from God, we must be honest with God and confess our sin when it happens. If we have sinned and not confessed our sin, we are not in fellowship with God, and hearing Him will be difficult if not impossible. To rephrase: guilt is specific and when we confess it to God, God forgives us and our fellowship with God is restored.
Condemnation is something else entirely. Paul asks and answers a question in Romans 8:34, “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” He began chapter 8, after talking about his miserable failure when he tried to please God by keeping the law, by saying, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Guilt is specific, condemnation is vague and general. It says things like, “You always mess up,” or, “You’ll never amount to anything,” or, “You’re so messed up God will never be able to use you.” When we confess the sin that makes us feel guilty to God, the guilt disappears and we feel the joy of forgiveness. When we “confess” our feelings of condemnation to God they only get stronger. “Confessing” our feelings of condemnation to God is actually just agreeing with what the devil is saying to us about us. Guilt needs to be confessed. Condemnation must be rejected if we are going to discern what God is truly saying to us.
Of course, the first thing God is saying to us is what Jesus said to Nicodemus: “You must be born again”(John 3:7). Until we have acknowledged that we have sinned against God, told God we believe Jesus paid for our sins when He died on the cross, and was buried and then rose again, and have asked God to come into our life as our Savior, God is under no obligation to speak to us about anything other than our need to be saved, and most probably He will not. If we have received Jesus as our Savior, then we need to examine everything we think God is telling us with Scripture, listen to our conscience, ask for wisdom in all situations and confess sin and reject condemnation. Knowing what God is saying to us may still be difficult at times, but doing these four things will certainly help make hearing His voice easier.
If I Am Saved, Why Do I Keep on Sinning?
Scripture does have an answer to this question, so let us be clear, from experience, if we are honest, and also from Scripture, it is a fact that salvation does not automatically keep us from sinning.
Someone I know led an individual to the Lord and received a very interesting phone call from her several weeks later. The newly saved person said, “I can’t possibly be a Christian. I sin more now than I ever did.” The person who led her to the Lord asked, “Are you doing sinful things now that you have never done before or are you doing things you’ve been doing all your life only now when you do them you feel horribly guilty about them?” The woman replied, “It’s the second one.” And the person who led her to the Lord then told her confidently, “You’re a Christian. Being convicted of sin is one of the first signs that you are really saved.”
The New Testament epistles give us lists of sins to stop doing; sins to avoid, sins we do commit. They also list things we ought to do and fail to do, things we call sins of omission. James 4:17 says “to him that knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Romans 3:23 says it this way, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” As an example, James 2:15&16 speaks of a brother (a Christian) who sees his brother in need and does nothing to help. This is sinning.
In I Corinthians Paul shows how bad Christians can be. In I Corinthians 1:10&11 he says there were quarrels among them and divisions. In chapter 3 he addresses them as carnal (fleshly) and as babies. We often tell children and sometimes adults to stop acting like babies. You get the picture. Babies squabble, slap, poke, pinch, pull each other’s hair and even bite. It sounds comical but so true.
In Galatians 5:15 Paul tells the Christians not to bite and devour one another. In I Corinthians 4:18 he says that some of them have become arrogant. In chapter 5, verse 1 it gets even worse. “It is reported that there is immorality among you and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans.” Their sins were obvious. James 3:2 says we all stumble in many ways.
Galatians 5:19&20 lists the acts of the sinful nature: immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, and orgies as opposed to what God expects: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Ephesians 4:19 mentions immorality, verse 26 anger, verse 28 stealing, verse 29 unwholesome language, verse 31 bitterness, anger, slander and malice. Ephesians 5:4 mentions filthy talk and coarse jesting. These same passages show us also what God expects of us. Jesus told us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, “that the world may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” God wants us to be like Him (Matthew 5:48), but it is obvious that we are not.
There are several aspects of the Christian experience which we need to understand. The moment we become a believer in Christ God gives us certain things. He forgives us. He justifies us, even though we are guilty. He gives us eternal life. He places us in the “body of Christ.” He makes us perfect in Christ. The word used for this is sanctification, set apart as perfect before God. We are born again into God’s family, becoming His children. He comes to live in us through the Holy Spirit. So why do we still sin? Romans chapter 7 and Galatians 5:17 explain this by saying that as long as we are alive in our mortal body we still have our old nature which is sinful, even though the Spirit of God now lives within us. Galatians 5:17 says “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” We don’t do what God wants.
In commentaries by Martin Luther and Charles Hodge they suggest that the closer we approach God through the Scriptures and come into His perfect light the more we see how imperfect we are and how much we fall short of His glory. Romans 3:23
Paul seems to have experienced this conflict in Romans chapter 7. Both commentaries also say that every Christian can identify with Paul’s exasperation and plight: that whereas God desires us to be perfect in our behavior, to be conformed to the image of His Son, yet we find ourselves as slaves of our sinful nature.
