We conclude this Bible study by reviewing a few basic principles of a successful spiritual life, with a view to impressing these great Scriptural truths upon the hearts of diligent followers of Jesus Christ.
We are living in times in which very little attention is given to fallen humanity’s biggest problem, which is sin. The argument is often advanced that as Jesus Christ has died for our sins, all sins have automatically been forgiven. Christ has indeed paid the penalty for the sins committed by all people (Isa. 53:5; Eph. 1:7; 1 Pet. 2:24), but these sins have to be confessed before they are forgiven (1 John 1:9). The confession of sins implicitly implies the forsaking of these wrongdoings (Prov. 28:13) by which we contravened God’s law of love (Matt. 22:37-39; Rom. 13:8-10).
Christians can still sin (1 Cor. 10:12; Jas. 3:2; 1 John 1:8) and when they do, Satan is quick to accuse them before the throne of God (Rev. 12:10). But if they immediately confess and forsake these sins, their Advocate, Jesus Christ, who forgives all confessed sins because of His atoning death on the cross, refutes the accusations of Satan by virtue of the fact that the price has been paid and that the particular Christian’s relationship with God has been fully restored (1 John 2:1-2).
We should be very sensitive to sin and heed the voice of the Holy Spirit when He convicts us of sin (John 16:7-8). If we wilfully sin and resist the warnings of the Holy Spirit, we will grieve Him (Eph. 4:25-32). When we see that other Christians have yielded to temptations and thus grieved the Spirit, we must admonish them in a very sympathetic but straightforward way (Gal. 6:1; Heb. 3:13), lest they backslide further and become entangled by sin (Heb. 12:14-15). Sin must immediately be acknowledged, confessed and forsaken (Ps. 32:5; Col. 3:8-9; Heb. 12:1,4). If we really love the Lord we are committed to hating sin (Ps. 97:10; Prov. 8:13).
Andrew Murray (Living the new life) says: “The one counsel concerning sin is, bring it daily to the only One who can take it away, God Himself. You should learn that one of the greatest privileges of a child of God is the confession of sin. Through confession I must hand over my sin to God, lay it down before Him, and get God’s acquittal of it. I must cast it into the fiery oven of God’s holy love which burns against sin like a fire. God, yes, God Himself, and He alone, takes away sin. The Christian does not always understand this. He has an inborn tendency to want to cover sin, or to make it less, or to root it out only when he desires to draw near to God. He tries to conceal sin with the fruits of the works he has done or still hopes to do. Young Christian, if you want to enjoy the peacefulness of complete forgiveness and a divine cleansing of sin, see to it that you correctly use the confession of sin. In the true confession of sin you have one of the most blessed privileges of a child of God, and one of the deepest roots of a powerful spiritual life.
· Let your confession be a precise one. The continued, uncertain confession of sin does more harm than good. Begin with one sin. Let it be fixed with you that this sin is, through confession, placed in God’s hands. God, in Jesus Christ, frees us from sin. You will experience that in such confessions there is both power and blessing.
· Let the confession be a righteous one. Deliver up the sinful deed to be laid aside. Confession implies renunciation, the putting off of sin. Give up sin to God, who forgives you of it, and cleanses you from it. Do not confess if you are not prepared or if you do not heartily desire to be freed from it. Confession has value only if it is giving up of sin to God.”
In his concluding remarks, Andrew Murray says that the major hindrances in the way of the confession of sins are (a) ignorance about sin, (b) fear to come with sin to the holy Father, (c) the endeavour to come to God with something good, and (d) unbelief in the power of the blood of Jesus and in the riches of His grace. He also stresses the fact that sins must be confessed immediately, without first desiring to make it less. You must come in full sinfulness to God. The question is also addressed whether it is necessary to confess sins before people? It is indispensable to do so if your sins have been committed against them (Jas. 5:16).
Complete and immediate forgiveness is promised to those who confess their sins and put their trust in the atoning work of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9). He destroys the works of the devil in our lives (1 John 3:8). Thanks be to God who gives us the victory over sin through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57).
Helena Garratt (The threefold cord) said the following on our commitment to Christ:
“One is your Master, even Christ” (Matt. 23:8 KJV). So many Christians try to please the world, try to please the church, try to please self, and only try a little to please Jesus. Dismiss all other masters but Christ. Life becomes wonderfully simple when you have only one Person to please.
The Lord Jesus said: “Come to Me… and learn from Me” (Matt. 11:28-29). You cannot learn from Jesus away from Jesus. Follow Him and learn from Him through His Word (John 5:39) and through His Holy Spirit (John 16:13-14). This is an age of learning. If a person has no learning he is not highly regarded. To be esteemed in this world we must learn science, languages, arts and various skills, for every kind of learning is prized today, except learning about Christ. All around us there are those who are considered well educated, who have never been in the school of God. Yet this is the only learning that God sets any prize on: “Let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord” (Jer. 9:24).
