GODLY LIVING AND THE WORD OF GOD
“And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17)
The Father LOVES His Son. This fact is an integral truth in understanding the Christian life. We will never, even in eternity, fully grasp the extent or the depth of the Father’s love for His only begotten Son. Some of the Old Testament sacrifices illustrated the fact that the Son (His Person and His work) was a sweet smelling savor to the Father. The Son always did those things that pleased the Father (John 8:29). The Father loves His Son and anything that reminds Him of His Son is an absolute delight to the Father. Anything that has the lookof His Son, the sound of His Son, that talks like the Son, walks like the Son, even smells like His Son – is an absolute DELIGHT to the Father.
The Father LOVES every expression of the LIFE of His Son in us. The wonder of wonders is that the Father has placed the believer of this age IN His Son and He has placed His Son IN us. By faith we have been wondrously UNITED to Christ with a oneness and a closeness that we will probably never fully comprehend. We have been BAPTIZED INTO His Body. We are UNITED with Christ in His death, resurrection, and ascension… and are seated with Him in heaven. The RAMIFICATIONS of this wonderful truth cannot be overstated. It is the GLORY of our age.
In a very real sense, Godly Christian living is “Christ in you.” The Christian life is the life of the indwelling Christ manifested through our mortal bodies. In Philippians 1:21 Paul wrote, “For to me to live is Christ.” Again in Colossians 3:4 he wrote, “Christ who is our life.”The One in whom the Father delights lives IN us and He is our new life! This truth has to be taken by FAITH; a faith that rests upon the written revelation found in the WORD of God. We would never know this wonderful truth otherwise. No one ever could have imagined such a plan. But it is what God has revealed in His Word.
The goal of the Christian life is that Christ be FORMED in us. In Romans 8:29a we read, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” This was God’s plan before the world began. That plan WILL be carried out in the life of every true believer because He that hath begun a good work in you WILL perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). Consider the apostle’s words in Galatians 4:19: “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.”Kenneth Wuest noted that the word translated “formed” (morphow) refers to the act of giving outward expression to that which is an inward reality. The life of Christ IN US is to be manifested outwardly. Consider the following passages:
Þ II Cor. 4:10-11 – “That the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body…that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”
Þ Rom. 13:14 – “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”
Þ II Cor. 3:14 – “Now thanks be unto God who always causeth us to triumph in Christ and maketh manifest the savor of His knowledge by US in every place.”
Þ I Cor. 2:16 – “We have the mind of Christ.”
Þ Phil. 2:5 – “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
The Word tells us that the believer is to look like Christ, be conformed to the image of Christ, to put on Christ and thus wear Him like a garment, be armed with the mind of Christ, and even to exude the savor of Christ. Truly, Christ is being formed in us. This is the ONLY thing that pleases the Father: CHRIST – His Beloved Son in you. The Father is DELIGHTED when He sees His Beloved Son in us.
The Father hates every expression of fallen flesh. This fact is also an integral truth in understanding the Christian life. God HATES the flesh… and just as we will never fully grasp the depth of the Father’s love for His Son, we also will never fully grasp the depth of the Father’s hatred for the flesh. Our hatred for the flesh falls infinitely short of the Father’s hatred for it. God hates every expression of fallen flesh. He hates the looks of flesh; He hates the sound of flesh; He hates the smell of flesh. He hates the way flesh thinks. He hates the logic of the flesh. He hates the way flesh works… the way it operates… the way flesh walks. He hates its selfish nature. He hates its subtlety and deceit. But what He especially hates is fallen flesh that attempts to pass itself off as spiritual or godly. He hates flesh robed in an outward cloak of godliness. Corruptible flesh likes to pose as a form of godliness, but it denies the TRUE power thereof, namely, the power of the Holy Spirit, and replaces FLESH for the Spirit. It is probably no accident that in the natural realm, there is probably nothing more nauseating and disgusting than the stench of rotting flesh. Could this be a divine object lesson? No cloak can ever cover up the smell of rotten flesh before God. Corruptible flesh emits an odor so rancid that it cannot be covered up. It has to be put away… God’s way.
When the corruptible, fleshly nature operates in our mortal bodies, it is not a sweet smelling savor to God. It emits a nauseating odor. Consider what the Word says about flesh:
Þ Gen. 6:12 – All flesh was corrupt and worthy of total destruction. That’s hard for us to believe, but true.
Þ Rom. 3:10-12 – There is none that doeth good, no not one.
