In helping people see the true way to a victorious Christian life, I’ve come to see 5 main reasons believers are thwarted in their desire to become closer to Him. If they are thwarted, they start to feel defeated and then they want to quit when really, the life of a Christian is always current, moving and exciting – like electricity!
#1. a fulfilled Christian..understands the truth about God's love..
Is God real? Yes, and I’ll prove it to you! First, here’s a riddle: What is the one thing that everyone in the world can understand (even babies), it’s what everyone wants and it can be found everywhere in the world? It’s love.
Love is the one thing that everyone can understand. You can find it even in the most remote of villages on the earth. People even say that love makes the world go ‘round. The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8). That means love is God. Love is everywhere. God is everywhere. Love is the one thing on this earth that is both spiritual and earthly. People who have never heard of God know about love. It is an earthly concept, easily understood by everyone. It is also a spiritual concept, understood with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Now how could something so easily understood as a concept be so misunderstood in practice? The answer is: because of sin. Sin corrupts true love. It can take something as pure, unconditional and God-given as love and make it dirty and sinful with conditions and manipulation attached to it. The love that comes from God is unconditional and pure. The “love” that operates in the sinful world is not really love at all. It is a counterfeit and not to be trusted. That’s easy to understand but hard to put into practice because we sometimes end up mixing the two. So how do we keep from mixing true love with the counterfeit? Always, always remember what true love is and believe in it and operate in it – without fail. If it is a counterfeit kind of love, all ways of thinking along those lines are not to be trusted either. As children of The King, it is our responsibility to reject the counterfeit form and embrace and share the true form of love, which is God.
God is not hard or harsh. He is not angry, vengeful or cruel.
There are no conditions on His love.
It produces joy and encouragement. (Philemon 1:7)
It loves with actions and with truth. (1 John 3:18)
God loves you personally. He knows everything about you and still loves you.
Love is good, it is right and it is sincere.
Love does no harm to its neighbor.
Love builds up.
Love surpasses knowledge. (Eph. 3:19)
Live a life of love. (Eph. 5:2)
Love abounds the more we learn and grow in it. (Phil. 1:9)
You can trust this kind of love.
- There are things you can do to make Him mad enough that He’ll have enough of you and turn His back on you.
- He keeps a log of our sins and can’t wait to throw them in our face when we do something wrong.
- If you do this thing or that thing, God will love you more.
It is envious.
- “I will love you forever if you just do this for me.”
It is critical, tearing down and not lifting up.
It is unforgiving. (2 Timothy 3:3)
It delights in evil.
It loves with empty words. (1 John 3:18)
It is boastful and proud.
It cherishes worldly things, not spiritual things. (2 Timothy 3:2)
It is untrustworthy.
Ask yourself this: Why would God think of you in the same way that the world thinks of you? Why would He love you in that way? No, His way is always a different way! It’s always a better way.
When you catch yourself thinking of love in one of the counterfeit ways, counteract it with a true statement. Keep meditating on the true way to love – the true way of God - and you will begin to live a more victorious life in love and blessing.
#2. a fulfilled Christian..accepts grace fully without condemnation..
It’s Not About You
Now that I’ve gotten your attention, I’d like to point out that everything is always about Him. Nothing in our focus is about us.
There two ways to live:
Living in the flesh means living in a self-centered environment. It is always all about you and what you want and what you do. Have you ever noticed that the devil always talks to you about you? That is why. He wants you thinking about the flesh. Try an experiment. In your thought-life, notice whether there are a lot of I’s or Me’s. That is the quickest way of finding out what it’s really about.
Living in the works of Jesus (or by grace) means living in a God-centered environment. It is always about God and what He wants and what He does. When the devil brings accusations against you, speak back about God. The more conscious you are of God - who and what God is to you - the more you’ll live in grace. Make your thoughts about Him.
We are the righteousness of God because of Christ. It is in His power, not ours. When He looks at us, He sees no sin. We are acceptable in His eyes. We are righteous in His eyes. Because of that we are free from condemnation. Have more faith in the righteousness of Christ than the sin of man.
None of this is about us. Ever. It was because of His love for us – but it was never about what we could do. It’s almost laughable to think that we could do anything. Or that we would even bother to try. There’s no point in trying to measure up. Once we realize that and release ourselves from Old Covenant thinking, we have peace and power and victory. Most of all, we have freedom. Grace equals freedom. No chains of the law can keep us shackled.
He is the great I AM, therefore WE ARE too. We are part of the grace. We live in the grace. Think of it as a spotlight. If we remain in that spotlight, all that we’ll know is light. If we know that WE ARE, we will remain in that. If we remain or operate in the grace, all we’ll know is grace. If we step out of the spotlight, we will not have the complete understanding that we would have had in the light.
