We have been physically born into a life that we cannot live because our only option in handling the problems of life is to do so sinfully. We must die to this life, and that is only possible by placing our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are born into this world, we are dead to the things of God (Eph 2:1-2). But God makes us alive to Him at the moment that we believe in Jesus (Eph 2:5). This means that we have, in turn, died to sin, and have been raised to a newness of life.
The believer in Jesus Christ is placed “in Christ” at the moment of faith. This establishes the believer with a new identity, being a new creation, and now having a glorious standing of righteousness before a holy God. Jesus’ perfect provision is our distinct privilege.
Do we reallybelieve this? Our answer is predicated on our belief in the truthfulness of God’s Word, for in it are the factsof all history, seen and unseen, natural and supernatural, past, present, and future.
Reality finds its meaning and purpose only in God’s holy Word.
Why are we Missing the Power to Live the Christian Life?
For many, Scripture seems disconnected from the “reality” of our modern age causing us to reluctantly dismiss the biblical record of the Holy Spirit’s work as borderline fiction. Such unbelief in the Bible’s accuracy has robbed us of the Spirit’s power in our lives. If we are not believing in what God has already said, why would we believe that He would work gloriously among us? When we render the Word of theLord as being mundane and ordinary, the Lord passes us by, just as He did in Nazareth. We are told haunting words by Matthew, “And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matt 13:58). However, the Spirit’s power has been freely given to all who believe in Christ being freely available in abundance, and yet it lies dormant because of our unbelief, and more particularly our unbelief regarding what God has said in His holy Word.
The believer in Christ is already “in Christ!” Thus, our position before God is one that is established in victory because Christ is victorious over sin, death, and the grave. His win is the provision for our lives to “win” also. Van Gelderen explains, “As children of God, Christ is living in each of us right now… Faith turns what is true provisionally into experience practically. We simply must choose to depend on the reality of the words declared by God in order to access the benefit of what God says is so.”
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Believing His Word, moment by moment, is what it means to “abide,” and abiding in Christ is the answer to our power problem. Jesus references His own abiding in the Father in John 15:10. He tells His disciples, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just asI have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (emphasis added). Just as Jesus’ life was a model of constant obedience to the Father, so our lives in abiding in Christ must be one of constant obedience to Him. This is not a “do more, try harder” approach, but a “trust Him fully” way of thinking. No one obeys a command without believing it to be true. So it is with the relationship of “believing” and “obeying” in the Christian Life. This means that His Word is paramount and there are no worthy competitors. With His Word being our chiefconviction, we find our lives full of the Spirit’s power because all has come under submission to His will.
R.A. Torrey brings understanding to Jesus’ words regarding the power that is available when the believer is abiding in Christ. He writes, “If we are to obtain from God all that we ask from Him, Christ’s words must abide or continue in us. We must study His words, fairly devour His words, let them sink into our thought and into our heart, keep them in our memory, obey them constantly in our life, let them shape and mold our daily life and our every act.
This is really the method of abiding in Christ. It is through His words that Jesus imparts Himself to us. The words He speaks unto us, they are spirit and they are life (John 6:63). It is vain to expect power in prayer unless we meditate much upon the words of Christ, and let them sink deep and find a permanent abode in our hearts. There are many who wonder why they are so powerless in prayer, but the very simple explanation of it all is found in their neglect of the words of Christ.”
Power in the Christian Life is NEVER our power, but the power of the Spirit flowing through us because we are in full dependency of the Word of the indwelling Christ. We must well-remember that Truth is a Person, Jesus Christ, and this Person operates and is who He is in complete consistency with His Word. This is a sound and consistent fact to rest ourselves upon.
Facts have power, and those facts are found ONLY in God’s Word. When we speak of facts, we are speaking of authority. Understanding this, every situation, decision, and concern must have an authority in place. Therefore, it must be brought to the Word of God. It is the engine that provides the power for the F-Train to move forward. The remaining cars of faithand feelingshave no real power. Therefore,they only lead in wrong directions and to wrong responses. Their proper place is in submission to the authority (facts), for only the authority has power.