Þ Rom. 7:18 – In my flesh dwells NO good thing.
Þ Rom. 7:5 – The flesh brings forth fruit unto death.
Þ Rom.8:7 – The fleshly carnal mind is enmity with God.
Þ Gal. 5:17- The flesh lusts against the Spirit – they are always contrary the one to the other.
It is HARD for us to believe just HOW MUCH God hates our fallen flesh. We demonstrate unbelief when we seek ways to make it look “not so bad,” to dress it up a little… cover it up… so it won’t smell so bad. But God is never fooled. It comes as a hard and crushing blow to us all, when it finally sinks in that “in my flesh dwells NO good thing,” and that MY flesh is nauseating to the Father.
The Word of God has given us ample warning concerning the DEPTH of God’s hatred for fallen, corrupt, human flesh. But it is not natural for us to think that way. It takes time – often years… for our thinking to really be in agreement with God on this matter. Naturally, a believer will instantly recognize that something is not quite right about the flesh, but rarely would we condemn it as utterly worthless, as God does. Apart from divine revelation we would never draw the conclusion God does concerning our flesh: no good thing. There is such a tendency in us all to try to salvage something of the flesh, repackage it, dress it up, and offer it up to God. What God has said in His word is very surprising to us, and runs contrary to the natural grain of our thinking. Unless our minds are saturated with God’s Word… saturated in God’s estimate of self and flesh, our view of SELF will be inflated and erroneous.
This leaves the believer of this age in a serious dilemma. Christ dwells in us… whom the Father loves. But the flesh also dwells in us… the fallen sinful human nature inherited from Adam… which the Father hates. At any given moment, one or the other will be manifested through our mortal bodies. Even with the best of intentions, if we are ignorant of God’s method of dealing with our fleshly nature as revealed in the WORD – we will struggle and fail. God has revealed a comprehensive plan for dealing with the flesh in His Word. By virtue of the new birth and new nature the will to obey is present with us, but we need to know “how to perform that which is good” (Rom.7:18) or we will not experience victory.
The only way of experiencing truly godly living is through the divine revelation of the mystery. Such a plan eye had never seen, nor ear heard, neither arose in the heart of man. Only by means of divine revelation in the WORD can we know these deep things of God. God’s plan for godly living involves the mystery of godliness.
Godly Living and the Word
IN ONE SENSE, GOD’S WORD TO THE BELIEVER OF THIS AGE IS A REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST.
One of the major themes of the epistles is the fact of the mystery: truths relating to Christ and His Body – truths hidden from ages and generations, but now made known to the sons of men. In I Timothy 3:16, Paul speaks of the mystery of Christ in us and its relationship to godliness (vs.16) and to behavior (vs. 15). God’s plan is to reveal His beloved Son IN human flesh. This was true in the Person of Jesus Christ in the incarnation; it is true in Body of Christ, the church; and it is also true in individual members of the Body of Christ. The existence and makeup of the Body of Christ (Jew and Gentile on equal footing) was a mystery. Its birth was a mystery; its exodus in the rapture was a mystery. The new relationship to Christ was a mystery: “Ye in Me and I in you.” This mystery is the basis of godly living today: The indwelling life of Christ manifested in human flesh… through individual members of the Body of Christ.
“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)
The glory of the mystery refers to the dazzling splendor of the truth concerning this new relationship to Christ. The “riches” of that glory speaks of the richest and best part of it… the most dazzling portion of the blazing splendor of the mystery! Paul states that the richest part of this glorious mystery is Christ in you! The mystery had MANY different facets, all revolving around the believers’ new relationship to Christ: our union with Him; the rapture; the fact that Jew and Gentile are on equal footing in the Body… all are part of the glorious mystery. But the RICHEST part of this glorious mystery is the fact that Christ dwells in us.
The fact that Christ lives IN us means that godly living in this age has been radically transformed. It is an entirely new rule of life – one never imagined by saints in the Old Testament. This rule of life is infinitely superior to anything ever experienced by anyone under the Law. His indwelling presence means the cup is being cleansed from the inside out. Religion attempts to clean the cup from the outside in… but is unable to clean the inside, and thus settles for cleaning the outside. That is mere external conformity… a whitewash… that never gets to the heart of the matter. It is an attempt to cover up the flesh. Religion leaves the inside of the cup filthy… and condemned. It cleans the outside of the grave and garnishes it, but inside it is full of dead men’s bones. It is spiritually dead. Christianity is completely different. It places CHRIST IN US at the moment of saving faith. And that indwelling LIFE guarantees a gradual change… from the inside out. Christ is being FORMED in us… slowly, gradually, often imperceptibly, but SURELY.
