The Immersed Imagination, Part 7: Rising Above Law


The last installment of the Hutchmoot session given by Andy P. and me. The last post dug into the false self and its origins; this one continues the same thought and moves into a conclusion. 

A quote from a book by Dan Stone, The Rest of the Gospel (When the Partial Gospel Has Worn You Out): “The false self is a soul-based self. It is the soul operating independently of its Source. I don’t want to minimize the vital role of the soul in God’s economy. The life of God through us must be expressed through the soul. But His life is expressed through a soul dependent upon its Source, not acting independently of it.”

“As an unbeliever our spirit was dead to God, so we became dominated by our soul (psuche in Greek). Our soul was turned toward the world, getting its direction and validation from the external environment. We were a natural man, as Paul called it, living a soul-based (psyche in English) life.”

“Somewhere along the way we got saved and our sins were forgiven. And we wanted to live this thing called the Christian life, but we didn’t know how to live out of our new spirit. So we fell back upon our only other resource: the false self. It knew how to get along in the world. We just made a few adjustments to fit the Christian scene. We were sitting ducks for the how-to books, which told us how to manipulate the false self to make it more effective in getting along.”

“Although having the Holy Spirit in our spirit, we didn’t know about the Holy Spirit living the life of Christ through us. So our mode of operation was the same as for the unbeliever: self-reliance. That’s what the false self is: our attempt to independently operate our own lives. As Christians, the false self even tries to do it for the glory of God.”

George MacDonald expresses a similar thought this way: “It is only where a man is at one with God that he can do the right thing or take the right way. Whatever springs from any other source than the spirit that dwelt in Jesus, is of sin, and works to thwart the divine will.”

Another one from GMac: “The law itself is infinite, reaching to such delicacies of action, that the man who tries most will be the man most aware of defeat. We are not made for law, but for love. Love is law, because it is infinitely more than law. It is of an altogether higher region than law – is, in fact, the creator of law.”

And again: “In order to fulfill the commonest law…we must rise into a loftier region altogether, a region that is above law, because it is spirit and life and makes the law.”

Jesus states in Matthew 5:20, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” He then goes on to make the Law utterly impossible apart from the Spirit of God living in us, empowering us.

C.S. Lewis wrote:

“God made us; invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

I have gone on to read many different writers, but Lewis and MacDonald remain two of my most cherished influences. Lewis took me by the hand as an emotionally troubled child and, through fantasy, showed me what God is like, what love is, what men are meant to be, and the ugliness of evil.  MacDonald continues to  mentor me into a better understanding who I really am in Christ – a dwelling place of God.

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.


  1. Tony Heringer

    Since I had the pleasure of hearing this live, I’ve not gone back to plumb it again. But, I am glad its out here to revisit when needed. Thanks for getting this out in the room for general consumption, it definitely stirred up some good conversation at Hutchmoot.


  2. mansemama

    HA! I’ve been sitting in my living room this afternoon asking God to show me why I’ve been so miserable lately. Then I get up, check the email, etc. and end up reading this. HA! God is so cool!

  3. kelli

    Ron…just wondering which books you might recommend to better explore one’s true identity in Christ??


  4. Ron Block


    Kelli: The Rest of the Gospel (When The Partial Gospel Has Worn You Out) is a good one, by Dan Stone. God Unlimited, by Norman Grubb. Older style of writing, which you’ll be more used to than many due to reading MacDonald. Also, I’ve got a long list of identity verses somewhere on my website – I can send those to you if you’re interested.

  5. Nick and Susan


    I’ve enjoyed this series, and I’m glad Kelli asked for some book recommendations, I could read about this topic all day as it untangles and strips away a lot of baggage my husband and I have gathered (and been given) over the years.

    I found that line ‘As Christians, the false self even tries to do it for the glory of God’ so incredibly true, it’s almost sickening, what an affront to God it must be. But, the reality is full of Grace and hope, the Truth really does set you free.


  6. Becca

    Thank you for the book suggestions, Ron. I’m looking forward to checking them out.

    Milton Vincent’s _A Gospel Primer_ is also a rich, practical little book on this topic.

    Vincent was a pastor for many years, attempting to live the Christian life in his own power. It wasn’t until he became exhausted by the limits of his own efforts that he began to explore (and embrace) how the power of grace applies practically to daily sanctification. Incredible little book that I think will become very influential in the years to come.

  7. kelli

    Ron…Thank you for those 2 titles. I’d love that list of verses, too, whenever you have time to send them.

    I need to read some of your archives again. I read them quite thoroughly about 5 years ago when I first found your site on the GMD site. It was the first time I had ever heard this type of thinking.

