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The Law of the Spirit of Life

 

 

i.            Revisit the salvation plan Jesus completed on the cross:

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church…….” (Ephesians 1: 17-22)

 

(1)   Review the salvation plan God had prepared for the world -- through Jesus He will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1: 21).  In the New Testament, and especially the Book of Romans, when the word “sin” is mentioned it can mean either the “sin nature” or the “sinful acts”.  Sin (the sin nature) entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned (committed sinful acts) (Romans 5: 12).  Every one of us in the world is controlled by our sin nature so that we cannot help but commit sinful acts.  We know that God’s salvation plan is to save his people from their sins through Jesus.  Since “sins” include both the sinful acts and the sin nature, therefore God’s salvation plan will not only take care of the issue of sinful acts but also the issue of the sin nature.  God’s salvation plan is through:

Jesus died for me:  Jesus Christ died on the cross and shed His precious blood to atone all our sins.  With his blood he paid up our debts to God and spared us from the judgment and punishment of God that we surely deserve.

I was crucified with Jesus:  Jesus died on the cross and through faith we also died with him, thereby we are freed from the control of our sin nature, “because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6: 7)

      Praise God, once we believe in Jesus then sin shall no longer be our master. (see Romans 6: 14)

 

(2)   The cross is the dividing line of the old- and the new-self: when we came to Christ, we were united with the Lord and our old-self was crucified with him; so we were united with Christ in death and in burial (the old-self, which is “in Adam”, ended at that point).  We were also united with Christ in resurrection, received the new life and became the new-self (which is “in Christ” – the beginning of the new creation).  Even though our body didn’t go through the actual physical death, burial, and resurrection, but by faith we were united with the Lord; therefore whatever Christ experienced we also experienced them along with Him.  God used the cross to move us from the domain of “in Adam” to the domain of “in Christ”. (see 1 Corinthians 1: 30)  That’s why we say the cross is the dividing line of the old- and the new-self.  The new-self is not an improved version of the old-self; rather it is the born again new man with a spiritual life.  A person under the control of the sin nature (the old-self), no matter how hard he tries will never turn into someone who is not controlled by the sin nature.  It’s impossible for him to become someone with a spirit-filled life.

 

(3)   Jesus Christ is the last Adam; Jesus Christ is the second man (see 1 Corinthians 15: 45-47)

 

a)      In relation to the sin nature and the sinful deeds, Jesus Christ was the last Adam; because He represented the human race and assumed all our sins and was crucified on the cross.  The first Adam brought sin (the sin nature that enslaves us to sin) into the world; the last Adam removed the sin from us (through his blood he washed away our sinful deeds; through his death he saved us from the control of the sin nature).  Historically, the last Adam was born in Bethlehem, went through the death by being crucified and in the end was buried in the tomb.

b)      In terms of the head of a race, Jesus Christ is the second man.  This is in contrast to the fact that “Adam is the first man”.  Adam is the head of the old-selves, while Jesus Christ was resurrected to be the second man – the head of the new-selves.  Therefore, the second man begins with the resurrection of Jesus Christ and will live on forever.

 

(4)   Everyone is born in Adam.  The salvation of the cross moves all those who believe in the Lord from “in Adam” to “in Christ”.  The distinction between “in Adam” and “in Christ” is like the “two trees” we talked about previously – the good tree and the bad tree.  Because Adam chose to be disobedient so he was controlled by the sin nature and became a bad seed.  Thus the life stemming from Adam (bad seed) is of the bad tree.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, through “the word became flesh” was born into this world to become the Son of Man.  He willingly submitted to the Father God and died on the cross and is a seed that cannot go bad.  Therefore the life stemming from Jesus Christ is of the good tree.

 

(5)   Let’s take a look at the Diagram of God’s Salvation Plan:

 

The cross is in the middle.  To the left of the cross is the “in Adam” domain; to the right is the domain of “in Christ”.

