"We do not live our own
lives. We live the life of another--or, more accurately, another lives His life
through us. Until we grasp that as the key to the mystery of Christian living,
we have not graduated from the kindergarten level of the Christian life."
On a recent
Thursday a college friend of mine dropped by on his motorcycle, and according
to the usual custom of our times together we decided to study an entire book of
the Bible. Nine hours later--in two sessions--we had gone through all of Romans
verse by verse in considerable detail.
been an all-time favorite book of mine for many years. I've come to believe it
ought to be taught and studied regularly by every follower of Christ. Covering
the entire book in two study sessions gave Wayne and me a great overview of
this magnificent epistle.
especially struck this time through Romans concerning the importance of
transitional Chapter 7. When a person becomes a Christian he or she is called
to live a radically different life style. For many professing Christians the
dynamically different nature of Authentic Christianity is not always obvious,
and can be easily overlooked.
"We have all been inoculated with Christianity, and are
never likely to take it seriously now!
You put some of the virus of some dreadful illness into a man's arm, and
there is a little itchiness, some scratchiness, a slight discomfort --
disagreeable, no doubt, but not the fever of the real disease, the turning and
the tossing, and the ebbing strength.
And we have all been inoculated with Christianity, more or less. We are on Christ's side, we wish him
well, we hope that He will win, and we are even prepared to do something for
Him, provided, of course, that He is reasonable, and does not make too much of
an upset among our cozy comforts and our customary ways. But there is not the passion of zeal,
and the burning enthusiasm, and the eagerness of self-sacrifice, of the real
faith that changes character and wins the world." --A. J. Gossip, From
the Edge of the Crowd
Paul announces at the beginning of his letter to the Romans that he has some
extraordinarily good news for the house churches in Rome, (which he hoped to
soon visit). Writing from Corinth, he dispatched his letter via a Christian
business woman named Phoebe. She hand-carried this priceless treasure to Rome
by boat (16:1,2). In closing his letter, Paul sent greetings to the many
Christians he already knew who were living in Rome--they were Jews, Greeks,
slaves, rich Romans, and even believers in Caesar's household. We do not know
who founded the church in Rome but it was not Paul and not one of the other
immediately launching into the very good news which he has for the Christians in
Rome, Paul goes into great detail describing the very bad news of the true human condition. No one
is excluded from his all-encompassing legal indictment (Chapters 1:18-3:20).
Problem of Pain,
C.S. Lewis says that man before the Fall surely found it normal and natural and
delightful to serve God willingly all day, every day, even though the freedom
to choose something other than God was open to him,
"Now the proper good of a creature is to surrender
itself to its Creator--to enact intellectually, volitionally, and emotionally,
that relationship which is given in the mere fact of its being a creature. When
it does so, it is good and happy. Lest we should think this a hardship, this
kind of good begins on a level far above the creatures, for God Himself, as
Son, from all eternity renders back to God as Father by filial obedience the
being which the Father by paternal love eternally generates in the Son. This is
the pattern which man was made to imitate which Paradisal man did imitate--and
wherever the will conferred by the Creator is thus perfectly offered back in
delighted and delighting obedience by the creature, there, most undoubtedly, is
Heaven, and there the Holy Ghost proceeds.
"In the world as we now know it, the problem is how to
recover this self-surrender. We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be
improved: we are, as Newman said, rebels who must lay down our arms. The first
answer, then, to the question why our cure should be painful, is that to render
back the will which we have so long claimed for our own, is in itself, wherever
and however it is done, a grievous pain. Even in Paradise I have supposed a
minimal self-adherence to be overcome, though the overcoming, and the yielding,
would there be rapturous. But to surrender a self-will inflamed and swollen
with years of usurpation is a kind of death. We all remember this self-will as
it was in childhood: the bitter, prolonged rage at every thwarting, the burst
of passionate tears, the black, Satanic wish to kill or die rather than to give
in. Hence the older type of nurse or parent was quite right in thinking that
the first step in education is 'to break the child's will'. Their methods were
often wrong: but not to see the necessity is, I think, to cut oneself off from
all understanding of spiritual laws. And if, now that we are grown up, we do
not howl and stamp quite so much, that is partly because our elders began the
process of breaking or killing our self-will in the nursery, and partly because
the same passions now take more subtle forms and have grown clever at avoiding
death by various 'compensations'. Hence the necessity to die daily: however
often we think we have broken the rebellious self we shall still find it alive.