I John 1:8 says that “if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” I John 1:10 says “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.”
Read Romans chapter 7. In Romans 7:14 Paul describes himself as “sold into bondage to sin.” In verse 15 he says I do not understand what I am doing; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” In verse 17 he says the problem is sin which lives in him. So frustrated is Paul that he states these things two more times with slightly different words. In verse 18 he says “For I know that in me (that is in may flesh – Paul’s word for his old nature) nothing good dwells, for to will is present with me but how to perform what is good I do not find.” Verse 19 says “For the good that I will, I do not do, but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” The NIV translates verse 19 as “For I have the desire to do good but I cannot carry it out.”
In Romans 7:21-23 he again describes his conflict as a law at work in his members (referring to his fleshly nature), warring against the law of his mind (referring to the Spiritual nature in his inner being). With his inner being he delights in God’s law but “evil is right there with me,” and the sinful nature is “waging war against the law of his mind and making him a prisoner of the law of sin.” We all as believers experience this conflict and Paul’s extreme frustration as he cries out in verse 24 ” What a wretched man I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death?” What Paul describes is the conflict we all face: the conflict between the old nature (the flesh) and the Holy Spirit that indwells us, which we saw in Galatians 5:17 But Paul also says in Romans 6:1 “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound. God forbid. ” Paul also says God wants us to be rescued not only from the penalty of sin but also from its power and control in this life. As Paul says in Romans 5:17 “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” In I John 2:1, John says to the believers that he writes to them so that they WILL NOT SIN. In Ephesians 4:14 Paul says that we are to grow up so that we won’t be babies anymore (as the Corinthians were).
So when Paul cried in Romans 7:24 “who will help me?’ (and us with him), he has a jubilant answer in verse 25, “I THANK GOD – THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.” He knows that the answer is in Christ. Victory (sanctification) as well as salvation come through the provision of Christ who lives in us. I am afraid that many believers just accept living in sin by saying “I’m just human,” but Romans 6 gives us our provision. We now have a choice and we have no excuse to continue in sin.
If I’m Saved, Why Do I Keep on Sinning? (Part 2) (God’s Part)
Now that we understand that we do still sin after becoming a child of God, as evidenced both by our experience and by Scripture; what are we supposed to do about it? First let me say that this process, for that’s what it is, applies only to the believer, those who have put their hope of eternal life, not in their good deeds, but in Christ’s finished work (His death, burial and resurrection for us for the forgiveness of sins); those who have been justified by God. See I Corinthians 15:3&4 and Ephesians 1:7. The reason it applies only to believers is because we cannot do anything by ourselves to make ourselves perfect or holy. That is something only God can do, through the Holy Spirit, and as we shall see, only believers have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. Read Titus 3:5&6; Ephesians 2:8&9; Romans 4:3&22 and Galatians 3:6
Scripture teaches us that at the moment we believe, there are two things God does for us. (There are many, many others.) These are, however, vital in order for us to have “victory” over sin in our lives. First: God puts us in Christ (something that is hard to understand, but we must accept and believe), and second He comes to live in us through His Holy Spirit.
Scripture says in I Corinthians 1:20 that we are in Him. “By His doing you are in Christ who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Romans 6:3 says that we are baptized “into Christ.” This is not talking about our baptism in water, but a work by the Holy Spirit in which He puts us into Christ.
Scripture also teaches us that the Holy Spirit comes to live in us. In John 14:16&17 Jesus told His disciples that He would send the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) Who was with them and would be in them, (He would live or dwell in them). There are other Scriptures that tell us that the Spirit of God is in us, in every believer. Read John 14&15, Acts 1:1-8 and I Corinthians 12:13. John 17:23 says He is in our hearts. In fact Romans 8:9 says that if the Spirit of God is not in you, you do not belong to Christ. Thus we say that since this (that is, making us holy) is a work of the indwelling Spirit, only believers, those with the indwelling Spirit, can become free or victorious over their sin.
Someone has said that Scripture contains: 1) truths we must believe (even if we don’t completely understand them; 2) commands to obey and 3) promises to trust. The facts above are truths which must be believed, i.e. that we are in Him and He is in us. Keep this idea of trusting and obeying in mind as we continue this study. I think it helps to understand it. There are two parts we need to understand in overcoming sin in our daily lives. There is God’s part and our part, which is obedience. We will look first at God’s part which is all about our being in Christ and Christ being in us. Call it if you will: 1) God’s provision, I am in Christ, and 2) God’s power, Christ is in me.
This is what Paul was talking about when he said in Romans 7:24-25 “Who will deliver me…I thank God…through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Keep in mind this process is impossible without God’s help.
