Two down. Two more to go!
OK here it comes. Characteristic #3
3. The New Life in the Spirit gives us a new perspective on ourselves, present life circumstances and a future hope of full restoration
Again, the very foundation of Christian life is that God, in Jesus Christ, wants to restore us back into the original image of Himself. We are predestined to be conformed to that image because that was God’s original plan all along. Knowing that and having embraced the fact that we are loved by Him because the cross settles that once and for all, we start looking at life through a different eye. The Good News (Gospel) is not a survival kit just to make it to the end of our lives. It’s not an add-on so that our lives go smoother. It’s not a beneficial message first of all. It’s not about blessings, victories, provision, even though all these things are included in the process. The focus has to be something very, very different. The Good News is also called ‘good tidings of great joy which will be to all people (Luke 2:10). That was the good news that the angel brought to the shepherds in the field. It is so much more than a Christmas story. It is good news and it brings great joy.
In the very first message of the Romans series I said something very important about the good news. Let me repeat this here again, because it so important to understand. The way you receive the good news is what you will believe and what you will believe is what you’ll manifest. Allow me to unpack this one more time.
If I received the good news of Christ PRIMARILY as a message that benefits me (going to heaven, receiving blessings, having less problems, health/wealth etc.), I will believe that in the way the news came to me. Our belief system is the guiding principle for how we act, think and even feel. It is the WHY behind our lives. If that is mostly about getting a better life, I will manifest that in what I believe about God, the Christian walk and others. On the other hand, if the Good News is first of all a message that brings transformation (remember the conversation about restoration into the Image of God), then I will believe that instead. Consequently, this other belief system will manifest itself in a very different attitude towards God, life and others.
Unfortunately the survival gospel is by far the predominant message out there. Why is the ‘survival mentality’ so pervasive in the body of Christ? My best guess is this: The gospel was often communicated as something beneficial rather than transformational. That gives a very different perspective on Christian life.
“Come to Christ and He’ll take care of you.”
“Pray this prayer and your name is written in the book!”
“Receive Christ and you will be healthy and wealthy. He wants you to be rich!”
“If you receive Christ today, you will not go to hell instead…”
There are many different versions of it. All of them are first and foremost about how God benefits us, how He meets our needs and how our lives will be much better.
I think that’s why Paul makes it abundantly clear that it is the Spirit that helps us to be overcomers in this life. Overcomers are different from survivors. Overcomers are not led by their feelings nor are they defined by what seems right to them. Their reference point is that this life is the prelude to what is to come and even though creation itself is groaning and our bodies perhaps too, there is more to come. It gives overcomers a hope that no matter what life throws at them, they have a secure place
4. The New Life in the Spirit is knowing that you know that you are loved and that knowing Him is all that matters
In Holland many people grew up in a doctrine that gave very little assurance of faith. I don’t think that for many Australians it is very different. When you would ask a person if they knew they were saved, they may say something like:
“I think so, I don’t know. It’s up to the Man Upstairs.”
“Well, I guess so. I prayed the prayer one day and I was baptized as a child so I’m good with God….I think.”
Others may even say it this way:
“I don’t know” or
“I don’t think anyone can really answer that question…”
Still others may say something like this:
“Aren’t we all children of God? Some may not even know that, but they are in! Heaven is also for them!”
“God is a God of Love, so I guess I am ok. Heaven is for me. I don’t know what that is, but it sounds great.”
And yet Romans 8 clearly teaches us that we can know that we are saved! Why? Because His Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. This means that in this life we can enjoy salvation already. You are already living in eternity! Death is merely a portal through the other side where one day also our mortal bodies will be resurrected.
That’s why Paul can say with boldness that nothing can separate us from the LOVE of God. We need to settle this in our hearts and minds.
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor heights nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
But hang on. What doesn’t it say? What’s missing in this list? Very simple. It says that our present is secure, so that isn’t it. It also says that our future is secure, so we can tick that off the list. It’s not about exterior circumstances either. God really has our back. Then what could potentially separate us still?
Very simple. Paul didn’t say that our PAST can separate us from the LOVE of God. Did you get that?
It is our past that we may hold on to that can separate us from the love of God. The reason is very easy to understand. We live from the place of righteousness. We are standing in a right relationship with God. Revisiting past hurts, rejections, regrets, holding on to rights because so and so did something ‘in our past’ can and will separate us from the love of God.
That’s why it is so incredibly important to live daily understanding that we are forgiven and that God is continually transforming, bit by bit, into His Image when we allow Him. Unforgiveness toward someone who may have done something some time in history will destroy any work of grace to truly know and experience God’s Love fully. That’s why identity is a very big thing! We love because we now understand God’s love. We serve, not out of some sort of debt, but in gratitude and OUT OF LOVE. We forgive everyone, because we were also forgiven.
It’s God’s Spirit that will really help us overcome whatever life throws at us. WE are not defined by our present circumstances, nor are we led by feelings or the ‘way that seems right to us’. We are led by God’s Spirit. That’s how we know in the first place that we are children of God. We were never in this life living our lives. God never created you for yourself. He created you for Him. Only this way, there really is no other way, you can know the love of God personally, intimately and it will completely transform you.
So, let’s just recap quickly before we close.
What is the new life in the Spirit?
- The New Life in the Spirit is characterized by a new MINDSET
- The New Life in the Spirit is knowing that we are children of God and live from that place of sonship every day
- The New Life in the Spirit gives us a new perspective on ourselves, present life circumstances and a future hope of full restoration
- The New Life in the Spirit is knowing that you know that you are loved and that knowing Him is all that matters
The Gospel is GOOD NEWS! And it brings great Joy (Luke 2:10). When you truly understand the gospel, joy is really the outflow. It has to be. Living this way is the freest place on earth. Why? Because you are free from yourself. Because you are loved and love is selfless. That’s why it is love in the first place.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says it this way:
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not SEEK ITS OWN, is not provoked, this no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Love is what we need. Not the Beatles version of “all you need is love”. Not the human need-driven love, but God’s selfless love. Why? Because in that place there is freedom. Real freedom!
That’s a freedom I can really believe in!