2 Corinthians 5:17
If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come

Being a Christian is not just a matter of getting something; it's a matter of being someone. A Christian is not simply a person who gets forgiveness, who gets to go to heaven, who gets the Holy Spirit, who gets a new nature. A Christian, in terms of our deepest identity, is a saint, a spiritually born child of God, a divine masterpiece, a child of light, a citizen of heaven. Being born again transformed you into someone who didn't exist before. What you receive as a Christian isn't the point; it's who you are. It's not what you do as a Christian that determines who you are; it's who you are that determines what you do (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Peter 2:9, 10; 1 John 3:1, 2).

Understanding your identity in Christ is absolutely essential to your success at living the Christian life. No person can consistently behave in a way that's inconsistent with the way he perceives himself. If you think you're a no-good bum, you'll probably live like a no-good bum. But if you see yourself as a child of God who is spiritually alive in Christ, you'll begin to live in victory and freedom as He lived. Next to a knowledge of God, a knowledge of who you are is by far the most important truth you can possess.

After years of working with people who are in deep spiritual conflict, I found one common denominator: None of them knew who they were in Christ. None knew of their spiritual heritage. All questioned their salvation and the love of God. Are you aware that there is someone alive and active in the world today who is dead set against you seeing yourself as spiritually alive and complete in Christ? Satan can do nothing to damage your position in Christ. But if he can deceive you into believing his lie--that you are not acceptable to God and that you'll never amount to anything as a Christian--then you will live as if you have no position or identity in Christ.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I take my stand as a child of God in Christ. Thank You for giving me this gracious and unwarranted position.



Galatians 5:22, 23
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law

The spiritual person also has a body, soul and spirit. Yet this individual has been remarkably transformed from the natural person he was before spiritual birth. At conversion, his spirit became united with God's Spirit. The spiritual life which resulted from this union is characterized by forgiveness of sin, acceptance in God's family, and the realization of personal worth.

The soul of the spiritual person also reflects a change generated by spiritual birth. He can now receive his impetus from the Spirit, not just from the flesh. His mind is being renewed and transformed. His emotions are characterized by peace and joy instead of turmoil. It is our responsibility to choose not to walk according to the flesh, but to walk according to the Spirit. As the spiritual person exercises his choice to live in the Spirit, his life bears the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23).

As a spiritual person, your body is the dwelling place of God. We should offer our bodies as a living sacrifice of worship and service to Him. The flesh, conditioned to live independently from God under the old self, is still present in the spiritual person. But he responsibly crucifies the flesh and its desires daily as he considers himself dead to sin.

"That all looks and sounds great," you may say. "But I'm a Christian and I still have some problems. I know I?m spiritually alive, but sometimes my mind dwells on the wrong kinds of thoughts. Sometimes I give in to the deeds of the flesh. Sometimes I entertain the desires of the flesh instead of crucifying them."

The description of the spiritual person is the ideal. It's the model of maturity toward which we are all growing. God has made every provision for you to experience personally the description of the spiritual person in His Word (2 Peter 1:3). You will grow as a spiritual person and glorify God in your body as you learn to crucify the flesh and be filled by the spirit.


Loving Lord, it is liberating to know that Your Spirit actually dwells in me. I choose to walk as a spiritual person today.


The Fleshly Person

1 Corinthians 3: 2,3
I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly.

The spirit of the fleshly person is identical to that of the spiritual person. The fleshly person is a Christian, spiritually alive in Christ and declared righteous by God. But that's where the similarity ends. Instead of being directed by the Spirit, this believer chooses to follow the impulses of his flesh. As a result, his mind is occupied by carnal thoughts and his emotions are plagued by negative feelings. And though he is free to choose to walk after the Spirit and produce the fruit of the Spirit, he continues to involve himself in sinful activity by willfully walking after the flesh.

His physical body is a temple of God, but he is using it as an instrument of unrighteousness. He has the same troubling physical symptoms experienced by the natural person because he is not operating in the manner God created him to operate. He is not presenting his body to God as a living sacrifice. Since he yields to the flesh instead of crucifying it, the fleshly man is also subject to feelings of inferiority, insecurity, inadequacy, guilt, worry, and doubt.

Several years ago I did some research to discover how many Christians are still the victims of their flesh. I asked the same question to 50 consecutive Christians who came to me to talk about problems in their lives: "How many of the following characteristics describe your life: inferiority, insecurity, inadequacy, guilt, worry, and doubt:" Every one of the 50 answered, "All six." Here were 50 born-again, righteous children of God who were so bogged down by the flesh that they struggled with the same problems of self-doubt which inundate unbelivers who only live in the flesh.

If I asked you the same question, how would you answer? I imagine that many of you would admit that some or all of these six traits describe you. It is evident to me that a staggering number of believers are still confused about their spiritual identity in Christ and its implications for their daily lives. We are struggling with the behavior aspect of our growth because we are still struggling with the belief aspect of our growth: who we are in Christ.