The Mystery of Christ is the BASIS of Christian Living. The mystery of godliness is an entirely new means of godly behavior that is unique to this dispensation. Godly Christian living IS “Christ in you.” Anything less, or anything else is a counterfeit… a deceptive work of the flesh… which the Father hates.
So, in a sense, the word of God for believers of this age is the revelation of this mystery – and all of its ramifications… including HOW God planned to reveal His Son in us. This mystery is not to be a mystery any more. It was revealed for us to KNOW, appreciate, and experience. To the degree that this truth is ignored or treated lightly in Christian circles, godly living will become but an elusive dream. The mystery was revealed 2000 years ago, yet in some circles this truth is shunned as something “new.” God’s method of sanctification is not some new theory. No, it wasn’t invented by the brethren… or the folks at Keswick… or theologians at Dallas… or Moody, or at a deeper life conference. That’s not where it came from. It was part of the glorious mystery, hidden in the mind and heart of God, searched out by the Spirit, and revealed to the holy apostles and New Testament prophets and recorded in the epistles, and illuminated by the Spirit to the minds and hearts of Spirit filled believers… to those willing to do His will. It is straight out of the Bible. Understanding and applying it requires MUCH labor in the Word… and it is worth far more than rubies. God help us if we treat the riches of the glory of the mystery lightly.
IN ANOTHER SENSE, THE WORD OF GOD IS THE WORD OF THE CROSS. (I Corinthians 1:18)
The CROSS is God’s method of dealing with the flesh. Our identification with Christ on the cross is the ONLY way that saved sinners like us can live a godly life before the Lord untainted by flesh. The cross is God’s method of providing forgiveness of sins (justification) andHis method of dealing with indwelling sin (sanctification). Apart from our identification with Christ on the cross, our lives and service would reek of flesh. [Well dressed flesh maybe… religious flesh, but flesh nonetheless… and abhorrent to God.]
The CROSS is central in the teachings of the Word of God concerning how to live a godly life. The Christian message could be boiled down to the “Word of the cross” as Paul does in I Corinthians 1:18. (preaching = word; logos) The cross is CENTRAL. The cross tells us what God thinks of our flesh. The flesh is abhorrent to God, and the word of the cross is abhorrent to human flesh… because the message of the cross to the flesh is death.
Consider Peter’s response to the WORD of the cross from Jesus Christ Himself announcing His death and resurrection (Matt.16:21-23). Peter REBUKED the Lord. (Imagine that!) “Be it far from thee Lord. This shall not be unto Thee!” The cross – God’s message of salvation and sanctification – God’s revelation on the matter was REJECTED by the carnal, earthly, human way of thinking… even from a man like Peter. (Fleshly thinking seeks to avoid the cross.) Jesus noted that Peter was savoring not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Peter was THINKING like men – earthly men under the influence of their fallen, corruptible flesh… which to God stinketh.
But notice how Peter’s fleshly thinking was covered up in a garb of loyalty and love. “Lord, I love you so much… I am so loyal to you I will not allow that to happen to you!” Human sentiment and emotion are often mistaken for godliness, but the Lord Jesus was not fooled. He could smell rotten flesh. He could see the real SOURCE behind Peter’s apparent love and loyalty and said, “Get thee behind me Satan.” The devil influences believers to think like men… to manifest thinking and emotions that are sourced in corruptible flesh, and at the same time, have an outward appearance of love and loyalty to Christ. What a picture of modern Christendom’s outward FORM of godliness. No matter how impressive that outer cloak is, no matter how gushy the sentiment and emotion, the Lord is able to smell the rotten fleshly human thinking beneath the surface.
