Jesus promised us a new life full of peace, joy and abundance. His Word offers the assurance of power over sin. By receiving a new life and a new nature we can leave the past behind. We are offered an incredible future with a divine destiny. As a matter of fact, Paul said, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:20.
When I was first saved I read a simple book by Watchman Nee called “The Normal Christian Life.” It was written around the idea that believers who live the quality of life I have described are not special, nor are they above average. They are living what should be the normal Christian life. Anything less is subnormal. 2 Corinthians 1:20 has been one of the cornerstone scriptures of my life. This is the promise that exceeds and includes every individual promise. Because we are in Jesus we could and should have every promise that God ever made to anyone. That should be normal for the Christian.
It was this scripture that gave me the courage to find my healing from kidney disease in 1983. It was this scripture that led me out of incredible financial debt and into a life of abundance. It is this scripture that has given me the confidence to pick myself up and move ahead every time I have fallen. I am qualified for every benefit of God’s Kingdom because I am in Jesus. (Colossians 1:12) All of His promises are yes for me. I don’t even need to ask. He has already said it!
When we got saved we all had the hope of living a new life. Most of us had the hope of becoming a new person. One thing I was sure of, I could not live a new life if I was the same old person. I was my problem. I was the common denominator in all my conflicts. I had to die. There had to be a new me! A makeover would not do. I came to Jesus knowing that I was the problem. I knew I could not have the new and cling to the old. I did not want the old. I did not want to continue being who I was. I have occasionally forgotten that reality. When I did, I wandered off the course and remembered what it was like to be the old me. I was quickly reacquainted with the pain of the past.
Pain should never be our teacher. The Word and the Spirit should be our teacher. However, when we will not listen to the voice of God, we always end up in pain. That pain is the fruit of our foolishness. Proverbs 17:10 says, “A reproof enters more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.” Stripes are the consequences of foolishness. Proverbs says that stripes are for the back of a fool. At this point you may be wondering, “What is a fool?” A fool is someone who will not learn by instruction. They only pay attention when faced with consequences. Unfortunately, the foolish will often ignore the pain and continue in their foolishness.
A large percentage of Christians spend their life cycling through problems that never get resolved. As a matter of fact, few Christians ever gain real absolute victory over some of their most troubling issues. Too many people spend their life going through an incredibly painful process that never seems to end.
For 30 years I have watched good people try the wrong things and never get the desired results. The cycle usually goes like this: We get saved and we are incredibly committed and excited about God. It goes good for a while. Then at some point it seems that we lose that thing that Apostle John called “our first love.” We usually “try harder.” We find formulas, read books and put forth great effort to recover what we lost. If this continues long enough we get discouraged and then we allow sin to creep back into our life. We find ourselves “caving in” to the same old problems we once escaped. Subsequently guilt and shame flood our conscience. We often go through a process of justifying ourselves or blaming others.
Some quit trying. They just openly backslide. Others keep up the façade, but have no real life inwardly. Usually we live in pain and misery for a while. When we can stand it no more, we rededicate. We try as hard as we can and eventually repeat the cycle.
I have heard all kinds of “strange doctrines” about why this happens. It usually goes something like this: You go to your pastor. You tell him/her your dilemma. The advice that follows usually goes like this, “When you were first saved you were just a babe in Christ. Because you were a baby God helped you a lot. He did a lot of things for you. Now that you have grown, He expects you to stand on your own two feet. It is just time for you to grow up.” As logical as that advice may sound, it is completely unscriptural. God never said you could do this on your own. He never said He wanted you to stop depending on Him. As a matter of fact, the moment we begin to depend on our own strength, we are doomed to fall back into our old patterns.
Our walk with God should not become less fulfilling with time. It should be more fulfilling. The depths of peace, joy and empowerment do not wane as the years go by. They grow as we sink our roots deeper and deeper into God’s great love. We will spend eternity growing in the knowledge and experience of God.
Fallen From Grace
The real reason we fall into the cycle with seemingly no escape is that we have “fallen from grace!” Paul said, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:1,5. The Galatian believers had been seduced. They had started out with an incredible relationship with the Lord. But they began to listen to people who told them what they must do to please God. The harder they tried, the further they seemed to push themselves away from God. They were in the cycle! They got virtually the same advice that most of us received in our time of need. They were told that there was something else they needed to do in order to please God. They were advised to try harder. They were told that they simply were not righteous enough.
This is the most bizarre advice one could ever give or receive. If Jesus gave us righteousness, we are as righteous as we could ever be. IF what He gave us is not enough, what more could we do. Paul asked, “This only I want to learn from you: 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 being made perfect by the flesh?” Galatians 3:2-3.
In other words, when you first got saved and God poured His Spirit in you, did it happen because you believed or because you earned it? The answer is obvious. We did nothing to get saved. We merely believe the truth. For most of us those early days of salvation were incredible. Our prayers were answered. God’s presence was real. We lived a supernatural life. If all that happened by believing the promises of God, why not simply believe the promises of God as we did then?
The Galatians, like us, were seduced into believing the law would make them righteous if they would work hard enough at it. Paul, on the other hand, told them they had neutralized grace. (Galatians 2:21) They were still saved, but they had reached a place where Christ was of no value to them. He was benefiting them nothing in this life. They were void of God’s power.
When we got saved we knew we did not deserve anything from God. We knew we had done nothing to please Him other than believe the truth. We knew we were unable to “live right.” Most of us prayed a simple prayer that went something like this, “If you’ll have me I’ll give you my life.” Then miraculously our lives changed. Our prayers were answered. God was alive in our heart. And it was all done without any merit on our part. It was the product of making a life commitment and trusting God. But it all worked.
When we stopped depending whole-heartedly on God, when we started trying to work our formulas, we lost the power of His presence. Victory eluded us and we began the cycle. We’ve got to find our way back to that simple faith we had in the beginning. When we got saved very few of us were told the one essential truth that had the power to give us a life of stability, the one truth from which all other truth emerges. People told us to accept Jesus as our Savior. Some even told us we should accept Him as Lord. But few of us were ever told that Jesus would be our righteousness.
The Gospel should reveal the righteousness of God by faith from first to last, from beginning to end. Righteousness does not begin by faith and finish by works. We don’t start this journey on one set of rules and finish on another. Jesus is our righteousness from the first to the last day. Accepting Him as our righteousness empowers us to live righteous. Every promise must give us hope because it is rooted in the righteousness of Jesus. Jesus’ righteousness qualified us for the born again experience, healing, prosperity, peace and all of the other promises of God. The moment we look to our righteousness, our formulas, our schemes, we lose empowerment. We alienate ourselves from God’s power, (grace); we are in the cycle.
We don’t have to live in the cycle. Life should be a continual growth in knowing and experiencing the love and power of God. The key is building our entire life around the finished work of Jesus. Break the cycle! Weave faith-righteousness into the fabric of your life. Let His righteousness give you peace and faith for every challenge.
The preceding article was based on a four-tape series entitled “Breaking the Cycle.”