Sin-Conscious or Christ-Abiding

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It’s false humility – really self-righteousness – to go around sin-conscious. Not only that, it’s a slap in the face to the One who cried, “It is finished,” and to Paul, who said, “And you are complete in Him.” That sort of sin-consciousness, where we go around thinking, “I’m sinning. I’m always sinning. Why? Because I’m a sinner” becomes a rationale for more sinning.

To the contrary, “It is God’s will that you should be holy.” This holiness is burdensome to us only because we think “I’ve gotta do it,” when really it is Christ who is our holiness – not positionally or “in God’s mind” but actually, a present-tense, here-and-now holiness that is totally accessible to us at any time through the channel of faith. If we are tempted to unholy attitudes or actions, we can recognize our oneness with Christ – that He is living in us in an indivisible union through which everything that He IS belongs to us, and everything that we are as vessels belongs to Him.

But in order for this communication of His life to flow we let go of an independent “I” that has to perform, and we recognize that it is Christ Himself in us who is our Life. We also let go of the idea that there is an independent “I” in us that runs around and commits sin.

Righteousness is the possession and character of one Person, God, expressed in His Son, Jesus Christ, and given to us as our own possession not as a thing to be possessed but in the Person of the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, sin is the possession and character of one person – Satan. He is the originator of it; he was the one who said, “I will be my own god; I will rule myself.” Jesus said to the self righteous, “You are of your father, the devil, and his lusts you will do.” They weren’t doing their own lusts, but Satan’s.

1Jo 3:2-10 illuminates this:

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”

After this passage John delineates what it looks like to live from Christ; it’s loving in deed and in truth, not just in words. But it’s really Christ loving through us. “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” As we rely, believe, trust, exercise faith in the name – the power, authority, uniqueness, identity – of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, we love one another. Because it is His love coming through us.

Think about it – John here flies in the face of much modern theology of “I sin because I’m a sinner.” Believe me, I used to live in that consciousness on a constant basis – the life of Romans 7. John is here showing why a believer cannot sin and feel ok about it. It’s because we are committing spiritual adultery, having a form of godliness but denying its power by saying “Jesus died to pay my sin debt” and then not relying on His indwelling Life.

When we sin, we are really allowing our humanity to be used by the devil for his sinning.

When we ‘righteous’, we are allowing Christ to live through us.

Behavior is produced by the identity we are believing in, relying on – the identity we are “giving ourselves to,” if we want to use God’s symbol of the marriage union.

As blood-bought, blood-washed believers, when we give ourselves to the sinner-identity, we are committing adultery with Satan, with the subsequent fruit of it: Sin. We are saying, “I am an independent self. I choose good and evil.” And what happens with that false identity is that Satan gets his marionette strings hooked into us and works us like puppets – from the outside in, since we’re believers. We’re committing spiritual adultery when we sin.

When we give ourselves over to the One who gave Himself for us, believing, trusting Him, relying on Him and the new Name we have been given in this marriage union – His very own Name, with all its attendant authority and power, love, security, worth, and meaning – when we give ourselves to this One, He begets righteousness through us.

That’s the essential fact on sin and righteousness. They do not originate in us. We give ourselves to one or the other in Satan or Jesus Christ, and they produce through us.

This is not dualism. God and Satan are not equal powers. Satan is under Christ’s feet. Defeated. But God wants us to appropriate that defeat at the Cross by faith – by relying on Christ. We take “a willed share in our own making,” as George MacDonald said. That willed share is Faith.

Profile photo of Ron Block

Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.


15 Comments

  1. Tony Heringer

    Ron,

    I won’t go back to the sin nature thread here. We’ve beaten that horse to death. By the way, I thumbed through an interesting book on the subject in our bookstore a few weeks back. It compares 5 views on election. You can read more about it here: http://www.amazon.com/Perspectives-Election-Jack-W-Cottrell/dp/0805427295

    What I liked about the book is each position was defended by a writer who held that view and then the other four writers would give their critique of the defense made by that writer. It’s definitely a book on my list, but I’ve got a few others in the queue at the moment. 🙂

    This post reminded me of a sermon I heard many years back. I don’t really remember the content of the message, but this one story stands out in my memory. The pastor was struggling — didn’t really say if it was a moral struggle, purpose struggle, just noted that he was struggling. So, he sought out the counsel of an older man he respected.