Here is a strange thing. Fallen human flesh which is so utterly abhorrent and repulsive to God, somehow manages to pass itself off as love, loyalty, and dedication to God… by men (like Peter) who should know better. And even though the smell of flesh was so nauseating to God… those who offer it to God don’t seem to smell anything foul. That is because the heart of flesh is deceitful above ALL things and desperately wicked. Who can know it? The WORD tells us what God thinks of the flesh. The Word also teaches us how subtle, deceptive and cunning the flesh is. In light of this, if there is one thing we should be careful about as believers, the one thing that should trump all others in our thinking is this: what is the SOURCE of our walk and service? We know that evangelical empires have been built in Christendom in our lifetimes… empires that were passed off as great works of God… by dedicated men of God… impressive… substantial… successful… only to discover later that it was all built by the flesh: wood, hay, & stubble. That which is true in ministries can also be true in the lives of individuals. The Bema seat will determine what SORT of work we did… not how much or how impressive or how big… but what sort. Was it God working in you or the flesh? That which is true in evangelical and charismatic fringe groups is also true in more fundamental circles. Men in circles much closer to us can also operate in the flesh… human ambition… carnal thinking… politicking… business practices… and it doesn’t matter how solidly fundamental the doctrinal statement may be… or how fundamental the outside cloak appears to men… God smells flesh wherever it is found. And He hates it just as much in fundamental circles – as He does in the fringe groups.
God has ONE method of dealing with the flesh: the CROSS. Man’s carnal, earthly, natural way of dealing with the flesh is to try to fix it… dress it up… make it look good… renovate it… revamp it… improve it… give it culture, sophistication, and religion… and then dedicate it to God. Let’s admit it: this kind of thinking is IN all of us. It is so very hard for us to acknowledge that in our flesh dwells NO good thing. We like to think that surely there is something worth saving and restoring. Yet Romans 8:3 states that God did not seek to fix the flesh. He condemned it to death. Galatians 5:24 tells us that, for the believer, the flesh with its affections and lusts have been crucified. We have been separated from its power and authority over us… so that we no longer HAVE to submit to its authority. Concerning the FLESH, (with its human thinking, accomplishments, sentiment, energy, efforts, goals, ambitions, earthly values; everything about our fallen, fleshly human nature that connects us to Adam and this earthly sphere) God’s answer is the CROSS. That is not a plan that ever would have entered into the heart of man, but it IS the plan revealed by the Spirit and recorded in His Word. It is to be believed. There on the cross God dealt with our old man (Rom. 6:6). There on the cross God dealt with our sin nature (Rom. 8:3). There on the cross God dealt with our individuals sins (I Cor. 15:3). However you want to slice it, the cross is God’s answer to the flesh. God’s answer to fallen human nature, sin and sins, both root and fruit, is to nail it to the cross. We GLORY in the cross.
To the degree that the CROSS is minimized in our preaching to the SAINTS… believers will be left to struggle with the flesh on their own… trying to crucify their flesh rather than BELIEVE that it has already been crucified. By minimizing the cross in preaching the gospel to the LOST, we have altered the plan of salvation. By minimizing the cross in teaching the Word to the SAINTS, we have altered the plan of sanctification. The message of God’s book is the WORD OF THE CROSS… the Word that is all about Christ, Him crucified, and our identification with Him at the cross. So like it or not, God has one method of dealing with flesh: the CROSS. The stench of the flesh must be dealt with – and self must be taken out of the way and left on the cross, before the sweet savor of the indwelling Christ may be manifested in its place.
It is not surprising then that our adversary is busy in Christendom changing emphases in teaching and in preaching ministries. The Word unfolds for us the glorious MYSTERY of godliness… and in many circles that central truth is put on the back shelf to collect dust. In many circles – even where the cross is rightly emphasized in preaching the gospel and telling the lost how to be saved… the preaching of the cross is minimized when it comes to teaching the saints how to live. Those same folks who are great at preaching Christ died for you… seem to ignore that we died with Him. This truth is put on the back shelf. However, there is no godliness apart from the crucified life. The WORD is the revelation of the mystery. It is also the word of the cross. When it comes to feeding the sheep… and unfolding to them God’s plan for a godly life, we need to keep these two themes CENTRAL in our teaching… the mystery relationship to Christ… and the centrality of the cross. In other words, we are to emphasize Christ and Him crucified.
Some Key Passages
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)
The Word of Christ in this passage refers to the Word of God which is all about Christ. This is especially so in the book of Colossians. The Word of God is given to us that we might KNOW Him. In this passage, we are informed that the Word of Christ dwelling richly in the heart will influence one’s walk, talk, demeanor, behavior, and character. The word of God has a controlling influence that results in (according to the context) a song in the heart, grace and thanksgiving, and a happy, well adjusted Christian home (Col.3:16-22).