It is only when we are near Christ that the greatness of love outshines the love of greatness. We must turn our eyes away from all else towards Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2). He must be the centre of our lives and all our activities – also in the church. The most important question is not how much work is being done, but how much is the Lord Jesus doing through us. “The fire shall try every man’s work” (1 Cor. 3:13). Only the work done by Jesus through us will stand the fiery test before His judgement seat. Let us be full of the love of Christ.
“Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3). “My theology now,” said the dying C.H. Spurgeon to a friend, “is in four little words: Jesus died for me.”
If we wish to be true followers of Christ we must always glory in the crucified Christ by closely identifying with His death on the cross (Matt. 16:24; 1 Cor. 2:2). Rev. P. Jones said: “The further we drift from the cross, the less passion for souls we have – whether we drift in doctrine or in practice.” Charles Finney said: Where shunning the cross begins, true religion ends.”
The cross is an instrument of death – our old man must be put to death so we can become conformed to the death of Christ on the cross (Rom. 6:1-6). We must die to self and to the world (Gal. 6:14). The cross also enables us to practice continued self-denial (Luke 9:23). We cannot live a Christian life that will please Christ without cost to ourselves. Rev. E.W. Moore said: “Our inability to bear suffering is the weak side of our Christian life.” Andrew Murray said: “We are taught to expect suffering: the cross is the symbol of our faith, and the Man of sorrows is our leader.” Cross-bearing is no more popular now than it was when Jesus went to Calvary.
Beware of distortions of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The world and the devil have always advocated a religion without a cross. But to true disciples of Jesus the cross is at the core of their faith and therefore the power of God (1 Cor. 1:17-18; Col. 1:19-20).
Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). True faith is imparted to us by God through the work of the Holy Spirit when we hear or read the gospel message. We are then spiritually enlightened and enabled to put our trust for salvation in God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ (Ps. 13:3; Eph. 5:14; John 14:1). The unbelievers are those who do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour (2 Cor. 4:4). Even though they “believe” in idols, the Bible does not regard them as believers because they do not believe in the only true Saviour of the world. The Lord Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit: “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin… because they do not believe in Me” (John 16:8-9).
Bowen said: “Do you not see that the sin of unbelief is a peculiar sin? It is this, and this alone, that shuts the gate of the kingdom of heaven against you, and the terrible thing about this sin is that its life is a life of slumber. It makes no noise in the heart and has no visible shape. An angry word spoken reverberates in the depth of your heart, but unbelief is simply a state and does not ordinarily reveal itself by any symptom. It is the atmosphere in which you move, and as you never moved in any other, it does not shock you. But it is the sin of sins, and until you learn to hate it above all other sins there is little hope of your deliverance from sin. The way to war with all other sins is to war with unbelief, for the life of every sin is hid in unbelief, and if you slay this sin, you slay all.”
All the trouble that ever came into the world came by two things – listening to the lies of the devil, and disbelieving God. And every conceivable blessing comes by the exact opposite of these two actions – turning a deaf ear to the devil’s lies and fully believing God. Underestimate God and you will overestimate your foes. Do not try to deal with Satan yourself. That is the Lord’s work. The only attitude God ever tells us to take in regard to the devil is to resist him (Jas. 4:7). Satan must go when the Lord bids him depart, and he will not go before.
Temptation is repulsed when it meets living faith, that is Christ in the believer. Temptation cannot overcome faith – it is always mastered by faith. But when temptation meets doubt, it easily enters through this doorway of Satan and overcomes doubts.
“Faith thrives best in a heart wholly empty and forever empty of all self-righteousness, all self-defence, all self-help and all self-hope” (Dr. Whyte). Oswald Chambers said: “Faith that is sure of itself is not faith! It is only faith that is sure of God that is faith.” A lack of faith was the one thing for which Christ reproached His followers (Matt. 17:19-20; Mark 4:40; Luke 18:8). The disciples asked the Lord to increase their faith (Luke 17:5). Our faith must indeed be strengthened and built up (Jude v.20).
If God has a big task to be performed, He entrusts it to a person with strong faith. Not our merit, our skill, our talents, but our faith determines our receiving big assignments from the Lord. Faith lets God do it all. As co-workers of God (1 Cor. 3:8) we must have faith in God, also in the most difficult circumstances, and discipline our bodies while serving the Lord (1 Cor. 9:27; Rom. 6:13). Stockmayer said: “In the spiritual life we learn to walk in naked faith, in closest communion with God, never turning back to the life of feeling for one moment. Faith launches out on the bare Word of God, separated forever from the emotional life.”
“The Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright… When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil… Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 2:6-7,10-12; 3:5-6; cf. Ps. 23:3).