Sadly, there are many instances in life where God’s Word is not the authority. This finds the other cars of faithand feelingscompeting for the lead position, and in turn, stalling all progression and growth in the Christian Life. Let’s look at the problems that are created when God’s Truth is removed from the forefront of our lives.
When “Faith” is the Lead Car
This is a particularly sensitive area for many people because it strikes at the core convictions that one holds dear. Some have “grown up this way,” or “that’s just the way we do it,” or “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand.” You get the picture. Using the above rationales are really a defense mechanism to excuse sin. Some of the common phrases that are identifiers of this are:
· I believe…
· I think…
· You ought to…
· You shouldn’t…
· Well, everybody does/believes/etc.
· Well, they say… (who are “they”?)
All of these have one thing in common: they are rooted in man’s opinion, having no foundation for their assertions, stemming from the biased minds and corrupted hearts of created, fallen beings. Each statement makes a man-centered assumption about how life should be or how situations and relationships should be handled, but fall seriously short when asked to provide a greater reason for these convictions other than, “Well, that’s just what I think ought to happen.” Life’s decisions should not be based on shaky ground.
Only God is True. Only God is Eternal. Only God is the Creator. Therefore, His commentary and interpretation of existence, as foundin the Bible, is the final authority, telling us the Truth (facts) about everything.
Though the person is obviously “believing” in something (faith), the object of their belief is not the Word of God. Therefore, it is considered unbelief, regardless of motives or heartfelt sincerity.
Paul stresses the maturity that comes from a church body that is benefiting from the implementation of the Word of God as they are being taught it. He writes, “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14). The “trickery of men” and “deceitful scheming” are the false convictions (faith) that stem from a sinful mindset. The Word of God must be at the forefront if we are to think correctly about life, existence, relationships, eternity, etc.
Many people portray a sincere “faith” and they communicate this by stating, “I’m religious,” “well, my faith is my own,” or something like “you believe in your god and I will believe in mine.” Another favorite is, “I think that god would…” In each of these statements their convictions about deity are revealed, demonstrating a god who has been fashioned according to their personal expectations. The very idea of deity has been diluted seeing that man is really in control. This is exactly the type of deity that the human race clamors after… one that can do or not do, be or not be, everything that the person who worships it wishes that it would do or not do, be or not be. Who is REALLY superior in this relationship?
The self-serving nature of such diminished faithhas shown itself in all religions, being nothing new. Looking at Acts 17:22-27, we find Paul’s words to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers at Mars Hill. He notes that they are “very religious” (17:22). Faithis not their problem. They very much believe in a whole lot of gods, beings, and deities (17:16b). But as stated before, because their belief was not placed in the Wordof God, it is actually unbelief. Paul also notes one altar that was “to an unknown god” (17:23). Notice that this was a place of “worship” (feeling) that had an ascribed object as its focus (“an unknown god”) who is without identity or substance, having no foundation (unlike the factsof God’s Word). Yet, they were “very religious” (faith).
How does Paul correct the F-TRAINof the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers?
Paul tells them the facts. Follow the train of thought (no pun intended): 1. God made the world (17:24a). He is the Creator of all things. 2. He is the “Lord (Master) of heaven and earth” (17:24b) who is beyond temples, structures, and altars (17:24c). 3. He is not served with human hands because He is self-sufficient and is in need of nothing (17:25a). 4. He is the one who gives the human race life and breath. He is the Life-Source (17:25b). 5. God created them, and every man who has ever lived (17:26a), and He alone determines the when and where of their existence (17:26b) so that every person would know Him personally (17:27).
Paul gave these “very religious” people an engine (facts) to get their F-TRAIN moving. He immediately identified the problem that Athens was facing. They had faith, though it was faithin the wrong object (unbelief), and by worshiping these “unknown” gods and having an air of superiority (Acts 17:21), they had feelings(worship) that were being dictated by their misdirected faith/unbelief. What they needed was something worth believing in; something sure and certain; something worthy of devotion. So, Paul introduces to them their Creator (facts) so that they can believe in Him (faith) and worship (feelings) the right and true Object.
