The Struggles of the Believer (Part Thirteen)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7 CSB).

The fifth cause of a believer’s struggles about “that one sin” can be summed up by this way: The cause of trouble is the failure to realize the believer’s union with Jesus Christ. The basic teaching about the believer is that he or she is “in Christ”. For example think of 2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (NIV) The fullest teaching of this truth is found in Romans 5-6 and Ephesians 1-3. “Wear out” those pages of your Bible if you need to, but learn this truth. It is found throughout the New Testament letters, for example, Colossians 3:3. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (CSB). We must know that we are in Christ in order to live correctly in God’s presence. The Holy God desires that his children enjoy the riches of his love, joy, and peace, and this way of life comes from the assurance that being in Christ provides.

You must lay hold of the truth that God looks at your and accepts you because you are in Christ. His righteousness has been credited to your account by grace through faith in him. You have the fullest liberty to approach him in faith in Christ—even when you have sinned. Nothing can shake your standing in Christ. You do not need “to work yourself up into good feelings” about your spiritual position. You simply need to trust the Lord’s promises in the word. We too easily slip into a “performance righteousness” and resultant feelings of acceptance after we have sinner. It is too easy to think that “God doesn’t really like me” until we have a “proven track record”. It is not that we would claim that our perfect obedience is the basis of our acceptance. “Oh, we would never do that! Horrors!” It is simply that we want to feel good about ourselves before we feel worthy to ask for forgiveness and then live boldly in God’s presence. And this is practical, functional, performance righteousness that denies the gospel in our walk with God.

This is the test that we really our trusting in Christ and his righteousness and not in our merits or ourselves. If you have been relying on your good works and what a sweet, lovable person you are to “get God to like you”, then what will you do when convinced of the guilt of your sin, when you no longer feel sweet and lovable, and can’t boast about what good things you have done? But if you confess that Jesus Christ came into the world to save the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and that your only hope and ground of boasting is in him, then you can glory and rejoice in Him. You can say, “I know I have sinned, but I also know a trustworthy saying!” Then in faith you will be able to give glory to your King!

What is your confidence, what is your boast today? Run away from self-reliance and run to the Lord Jesus Christ. Bow before him, and rely upon his grace and mercy. O that God would give   you joy in the Lord!

Grace and peace, David

Holy Desires (Part Five)

2 Timothy 2:22

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (NIV).

This verse gives wise counsel. However, we must understand wise counsel wisely. Good and godly teaching can be misunderstood and misapplied. We see that every follower of Jesus Christ is to avoid the evil desires of youth. Here is the necessity of an ongoing repentance. If you think that you are going to make an “once for all turn” in this matter, you are deeply mistaken. Sin must be put to death continually. Occasionally, we hear testimonies of people who were involved in outward, socially unacceptable, life-dominating sins. After coming to Christ, they profess that they have never fallen into that sin again. All right, we know that such conversions happen. But we need to make a few clarifications.

  • They are not delivered from all sins. Listen to the apostle John. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John 1:8-10 CSB). Being freed from one or a couple life-dominating sins is not the same as escaping from the influence of every sin. Spiritual warfare is not against one sin but all sins.
  • Failure to realize how extensive are the effects of sin in us can produce pride that can devastate a person spiritually. Supposing themselves free from a few sins can blind them to the seductions of many others. Free people in Christ must offer themselves to God as servants to righteousness (cf. Romans 6:14-22).
  • Part of the problem is that many have a “short check list” view of sins. This develops through an overemphasis and misunderstanding of the Ten Commandments, which are exalted over many other parts of the Bible. They are not the ethical summary of the Bible, but the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai (Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 4:13; etc.) This wrong view also develops the consequent wrong assumption that sin is mainly a breaking of a few prohibitions.
  • There is no “instant godliness”, though we all wish that it was that easy. We must seek help from the Lord on a daily basis (Matthew 26:41). The life of faith involves a daily reception of grace from the Lord (John 15:1-8).

Part of the growth process involves self-control. By the Spirit, we must shun youthful desires. For example, there are countless internet sites and phone apps, but there are many that we should never go to. Taking the apps off the phone and unsubscribing from certain YouTube channels is part of self-control. Some places simply fuel wrong desires, and I do mean only wrong sexual desires. Shopping apps can fuel greed in anyone’s heart.

Another important matter is how we view ourselves. While we realize how easily sin can entangle any follower of Jesus Christ, God’s people should not view themselves as “sinners”. We are in Christ, and we ought to find our identity in him. (Read Ephesians about ten times!) We flee the evil desires of youth, not as “sinners” but as “saints”, as those already set apart for the enjoyment of God and his glory. We are new in Christ. How can we get involved in the evil desires of youth?

Grace and peace, David

The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Part Twelve)


Romans 8:9-10

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this one is not his. But if Christ is in you, on the one hand the body is dead because of sin, but on the other, the Spirit is life because of righteousness (my translation).

“Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation not only in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ” (Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p. 161). At the moment we are united to Christ, several blessings become ours. While we lack space in this article to comment on them, it is worth listing them, so that we know the richness of what it means to be in Christ.