    He described this man as a distinguished Southern gentleman. So, you have to read his advice to the pastor — named Carter (a good Southern name) — with a slow Southern drawl. When Carter presented his struggle to the man, this fellow said simply “Carter, can you be where you are?”

    Simple question, but one that I think we all wrestle with as it relates to holiness. I want to be there (i.e. perfectly holy), but I’m still here (i.e. struggling with sin, trespass and temptation). Then I remember that life in Christ is about being, not doing. The doing has been done. “Jesus paid it all…” It is that sense of reckoning that moves me to obedience. Christ love does that and not my trying to be good.

    In terms of our union, seeing Jesus as our Lover is probably the best picture we have in this culture. We can’t really clue into the Good Shepherd, but Lover? Oh, yeah we get that because there are so many false loves and lovers presented to us. When I was a kid porn and tattoo parlors were on the seedy side of town. Now, those things are part of the mainstream.

    That’s not to say the pendulum won’t swing back as that seems to be the way of humanity – was for Israel. Sin, slavery, supplication, salvation was the spin cycle the Israelites set themselves on when they crossed the Jordan (really before, but its neater if we start here). As a country we Americans follow that pattern too.

    We lose our way. Something catastrophic happens and we run back to God. You know they still sing “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch at Yankee games. They started that after 9/11. The Law is written upon our hearts and we are restless until we find our rest in the Lawgiver. When we meet Him, we find out He is the Lover of our souls.

    I think that is why every account of the Lord’s Table (even in John’s account that leaves out the meal part) we are reminded of His betrayal (Paul says it this way “on the night He was betrayed”). I think that is our reminder of who we were and what Christ has done for us. It also keeps us from partaking of the Table in an unworthy manner.

    Thanks the post. Your passion for this subject comes through in your writing. Keep stoking that fire brother as it is burning brightly and fanning my flames as well.

  2. Stacy Grubb

    I had a strange realization yesterday while talking via Facebook to a friend. He’s struggling to get a gospel CD wrapped up and ready for release, but can’t find the time to tie up the loose ends and is also dealing with a spiral of self-doubt. Listening to him talk, a little light bulb lit up in my mind and I was pretty sure that I was seeing the devil in all that doubt. The more unsure my friend is, the longer he’ll put off releasing that CD. Yeah, that sounds like something the devil would want. So, we got to talking about that. I told him that I’ve only recently realized how I was letting fear – unbelief – hold me back. And in many ways, I was letting the devil do my thinking for me. The entire conversation was quite lengthy and I shared with him many of the things that I’ve come to learn and I thought I was conveying a story about faith. But he sent me a message that said, “Thanks for uplifting me. I wish I could be as positive as you.” Positive? Me? No, I’m the little gray cloud. Always have been. But wait. Yeah, I was saying A, B, and C, and yeah, those are all pretty positive outlooks on life. For once, I wasn’t relating to the fear and the doubt. Not too long ago, I would’ve been all, “Yeah, I totally know you mean. Woe is us, man…woe is us.” The difference between then and now is that I’ve been faithing more. I didn’t purpose that I was going to write him this big article on positive thinking. My point was about having faith. And for this conversation, faith became positivity. In other words, I wasn’t doing positive, I was being positive – without even trying. “So that’s how this works!”

    I assured him that I am not a positive person. I am, however, indwelt by the same source of positivity that he is, which means that his faith can be manifested into positive thinking, as well. Before I was faithing, I was fearing. The fear was a product of unbelief, which manifested itself as negative thinking. That negative thinking caused me to do all sorts of things, such as hide my God-given talents away. The negative thinking also caused depression, frustration, restlessness, feelings of inadequacy – you name it. The root was unbelief and from that branched a miserable little fruitless tree. In that same sense, when the root is faith…well, Bob Ross could’ve painted me in a landscape as one of his happy little trees.

    Stacy

  3. Mark Timmons

    Ron- Brother, great post. What good news it is that we don’t have to produce holiness. It would not be good news at all if once we believe in Christ (conversion) it is then up to us to produce that Christ likeness in us (sanctification). Yet this is how we are often taught by moralistic preaching that is void of Christ and this is our sinful nature’s natural tendency (which is why all religions teach and live this way). I am learning these things (slowly) after almost ten years of “sin consciousness,” defeat and guilt. Thanks for your thoughts and encouragements towards the freedom that is ours already because of the Son.

