Chapter 5

                 FIVE – In His Mind

     Before the foundation of the world, the great God and Creator had us in mind.  Because He fully understood all things before the very creation of the universe, He chose us to be His (Ephesians 1:4).  We were in His mind and thoughts (Psalm 40:5; 139:11).  While Jesus hung on the cross vicariously paying our debt of sin, we were foremost in His thoughts.  He died with you and me in mind. Fellowshipping with His Father Jesus poured out His heart in prayer just hours before Calvary.  That prayer has come to be known as the High Priestly Prayer, and is found in John 17.  There the Lord said all believers were His before the incarnation, that is, before He came as a baby to Bethlehem.  Even then, so long ago, He was faithfully keeping and guarding us (17:12).  We were uppermost in His mind.  The verbs Jesus used, translated “keeping” and “guarding” mean to observe, keep, watch carefully, maintain, and protect.  We were His, and He securely kept us.  Jesus also spoke of His present relationship to us—“’I in them and You in Me’” (17:23).  Not long before this time of prayer, as recorded in John 14, Jesus taught His disciples about the future relationship—“’Where I am, there you may be also’” (14:3).
 
     This is all so amazing and awesome.  We have always and will always be in His mind, foremost in His thoughts and purpose.  He is always thinking about us!  Many saints of Bible history have prayed asking God to remember them; individuals such as Samson, Hanah, Nehemiah, Job, Jeremiah, and even the thief who hung on a cross alongside the Lord Jesus.  To each the answer eternally resounds, “I know you and understand you.  I love you and you are Mine for all time and eternity.  You are Mine despite your failing and sin.  You belong to Me in spite of your willfulness and disobedience.  I know how to protect and keep you.  You are My son, My daughter.”  Do you feel the smallest of small?  Do you think you are unimportant or unknown?  Be encouraged!  If you know the Lord Jesus as Savior, He knows you intricately and loves you intimately.  Why?  He loves you because you belong to Him.  “’. . . I have called you by your name; you are Mine!’” (Isaiah 43:1).  Jesus said, “’I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep. . .’” (John 10:14).
 
     He remembers His own continually, earnestly desiring to have a warm, loving, intimate relationship with us simply by virtue of the fact we have been born again.  He does not owe this to us; we have not earned it nor do we deserve it; we are totally unworthy of His attention and favor.  This is grace at its finest.
 
     Life for born-again believers here on earth, as God intended it to be, may be described by a host of adjectives.  Because of our position in Christ (top circle) God regards us as holy, pure, and the possessors of a close, personal relationship with the Savior.  His light that illuminates our life dispels darkness, which causes stumbling.  God gives to each of His own a stability and sets us upon solid and sure ground (Psalm 18:2; 40:2).  He intends His children prosper and know His measure of success (Joshua 1:8).
 
     Since we know Him as Savior, we have His mind, that is, wisdom and insight from on high and can therefore realize a divine effectiveness.  In John 15, Jesus taught the parable of the vine and fruit bearing.  Therein He instructed His followers to bear "much fruit" so the Father would be glorified.   The fruit (Christ-like character) which He longs to see multiply in the garden of our lives was described by Paul in Galatians 5:22 and 23.  The child of God who has optimum obedience will have superior character—that is God’s way.
 
     When one invites Christ into his life for salvation, he is born again (John 3).  There Jesus explained to Nicodemus, a deeply religious man, that receiving Christ as Savior is like starting anew.  It is akin to being born again.  When this takes place one becomes a spiritual baby and needs to learn, grow, and mature in spiritual matters.  Young Christians learn elementary truths and principles about their new life in Christ.  The more learned and applied fosters more growth and maturity in spiritual and practical living.  This is part and parcel of the life God intends for His children.  He expects they will grow up in Him.  Every parent of a newborn enjoys the tiny baby but also joyfully anticipates the first tooth, the first steps, and all the other stages of growth.  How sad and tragic it is when a child does not mature and experience normal development.  Likewise God wants His children to grow up in matters of eternal significance.  It is part of the life He has for us.
 