Father, help me live above my fleshly desires today by exercising my spiritual inheritance at every temptation.



Galatians 5:17
The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Sprit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please

Are you stymied in your growth because of feelings of inferiority? To whom or to what are you inferior? You are a child of God seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6). Do you feel insecure? Your God will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Inadequate? You can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). Guilty? There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). Worried? God has offered to trade His peace for your anxiety (Philippians 4:6, 7; 1 Peter 5:7; John 14:27). Doubt? God provides wisdom for the asking (James 1:5).

Why is there often such great disparity between these two kinds of Christians: spiritual and fleshly? Why are so many believers living so far below their potential in Christ? Why are so few of us enjoying the abundant, productive life we have already inherited?

Part of the answer is related to the process of growth and maturity as the individual believer appropriates and applies his spiritual identity to his day-to-day experience. And yet there are countless numbers of Christians who have been born again for years--even decades--and have yet to experience significant measures of victory over sin and the flesh, a victory which is their inheritance in Christ.

Another part of the answer is due to our ignorance of how the kingdom of darkness is impacting our progress toward maturity. We have a living, personal enemy--Satan--who actively attempts to block our attempts to grow into maturity as God's children. We must know how to stand against him. Paul wrote about Satan: "We are not ignorant of his schemes" (2 Corinthians 2:11). Perhaps Paul and the Corinthians weren't ignorant, but a lot of Christians today surely are. We live as though Satan and his dark realm don't exist. And our naivete in this area is exacting a crippling toll from our freedom in Christ.


Dear Lord, I stand against Satan's schemes to pollute my life with deeds of sin and the flesh. I embrace my inheritance as a child of God today.


Matthew 17:20
Truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, "Move from here to there," and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you

What does it take to effectively exercise Christ's authority over spiritual powers? Can any Christian do so regardless of his level of spiritual maturity? If so, why aren't we more consistent in demonstrating our authority over Satan's kingdom?
I believe there are at least four qualifications for demonstrating authority over rulers and authorities in the spiritual realm. We'll consider them over the next few days.
The first qualification is belief . In the spiritual realm, if you don't believe you have authority, you're not going to exercise it. If your belief is weak, your expression of it will also be weak and ineffective. But if you grasp with confidence the authority that Christ has conferred upon you, you will exercise it with confidence.
Imagine a rookie traffic copy approaching a busy intersection to direct traffic for the first time. They told him at the academy that all he had to do was step into the street and hold up his hand and the cars would stop, but he's not so sure. He stands on the curb, tweets his whistle weakly, and sort of waves at an oncoming car, which roars by him. His authority is diminished by his lack of confidence.
Now imagine a seasoned officer coming on the scene. He sizes up the situation, steps into the street carefully but confidently, gives a blast on his whistle, and stretches out his hand
--and the cars stop. There's no doubt in his mind that he's in control in that intersection because he has a settled belief in his authority.
You may consider yourself just a "rookie" at stopping the devil's traffic in your life. But Jesus Christ is a seasoned veteran, and you're in Him. Build your faith in your authority by studying how Jesus operated against the powers of darkness in the Gospels and how we are commanded to do so in the Epistles.
Lord, enlarge my belief that I have been given authority over principalities and powers in Christ, and help me act on that belief.

James 4:10
Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you

The second qualification for demonstrating authority over rulers and authorities in the spiritual realm is humility . Humility doesn't mean that you're always looking for a rock to crawl under because you feel unworthy to do anything. In exercising our authority, humility is placing confidence in Christ, the source of our authority, instead of in ourselves. Jesus didn't shrink back from exercising His authority, but He showed tremendous humility because He did everything according to what His Father told Him to do.
Pride says, "I resisted the devil all by myself." False humility says, "God resisted the devil; I did nothing." True humility says, "I resisted the devil by the grace of God." Apart from Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5), but that doesn't mean we're not supposed to do something . We exercise authority humbly in His strength and in His name.
Seeing humility as self-abasement is similar to seeing meekness as weakness. The Lord was meek, but He wasn't weak. Meekness is great strength under great control. Humility is confidence properly placed. We are to "glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3).
Pride is a killer. Pride says, "I can do it." No you can't. We absolutely need God and each other.
Father, I know You can remove Your blessing from me if I move out from under Your protection and authority. I acknowledge today that You are in charge of my life.