    “Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” 1 Cor. 1:30

  4. Molly

    Thanks so much, Ron!

    This post reminded me of a favorite Scripture that I pray whenever I think of it, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” And even as I type I’m wondering to myself if that might not be better prayed, “Lord, I faithe, help my unfaithe.”

    … wish I could remember the reference! Is it in Luke?

    Anyhoo, thanks again, for one of the best things I’ve read in awhile.

  5. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Tony,

    Disagreement is a great opportunity to think through things further, to clarify and expand. We both know the other loves Christ; if our understanding of what He has done differs, He is perfectly able to make clear to us where we are off center.

    Stacy – I have often tended toward the negative myself. That tendency is what now pushes me into the positive, because when I feel that way I think, “Been there, done that” and I head off the other way into the Son-set (har-har).

    Molly, I looked it up – Mark 9:24.

    Mark – you are right on – we are free in Christ to have faith in Him to be our freedom, to be our holiness, to be our sanctification.

    The key to holiness – “being there” in our experience and walking out a daily life of Spirit-living – is to recognize we are already there in Christ. He is my holiness, a present-tense holiness, and I do not have to do anything to get it. He just is, and to the extent that I trust Him in me my life will become an open channel for His love, His boldness, His joy, His gentleness, His goodness, His humility, and even His faith. Paul knew that secret of abiding; he said, “The love of Christ compels me” (not “my love for Christ compels me”). The way to express this Love is to rely on Him, trust Him in every way.

    That tension between what already is and what we experience is the difference between the state of holiness (“by one sacrifice He has perfected forever…”) and the process of being made holy (“those that are being made holy”). That inner Perfection of Christ Himself has to be outworked into our daily life by faith, and we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” by faith in that God who “works in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure.”

    So sin-consciousness doesn’t have to be our daily lot. Neither does sin itself. I make the distinction because many believers are constantly condemning themselves for being temptable; the “way of escape” in any temptation is to choose to rely on the indwelling power of Christ, in whatever manifestation we need Him. If tempted to envy, we affirm Him as our completeness, our supply, our All in all. If tempted to sexual sin, He is our purity – here and now, and we affirm that and rely on Him. Sometimes it gets more complex than that, and God has to show us our fear-issues, as I had with my kids (fear that they would grow up and be like some of my relatives – jail, drugs, alcohol) and so in me, love, through a fear-filter, was expressed as anger when they were defiant (rebelling against authority) or irresponsible (refusing to accept responsibility for their actions). In such a case God had to show me the root of the problem – which, when I asked, came up as a visible word in my mind’s eye – F E A R, just like that, and I had to repent and put faith there in that fear-spot).

    But a daily life of abiding is possible, and not only possible, it is commanded. “I write these things to you that you may not sin,” says John. “For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” says Paul. A divine trade was enacted at the Cross. The entire purpose for which Christ died is that we would be manifestations of that same Spirit which empowered the Lord Jesus Christ; He laid aside His power as the second person of the Trinity, His omniscience, His omnipresence, and was limited in power, knowledge, and presence to a single human body in a single country. He had to live by the Holy Spirit, just as we do, because He said, “I can do nothing of Myself” and “the Father in Me does the works.” At the Cross this perfect person took on not only our sins, but the Eph 2:2 nature that was in us; when I was put in Him at the Cross, that false lord was also put in Him. Jesus became sin for me – taking on that sin-spirit, and dying to it, and then being dead and buried for three days and nights, like Jonah in the belly of the whale, and then being reanimated by the Holy Spirit.

    And since when that all happened to Him, I was in Him (Rom 6), then all that happened to me. That sin-spirit left, and I was raised to walk in newness of life with the Holy Spirit.

    Through that divine trade, we are to manifest that same Life and to walk as He walked – in total reliance.

    I have been through legalism (in my childhood and early teens). God to me back then was a cosmic policeman, distant, slightly irritated with my behavior and person. Then, when I learned we are saved through trusting, I swung to the other side of “easy grace”, where I trusted Christ to save me from Hell and take care of me financially, but didn’t know He was my sanctification though I knew He could change me. During this period (my late teens through my twenties) I gained my self-worth from music and being Mr Nice Guy, and tried to be good. At 30 I crashed on all that, and began to find Christ as not only my future salvation (from Hell), but also my present tense salvation (from sin).