It is obvious from Scripture that God’s desire for us is to be made holy and for us to overcome our sins. Romans 8:29 tells us that as believers He has “predestined us to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.” Romans 6:4 says His desire is for us to “walk in newness of life.” Colossians 1:8 says the goal of Paul’s teaching was “to present every one perfect and complete in Christ.” God teaches us that he wants us to become mature (not to remain babies as the Corinthians were). Ephesians 4:13 says we are to “become mature in knowledge and attain the full measure of the fullness of Christ.” Verse 15 says we are to grow up into Him. Ephesians 4:24 says we are to “put on the new self; created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”bI Thessalonians 4:3 states “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.” Verses 7&8 say He has “not called us to impurity, but in sanctification.” Verse 8 says “if we reject this we are rejecting God who gives his Holy Spirit to us.”
(Connecting the thought of the Spirit being in us and us being able to change.) Defining the word sanctification can be a little complicated but in the Old Testament it meant to set apart or present an object or person to God for His use, with a sacrifice being offered to purify it. So for our purposes here we are saying to be sanctified is to be set apart to God or to be presented to God. We were made holy for Him by the sacrifice of Christ’s death on the cross. This is, as we say, positional sanctification when we believe and God sees us as perfect in Christ (clothed and covered by Him and reckoned and declared righteous in Him). It is progressive as we become perfect as He is perfect, when we become victorious in overcoming sin in our daily experience. Any verses on sanctification are describing or explaining this process. We want to be presented and set apart to God as purified, cleaned, holy and blameless, etc. Hebrews 10:14 says “by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
More verses on this subject are: I John 2:1 says “I am writing these things to you that you may not sin.” I Peter 2:24 says, “Christ bare our sins in His own body on the tree…that we should live to righteousness.” Hebrews 9:14 tells us “Christ’s blood cleanses us from dead works to serve the living God.”
Here we have not only God’s desire for our holiness, but His provision for our victory: our being in Him and sharing in His death, as described in Romans 6:1-12. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states: “He made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Read also Philippians 3:9, Romans 12:1&2 and Romans 5:17.
Read Romans 6:1-12. Here we find an explanation of God’s work on our behalf for our victory over sin, i.e. His provision. Romans 6:1 continues the thought of chapter five that God does not want us to continue to sin. It says: What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Verse 2 says, “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Romans 5:17 speaks of “those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.” He wants victory for us now, in this life.
I would like to highlight the explanation in Romans 6 of what we have in Christ. We have spoken of our baptism into Christ. (Remember this is not water baptism but the work of the Spirit.) Verse 3 teaches us that this means we “have been baptized into his death,’ meaning “we died with him.” Verses 3-5 say we are “buried with him.” Verse 5 explains that since we are in Him we are united with Him in His death, burial and resurrection. Verse 6 says we are crucified with him so that “the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” This shows us that the power of sin has been broken. Both the NIV and NASB footnotes say it could be translated “the body of sin might be rendered powerless.” Another translation is that “sin will not have dominion over us.”
Verse 7 says “he who has died is freed from sin. For this reason sin can’t hold us as slaves anymore. Verse 11 says “we are dead to sin.” Verse 14 says “sin shall not be master over you.” This is what being crucified with Christ has done for us. Because we died with Christ we died to sin with Christ. Be clear, those were our sins He died for. Those were our sins He BURIED. Sin therefore does not have to dominate us any more. Simply put, since we are in Christ, we died with Him, so sin does not have to have power over us anymore.
Verse 11 is our part: our act of faith. The previous verses are facts which we must believe, though difficult to understand. They are truths we must believe and act upon. Verse 11 uses the word “reckon” which means “count on it.” From here on out we must act in faith. Being “raised” with Him in this passage of Scripture means we are “alive unto God” and we can “walk in newness of life.” (Verses 4, 8 & 16) Because God has put His Spirit in us, we can now live a victorious life. Colossians 2:14 says “we died to the world and the world died to us.” Another way to say this is to say that Jesus did not die only to free us from the penalty of sin, but also to break its control over us, so He could make us pure and holy in our present life.
In Acts 26:18 Luke quotes Jesus as saying to Paul that the gospel will “turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified (made holy) by faith in Me (Jesus).”
We have already seen in part 1 of this study that although Paul understood, or rather knew, these facts, victory was not automatic and neither is it for us. He was unable to make victory happen either by self-effort or by trying to keep the law and neither can we. Victory over sin is impossible for us without Christ.
Here is why. Read Ephesians 2:8-10. It tells us that we cannot be saved by works of righteousness. This is because, as Romans 6 says, we are “sold under sin.” We cannot pay for our sin or earn forgiveness. Isaiah 64:6 tells us “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” in God’s sight. Romans 8:8 tells us that those who are “in the flesh cannot please God.”