Joshua 1:9
Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go

The third qualification for demonstrating authority over rulers and authorities in the spiritual realm is boldness . A Spirit-filled Christian is characterized by a true, godly sense of courage and boldness in spiritual warfare. On the eve of taking authority over the Promised Land, Joshua was challenged four times to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9, 18). When the early church prayed about their mission of sharing the gospel in Jerusalem, "the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:31). Spirit-inspired boldness is behind every successful advance in the church today.
The opposite of boldness is cowardice, fear and unbelief. Notice what God thinks about these characteristics:
I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murders and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 21:6-8).
That's pretty serious--cowards lined up at the lake of fire alongside murderers, sorcerers and idolaters! It should serve to motivate us to exercise authority with boldness (2 Timothy 1:7).
A lot of Christians I meet fear the dark side of the spiritual world. It's true that a little knowledge can be a dangerous and frightful thing, but a growing knowledge of the truth is liberating. Seminary students have told me, "I used to be afraid of that stuff, but now I know who I am in Christ, and I'm not afraid anymore." That's exactly the perception we should have.
Lord, increase my courage to light candles of truth and dispel the darkness in Your name. I will fear only You today, not the enemy.

John 15:5
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing

The fourth qualification for demonstrating authority over rulers and authorities in the spiritual realm is dependence . A Spirit-filled life is dependent on God the Father. Even Jesus and the Holy Spirit modeled this dependency. Jesus said: "I can do nothing on My own initiative" (John 5:30); "Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you" (John 17:7 NIV ); "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak" (John 16:13).
Spiritual authority is not an independent authority. We don't charge out on our own initiative like some kind of evangelical ghostbusters to hunt down the devil and engage him in combat. God's primary call is for each of us to focus on the ministry of the kingdom: loving, caring, preaching, teaching, praying, etc. However, when demonic powers challenge us in the course of pursuing this ministry, we deal with them on the basis of our authority in Christ and our dependence on Him. Then we carry on with our primary task.
Nor is the spiritual authority of the believer an authority to be exercised over other believers. We are to be "subject to one another in the fear of Christ" (Ephesians 5:21). There is a God-established authority on earth which governs the social structures of government, work, home and church (Romans 13:1-7). It is critically important that we submit to these governing authorities unless they operate outside the scope of their authority, command us to do something against God's will, or restrict us from doing what God has commanded. Then we must obey God rather than men.
Lord, it's a great relief to know I can depend on You. You are the Rock, the Almighty, unchanging, full of glory. I praise You.

1 Timothy 4:6
In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Jesus Christ, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following

One problem with Christian maturity is trying to base spiritual growth on practical sections of the Scriptures and spending too little time internalizing the doctrinal sections. Each of Paul's letters tends to fall into two major parts. The first part is generally doctrinal, such as Romans 1-8, Ephesians 1-3, Colossians 1-2, etc. These sections reveal what we need to know about God, ourselves, sin and salvation. The second half of each letter is the practical section: Romans 12-15, Ephesians 4-6, Colossians 3-4, etc. These passages describe what we need to do to live out our faith in daily experience.
In our zeal to correct the problems in our lives--doubt, temptation, satanic attack, conflict in families, friendships and churches which are falling apart--we jump to the practical instructions of God's Word. We want a quick fix, a rule or instruction which we can apply like a Band-Aid to make things better.
Perhaps you have already discovered that a Band-Aid approach to daily living doesn't work. Why not? Because when you don't understand the truth pertaining to your position in Christ, you have no ground for success in the practical arena. How can you rejoice in hope and persevere in tribulation (Romans 12:12) without the confidence of knowing you have been justified by faith and have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1)?
When your basic belief system about God and yourself is shaky, your day-to-day behavior system will be shaky. But when your belief system is intact and your relationship with God is based on truth, you'll have very little trouble working out the practical aspects of daily Christianity. Show me someone who knows who they are in Christ and who is filled with the Holy Spirit, as taught in the first half of the Epistles, and I will show you someone who will instinctively live according to the second half of the Epistles. It will be the "natural" thing to do.
Loving Father, I desire to know what I need to know about You so I can live the way You desire for me to live.

It gets exciting but why do people not understand? --- 1Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is to them that are perishing foolishness; but unto us which are being saved it is the power of God.

John 16:13
When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth

It's not hard to know the truth if You are the truth, and speaking with authority would come quite naturally if you're God! Discernment is also easier if you know, as Jesus does, what's in the hearts of men (John 2:24, 25). Though we don't possess those attributes, we do have the Holy Spirit. If we are going to continue the work of Jesus, we must yield to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to control and guide us. Then we can know the truth, speak with authority, and discern good and evil.
We have as our guide the Spirit of truth. When Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, He said, "When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth . . . He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you" (John 16:13, 14). This promise has primary reference to the apostles, but its application extends to all Spirit-filled believers (1 John 2:20-27). The Holy Spirit is first and foremost the Spirit of truth, and He will lead us into all truth.
When Jesus prayed, He requested, "I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth" (John 17:15, 17). Truth is what keeps us from the evil one. John wrote, "The whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19), because Satan "deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). The only way to overcome the father of lies is by revelation, not research or reasoning. Many in higher education lean on their own understanding and believe only in what can be validated by research. Truth is God's will made known through His Word. The Holy Spirit's role is to enable us to understand the Word of God from God's perspective. Jesus says, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

Father, forgive me for leaning on my own understanding. Fill me with Your Spirit and lead me into all truth today.