 

GOD’S SALVATION PLAN DIAGRAM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(6)   Comparing men’s situation and position between “in Adam” and “in Christ”:

 

In Adam

In Christ

Sin (nature) resulting from Adam’s disobedience

Righteousness gained through Christ’s submission

Sin (nature) reins and compels us to die

Righteousness rules, enables us to have eternal life through accepting Jesus Christ as our savior

Died in transgressions and sins

Raised from the dead because of the salvation through Jesus Christ

Of the flesh

Of the Spirit

In flesh and live by the flesh

In Spirit and live by the Spirit

Under law

Under grace

Everyone is a sinner controlled by the sin nature

Everyone is righteous by faith

Adam is the head of the old-selves

Jesus Christ is the head of the new-selves

 

(7)   Explanation of “the spiritual man”, “the worldly man”, and “the natural man”:  Some Bible scholars believe that “the spiritual man” refers to someone who is saved, born again with a new life, and lives by the Holy Spirit.  “The worldly man” refers to someone who is saved, born again with a new life, but does not follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit; rather, he chooses to live by relying on his own will, intelligence, and ability.  “The natural man” refers to someone who hasn’t declared his faith in the Lord.

 

(8)   The flesh is connected with Adam and the Holy Spirit is connected with Christ:

a)      We were all born “in Adam” originally.

b)      After we have come to Christ, our position has also changed – moving from “in Adam” to “in Christ”.  This is the “objective fact” that Jesus Christ has accomplished in us.

c)      How do we turn this “objective fact” into our “subjective experience”? (This was briefly touched upon previously and we will visit it again here.)

Now that we have come to Christ and are in the domain of “in Christ”, why everything that was “in Adam” continues to show up in us as usual?  In other words, how do we turn the “objective fact”, that Christ accomplished the salvation in us, into our “subjective experience”?

In Romans Chapters 7 and 8, even though we don’t see the phrases like “living by the flesh” or “living by the Holy Spirit”, but the implication is perfectly clear.  The flesh (sinful nature) is connected with Adam (see Romans 7: 5, 18), while the Holy Spirit is connected with Christ (see Romans 8: 2).

As children of God, we firmly believe that God uses everything we encounter each day to enable our life to grow.  Therefore, we truly believe that as we deal with everything we face each day, we are actually trying to live out God’s requirements of us (i.e. the requirements of God’s law).  God’s requirements are always holy and righteous.  They can only be met by grace (i.e. living out “Christ is my life”).

The meaning of “living by the flesh”:  When we face a new requirement of God (i.e. every single thing we encounter each day), how do we handle it?  If we go about it relying on ourselves, using our own efforts, experiences and ideas, then we are once again controlled by the sin nature.  Everything that belongs to the “in Adam” domain and the conditions associated with the “old-self” will reappear in us.  Consequently, our behavior will be completely contrary to the fact that we are “in Christ”.  As a matter of fact, it would appear that we don’t belong to Christ because “flesh” is connected to Adam.

The meaning of living by the Holy Spirit:  Every time we face a new requirement of God (i.e. every single thing we encounter each day), how do we handle it?  I cannot, and must not do anything by relying on myself.  I trust, obey, and look up to Christ to be my life; and through the Holy Spirit working inside me, I yearn for Him to accomplish in me what He requires of me.  God didn’t tell us to try and do it ourselves, rather He told us to trust in Him.  God didn’t tell us to struggle and fight through our challenges, rather He told us to rest in Him.  True victories are never achieved through the abilities of the flesh; rather it is God’s glory that carries us there.  Only when we are living by the Holy Spirit, will the objective truth of “Lord Jesus completed the salvation plan” become our subjective experience.  Therefore, we should not stop at just being saved and being “in Christ”; rather we should also live by the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is linked to Christ.

 

ii.            Not Under Law but Under Grace

The “law” is narrowly defined as the laws that are cited in the Old Testament as represented by the Ten Commandments.  In a broader sense, the law means God’s requirements of His people (they are holy and righteous).  Some people misunderstood the meaning of “not under law but under grace” and thought that we are no longer bound by the law so we are free to do anything we want.  That is absolutely wrong!  The phrase: “not under law but under grace” does not say that we need not fulfill the law at all.  The actual meaning of this phrase is that the way to fulfill the requirements of the law is not by living under law but by living under grace.   By trusting in God, we are no longer under the control of the sin nature; Jesus is my life (i.e. live by the Holy Spirit and submit to the Holy Spirit) and I have been justified – achieving the requirements of the law.

