Why do we sense we’re in a constant battle? It’s like the cartoon where a devil sits on one shoulder and an angel on the other, each warring for attention. We are engaged in a battle, but not that kind. Paul addresses our real dilemma in Romans: “We know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:14-15, 18, ESV).
Paul doesn’t mince words here as he describes his condition: “I am of the flesh. I do evil all the time. No good dwells within me.” So, is this Paul’s basic description of a Christian? Is he saying, “All your days will be full of such conflict”? Not at all.
Yet Paul presses in further: “When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (7:21-24).
Many Christians stop here and say, “That’s me—I’m saved but my life is wretched. There’s no way God could ever use me. I spend every waking hour just fighting off sin.” The problem is, these Christians don’t know who they are in Christ and that is exactly Paul’s point. He paints a full picture of our dilemma, describing our wretched condition, and asks, “Is there any way out? How can I ever be delivered from this? It’s impossible in my own strength.”
Then, in one of the most amazing passages recorded in Scripture, Paul gives us God’s response to the human condition: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! . . . There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (7:25, 8:1-2).
There is a new law at work in you—because there’s a new sheriff in town! Jesus, the new sheriff, has run out the old, corrupt one—the “old man” of your flesh. You no longer live under the law of sin and death, for “the law of the Spirit has set you free in Christ Jesus.”
The American church has long been captivated by the society around her. The theology of fallen society has become the theology of many of God’s people. But now another generation is rising up—people who are tired of the wilderness, tired of the powerlessness, tired of the name of Jesus being trampled underfoot.
The Lord is calling His own and saying, “If you want to inherit the life that I died to give you, you must choose to turn away from sin. You must refuse to walk in what is common practice in a fallen society.” It is an hour of the miraculous again, and God has invited each of us to be a part of it. We are a type of Joshua’s generation, about to go into the Promised Land, but we cannot go in until the reproach of Egypt is rolled away—until we are clearly marked as the people of God.
That is why at the end of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul said, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Examine yourselves!
How do you do that? It’s simple: Start by asking yourself some questions.
Am I living in victory? Do I have dominion over sin, or does sin have dominion over me? Do I try to present an argument to justify my sinful practices? Remember, Jesus gives His Holy Spirit to those who believe in Him for the forgiveness of sins, promising that sin will no longer have dominion over them. He declares that old things are literally cut to the root, and although they may appear to have life, in reality they are dead. In their place is new life—new power, new victory, new hope and a new future.
Ask yourself: Is my life a testimony of Christ? Are people asking me the reason for the hope that is within me? Am I drawn forward by an inner knowledge that the Lord’s plans for me are for good and not for evil, to bring me to an expected end—a place that my heart has always longed to go?
If you are determined to go God’s way, He will give you the grace that you need. You are going to find life and you are going to find it more abundantly.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. A strong, compassionate leader, he is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world.
Recently God has been showing me something about trusting Him that I’ve never seen before! The psalmist wrote, “Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded” (Psalm 22:4-5).
Over and over David testified, “In the Lord put I my trust” (Psalm 11:1); “O my God, I trust in thee” (Psalm 25:2). The Hebrew root word for trust suggests “to fling oneself off a precipice.” That is, to be like a child who hears his father say, “Jump!” and trustingly obeys, throwing himself off the edge and into his father’s arms.
That is one aspect of trust. Some of you are in that place even now. You are on the edge, teetering, and you have no other option but to fling yourself into the arms of Jesus! Some have simply resigned themselves to their situation—which in reality is no more than fatalism. They call this trust—but it is not trust, it is numbness. Trust is much more than passive resignation! It is active belief!
Some of you have made our Lord out to be some kind of cosmic fire-and-rescue company. It is as if Satan sets your house on fire and you are stranded on the roof yelling, “Lord, help! Save me!” So along comes the Lord, with His angels holding a big net, and He says, “Jump!” You do jump, the house burns down, and you say, “Thank You, Lord, for getting me out!”
Many of us limit our trust to these rescue operations, as if to say to the Lord, “I trust You to come and put out all my fires, save me from all my troubles, and deliver me out of all my trials. I know You'll be there, Lord, when I need You."
The trusting heart says, “All my steps are ordered by the Lord! He is my loving Father. He formed all my parts when I was in my mother’s womb and numbered every hair on my head. I am the apple of His eye and He has an eternal plan for me.”
God has everything under control!
Many Christians today want a blood covering for sin but not a cleansing! The ritual of the Old Testament Tabernacle provides a clear example of the kind of walk with God Christians should have.
The Tabernacle had an outer court where the sacrificial animal was slain. This provided the blood covering for sin. But outside, too, was a laver where cleansing took place. No priest could enter the Holy of Holies and commune with God face to face without being cleansed.
Some Christians believe they can bypass the laver which, for us, stands for the washing by the water of the Word. They believe they can push into the holy place with sin caked all over them and sinful habits deeply imbedded in their hearts. Just walk right in and boast, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ.”
The perfect heart is after more than security or a covering for sin! It seeks to be in His presence to have communion! Communion is talking with the Lord, sharing sweet fellowship, seeking His face. And that is what you get in the Holy of Holies! It comes in this order: covering, cleansing, commitment, communion.
Many believers, however, want nothing more than to be covered—a quick ticket to glory! No pain, no cross, no cleansing! They go about crying, “I’m under the blood! I’m safe!”
Yet they quote only one-half of the verse: “And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Read all of it: “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light . . . the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7). Jesus said, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3).
We hear preaching that says, “You don’t need to be searched. All your sin is under the blood! All this digging and searching out of sin brings only condemnation and guilt.”
In Revelation 2:23, Jesus says, “All the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the [minds] and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” Beloved, He was addressing the Church!
Once, during a long drive from the Teen Challenge farm in Pennsylvania to New York City, the Lord spoke to my inner man: “There is such a thing as a perfect heart. I want to show you what it is so you can seek after it!” At that time God revealed to my spirit that Christ commits Himself to those who walk before Him with a perfect, responsive heart.
“The Lord searcheth all hearts” (1 Chronicles 28:9). The perfect heart cries out with David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart . . . and see if there be any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:23-24).
God also said to Jeremiah, “I the Lord search the heart” (Jeremiah 17:10). The Hebrew meaning for this phrase is, “I examine deeply.” Scripture says, “For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10).
In Revelation 2:24, Jesus speaks about “the depths of Satan,” of going down into the profound depth of sin. He was saying that evil goes down deep into the soul; that it has roots that go down into hell. David said of the wicked ones: “The inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep” (Psalm 64:6). “For a prostitute is a deep pit” (Proverbs 23:27, NIV).
These passages all are holy warnings: “You don't realize how deeply this association with evil affects you. It takes you down into the depths of Satan himself, depths that are mysterious, bottomless, profound. This path leads to hell.”
In these final days sin has become complicated, subtle, sensuous and more sophisticated. It comes disguised as art, culture and education. I believe there are new depths to sin now. It has taken on stronger, deeper roots. Our children are confronted with depths of sin that we never did or never will know! “Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark” (Isaiah 29:15).
The perfect heart wants the Holy Spirit to come and search out the depths of the innermost man, to shine into all hidden parts, to investigate and dig out and expose all that is unlike Christ.