    As I’ve devoured GMD’s books throughout the past few years, I’ve understood more and more of what my true identity is. However, just recently, the Spirit has begun to lift more veils, and I am grasping it anew…not fully, just more.

    I’ve been reading The Birthright by John Sheasby, and while I have liked much of what he is saying, an aspect seems to be missing that I have found in GMD’s faith. Actually, your comments on some of the recent posts (Halloween and all) have given me that solid ground to tie in to what I’m gleaning from The Birthright. I’ve been so thankful to have those comments woven in.

    I’m realizing how distorted my view of my Father, my Elder Brother and myself is, and I know I will continue to see more and more distortions until I am fully who He is molding me to be.

    I’ve been reading through the New Testament for quite awhile now, and I’ve just entered Romans. Last night I was shown the truth behind much of what I had previously never understood. It was just a scratch on the surface, but I cannot wait to dig in deeper. And I am anxious to pick up GMD again and read his writings with this expanded outlook!!

    Thanks, Ron! You have taught me much over the years!!

  8. Ron Block


    Kelli: Here’s the list. Long, but worth eating on a daily basis.

    My Identity in Christ: What God Says About Me
    Define Reality by what God says, not by what the world, or the devil, or our own thoughts and feelings say. Either God is truthful or He is not. It is an either-or proposition, and we make the choice every day.

    Who Am I?
    I am a child of God, John 1:12
    I am a part of the true vine, a channel (branch) of His life, John 15:1, 5
    I am Christ’s friend, John 15:15
    I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit, John 15:16
    I am a personal witness of Christ for Christ, Acts 1:8
    I have been justified and redeemed, Rom 3:24
    I have been justified (completely forgiven, made righteous) and am at peace with God, Rom 5:1
    I died with Christ and died to the power of sin’s rule in my life, Rom 6:1-6
    I have been freed from sin’s power over me, Rom 6:7
    I am a slave of righteousness, Rom 6:18
    I am enslaved to God, Rom 6:22
    I am dead to the law, Rom 7:4
    I am forever free from condemnation, Rom 8:1
    I am a son of God, God is literally my “Papa,” Rom 8:14, 15, Gal 3:26, 4:6
    I am an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ, Rom 8:17
    I am holy, Rom 11:16
    Christ has accepted me, Rom 15:7
    I have been sanctified, 1Co 1:2
    I have been placed in Christ by God’s doing, Christ is now my wisdom from God, my righteousness, my sanctification, and my redemption, 1Co 1:30
    I have received the Spirit of God into me that I might know the things freely given, 1Co 2:12
    I have been given the mind of Christ, 1Co 2:16
    I am a temple (home) of God; His Spirit (His life) dwells in me, 1Co 3:16, 6:19
    I am joined to the Lord and am one spirit with Him, 1Co 6:17
    I have been bought with a price; I am not my own; I belong to God, 1Co 6:19, 20
    I am a member of Christ’s body, 1Co 12:27, Eph 5:30
    I have been established in Christ and anointed by God, 2Co 1:21
    He always leads me in His triumph in Christ, 2Co 2:14
    Since I have died, I no longer live for myself, but for Christ, 2Co 5:14, 15
    I am a new creation, 2Co5:17
    I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation, 2Co 5:18, 19
    I am the righteousness of God in Christ, 2Co 5:21
    I have liberty in Christ Jesus, Gal 2:4
    I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; the life I am now living is Christ’s life, Gal 2:20
    I am a child of God and one in Christ, Gal 3:26, 28
    I am a child of God and an heir through God, Gal 4:6, 7
    I am a saint, Eph 1:1, 1Co 1:2, Php 1:1, Col 1:2
    I am blessed with every spiritual blessing, Eph 1:3
    I was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blame before Him, Eph 1:4
    I have been redeemed, forgiven, and am a recipient of His lavish grace, Eph 1:7, 8
    I have been made alive together with Christ, Eph 2:5
    I have been raised up and seated with Christ in heaven, Eph 2:6
    I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do his work that He planned beforehand that I should do, Eph 2:10
    I have been brought near to God, Eph 2:13
    I have direct access to God thought the Spirit, Eph 2:18
    I am a fellow citizen with the saints and a member of God’s household, Eph 2:19
    I am a fellow heir, a fellow member of the body, and a fellow partaker of the promise in Christ Jesus, Eph 3:6
    I may approch God with boldness and confidence, Eph 3:12
    I am righteous and holy, Eph 4:24
    I am a citizen of heaven, Php 3:20
    His peace guards my heart and my mind, Php 4:7
    God will supply all my needs, Php 4:19
    I have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of Christ, Col 1:13
    I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins; the debt against me has been canceled, Col 1:14, 2:13, 14
    Christ Himself is in me, Col 1:27
    I have been firmly rooted in Christ and am now being built up and established in him, Col 2:7
    I have been spiritually circumcised; my old, unregenerate nature has been removed, Col 2:11
    I have been buried, raised, and made alive with Christ, and totally forgiven, Col 2:12, 13
    I have been raised up with Christ, Col 3:1
    I have died, and my life is now hidden with Christ in God, Col 3:3
    Christ is now my life, Col 3:4
    I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved, Col 3:12, 1Th 1:4
    I am a child of light and not of darkness, 1Th 5:5
    I have been given a spirit of power, love and discipline, 2Ti 1:7
    I have been saved and called (set apart) according to God’s purpose and grace, 2Ti 1:9, Titus 3:5
    Because I am sanctified and am one with Christ, He is not ashamed to call me His, Heb 2:11
    I am a holy partaker of an heavenly calling, Heb 3:1
    I am a partaker of Christ, Heb 3:14
    I may come boldly before the throne of God to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need, Heb 4:16
    I am one of God’s living stones and am being built up as a spiritual house, 1Pe 2:5
    I am part of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession, 1Pe 2:9, 10
    I am an alien and stranger to this world I temporarily live in, 1Pe 2:11
    I am an enemy of the devil; he is my adversary, 1Pe 5:8
    I have been given God’s precious and magnificent promises by which I am a partaker of the divine nature, 2Pe 1:4
    God has bestowed a great love on me and called me his child, 1Jo 3:1