Under law:  means to rely on one’s own will, intelligence, efforts, passion, and talents in handling every big and small things we face each day, which in reality is hoping to achieve God’s requirements of righteousness and holiness through one’s own efforts.  Of course we know that no one can make it work this way.  Just like what we said before, anytime you rely on yourself to live, you are under the control of the sin nature and the resulting deeds are hostile to God for sure.  It is also akin to what we have seen in the discussions of “two ways, two trees, and two foundations” that through your own efforts you might be able to manage this one thing but you would fail in others; or you might be able to manage all things on the surface but in God’s eyes you are not only failing to meet His standards but your deeds are also a bad fruit, a waste of effort and have no eternal value.

Under Grace:  means to acknowledge that our old-selves have been crucified with Jesus and are dead.  Therefore, we cannot and should not rely on our own efforts to meet the requirements of the law and to manage all things big and small that we encounter each day.  Instead, we should constantly call on the name of the Lord, submit to and rely on the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us every step of the way to meet the requirements of the law.

 

iii.            The law of the Spirit of Life:  In Romans 8: 2, Paul said, “… through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”  We have discussed God’s salvation for the world: through his death on the cross, burial, and resurrection, Jesus Christ accomplished the salvation plan and ascended to heaven sitting on the right side of the Father God.  The Father God sent the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ’s name to the world to implement the salvation plan.  Someday, He will return to raise the churches to be with Him forever.  It is such an amazing salvation and glorious blessing of hope.

We have already known that the salvation plan Jesus accomplished for us was to recreate the human race.  He nailed our old-selves to the cross with him so that we are freed from the sin nature; He raised us up from the dead to become new men (new-selves) belonging to Christ.  Christ is the head of the new selves, and the cross is the watershed between the old-selves and the new-selves.

We have already known that we no longer live under law, i.e. we don’t rely on our own ability to meet God’s requirements; rather we live under grace, i.e. we rely on God’s power (Christ is my life, through relying on and submitting to the Holy Spirit) to live up to God’s requirements.  To live under law means I am doing it for God; I am working hard to reach God’s requirements.  To live under grace means God is doing it for me; all I have to do is to call on His name, look to Christ to be my life and rely on the great power of the Holy Spirit to achieve God’s requirements.

We have also Known that we should not live by following our sinful desires, rather we should live by following the lead of the Holy Spirit.  We have discussed and compared the two different lives of “in the Spirit” and “in flesh”.

How do we live in the Spirit after all?   How should a Christian live his or her life?  Let’s continue the discussion.  We want to find out what the law of the Spirit of life is.  Let’s first think about what is law (both the narrow and the broad definitions)?   What is the new covenant?  What is the old covenant?  What are their differences?  Why do we call one as the new covenant and the other the old covenant?

 

a)      The basis for living a new life: The new life is to be lived according to the law of the Spirit of life.

The new life should not be lived under what is commonly known as the law (narrowly speaking, it means to obey Moses’ laws; broadly speaking, it means to obey God’s requirements of us -- to be holy and righteous.)  In other words, it’s not by relying on your own ability to restrain yourself so that you may abide by the law.  However, it doesn’t mean that we can become totally lawless.  The new life is not free from the law (see 1 Corinthians 9: 21), it is under the law of the Spirit of life.

 

b)      Various terms for “the law of the Spirit of life”:  The Bible looks at the “law of the Spirit of life” from many different angles and uses many terms to describe it.  Aside from “the law of the Spirit of life”, in James 1: 25 we have “the perfect law that gives freedom”, and in Galatians 6: 2 and 1 Corinthians 9: 21 we have “the law of Christ”.  We have repeatedly mentioned that once we believe in Christ we no longer rely on our own power to restrain ourselves so as to abide by the rules of the law and to meet God’s requirements of holiness and righteousness.  Then how should we go about it?  We should obey the new law, that is:

a.      The law of the Spirit of life: from the perspective of receiving life, it is through our looking up to and calling on Jesus that the Holy Spirit enables us to be born again, to receive life, and to have an abundant life.  This is a law. 

            Before we became a believer, because of our earnest seeking and constant calling on Jesus, the Holy Spirit entered into our hearts and granted us the new life.  The Holy Spirit is the spirit of life.