It is either all of God or it is all of the devil. We end up being confused because we want to mix the two. When you mix darkness and light, what do you get? Nothing. We don’t want too much of God because then we might look weird. We don’t want too much of the world because that might keep us out of heaven. In the true kingdom of God, there is no mixture.. It is all God.
Today, decide to give yourself the freedom that Jesus gave you 2,000 years ago. Live under the spotlight of grace, where there’s freedom and righteousness with no condemnation. Get rid of Old Covenant thinking and think in the correct way. Live the way Jesus died for you to live.
Note: Some of these thoughts were inspired by the teaching of Pastor Joseph Prince. I highly recommend his teachings on Grace. You can watch him daily on tv or check out his book to the right of this column. The more you soak yourself with teaching on grace, the more it will become second nature to you.
# 3. a fulfilled Christian..renounces legalism
Legalism is putting man-made rules above God. It is being concerned with what man thinks more than being concerned with what God thinks. The following of the rules becomes the god. Legalism tells you what you aren’t. Grace tells you what you are.
The law was given to show us our need for a Savior. It was part of the God-given plan and it is holy. However if you are still stuck on the first phase and don’t go to the second, you will never get anywhere. We are already on part two! Jesus already came and died, ushering in a new way of living and thinking. You can’t give yourself a responsibility that only God can take.
Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.
Jesus is the Word (John 1:14). Therefore, we nullify Jesus if we live under the rules made by man. If we are trying to live under some kind of rules-based lifestyle that Jesus never set up for us, we have nullified His work on the cross and we cannot live in victory. That doesn’t mean we throw out the law. The law is God-given. It means that we live apart from the man-made traditions that have nothing to do with God.
There is only one time in the Bible where Jesus said the word cannot (or can’t). It is in this verse:
Simon Peter asked him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later."
Otherwise, Jesus never said anything about, you can’t do this or you can’t do that. Jesus lived the perfect example. He came to model the new covenant, not the old. He absolutely submitted to the authority that He was under but He did what He wanted or believed His Father wanted without feeling the condemnation of anyone. He associated with prostitutes, thieves, rough fisherman, and adulterers. Even though He was being constantly second-guessed by the leaders of the Jews, He didn’t allow any negative perceptions to be put on Him. That is the thing about legalism. It wants to define us. There was never a legalistic statement from Jesus. Jesus’ love was always first. That was the only rule that Jesus lived by.
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." 'But wisdom is proved right by her actions."
Religion wants to define us. The world wants to determine who we are and set our outcome. The devil wants to fix the boundaries of our faith. God wants us to be free of constraint. We can’t define God. Words can’t describe Him. Our thoughts can’t perceive Him fully.
We can’t put boundaries on the Holy Spirit – that’s why the devil hates the Holy Spirit. There are no boundaries, especially on the earth, for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can go anywhere and do anything. The devil can’t constrain or limit the Holy Spirit which is why He was sent here. If we were to fully understand and embrace the Holy Spirit here on earth, there would be no stopping us.
Jesus didn’t allow anyone to constrain him on this earth. He knew His calling and He knew the power and the freedom He had. He put Himself under the proper authority according to God’s will, but never changed Himself to do it. The Pharisees tried to conform Him into a religious Jew. The disciples tried to make Him into an earthly leader. The people tried to make him a political figure. Jesus knew that God was different. His plans and His ways are completely limitless. Jesus couldn’t be defined and He couldn’t be put in a category because that is how God is.
We can’t define ourselves. We can’t box up our faith. God is limitless and so is our faith. The true believer doesn’t allow anyone or anything to put boundaries on their faith or their God. We don’t constrain our minds or our hearts or our spirits. We allow the Holy Spirit to go where He wants. For that is the true freedom.
When we try to do things by the law, we are trying to pay for something for which we cannot pay. It’s like trying to buy your lunch with seashells*. That monetary system is no longer valid.
Are there a lot of, “I know I should do this” or “I can’t do that” thoughts running through your mind? Ask yourself which rules are you following that have nothing to do with God. Which are keeping you from God? Ask God to show you how to renounce legalism in your life and to life a life undefined by religion.
*Seashells have been used as a medium of exchange in various places, including many Indian and Pacific Ocean islands, North America, Africa and the Caribbean. (Source: Wikipedia)
#4. a fulfilled Christian..understands how to deal with the devil..
