Dr. Neil Anderson’s Blog – March 2013

We Are Saints Who Sin

March 29 – We Are Saints Who Sin

Believers are “called to be saints” (Rom. 1:7), i.e. we are saints by His calling. Notice that Paul writes “to the saints” in Ephesus (Eph. 1:1), and Philippi (Phil. 1:1). A saint is not someone who has earned their lofty title by living a magnificent life or achieving a certain level of maturity. In the Bible, all believers are described as “saints,” which means "holy ones" (e.g. 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1). Being a saint does not necessarily reflect any present measure of growth in character, but it does identify those who are rightly related to God. In Scripture, believers are called “saints,” “holy ones,” or “righteous ones” more than 200 times. In contrast, unbelievers are called “sinners” over 300 times. Clearly the term “saint” is used in Scripture to refer to the believer and “sinner” is used in reference to the unbeliever.

Although the New Testament teaches that believers can and do sin, it never clearly identifies the believer as a “sinner.” Paul’s reference to himself as “the worst of sinners” seems to contradict his teaching (1 Tim. 1:15,16). Despite the use of the present tense by the Apostle, however, there are several reasons why Paul is referring to his pre-conversion opposition to the Gospel.

First, the reference to himself as “sinner” is in support of the first half of the verse, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). The reference to “the ungodly and sinners” a few verses earlier (vs. 9) along with the other New Testament uses of the term “sinners” for those who are outside salvation show that the “sinners” whom Christ came to save were outside of salvation.

Second, Paul’s reference to himself as a “sinner” is immediately followed by the statement: “But for that very reason I was shown (past tense) mercy”(v. 16), clearly pointing to the past occasion of his conversion. Paul, the worst of sinners, uses himself as an example of God’s unlimited patience. Because of his past action, Paul considered himself unworthy of what by God’s grace and mercy he presently was, an apostle who was in no respect, “inferior to the ‘Super-apostles’” (2 Cor. 12:11).

Third, although declaring that he was the “worst” sinner, the apostle at the same time declares that Christ had strengthened him for the ministry having considered him “faithful” or “trustworthy” for the ministry to which he was called (vs. 12). The term “sinner,” therefore, does not describe him as a believer, but is rather used in remembrance of what he was before Christ took hold of him.

As believers we are not trying to become saints, we are saints who are becoming like Christ. Being a saint is part of our positional sanctification. In no way does this deny the continuous struggle with sin. Christians can choose to sin, and many are dominated by the flesh and deceived by the devil. Because they sin, we want to call them sinners, but what we do does not determine who we are. Telling Christians they are sinners and then disciplining them if they don’t act like saints is counter-productive at best and inconsistent with the Bible at worst. Believing who we really are in Christ determines what we do.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://ficmm.org/blog

Who You Are in Christ

March 28 – Who You Are in Christ

In Christ You Are:

The salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13).

The light of the world (Matt. 5:14).

A child of God (John 1:12).

A part of the true vine, a channel of Christ’s life (John 15:1,5).

Christ’s friend (John 15:15).

Chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit (John 15:16).

A slave of righteousness (Rom. 6:18).

Enslaved to God (Rom. 6:22).

A son of God; God is spiritually your Father (Rom. 8:14,15).

A joint heir with Christ, sharing His inheritance with Him (Rom. 8:17).

A temple—a dwelling place—of God. His Spirit and His life dwell in you (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19).

United to the Lord and one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17).

A member of Christ’s Body (1 Cor. 12:27;Eph. 5:30).

A new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

Reconciled to God and a minister of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18,19).

A son of God and one in Christ (Gal. 3:26,28).

An heir of God since you are a son of God (Gal. 4:6,7).

A saint (Eph. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:2; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2).

God’s workmanship —His handiwork—born anew in Christ to do His work (Eph. 2:10).

A fellow citizen with the rest of God’s family (Eph. 2:19).

A prisoner of Christ (Eph. 3:1; 4:1).

Righteous and holy (Eph. 4:24).

A citizen of heaven, seated in heaven right now (Phil. 3:20; Eph. 2:6).

Hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).

An expression of the life of Christ because He is your life (Col. 3:4).

Chosen of God, holy and dearly loved (Col. 3:12; 1 Thess. 1:4).

A son of light and not of darkness (1 Thess. 5:5).

A holy partaker of a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1).

A partaker of Christ; you share in His life (Heb. 3:14).

One of God’s living stones, being built up in Christ as a spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:5).

A member of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession (1 Pet. 2:9,10).

An alien and stranger to this world in which you temporarily live (1 Pet. 2:11).

An enemy of the devil (1 Pet. 5:8).

