Making It Practical | John Ankerberg Show

Making It Practical

By: The John Ankerberg Show
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By: Dr. Bill Gillham; ©1999
It’s one thing to understand there is a difference between walking in the Spirit and walking according to the flesh. It’s another thing entirely to put that truth to work in your life. Dr. Gillham explains how you can do it.

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Making It Practical

Excerpted from Lifetime Guarantee. Harvest House Publishers

We will now apply the four-step sequence of truth, faith, works, and emotions from the previous chapter to develop a technique for walking in the Spirit rather than “according to the flesh.” I have a friend, Paul Burleson, who states, “Just as it is important for every Christian to know who he is in Christ, it is also important for him to know who he was prior to salvation if he is to understand ‘walking according to the flesh.’ “ That’s true and if you check the areas where you seem to have the most difficulty walking in the Spirit, you’ll discover it’s in those areas where your emotions seem to be stuck. You’ve probably verbal­ized it as “My emotions shoot up to ten almost instantly.” In all probability, however, this is a misperception. Your emotions began their journey up from a base of six or seven or even nine. It was but one short hop to the top for many of you.

We will take each step from the bear story illustration, recall how it applied to the bear and the cabin, and then make practical applications to the spiritual walk.

Step 1: Truth

The truth is: (1) the believer is crucified with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the Father’s right hand. (2) Christ is now my life here on earth, and His will is to express His life through me. (3) I am resting in Him in His victory. The Bible states these truths in Romans 6, Colossians 3, and elsewhere. These verses are true, whether Believers accept them or not, because God said so. They are true of all who are born again. Thus:

Steps Walking By Faith Steps Bear Story Steps
Truth All Christians are identified with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. You are safe in the cabin.

You will recall that even though it was true that the man was safe in the cabin in the bear story, he could have died of a heart attack because he did not know he was safe. Similarly there are millions of Christians who, due to a lack of understanding will die and go to heaven this year having never benefited from the truths of these verses. They are not “heaven verses” but “earth verses” to be appropriated here. They are true. There’s an old saying: “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” That may apply in some cases, but in the Christian faith, what you don’t know will destroy you (Hosea 4:6).

Step 2: Faith

I wonder if you have enough faith to make these steps work. Let’s run a quick test and see. Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God? You say, “Yes, I sure do.” You just passed the test. You’ve got all the faith you need.

Many well-meaning Bible teachers will tell you that the reason you have no victory is that you need more faith. But if you want an exercise in futility, try to generate more faith by tomorrow morning. Talk about sending someone on a guilt trip. You don’t need more faith. You need more knowledge of the Object of your faith.

Suppose you enter a church and observe the pews. You conclude, “I believe that pew will support my weight,” and you sit down. Sure enough, it does. That’s faith. It’s not Chris­tian faith; it’s pew faith. Let’s suppose, however, that the pew were to collapse. Did your faith let you down? No, your faith was sufficient. It was the object of your faith (the pew) that let you down. The pew wasn’t worthy of the trust you placed in it.

God’s love and trustworthiness, on the other hand, are always dependable. You must put your faith in Him, the beautiful Object of your faith. You don’t need great faith, but more understanding of the Object of your faith.

Step 3: Works, Performance, Behavior

Remember, however, that the man in the cabin had faith too. He believed he was safe, but he still could have died of a heart attack with his faith, because he failed to act like he believed it. Similarly, I have talked to people who tell me, “Oh, yes, the old truths of our crucifixion with Christ. I believe that. Why, I’ve known those truths for years. I did an exten­sive study on that and taught it to a Bible class.” But watch them operate. Anyone with a half-ounce of spiritual discernment can detect that they are not allowing Christ to express His agape life through them to others.

It isn’t enough to just “have faith.” You must act like you believe if you would walk in the Spirit. You must step out on your faith.

That is the step where most Christians miss the mark. The flesh wants to skip over Step 3 and move directly to Step 4, feelings. The flesh loves to feel something happen as “proof” that things are now different, that “it has worked.” The flesh always “seeks for a sign” so it can believe in the sign instead of the Word of God. It craves to use the sign as the object of its faith rather than the Word that God has spoken. Many believers walk by this motto: “A sign a day proves the devil’s away.”

This is no longer your way, however, it’s the way of your flesh. The way of the Spirit is now your way. “You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit” (Rom. 8:9). But even though it is no longer your way, it certainly is your “old way,” and the indwelling power of sin will con­tinually bug you with first-person-singular-pronoun logic that Satan’s way is the true way.

Success by Whose Definition?

The dictionary defines failure as “not succeeding” and customarily refers to a perfor­mance task. Christians have been deceived into believing that we should be able to design and build an improved computer or be a perfect mother with perfect kids—as “I can do all things through Him” (Phil. 4:13). Well-meaning disciplers cite this verse to struggling believ­ers as “proof” that they should be able to handle any performance task successfully. This is not true. Neither this passage nor the rest of Scripture teaches that.

Instead, this oft-quoted passage (Phil. 4:11-13) refers to our being able to maintain a stability of mind as we experience all circumstances, resting in Christ as we do so. This is the “secret” spoken of in verse 12: “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” You see, it never implies the perfect results the flesh craves. It implies perfect method, resting in the Lord and His sufficiency to supply all my need. By placing our trust in Christ we can praise the Lord knowing that He’s got everything under control.

Steps Walking by Faith Steps Bear Story Steps
Truth All Christians are identified with Christ through His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. You are safe in the cabin.
Faith I believe the Bible (that I am identified with Christ). I believe I’m safe.
Works Live as if it’s all true in me. – Act like it’s true. Live as if a safe person lives. Act safe.

Step 4: Feelings

As I continue to walk by faith and obedience, setting my mind on the reality of how things are rather than on how I feel or on “circumstantial evidence” that belies God’s Word, God will begin to bring my feeler’s “stuck threshold” more into line. I’ll be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Rom. 12:2). Thus we complete the final step.

Feelings I finally begin to feel more like it’s true in me – sort of. Same as left.

Notice I said “sort of.” God is never going to bring your feeler totally into subjection so long as you remain in your earth-suit. He has deliberately designed it to vacillate so as to force you to walk by faith, not by feel, if you would experience the “peace that passes understanding.” God’s peace is not a feeling, but a knowing—knowing that the Father has everything under control; that you are in Christ, seated in heaven, resting; and that He is in you now, living. Bow before Him right now. Praise Him for dreaming up such a fantastically innovative, glorious, gracious plan whereby you and I can face anything this world can throw at us, not due to our ability but to His ability through us. All who embrace and prac­tice this walk will begin to bond with our Creator God. He calls it “living in vital union with Him” (Col. 2:6, TLB). God speed, dear relative.

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