It is essential for faithto always be found in the facts, for faithwill always have worshipas the primary feelingthat follows it. “Worship” (literally “worth-ship”) ascribes value to an object. If you are enthralled with a celebrity, it is because you believe (faith)that they have done well and you are ascribing a higher value to them. The feelingthat proceeds out from that conviction (faith)is elation, pride,or what have you, because worth has been ascribed to this object. Faith will always have worshipas the primary feelingthat follows it.
Misplacingfaith in something other than God’s Word leads to worship being ascribed to something other than God. This is the fabrication of idolatry in the heart, leaving one’s affections unchecked with trust and worth being issued to an object of complete inferiority. All things are less than God. Jeremiah the prophet exclaims, “There is none like You, O Lord; You are great, and great is Your name in might” (Jer 10:6).
One of the greatest cries among this current generation is “Who am I?” This question is a result of banning the Creator God from the education of children, and thus banning His given purpose for our identities. Today we are seeing a flesh-led quest for identity in YouTube videos, Facebook posts, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., as well as the gay, lesbian, and transgender movement. Shock and awe are the calling cards of the culture and conformity is demanded in the name of originality (notice the contradictions that these worldviews create).
It was obvious that the Spirit wanted us to know our identities up front. Only twenty-six verses into the first chapter of the Bible we read, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen 1:26-28).
With His Word, God established the unchanging factof our identity. Every person is made in His likeness and in His image. This Truth holds great weight and significance, showing the Creator to be full of care and creating us for a purpose. Yet, our nation’s suicide rate among young people is skyrocketing. Could it be that the quest for “Who am I?” has already been answered by God, but the problem is that many are led to believe (faith) something else, leading to feelingsof inferiority, insignificance, and marginalization?
This is a factthat is true for the Christian as well as the non-Christian. For the believer, they have an extra advantage, with the Holy Spirit residing in them and leading them into all Truth (facts- John 16:13). These factskeep us grounded in trying times, for we have the risen Lord hiding us with Himself in the Father (Col 3:3). The believer has died to this life of sin and has been raised to a newness of life, being given a new identity by being “in Christ!” How helpful this is in such confusing and trying times. Handley Moule captures this, writing, “In temptation, in spiritual languor and decline, in care and perplexity and toil, let me draw upon the fact – not the feeling but the fact – of ‘Christ in me.’”
When “Feelings” are the Lead Car
The idea that “feelings” can be the lead car are more of an excuse than a reality. What is meant by this is that all feelingsare actually a result of what it is that we are truly believing (faith), or what we are valuing as the “most true” concept at any given time. By believing something other than God’s Word, we have settled for a lesser truth that is really no truth at all because it is not God’s Truth (facts).
In a situation where a heinous crime is committed because of someone’s reaction to something that they were surprised with, we may describe such rash actions as a “blind rage” (feelings). However, if the police believe that the person had pondered this crime for some time before committing it, they would call this “premeditated,” meaning that they had been believing (faith) this to be the right response for some time.We often phrase the reasons for our beliefs about something as “well, I feelthat…” when feelings are actually the result of our faithin a matter. When a reason is asked for why we did something wrong, we usually respond with a feelingsanswer: “I felt like I had to…” Many times, we find that the only way that we can express ourselves is in terms of feelings.
It would seem that the three most prominent feelingsthat we are faced with are doubt, anger, and revenge.
InMatthew 11:2-6, we return to the moment where John the Baptist struggled with doubts (feelings) about Jesus being the Promised Messiah. Though he himself had been His forerunner, John’s present situation made his susceptible to doubts (feelings), finding himself in a prison at the order of King Herod, all because he stood up for the truth (facts). “Are You the Expected One,” he asked through his disciples, “or shall we look for someone else?” (Matt 11:3). John’s feelingsabout his current situation had taken the place of the lead car, causing unbelief (faith) in who Jesus is. When we find ourselves in difficult situations, and especially in situations that are going to go on for some time, we may be tempted to lose faithin the facts.
As a model example, Jesus does not scold John for his doubt (feelings), but turns his attention to the factsof Scripture: “the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt 11:5). All of this was happening in John’s day, yet, knowing the Scriptures, John would have understood that the prophecies of the Messiah as told by Isaiah were being fulfilled (Isa 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1). Therefore, Jesus was placing the facts at the front of the conversation so that John would have faithin them, and in light of this new stability, his feelingswould change.