A child of God and will resemble Christ when He returns (1 John 3:1,2).

Born of God, and the evil one cannot touch you (1 John 5:18).

Not the great “I am” (Exod. 3:14; John 8:24,28,58), but by the grace of God, you are what you are (1 Cor. 15:10).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://ficmm.org/blog

A New Identity in Christ

March 27 – A New Identity in Christ

The name Jacob means “supplanter”. He cheated his brother out of his birthright and then ran for his life. Twenty years later he is wrestling with the angel of the Lord on the wrong side of the Jordan River. He is struggling to get away, but God won’t let him go. Suddenly the dawn breaks and Jacob sees the face of God (Peniel), and the whole battle changes. Jacob wouldn’t let go until this “man” blessed him. This encounter with God forever changed Jacob. “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome” (Gen. 32:28). Jacob limps across the Jordan, but his name is now Israel which means, “having power with God.”

Our encounter with God has forever changed us. We are no longer “by nature objects of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), we are children of God (1 Jn. 3:1-3). “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live like children of light” (Eph. 5:8). “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet. 2:9,10).

Unregenerate people struggle with their identity. As little children we were the sons and daughters of earthly parents and we accepted this physical heritage as our identity. At the beginning of our teenage years we began to search for our own identity. As adults we try to make a name for ourselves in the world. The tendency is to find our identity in our natural heritage, in the things we do, places we live, and the roles we play.

It is different for believers who are created in the image of God and now being conformed to His likeness. “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Co. 3:11). In other words, there is no racial, religious, cultural, or social distinctive. We are all children of God and share the same status in the family of God.

Paul says, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view” (2 Cor. 5:16). Literally it means that Paul no longer recognizes believers according to the flesh, i.e. their natural identity or who they were in Adam. He recognizes believers as new creations in Christ (2 Cor.5:17). Paul asks, “Don’t you know that all of us were baptized into Christ Jesus?” (Rom. 6:3). Knowing who we are in Christ is the foundation for living free in Christ. Don’t you know that you have been united with Christ in His death and resurrection? Don’t you know that you are a new creation in Christ? We have to keep asking ourselves until we reply; “Yes, I do know who I am, a new person in Christ, and by the grace of God I shall live accordingly.”

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://ficmm.org/blog

Crucified with Christ

March 26 – Crucified with Christ

Paul said, “I died to the law” (Gal. 2:19), because “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (vs. 20). This is only possible because of our union with Christ. The apostle Paul identified every believer with Christ:

            In His death			Romans 6:3,6; Colossians 3:1-3

            In His burial			Romans 6:4

            In His resurrection			Romans 6:5,8,11

            In His ascension			Ephesians 2:6

            In His life				Romans 6:10,11

            In His power			Ephesians 1:19,20

            In His inheritance			Romans 8:16,17; Ephesians 1:11,12

When Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ,” he literally meant I have been and continue to be crucified with Christ. The eternal life we received at salvation was the eternal life of Christ, which included eternity past and eternity future. We are identified with every aspect of Christ’s eternal life, because we are united with Him.

Before we came to Christ we were under the law and in bondage to sin. We had to be crucified with Christ, “so that the body of sin might be done away with” (Rom. 6:6). The “body of sin” refers to the person or self (living in bodily form) under the law and the rule of sin. This person was “done away with” by being crucified with Christ. The Greek term “done away with” can mean “rendered ineffective or powerless,” “destroyed,” “brought to an end,” or “released from.” Our old self was in bondage to sin and therefore utilized all of our bodily existence in servitude to sin and its mastery. That old self has died with Christ. Now, a new self exists, which is no longer under the mastery of sin.

Sin reigns through death, therefore the way to freedom from sin is through death (Rom. 6:6). Therefore if a person dies, sin loses its mastery over that person. Because the believer has died with Christ (participated with Him in His death to sin), that believer is free from the mastery of sin and lives a new life of freedom. I have dealt with many Christians who have believed Satan’s lies that the only way to get rid of sin and demons is to physically die, i.e. take their own life, but true believers have already died with Christ who is the only One who can conquer sin and death. Note that death is the end of a relationship, not existence. According to Paul we are alive in Christ and dead to sin (Rom. 6:11). In Christ, sin and death have no mastery over us. Physical death is still imminent, but we shall continue to live spiritually even if we die physically. Sin is still present and appealing, but we don’t have to yield to it. The law of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death. Believe it and live accordingly.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://ficmm.org/blog

A New Position in Christ

March 25- A New Position In Christ

In my last blog I illustrated how much secular psychology has infiltrated the church. A good theology must precede a good psychology since everything emanates from God. As I transition from theology (a study of God) to psychology (a study of the soul) keep in mind the apostle’s warning in Col. 2:6-10. Every Christian is a new creation “in Christ,” which stands in stark contrast to the natural man that secular psychology seeks to understand. The prepositional phrase “in Christ,” “in Him,” or “in the beloved’ is one of the most repeated prepositional phrases in the Epistles. The phrase occurs over forty times in the book of Ephesians alone. It means that our soul is in union with God, and we cannot fully understand who we are without that connection.

