My Evangelistic Testimony

I always believed in God, as I grew up in the church, and was baptized in high school, with my father and younger brother. I never wavered in my faith, but I had a control issue. I did not let God be in control as often as I could, and it left me searching for a deeper purpose and selfishly striving for success, purely for my own personal gain.

As I grew wiser, I started recognizing this pattern of me being in control instead of God. I was coming up with my own plans and holding on too tightly to these plans and my own will. It took me getting to the brink of a total collapse of an intimate relationship that would have also tainted the view of Christ to someone who was desperately searching. I knew then, I could not succeed or do anything positive in the relationship if I did not surrender and let God take control.

I happened to be in Israel at that point, and the next morning, I was re-baptized in the Jordan River. This pivotal moment gave me a chance to reflect on what God had done for me and what my public display of faith and surrender really meant to God and to me. The fact that God sent His only son to die for my sins, become buried, and be raised again to conquer death and forgive me of my disobedience and release me of my stronghold of control was a moment of pure grace I will never forget. I did not deserve to have any man die for my sins in the first place, let alone the Son of God, the only perfect man. I did not deserve a second chance either, but God gave me grace and gave me the fresh start He knew I needed in life at this point. I felt a weight lifted and a burden taken from me that allowed me to have more joy, peace, patience, and compassion in my heart.

Immediately after surrendering to His lead and being re-baptized, my relationship improved, and the girl I was with found Jesus. I started holding on more loosely and try to stay out of God’s way.

That moment of surrender became the catalyst for the rest of my journey. I have become more relaxed and laid back, knowing that God is in complete control. My hopes and dreams are no longer about what I can do for myself, but what I can do, through Christ, for others. I now see that God made me to help lead others to Him and strengthen their relationships with Christ. I see this in my volunteer roles at my church, studying at Dallas Theological Seminary, working at New Horizons of North Texas, and following God wherever else he may end up leading me. I am what I am today because of God’s grace toward me and in me.

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The Quest for A Life That Is Spiritual

The story of the quest for a life that is spiritual begins when mankind is created by God. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27, ESV) He creates two humans named and Adam and Eve and gives them a task to bear His image, and to be fruitful and multiply. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…” (Genesis 1:28, ESV) Therefore, this task becomes representative of the task for all mankind to fill the earth with the image of Him. Thus, this task and quest becomes personal for every believer.

This quest is extremely difficult because of the nature of God. He is Holy, which means He is distinct from us in several ways. He is a creator that existed before anything. He is outside of everything else that exists, and is not of this world. He is eternal and infinite, and we are temporal. He is Spirit and we are physical flesh. “…And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2, ESV) God is also loving, just, merciful, gracious, angry, and jealous. He is all these things perfectly at every moment, always; one characteristic never sacrificing another. In being Holy, He has called us to demonstrate these characteristics perfectly, always, and everywhere. This is something we cannot do, yet we strive for it because this is the quest for a life that is spiritual that He called us to live out.

Adam and Even quickly fail at this quest and rebel against Him because they chose to image and exalt themselves. This was the original sin of mankind. The results of this sin is that we live under curse (Genesis 3:16-19) and God’s wrath that gives us over to our sinful desires (Romans 1:18-32). This means we are dead and not able to do anything on our own to give ourselves life. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1, ESV)

Since this original sin, or fall, mankind is repeatedly given a chance to image God and repeatedly mankind fails by seeking out self-exaltation instead of exalting and imaging Him.

One example of this rebellion and consequence is when God sees how corrupt mankind has become and how they have filled the earth with violence. Because of this rebellion, God commands a righteous and blameless man named Noah to build and ark to save his family while God floods the earth and destroys mankind. God saves Noah and his family to start over with the quest for mankind to live a life that is spiritual and gives them the same task to be fruitful and multiply and image God. (Genes 6-9:17) Noah lasted only a few verses and then fails at this too. (Genesis 9:21-24)

God gives mankind another chance, but they rebel again by building the Tower of Babel, specifically designed to exalt themselves. As a result, God decides to confuse their language and disperse them over the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:1-9)

Yet God goes not give up on mankind and the quest. God calls Abram to lead the chosen people of Israel to carry on the quest:

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” (Genesis 12:1–3, ESV)

Later, God pulls the chosen people out of Egypt and they come to Mount Sinai and God says they will be a Kingdom of priests. “and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”” (Exodus 19:6, ESV) The rule of God upon the earth is now going to be established through Israel to function as a kingdom of priests to bring the other nations forward in imaging God and the quest for a life that is spiritual. Yet Israel rebels.