  • We become part of the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). To say this another way, we participate in Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:11-12; 3:1-4).
  • We are justified or declared right with God (Romans 3:24; 8:1) and our sins are forgiven (Colossians 1:14).
  • We are adopted, with the position of adult sons in God’s family (Galatians 3:26; Ephesians 1:5). This supplies a relationship with God and his people in a family sense. We belong to God and one another.
  • We are sanctified or set apart to God (1 Corinthians 1:2). Since we are sanctified, we have a basis to live lives set apart for the glory of God.
  • We are sealed with the Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 4:30). Our spiritual position is secure.
  • We are called into fellowship with God (1 Corinthians 1:9).
  • We have the privilege of bold access to God (Ephesians 3:12). The throne of grace is always open for us.
  • We have God’s grace for strength (2 Timothy 2:1).
  • We have freedom (Galatians 2:4; 5:1). God has released us from bondage to sin, Satan, and the law covenant, so that we can freely serve one another in love.
  • We are seated in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6). This provides security in the tumult and spiritual warfare of this world.
  • We are built into God’s temple, the church (Ephesians 2:19-22). In addition, we become part of a holy priesthood to serve God through Christ (1 Peter 2:5).
  • We have fullness (Colossians 2:10). We have all we need for life and godliness. We’re already equipped for a spiritual journey and not on a quest to become equipped.

Since we have all these blessings in Christ, what kind of people should we be?

The reality of being in Christ by this Spirit-produced union is the essence of salvation, from first to last. Every step from before the beginning of the world through all the ages of future glory is by grace through our union with Christ. The Holy Spirit applies these blessings to us.

  • We were elected in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-4)
  • We have redemption in Christ (Ephesians 1:7)
  • We are a new creation in Christ (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Our present life is in Christ (Galatians 2:20; cf. 1 Corinthians 16:12-20)
  • We die in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
  • Our resurrection is in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:22)
  • We will share in Christ’s glory (Romans 8:17)

Are you united to the Lord Jesus Christ? Are these benefits yours? Why should you live in spiritual death and poverty when you can be a child of the King? God offers you great blessings. Will you turn your back on him and refuse him? I plead with you; do not act so foolishly. Trust in Christ today for salvation.  If you know the Lord and are in Christ, live by faith in the power of the Spirit as richly blessed people ought to live.

Grace and peace, David

The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Part Eleven)


Romans 8:9-10

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this one is not his. But if Christ is in you, on the one hand the body is dead because of sin, but on the other, the Spirit is life because of righteousness (my translation).

Previously in our series on the Holy Spirit, we considered from the Scriptures our need of the Holy Spirit’s work; namely, we were dead in sin. Next, we saw how the Spirit met this need by regenerating grace. This grace involved a washing and renewal (Titus 3:5) and conveyed an image or likeness unto God (Colossians 3:10). When the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to cause us to be born again, four things happen: He gives a new heart (inner person) and spiritual life; he gives the gifts of repentance and faith; he breaks the power of sin; and he opens our hearts to Christ and his glory. The old person of the heart that was dead in sin is born again, so that we are now new in Jesus Christ.

“In Christ” is the key idea of salvation. All aspects of salvation, whether regeneration and conversion, or justification, or adoption, or sanctification, or glorification, happen because of our union with the Lord Jesus Christ. How do we come into saving union with the Lord Jesus Christ? Let us look at our text.

At the time of salvation, the Holy Spirit joins the believer to Christ. When we are saved, the Spirit enters the inner person of the heart and brings about union with the Lord Christ. This is a spiritual reality, and it cannot be perceived by our senses. But we know this happens on the authority of God’s word. In fact, we can say this: It is a serious error to equate this act of spiritual union with certain physical manifestations or acts. (See Edwards on the Religious Affections.) There might be physical effects, but they are not an essential part of this event. This is one reason not to compare your conversion experience too closely to another believer. The Spirit works the same new birth, but there are various emotional effects.

When the Spirit enters a person, he effectively calls us to Christ; he unites us to Christ, so that we are “in Christ”, or as Paul states in verse ten, Christ is “in us”. Notice that the apostle speaks interchangeably of being “in Christ” and “in the Spirit”. This is not because of confusion about the Trinity in his thinking, but it flows from the truth of Jesus Christ as the Ascended Lord, and so the giver of the promised Holy Spirit. The Spirit mediates the presence of Christ, and the Father, to us (cf. John 14:18, 23).

A basic definition of a Christian is to have the Holy Spirit of God living in the inner person of the heart. “However much we may need to grow in our relationship to the Spirit; however much we may be graciously given fresh and invigorating experiences of God’s Spirit, from the moment of conversion on, the Holy Spirit is a settled resident within” (Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 490).

Observe that the Spirit “lives” within us. He is active, residing in our hearts. He gets involved in changing us to become increasingly like Christ. He does not like unChrist-like activity and he will let you know his displeasure. He does like righteousness, peace and joy, and he will also let you know his pleasure in them.

This saving union with Christ produced by the Spirit is the basic experience of salvation (2 Timothy 2:10; Colossians 2:10). This is a practical matter.  “To the degree you understand union with Christ, to that degree you will understand the Biblical concept of salvation. Pause right now and ask God to make the doctrine of union with Christ a reality to your heart as well as to your mind… Every spiritual blessing which is necessary for our full salvation and which renders us complete in grace flows out of and is derived from our union with Christ” (Morey, The Saving Work of Christ, pp. 87-88, his emphasis). Understanding this will contribute much to a proper focus on Christ in our relationship with the Lord and his people. We will have confidence before God, since we are in Christ. We will accept one another because we are jointly in Christ. As we think on this reality, we will sense how sin is an ugly violation of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Instead, we will desire to know the Lord better and to stay close to him.

Grace and peace, David