            After we’ve become Christians, through our constant looking up to and calling on Jesus, the Holy Spirit continually guides us in our hearts to have an abundant life.  The Holy Spirit makes our life grow.

b.      A perfect law that gives freedom:  From the perspective of giving freedom (The reason that the laws of the Old Testament made us lose freedom or even became our shackle, is because no one can live up to it.  However, the new law inspires us to want to live up to God’s requirements, and because of that we are able to meet God’s standards.), the word “perfect” in Greek is the same word Jesus used on the cross when he said “It is finished!”  That is to say when Jesus completed God’s salvation plan on the cross, He completed a law that men can live by.  Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus lives in our hearts and becomes our life, therefore, everything that God is asking of us (i.e. whether it’s to move your heart on the inside or to deal with situations you face on the outside), God himself will do the work (because Jesus is my life and the Holy Spirit is in me), all we have to do is to let the Holy Spirit be in charge and follow his guidance.  This is the essence of “speak and act according to the law that gives freedom.”  Brothers and sisters, we must live by this perfect law that gives freedom because when we are before the throne of Jesus we will be judged by the law that gives freedom. (James 1: 25, 2: 12)

 

c.       Christ’s law:  The relationship between Christ and the law – “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” (Romans 10: 4)  The meaning of this passage is two-folds:  (1) Jesus Christ lived his entire life abiding by the law, yet he died to pay for all our sins against the law; so when we sinners accepted the Lord we died with Him through faith.  Romans 7: 4-6 says, “… you also died to the law through the body of Christ,  … but now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law …”, thus we are no longer bound by the requirements of the law.  (2) Jesus Christ completed a new law on the cross – the law that gives freedom – “in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8: 4)

 

c)      The contents of the law of the Spirit of life:

a.      Lord Jesus completed the work of salvation plan and rose to heaven.  The Father God granted us the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name to implement the salvation plan.  The Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of all who believe in the Lord (all who call on the name of the Lord).  If you sincerely call on the Lord, the Holy Spirit will surely work in you.  God will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (see Luke 11: 13).  This is the law, no exception.

b.      Lord Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, lives in us – Jesus is our life.

c.       Since God gave us the Holy Spirit so we ought not to continue to live under law, rather we should live under grace.  Serving the Lord should not be in the old way of the written code, struggling with the freedom-limiting provisions of the law; rather we should serve in the new way of the Spirit, follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  In Jeremiah 31: 31-33 the Lord declares, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.”

d.      The law of the Spirit of life has three aspects:

                                i.      God’s requirements:  Although we need not observe the provisions of the law but we still must attain God’s requirements of us in the new way of the Spirit.  In our daily life, the Holy Spirit, depending on the degree of maturity of each of our life, will make different demand of us.  (Note that God’s requirements might come in the form of external events that happen to us and causing our old-self temperament to be exposed; or through the words and thoughts in our hearts that move us in the form of condemnation or enlightenment.)

                              ii.      Contents of the law of the Spirit of life:  When faced with God’s requirements of us, we would constantly look to the Lord, call on His name, give thanks to Him, and acknowledge that He is the Lord, and the Holy Spirit would be in our hearts to guide us and to teach us.  The contents of this guidance and teaching are the contents of the law of the Spirit of life (i.e. the anointed teaching) – the Holy Spirit leads, guides, and teaches us according to the level of maturity of everyone’s life.  This is what it means to write the law on our hearts. (see Isaiah 40: 11, John 16: 13, 1 Corinthians 13: 11, and Hebrews 5: 13-14)

A.      It must be the peace from Christ;

B.      It is in agreement with the requirements of God’s words;

C.      It cannot contradict the principle of the truth;

D.     It not only issues requests, but at the same time gives us the power to always comply, to be in awe, and to be obedient (because Christ is my life and power, see Ephesians 3: 14-21).  The Lord said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; … and I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36: 26-27)  The Lord said, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts, … I will make an everlasting covenant with them, … and I will inspire them to fear me.” (Jeremiah 31: 33, 32: 40)

E.      It is vital that every one of us should think of ourselves with sober judgment, in accordance with our individual situation (the maturity of the spiritual life, and the measure of faith from God). (see Romans 12: 3, Philippians 3: 16, 1 Timothy 3: 13)

