BY MY SELF-IMAGE
To train her in spiritual warfare, I sometimes lie to my seven
year old, Jennifer. As my finger shoots toward her stomach like a
flaming dart, I say, "God has left you, Jennifer! He's not with
you anymore." Fortunately, Jenny is prepared for her Dad's weird
game. Blocking the dart with her hand, she responds, "It is
written, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" I press on
with the attack, "But you don't feel God's presence, do
you?" She responds, "What difference does that make? God said, 'I
will never leave you nor forsake you.'"
I try another lie. "Satan has good things for you, Jenny! Satan
wants you to have fun. You've seen how happy those people are in
the beer commercials." She again blocks the dart with her hand and
declares, "It is written, 'The thief comes only to steal, kill,
Our game is not just a game. I am trying to prepare Jennifer
for real-life attacks. Satan wants to destroy my daughter--and you
The enemy does his work by means of flaming darts--lies
containing his power. If you believe a lie, it brings bondage into
your life, bondage which will remain as long as you believe the
lie. I learned this lesson the hard way. If I had grasped the
scripture below, I would not have flunked out of college.
"Put on the full armor of God...taking the shield of faith with
which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one." (Eph.
Using the shield of faith means refusing to accept thoughts
which contradict the truth. When attacked, Jesus put up His shield
by responding "It is written...", and Satan's darts bounced right
off. Lies have no power over someone who knows the truth. If
someone is ignorant of the truth, he will not recognize which
incoming thoughts are flaming darts hurled by the enemy.
One lie caused me to flunk out of college. I believed I was a
lazy person by nature. Despite graduating in the third fifth of my
high school class, I went off to college with high hopes of
academic success. I flunked every course except skiing.
I started a house painting business, but the flaming dart was
still stuck in me so I had little motivation. After my business
started going down the tubes, God revealed that my problem was not
that I was naturally lazy but that I had believed a lie.
As a new creature in Christ, I have been given Christ's nature.
"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me." (Galatians 2:2O) One
characteristic of Christ's nature is diligence. I remember
thinking, "Oh my gosh! I'm not a naturally lazy person. It was
just a lie! My real nature is diligent."
The truth set me free, and I began to work diligently. However,
Satan didn't relinquish his stronghold easily. He tried to get the
lie back inside me. To remain free, I had to put up my shield. I
certainly felt lazy sometimes and many vivid memories
supported the lie. I stumbled and fell several times. However,
during the next few months God taught me not to trust my feelings
(even when they were screaming at me) but to look to His Word
The results were dramatic. I returned to college, graduated
"magna cum laude," earned a graduate degree, and eventually became
a college professor! Satan's lies are powerful, but God's truth is
much more powerful.
After this learning experience during my freshman years, God's
truth liberated me from an even more serious problem concerning my
self-image. When first saved, I thought,
"Salvation provides forgiveness, but I'm still the same person
I was before. My nature is still evil."
Walking with God was a constant battle. I thought, "God wants
me to do good, but because of my nature, I want to do evil. For me
to say 'yes' to God is to say 'no' to myself. Sinning is
natural for me. Everything I like is illegal, immoral, or
fattening." I wasn't very good at resisting temptation because I
believed my nature was to sin. My frequent falls confirmed to me
that my view was correct: a sin nature lay at the core of my
Then I began to be taught about receiving a new nature in
salvation, and my heart leaped with new hope. Unfortunately, I was
taught only half the truth. My new perspective brought new
bondage--a Jekyll and Hyde existence resulting in a never ending
cycle of alternate failure and victory.
Although I could have quoted 2 Corinthians 5:17 correctly, I
didn't really believe it. This is what I believed:
2 Cor. 5:17 (Revised Distorted Version) If anyone is in
Christ, he has a new creature, but the old has not passed away.
Not all things have become new. The new creature and the old
creature now live inside you together, and you are doomed to a
life-long struggle between your two natures.
Did God simply provide a new nature to live alongside my old
nature? What does God say?
2 Cor. 5:17 "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new
creature; the old has passed away. Behold, all things have become
My life changed when I realized God's Word doesn't say that "I
have a new creature" but that "I am a new creature;
the old has passed away." Salvation is not just having something I
didn't have before (e.g., forgiveness and eternal life). God has
changed who I am!
The Lord wants me to understand that at the very core of my
being is not sin, but the nature of God. Jesus said, "Father, I
delight to do Thy will." As a new creature, I can make the same
statement. God's will is what I'm designed for and what I
really want. If I believe I want to sin, I have believed a
lie. (I may feel like I want to sin, but feelings can't be
What happened to our old nature? Romans 6:3-4 says God put us
in Christ so that what happened to Jesus happened to us.