Helena Garratt says: “When the path is set before us, and we are in doubt as to the source of leading, we should invariably wait, for God is never in a hurry, and where the leading is powerful, hurried and persistent, we may be sure that God is not in it. Place the matter before the Lord Jesus in a simple prayer, and leave it there. If the heart is true, He will unquestionably remove the conviction, if of Satan, but maintain it if of Himself. Never be in a hurry! We may have to wait long for an answer; but do not, on this account, despair, and think you have not been heard, for God’s time is His own; Satan’s is not; and in all my experiences there is not one instance where God has hurried me to a conclusion. The golden rule is this: Convictions of God remain, like the knowledge of salvation, but impressions of all kinds fade away after prayer and patience if Satan is at work. Satan is continually interfering; God seldom.”
It is only when we cease to consider our own inclinations that we can know true guidance. “There is but one thing that matters: it is that God’s will must be done (Rom. 12:1-2; Phil. 2:13). The ultimate issue will be perfect compensation for all the toil of the pathway that leads thereto” (Dr. Campbell Morgan). The Lord usually leads us one step at a time. Since we are not to bring ourselves home, we are not marking out the path and do not need to know all the detail of the Lord’s future guidance. We must just keep near Him and follow wherever He leads us (Ps. 25:12).
Do not be anxious about the way before you; it is the way that God will choose. When you have to make decisions, do not act until you have prayed about the matter and have the peace of God in your heart that your decision is the right one (Phil. 4:7).
The power of the Holy Spirit was not only given to us for boldness to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in a hostile world (Acts 1:8), but also to resist the devil (Eph. 6:10-11) and fend off the attacks of many other adversaries (1 Cor. 16:9). We must indeed expect much opposition because we are engaged in a battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. E.C. Millard said: “If you and I don’t get any opposition in our work, we may well get down on our knees and say, ‘Now, Lord, I am having a prosperous time – there must be something wrong.’ Beware of having prosperity without opposition! If a soul is filled with the Spirit of God, then, whether he is high or whether he is low, Satan says, ‘I must do all I can to oppose that Christian.’ Let us ask God to fill us with the courage of the Holy Spirit.”
Dr. A.B. Simpson never sought nor expected an easy life. He said: “What would we think of Jesus if we ever found Him looking for His own pleasure and consulting His own comfort?” The only crown a faithful servant of Jesus Christ will ever get from the world, or from a carnal church, will be a crown of thorns.
The devil also attacks the prayer-life of Christians in an effort to induce them to stop praying. A.P. Wilkes said: “How often as we pray do we feel the insistence of the foe, that wall of opposition, the dullness of feeling, the silence of our God, the inability to find access, the persuasion that praying is to no purpose. These are the oppositions of the adversary. A determined presentation of all that the blood-shedding of the Saviour secures, pleaded in faith, will enable us to break through and drive back and make us more than victors in the conflict.” We must take up the shield of faith (Eph. 6:16), which is a firm trust in the victory of the Lord Jesus on Calvary, and resist all the evil thoughts of unbelief, materialism, rebellion and discouragement which the Evil One tries to impose on us. No place must be given to the devil in our lives (Eph. 4:27). It is easier to keep the enemy out than it is to expel him after he has gained entrance.
The world is fast approaching a time, in the coming tribulation period, when Satan will be cast down on earth, having great wrath against the inhabitants of the earth, because he will know that he only has a short time before the Lord Jesus will return to destroy the kingdom of darkness on earth (Rev. 12:7-12).
I have a clear vision of the intensity of the struggle between the kingdoms of God and Satan. I also realise that the main area of the battle is in the hearts and minds of human beings on planet earth. Satan intends to gain supremacy by deceiving most of the people into rejecting God’s plan of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He induces them to walk according to the deceitful lusts of their fallen nature. I commit myself to strengthening my relationship with the Lord Jesus by an unwavering faith in Him. I look away from my human frailty and rely solely on what He can achieve through me. I will daily take up my cross and follow the crucified and risen Saviour on the way in which He leads me. I realise the vital need of waiting on the Lord for guidance, while praying about and carefully considering every move I intend making in my life. I will subject myself to God, put on the whole armour of God, and resist the devil who relentlessly attacks the disciples of Christ with a view to disabling them spiritually and discouraging them to continue serving the Lord. I look forward to the coming of Christ and the great victory that He will achieve over the powers of darkness.
1. Describe the role of Jesus Christ as our Advocate with the Father.
2. What is the significance of the confession of sins?
3. What is a wholehearted commitment to Christ?
4. Why is the cross described as the symbol of Christianity?
5. Explain the role of faith in a Christian’s life, and also describe unbelief.
6. How can Satan mislead you into deviating from God’s path for you?
7. Explain how the devil attacks Christians and how we can resist him.