    Now, to those who are in the middle position (Jesus died to pay my sin-debt), some of what I say may seem legalistic. We aren’t to be sinning habitually; that is plain from the Word. That seems impossible to the natural mind. But the way out of sinning is the catch. Christ is our sanctification, just as He is our salvation. We are saved by trusting; we are justified by trusting; we are sanctified by trusting; we are glorified by trusting. It is by faith from first to last, and we go from faith to faith. As we rely on God’s thoughts of us – holy, beloved, accepted, kings, priests, dead to sin, dead to law – we begin to see those truths expressed in our daily lives. But agreement with God is the first step – agreeing with the Word. “I am holy in Christ. I am beloved, and accepted, and a king. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. I am dead to sin. I am dead to having to exert my human effort to become holy; I’m already holy in Him.” When we begin to go against our feelings and believe God’s Facts, He begins to manifest those Facts in our daily walk.

    That’s sanctification, and abiding. It isn’t about me doing anything except affirming and relying on Christ in me, and then stepping out in faith that He will show forth His life and glorify Himself through us. All of Paul’s “commands” in the later parts of his letters come from the mindset that we are new creations, a new order of being, having died to the old life (in fact) and having risen with Christ to walk in newness of life. Paul’s position is really summed up in Eph 5:8: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live, then, as children of light.” You were darkness; now God has made you light in Christ. So go on and be that. God has given Christ as the light in these human lamps, the Spirit in these human temples, the Wine in these human vessels, the river of living Water gushing forth from our inmost being. Now we’re to go on and show forth that Light to those who need it; give the Wine to those who are perishing, be the water to those dying in the desert of self-sufficiency and sin. That’s sanctification – it means simply to abide by faith and express the One who is our sanctification.

  6. kelli

    Ron…thank you for your posts. You constantly bring truth to the forefront and stir me to allow the Spirit to live through me. Every time I read your posts, I have a deep hunger for our Father and His Word in a new way.

    Molly…love that verse in Mark!!

    Thanks again, Ron…beautiful, true, pure, holy…you call us back to think on these things!

  7. Tony Heringer

    Ron,

    You said:
    “Disagreement is a great opportunity to think through things further, to clarify and expand. We both know the other loves Christ; if our understanding of what He has done differs, He is perfectly able to make clear to us where we are off center.”

    Agreed 🙂 However, this is a pretty lousy forum for the type of disagreement we have here. You and I are approaching that particular topic (election) from a different hermeneutic – both are Biblical — so I don’t think we will cover any more ground here than Lewis and Spurgeon did with their respective positions on the same topic. Those are just a few of the many people smarter than me on this subject, so I’ll yield the floor here. You want to talk on the phone or go grab a coffee, I’m up for that, but this is not the place for me.

    My focus in this and similar forums is to “speak the truth in love” with a heavy emphasis on that last part “in love.” We live in a very contentious culture. As the Body of Christ, if we do not set the example of love then folks will keep “looking for love in all the wrong places.” So, its not that we won’t disagree, I’m just not getting into the same disagreements again and again.

    My hope is we’d look for points of agreement. Use these points of agreement as the means to clarify and expand our love for Christ. Trust me I’m tilting at enough theological windmills here in Atlanta as an elder at a PCA church. I come here to kick back and enjoy the inspiration of the variegated Christian community that resides in the Rabbit Room.

    Thanks for your time and energy to this forum. It is a blessing to us brother. Have a great week-end an d as the late Rich Mullins used to say “be God’s.”

  8. Jenny

    “Sometimes it gets more complex than that, and God has to show us our fear-issues, as I had with my kids (fear that they would grow up and be like some of my relatives – jail, drugs, alcohol) and so in me, love, through a fear-filter, was expressed as anger when they were defiant (rebelling against authority) or irresponsible (refusing to accept responsibility for their actions). In such a case God had to show me the root of the problem – which, when I asked, came up as a visible word in my mind’s eye – F E A R, just like that, and I had to repent and put faith there in that fear-spot). ”

    This happens on a weekly basis w/me and I always wonder, “What am I doing wrong? Why am I getting so angry/frustrated/overwhelmed?” and it is b/c I”m not puting my full faith and trust in the Lord to prevail in this situation and all others in my life, b/c I”m being driven by FEAR..Fear the kids will do X or Y or Z or turn out in a certain way that isn’t the way I want.
    Thanks for your perspective, it continually fills in a little gap in my walk w/the Lord, fills a space of doubt or fear with faith and trust.
    I slip up more often than not, but I need to realize I”m not living in the hampster wheel scenario, but always seem to be missing something-JOY-complete JOY.Maybe it’s like Stacy said, I”m allowing the Devil to do my thinking for me… I”m not sure what I”m doing wrong, I need to pray more for the Lord to be my Joy, my Love and My everything b/c w/o him I can’t do it myself.