This is true for those Christians who are struggling with an assurance of salvation. Whether it is where they are in life, their past sins creeping up to beat them down, or some ongoing sin in their lives that they just can’t shake, many Christians, who are eternally secure in Christ, frequently doubt their salvation. They feellike they are not saved.
Because they are not willing to conclude that they are lost shows that they are not fully buying in (faith) to the idea, but they are struggling, nonetheless. In this case, feelingsare leading the train, faith is being placed in those feelings, which will ultimately cause a reinterpretation of the facts, concluding in something like “Jesus will only keep me saved if I am a good person who only commits little sins.” By letting their feelingstake the lead car, and by believing those feelingsas truth, the F-TRAINis now traveling backwards with the factsbeing reinterpreted by their feelings.
Is this factual? What does the Truth (facts) say about this matter?
There are many verses and whole passages that could be cited that speak to the eternal, forever security of the believer in Christ, but we will only choose two, and with minimal elaboration. First, Romans 8:38-39states, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing, not even ourselves, can separate us from the love of God. This is a fact; a Truth with power to propel us forward if we would only believe (faith) what God is telling us. If we do, we will not just feelsaved, we will feelblessed!
Another good passage that needs little explanation is 2 Timothy 2:13. It reads, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” The word “faithless” here actually means, “to have nobelief, disbelieve.”This means that even if we are unbelieving in our lives, the Lord remains faithful to His promise of eternal life to us. Lea and Griffin explain this writing, “Paul was asserting that despite human unfaithfulness God’s saving purpose has not retreated. Timothy and all those with him were to continue their endurance that they might experience God’s blessing. Paul did not state these words to open the door to apostasy and disobedience but to soothe a troubled conscience and to provide encouragement to return to God.”God is always faithful to His promises (facts) and He has promised us eternal life.
Anger is a big one! Everyone struggles with getting mad, and sometimes at the littlest things. However, being angry is not the real issue. As stated above, anger is the result (feeling) of a conviction (faith) that we are holding tightly. For those who seem to have a habitual problem with anger, their ultimate issue is the need to have control in situations. This is derived from a pride problem that believes (faith) that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Only their way is the correct way, and everyone else is “ignorant, stupid, uneducated,” or “means well, but they really don’t know what they are talking about.” This is pride, and when pride does not get its way, and a situation is not able to be controlled in the manner that “we think” (faith) it should be controlled, we get angry (feeling).
Pride is the exact same sin that the devil had/has (Isa 14:13-14). It is a natural conclusion to see that this should have no part in us. Pride asserts one’s rights and fosters entitlement (faith). We feellike we deserve something or should be listened to because of who we are or what we have done, but these are really the convictions that we hold dear (faith). None of this is acceptable before the eyes of the Father.
Instead, we are to humble ourselves before Him. How do we correct the problem of our cars getting out of order when it comes to anger?
James 1:19b-20states, “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Being rash (feelings) never works. What we should seek in every situation is for God’s righteousness to shine forth and be the center of attention. Only He is right (facts), we are not. Our anger (feelings) will not accomplish His righteousness in any situation. Therefore, anger must be abandoned as a suitable option in handling conflict. By holding fast to this Truth (fact) and believing (faith) that it is in fact true, our feelingswill come to a place of humility knowing that it is possible for God’s righteousness to be displayed in every trial. This is not a “maybe” situation, but a certainty that rests upon our submission to His Word (facts). Will He not do what He has said?
Biblically speaking, it is not wrong to be angry if you are angry about the right things. Ephesians 4:26-27says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” You can be angry about something and not sin. But the way to allow for anger to become sin is if you are not dealing with it properly. If it is prolonged, the devil will grab a foothold in your life. Being angry because of the abortion problem in the United States is a real and right reason to be angry. Being angry because you were lied to is a legitimate reason because truth (facts) has been bypassed for falsehood. But each of these situations needs to be addressed in the heart and brought before the Lord. They are not to fester and grow to an unhealthy dynamic. You see, feelingsare not bad when they are properly placed at the end of the train because of the faiththat you are exercising in the Truth of God’s Word (facts).