John 15:4 shows us that we cannot bear fruit by ourselves and verse 5 says, “without me (Christ) you can do nothing.” Galatians 2:16 says “for by the works of the law, no flesh shall be justified,” and verse 21 says “if righteousness comes through the law, Christ died needlessly.” Hebrews 7:18 tells us “the law made nothing perfect.”
Romans 8:3&4 says, “For what the law was powerless to do, in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”
Read Romans 8:1-15 and Colossians 3:1-3. We can’t be made clean or be saved by our good works and neither can we be sanctified by the works of the law. Galatians 3:3 says “did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit are you now made perfect in the flesh?” And thus, we, like Paul, who while knowing the fact that we are set free from sin by Christ’s death, still struggle (see Romans 7 again) with self-effort, being unable to keep the law and faced with sin and failure, and crying out “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me!”
Let us review what led to Paul’s failure: 1) The Law couldn’t change him. 2) Self-effort failed. 3) The more he knew God and the Law the worse he seemed. (The law’s job is to make us exceedingly sinful, to make our sin obvious. Romans 7:6,13) The Law made it obvious that we need God’s grace and power. As John 3:17-19 says, the closer we get to the light the more obvious it gets that we are dirty. 4) He ends up frustrated and saying: “who will deliver me?” “nothing good is in me.” “evil is present with me.” “a war is within me.” “I cannot carry it out.” 5) The Law had no power to meet its own demands, it only condemned. He then comes to the answer, Romans 7:25, “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. So Paul is leading us to the second part of God’s provision which makes our sanctification possible. Romans 8:20 states, “the Spirit of life sets us free from the law of sin and death.” The power and strength to overcome sin is Christ IN US, THE Holy Spirit in us. Read Romans 8:1-15 again.
The New King James translation of Colossians 1:27&28 says it is the job of the Spirit of God to present us perfect. It says, “God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the gentiles which is, Christ in you, the hope of glory.” It goes on to say “that we may present every man perfect (or complete) in Christ Jesus.” Is it possible that the glory here is the glory of which we fall short in Romans 3:23? Read 2 Corinthians 3:18 in which God says He wishes to transform us into God’s image from “glory to glory.”
Remember we talked about the Spirit coming to be in us. In John 14:16&17 Jesus said that the Spirit who was with them would come to be in them. In John 16:7-11 Jesus said it was necessary for Him to go away so the Spirit would come to dwell in us. In John 14:20 He says, “at that day you will know that I am in My Father and you in Me, and I in you,” just exactly what we have been talking about. This was actually all foretold in the Old Testament. Joel 2:24-29 speaks of His putting the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
In Acts 2 (read it), it tells us this occurred on the Day of Pentecost, after the ascension of Jesus to heaven. In Jeremiah 31:33&34 (referred to in the New Testament in Hebrews 10:10, 14 & 16) God fulfilled another promise, that of putting His law into our hearts. In Romans 7:6 it tells us that the result of these fulfilled promises is that we can “serve God in a new and living way.” Now, the moment we become a believer in Christ, the Spirit comes to abide (live) in us and HE makes Romans 8:1-15 & 24 possible. Read also Romans 6:4&10 and Hebrews 10:1, 10, 14.
At this point, I would like you to read and memorize Galatians 2:20. Never forget it. This verse summarizes all Paul teaches us about sanctification in one verse. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Everything we will do that pleases God in our Christian life can be summed up by the phrase, “not I; but Christ.” It is Christ living in me, not my works or good deeds. Read these verses which also speak of the provision of Christ’s death (to render sin powerless) and the work of the Spirit of God in us.
I Peter 1:2 2 Thessalonians 2:13 Hebrews 2:13 Ephesians 5:26&27 Colossians 3:1-3
God, through His Spirit, gives us the strength to overcome, but it goes even further than that. He changes us from the inside, transforming us, changing us into the image of His Son, Christ. We must trust Him to do it. This is a process; begun by God, continued by God and completed by God.
Here is a list of promises to trust. Here is God doing what we cannot do, changing us and making us holy like Christ. Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing; that He which has begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 3:19&20 “being filled with all the fullness of God… according to the power that works in us.” How great is it that, “God is at work in us.”
Hebrews 13:20&21 “Now may the God of peace… make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ.” I Peter 5:10 “the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”
I Thessalonians 5:23&24 “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He Who calls you, Who also will do it.” The NASB says “He also will bring it to pass.”
Hebrews 12:2 tells us to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (NASB says perfecter).” I Corinthians 1:8&9 “God will confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful,” I Thessalonians 3:12&13 says God will “increase” and “establish your hearts unblameable at the coming of our Lord Jesus.”
I John 3:2 tells us “we will be like Him when we see Him as He is.” God will complete this when Jesus returns or we go to heaven when we die.
We have seen many verses which have indicated that sanctification is a process. Read Philippians 3:12-14 which says, “I have not already attained, neither am already perfect, but I press toward the goal of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” One commentary uses the word “pursue.” Not only is it a process but active participation is involved.