  9. Paul

    Ok, I am no high scholar or theological student, and I have to admit Ron, I love your music, and really do agree with all you say, but most of the time I begin your posts and get “lost” in verbage.
    So today I planted myslef sternly and “made” myslef finish one of your posts to understnd and see what what is being said.

    I can’t agree with you more, however, I is SO much easier said than done. As I start each day, I have all intentions to stay in communion with Jesus, and try consciencly to be in the Spirit. 99% or the time I fail. (ok 100%, according to John and he is right I do)

    I trust He has me in Him regardless and all I can do is agree with Him and have faith He forgives me.

    Thanks for your words and insights – This ordinary guy appreciates it.

  10. Stacy Grubb

    Paul,

    Consciously remaining “in communion with Jesus” is most certainly easier said than done. In fact, I’d call it impossible. It’s because that sin-conscious effort -self effort- will snare you every time. I would *highly* recommend carving out some time to really read some of Ron’s old posts because they deal specifically with the futility of striving to be more Christ-like, as opposed to stepping out on faith and a more Christ-like life emerging from that. It’s just as in my post above illustrates. By stepping out on faith (specifically, asking God to work His will through my life, no matter what the cost), my typically negative attitude was turned positive and I didn’t even realize it until my friend pointed it out. The hardest part for me in the beginning was grasping the concept of stepping out on faith and that’s where Ron’s posts and discussions were priceless because I slowly began to see how *I* could be more faithful. The benefits of that came as a by-product of being more faithful.

    Yes, God forgives us. But we don’t have to be in that hamster wheel of sin-repent-repeat. My biggest eye-opener was Ron’s “Driving Out the Canaanites” posts because it helped me see what unbelief predominantly was in my life (fear). This time a few months ago, I would’ve sworn that negativity, discontentment, and pessimism were just parts of my defining character. Thankfully, though I’ve only just begun this journey, I’ve learned that those things aren’t who I am, at all. They’re who I was while slaving away in that hamster wheel, being afraid of everything coming and going.

    Make no mistake about it: A personal, conscious effort to be more Christ-like will not bear fruit. If we could do that, then everything Jesus did from birth in a manger, to death on a cross, to resurrection 3 days later would’ve been for nothing because we wouldn’t need Him, anyway. What Ron is talking about is knowing God’s Word and His promises to us, trusting them, and using that faith to allow Him to live through you. It’s about understanding what Salvation means beyond the dying and going Heaven instead of Hell. It’s Salvation in the here and now and what it means to the living.

    Stacy

  11. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Paul, Stacy,

    From C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity:

    “The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become…our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to ‘be myself’ without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact what I so proudly call ‘myself’ becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I never started and which I cannot stop. What I call ‘My wishes’ become merely the desires thrown up by my physical organism or pumped into me by other men’s thoughts or even suggested to me by devils. Eggs and alcohol and a good night’s sleep will be the real origins of what I flatter myself by regarding as my own highly personal and discriminating decision to make love to the girl opposite to me in the railway carriage. Propaganda will be the real origin of what I regard as my own personal political ideals. I am not, in my natural state, nearly so much of a person as I like to believe: most of what I call ‘me’ can be very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.

    At the beginning I said there were Personalities in God. I will go further now. There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.

    But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away ‘blindly’ so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ’s, and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.

    Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

    That said, Paul, so much has to do with what we fill our minds with. God recognizes we must work, have relationships, build families, and that we can’t consciously be thinking of of Him every second of every day. But a general mindset that is pointed at Eternity, that offers the body as a living sacrifice, that eats and chews and digests the Word in the light of the Spirit – a mindset of accounting God’s Eternal world more real than any of this temporary world we live in – that’s what God is after. He wants us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices and be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

  12. Benjamin Wolaver

    Ron,

    I must confess that, for awhile now, the language you have used in your posts on sin vs. faith have gone a little over my head, primarily because of conflicts they have caused between categories that I had set up previous to reading them.