We’ve all been there. When someone has wronged us, they need to pay! So, we devise ways in our mind that they are going to pay, how we wish to see them pay, or how we are going to make them pay(feelings). The factis, we have been wronged and we will not allow ourselves to be treated in such a horrible fashion (feelings). So, obviously revenge is the best option… or is it?
In Romans 12:19, Paul writes, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” This is Truth (fact). We may feeldisenfranchised in some way, but we must remember that the Lord knows all things and that He will bring all situations to justice. By claiming (faith) this Truth (fact), we can now rest (feeling) in God’s care, knowing that He will take care of what or who has wronged us with much greater precision than we would ever be able to muster in our sinful flesh.
Q: Do you believe what God has said about who you are, your current situation, the choices that you are making, or the handling of your future? If not, why not?
Q: Where did God get it wrong? Where has His Word misspoken? How has He failed you in the past convincing you that you cannot trust Him anymore?
Such questions should expose the root of the real reason why we are not trusting what He has already said in His Word. We are either convinced that there is a greater truth than what He has said about a particular matter (faith)or we know that His Word will keep us from the excitingly sinful situation that our flesh wants to participate in (feelings). Such conclusions dismiss the factsaltogether, exchanging God’s revealed Word for our sinful desires.
It is possible to abide in Christ. We can experience the fullness of who He is because He is in us. In looking to Him as the Truth, and therefore looking to God’s Word as given through Him, we are submitted to His facts. He is so much more than many of us initially think or believe.
Let’s close by illustrating this with a personal account of this grand realization. Charles Trumbull (1872-1941) was the editor of the Sunday School Times periodical. He was a committed and devout man, constantly championing the cause of Christ for some twenty years before He fully grasped the significance of Christ in him. He obviously knew the Word and all that it taught of Christ and the Christian Life, but he came to realize that he was not confidently convinced of what it was actually saying to him about the nature of Christ’s Life in relationship to his person.
In the profound little booklet The Life That Wins, we find his personal testimony in coming to this profound realization. He writes, “I had always known that Christ was my Savior, but I had looked upon Him as an external Savior, one who did a saving work forme from outside, as it were; one who was ready to come close alongside and stay by me, helping me in all that I needed, giving me power and strength and salvation. But now I knew something better than that. At last I realized that Jesus Christ was actually and literally withinme and that He had constituted Himself my very life, taking me into union with Himself- my body, mind, and spirit- while I still had my own identity and free will and full moral responsibility. Was not this better than having Him as a helper or even than having Him as an external Savior? To have him, Jesus Christ, God the Son, as my own very life. It meant that I need never again ask Him to help me as though He were one and I another, but rather simply to do His work, His will in me and with me and through me. My body was His, my mind His, my will His, my spirit His- and not merely His but literally a part of Him. What He asked me to recognize was that ‘I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me.’ Jesus Christ had constituted Himself my life- not as a figure of speech, remember, but as a literal, actual fact, as literal as the fact that a certain tree has been made into this desk on which my hand rests. For ‘your bodies are members of Christ,’ and ‘ye are the body of Christ.’”
The F-TRAINis a simple illustration that points to this greater truth. Christ, the Word of God, is telling us the Truth (facts) about life, reality, and Himself. His Word is giving us the answers, the factsabout every situation. By believing (faith) upon what He has already told us, we find heights previously unknown and provision much deeper than first assumed. How can humility and gratitude (feelings) not be the result of such amazing grace? “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11b). To live our lives in the light of His Truth (facts) is to have Him live His Life through us. This is most certainly a Life worth living!
John Van Gelderen, Experiencing Jesus: Personal Revival Through the Spirit-Filled Life(Ann Arbor, MI: Revival Focus, 2017), p. 105-106.
See H.C.G. Moule, Practicing the Promises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 65-71.
Reuben Archer Torrey, How to Pray(Chicago; New York: Fleming H. Revell company, 1900), p. 71–72.
H.C.G. Moule, Practicing the Promises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 54.
Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 57.
Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p. 211.
Charles G. Trumbull, The Life That Wins(Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 2015), p. 20-21.