Ephesians 4:11-16 tells us that the church is to work together so we may “grow up in all things into Him Who is the Head – Christ.” Scripture also uses the word grow in I Peter 2:2, where we read this: “desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” Growing takes time.
This journey is also described as walking. Walking is a slow way of going; one step at a time; a process. I John talks about walking in the light (that is, the Word of God). Galatians says in 5:16 to walk in the Spirit. The two go hand in hand. In John 17:17 Jesus said “Sanctify them through the truth, thy word is truth.” The Word of God and the Spirit work together in this process. They are inseparable.
We are beginning to see action verbs a lot as we study this topic: walk, pursue, desire, etc. If you go back to Romans 6 and read it again you will see many of them: reckon, present, yield, don’t yield. Doesn’t this imply that there is something we must do; that there are commands to obey; effort required on our part.
Romans 6:12 states “let not sin therefore (that is, because of our position in Christ and the power of Christ in us) reign in your mortal bodies.” Verse 13 commands us to present our bodies to God, not to sin. It tells us not to be a “slave to sin.” These are our choices, our commands to obey; our ‘to do” list. Remember, we can’t do it by our own self effort but only through His power in us, but we must do it.
We must always remember it is only through Christ. I Corinthians 15:57 (NKJB) gives us this remarkable promise: ” thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our LORD JESUS CHRIST.” So even what we “do” is through Him, through the Spirit’s in working power. Philippians 4:13 tells us we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” So it is: JUST AS WE CAN’T DO ANYTHING WITHOUT HIM, WE CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH HIM.
God gives us the power to “do” whatever He asks us to do. Some believers call it the ‘resurrection” power as expressed in Romans 6:5 “we shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” Verse 11 says the power of God that raised Christ from the dead raises us to newness of life to serve God in this life.
Philippians 3:9-14 also expresses this as “that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” It is obvious from this verse that faith in Christ is vital. We must believe in order to be saved. We must also have faith in God’s provision for sanctification, ie. Christ’s death for us; faith in God’s power to work in us by the Spirit; faith that He gives us power to change and faith in God changing us. None of this is possible without faith. It connects us to God’s provision & power. God will sanctify us as we trust and obey. We must believe enough to act on the truth; enough to obey. Remember the chorus of the hymn:
“Trust and obey For there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus But to trust and obey.”
Other verses relating faith to this process (being changed by God’s power): Ephesians 1:19&20 “what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.”
Ephesians 3:19&20 says “that you may be filled with all the fullness of Christ.n Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” Hebrews 11:6 says “without faith it is impossible to please God.”
Romans 1:17 says “the just shall live by faith.” This, I believe, does not only refer to initial faith at salvation, but our day by day faith that connects us to all that God provides for our sanctification; our daily living and obeying and walking in faith.
See also: Philippians 3:9; Galatians 3:26, 11; Hebrews 10:38; Galatians 2:20; Romans 3:20-25; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 3:12&17
It takes faith to obey. Remember Galatians 3: 2&3 “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or hearing of faith… having begun in the Spirit are you now being made perfect in the flesh?” If you read the whole passage it refers to living by faith. Colossians 2:6 says “as you have therefore received Christ Jesus (by faith) so walk in Him.” Galatians 5:25 says “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
So as we begin to talk about our part; our obedience; as it were, our “to do” list, remember all we have learned. Without His Spirit we can do nothing, but by His Spirit He strengthens us as we obey; and that it is God Who changes us to make us holy as Christ is holy. Even in obeying it is still all of God – Him working in us. It is all of faith in Him. Remember our memory verse, Galatians 2:20. It is “NOT I, but Christ…I live by faith in the Son of God.” Galatians 5:16 says “walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
So we see there is still work for us to do. So when or how do we appropriate, take advantage of or take hold of God’s power. I believe it is proportional to our steps of obedience taken in faith. If we sit and do nothing, nothing will happen. Read James 1:22-25. If we ignore His Word (His instructions) and don’t obey, growth or change will not take place, i.e. if we see ourselves in the mirror of the Word as in James and go away and are not doers, we remain sinful and unholy. Remember I Thessalonians 4:7&8 says “Consequently he who rejects this is not rejecting man, but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.”
Part 3 will show us practical things we can “do” (i.e. be doers) in His strength. You must take these steps of obedient faith. Call it positive action.
Our Part (Part 3)
We have established that God wants to conform us to the image of His Son. God says that there is something we also must do. It requires obedience on our part.
There is no “magic” experience we can have that instantly transforms us. As we said, it is a process. Romans 1:17 says the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. 2 Corinthians 3:18 describes it as being transformed into Christ’s image, from glory to glory. 2 Peter 1:3-8 says we are to add one Christ-like virtue to another. John 1:16 describes it as “grace upon grace.”