     In order to facilitate and encourage a spiritually healthy maturity, God provides an environment for growth.  This divine provision is represented in our illustration by the bottom circle, and it deals with our moment-by-moment walk with the Master.  When a Christian resolves to obediently live his life within the perimeters of God’s Word, he will know the joy of the Lord.  This bottom-circle environment might, also be thought of as a greenhouse for spiritual growth, because living there will enhance spiritual growth.  It is God’s perfect design for spiritual maturity.
 
     When the believer lives in that greenhouse of growth the spiritual process of maturing flourishes and we learn of the riches in Christ, which belong to each believer.  The New Testament book of Ephesians teaches Christians how enormously rich they are in Christ.  Far too many believers live as though they are paupers when spiritual reality is quite the opposite.  We are rich in God’s mercy (Ephesians 2:4); we have part in the “surpassing riches of His grace” (2:7) and the riches of His glory (3:16).  In Ephesians 3:8, Paul summarized God’s unfathomable riches which are ours by faith.  All of these riches belong to us merely by virtue of sonship.
 
     Because we are God’s in Christ Jesus, we have direction and purpose in this life.  The indwelling Holy Spirit stands ever ready to guide and lead as we follow.  Also, Jesus never disappoints His children—the psalmist wrote, “. . . in You they trusted, and were not disappointed (Psalm 22:5).  Paul and Peter testified that “. . . He who believes in [Christ] will not be disappointed” (Romans 9:33; 10:11; 1 Peter 2:6).  Because of God’s magnificent salvation, there is contentment; there is safety and security; there is also ultimate victory found in Christ.  First Corinthians 15:57 states, “. . . Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The Apostle John wrote of the “victory that has overcome the world” (1 John 5:4).
 
     All of these spiritual realities make up the abundant life which Jesus spoke of in John 10:10.  By faith, this kind of life belongs to every Christian just because we are His.  Regenerated people, or those who have been born again, are heirs of God (Galatians 4:7) and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).  This is positional truth, the basis of the top circle—a truth about born-again believers which is fact simply because we are forever His children.
 
     In John 10:10, when Jesus taught about the abundant life, He also spoke of our fiendish adversary.  He, too, has an agenda for each child of God, and his purpose is destruction.  Jesus pulled no punches when He said Satan, “’ . . . comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy . . .’” Therefore, we must never forget the enemy wants to keep born-again believers from knowing anything of God’s intention and design.  The devil wants Christians to fall in the face of temptation and live disobedient, joyless lives of mere existence.
 
     When a saint sins, he has a rebellious, carnal, and disobedient walk and is living outside the bottom circle environment (Figure Three).  Satan will do anything within his power to cause the child of God to sin and then remain in that condition.  He wants to stunt the believer’s growth and spiritual progress.  If he can keep a Christian outside the God-given greenhouse environment, he can hinder and retard any forward motion in Christ-like character and growth in spiritual matters.  Successful activity of the foe in the life of a believer also causes personal doubt of salvation and that, in turn, influences and weakens the effectiveness of his witness to those who are unsaved.
 
     The reality and consequence of this sinful lifestyle is estrangement from the Father, weakness and impotence, confusion, and a disrupted life caused by darkness resulting in unsureness and instability.  Unforgiven sin tolerated in the believer’s life brings failure, foolish reasoning, and ignorance.  It leads to ineffectiveness and an anemic, stifled growth in spiritual matters.  Rather than production of spiritual fruit, there will be the growth of fruit of the flesh (Galatians 5:19 – 21).  Instead of appropriating by faith the riches in Christ Jesus, the sinning saint lives like a spiritual drifter and slave to his former master (Romans 6).  The life of the carnal Christian is filled with misery, loss, guilt, and danger.  A disobedient lifestyle results in a nagging emptiness, disappointment, and discontent.  When there is sin in the life, there can be no filling or control of the Holy Spirit.  Sin both quenches (1 Thessalonians 5:19) and grieves (Ephesians 4:30) the Holy Spirit.
 
     Strangely enough, the carnal child of God exchanges the life of divine order for a life much like the existence he knew before he received Christ as Savior.  Admittedly, when examined in this context, the exchange makes no sense at all.  This contrast emphasizes the joy of obedience and the sorrow of disobedience because the consequence of focusing on any other than Christ is defeat.  How vital it is to learn the importance of the Hebrews 12:1 and 2 principle—keep our eyes riveted on Christ as we run the race of life.
 
