"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water' " (John 7:38 NASB). Thus the Lord Jesus described the life of His people. It is the life that only God gives and it is abundant (John 10:10b). This life is energized by the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ which is the portion of all who belong to Him (Rom. 8:9). This life carries with it the blessings of peace (John 14:27), rest (Matt. 11:28), spiritual power (Acts 1:8), and deliverance from sin as master (Rom. 6:14). God promises such a life to all who are believers, to all who have His life in them. God desires this to be the normal, not the exceptional, life of His people.
However, not everyone who professes to believe in Christ enters into the fullness of God's provision. Some remain in the immaturity of spiritual infancy (1 Cor. 3:1). For example, the church at Corinth was troubled by quarrels (1 Cor. 1:11), immorality (5:1, 11), lack of love (ch. 13), church disorder (ch. 14), and other problems. The pages of both Testaments frequently refer to saints who were not experiencing victory. Today many believers go through cycles of sin and repentance. They long for a holy life but do not enter into it. They may engage in much "spiritual" activity but show little fruit. They may make strong resolutions that are only followed by failure. They may feel emptiness, lack of peace and joy, and times of spiritual lows and darkness. Their defeat and lack of power brings them great pain. Often believers sincerely desire spiritual blessing and an overcoming life. They seek the solution to their lack of victory in various teachings and spiritual systems. Many of these systems are at variance with one another and with the Scripture itself.
What is the way of victory? Is it some secret formula known only to the select few? Why is the high level of spiritual life, presented in the promises of our Lord, not the normal experience of most believers today? What is needed to enjoy the abundant life?
God has provided the means of spiritual life from the time when we were first born again. Before the new birth we could not live for God. What changes took place when we came into this new relationship with Him? Let us ask some questions and provide some answers.
What Is Man? What kind of being is he? He is spirit, soul, and body, a tri-unity of being (1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 4:12). The human
spirit is the means of contact with God. The
soul is the means of self-awareness. It may also be described as personality or personhood, made up of mind (thinking), emotions (feelings), and will (choosing). The
body is the means of contact with the world. Man originally was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). This image was marred or spoiled by sin (Gen. 3). This is what is wrong with man and what keeps him from living in a right way.
What Is The New Creation? When born again, man receives eternal life. This life is not just one of infinite duration but is also of infinite quality. It is participation in the life of God. His "seed" enters our being (1 John 3:9). Man becomes a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17). The original personality (soul) is not blotted out but remains Gust as the body) and begins to undergo spiritual renewal. That renewal is by the process of growth empowered by God as man responds to Him. There is no instant and total change of personhood at the new birth. The "inner man" is renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16). A believer is "renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him" (Col. 3:10 NASB). The climax of this transformation will come when all believers meet their Savior and receive glorious new bodies (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Cor. 15:44). We will not be, in daily life, without flaw within and without until we meet the Lord (1 Thess. 5:23).
What Are The
Old Man And The
Newman? These expressions contrast our former (unsaved) and our present (saved) standing before God. The "old man" or "old self" is all that we were "in Adam," our original natural parent (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9). The "new man" or "new self" is all that we now are "in Christ," as born again believers (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). The diagram below illustrates what happened when we entered our new family.
Partaking of his life. Partaking of eternal life "in Christ."
All unbelievers are: All believers are:
1. Dead in sins (Eph. 2:1) 1. Alive unto God (Rom. 6:11)
2. Children of Satan 2. Children of God (1 John 3:10)
(1 John 3:10)
3. Under condemnation 3. Declared righteous, perfect in God's sight
(John 3:18) (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 10:14)
