Perhaps, like me, you find yourself entering the new year with a tired heart. It can be hard to admit, and even harder to deny.
The “big ball” dropped in Times Square to herald the arrival of 2016, as thousands of revelers cheered. But a quick scan of the headlines shows that nothing is really “new” yet. The prince of this world continues to sow mayhem, to lie, to steal, and to destroy. What’s happening out in the world can weigh heavily on our inner life, as well.
It can be hard to remember that, above and around us, there exists a spiritual realm (more real than the one we inhabit now) out of which, one day, the Savior will again enter human history in visible form. For now, He continues to intercede for us “at the right hand of God,” [Romans 8:33-34, Hebrews 4:14-15].
No power can nullify God’s completed, supernaturally inspired Word to us. Scripture, authoritative and authentic, continues to be published for many, smuggled to others, and translated for the yet unreached.
Many who are reading this blog post have heard the Gospel, repented, and surrendered to Christ in saving faith; we are aliens and pilgrims progressing toward the eternal city “whose architect and builder is God” [Hebrews 11:10].
All of this is true and beyond the reach of our enemy.
So, why does the victorious, abundant life that Jesus promises –“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” — [John 10:10] so often seem to elude us? Too often, I feel more tired than victorious.
It isn’t only a matter of living in a fallen world. In Christ, we are new creatures [2 Cor. 5:17], “…rescued …from the dominion of darkness and brought … into the kingdom of the Son he loves,” [Col.1:13 NIV].
In my case, and perhaps in yours, I think it’s because I know life-changing truth, but I don’t consistently live out of it. I haven’t been mindful to regularly seek the Holy Spirit’s help to actively APPROPRIATE what is mine in Christ.
What do I mean?
To appropriate is to take to or for oneself, to take possession of an object or quality in such a way as to make it part of who we are and, thus, be changed by it. Those who appropriate a new identity no longer know or are known as they once were. There has been a change, not just in status or category, but in how one understands and proceeds with life.
The transformation that occurs when we put off the old self and take on the nature of Christ, through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, has the power to make a difference that not only is undeniable but also easy to see: “…they realized that they had been with Jesus,” [Acts 4:13].
Is it reasonable to assume that, when saved, we should live sinless lives in a fallen world or that we should despair when we fall short of God’s standard of perfection? No; while it’s true that we are sealed in Him — “having believed, you were sealed with His Spirit,” [Ephes. 1:13] — we continue to inhabit our “earthly tents” until God takes us out of this world, through death or Christ’s return.
We continue to build His kingdom and to serve as examples of what it looks like to have the Holy Spirit as the controlling reality of a person’s life. To do this requires power we can only access from the Holy Spirit, and Satan opposes us as we do so.
This is where actively appropriating truth comes in. No matter the details of our daily lives, those who are in Christ are eternally secure in Him:
“And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My and. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” [John 10:28-29].
If I am growing in consistently living God’s truth, what might this look like in my life?
- For one thing, I would more consistently have God’s perspective on what’s happening around me and on my own shortcomings. No, this isn’t heaven, but that is my destination. As I learn over and over that the Rock I stand on is immovable, His presence in my life will become more noticeable.
- When I’m discouraged at my own lack of discipline, what’s the truth about this? Yesterday is over, but “His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;” [Lam.3:22-23], When I am weak, His power rests on me so that, with Paul, I can say, “when I am weak, I am strong,” [2 Cor. 12:10 NIV]. I can acknowledge my need for His help, request it, and carry on in confidence of His covenant relationship with me.
- When I’m moved to lift my hands in praise, all alone in my bedroom, because an awareness of His goodness washes over me, I know He sees that and is pleased that I am growing in my knowledge of Him which, in turn, enriches my testimony to others.
- When I’m frustrated by yet another family discussion that reveals how one of our young adults continues to straddle the fence of competing truth claims, I can tell myself the truth: my assignment is to continually press on in prayer and leave with Him the burden that is not meant for me to carry.
- When I’m aghast upon reading that a professor at a trusted evangelical institution is teaching falsehood, I can register my dismay and then stay actively anchored on the Truth that no lies can alter. Our God, alone, is the Rock. This deluded instructor does damage, but she cannot undo Truth; in His own way and in His own timing, God will hold her accountable.
“You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” [Isaiah 44:8 NIV; N.B. 1 Sam. 2:2; Isaiah 43:11; Isaiah 45:5; Exo. 8:10; Ps. 18:31, etc.]
- When my testimony is scoffed at, I can recognize this as [mild] persecution, which I should expect, and recall God’s track record in my life, which is unassailable.
Keep in mind that in this life, we reside in enemy territory. Before each of us came to be, God’s perfect design for creation had already been corrupted. God’s holiness is immutable. Our ability to be close enough to Him to sense His presence, as Adam and Eve did* was not immutable. In fact, it was devastated by original sin.
* “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid [Gen. 3:8 NIV]
Since the world we occupy is not as it was meant to be, it should not surprise us that living in relationship with God, in Christ, is “unnatural”. Rather, it requires His supernatural redemption. Miraculously, this is available to us.
After salvation, we are restored creatures living in an inverted world. While we won’t be made perfect on this side of eternity, we can sink our roots deep into the soil of His truth and grow to be more like Him, as we were originally meant to be. Christlikeness is a potent witness to others.
Scripture tells us that “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him… 2 Peter 1:3 NIV]. A key element, I believe, is to consistently ask the Lord to give us the mind of Christ – which is amazing, when you think about it.
“…who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. [1 Cor 2:16]
This helps us to see and understand, to think and act, as He does. It helps us to appropriate truth, of which He is the only source.
Written by Kathy Holliday