Paul to the church:
- Romans 1:7 “…to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints:…”
- 1 Corinthians 1:2b “…to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:…”
- 2 Corinthians 1:1b “…to the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia:…”
- Ephesians 1b “…to the saints that are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus:…”
- Philippians 1b ”… To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi…”
If you were alive in the first century and part of the early church, Paul would be addressing you as saint! Saint Ann, Saint Kimberly, Saint Zachary, Saint Mary, etc. How does that resonate with you? I am certain that for some of you it sits well. But if you are like me, this really seemed unreal. Forget it; I’m far from a saint! You see, Paul was addressing the church family in the reality of who they were because they had been washed in the Blood of Christ! When I ponder this, I stand amazed and honestly, it took me a long time to appropriate this mindset, and feel comfortable with its implications.
For some of us it has been a long and winding journey traveling the pathway to receive forgiveness from God and then round and around the mountain until I could forgive myself. That is why it seemed just too odd to be referred to as a “saint.” I know that I can’t rely on my feelings or nothing makes sense! So let’s do some extensive traveling around and about the truth, because this is where we need to camp out. I want to examine truth and dispute the erroneous thinking around which we may allow our minds to wind. We are going to see how our emotionally driven thinking can keep us from walking in the truth.
Dr. Neal Anderson (Freedom in Christ Ministry) reminds us that we are saints who sometimes sin. I am hoping that at the end of this particular journey you will be willing to embrace your ‘sainthood’ so to speak, and not push it away as I did. It is vital to understand our identity in Christ and receive it. So on to some truth, and I will refer to Dr. Anderson often because of the impact his material and understanding had in my life as I grew to understand my identity in Christ.
Let me start with a description of the meaning of stronghold:
“…habitual, mental patterns of thought. These strongholds are memory traces burned into our minds over time or by the intensity of traumatic experiences…They are formed in our minds like deep tire tracks in a wet pasture: After the ruts have been established over time, the driver doesn’t even have to steer anymore—and any attempt to steer out of the ruts is met with resistance.”
This should help us to understand that we do not just flip a switch and recover from skewed thinking over night. The truth is there for us but we now have to form new ways of thinking and processing based on the truth of God’s Word. Here is something to ponder as we consider our positioning of being called saints and believers in Christ, and we will camp here for a bit.
2 Corinthians 10: 3-6 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.”
Using the analogy of the tire ruts, we cannot deny that we all have patterns in which we habitually walk. Some are good but some are detrimental to our spiritual growth. The really amazing thing about this walk is that, as believers, we have not been thrown into the ring with the lions (so to speak) without appropriate weapons for the battle. The Scripture tells us that we have been given weapons for our battles that are divinely powerful to take down and destroy the fortresses (strongholds) that we have unconsciously built in our minds.
Next, the Scripture tells us that we can pit truth against error by weighing the truth found in God’s Word against the erroneous thinking that has embedded itself in our minds. “What does God’s Word have to say about who I am?” In God’s word it says that because I am in Christ I am a new creature, I am righteous and sanctified. But the battle begins when I dispute that truth…“No way; I am certainly not” or no, “I could never be because I _______…” (you fill in the blank.) It is here that we do the warring in our minds and, as the verse above says, we must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ! Now the victory is ours when we make the choice to appropriate what the Word says about who we are and walk in that calling as a saint. Do we do it without error? Of course not, but turn that wheel firmly and pull out of the rut of wrong thinking and untruth to form the new pathway of truth.
Someone I love very much says that they are a Christian yet continues to live a homosexual lifestyle. I realize that it is easy for me to think that if they would only see themselves the way God sees them then they could leave that lifestyle behind. Another loved one has sought after attention by doing lots of wrong things and behaving in wrong ways. This has made for a very dysfunctional life for them. My heart’s cry is that they and others like them would see themselves as God sees them, being made in His image. I cannot help but think what a difference this could make if they would only see themselves through the Word of life. Not that there would be no struggles and temptations because we know from the Paul’s words “…For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do…” from Romans 7.
Realistically speaking here, if we measured every thought about who we are with God’s Word, we might see that what we do or what is lived out is based on what we believe about ourselves. There is some similarity here to the positive thinking process but if we believe in Christ and His redemption on our behalf on the cross, then we should be well on our way to walking as children in the light. Our actions must be the response to the way we see ourselves in light of the Word! Dr. Neil Anderson says that “…satan would like you to believe that your behavior tells you what to believe about yourself, but the truth is that your belief about yourself determines your behavior!”
Here is a great verse to memorize:
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who called you is faithful and also will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24
Father God, things can sure get mixed up in my thinking and I do forget that as Your child I have received sanctification, redemption and the right to put satan and his lies under my feet. He has done a good job in keeping me from living the abundant life for way too long. Today let me know and believe that my identity is in You and with Christ in me I no longer have to live and walk in darkness. You have called me out of that darkness to live in and be Your light. Let me absorb all the truth Your Word has to say about who I am as a new creature in Christ and let my walk show to Whom it is I belong to. Thank You for loving me and for the privilege of being Your child!