In that sense, this is similar in meaning to the concept of the FILLING of the Holy Spirit. Consider a parallel passage in Eph. 5:18-20:
Þ The influence: the FILLING of the Holy Spirit… (vs.18) (filling; influenced by; controlled by; outward behavior transformed by)
Þ The result: singing psalms and hymns (vs.19) and thanksgiving (vs.20)… followed by teaching on the Christian home… (vs.22-33)
The passage in Colossians and Ephesians are parallel and the contexts are nearly identical. The difference is that Ephesians emphasizes the believer under the controlling influence of the indwelling Spirit, while Colossians emphasizes the believer under the controlling influence of the indwelling Word. Hence, the rich indwelling of the Word of Christ in the heart stands parallel to the filling of the Holy Spirit in the heart. They both speak of a controlling influence for good in the believer’s life with the same results: a song in the heart; thanksgiving; a happy, well adjusted home; etc. The longer and more consistently a believer is filled with the Spirit, the faster he will mature. The deeper and richer the Word of Christ dwells in the heart, the more influence it will have in our lives, and the faster we will mature into Christlikeness and experience true, godly living.
Because there is a difference in believers’ willingness to yield to the Holy Spirit, there is a corresponding difference in the amount of fruit produced in that life: some 30 fold; some 60 fold; some 90 fold. Richness comes in all degrees too, from watery skim milk to thick, rich, cream. All true believers have some love for Christ and some love for the Word of Christ. The word of Christ dwells in the hearts of all believers to one degree or another. But clearly, some believers have a deeper, richer love for the Word than others… at any given point in time. Some dabble in the word; others dive right in. Some take a little taste; others hunger for it and devour it. The command to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly means much more than to take a slight taste of it now and then. Richly means an abundant and overflowing desire for and devouring of the Word. A slight taste of it now and then will not produce the desired results mentioned here.
Richness in the Word of Christ is related to our will. It is a command to LET the Word richly dwell in us, and it is thus our RESPONSIBILITY to obey. This requires engaging our will and making choices. We have to CHOOSE to MAKE time for God’s Word. We have to determine not to allow anything to push it aside, or replace it. All of this is our own choice. When we see the value, the need, the urgency, the importance, or the worth of something, we find a way to make time for it. There will be a hungering for it. There is no mistaking the VALUE of God’s Word in our lives.
Þ John 17:16-19 – We are sanctified by the Word.
Þ John 15:3 – We are clean through the Word.
Þ Acts 20:32 – We are built up through the Word.
Þ Eph. 5:26 – Christ sanctifies and cleanses the church by the Word.
Þ II Tim.3:16-17 – The Word is given so that the man of God may be perfect.
Þ I Pet.2:2 – We grow through the Word.
Þ II Cor. 3:18 – We are transformed through the Word.
It takes TIME for the Word of Christ to dwell in us richly. You can commit a verse of Scripture to memory in a few minutes. It takes TIME for that truth to settle down and be at home, to sink in, to be deeply and firmly rooted, and to dwell in the heart richly. But when it does, it changes us. We begin to THINK godly thoughts in harmony with the Word. We will have a new SONG in our heart and we will begin to WALK in harmony with it. The one in whom the Word of Christ dwells richly is satiated, filled, and will keep on coming to that fount for more. And he will be less likely to seek satisfaction elsewhere. The sweetness and richness of the indwelling Word creates an appetite for more. Nothing satisfies like the abundant life that is ours when Christ and the Word of Christ are at home in our hearts.
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (II Corinthians 3:18)
Moses stood before the Lord in the mount, unveiled (Exodus 34:29). As a result of being in God’s presence, his face shone radiantly. Being in God’s presence had an effect on Moses. However, the people could NOT come into God’s presence. They feared to do so. They even feared coming in the presence of Moses when his face shone (Ex.34:30). Moses experienced a bit of the glory which would later be the privilege of EVERY one related to God through the blood of the New Covenant.
In II Corinthians 3:18, it is revealed that it is our privilege today to be able to behold the glory of the Lord with an unveiled face. (open face = unveiled). Because of the blood of Christ, we can enter into the Holy of Holies with God – in that heavenly inner sanctuary for communion with Christ (Hebrews 10:18-22). We can draw near to God in a way that would have been unthinkable for an Old Covenant saint: with the boldness of a completely purged conscience. We have the privilege of entering to that holy sanctuary… into God’s very presence and BEHOLD His glory.