    What do I do when I read these verses and my mind says, “No, you’re not a saint; you’re a sinner. You’re not dead to sin; you sin all the time. You’re still the old man you always were”?

    Circumstances always contradict what God has said. Either the devil or your psychological programming is messing with you. You still have to make the choice. Every situation, every circumstance, every contrary thought or feeling always comes down to that: “Am I going to believe, rely on, trust in God, or not?”

  9. Tony Heringer


    We’ve certainly had our share of conversation on this topic. I definitely want to read Stone’s book at some point. However, until then, I’d pose two questions and defer to you and others in the house to have the final word or words – it is Friday:

    1. What is the biblical definition of the word saint?

    I think we put a lot of meaning into that word that Bible does not.

    2. How does one balance the idea that we are sons and daughters (individuals) against the Larger Story of The Kingdom and our soon coming King?

    We are members of the Body of Christ which means we are not all the same. There is a lot of corporate understanding within Scriptures that starts to unravel when applied to a single person. Individual members are all significant but only in the context of the Body of Christ. We all have a role to play empowered by the Spirit and if I fail to play that role it doesn’t just hurt me, it hurts the entire body – like an infection or some other bodily malady.

    I think if we examine the Epistles there is much to say about our identity in Christ. There is also a great deal of time spent on our total dependence on Christ or the consequences of not doing so – our sin as individuals and as local churches. That we are both sons and daughters of the King and at the same time bond-servants of the King is a mystery to be sure but the Bible says we are both. The implications force us to deal with the fact that we are freed from the penalty and power of sin but not its presence in us and around us until Christ returns. I’d submit our motivations for serving the King – I am a son or daughter and I am the Lord’s bond-servant (see Mary) are huge in living as free men and women.

    Now, this is where I need to read Stone and maybe Grubb to see where our terms both clash and agree. No need to dig to much in to this matter here, but at some point we’ll have to return to Stone’s book. Right now I’m working through, slowly but surely Eugene Peterson’s 5 volume work on Spiritual Theology. So, it may be a while my friend. But, I do want to get to it as I love to grapple with this issue. You help me in that wrestling and working out a healthy view of God and man. It is so critical to living the abundantly free life Christ promised. Thanks brother!


  10. Ron Block



    Saint – same word as for “holy,” hagios. It means “holy ones.” To be holy is to be set apart.

    To live from our identity in our personal walk with Christ is to make one part of the Body (ourselves) healthy. It is also to seek out other believers. I don’t think we can consistently live away from fellowship (joint participation) with others when we’re walking in our real identity. God may of course call us away for times of being alone with him, even for long periods of time. But “Don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together” does not necessarily mean “You have to go to church every time the doors are open.” It means make sure you have other believers around you to spur you on in your real identity, and vice versa.

    On our individuality as sons and daughters, balanced with the coming King: What is there to balance? If we walk in the Spirit, and live in the Spirit, and live out the Gospel, we will be found doing what we’re supposed to be doing when he comes.

