The Victorious Christian Life

A Lesson Series for the Earnest Christian

© 2002 by Thomas W. Finley, 2013 Revised Edition

Lesson Seven: Living the Identification Truths – A Walk of Faith

Our position in Christ and our experience are two different matters. We must understand this clearly and not confuse the two. Christian teachers today are still confusing the two, which leads to misunderstanding concerning the believer’s walk. Our position relates to spiritual facts that are true in the spiritual realm before God. These positional truths show us our victorious position in Christ. Because of our position “in Christ,” we share in all that He accomplished for us in His death and resurrection. By sharing in His death we are “dead to sin,” which means our relationship to sin has changed. We are no longer under sin as a master, compelling us to commit sins. According to the spiritual fact of our position “in Christ,” we have also been raised up with Christ and now, like Him, we are “alive to God,” to please Him and do His will. These facts are absolutely true according to the spiritual realm (Rom. 6:1-11). However, these facts are not necessarily true at all of our daily experience. The challenge to the believer is to bring these spiritual facts into his daily experience by a walk of faith.

This arrangement of two realms, position and experience, may seem complicated, but this is God’s way. By virtue of this arrangement, the overcoming life requires a seeking heart and a living faith. We dare not think that our victorious position is something that is automatically translated into every believer’s experience. Such an expectation will cause confusion and disappointment. On the other hand, we must not think that the experience of our victorious position is unattainable. Christ won a great victory for us over sin, the world and the devil. This victory was accomplished through His death on the cross and His powerful resurrection from the dead. It is God’s intention that every believer should learn how to walk in this victory. Note the following verses which speak directly of the victory available for believers.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” (2 Cor. 2:14)

This verse uses the metaphor of a conquering Roman general in a triumphal procession in Rome. The procession would include both the general’s army and the captured enemies. Paul here pictures himself as one of the general’s officers who was led along in the general’s victory. In the same way, we can be led by God in the victory which Christ accomplished.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:57)

Although the context of this verse is about the ultimate victory over death, which will be manifested in a future age, the principle of the believer sharing in the victory won by Christ is evident. Although we will share the aspect of His victory over physical death in the future, we can share His victory now over sin and the world. This victory is available to every believer in Christ. God gives us this victory through Christ, but we must learn to walk in it by faith.

Look at the verses in the table at the end of this lesson. The verses under “Our Position” tell us that our old man has been crucified and now (through resurrection with Him) Christ is our life. Yet, the other column, relating to our experience, tells us that we must put certain things within us to death. So, we see that the truth of our position must be worked out in our experience; it is not automatic.

The victorious life requires that what is true of us in our position must be transferred into the realm of our experience. So, what is involved in this transfer? It seems that there are four basic things involved. These four items are our seeking after God, the word of God, faith, and the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps some would include our seeking after God in the matter of faith, and this may be so. I have indicated this matter of seeking separately because I do not want believers to think that “faith” is just some kind of mental exercise in believing the word. In Hebrews chapter eleven, the great chapter on faith, consider what verse six says: “But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6, KJV). The context of this verse concerns the lives of those who demonstrated living by faith. Here it seems that such a living by faith is explained in this verse as including both belief and a seeking after God. “Seeking God” means seeking to contact Him, know Him and obey Him. Regarding this matter of seeking, I think it is safe to say that no one has consistently lived the victorious life unless he was truly seeking the Lord.

Fact – Faith - Experience

Now, putting aside for the present the matter of seeking the Lord, let us look at the factors of the word, faith, and the Holy Spirit. Many teachers have illustrated the reality of the believer’s experience as a train of “fact – faith - feelings.” These teachers point out that the engine (the first car in the train) is the word of God (fact), faith is the middle car, and feelings is the last car. The word of God is absolute truth, so we take what it says as “Fact.” In this “train” of Christian experience, the word must come first, then our faith in that word, and, as a result, feelings may follow. If we look for some type of feelings first we will fail. “Feelings” would be emotions or sensations. Actually, what should be the final car of this train of Christian experience is not “feelings,” but experience of the Holy Spirit. We must place our faith, our full trust, in what the word says, and then experience will follow. Actually, when the stage of experience is realized, it is just the operation of the Holy Spirit in our living.

