The Good News: Religion Confuses, but the Gospel Brings Freedom – Ray E Horton
So many Christians are sin focused and live defeated lives. The focus on sin seems right to the flesh and is taught by much of religion. They see grace and believing the Good News as license to sin and remind us to acknowledge sin and live holy lives.
Yet, it is by God’s grace only that we can attain toward holiness. It is not work and struggle. Rather, it is joyfully fulfilling as we mature in the way that God designed for us to grow through life in Jesus. Each of us can be victorious over our flesh and live godly lives. Of course, anyone who is following Christ acknowledges sin when we get off course. We confess the reality of it, then get up and go on, thanking the Lord for the forgiveness won by the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary.
Acknowledging the reality of sin in our lives does not make us “sinners.” Our sin was dealt with on the cross, cleansed, and put “as far from us as the East is from the West” (Psalm 103:12).
If you are Born Again, your old man is dead, and you are a new creation, transformed in spirit and steadily being renewed in your soul, that is, in your mind, will and emotions. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). It is so important to understand the clear distinction between our spirits and souls. See 1 Thess. 5:23 and Heb. 4:12.
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). How can it be said that we “have become the righteousness of God in Him“? Because our righteousness is pure gift. The reality is that we are indeed righteous, but it is with His righteousness, not our own.
Our spirits have been made righteous; we are new creations, and that does not change during the process of our souls being renewed as we look to the Spirit and the Word. Even when we fall, our righteousness remains. Our spirits are not touched. We simply get our souls back right with God.
Since our spirits (the real us, our identities) have been transformed and perfected, our identities are as saints, not sinners, even if we occasionally fail as we progress from glory to glory. While we acknowledge sin, we do not acknowledge that we are sinners, because it is not true. If you are a sinner, then you are unsaved. Believers are called saints throughout the New Testament, in Acts and Hebrews, and in just about every one of Paul’s letters, as well as Jude’s letter and in John’s Revelation.
But aren’t we called to holiness and Christ-like lives? Absolutely! And holiness in our soul life comes from the outworking of that gift of righteousness that is already in our spirits. It cannot be accomplished in the flesh. “It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance” (Rom. 2:4), not a focus on sin. We don’t have to search for sin; we know when we’ve missed it. We are sorry but don’t wallow in it. We thank the Lord for His grace and forgiveness and get up and go on with the Lord.
The Good News
Let me see if I can explain the Good News clearly, since there is so much confusion and religiosity in the church today. God has dealt with sin on the cross of Jesus, and no longer accuses us, so we shouldn’t accuse ourselves. It is the devil who is “the accuser of the brethren.”
Yes, we are to be glorifying God through a changed life. But that can only be done in the power of the Holy Spirit. Without Him we can do nothing of consequence – surely not overcome the pull of sin on our flesh. Our victory has to do with our union with Him. As Jesus told us in John 15:5: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” The branches only bear fruit when connected to the vine. Thus, we only bear the fruit of a holy lifestyle as we look to Him, and not self-centeredly on our sin, and draw on the vine – Jesus within us, by the Holy Spirit.
That spirit-filled, dedicated Christians want to overcome sin is a given. We don’t use God’s goodness to us as license for wrongdoing. We therefore don’t concern ourselves or preoccupy our minds with sin or a changed life — that comes without concern by “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,” and seeing who we are, who we have been made to be in Him.
The Secret to the Christian Walk
This is the secret of living this new life. We live the same way we were saved, by grace through faith, not by works of which we could then boast (Eph. 2:8-9). Paul calls foolish those who try to be perfected by their own fleshly efforts of trying to overcome sin. “Are you so foolish Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh” (Gal. 3:3). We depend on Him by faith in Him and His grace to overcome in every area of our lives. He is our source. That is the only secret to growing in holiness.
That is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of Grace, the Good News that sets us free from condemnation, discouragement, and a defeated life. As believers, Jesus is our life; we are not our own. We can be assured, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6). “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him” (Phil. 2:13, NLT). We must remember, we look to Him in our journey through life: “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8).
So give up the old, defeatist way of thinking today. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Prov. 3:6).
We overcome the lies of the enemy, and our own flesh, “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony” (Rev. 12:11). It is by grace, the blood of Jesus, and the word that we speak acknowledging His power in our lives, that we overcome sin and defeat failure and hopelessness. This is how we are set free to experience our first love, to come into His presence unhindered, and in the fullness of joy, with His strength, to find our destiny in serving Him and His people, participating in the wonderful new life of partnership with God in bringing about the advance of His Kingdom right now in this day.
With the Foundation Laid, Go forth
If this message is setting you free, meditate on it, talk about it, write about it, find fellow believers you can encourage in it. Then, come under good teaching. Once this message is under your belt, so to speak, you have a foundation.
With this foundation of grace through faith, and who you are in Christ, you have been set free to build, adding on understanding of your inheritance in Christ:
- Growing in the wonderful fruit of the Spirit,
- Answered prayer,
- Receiving the meeting of your needs abundantly,
- The Baptism and gifts of the Spirit, and
Freedom from everything that oppresses and keeps you back, distracting you from your calling as a minister of reconciliation, an ambassador for Christ.
Feel free to post what is on your heart right here. Remember, He loves you, and “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you‘” (Heb. 13:5).