    Walking in our real identity is not merely conceptual; it is not just a way to think about ourselves. Eating our real identity, digesting it, seeing it as who we are, is really about eating Christ, eating his flesh and drinking his blood, because he is the source of our new identity.

    I don’t deny that sin is still skulking around. We all have soul-areas where God has to flush out the hidden Canaanites. But in our real identity – the ME of me – we are one spirit with the Lord, holy, kings, priests, beloved, accepted, and powerful.

    When I trust that inner Source in myself, it makes a remarkable difference in my behavior. Further, when I trust that God is always present with me, all around me, omnipresent, even present within those who are against me, and when I trust that God is working all things after the counsel of his own will, and that all things work together for good to me, even when others are hurting me, the power of God manifests in my thoughts, attitudes, and behavior.

    Even on a natural level, we manifest what we believe. With playing an instrument, if a player sees someone play fast and thinks, “I could never play that fast,” guess what? He can’t. That wispy web of false belief crystallizes into a cage as he faithes in it, and the thing becomes in fact impossible to him. That’s why negative people continually manifest negative results in their lives.

    I see in music how some people take one road and others take another. Some go on to be high level players. Why? Because either they had people affirming them rather than putting webs in their consciousness to crystallize into steel bars, or they had an inner sense that enabled them to not allow those false beliefs in. Other musicians never get to a high level, no matter how hard they work at it. Why? Less talent? Maybe at times. But often it is due to false beliefs. Stepmother says to a singing child, “You don’t have a great voice.” Child feels embarrassed to sing after that. She wants to do it, though, so continues singing on and off. But that embarrassment, that unbelief, sets boundaries, instills fear, and eventually fear turns into a habit. She tries to develop her voice but believes she’s starting from “bad voice” and must overcome it. Effort and strain become part of the singing technique. People hear the self-consciousness and strain and don’t think much of the singing, which continues to embed the lie, “I don’t have a good voice.” Child loves to sing but is stuck in the lie of this ancient belief that Stepmother for whatever satanic reason felt impelled to share. Until those lies are dealt with, the child/teen/adult can only move forward so much.

    If that is true on a natural level, it is representative of a much larger truth. The one who does not believe in his real identity in Christ is believing a lie. As such, he will live out a lie in a large measure, because for whatever reason God has made faith the connection point between his life in us and his life expressed through us. Living the lie most of us live (“I’m still the old man, the old man comes down off the Cross sometimes, I’m a miserable filthy rotten sinner” and other lies) puts us in the squeeze. We want to be good, because that is the new man in us. But we think we are bad, so we set about by effort and strain to achieve goodness. As long as we’re doing that, it isn’t going to happen. The joy and spontaneity of the Christian life are lost when we have pressed lips and our hair in a bun, fearing sin, fearing Satan, fearing other’s opinions, fearing even our own selves rather than knowing the inner Christ as more powerful than anything that besets us.

  11. kelli

    Thanks, Ron! I plan to copy those verses into a notebook, chewing on them as I go.

    I’ve been reading through your archives on your new website as I’ve had time throughout the day. I think the one about Romans 7 and Paul speaking about the law might go along with what you’ve written to Tony. “We want to be good, because that is the new man in us. But we think we are bad, so we set about by effort and strain to achieve goodness. ”

    So often when I hear that verse used or think about it “I do the things I don’t want to do and don’t do that which I want to do,” I revert back to the distortion of trying to live under the law.

    I have to stop and realize…this is not me. I am no longer under this law. I cannot do this, but He can. I must trust and have faith that He will.

    Oh…here’s the link for those who want to read Ron’s post…

  12. Sondorik

    One of my favorite quotes from Stone’s _The Rest of the Gospel_ complements your extensive list of our identity in Christ:

    “What can we do to cooperate with God’s revelation to us? Agree with Him. Whether He has given your spirit a revelation on something or whether you simply read it in the Word but know that you are not really mixed with it–it’s not yet an established part of your life–either way, just agree with Him. Knowing is always tied to believing. Sometimes we get a revelation and we just know. Sometimes we must choose to believe before we really know. We take something by faith, then the knowing comes.”

    “I finally had to say, ‘Lord, I’m tired of disagreeing with You. I’m tired of You saying through Your Spirit and the Word that certain things are true, and I’m saying back to you, “They’re not true.” The only thing this produces is inner dissatisfaction and unrest. I’m tired of this roller coaster Christianity. Up and down. Hot and cold. Lord, I’m going to do something that is crazy for me. I’m going to agree with You.'”

    Oh, to disembark from the maddening ride of the false self and fully agree with God! As a new Rabbit Room reader, I’ve been blown away by this series of posts. Thanks for including them here. I can only imagine how rich the discussion was at Hutchmoot.

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