We have seen that we can’t do it by self-effort or by trying to keep the law, but that it is God who changes us. We have seen that it begins when we are born again and is completed by God. God gives both the provision and the power for our day to day progression. We have seen in Romans chapter 6 that we are in Christ, in His death, burial and resurrection. Verse 5 says sin’s power has been rendered powerless. We are dead to sin and it shall not have dominion over us.
Because God also came to live in us, we have His power, so we can live in a way that pleases Him. We have learned that God Himself changes us. He promises to complete the work He began in us at salvation.
These are all facts. Romans 6 says that considering these facts we must begin to act on them. It takes faith to do this. Here begins our journey of faith or trusting obedience. The first “command to obey” is exactly that, faith. It says “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” Reckon means count on it, trust it, consider it to be true. This is an act of faith and is followed by other commands such as “yield, don’t let, and present.” Faith is counting on the power of what it means to be dead in Christ and God’s promise to work in us.
I am glad God doesn’t expect us to understand all of this completely, but only to”act” on it. Faith is the avenue of appropriating or connecting to or taking a hold of God’s provision and power.
Our victory is not achieved by our power to change ourselves, but it may be in proportion to our “faithful” obedience. When we “act,” God changes us and enables us to do what we can’t do; for example changing desires and attitudes; or changing sinful habits; giving us power to “walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4) He gives us “power” to reach the goal of victory. Read these verses: Philippians 3:9-13; Galatians 2:20-3:3; I Thessalonians 4:3; I Peter 2:24; I Corinthians 1:30; I Peter 1:2; Colossians 3:1-4 & 3:11&12 & 1:17; Romans 13:14 and Ephesians 4:15.
The following verses connect faith to our actions and our sanctification. Colossians 2:6 says, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus, so walk ye in Him. (We are saved by faith, so we are sanctified by faith.) All further steps in this process (walk) are contingent upon and can only be accomplished or attained by faith. Romans 1:17 says, “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” (That means one step at a time.) The word “walk” is often used of our experience. Romans 1:17 also says, “the just shall live by faith.” This is talking about our daily life as much as or more so than its beginning at salvation.
Galatians 2:20 says “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Romans 6 says in verse 12 “therefore” or because of reckoning ourselves as being “dead in Christ” we are now to obey the next commands. We now have a choice to obey daily and moment by moment as long as we live or until He returns.
It starts with a choice to yield. In Romans 6:12 the King James Version uses this word “yield” when it says “don’t yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness, but yield yourselves to God.” I believe yielding is a choice to relinquish control of your life to God. Other translations us the words “present” or “offer.” This is a choice to choose to give God control of our lives and offer ourselves to Him. We present (dedicate) ourselves to Him. (Romans 12:1&2) As at a yield sign, you give control of that intersection to another, we yield control to God. Yield means to allow Him to work in us; to ask for His help; to yield to His will, not ours. It is our choice to give the Holy Spirit control of our life and yield to Him. This is not just a one time decision but is continuous, daily, and moment by moment.
This is illustrated in Ephesians 5:18 “Be not drunk with wine; wherein is excess; but be filled with the Holy Spirit.: It is a deliberate contrast. When a person is drunk he is said to be controlled by alcohol (under the influence of it). In contrast we are told to be filled with the Spirit.
We are to be voluntarily under the control and influence of the Spirit. The most accurate way to translate the Greek verb tense is “be ye being filled with the Spirit” denoting a continuous relinquishment of our control to the control of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 6:11 says present the members of your body to God, not to sin. Verses 15&16 say we should present ourselves as slaves to God, not as slaves to sin. There is a procedure in the Old Testament by which a slave could make himself a slave to his master forever. It was a voluntary act. We should do this to God. Romans 12:1&2 says “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” This appears to be voluntary also.
In the Old Testament people and things were dedicated and set apart for God (sanctified) for His service in the temple by a special sacrifice and ceremony presenting them to God. Though our ceremony may be personal the sacrifice of Christ already sanctifies our gift. (2 Chronicles 29:5-18) Should we not, then, present ourselves to God once for all time and also daily. We should not present ourselves to sin at any time. We can only do this through the Holy Spirit’s strength. Bancroft in Elemental Theology suggests that when things were consecrated to God in the Old Testament God often sent down fire to receive the offering. Perhaps in our present day consecration (giving ourselves as a gift to God as a living sacrifice) will cause the Spirit to work in us in a special way to give us power over sin and to live for God. (Fire is a word often associated with the Holy Spirit’s power.) See Acts 1:1-8 and 2:1-4.
We must continue to give ourselves to God and obey him on a daily basis, bringing each revealed failure into conformity to God’s will. This is how we become mature. To understand what God wants in our lives and to see our failures we must search the Scriptures. The word light is often used to describe the Bible. The Bible can do many things and one is to light our way and reveal sin. Psalm 119:105 says “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Reading the Word of God is part of our “to do” list.