These are just a few examples and, as you can see, mankind continues to rebel and fail, and God continues to give mankind another chance when He would be so clearly justified in giving up and canceling the quest. However, God sends His Son to come to earth and demonstrate the rule of God on the earth, and what it is really like to image and love God and love our neighbor. His Son lived with mankind in fully human form (and fully God also) and fulfilled the law perfectly. In response, His Son, Jesus, is put on trial for blasphemy and insurrection (accused of leading a rebellion against the rule of Rome), and mankind sleighs Him. The act of God sending His Son to die is an intentional sacrifice and exchange of a perfect man who died for the sins of all mankind.

In this sacrifice, God gave us grace. Grace invigorates us and seats us with Christ in heaven. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” (Ephesians 2:4–5, ESV)

Yet, we do not like grace because we cannot contribute anything. Grace always comes from superior to subordinate. To accept grace is to say, “I cannot do this without you,” and recognizing we have nothing to contribute because of our sin. There is only one way to overcome the curse, wrath, and death; and this is complete dependence on God and his grace.

In The Grace Awakening, Chuck Swindoll explains grace this way:

“In order for anyone to stand securely and be at peace before a holy and just God, that person must be righteous. Hence our need for justification. Remember the definition of justification? It is the sovereign act of God whereby he declares righteous the believing sinner while still in his sinning state. It doesn’t mean that the believing sinner stops sinning. It doesn’t even mean that the believing sinner is made righteous in the sense of suddenly becoming perpetually perfect. The sinner is declared righteous. God sovereignly bestows the gift of eternal life on the sinner at the moment he believes and thereby declares him righteous while the sinner still lives a life marked by periodic sinfulness. He hasn’t joined a church. He hasn’t started paying tithes. He hasn’t given up all to follow Christ. He hasn’t been baptized. He hasn’t promised to live a sacrificial, spotlessly pure life. He has simply taken the gift of eternal life. He has changed his mind toward Christ (repentance) and accepted the free gift of God apart from works. Period. Transaction completed. By grace, through faith alone, God declares the sinner righteous (justification), and from that moment on the justified sinner begins a process of growth toward maturity (sanctification). Day by day, bit by bit, he learns what it means to live a life that honors Christ. But immediately? No way.”

This is grace. Grace reigns over us and must reign over us the entire quest because we have nothing to contribute for our spiritual progress.

The prior law of the Old Testament does not even help us on this quest, because the flesh responds to the law with rebellion. Furthermore, the law inflames the disobedience of our flesh.

As Swindoll alluded, the quest for a life that is spiritual does not end with grace or Jesus’ death. God raises Jesus from the dead and He sends the Spirit to create a new people (the church) to continue the quest of being a kingdom of priests to image God. In this we have been identified with Christ in His death and resurrection. This makes sin our master no longer, because that relationship is dead. The new relationship is with grace as our master. (Romans 6) Furthermore, through Christ, we are no longer under law, but under grace (Romans 7).

Yet we still sin because the flesh did not die with us. The flesh is a set of sinful desires that rebel against God. We are not free from the flesh until Jesus comes back and gives us a new body. Until then, we must engage in this battle against flesh (Romans 7:21-25). What delivers us from this is living according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-11). The Spirit has some primary ministries of use in this battle on the quest: indwelling (the highest level of intimacy that two beings can have – God has given us the Spirit of Jesus so that His presence is as close to us as possible), transforming us to be like the image of Christ, leading us in this battle with the flesh so that we might have deeds that lead towards eternal life instead of death and unrighteousness.

So, it becomes our responsibility to practice certain spiritual disciplines that help us become more and more Spirit lead. Dallas Willard in The Spirit of the Disciplines names a few disciplines in categories of abstinence (solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, sacrifice) and engagement (study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, submission).