So, we must start with our trust in what the word declares, and this means we must disregard our feelings, or what seems to be our experience contrary to the word. The Bible says: “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7, KJV). The term “walk” here means to have our conduct, our experience of living. We must not put our belief in what appears to be our situation. No, instead we disregard what seems to be true to our senses and the evidence presented to our mind, and instead, we place our trust in what His word says about us and our situation. We must believe that God’s word is absolutely trustworthy.

This principle of “Fact – Faith – Experience” applies to many aspects of our Christian experience. In this lesson we are simply limiting the application of this principle to our experience of the identification truths - those “facts” concerning our participation in Christ’s death and resurrection.

If we look at God’s word carefully, we will see that there are passages which show us that the experience of victory is based upon our position of victory in Christ. So, the truth (fact) of our position in Christ is transferred into our experience by our faith in the truth. The crucial passage of Rom.6:1-10 declares the spiritual facts of our sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ. Then, verse 11 calls for us to count these facts to be true of us (faith). As we believe verse 11, then we can act on our faith in verses 12 and 13. Verse 12 calls for us to deny sin’s reign in our lives, based on the spiritual fact that we have died to sin. Verse 13 calls for us to present ourselves to God for obedience, based upon the spiritual fact that we are now alive to God. Verses 12 and 13 speak of our faith and our experience.

To recap, Rom. 6:1-10 generally speak of our position in Christ (our union with Him in His death and resurrection), the spiritual facts. These facts comprise the first car in the train. Then verse 11 calls us to place our faith in the foregoing facts. So, verse 11 is the middle train car of faith. Then verses 12 and 13 touch our experience, the outworking of the spiritual facts in our lives. Yet, even verses 12 and 13 ask us to act by faith. When we follow verses 12 and 13 in faith, then the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, empowering us to say “no” to sin and to yield to God in obedience. Thus, verses 12 and 13 help us enter into experience and are the final car in the train. Feelings, or sensations, will follow from time to time as we use our faith. Feelings, however, are never consistent, nor are they a consistent result of faith. God does not want us to seek after feelings or depend upon them for confirmation of our walk of faith. He does, however, want us to have real experience of the Holy Spirit. He calls us to always walk in the way of faith – trusting fully in Him and His word, and acting upon His word. If do we this, then the Holy Spirit becomes real in our experience.

“Even so consider [count it to be true] yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6:11)

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,” (Rom. 6:12)

“and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Rom. 6:13)

It is important to notice from the verses above that when we place our trust in these identification truths we are also “agreeing” with God to be dead to sin and alive to Him. That is, we are in agreement to fully die to the self-life, all that we were in Adam, and now to live to God in full obedience to Him. When we “consider” ourselves to be dead to sin, we not only “believe” this fact, but we are agreeing for it to be carried out in our lives. If we do not have the intention to fully die to self and live fully to God, then the “Fact – Faith – Experience” train will not move forward. We will not have the experience of the Holy Spirit working Christ’s victory in our lives. The root of faith must produce the fruit of obedience. If we count on (have faith in) the fact of our participation in Christ’s death and resurrection to be true, we must do so with an attitude that we choose to experience a life lived to God, a life characterized by obedience, not sin.

Walking by faith

We see how vital it is to steadfastly focus upon God’s word, especially the truths of our position in Christ, in order to live an overcoming Christian life. In our experience of this, we will find that there is a spiritual struggle here. This struggle exists because “the flesh” is still with us. We are very conscious of the sin nature within us and our past failures, and the presence of sin makes it seem that we cannot live a life of obedience. The old nature within seems so powerful and the pull of sin upon us seems so overwhelming at times. However, as we maintain our steadfastness of belief in the fact of our participation in Christ’s death and resurrection, we find that we can “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” (Ex. 14:13, KJV). This means that as we stand upon God’s word in faith, fully dependent upon Him and seeking Him, then the Holy Spirit works in us death and resurrection experience. In this way, the Holy Spirit gives us the victory that is in Christ.