4. Slaves of sin (Rom. 6:17) 4. Freed from sin's power (Rom.
6:18) but not from its presence
It is important to think of ourselves as God thinks of us, that is, in a new standing before Him. This rests solely upon the work of Christ. It has nothing to do with personal righteousness or labors of service. Whether weak or strong, every child of God is made acceptable to God only in Christ (Heb. 10:10, 14). We are washed and made clean forever by the blood of the Lamb (1 John 1:7; Rev. 1:5). Our consciences are freed to serve God (Heb. 9:14; 10:2). The book of Ephesians opens with the statement that God has "blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (1:3 NASB). We are invited to enjoy what God has done for us already, not to set out and attain it for ourselves. In Christ all believers are holy, blameless, and irreproachable (Col. 1:22). Jesus Christ and His finished work are the only foundation of God's provision for abundant life (1 Cor. 3:11). True spirituality must begin with the recognition of this foundation. Acceptance before God is in His beloved Son (Eph. 1:6), not by what we do. Remember that your standing before God is forever grounded upon Christ's work, NOT your own. Daily Christian living should be
in accord with this standing, but it is
not a part of that standing.
We have shown what God has done to lay the foundation for the abundant life through His Son's work. Yet this life is not the experience of all. Why not? Because man's active and continuing response is required in walking the path of spiritual life. What does God want His children to do? Consider the following elements.
Thirst. It is important that we deeply desire to experience a life of close fellowship with God. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matt. 5:6 NASB). The Psalmist cried out, "I shall seek Thee earnestly; My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee" (Psa. 63:1 NASB). "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, 0 God" (Psa. 42:1 NASB). Those who are content with shallow or ordinary spiritual lives are not seekers, thirsters, or yearners. Therefore, they never know an ever-deepening fellowship with the Eternal One. When close fellowship with the Lord is not important to us, God lets us live without it. He rewards those who are more concerned about the Giver than about His gifts.
Recognize. Victory also requires spiritual awareness. Eternal life is in a Person (1 John 5:12). Therefore, abundant life is an interrelationship with that Person, the Lord Himself. God has brought believers into a union with Christ (Rom. 6:5). We are in Christ (Rom. 16:7; 1 Cor. 1:30). Christ also is in us (Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27). When we live in conscious, daily awareness of this, we sense that we are not left to struggle with merely human resources. The same Lord is in us now who lived a supernatural life when He was upon earth. He who defeated Satan, sin, and the world system by His life, death, and resurrection is linked with our lives here and now. The life of Jesus is intended to be revealed in our bodies (2 Cor. 4:10). We need daily to sense this resident power of the Spirit of Christ available within for an overcoming life.
Appropriate. This simply means to take possession, to claim for our benefit. What should we claim? We should claim His strength and sufficiency in our inner being to live unto His glory (Eph. 3:16). We should draw nourishment day by day from His life just as branches draw from the vine (John 15:4). This is not begging, "Lord, please help me." This is saying, "Lord, I take by faith what you have given to enable a life that overcomes all of my opposition." The book of Joshua illustrates this point. God gave the people of Israel the land of Canaan, well called "The Promised Land" (1:2-4). They were commanded to possess this land, being promised His support in their battles against enemies (1:5-6). There were conditions of success, like courage and obedience to God (1:7). Some, such as Caleb, drove out the foes and possessed the land (14:12-14). Others had to be urged to do so when they lagged behind (13:1). Joshua rebuked them for their failure (18:3). Thus, it may be seen that although God has given us good things to enjoy we will not have them unless we take possession by faith. C. A. Coates has written, "It is appropriation that tests us. How often we stop at admiration." If we spiritually understand what God has provided and then understand the need to claim this for victory, then we will daily lay hold of His life and power within. We may not immediately receive all we expect or need. Yet by faith we must brush aside inner doubts and draw from the Fountain that is within.