    That has all changed after reading Watchman Nee’s The Life That Wins. I really cannot recommend this book enough. It is one of the few books I have ever read that has completely upended my understanding of Scripture, sanctification, and what the life of a believer truly is. It’s as if I’ve been in a mansion with a thousand doors. Many are locked but they all have the same lock. Now I’ve discovered the key to these doors, and in the distance I hear innumerable creaks resounding through the halls of my faith, as the doors open to a broader world.

    Perhaps the most startling insight that has struck me from the brilliance of Watchman Nee is the idea that “the law of the Spirit of life” operates in our experience in much the same way as “the law of sin and death”. Previously when I have read Romans 7/8, I had made a distinction between the two. But now I see that, through the exchange of faith, the law of the spirit affects me the way the law of sin does.

    The law of sin, as Paul states so succinctly in Rom. 7, works outside my consciousness. I may decide, or choose, or what have you, but the law of sin acts on my body anyway. When I place my faith in the Spirit’s indwelling presence, He becomes the law that acts on my body that I don’t understand. I watch in amazement as sins I could never overcome suddenly mean nothing anymore. Such is the working of the Spirit.

    The idea that the Spirit could actually live FOR me is breathtaking.

    I have talked with several close friends and relations about this, and I have been a little amazed by the way they nod and act as if I’m quoting John 3:16. For my part, I know I have listened to many sermons on sanctification that used verbiage similar to Watchman Nee and yet have never encountered the teaching he presents. Either I’ve been the odd man out in these concepts, or many people, like myself, have failed to grasp the utterly revolutionary nature of this doctrine. Most likely, it’s a little of both.

  13. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Benjamin,

    Based on Paul’s post and yours, it it sounds like I need to do a little more editing and modification of my sentence structure (I think I’ve been overly affected by Paul, with all his colons, semicolons, and parentheses). The message is really simple at its root and I probably need to stick more to the main road in my posts.

    It does, though, go against what you call ‘categories’ that we set up in our minds. That’s what I call the theological framework, where we come to the Word not as a child but as knowing what it means already because we’ve read it a thousand times before. The Word is a many-layered document that can’t merely be figured out by human thinking. It requires Spirit. “You search the Scriptures, thinking that in them you have eternal life. But the Scriptures testify of Me. And you won’t come to Me, that you might have life.” The Word, apart from Spirit-illumination, is a dead letter. The Word points to a Person, and that Person is eternal life.

    I read Watchman Nee a lot in the mid-nineties – I need to break him out again. I’m sure there are many things I missed.

    What you are likely hearing from people by their nods is “Yes, but…” People always want to add a “but” to “Jesus is my sanctification, Jesus is my righteousness, I trust Him and then He lives”; they often want to add, “Yes, but you’ve still got to read-more-pray-more-give-more and do-good-works and be-trying-to-be-more-like-Jesus” and all those graveclothes of the rotting Law-system (I just read Hebrews 3-10 this morning, and 9:13 really stuck out at me).

    When talking about Christ as our life, our inner power, our deepest Self, or any of that, you will get both opposition and nodding agreement. But you will know if someone ‘gets it’ by their level of joy in speaking of it. Because that kind of intimate awareness of Christ, that thrill of being in love, can only be spoken of with joy. It’s the joy of marriage, where the Husband and all His resources become ours. Everything that is at His disposal is now at ours, because we are named with His Name.

  14. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Benjamin,

    The flip-flop of the “law of sin and death” and the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is the human being saved from wrong use (indwelt and operated by the wrong spirit, Eph 2:2, misusing our humanity for his own gain). Now our humanity is rightly used – if we trust the indwelling Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. If not, we are back to misuse of our humanity, though not back to being indwelt by the “prince of the power of the air.”

    This flip-flop is what salvation is all about. It turns the world’s paradigms upside down. Formerly “Me for me,” now I am “Me for others” because the Spirit of other-centeredness has now come to make His abode in me. We now live by His life, and that old Law – the Law of sin and death, the Law of human effort, striving to be “like God” and “Christ-like” has now given way to having the actual Source of Christ-likeness living within us – Christ Himself.

    This flip-flops everything – but we have to come to learn that by offering our bodies as living sacrifices and being transformed by the renewing of our minds. We’ve got to get our minds in accord with God’s new reality, or we still live as though we are the old man.

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