Here is the truth about the devil: He is real and he hates us because of our status with Jesus. The devil wants to be in control. He wants a place to reign. He was cast out of heaven because he tried to usurp God. He tricked Adam into giving him man’s standing with God on the earth. His greatest desire was to reign on the earth – and because of what Adam gave him, he does to a degree. Jesus came to the earth to change all of that. He paid the penalty for our sins and exchanged our debt for His freedom. Not only did He save us, He went one better and made us co-heirs with Him. We now have a birthright, a legal standing that says we are the same as Jesus in the eyes of God. We have all of the same protections and power that Jesus had during His time on the earth. For that, the devil hates us.
He is already defeated and he knows it. He cannot harm us if we are closed off to his tactics. Christians are under the Divine protection of Jesus.
One of the main tricks of the devil is to plant thoughts in our minds. The devil can’t read our thoughts. He can only speak to us in our mind.
Have you ever gotten a thought in your head and spoken it right away – even though it might not even be what you’ve been thinking about right then? Have you gotten thoughts in your head that you know are not the truth? Most likely that’s the devil speaking to you. His tactic is to feed us a thought and see whether we speak it or act on it. That is how he knows whether he’s getting anywhere with us. He watches our words and actions. It is our responsibility to make sure that we don’t speak or act on what the devil feeds us. Think of yourself as a general in a war. You wouldn’t speak your plans in front of the enemy would you? It is the same thing with the devil. Guard your words and actions in front of the enemy. That is why the Bible says to set a guard on our mouths. We do not want to tip God’s hand to the enemy. We want to close off any avenue of our mind that is available to him so he becomes ineffective.
What is his next best tactic? He wants to convince us that we are in danger in some way. The devil deals in fear. That is his main commodity. We don’t have a spirit of fear. Ignore the fear. Resist him and keep going. Fear cannot harm us. The reality is that we are protected by the blood of Jesus.
Satan is the accuser. He may try to convince us that we are unworthy of God. He may try to tell us all kinds of things to make us feel like we don’t measure up or don’t belong to the Lord. He may use discouraging thoughts or words that come from other people.
The thing is some of the things he tells us might even be true. For instance, he may dredge up every sin that we have committed since the age of 2. Yes, it’s true that we committed those sins. He can accuse and accuse but if we have given our lives to Jesus, those sins are already gone. So are the ones we just committed today and the ones we’ll commit next week. If we are secure in our Christianity and in His love for us, we will know that even if the devil speaks in half-truths or if he uses the truth against us in some way, we don‘t accept accusations from the enemy. If we understand all of the teachings in the series before this, if we understand our standing with God, we will know that the devil has no right to accuse us. We don’t allow negative words or perceptions from the devil or anyone else to come upon us. The truth is we are already redeemed.
The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
The devil always wants to make things into something legalistic or rigid. He wanted Jesus to operate by worldly ways first and spiritual ways second. Instead Jesus turned things around to the correct way by speaking the Word of God. Stones are worldly. Bread is spiritual. Know the truth and speak the Word. The devil will not win.
If the devil can’t harm us because we have victory in our thought-life, he will try to get to us through our circumstances. If we don’t allow our circumstances to upset us, we gain the victory over the devil. Close off the avenue of circumstances in your life and you will have even more victory over the devil.
Christians spend entirely too much time witnessing about what the devil does in their lives. They will live in much more victory if they tell everyone what God is doing for them. Confess Jesus not the devil.
So where do we start? The devil is like a fire. Fire is dangerous but can be completely contained and controlled if we know what we’re doing around it. If we let it get out of control, we’ll get burned. However if we follow the safety steps, we will not have any trouble at all.
Steps for handling the devil:
- Put yourself under the divine protection of God by putting on the full armor of Christ. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
- Think the truth. Speak the truth. Do not listen to the lies of the devil. He deals in lies. We deal in truth. That is how we close our minds to the devil.
- Know the Word. Speak the Word. The devil hates the Word of God.
- Confess what Jesus is doing and not what the devil is doing.
- Ignore the fear or the lies and keep moving forward with God. Fear is real but it is not truth.
- See your circumstances through God’s eyes – not the devil’s. Even if you are going through the worst, nothing can move you except God.
#5. a fulfilled Christian..lives their life in the presence of God..
If you have been following along with this series and have understood and applied what was written, you already have a larger measure of victory in your life. Thank God for that!