The Word of God is probably the most important thing God has given us in our journey toward holiness. 2 Peter 1:2&3 says “According as His power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him that has called us to glory and virtue.” It says everything we need is through the knowledge of Jesus and the only place to find such knowledge is in God’s Word.
2 Corinthians 3:18 carries this even further by saying, ” We all, with unveiled face beholding, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” Here it gives us something to do. God by His Spirit will change us, transform us a step at a time, if we are beholding Him. James refers to Scripture as a mirror. So we need to behold Him in the only obvious place we can, the Bible. William Evans in “The Great Doctrines of the Bible” says this on page 66 about this verse: “The tense is interesting here: We are being transformed from one degree of character or glory to another.”
The writer of the hymn “Take Time to Be Holy” must have understood this when he wrote:n”By looking to Jesus, Like Him thou shalt be, The friends in thy conduct, His likeness shall see.”
The conclusion to this of course is I John 3:2 when “we shall be like Him, when we see Him as He is.” Even though we don’t understand how God does this, if we obey by reading and studying the Word of God, He will do His part of transforming, changing, completing and finishing His work. 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) says to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The NIV says to be one “who rightly handles the word of truth.”
It is commonly and jokingly said at times that when we spend time with someone we begin to “look” like them, but it is often true. We do tend to mimic people we spend time with, acting and talking like them. For instance, we might mimic an accent (like we do if we move to a new area of the country), or we might mimic hand gestures or other mannerisms. Ephesians 5:1 tells us “Be ye imitators or Christ as dear children.” Children love to mimic or imitate and so we should mimic Christ. Remember we do this by spending time with Him. Then we will copy His life, character and values; His very attitudes and attributes.
John 15 talks about spending time with Christ in a different way. It says we should abide in Him. Part of abiding is to spend time studying Scripture. Read John 15:1-7. Here it says “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you.” These two things are inseparable. It means more than just cursory reading, it means reading, thinking about it and putting it into practice. That the opposite is also true is apparent from the verse “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (I Corinthians 15:33) So pick carefully where and with whom you spend time.
Colossians 3:10 says the new self is to be “renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. John 17:17 says “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Here is expressed the absolute necessity of the Word in our sanctification. The Word specifically shows us (as in a mirror) where the flaws are and where we need to change. Jesus also said in John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Romans 7:13 says “But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.” We know what God wants through the Word. So we must fill our minds with it. Romans 12:2 entreats us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We need to turn from thinking the world’s way to thinking God’s way. Ephesians 4:22 says to be “renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Philippians 2:5 sys “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Scripture reveals what is the mind of Christ. There is no other way to learn these things than to saturate ourselves with the Word.
Colossians 3:16 tells us to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Colossians 3:2 tells us to “set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth.” This is more than just thinking about them but also asking God to put His desires into our hearts and minds. 2 Corinthians 10:5 admonishes us, saying “casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
Scripture teaches us everything we need to know about God the Father, God the Spirit and God the Son. Remember it tells us “all we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us.” 2 Peter 1:3 God tells us in I Peter 2:2 that we grow as Christians through learning the Word. It says “As newborn babies, desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby.” The NIV translates it this way, “that you may grow up in your salvation.” It is our spiritual food. Ephesians 4:14 indicates that God wants us to be mature, not babies. I Corinthians 13:10-12 talks about putting away childish things. In Ephesians 4:15 He wants us to “GROW UP IN ALL THINGS INTO HIM.”
The Scripture is powerful. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “The word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” God also says in Isaiah 55:11 that when His word is spoken or written or in any way is sent out into the world it will accomplish the work it is intended to do; it will not return void. As we have seen, it will convict of sin and will convince people of Christ; it will bring them to a saving knowledge of Christ.
Romans 1:16 says the gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Corinthians says “the message of the cross…is to us who are being saved…the power of God.” In much the same way it can convict and convince the believer.
We have seen that 2 Corinthians 3:18 and James 1:22-25 refer to the Word of God as a mirror. We look into a mirror to see what we are like. I once taught a Vacation Bible School course entitled “See Yourself in God’s Mirror.” I also know a chorus which describes the Word as a “mirror our lives to see.” Both express the same idea. When we look into the Word, reading and studying it as we should, we see ourselves. It will often show us sin in our life or some way in which we fall short. James tells us what we should not do when we see ourselves. “If any one is not a doer he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror, for he observes his face, goes away and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” Similar to this is when we say that the Word of God is light. (Read John 3:19-21 and I John 1:1-10.) John says we should walk in the light, seeing ourselves as revealed in the light of God’s Word. It tells us that when the light reveals sin we need to confess our sin. That means to admit or acknowledge what we have done and admit it is sin. It does not mean to plead or beg or do some good deed to earn our forgiveness from God but to simply agree with God and acknowledge our sin.