We behold His glory “as in a glass” (a mirror). The glass is a reference to the Word of God. James also likens God’s Word to a mirror (James 1:22-23). The Word of God, like a mirror provides a perfect reflection. We can see the glory of God clearly reflected as in the mirror. Just as Moses was able to walk up the mount and see God… hear from Him… listen to His message… stand in awe of His Person and marvel at His glory, so WE too can do the equivalent today by reading God’s Word and communing with the Living Word, within the veil of heaven’s inner sanctuary.
Moses was changed by being in God’s presence. His face shone. This change was NOT the result of keeping the Law. It was the result of Moses being in God’s presence and beholding His glory. Therefore he was transformed. It is impossible to be in the presence of the God of all glory and be unaffected. Paul uses that account to illustrate the transforming effect of God’s Word on us today as we behold the glory of the Lord in the pages of the LIVING Word. As we do, we are “changed.” The word translated “changed” in II Cor. 3:18 is sometimes translated “transformed.” It is used of the transforming effect of God’s Word in the believer’s mind as it is renewed in the Word (Rom. 12:2). II Cor. 3:18 describes believers as being “transformed into the same image”, into the image of Christ… into His moral excellencies… the same image of the glory of God reflected in the mirror of His Word. This is also the same term translated “transfigured” when Jesus was transfigured on the mount (Matt. 17:2). What Jesus WAS on the inside (divine radiance) began to shine through on the outside. So too with us: what we ARE on the inside (Christ in us) will radiate through us because of the transforming effect of the Word in us.
This transformation is a gradual process: from glory to glory. We are saved, justified, regenerated, reconciled, and redeemed in one moment’s time. But the process of sanctification and growth takes a lifetime. We are gradually transformed into the image of Christ, from one level of glory to the next. It is AS the believer spends time in God’s Word, meditating upon Christ, communing with Him, yielding to Him, and beholding His glory that transformation occurs. There in the Word we behold the glory of Christ. But note that we are not there to behold the glory of this doctrine or that doctrine. We behold the glory of the LORD Jesus. Christianity is a relationship with a PERSON… not just a book. That relationship is developed richly as we COME into His presence and abide there. It is a love relationship with a PERSON, and it is THROUGH the Word of God.
The glory on Moses’ face gradually decreased. His was a fading glory. But the glory in the life of a believer is ever increasing! It increases from one level of glory to increasing glory as we allow the LOGOS to dwell in our hearts more and more RICHLY through time. While growth from glory to glory is the NORM, it is not automatic. It involves participation on our part: TIME in the Word. It takes time to grow up. Our minds need to be renewed day by day by spending time in God’s Word, lest dullness of hearing sets in. Transformation is not just reading a book. It involves fellowship with CHRIST as we read the Word. WE have to sit at the feet of the Lord Jesus! THEN the transformation will take place.
This transformation is by the Spirit of the Lord. If we participate in the fellowship with Christ through the Word, God’s Holy Spirit WILL transform us. Transformation is a supernatural work. It is the ministry of the Spirit to form Christ in us and to manifest Christlike fruit through us. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to transform the child of God into the image of the Son of God for the glory of God. Godly living is supernatural: it is GOD working in us.
And what a marvelous privilege this is! Only Moses benefited in the account in Exodus. But note here: “we all” (II Cor.3:18). As Christians we can ALL behold the glory of the Lord in His Word in a unique way and benefit from being in the very presence of God… in the heavenly Holy of Holies. The way into the Holiest is open for us all. Moses could not go up the mount any time he wanted to be in God’s presence, but we can enter into God’s presence at all times through His Word. In doing so, our lives are transformed. The godly life is the one transformed into the image of Christ. That is the life that manifests the indwelling life of Christ. Our lives no longer reek of flesh… but emit the sweet savor of Christ… the indwelling life of Christ in you. And that is the life that pleases the Father. He delights in every manifestation of His Beloved Son.
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
The word (richly dwelling in the heart – and transforming mind and heart) will give the believer discernment – the ability to distinguish between that which is soulish (suited for the natural, earthly realm in which flesh dominates) and that which is spiritual. The flesh is extremely cunning. Somehow it is able to substitute that which is natural for that which is spiritual. Unless the word is richly dwelling in the heart of the believer, even he will not be able distinguish that which is natural from that which is spiritual.