He issues requests and He Himself lives in us to become our power to attain the requirements -- the Holy Spirit will guide us in accordance with the maturity of our life.  The fundamental difference between “the law of the Spirit of life” and “living under law” is that living under law you must do what the law says (of course, we are not capable of attaining this; so we must try very hard to restrain ourselves and in the end we will still fail).  As to the law of the Spirit of life, on one hand, according to the level of our life God makes demands of us daily and we through looking up to and calling on the Holy Spirit to guide and move us in our hearts; on the other hand, the Holy Spirit will give us the power needed to meet God’s requirements of us.

                            iii.      Live according to the Holy Spirit:  that’s all we have to do, and if we do that we will be able to meet God’s righteous requirement of us. (see Romans 8: 4)

 

We do not rely on our own ability to live out God’s words.  Rather, we constantly keep the words of the Bible in our hearts and meditate on them day and night; and through constant praying and asking, the Holy Spirit will surely use the words of the Bible to move us, then we will be able to submit whole-heartedly.  In this way, we will gradually attain the standard stated in the Bible.  That is to say, we do not rely on our own ability to obey the teachings of the Bible, instead, we submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit (i.e. live under grace, rely not on our own ability but on the great power of the Spirit) to live out the words or meaning of the Bible and thereby attain the standard of the Bible.  This is the process leading up to “the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8: 4)

The reason that we become bound by the law of the Old Testament is because the law is rigid and powerless in itself.  It only serves as a ruler for us to measure our actions against it to see if we have met the standard.

Therefore, we can understand why we call “the law of the Spirit of life” as “the law that gives freedom” -- when we are faced with God’s requirements (i.e. things we encounter in our hearts or externally), do not rely on our own ability at all, just call on the name of the Lord and submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit then we will attain God’s requirement.  The reason that it gives freedom is because through “not relying on ourselves but relying on the Lord” everything we face will be smoothed over by His great power that far exceeds our expectations and resulting in extraordinary peace in us (see Ephesians 3: 14-20).  When we fall short of God’s requirement (can’t reach it or just barely reach it), we feel constrained; when we are able to meet the requirement (and do it with joy and peace), we feel released, freed.  What a wonderful salvation plan God has devised for us!

e.      Quick to listen (listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your heart, i.e. the leading of the law of the Spirit of life), slow to speak:  Since we are under the law of the Spirit of life, we should practice “quick to listen” and “slow to speak”.  In all things we should first call on God and then wait and listen to the guidance of the Lord (see James 1: 19-20; Isaiah 31: 1).  We can then proceed with peace in our hearts and in harmony with others.  We must practice to have both inner and outer peace first before doing or saying anything (see James 1: 26).  The true nature of our old-self is that when we encounter a situation we are quick to react and quick to be troubled by it; then we would try to think up ways to deal with it and expound our lofty ideas.  We are also easily angered by things that we think are not reasonable, and we are quick to criticize or pass judgments.  Apostle James told us to be quick to listen and slow to speak.  Indeed, we should hold our Lord Jesus in the high esteem, who lives in us through the Holy Spirit.  1 Peter 3: 15 tells us to set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts.  Philippians 4: 6 tells us that in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to God.  Then we should be quick to listen to what Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, says to us; and slowly follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to speak and act.  When we encounter something, we should never be quick to speak.  Apostle James also encouraged us with this: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” (James 1: 26)  When Jesus Christ returns, he will meet us in the air and all Christians will stand before Christ’s judgment seat and have our works judged.  (This is the judgment of the Christians which differs from the judgment of the unbelievers that will come at the end of time.)  The criteria God uses to judge us is “the law that gives freedom”, therefore, we should speak and act according to this law. (refer to James 2: 12)

f.        Among your fellow Christians, do not speak against or judge each other.  Since we all have been saved and born again and have the Holy Spirit dwell in us then we should follow the law of the Spirit to live.  Thus if we speak against our brothers we are speaking against the law of the Spirit (see James 4: 11).  If we observe any inappropriateness  among fellow Christians, this is what we should do:  first call on the name of the Lord and then depending on how the Holy Spirit moves and guides us, we may offer them encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness and compassion, or even rebuking (see Philippians 2: 1-2).