In Desiring the Kingdom, James K. A. Smith argues that the human person is a “lover.” He states, “The point is to emphasize that the way we inhabit the world is not primarily as thinkers, or even believers, but as more affective, embodied creatures who make our way in the world more by feeling our way around it.” This in mind, it is important to have at least a few spiritual disciplines engrained in our lives to help us practice and train our desire to be more Spirit lead. Without them, we do not grow in the Spirit. Smith points out “habits are inscribed in our heart through bodily practices and rituals that train the heart, as it were, to desire certain ends.

The trick is to balance on the tightrope of being disciplined without being legalistic. Legalism is the idea that you need to follow rules to obtain holiness and blessing. This abuses the concept of grace because God says we are already blessed and our performance does not matter. A pure heart does not come from standards, rules, and laws. Impurity comes from the heart.

Thus, the quest for a life that is spiritual still carries on with the same mission of imaging God, but we have been given the powerful gifts of grace, eternal life, and the Holy Spirit to aid us on this quest and guarantee a glorifying conclusion. Said conclusion is being united with God in Heaven, experiencing perfect shalom, for eternity.

Spiritual Discipline

Over the summer, I was challenged to engage in a daily spiritual discipline for two consecutive weeks, keeping a personal journal of the process. I chose the spiritual discipline of journaling at least one prayer every day for two weeks. Journaling my prayers is something I have always wanted to do consistently. I have done it from time to time in the past, but never consistently and deliberately like I did over the two weeks this summer.

There were some benefits of practicing this discipline. I found it beneficial to write out my prayers because it influenced me to be more thoughtful and organized with my prayers. Before I started practicing this discipline, I would pray randomly throughout the day and then pray at night before bed. My random prayers throughout the day really were random thoughts or feelings I wanted to share with God on the spot. My prayer before bed at night was supposed to be more robust, thoughtful, and deliberate. However, some nights I would be so worn out emotionally or mentally that I just could not spend the energy on having a deeper, intimate, thoughtful prayer with God. Instead of being deliberate about some things I wanted to talk to him about (that I even have recorded in the “Prayers” section of my Logos software), I would take a shortcut and express one main point on my mind and call it good. Part of me wished I had more time and energy to spend with God, but part of me thought it was fine because He knew what was on my heart without me having to intentionally express it every day. So, when I journaled my prayers, most of the time, it forced me to have a more intentional and thoughtful conversation with God.

The detriment to this became the battle with the Spirit and my flesh and legalism. After a certain point during the two weeks, I did start to have a few “lazy” nights where I was mentally and emotionally drained and could only journal just a main thought and that was it. Sometimes it was as short as one sentence long. One night, I just plain did not do it because I was so tired. What is interesting to me here is I am still not completely certain how to evaluate this behavior. At first, I thought my flesh was winning the battle against the Spirit because I was getting lazy with my spiritual discipline. However, after some of thought, I began to look at it with a different perspective. That was with the perspective of legalism being an influence. I realized that perhaps I was feeling unnecessary guilt because the sin of legalism was rearing its ugly head and making me feel as though if I did not do my spiritual discipline, I was not as Holy or would not be as blessed.

Overall, I think the experience was very beneficial from both points of view though. I think the times I did practice the discipline, I grew closer to God and became more in step with the Spirit because I was being more faithful and opening myself up more to God and to be led by the Spirit. However, I thought it was also beneficial to see how it made me feel when I got “lazy” or the one time I did not do the discipline, and think about how legalism affects my everyday life and the disciplines I do try to implement. So, what I will keep in mind the next time I am intentionally engaging in spiritual disciplines or even noticing myself inadvertently engaging, is how beneficial it can be to be disciplined and become more engaged in God and the Holy Spirit, but also that it is ok if I slack off from time to time because it does not make me any less Holy or blessed. God still knows my heart and His will is still going to happen regardless. I am sure He would still prefer more engagement as any of us would, but He is also not going to force us to practice a certain discipline for a certain amount of time. He gave us freedom and free will, and it is ok to cherish that to avoid the sin of legalism and circumvent the joy, love, and peace that comes with the freedom and free will.

