"People will wander everywhere, seeking the Word of the Lord... but will not find it" ( Amos 8:11,12)
Many Christians through the ages, have sincerely sought after holiness and victory over sin by taking up their cross and denying themselves. But they have often found the Christian life to be a "hard grind" instead of the glorious life that the Bible describes. Their failure has been this that they never understood the life of faith under the new covenant. They sought to be holy by the principles of the old covenant and thus missed what God had for them.
2 Corinthians 3:6 tells us that the new covenant is a
ministry of the Spirit that brings life, whereas the
old covenant was a ministry of the letter that brought death!
And if we walk according to the letter
of God's commandments - even in the new covenant - it will still
bring death. Only if we live by
faith and allow the Holy
Spirit to lead us, will we enter into the "life
Since Jesus has now ascended
on high and sent the Holy Spirit to this earth, our life can be
far more glorious than that of any Old Testament saint. So if we
find ourselves living under condemnation, depression and gloom today,
it must be because we are still living by old covenant principles
There were two things
that Jesus emphasised frequently in His ministry - faith
in God and the power of the
Adam missed this life
of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit when he chose the tree
of knowledge of good and evil instead of the tree
of life (Gen.2:9). He chose to have the knowledge of good
and evil resident within himself, instead of being dependent on
God for it.
tree of life represents the life of faith under the new
covenant while the tree of knowledge of
good and evil represents a life of self-effort under the
If Adam had chosen the
tree of life he would have lived by faith
- in constant dependence on God. Then the
Holy Spirit would have given him Divine life. But instead,
he chose to live in dependence on himself, independent
of God. And so he died. All unbelievers live like this -
without constant dependence on God. Unfortunately many believers
live this way too.
All religions teach their
followers to do good and to avoid evil.
Christians who seek after holiness also do good and avoid evil.
And in their pursuit of holiness, they usually end up making finer
and finer distinctions between good and evil, through various rules
and practices!! Yet most of them still never come to a genuinely
holy life. Why? Because they seek
it by works and not by faith.
For 1500 years God taught
the Israelites through the Law, what was good and what was evil.
But obedience to the good works commanded by the Law did not lead
a single Israelite to partake of eternal life. Living by any set
of rules and regulations - however high the standard - will never
lead anyone to genuine godliness, even today.
True holiness is the
life of God in the soul of man - and God has to give this to us
as a gift. We can never attain to it. We must receive it by faith.
Paul said that in the
days when he was unaware of the Law's demands, he felt he was "alive".
But when he understood the demands of the Law of God, he became
so aware of the wrongs in his life that he felt "dead"
(Rom.7:9)!! This is the experience of many who are born again
too. They appear to be happy and "alive"
as long as they hear only about the forgiveness of their sins. But
as soon as they hear about victory over sin and obedience to God's
commandments, they feel condemned and miserable and "dead".
But Paul did not stop
with the old-covenant law - and neither should we. God showed Paul
another law - the law of the Spirit of
life in Christ Jesus. This was the law that finally set him
free from sin (Romans 8:2).
Many seek to be holy
by doing good. Remember that Eve ate of the tree because
it looked good!! She wasn't
seeking to do something evil!! She
ate the fruit, not because she wanted to become like the devil,
but because she wanted to become like
God - for that was what the devil had promised her (Gen.3:5).
People who live according to the Law also make the same mistake
today - thinking that they can be like God through external good
Much of the good that
we see in the lives of many Christians comes, not from genuine holiness,
but from a good upbringing. Many of these Christians are upright,
but they don't have a passionate hunger
after God. They spend their lives accumulating Bible knowledge,
but without any revelation from
God. As a result, their lives are not much different from the lives
of some good unbelievers around
them. All such believers have missed something vital that God wants
them to have - the Divine nature.
God is not
first of all trying to
make us do good, but to make us trust in
Him so that He can give us His nature. In His eyes, the righteous
are not those who do good but
those who live by faith (See Rom.4:5 and
2:4, God contrasts two groups of people - those who believe
in the Lord and those who are proud.
Those who are proud cannot live by
faith. The reason many do not accept God's gifts
freely, by simple faith, is because they are too proud to
accept anything freely. They would rather earn
their forgiveness and their holiness by doing something themselves.