That this process cannot be without pain is sufficiently witnessed by the very
history of the word 'Mortification'…" (from Chapter 6, The Problem of
Pain by C.S. Lewis)
on to say that modern man thinks all is well between him and God if he is
reasonably happy and nothing much is going wrong in his life. George Barna's
research shows that most all Americans expect an open door to heaven when they
die. Nothing could be further than the truth! Lewis says in effect that people
need to hear the bad news first or they will not be willing to hear the
exceedingly good news of God's great love for them.
I have long
felt the opening chapters of Romans fit me very well in regard to my motives,
thoughts, words and deeds.
"There is none righteous, no, not one; There
is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all
turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does
good, no, not one." "Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues
they have practiced deceit"; "The poison of asps is under their
lips"; "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness."
"Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their
ways; And the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of
God before their eyes." Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to
those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world
may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will
be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the
righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law
and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ,
to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God…" (3:10-23)
news Paul moves on to describe is very good news indeed--if only one will
receive it, believe it, and put it into effect in daily life. Romans is replete
with legal terms and words we don't commonly use in daily life such as
righteousness, justified, imputed, expiation, propitiation, and so on. A good
commentary helps immensely. and Ray Stedman's online library offers three. (http://raystedman.org/).
explains that none of us can save ourselves, yet we are all desperately lost
and desperately in need of rescuing, healing and transforming. (We are usually
oblivious to the big picture, preoccupied instead with such things as
rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic). Religion is an escape mode for
many--but religion can not save. Trying harder is to no avail and
self-improvement programs don't work. The default mode for man is
self-righteousness, which is highly offensive to God. All sorts of things are
terribly out of kilter in us--we are all in desperate need of God and we don't
usually believe it.
righteousness belongs to Jesus Christ alone and is only credited to one's
account when we trust Jesus. Paul carefully explains that our willingness to be
identified with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection allows God to
transfer all our sins into Christ on the cross--(and from the cross out into
eternity, totally removed from us forever). With Christ on the cross, God also
quietly puts to death our old sin nature, killing the old natural life we
inherited from Adam while making us brand new persons on the inside. These
amazing cosmic events take place in the invisible realm of the Spirit without
us usually feeling much of anything, except a new sense of peace and hope. (see
The Crucified One,
Six Paul explains that, as new persons in Christ, our freedom to choose between
good and evil is liberated for the first time ever. Previously we were not free
to serve God at all, and we could do nothing to please God or to earn favor
"And you He made alive, who were dead in
trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this
world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now
works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted
ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of
the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God,
who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when
we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you
have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the
heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the
exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by
grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the
gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared
beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:1-10)
The book of Romans seems to provoke endless discussions
about election, predestination and free will. Suffice it to say that in Chapter
6 Paul limits the discussion by telling us that we were all be born to be
slaves--we are destined to be the servants of another forever. As followers of
Jesus, we are now able to give ourselves freely as voluntary bond-slaves of
Jesus. If we decline, we default to being the slaves of sin--which leads to
death. There is no third choice. Serving self is not on the list! Our freedom as
slaves consists of the fact that we are free to chose one of two masters only.
This is how we are created.
So radical is the change within us when we become Christians
that by nature we are enabled to serve Jesus gladly and willingly, going on to
enjoy greater freedom and a higher mode of life than our original parents knew
before the Fall. Being a slave of Jesus takes getting used to, but the result
is what Paul calls in Chapter 8, "the glorious liberty of the sons of
Romans 7 teaches several key things about being a Christian.
We were previously "married to sin" as it were, but now we are joined
inseparably to Christ. Though we are free from the Law, the law is still alive
and ready to expose hidden sin and thus draw us closer to God. The Law is a
description of the very character of God--if we are going to live in harmony
with God as the Person He is, we are the ones who have to adjust and change.