     The understanding and application of this principle is absolutely crucial to knowing and experiencing a meaningful and maturing Christian walk.
 

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us aoso lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1, 2).

 

     The word “therefore” signals a reference to the context of the passage which tells of the dozens of faithful believers the writer has spoken of in the previous chapter.  They are our flesh and blood examples of faithful and obedient Christians who ran their race of life in the strength of the indwelling Holy Spirit and appropriated by faith the victory.  We, too, can know the same victory.  How?  Victory is ours as we focus on the prize:  the finish line, the Lord Jesus.  In order to do this, we must decide to lay aside anything, which would weigh us down or hold us back.  Track and field athletes wear shoes, which are especially fashioned to be strong yet light; their uniform is also made from materials, which are also lightweight and nonbinding.  Winning track stars do not run with combat boots, jeans, and layered clothing.  However, if one wishes to run unencumbered, he will strip down to the basics.  Likewise, for the believer, there may be legitimate matters, amoral things in the life that of themselves are not bad or sinful, but they keep us from the excellent achievements God desires for us.  The instruction here is to get rid of them—do not allow them to slow the progress of maturing.
 
     The author wrote of “the sin which so easily entangles us.”  “Sin” is singular—it is not the sins, which easily entangle us.  It is not the commonly thought of sins like gossip or lying, or the sin of hatred and bitterness, lust or sexual sin.  The author did not share a laundry list of sins to avoid; rather he wrote of a “sin.”  What is that sin?  The answer is given at the beginning of verse two.
 
     We must run with our attention fixed on Christ—nothing or no one else.  Anytime our focus is removed from Christ, sin enters the life, and we forfeit the greenhouse environment found in the bottom circle.  If we desire victory in this life, we must keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus; running to cross the finish line empowered with His strength and might, mimicking His example of endurance and following in His steps (1 Peter 2:21).  Failure to do this is “the sin,” which so easily entangles us, interrupting our progress in spiritual growth.
 
     The Father’s strategy for each of His children is the inclusion of His truth and principles in daily life. He wants believers to know and understand His Word, incorporate and make application of it in our day-by-day walk.  Using our illustration, imagine the bottom circle of the walk as a mirror reflecting the true image of the top circle truths with respect to our eternal position in Christ (as depicted in Figure Four).  In other words, in order to please our Heavenly Father, He expects the reality of our position in Christ might permeate and influence our decisions, values, actions, and conduct.  “We Christians .
 
 
. . can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord.  And as the Spirit if the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him” (2 Corinthians 3:18 TLB).
 
     God wants His children to be familiar with theology, which is the systematic teaching of biblical truth; however, knowledge of eternal truths alone is not sufficient to ensure victory and joy.  He wants Christians to make application of His truth allowing it to influence and permeate the walk and also reflect a clear testimony to others of His grace and ability.
 
     The Christian must show Christ to the world, because they, too, are in need of the Savior.  People today desperately need Christ just as the Greeks spoken of in John 12:21, who said to Philip, “’Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’”  Our contemporaries need to see Jesus Christ:  His authenticity and ability to change lives giving purpose and satisfaction.  Paul told the Christians living in Colosse those without the Savior need to see “. . . Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).  Yes, we are in Christ (top circle), and Christ is in every believer shining as a light in a dark world (John 8:12; Matthew 5:14).
 

     Our witness for Christ can only be effective as we walk, or live, in the Spirit.  When the Christian is disobedient, living outside the environment God provides (the bottom circle), he is dirty from sin and needs cleansing.  The only solution to personal sin is confession (1 John 1:9).  Sin must be immediately dealt with—do not allow it to grow and infect the life.  A sure sign of increasing Christ-likeness may be gauged by the amount of time one lives in the bottom circle environment; and, that lifestyle is identified and described by Paul in Romans 8:3 and 4:

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did; sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin.  He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

 

Walking according to the Spirit is the life, which

pleases God and brings His blessing.  It is the life, which produces contentment beyond our explanation and a joy, which defies understanding.
 

Copyright J 2010 by J. Michael Fox

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