Every stage of our sanctification is made possible because we are alive “in Christ.” We are to be firmly rooted “in Him,” in order to be built up “in Him,” which makes it possible to live “in Him” (Col. 2:6). Being alive and free “in Christ” is the basis for the apostle Paul’s understanding of how to live the Christian life. In sending Timothy to Corinth, the apostle said, “He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Cor. 4:17).

“God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his son (1 Jn. 5:11), and Paul speaks of “the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:1). “In Christ” are “faith and love” (1 Tim. 1:14), “grace” (2 Tim. 2:1), “salvation” (2 Tim. 2:10), “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3) and God’s “riches in glory” (Phil. 4:19). Paul says that it is because of God’s work that Christians are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, “our righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). One can only say, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (Col. 2: 9,10). “Have been given” is past tense. Every believer is already “in Christ.” Being rooted in Christ refers to our positional sanctification which is the basis for our progressive sanctification. As believers, we are not trying to become children of God, we are already children of God who are in the process of becoming like Christ.

Paul is contrasting the means by which we live and grow in Christ with the human traditions of the world. “Hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and basic principles of this world” (Col. 2:8) cannot reproduce in us what only the life of Christ can. Paul says, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13), and Jesus says, “apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see ficmm.org/blog

Jesus Versus Human Tradition

March 22 – Jesus Versus Human Tradition

I just finished reading a book about sexual addiction and pornography. The author is decidedly Christian, teaches at a reputable Christian school, and holds to a Christian standard of conduct. I read nothing in the book that I didn’t agree with, but I was disappointed in what was missing, like an adequate answer for overcoming addictive behavior. The description of flesh patterns was insightful, as was the explanation of body chemistry. All of which is true for a natural man. The secular world would agree with most of what was written, except for the moral standard that was presented, and some may even agree with that. If a Christian man struggling with a sexual addiction read the book, he would understand his addiction better, but would probably continue in his sin and feel even worse about himself for being such a failure.

Would it make any difference if the reader was a natural man or a born-again Christian? Does being a new Creation in Christ have any effect on our ability to live a righteous life, as opposed to being dead in our trespasses and sins? No mention was made of the devil’s role of tempting us, or of the Holy Spirit’s role of leading us into all truth, and empowering us to not carry out the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). No mention was made of repentance, or the place that Christ has in our lives. With that in mind, read the Apostle Paul’s words in Col. 2:6-10:

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that on one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

The apostle Paul would be shocked to see how secular psychology has crowded out the centrality of Christ. We cannot live a righteous life without Christ. The law was powerless to give life (Gal. 3:21). The apostle shares his passion in Col. 1:26-29:

To make the word of God fully known, the mystery (something not previously revealed) hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to the saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all my energy that he powerfully works within me. He powerfully works within all His children.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://ficmm.org/blog

The Deity of Christ

March 21 – The Deity of Christ

The claim that Jesus was the promised Messiah and the eternal Son of God infuriated the Jewish leaders at the time (Jn. 5:18), and caused them to accuse Jesus of blasphemy (Jn. 10:33). Now Paul, the completed Jew, carefully stresses the Deity of Christ in Phil. 2:6,7, “Who, though He was in the form (morphe) of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

The key word is “morphe,” which is usually translated as nature or form. It stresses the inner essence or reality of that with which it is associated. Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” (vs. 6). In other words, Jesus did not have to strive to be God or even be like Him, because He was and is God. He voluntarily surrendered His independent use of His own divine attributes. When the devil tempted Jesus to turn the rocks into bread to save Himself from starvation, He simply responded, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). The devil wanted Jesus to use His own divine attributes independently of the Father to save Himself. He could have called ten thousand angels to save Himself on the cross, but He did not, because He came to do His Father’s will.

Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the very nature [morphe] of a servant, being made in human likeness” (vs. 7). “Made himself nothing,” literally means, “He emptied Himself.” He divested Himself of His self-interest, but not of His Deity. Jesus humbled Himself and took on the very nature of man. He was truly God and also truly man. “Likeness” implies similar but different. He differed from the rest of humanity in that He was sinless. His self-renunciation was necessary to assume an authentic human experience that included geographical location, human development in mind and body, and the need for food and sleep. He had to totally depend on the Heavenly Father.