Consecrate. This means to present to God for His holy purposes. The highest call we can receive is "to present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God" (Romans 12:1 NASB). The hymn writer stated it well, "Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee." What is it that we are to consecrate to God? The verse says "our bodies" which are the vessels in which we live. Inside these, however, are our souls and spirits which also need to be consecrated to God. What is not to be presented to God is that which He has already condemned, the old self or old man. Its place is crucifixion with Christ. What is to be yielded to God is the new self, created in the image of God. "Present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God" (Rom. 6:13 NASB). New lives are given to us to glorify God by being fully available to His purposes. When we daily present them to God for His full control, we make way for the unhindered operation of the Spirit of Christ within conforming us to His image. They become holy things used by a holy God. Yielding may come after deep soul-searching, brought about by the powerful work of the Spirit using some message from God's Word. Surrender may also be more gradual. The realization of temperamental weaknesses and lack of love for Christ may convince us that we are in the quicksand of defeated and powerless living. Deficiency of consecration (that is, lack of full devotedness to Christ) is possibly the greatest hindrance to dynamic spiritual lives. The life of Jesus will flow through vessels which are unconditionally yielded to be channels of His gracious work day by day.
Walk. This means, in Scripture, the way we live and act as we go about our daily lives. We are not taken immediately to heaven when saved but left to live here in a hostile and sinful world. Christ does not take us out of this world but prays that we may be kept from evil while in the world (John 17:15). We have temptation from the world, the flesh, and the devil. There are many opportunities to get off the right path. Sometimes even devout believers have strayed from what is right. This does not mean lawlessness or practicing sin, which is not the path of a child of God (1 John 3:4, 8-9). It does recognize that Abraham, David, Peter, and countless others have needed to be corrected from a wrong way. The Word of God exhorts believers to walk according to the Spirit, that is, according to His direction (Gal. 5:16). If we live by the Spirit, in His enablement, then we will act according to His direction (Gal. 5:25). This will be in a manner worthy of God (1 Thess. 2:12), in love (Eph. 5:2), in truth (2 John 4) and by faith rather than by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). It should be clear from this that we do not arrive at perfect spirituality in one giant step. We are to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18). We need to "grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ" (Eph. 4:15 NASB). There are often major turning points in life, sometimes called crises, even beyond the initial point of being born again. These can have a major, even revolutionary, effect. Yet conformity to Christ in character is a matter of walking and growing, not leaping to overnight maturity. Do not despair when you fail. Get up and begin again. Do not compare yourself to others whom you think are more spiritual. God has not called you to such comparisons. Start each day afresh under the direction of God's Spirit, in harmony with the Word of God.
Since spiritual abundance and victory seem so often to be lacking, there must be reasons. Some people seem to pray and talk as though God were withholding something necessary to gain victory For this reason they keep begging God to give them something more to succeed, or to take away something that causes a problem. Yet God has already granted to all His children "everything pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Pet. 1:3 NASB). He has blessed us with "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3 NASB). God is not holding out on us. The problem rests with us, not with Him. Here are some major possibilities.
You May Not Be Saved. Perhaps you had a childhood or adult experience when you "asked Jesus into your heart." You may have been baptized and come into the local church and participated in the Lord's Supper. Your parents and friends may have been convinced and told you often that you were saved. None of these things is a proof of true regeneration. If you said you knew Jesus and practiced disobedience to His Word, then the Bible says you were a liar (1 John 2:4). If you have not been His follower before, then become one now by turning your life over to Him completely. Trust His finished work on the cross to make you acceptable to God. Do it now without argument.
You May Not Be Motivated. Maybe you have been satisfied with a low level of spiritual living. Christ has been nothing more to you than a ticket to heaven and an escape from hell. Perhaps you have been taken up too much with material things (Gen. 13:10), concerned more about treasures on earth than in heaven (Matt. 6:19-20). You have been lacking a deep appreciation for Christ and what He has done for you (2 Cor. 5:14-15; John 21:15-17). If true, you need to repent and have a great love for Jesus (Rev. 2:3-5). You need to do it now, with a disgust for the lukewarmness of your soul and the lack of profit to God in your life.
You May Not Be Instructed. Perhaps before these lessons you have never had God's great provision for an abundant life explained to you. If this is so, when this lesson and the next two are completed, you ought to be done with this excuse. Your responsibility will then be to act upon what you have learned.