g.      We must recognize that the growth of the new life is a “life-long” process and that everyone’s degree of growth and the growth process are different.  We must also recognize that in order for the new life to grow we invariably will go through the repeated cycle of failures and setbacks (when we rely on ourselves) and peace and joy (when we rely on the Lord).  We should realize that during the process of new life growth there will be ups and downs, peaks and valleys, and that everyone will have areas that he or she is yet to overcome.  As a Christian pursuing holiness and righteousness, we often face a trial: that is we can’t acknowledge the stage of our own life growth.  A Christian who can’t acknowledge the state of his own spiritual life will surely not acknowledge that of the others.  When one is not happy about the state of his own life he will feel dejected; when he is not happy about the state of other’s life he will speak against or judge him.  Be patient and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to grow your life, you should never try to rush it.

h.      Praying:  When we are not happy about the state of ours or others’ life we should recognize that the growth of life is a life-long process.  On the one hand, we should never rush it, and on the other hand we should ask God to strengthen us with power in our inner being (see Ephesians 3: 16).  We should pray that God will continually destroy the strongholds in our (or others’) hearts and recapture our hearts and minds for Christ, so that our life may grow gradually.

 

d)       Rely on the Holy Spirit and follow His guidance to act:

a.      The battle between the flesh and the Holy Spirit: if someone indulges in his sinful nature and commits sins, I believe everyone will be quick to condemn him.  However, many Christians (I was one) try to rely on their own efforts to overcome the sinful nature and to be holy.  When we ask God to help us in our struggles with sin, we mistakenly think that we are exercising our faith.  In reality, whenever we try to rely on our own efforts to be good, we are under the control of our sinful nature.  Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7: 18, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.”  Therefore, we must put an end to our struggles.  Andrew Murray told us to learn to describe ourselves – I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  When we strive to be good by relying on our own efforts, the Holy Spirit cannot do His work; because our sinful nature battles against the Holy Spirit.  Let us hear God’s words: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalms 46: 10)  God wants us to “beat our bodies and make them our slaves.” (see 1 Corinthians 9: 27“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, … for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work.”  (Hebrews 4: 10-11)  Brothers and sisters, do not try to do good by relying on your own efforts anymore, because “I” will always fail; besides, “those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” (Romans 8: 8)

b.      Rely on and live by the Holy Spirit: To rely on the Holy Spirit is to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to act; and to live by the Holy Spirit means to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to live.  As we discussed earlier, whenever we are trying (by our own efforts) to do good, we are living under the control of our sinful nature.  If a person still laments about the fact that he is so weak and powerless then he hasn’t fully grasped the true meaning of “I cannot do anything on my own, only when God’s life is in me that I’ll be able to meet God’s requirements (be holy and righteous).  Only when you truly realize “I can’t do it,” you’ll be willing to give up trying to rely on yourself and willing to let Christ’s life through the Holy Spirit do God’s work in you.  (This realization is a life-long process; it comes about gradually as a result of the growth of our lives.)

  

                       i.         Galatians 5: 16 says, “… live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”  Here we want to point out one particular thing:  from this scripture passage, we can see clearly if you don’t want to indulge in the desires of the sinful nature then you must live by the Spirit first.  In other words, the name of the Lord must be exalted (He must become greater).  When we call on and exalt His name then naturally “I must become less”, and will not seek to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  In the past, I was always trying to rely on myself not to indulge in my sinful nature which in effect is exalting myself and of course will not work.  So the Lord must be lifted up high first (i.e. call on the name of the Lord first when you encounter a situation), then “we” will naturally become weaker.