When we pay attention to Christ, the Law is fulfilled in us day by day by the
indwelling life of our Lord. Meditating on the Law, as seen for example in
Psalm 119, is more than profitable for us because (properly understood) the Law
allows us to know God ever more deeply. Romans 7:1-4 illustrates how all sin
can be thought of as spiritual adultery. The root problem of evil in the human
heart is our not loving God wholeheartedly, and our allowing other rival loves
to displace Jesus as Number One in our minds and hearts.
The tricky part of being a Christian is discovering that we
are actually utterly helpless to do anything good as Christians. Likewise we
have no natural powers to overcome temptation and sin. Here is where the lost
teaching of the "Exchanged Life" needs to be taught again in our day.
Short summary: Our natural life in Adam is called "the flesh," in the
Bible. The flesh has obvious bad traits such as lying, stealing, cheating,
drunkenness and immorality. But the "best of the flesh" (doing our
best to serve God in our own effort for example), is equally as bad as far as
God is concerned. King Saul's experience recorded in First Samuel 15
illustrates this point vividly. On the cross, God has said "no" to
the flesh, to the law of self-effort, for all time and eternity.
When Wayne and I got to Romans Chapter 7 in our time
together, I told him about a pivotal experience in my life which took place
some forty some years ago. One morning Ray Stedman dropped by my house and took
me to a men's retreat where the speaker was a slightly built enthusiastic
speaker named Norman Grubb. Grubb's specialty was teaching on the truths of
Romans--6, 7, and 8 especially. I was soon convinced the man was a heretic.
What he said sounded very unconventional and strange--though I admit his ideas
were strangely attractive. If he was a false teacher, why was he the featured
speaker at the men's retreat of a sound church?
Not long after that weekend, Major Ian Thomas visited our
church and gave a dynamic, unforgettable series of messages on this new
"Exchanged Life." I have been very grateful for the truth of the
exchanged life ever since.
I explained to Wayne, though I think he already knew, that
the whole secret of being a follower of Christ is to learn, (and to relearn), that
only Jesus can live the Christian life. We must give Him permission to live His
life through us day by day. Paul calls this mode of living "our reasonable
service" in Chapter 12.
In Romans 7 Paul shows us that when "I" to do
anything to serve God in my own strength "I" will always fail, and
when "I" determine to avoid sin by my own will power, "I"
am found to fail. A daily death-to-self is what God asks of me.
God the "great I AM" has taken up residence in my
heart--the Holy Spirit has come to join Himself with my spirit. My human spirit
is now the lesser, subservient "i am." This new inner partnership, or
union of two spirits--my spirit with God's Spirit--is really a Lover-beloved
union of two persons, not a mutually convenient arrangement such as a business
partnership. Knowing God as He wishes to be known is an interactive
relationship of intimate love which fulfills the great commandment.
This subtle transformation of our ego--our deepest sense of
self--is also noted by Paul in Galatians:
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is
no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in
the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for
The first time any of us imagines turning over all of his or
her life to Jesus, giving Jesus permission to run things one-hundred percent,
most of us imagine that we'll be forced to live dull, churchy, boring lives.
Why can't I run my own life, or at least those areas of my life where I have
the most experience? The answer is that we were not created to live in
independence from God! It a big lie (in fact, THE lie of the garden) that we
can be our own gods, run and our lives, determine our own future, and pretty
much do as we please.
"The Christian life is different: harder, and easier.
Christ says, "Give me all. I don't want so much of your time and so much
of your money and so much of your work. I want you. I have not come to torment
your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want
to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree
down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires, which you think
innocent as well as the ones you think wicked-the whole outfit. I will give you
a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself; my own will shall become
yours." (C. S. Lewis)
We tend to underestimate the nature of God's great love for
us. "God is Love" --He created us for relationships of love. He
understands us. His deep desire is to fulfill us. The world stifles
individuality and uniqueness, Jesus liberates us so that we become whole and
well-rounded--realizing in the end all that was originally created in us. God's
nature is to pour himself out for others. He does not live "for Himself"
as we are prone to do. The fulfillment for all eternity for the Persons of the
godhead is to be always pouring out love, and responding to love. Love requires
at least two persons, both must give their consent or there can be no
relationship, and real love involves both initiating and responding. (see A Personal God, http://ldolphin.org/personalgod.html).