The Flesh, Legalism, and the Holy Spirit

(1) How does the Flesh influence a Christian’s pursuit of holiness and how can the Christian minimize the influence of the Flesh?

The Flesh influences a Christian’s pursuit of holiness because the flesh works directly in opposition to holiness. The Flesh is a set of sinful passions inside of us that is in direct opposition of the law, the Spirit, and where God wants to take us. The Christian can minimize the influence of the Flesh by being led by the Spirit. The Spirit is in opposition to the Flesh and moves the Christian toward God and away from the flesh. The Spirit puts to death the deeds of the Flesh confirming, therefore, we are children of God.

(2) What is the root error of legalism and how does it show itself in the life of a Christian?

The root error of legalism is that it minimizes God’s holiness and supports the idea that you need to follow rules to obtain His holiness and blessing. The way this shows itself in the Christian life is the abuse of grace. Legalism covers grace, because it promotes obedience to receive blessing. Grace says we are already blessed, and our performance does not matter. Standards, rules, and laws fail to make us pure or keep us pure because impurity comes from the heart. A pure heart does not come from standards, rules, and laws.

(3) How does legalism relate to the Flesh?

Legalism can relate to our Flesh in ways. For example, sometimes my Flesh does not want to practice a spiritual discipline because I do not feel like I have the time, or I am too tired, etc. However, I typically end up forcing myself to do it anyway because I feel as though it is something I must do to obtain holiness and blessing. This is legalism directly relating to my Flesh.

Key Terms of Pauline Presentation the Flesh and the Holy Spirit

The ethical concept of the flesh –set of sinful and selfish passions inside of us, in opposition of the law, the Spirit, and where God wants to take us.

Filling of the Spirit –the ministry of the Holy Spirit whereby, in response to the believer’s continued yieldedness, He controls and empowers the believer for sanctification and service.

Walking by the Spirit –the ministry of the Holy Spirit whereby, in response to a believer’s continued yieldedness in accordance with the biblical command, He frees that believer from the control of the flesh and produces the fruit of the Spirit.

Leading of the Spirit –the Spirit puts to death the deeds of the body, confirming therefore, we are children of God and no longer living under the law.

Indwelling of the Spirit –the act whereby at conversion the Holy Spirit makes the believing sinner His permanent dwelling place forever.

Legalism –my effort to obey God by my resources for my glory, undermining both God’s grace and holiness.

Application of Romans 6:1-14

I have a friend who confessed to me that she is plagued by the periodic struggle to control emotional outbursts, often expressing anger at others. My friend recognizes how unreasonable and hurtful these outbursts are. While she confesses these outbursts are sinful and regrets them deeply, she can’t seem to stop. My friend asks “Why can’t I stop hurting others this way? Why do these emotions control me at times? Why doesn’t God stop me from giving into to it?

Again here is the Bible text:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace?

My Response:

I hear what you are saying, and I understand where you are coming from friend. I have been plagued with emotional sin as well. Read Romans 6:1-14 and we will go from there.

The fact is, as a Christian, you died to sin when you were baptized and received salvation. Sin here is singular, meaning it is not your emotional outbursts in themselves, but rather the state of authority, mastery, or reign of unrighteousness. So, when you died to sin, you were separated from and set free from your relationship with unrighteousness as your master. You have an old self, which is how you used to be before you were saved. You were once living under the authority of sin and unrighteousness. However, with your old self dead, the relationship with sin as your master has been severed because it takes two individuals to be in a relationship. If one has passed away, there is only one left; thus, no relationship.

When you were baptized, you were baptized with Christ. This made you new spiritually. Your old self passed away (with Christ) from the authority of sin, and your new self was raised (with Christ and his resurrection) without the relationship with sin as your master. You have been spiritually renewed and have a new relationship under the authority of grace with Christ by the glory of the Father. You have been given a new way to live. This new way to live starts fresh every day and is under a new authority and new relationship. This is not just a resuscitation; it is a new form of life without your emotional sin. All this means you have a new identity in Christ in His resurrection, and the start of new spiritual life.

This work of God at your salvation in your identity with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection separates you from sin’s power and gives you a new quality of life.