There is really good news here. In verse 9 God says that if we but confess our sin, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin,’ but not only that but “to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This means He cleanses us from sin we are not even conscious or aware of. If we fail, and sin again, we need to confess it again, as often as necessary, until we are victorious, and we are no longer tempted.
However, the passage also tells us that if we don’t confess, our fellowship with the Father is broken and we will continue to fail. If we obey He will change us, if we don’t we won’t change. In my opinion this is the most important step in sanctification. I think this is what we do when Scripture says to put off or put aside sin, as in Ephesians 4:22. Bancroft in Elemental Theology says of 2 Corinthians 3:18 “we are being transformed from one degree of character or glory to another.” Part of that process is to see ourselves in God’s mirror and we must confess the faults we see. It takes some effort on our part to stop our bad habits. The power to change comes through Jesus Christ. We must trust Him and ask Him to the part we cannot do.
Hebrews 12:1&2 says we should ‘lay aside…the sin which so easily ensnares us… looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” I think this is what Paul meant when he said in Romans 6:12 not to let sin reign in us and what he meant in Romans 8:1-15 about allowing the Spirit to do His work; to walk in the Spirit or to walk in the light; or any of the other ways God explains the co-operative work between our obedience and trusting in God’s work through the Spirit. Psalm 119:11 tells us to memorize Scripture. It says “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.” John 15:3 says “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” The Word of God will remind us both not to sin and will convict us when we do sin.
There are many other verses to help us. Titus 2:11-14 says to: 1. Deny ungodliness. 2. Live godly in this present age. 3. He will redeem us from every lawless deed. 4. He will purify for Himself His own special people.
2 Corinthians 7:1 says to cleanse ourselves. Ephesians 4:17-32 and Colossians 3:5-10 lists some sins we need to quit. It gets very specific. The positive part (our action) comes in Galatians 5:16 which tells us to walk in the Spirit. Ephesians 4:24 tells us to put on the new man.
Our part is described both as walking in the light and as walking in the Spirit. Both the Four Gospels and the Epistles are full of positive actions we should do. These are actions we are commanded to do such as “love,” or “pray” or “encourage.”
In possibly the best sermon I have ever heard, the speaker said love is something you do; as opposed to something you feel. Jesus told us in Matthew 5:44 “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I think such actions describe what God means when He commands us to “walk in the Spirit,” doing what He commands us while at the same time we trust Him to change our inward attitudes such as anger or resentment.
I really think that if we occupy ourselves with doing the positive actions God commands, we will find ourselves with far less time to get into trouble. It has a positive effect on how we feel as well. As Galatians 5:16 says “walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Romans 13:14 says “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”
Another aspect to consider: God will chasten and correct His children if we continue to follow a path of sin. That path leads to destruction in this life, if we do not confess our sin. Hebrews 12:10 says He chastens us “for our profit, that we might be made partakers of His holiness.” Verse 11 says “afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” Read Hebrews 12:5-13. Verse 6 says “For whom the Lord loves He chastens.” Hebrews 10:30 says the “Lord will judge His people.” John 15:1-5 says He prunes the vines so they will bear more fruit.
If you find yourself in this situation go back to I John 1:9, acknowledge and confess your sin to Him as often as you need to and start again. I Peter 5:10 says, “May God…after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.” Discipline teaches us perseverance and steadfastness. Remember, however, that confession may not remove consequences. Colossians 3:25 says, “He who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.” I Corinthians 11:31 says “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.” Verse 32 adds, “When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined.”
This process of becoming like Christ will continue as long as we live in our earthly body. Paul says in Philippians 3:12-15 that he had not already attained, neither was he already perfect, but he would continue to press on and pursue the goal. 2 Peter 3:14 and 18 say we should “be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” and to “grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
I Thessalonians 4:1, 9&10 tell us to “abound more and more” and “increase more and more” in love toward others. Another translation says to “excel still more.” 2 Peter 1:1-8 tells us to add one virtue to another. Hebrews 12:1&2 says we should run the race with endurance. Hebrews 10:19-25 encourages us to continue and never give up. Colossians 3:1-3 says to”set our minds on things above.” This means to put it there and keep it there.
Remember it is God who is doing this as we obey. Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in will perform it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Bancroft in Elemental Theology says on page 223 ” Sanctification begins at the inception of the believer’s salvation and is co-extensive with his life on earth and will reach its climax and perfection when Christ returns.” Ephesians 4:11-16 says being a part of a local group of believers will help us reach this goal as well. “till we all come…to a perfect man …that we may grow up into him,” and that the body “grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Titus 2:11&12 “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” I Thessalonians 5:22-24 “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”