 

Obeying the guidance of the Holy Spirit will always result in having the peace of Christ in your heart (see Romans 14: 22, Philippians 4: 7, Colossians 3: 15 and 1 John 3: 20), as well as the outward peace and harmony without compromising the fundamental truth (see Galatians 5: 22, James 3: 17-18, and Psalms 133: 1-3).  When you are faced with God’s demands (i.e. all things that happen to you, whether internal or external, are all permitted by God), you should approach everything with prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving, present your request to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)  When we repeatedly pray and give thanks (thanking God for allowing things to happen to us so that we may be enriched by them) until we have peace in our hearts (it may be just pure peace or may be God’s words), then we simply follow this peace of mind to act achieving outward harmony while adhering to the fundamental truth.  In the past, I thought I was following the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act, but I was only focusing on whether I had peace in my heart and paid no attention to whether my actions actually brought harmony between others and me.  Thus my actions often caused disharmonious situations between other coworkers and me.  When others didn’t understand me or disagree with me, I would just tell myself that I was suffering for the Lord.  This is utterly wrong!  Andrew Murray told us that if there was any hint of disharmony in our life, it meant we were still under the control of the sinful nature.

 

                  ii.      When we say “to obey the Holy Spirit”, it means “to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit”; when we say “to rely on the Holy Spirit”, it means “to use the power of the Holy Spirit to act”.  On the surface, “obeying” sounds easy but in reality, because of our self-centeredness it is hard.  When we face God’s requirements of us (regardless whether they are the circumstances we are in or things that are tugging our hearts) we always resort to our past experiences and our own ways, and prefer to rely on our own ability to take care of things.  When we encounter something that goes against our wishes or not to our liking, our first reactions tend to be asking why it is happening to us, getting mad, complaining, and trying to come up with a solution on our own.  We should train ourselves to pray to the Lord this way: “Oh Lord, I ask you to save me from myself.  I ask you to save me from wanting to do things my own way.  I ask you to save me from wanting to rely on my own ability.  Oh Lord, I beg you to save me.  I want you to come into my heart to be the Lord and the king so that the life of Jesus is in me to accomplish all things.”  We have already pointed out that our nature always likes to go our own way and relies on our own ability to do things.  1 Corinthians 15: 46 says, “The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.”  Thus, it often takes many setbacks and difficulties to make us gradually turning from “not knowing to rely on God and only rely on ourselves” to “relying more on ourselves than on God” to “relying more on God than on ourselves”, and finally to “not relying on ourselves but only on God.”  This gradual transforming process is exactly the process of the growth of the new life, resulting from the weakening of the old-self.  In other words, it is the process of “He must become greater, I must become less.”  The growth process of the new life is just like a baby from being born, to becoming a toddler, to becoming a teenager, to becoming a young adult, etc.  On the other hand, our old-self is like an adult regressing back to becoming a child or even a baby lying in mother’s arms.  Therefore, Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14: 20 encourages us to pursue the growth of the new life and the weakening of our old-selves, “Brothers, stop thinking like children.  In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.”   We should never think that since we have the knowledge of the path leading to the new life that we can go from being a baby to an adult overnight.  Having the knowledge and actually growing the new life are two completely different things.  The growth of our new life is predicated on how often we call on the name of the Lord, look up to the Lord, rely on the Lord, and obey the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act.  Even if we have the spiritual knowledge but if we fail to pursue the real spiritual experience in our daily living then we are only puffing up ourselves (see 1 Corinthians 8: 1) and only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13: 1).                          

      

e)      Attaining the righteousness of God:  We have said over and over again that the law, God’s requirement for the people of the world to be holy and righteous, must be attained.  The question is by what means can it be attained?  Is it through living a life of “relying on myself” or through “relying on God and having the life of the new-self (i.e. the life of Christ)”?  Is it by relying on our own ability or by using the power of the Holy Spirit?  The answer to this question is definitive: we cannot attain God’s requirement by relying on ourselves; rather we must rely on the Lord’s life in us; we cannot rely on our own ability; rather we must rely on the great power of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit leads and guides us by using the things that we encounter daily (i.e. God’s requirements of us) to train us not to rely on our own ability, not to follow our own ways to do things.  Instead, the Holy Spirit teaches us to exalt the Lord, acknowledge the Lord is our master and everything we encounter is God’s will.  If we receive words, thoughts, or peace in our heart from God, then we may act as long as we maintain our inner peace as well as external harmony with others.  This is how God works in our life.  He allows us to go through thousands and thousands of situations to make us learn to be obedient on all things, (Of course, there will be many instances where we fail to obey; this is perfectly normal just like we have good days and bad days.) so that we may gradually get rid of our self-centeredness and gradually become God-centered.  Thereby, our spiritual life may grow and that “the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”   Andrew Murray said that God not only gave us salvation and life, He also sent the Holy Spirit to help us understand all that He has given us.  It’s like He not only pointed out the land of Canaan but also gave us the direction to get there.  Therefore, we should be like a blind man just let Him guide us every day.  He also said that from the moment we accept the Holy Spirit into our heart, we no longer have a part in running our life.  All we have to do is to step aside, revere and trust Him and just leave everything to Him.  (When I first read Andrew Murray’s words over ten years ago I didn’t understand and was even turned-off by them, wondering if he had misspoken.  Thanks to the Lord, now I am beginning to have a better understanding of what he meant.  That’s why I want to share his words with you so that we can all contemplate over them.)  What we ought to do is to look up to the Lord; trust in Him; call on His name; follow and rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all things; and use the great power of the Holy Spirit to act.