Then there all those paradoxes Jesus taught us about losing
one's life in order to find it, about taking up one's cross daily, and the
necessity of a grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying in order to
live. These ominous-sounding teachings are all part of the joyful good news of
the Exchanged Life.
Norman Grubb said that we could think of Jesus being
"the real new you" inside. As we allow Jesus to live in and through
us we become more "ourselves," our individuality is neither stifled
nor replaced, it is unfolded like a blossom. We are not unlike a butterfly
emerging from a cocoon when we become new creations in Christ yielded to our
Christians are indeed "predestined to be confirmed to
the image of God's son," but we shall not find that we have become clones
of the historical Jesus in the end--we'll simply be the men and women we always
wanted to be--unique, one of a kind, whole and free, without spot of blemish.
God made no automatons--every single person ever created is one-of-a-kind, and
of great value and worth to our Creator. "Rarely for a righteous man will
one dare to die…but God demonstrates His love for us, in that while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for the ungodly." (5:8)
"People who equate orthodoxy with authenticity find it
hard to even consider the possibility that, despite the correctness of all their doctrinal positions,
they may have missed the deepest reality of the authentic Christian life. But we must never forget that true
Christianity is more that teaching--it is a way of life. In fact, it is life itself. "He who has the Son has life," remember? When we talk about life, we are talking
about something that is far more than mere morality, far more than doctrinal
accuracy. Life is a positive
quality, not negative--a description of what we fundamentally are, not what we are not. The eternal life that Jesus brings to
us is radical, not superficial. It
is humble, not self-promoting. It
is compassionate, not indifferent.
It is courageous, not timid or retiring. It is a far cry indeed from the mild compatibility,
agreeability, and affability that passes for Christianity in thousands of
churches across the land. In fact,
the Great Imitation is so widely accepted as genuine Christianity that the real
thing is often regarded as a threat or a heresy whenever it appears."
--Ray C. Stedman , Authentic Christianity
Wayne and I had time for prayer and quality discussion on
the practicalities of the exchanged life during our grand tour of Romans. After
breakfast the next day, Wayne saddled-up and continued on his journey. We plan
to go through the Epistle to the Hebrews next time we get together, should the
Meanwhile, if you have not already done so, please try the
exchanged life. If you have already granted Jesus the title deed to your life
do bring to mind daily the importance of not slipping gradually back to those
old dull ways of the world and the mediocrity of the common counterfeits. We
can have as much grace as we need, and the resurrection power of Jesus is quite
1. Books and messages by Norman Grubb,
2. Major Ian Thomas,
3. False Consecration, by Ray Stedman,
Authentic Christianity, by Ray Stedman, http://raystedman.org/authenxnty/
Classes: Our Sunday morning studies at
Peninsula Bible Church continue in the Book of Isaiah, http://ldolphin.org/Isaiah. MP3 audio is
available on my web site or by Podcast. Isaiah is a fantastic book of the
Bible, sadly neglected by many these days. The Wednesday Brothers of Thunder is
nearly finished reading through The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis--we are taking one
paragraph at a time with lots of discussion.
Contributions: Friends who want to help out with my
expenses may send contributions directly to me by means of the PayPal or
Amazon.com links on my web site, http//ldolphin.org. For those who'd like to contribute
for tax purposes, checks may be sent to Peninsula Bible Church, 3505
Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306. Please include a note designating your
gift to my support account. I am not an organization and not employed by any
organization, so I depend very much on the support I receive from friends. I do
not receive a list of those who send in contributions to my church so I can't
send thank you notes in most cases. But thank you!
Previous newsletters are on my web site: http://ldolphin.org/news/. My main web site library is http://ldolphin.org/asstbib.shtml, with newer articles posted at the top. This Newsletter: Subscribe/unsubscribe information: Email TO: firstname.lastname@example.org SUBJECT: (blank) MESSAGE BODY: subscribe lambertnews or unsubscribe lambertnews. The Middle East: My daily selected news clips, from 6 or 8 main sources. Subscribe/unsubscribe: Email TO: email@example.com SUBJECT: (blank) MESSAGE BODY: subscribe meclips or unsubscribe meclips.
Lambert Dolphin, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, June 24, 2007