The phrase, “Being found in appearance as a man” (vs. 8), refers to a temporary and outer appearance in contrast to “morphe,” which signifies a permanent inner quality. The condescension of Jesus included not only His birth, but also His death, which was the worst possible “death-even death on a cross.” Martin Luther said, “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that he sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.” He left His exalted position to be like us in order to die for us.

St. Irenaeus, an early church father wrote, “The Word of God, Jesus Christ, on account of His great love for mankind, became what we are in order to make us what He is Himself.” His life was the epitome of humble submission leading to death and exaltation. “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God” (Phil. 2: 9-11).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see ficmm.org/blog

The Last Adam

March 20 – The Last Adam

The first Adam was born both physically and spiritually alive. Because Adam sinned, he died spiritually and was separated from God. Physical death would also be a consequence for sin, but would come many years later for Adam. From that time on, every person who enters planet earth is born physically alive but spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1). God promised that redemption for His people would come through the seed of a woman (Gen. 17:19; Gal. 3:16), but they had become impatient and wondered how they would know the Messiah when He finally did come. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Is. 7: 14).

There would be four hundred silent years from the end of the Old Testament revelation before, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn. 1:14). The prophecy was fulfilled concerning Immanuel, which means, “God is with us.” The prophecy of Jesus being born of a virgin was also fulfilled, which greatly amazed Mary (Lu. 1:34). Nobody can fully explain the mystery of incarnation, but Scripture clearly teaches that the eternal Son became flesh. So critical is the doctrine of incarnation that Scripture makes it a primary test of orthodoxy. “This is how you recognize the Spirit of God: Every Spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world (1 Jn. 4:2,3).

The incarnation is what sets Christianity apart from the cults and all the other religions of the world. They believe in the historical Jesus, but they do not believe that God could be with us in the form of a man. They believe that God could appear as a man, like an apparition, and suffer in appearance only, but unless they have the Holy Spirit they cannot say that Jesus was fully God while also becoming fully man.

This union between the eternal Son and the seed of a woman was necessary in order to bring us life. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (Jn. 1:4). Notice that light does not produce life. The light of men is the radiation of the eternal life of God. The last Adam [Jesus], like the first Adam, was also born physically and spiritually alive. But unlike the last Adam, Jesus never sinned even though He was tempted in every way such as we are (Heb. 4:15).

The virgin birth was necessary because Jesus came to give us life. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn. 10:10b). What Adam and Eve lost in the fall was eternal life and what Jesus came to do was give us eternal life. He did not come to give us a more fulfilling physical life with material blessings. He came to give us a fulfilling spiritual life filled with spiritual blessings, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control which are the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22,23). Jesus didn’t just come to give us life, He is our life (Col. 3:4).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://ficmm.org/blog

Counterfeit Jesus

March 19 – Counterfeit Jesus

Government officials who are trained to detect counterfeit money, don’t study the counterfeits. They study the real bills, which they have come to know so well that when a counterfeit bill shows up they can easily spot it. That is why I am taking several weeks to explain the true nature of God, so that you can readily detect the counterfeits, which are showing up everywhere. Our hope is destroyed when God the Father is maligned and I have tried to show that a distorted concept of God contributes to mental illness. In my ministry I have come across many who think they are being led by the Holy Spirit, but are actually paying attention to an evil spirit. Today we are going to consider the warnings about a counterfeit Jesus. The Apostle Paul wrote: “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another (allos) Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different (heteros) spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different (heteros) gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.”

The Greek word “allos” means similar. False teachers are talking about the same historical Jesus, but presenting Him another way. Many of the ecumenical councils in the first millennium struggled against such heresies, chief of which were the Arians who denied the deity of Christ. The council of Nicea deposed Arius in 325. The Arian heresy would arise again throughout church history, and is evident today in the Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons, who also deny the trinity and the deity of Christ. If Jesus was just a man, or prophet then His sacrificial death would have no more significance than the sacrifice of bulls and goats which cannot take away your sins. Jesus said, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be” (Jn. 8:24).

What happens if you believe in a counterfeit Jesus? You are being deceived by a different (heteros) spirit. “Heteros” means a completely different spirit from the Holy Spirit, which can only be an evil spirit. Consequently, you will have a different (heteros) gospel. It won’t be a gospel of grace, it will be a totally inadequate “gospel” of works. Jesus warned us about this possibility in the Olivet discourse, “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, the elect” (Matt. 24:23,24).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://ficmm.org/blog