 

I have been asked the following questions:  You said that all things that happened to us were to help our life grow, and we should just follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act.  So in this regard, how is this different from the so called “roll with the punch” life philosophy?  Obviously, many things that happened to us were undeserving; must we still acknowledge and accept them as something positive?  If so, then aren’t we going to suffer much injustices and grievances?  Why do Christians have to endure a life of pity and meekness?

 

In order to answer these questions we must first be clear about a few facts:

a)      Before believing in God, we were separated from God, had nothing to lean on, couldn’t find satisfaction, had no peace, joy, or freedom, and were destined to forever suffer in hell (i.e. permanently separated from God).

b)      The reason of our being in this situation is because our ancestor Adam chose to rebel and was under the control of the sin nature.  As a result, all mankind can’t help but commit sins and are separated from God.

c)      The salvation plan God prepared for us is aimed to resolve both our sinful nature and our sinful acts issues.  God recreated the human race using the cross.  He made those who believe in Jesus Christ and the cross, unite with Him in death and thereby are freed from the control of the sin nature.  The way God uses the cross is that when Jesus died on it, His salvation plan is done or completed.

d)      We must never forget that the cross moves us from the domain of “in Adam” to the kingdom of “in Christ” and that the cross is the watershed between our “old-self” and the “new-self”.  In other words, the “old-self” must go through the cross (death and resurrection) to become the “new-self”, and it takes endless cycles of going through the cross for the “old-self” to die gradually and be replaced by the “new-self”.  Taking the way of the cross, “I”, in the eyes of men, will necessarily be weak, aggrieved, and treated unreasonably, because “I” will not be relying on its wisdom, smartness, talents and abilities.  However,  through lifting the name of the Lord up high and the death on the cross, the great power of Christ’s resurrection will enable the “new-self” to exhibit God’s wisdom, smartness, and abilities (far above all rulers and authorities, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, ….).  The cross is the intercept of God’s wisdom and power (on one hand “my” wisdom and ability are cast away, and on the other hand God’s wisdom and power are manifested in the new “me”).  1 Corinthians 15: 36 says, “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.”  Romans 6: 5 says, “If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.”

e)      God let all things that happen to us become our cross.  This is not to say that everything that happen to us are justified, rather, in God’s plan He allows those things to happen so as to edify us; to this purpose they are justified.  The things that God allows to happen to us are commensurate with the stage of our life growth so that “I” may die to a greater extent; and building up my character of holiness so that my “new-self” will grow further.  As to those involved in the events of our life, they all have to answer to God (for believers) or be judged (for non-believers).  We should not engage in “an eye for an eye”.

f)       Walking on the path of the cross is not the same as the so called “roll with the punch.  Rather, we have a mindset of “being united with the Lord in death and in resurrection” and call on the name of the Lord, lift Him up on high, give thanks to the Lord, and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act.  We are not trying to suppress our anger or control our emotions; rather “we always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4: 10)  In men’s eyes our actions may appear to be weak, but 2 Corinthians 12: 10 says, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”   Therefore, the cross is the foundation of our obedience; it is the basis of our obeying and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act.  Let us exalt Jesus Christ and Him crucified!  Let us praise the Lord’s cross:

 

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,

Till my trophies at last I lay down;

I will cling to the old rugged cross,

And exchange it someday for a crown.


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