Sunday’s message was about “Possessing Our Possessions” (Joshua 18:3). I mentioned 3 books and was asked to give a little more information about each. The first is a book I read nearly 30 years ago called Handbook to Happiness: A Biblical Guide to Victorious Living by Charles Solomon. It compared Israel’s journey out of Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, time in the wilderness and eventual possession of the Promised Land to various stages in our Christian life. Egypt represented our life in bondage to sin, the Red Sea our salvation, the Wilderness our time of wandering as we, while saved and a new creation, are still living in bondage to sin as well as our old emotional & mental habit patterns. The Jordan River and crossing into the Promised Land is when we recognize our ‘identification’ with Christ–i.e. when we realize that he is our life through our death and resurrection with Him and living in the Promised Land is where we are ‘taking every thought captive to Christ’ and are learning to put our faith in Christ more than in our flesh and the false messages we are daily bombarded with (Rom. 7:23). The challenge I remember from the book was to take possession of my possessions in Christ and not allow sin or the enemy to rob me by remaining in control of any territory in my life.
The second book I mentioned is The Ins and Out of Rejection by the same author. He talks about the ways rejection shapes our lives leading to damaged emotions and destructive behaviors. Because we live in a fallen world we have all experienced rejection to some degree and some much more than others. But it can create almost continuous emotional turmoil within us when we try to deal with it by our own coping mechanisms, which usually are either self-destructive tendencies or ones that are destructive in our relationships. God has a new program to implement in our lives as we walk by the Spirit–one that is not bound to our old programming, habit patterns and responses of the flesh. The answer is found in understanding our identification with Christ. With Christ as our life, in the innermost core of our being, we are acceptable on the deepest level. As we learn to apply Romans 6-8 truths to our flesh, slowly (sometimes very slowly!) our mind and emotions are renewed and we are more and more free to be the unique person God has created us to be in Christ.
The third book is Birthright: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are by David Needham. I hope to lead a life group on this sometime. It does an excellent job of clarifying what it means to be dead to sin and distinguishing between our flesh and our essential self. Our new self, who we are now that we are united to Christ, is made in His image and is His workmanship, His ‘work of art’. There is something about us that is very good, righteous and already looks an awful lot like Jesus! (because he is the foundation of our new selfhood). That’s the miracle of the new creation! The New Covenant delivers us from the false understanding of thinking we need to crucify ourselves (no we die to sin and the law but not to our essential self) or of what Christ’s call to take up our cross and deny ourselves means. Self-denial does mean that we deny selfishness and self-centered desires of our flesh as Jesus did when He denied the desire of His flesh for food when He was tempted. But He never denied his essential self and His deepest desire which was to do the Father’s will. David Needham writes, “This new identity is not on the flesh level, but on the deepest level of one’s inmost self. This miracle is more than a judicial or positional act of God. It is an act so actual that it is right to say a Christian’s essential nature is righteous rather than sinful.” (p.72). Now I am free to be who and what I most deeply am. For the first time I can embrace my self–who I am–and say ‘yes’ to life. For to me to live is Christ. This is New Covenant Christianity. This is also why he says in ch. 6 ‘God’s Expectations for His Miracle Children’ that those expectations sound higher to us than what we normally think is possible (I Jn. 3:8,9). That is because the miracle of what’s happened within us is bigger than we think.