The final part of this series is really the most important part. It is also the one we tend to neglect the most. The people who live in the most victory are the ones who chase after the Lord. They don’t care who or what they have to knock over to get to Him. All they want is to be with Him. These people live in the intimacy and presence of God at all times. Now I can just hear a chorus of voices saying, “Well Anne, of course I’d love to live in the presence of God all of the time but that’s just not practical. I can’t float around on a cloud all day when I have kids and a job and everything else going on.” To that, I say in all good humor (if you know me that is how I operate), “Who asked you to?” That’s not how God operates. Sometimes we think it’s either Him or the other things we have going on. What if there’s a better way?
First of all, the Spirit of Christ lives in us. God is not just somewhere far off sitting on a throne in heaven. He is in us. He is living in us. If we are trying to find the time to go to Him, to pray into heaven or to get ourselves into some kind of state where we can commune with Him, we are going about it in the wrong way. If that is the case, we don’t have a clear understanding of what it is all about.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
This is where the presence of God is for us right now. Until we go to live in heaven with Him, this is the presence of God on the earth. It is always with us. It never leaves.
So He lives in us. That is an important thing to know but it’s only a part of understanding how to live in His presence. Read the verses below and notice what they have in common.
May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge."
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
What is the common thread running through these verses? They are all talking about taking refuge under the wings of God. He is our source of protection. He is our authority. When we place ourselves under His authority, we place ourselves under His wings. We place ourselves in His family, under His birthright. That is where we live and operate and grow. When He moves, we move. Where He goes, we go. Whatever good thing happens to Him, it happens to us. We are always protected, always safe. We are never cast out from Him.
There is something else about these verses. The words were all spoken by members of the same family. In the book of Ruth, Boaz spoke the words to Ruth, his future wife. In the Psalms, Boaz’ great-grandson, King David wrote the same words. Generations later, out of the same lineage came Jesus speaking the very same thing. Obviously it was an important truth that was passed down. Each family had a great understanding of it. We are part of that heritage. You may have noticed all of the verses in the Bible about being in Him. This is how we live in Him. We put ourselves under His authority and His protection. It is our spiritual birthright, passed down through the generations to us. Allow yourself to be in Him - to put yourself under His protection. In this way, you are actually in Him. You are in His grace, in His presence, in His love.
When you make a cake and you put the flour in it, once you mix everything together, where does the flour go? It is in the cake. It becomes part of the cake. That is how we are. We don’t pray to a far-off God, we pray to the One who is in us. We are forever intertwined with Him. You can’t remove the flour from the cake once it has been put in. It is there to stay. You can no more remove yourself from Him once you are in Him than you can remove flour from the cake. You are there to stay.
Sanctify[a] them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
- John 17:17 Greek hagiazo (set apart for sacred use or make holy also in verse 19
We are sanctified – or made holy - by the truth. Because Jesus is sanctified we are. Because Jesus was sent into the world, so are we. If He is righteous, so are we. If He has the victory, then so do we. If He is healthy, then so are we. If He has conquered the world, then so have we. Because He did it, we have become it too. Because of Him we have been made that way too. That is how we are in Him.
"I pray for these followers, but I am also praying for all those who will believe in me because of their teaching. Father, I pray that they can be one. As you are in me and I am in you, I pray that they can also be one in us. Then the world will believe that you sent me. I have given these people the glory that you gave me so that they can be one, just as you and I are one. I will be in them and you will be in me so that they will be completely one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you loved them just as much as you loved me.
The glory is in us. The fellowship is in us. We are one with Him. Therefore we are loved just as much as Jesus is loved.
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."
Here we have the blood and the wine. What is that an example of? It is the Holy Communion. Communion means the sharing of thoughts or emotions; intimate communication. Not only is it God’s intention to have us partake of the bread and the wine as part of the Holy Communion, it is His will that we are in complete communion with Him every day. He desires intimate communication with Him. He desires the sharing of your thoughts and emotions with Him. The ones who do this can live on this intimacy forever. If we feed on Him – accept the intimacy that He offers – we are living on the true bread from heaven. We are truly living in Him.
There are two meals set before us – a worldly and a spiritual. Won’t you partake of the spiritual bread? For that is the life of the Spirit. It is a hunger in a starving world – a world where people gorge themselves with one meal, never realizing they are looking for the other meal – the one which will truly satisfy. Holy Communion is the melding of the two. Since you have found the true meal, you can have the complete communion.
When we finally understand the melding of the two – learning that He lives in us and how to live in Him, that is the measure of completeness. We will have true communion with Him. We don’t have to set a time to be with Him. He is already there. We don’t have to be in a room with no noise or distractions to hear from Him. He is already speaking. We are intimately connected to Him at all times. There is no separation. We are inextricably linked to Him – incapable of being disentangled from Him. Our hearts are intertwined with His. We are the flour. He is the cake.