So, at this point, you made the commitment of faith to be baptized and pledge your allegiance to Christ and He has given you a new life and new authority of grace. There are still things you can do on your end to stop putting yourself back in the old relationship with sin as your authority though. In fact, there are three key things in the passage in you can apply to your situation to stop giving into your emotions and hurting others.

First you must know, acknowledge, and believe that God’s word is true and a change has really occurred that unites you with Christ. This is not just abstract talk or me feeding you rainbows and butterflies. This is reality. Sin and your emotions are no longer your master. God’s grace has set you free from that bondage, and is your ultimate authority now.

The second thing you are to do is reckon your life and make the conscious decision that your life is not run by the mastery of sin and your emotions. In this context, reckon means to set your direction towards God and righteousness. You are to count yourself dead to sin but alive to God. Since you are dead to its power, you should recognize that fact and not continue in your emotional outbursts. Instead, you need to realize you have new life and identity in Christ.

Lastly, your attitude that you have died to sin must be translated into action. You need to present your emotions, your mouth, and your tongue to God to be used for deeds of righteousness. Scripture commands you to not let sin reign as it did before your salvation. When sin reigns in your life and body, you obey its evil desires. Sin enslaves, making you subject to your own evil and desires. Sin manifests itself through your emotions, mouth, and tongue. So instead of offering your emotions, mouth, and tongue to sin, as instruments of wickedness, you should offer them to God as instruments of righteousness. In another passage Paul commands you to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices…to God” (Romans 12:1)

In conclusion by God’s design, sin and emotions are not supposed to be your master. You are no longer under sin, but under grace. Because of grace, it is possible to defeat your sin of emotional outbursts. All you need to do is follow Paul’s Holy Spirit inspired instructions. Once more, those are to know a change has occurred and you are united with Christ, reckon your life and make a conscious decision that your life is not run by the mastery of sin, and present your emotions, mouth, and tongue to God to be used for deeds of righteousness.

Paraphrase of Romans 6:1-14

Using my definitions from my last post, I have written a paraphrased translation of Romans 6:1-14.

Original text:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace?

My Paraphrase:

What is our attitude to be? Should we remain living under the authority of unrighteousness for grace to increase even more? No way! If our prior state of being under the authority of sin has passed away, how can we still live under that authority? Don’t you know that all of us who pledged our allegiance to Christ and have been made a new person spiritually, have also passed away from the authority of sin, as He did? Because of this pledge of allegiance, we have been spiritually renewed with Christ by the glory of the Father and we have been given a new identity and a new way to live with Jesus.

Since we have been unified with him in the passing of the state of being under the authority of sin, we will be unified with him in this raising of new life. We recognize that our prior state of being under the authority of sin passed away with him so our physical body will no longer be ruled by sin, so that we could escape that bondage. Anyone who has experienced this passing away of the state of being under the authority of sin has been emancipated from that reign of unrighteousness. If we have experienced this passing away of the state of being under the authority of sin with Christ, we affirm that we will also live with him. We recognize that Christ, being resurrected, will never need to pass away again; the authority of sin has no reign over him. He experienced this once for every believer of this, and now his authority and action are righteousness for God. Therefore you too require thought believing you have passed away to the authority of unrighteousness and now live in righteousness with God in Christ Jesus.

Do not let unrighteousness take dominion in your physical body, to make you submit to its desires. Do not allow the parts of your body to be used as tools for immorality, instead allow yourselves to be used by God like you have been given a new spiritual life, and allow parts of your body to be used as tools for morality. The authority of unrighteousness will not have power over you, because law does not rule you. Instead unmerited favor is your authority.

Key Terms in Romans 6:1-14

Next, I would like to take a look at Romans 6:1-14. This is a vital passage that describes our new identity in Christ. To start with, I would like to identify some key terms used by Paul in this passage of Scripture and define them.

Romans 6:1-14:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Sin – not the individual act of sins, but rather the state of authority, mastery, or reign of unrighteousness.

Continue – remain living under the authority of sin.

Death – the passing of our old man so that we are no longer under the reign or authority of sin.

Baptized – having placed our allegiance to Christ and have been and made a new person spiritually.

Old man – the prior state of being under the authority or reign of sin.