Oftentimes in my dealings with brothers striving to grow in Christ, without a doubt, the single-most difficult thing to do is to get them to STOP STRIVING! There is a monumental difference between knowing philosophically and theologically what Christ’s finished work has accomplished for believers and knowing the same experientially. You can grasp the concepts of His benefits quite easily as it is laid out on paper (scriptures…..black and white along with the red letters), however, if you engage fleshly, carnal energy in order to bring those benefits to bear in your life, you will become extremely frustrated. The Life which belongs to the believer, if truly born again, is not the believer’s life with God being worked in as much as possible.
No! The Life which belongs to the believer, if truly born again, is Christ’s Life working through a dead (to his own animated life) man which has been risen with Christ. Their is no mixture or confluence of our sinful life touching Life that is permissible and/or effective in a believer’s pursuit to grow in Christ, lifting Him off the pages of the B-I-B-L-E and coming to KNOW Him experientially.
Not understanding what God HAS DONE in and through Christ is one of the most severe stumbling blocks a brother can face in his walk. The adversary will continually load the misinformed believer down with care, anxiousness and, eventually discouragement through his own generated effort. As long as their remains something for the believer to DO or perform in and through the strength of his own flesh and soul, striving – NOT LIVING – will persist along with its dastardly consequences; i.e. guilt, frustration, doubt, recycled sin patterns, etc. Until a believer understands that his flesh is to be crucified and his soul converted rather than validated, there will be problems with striving in their faith, instead of walking in the freedom Christ has given.
This week, I have held conversations, lengthy ones, with two brothers who are pressing, striving and grinding in their “faith” in order to “make something happen”. As I spoke with them, I could hear the weariness in their voice and sense the doubt framing their words. I so desperately desired to be with them physically rather than over the phone so that I could embrace them and encourage them to just REST!
After the discourses with the two brothers, I began to ponder about my own experience in coming to know him experientially rather than theologically. Exactly, where was it in my walk that I began to differentiate between understanding concepts that I couldn’t translate into my existence and truly understanding Him and relating to Him in such a way that I began to experience what Father is after………..being conformed to the image of the Son?
I could list several aspects of the journey that dislodged me from being stuck in my walk and launched me forward into advancing the things Father had already prepared for me to enter into. I can’t make a single point the most dominant or lay out a 7 Step Formula. I believe there is an overall process that every believer must walk through which is their own unique and personal experience to gain Christ. I simply believe that the “cookie cutter approach” or the “one size fits all” mentality that is perpetrated on believers through religious structures is extremely detrimental to the cause of Christ being formed in a believer. For too long now, we’ve kept believers bound to the Bible and our principles and teachings rather than introducing them to a resurrected, living Christ that can bring about change that is required. Undoubtedly, there are undeniable truths that exist in scripture but when we choose to INDOCTRINATE believers according to our own doctrine and seek to contain them therein, we fail to actually EDUCATE them in knowing Christ. Sorry, that is an entirely different topic.
The first thing I thought of regarding my experience was a nasty little word called – brokenness. I apologize but there simply isn’t any other way around it. It’s like the old camp song, “can’t go around it”… “can’t go under it”… “can’t go over it”…..”YOU GOTTA GO THROUGH IT!” This breaking is the death to self that is required to engage authentic Christ-like growth. It is actually what we sign up for when we receive Him and that which we testify to when we submit to water baptism. This is also one of the basics that isn’t accurately taught to believers now-a-days. Check ANY biblical figure given to us for an example and you will see a humility developed through brokenness.
Through that brokenness, I learned the value of true repentance. Basically, emptying my head knowledge of who I thought God was and asking Him to reveal Himself to me in the manner in which He wanted me to know Him. Enter the writings of T. Austin-Sparks and many other men who lived way before my time. Rather than being indoctrinated into a form of religion, I was able to allow the Holy Spirit to educate me about God and there was a grace existing within my studying that I had never known before that time. Religious strongholds were assaulted and brought down in my mind and theology. My foundation was destroyed and inaccurate things removed while proper elements were laid. All Christ, as I had never seen or experienced Him before.
Then, I thought of relationships that were formed in order to help me sort out and walk through what had been given to me. These relationships weren’t based upon systems, climbing the religious ladder or finding somewhere to “use my gifts or anointing”. These relationships were birthed by the Spirit and they were and still are authentic, symbiotic, edifying relationships that transacts Christ. Spiritual fathers, sons and brothers have been added to my life and involvement in corporate expressions of His Body have been invaluable to my growth.
There are a variety of different elements to which I could allude that have been significant in my transition. However, as I thought about it the other day, one element in particular kept coming to mind as it related to the two brothers I spoke with on the phone . At this point, I’d like to submit it to you for your consideration. Understanding that there are two covenants, understanding the difference between the two covenants and understanding what that means to me as a follower of Christ was a game-changer for me!
I read a book years ago by Andrew Murray entitled, The Two Covenants. Long story short, this book helped me to stop struggling to try and change myself and helped me to understand what Christ had done for me. There is an answer for the striving that most believers experience as the reality of their spiritual walk. That answer, as it is for every other question, is Jesus Christ.
I will leave you with a short passage from Murray’s treatise for you to peruse. My prayer is that it will bless and encourage you while enticing you to look deeper into the salvation that you have been given and trust the quality of Life that has been seeded into you.
There are two covenants, one called the Old, the other the New. God speaks of this very distinctly in Jeremiah, where He says, “The days come, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, not after the covenant I made with their fathers” (Jer. xxxi) This is quoted in Hebrews, with the addition, “In that, He saith a new covenant, He hath made the first old.” Our Lord spoke Himself of the New Covenant in His blood. In His dealings with His people, in His working out of His great redemption, it has pleased God that there should be two covenants.
It has pleased Him, not as an arbitrary appointment, but for good and wise reasons, which made it indispensably necessary that is should be so, and no otherwise. The clearer our insight into the reasons of the Divine reasonableness, of there thus being two covenants, and into their relation to each other, the more full and true can be our own personal apprehension of what the New Covenant is meant to be to us. They indicate two stages of God’s dealings with man; two ways of serving God, a lower or elementary one of preparation and promise, a higher or more advanced one of fulfillment and possession. As that in which the true excellency of the second consists is opened to us, we can spiritually enter into what God has prepared for us. Let us try and understand why there should have been two, neither less or more.
The reason is to be found in the fact that, in religion, in all intercourse between God and man, there are two parties, and that each of those must have the opportunity to prove what their part is in the Covenant. In the Old Covenant man had the opportunity given to him to prove what he can do, with the aid of all the means of grace God could bestow. That Covenant ended in man proving his own unfaithfulness and failure.
In the New Covenant, God is to prove what He can do with man, all unfaithful and feeble as he is, when He is allowed and trusted to do all the work. The Old Covenant was one dependent on man’s obedience, one which he could break and did break. (Jeremiah xxxi. 32) The New Covenant was one which God has engaged and shall never be broken. He Himself keeps it and ensures our keeping it; so He makes it an Everlasting Covenant.
Keep your peace!