You May Be Discouraged By Past Failures. You may say, "I have tried all this before and it has done no good. I always fail." Has God failed? Are His promises untrue? Are you some major exception to the power and sufficiency of God in the weakest of human vessels? Then put past failures aside and do not let Satan keep you from a fresh start at laying hold of God's truth and Christ's life within you. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and begin anew with your life daily committed to letting the Spirit of Jesus Christ control you in a growing, spiritual experience.
Let us review once more the truths of this lesson. Although sin has marred the image of God in you, the Lord has made you a new creation and begun a process of spiritual renewal in you. If you are truly born again, you are now out of Adam's family and in God's family You have a perfect standing before God, being accepted because you are "in Christ" not because you are busy in Christian service. If you are motivated to live for Christ because you appreciate His great sacrificial love, then you can truly thirst for God's best for your life. Recognize the resident, supernatural power within you to empower Christ-like life and character. Claim His sufficiency and strength for all you need to be and do. Commit yourself without reservation each day to the full control of the Spirit of Christ. Then walk in the knowledge that your maturity will be a matter of gradual growth in character and productive ministry.
Here are some things you can expect:
1. Deeper fellowship with God (1 John 1:3) with a greater appreciation for the loveliness of Christ (Eph. 1:17).
2. Daily victory over besetting sins (Rom. 6:14). This is not sinless perfection in every detail but a life that is consistently overcoming weakness and temptation. Obedience to God will not be considered a chore.
3. The fruit of the Spirit will become more apparent to others. We are not to be occupied with our own virtues, but others will see Christ in us in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
4. Spiritual power in service for God will become more evident (1 Thess. 1:5).
5. There will be a deepening of prayer life as you pray under the direction of the Spirit (Jude 20).
6. The Word will begin to live richly within your life, rather than be a required reading (Col. 3:16).
This is the life the Lord Jesus promised to believers. "Out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water."1 It is life in the Spirit, abundant life, for all of His people, not just a few.
Life More Abundant
1. What kind of life does God promise each Christian (John 10:10b; 1 John 2:25)? When does he receive this life (John 5:24)?
2. What is the relationship between the life God promises and the Person of Jesus Christ?
John 10:10b 1 John 5:11-12
John 11:25 1 John 5:20
How would you describe the quality of the life of Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:17; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 8:29; 16:33; Romans 15:3; Hebrews 2:14; 4:15b)?
3. Based on your answers so far, define the "abundant Christian life."
Would you say that this is God's norm for every believer? Explain.
4. What are some characteristics of the abundant Christian life?
John 7:38 Galatians 5:22-23
John 15:16 1 John 2:6
1 Corinthians 10:13 1 John 5:4
5. Read Romans 5:12-21. Make a comparison between Adam and Christ. What does a man receive through each?
"Through Adam" "Through Christ"
6. What was our standing or position with God before salvation (Ephesians 2:1; 4:18)? What is our position with God as believers (Ephesians 2:4-6; Colossians 3:1-3)? How is a person brought into this standing with God (1 Corinthians 1:30)?
7. What does it mean to be "in Christ"?
What are some of the blessings or benefits of being "in Christ"?
Romans 8:1 Ephesians 1:3
2 Corinthians 5:17 Colossians 2:10
8. Who lives within the believer (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27)?
How is your
union with Christ (you in Christ and Christ in you) the only basis for a life of victory and abundance?
9. What are some reasons that a person might not experience an abundant Christian life?
1 John 5:12 Hebrews 11:6
10. Examine your life. Are you experiencing the life that God intends? What hinders you?
How do the truths of this lesson increase your appreciation for the Lord and for your relationship with Him?
In view of your union with Christ, write a paragraph describing how you should now live.
1 Quoted in
Principles of Spiritual Growth by Miles J. Stanford (Lincoln, Nebraska: Back to the Bible, 1966), p. 43.