When Jesus died, our old selves died with Him because we were
in him when he died. When Jesus was buried, we were buried
with Him. When Jesus was raised, we were raised with Him as new
Romans 6:6-7 We know that our old self was crucified with
him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no
longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin.
How dead is our sin nature? How dead was Jesus when He died?
Because we died with Christ, we have been set free from sin's
dominion. However, most of us don't experience that wonderful
freedom because our self-images are not based on truth. God wants
us to correct our self-images by obeying Romans 6:11.
Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to
sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
This is not a command to die to sin, but to affirm the truth
that we are already dead to sin. God's power comes on the scene
only as we walk in the truth. As long I believe the lie that my
sin nature is not dead, I will remain in bondage. If I believe I
have two natures, I consider myself alive to sin and
alive to God. God commands me to consider myself dead
to sin and alive to God.
Many Christians are not freed by Romans 6 because it seems to
contradict Romans 7. However, in describing slavery to sin in
Romans 7:14-23, Paul is not talking about our life in
Christ. In fact Christ is not even mentioned throughout this
entire passage. Instead, Paul is describing the frustrating
hopelessness of trying to fight sin with our own strength.
Everyone who relies on his own strength will lose. This includes
the non-Christian and the Christian who has not yet tapped into
God's power by believing the truth about his new identity "in
Christ." Will power is no match for sin. Paul acknowledges that he
can't deliver himself and finally throws up his hands in
Romans 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me
from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our
After Paul cries out for help, he thanks God for providing the
solution. God set us free by crucifying our old selves with
Christ. In so doing, God did what no man can do for himself. We
become progressively more like Christ in our experience as we
grasp the truth about who we already are "in him."
Freedom From Slavery
Slavery throughout the United States was abolished by the 13th
Amendment on December 18th, 1865. How many slaves were in the U.S.
on the following day? In reality, none, but many still acted like
slaves because they didn't know the truth. Congress ordered that
the news should be proclaimed throughout the nation.
Conspiracy Is Born
After hearing the news, a plantation owner informs another
plantation owner that the 13th Amendment had passed: "Terrible
news! Congress has abolished slavery! We've lost the battle to
keep our slaves."
"Not necessarily," his friend replies, smiling. "As long as
these free men think they're still slaves, the 13th Amendment will
have no effect. We don't have a legal right over them anymore, but
they don't know that. Keep your workers from learning the truth,
and your control over these people will not even be threatened."
"But what if the news spreads?"
"Don't panic. Our gun has two barrels. If we can't keep our
workers ignorant, we can still use deception. Tell your workers
they're misunderstanding the 13th Amendment. Tell them it says
they are going to be free, not that they're free already. Assure
them you'll be the first to inform them when that happens."
"But they'll expect me to say that. They won't believe me."
"Then pick out a few persuasive ones who are convinced they're
still slaves and let them do your talking for you. If we play our
cards right, everything will be fine."
Tale of Three Former Slaves
(Four months have gone by since the passing of
the 13th Amendment)
Former Slave #1 never
hears the news. He continues his work on a remote plantation.
Although he is now a free man, his "master" somehow neglects to
On April 18th Former Slave #2 is working in the cotton
fields when approached by someone who declares, "Slavery has been
abolished; you're a free man!" Incredulous, he asks when this took
place and is told, "You became a free man on December 18th." "Are
you telling me I've been free for four months?" "That's exactly
This man evaluates what he's been told in light of his
experiences and feelings. He looks first to his experiences. He
spent long, grueling hours each day slaving in the fields before
December 18th, and his routine has been the same since. To say
that he has been free during these last 4 months is absurd. His
experience tells him he is still a slave.
Next he examines his feelings. He considers that he felt like a
slave before December 18th, and he has felt the same way since. If
he had suddenly become a free man, surely he would have felt
differently. He concludes that this news about his being free is
ridiculous. It sounds great, but it's just not true. He puts it
out of his mind and goes back to working in the fields.
When Former Slave #3 hears he was set free from slavery
four months earlier, he accepts the truth with great joy. His life
is transformed. His days of slavery are over. In actuality, he has
been a free man for four months, but his experience only lines up
with reality when he realizes the truth.
John 8:31-32 If you continue in my Word you are truly my
disciples, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make
(assisted by Brent Wallace)