The church at Sardis is a good example of the difficulty in distinguishing between that which is soulish and that which is spiritual. (Rev. 3:1c) The church at Sardis had a “name” (reputation) for being alive. There were many programs and activity there, and all was successfully passed off as expressions of the life of Christ in their midst. Many members of that church were living their lives and serving God, and all the other churches assumed that the activity they saw there consisted of healthy Spirit filled saints living godly lives and manifesting the indwelling life of Christ.
But God could see what was really going on there. He saw what men CANNOT see: the true source of their religious activity: namely, the flesh. Therefore, He concluded that they were “dead.” What God observed was NOT a manifestation of the life of Christ – but a manifestation of fallen, corruptible flesh… deceptive, subtle, flesh passing itself off as spirituality, zeal, and dedication.
The interesting note here is that nobody seemed to know! They had a fantastic reputation among the churches. They were heralded as a vital center of Christian life, a highly respected church to be emulated, when in reality all of their activity was spiritually lifeless. It was the activity of spiritually dead flesh. That doesn’t mean they were engaged in EVIL things. It simply means that the SOURCE of their activity FOR God was not Spirit generated, but generated by well meaning, zealous, religious flesh. The same sad condition existed in the church at Laodecea (Rev.3:14-22). Christ was not in their midst and nobody even seemed to notice. Things were functioning smoothly without Him, via the flesh.
Somehow, the activity and the busy-ness of the flesh are able to be passed off as godly living. This does not speak highly of the level of discernment among the other churches, when the church God said was dead had a reputation among men for being alive. Believers who are busy and zealous, and actively engaged in church work down here in earthly realm, are not necessarily spiritually minded men dwelling in heavenly places and abiding in Christ. And thus, the SOURCE of their activity was something other than the resurrection power of Christ. There are only two possible sources of activity for the believer: flesh which produces fruit unto death… or the Spirit which is life. In Sardis, the flesh dominated…but nobody knew. What a warning to us today.
What a scene! Here we see a large, successful, growing, busy evangelical church, full of activities and programs for God, perhaps offering seminars for other churches to emulate their success, with a wonderful reputation among the other churches as being full of LIFE. And yet God’s estimate is entirely the opposite of what men think… of how men see things. God said it was dead. When He looked down from heaven to the church in the city of Sardis, He did not see the LIFE of His Beloved Son there. There is no godly living without the Son. Without Him we can do nothing. And hence, all the activities done in His name were but wood, hay, and stubble… worthless in His sight. God was not pleased with all their activity… and was not impressed with their good reputation among men. In fact, the SOURCE of their activity was religious flesh: and God hates flesh no matter what it does or what it looks like or how highly esteemed among men it is.
This church was IGNORANT of a most basic fact of Christian living: Godly Christian living is a manifestation of the life CHRIST in you. Sadly, there was no life there, and (even worse) they didn’t KNOW it. Through ignorance of God and His Word, they had mistaken human activity, service, and zeal, for life. They were functioning as if they didn’t KNOW that Jesus said, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” Jesus said that long before the church at Sardis was established… but they didn’t seem to know.
The ignorance that was manifested in Sardis on a corporate level is duplicated in believers on an individual level countless times over. Ignorance of God’s plan for living a godly life always results in believers trying their best to live up to God’s standards and produce an offering that will be pleasing to God… not realizing that in our flesh dwells NO good thing and nothing that old man of ours offers to God will be pleasing to Him. WAY too often, the activity of the flesh is passed off as godly living. Nothing the flesh offers to God – no matter how highly esteemed of men it may be – no matter how well dressed the fleshly offering is – none of it is ever acceptable to God.
Therefore we need the Word of God to be able to cut through it all, to expose that which is counterfeit, phony, and fleshly, so that the LIFE of Christ can be manifested through us – real life. Those in whose hearts God’s Word is RICHLY dwelling will have their senses exercised. They are able to SMELL the difference between rotten flesh and the sweet savor of Christ. The Father hates the smell of flesh; but He delights in His Son. Be it ever so similar in outward appearance, nothing less than the LIFE of His Beloved Son is ever acceptable to the Father.
Godly living is Christ in you. The word of the cross teaches us God’s means of dealing with the flesh. The word of the mystery of Christ teaches us of God’s plan to manifest His Son in us. The Word of Christ richly dwelling in our hearts exerts a controlling influence in our minds, hearts, and walk. Beholding the glory of the Lord in the mirror of His Word is vital for the transforming work of the Spirit to occur in us. The Word as a two edged sword provides us with the discernment to distinguish between that which is soulish and spiritual. From start to finish, godly living requires the Word of God.