In looking at the table at the end of the lesson, you can see that the Spirit is involved in putting certain things to death within us. We, however, are also involved. Our choices and our actions work together with the Spirit. The verses in the table show that we must put to death the members of our body (being tempted to sin) and the deeds of our body - those sinful deeds that flow out of the dominion of sin. Yet, we do all this by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is brought in through our faith in God and His word. Paul, in contrasting the way of the Law in obeying God to the way of grace, emphasizes this relationship between the Holy Spirit and faith, as seen in the following verses:

This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?...Does He then who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Gal. 3:2-3, 5) For we through the Spirit, by faith, are awaiting the hope of righteousness. (Gal. 5:5)

Let’s look at an actual experience to see how these ideas work out. Suppose you are tempted to sin in a certain way. The sinful lusts within you have been stirred up and are pulling you towards a sinful action (see James 1:13-15). What should you do? It is at this point that you must turn your inner being towards God and come forward to Him in your spirit. At the same time, you may begin confessing a useful identification truth in prayer to Him. You may pray, for instance, “Thank you, Jesus, that I was crucified with you on the cross (Rom. 6:6). Now, Lord, it is no longer the old I who is living, but you are living in me as my very life (Gal. 2:20). You are my sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). I am trusting in You as my righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30).”

There will be an inward struggle as the sinful impulses pull at you, even while you are praying. This “evidence” (which contradicts faith) that you are still a sinful person and that you will end up sinning, must be disregarded as you appropriate the truth of who you are in Christ, and what He is to you. The presence of sin will be there. But, our job is to come forward to the Lord for His grace and power (Heb. 4:16). We must be in utter dependence upon Him. As we seek Him in spirit and stand upon the truth of His word, then the Holy Spirit begins to put to death the rising power of the sinful desire within us, and at the same time we feel strengthened to turn away from sin’s demand and choose obedience to God.

Will there be failures along the way? Yes, we are still learning and are still in the unredeemed body where we may succumb to temptation and failure. Sometimes our heart is not pure; we may secretly love the sin and not desire victory that badly. We may feel cold towards the Lord at the time of temptation.

Another problem is that we may unwittingly try to combat the sin in the energy of our own effort, without full dependence upon the Lord. We will talk about this matter in future lessons. Suffice it to say for now that this is one of our biggest reasons for failure, and it takes most believers years to be weaned from this defeating habit. Also, if we are not spending time in the word of God, feeding our faith and our spiritual life, then we will be weak in faith (Matt. 4:4, Rom. 10:17).

We must realize that our “reckoning” (Rom. 6:11) of ourselves to be dead to sin is based upon our “knowing” that our old man was crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6). To know that we have been crucified with him requires some spiritual revelation. This may come in different ways to different believers, but this knowing usually comes only after some time of seeking the Lord for truth and victory. Dwelling on the identification truths, going over and over them, even daily, strengthens our faith in their reality. Once we “know” that we were crucified with Him (and have been raised to walk in newness of life) it is easier to apply faith to that fact in the midst of the battle.

With the thoughts in the preceding paragraph in mind, we need to conclude that there is the matter of time involved in the development and improvement of our experience. The victorious life is progressive in its manifestation. If we continue to seek the Lord and follow the principles of the overcoming life, victory will unfold in greater and greater measure. Some truths that are appropriated by us through faith may actually take a long time to become fully manifested in our experience.

Finally, I would again emphasize that our overcoming experience is based upon our position. If you read the New Testament admonitions concerning putting sin to death within us, or putting on the new man, you will usually find that these commands are preceded by some mention of spiritual fact (positional truth). For instance, take a look at Col. 3:1-11. The practical instructions of dealing with certain sins in the verses in the latter portion of this passage are based upon the truth of our position in verses 1-4. Verse five begins with a “therefore,” indicating that our dealing with sins has its basis and ability rooted in positional truth. So, we see that faith in our position, regardless of our feeling, is critical in the matter of victory.

Let us memorize and meditate upon those truths that are true of us in Christ. Let us seek after God and His holiness. Let us forget about and disregard the “evidence” of the inward presence of sin and all of our failures! Let us not try to live the Christian life in our energy, but let us stand upon the word of God regarding the truth of who we are in Christ and what has happened to us in Christ. Then, the experience of Christ living within us will grow and blossom.

OUR POSITION
(Spiritual fact)
OUR EXPERIENCE
(Realization of spiritual fact)
“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him...” (Rom. 6:6a) “if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13b)
“For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:3-4, NKJV). “Therefore, put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5, NKJV).
“And those who are Christ’s have crucified [aorist tense*] the flesh with its passions and its desires” (Gal. 5:23, NKJV) “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13b, NKJV)
“and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11) “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).
“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed [aorist tense*] yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:27). “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regards to its lusts” (Rom. 13:14).

* The aorist tense as used here indicates an action taking place at one point in time.

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)