Satan tells Christians
even today (as he told Eve) that they don't need to depend on God
to know the difference between good and evil. He tells them that
they can know the difference through their conscience or by reading
the Bible. But many unbelievers
also live by their conscience - and live fairly decent lives. A
Christian can live like that too - but he won't be righteous
in God's eyes.
Many believers begin their
Christian life right - by trusting God
alone for their justification. But then like the Galatian
Christians, they seek to become perfect through their own efforts
(Gal.3:3). They evaluate their spiritual
worth by how much they have done for God or by the results
they have seen in their ministry. And they feel satisfied. But when
people asked Jesus how they could do the works of God, He did not
tell them to do good works. He told them to believe
in Him (Jn.6:28,29)! Without faith it is impossible
to please God.
There are many paradoxes
in the Christian life and here is the first
one that we encounter when we are saved: We know that Jesus
justifies us so thoroughly that we now stand before God just as
if we had never sinned - for
God promises never to remember our
past sins against us (Heb.8:12).
At the same time we are also told never
to forget our past sins, lest we become blind and shortsighted
So, on one hand we see
that God does not remember our past sins and on the other hand we
are told never to forget them!! How are
we to live with this apparent contradiction?
by being MORE conscious of the fact that the
blood of Jesus has cleansed away our past sins, than
we are conscious of those sins themselves.
Read that last sentence
once again, for this is one of the most important principles of
the Christian life. If you believe it, this truth can liberate you.
is no humility in feeling guilty about our past sins. That is
humility, and is an insult to the
blood of Christ. Such unbelief does not glorify God in any way.
Paul called himself "the
chief of sinners" even after being a Christian for 30 years
(1 Tim.1:15). Yet at the same time
he also said, "I am conscious of nothing
against myself" (1 Cor.4:4). Both facts were true.
This assurance is what
gives us great confidence before God and great boldness against
Satan's accusations and against the fears with which Satan tries
to frighten us.
The most popular books
in Christian bookshops today are those that deal with faith
and the Holy Spirit. But most of
these books lead Christians into a counterfeit
faith and into counterfeit experiences.
The "faith" that these books teach
is faith to become wealthy and healthy - not to become holy and
spiritual. Christians are told that they can get whatever they want
from God, if only they can believe sufficiently. Such teaching is
fundamentally opposed to the teaching and the practice of the first
apostles and to that of godly missionaries (of the 19th and early
20th centuries) who sacrificed their lives for the promotion of
the kingdom of God.
Genuine faith is that
which enables us to overcome the world
(1 Jn.5:4) - the world being "the
lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh
and the pride of life" (1 Jn.2:16). As Jesus overcame this
world, we too can overcome it. (See John
16:33 and Rev.3:21). When
we overcome the world, we will no longer be deceived by Satan telling
us, that the pleasures that come through health
and wealth are superior to
the pleasure that comes through fellowship
God wants us to taste
the pure pleasure of fellowship with Him. That alone can drive away
the desire for other pleasures (Psa.16:11).
Many are trying hard to overcome the attraction of sinful pleasures
by human means. But only when we taste fellowship with God can we
be truly set free.
in God and the power of the Holy Spirit
can set you free from every bondage that Satan ever put upon you.
Do you find yourself unwilling
to give up some particular worldly pleasure that attracts you. Then
cry out to the Lord, like Peter did when he was sinking in the sea,
saying - "Lord save me". You will
find that God gives you not only the
desire to be free from sin, but also
a hatred for it!!
In the new covenant, it is God Who works
in us both to desire
and to do
His will (Phil.2:13). What a wonderful
gospel the new covenant is!!
The life of Jesus is not
something that we can imitate.
We must partake of it through
the Holy Spirit. Most Christians do not experience this because
they are not poor in spirit. That
means that they do not live their lives with a constant awareness
of their need of God. They are self-confident and independent.
Jesus invited only the
thirsty to come to Him and drink.
To walk by faith we must be constantly thirsty (poor in spirit),
always aware of our need of the Holy Spirit's power. There must
be a constant cry in our hearts (even if unspoken) to be filled
with the Spirit and to experience His power. Those who come to Jesus
and drink, will find rivers of living water flowing out from their
innermost beings (a life in the fullness of the Holy Spirit - Jn.7:37,38).
Thus the weakest believer
can experience the glory of this life of faith in the new covenant
and become as strong as the strongest.
He who has ears to hear,
let him hear.