In the church where I grew up, I was taught that in order to obtain forgiveness from sin and victory over sin one must confess one’s sin to a counsellor at that church. In the attempt to obtain peace and victory in my life, I confessed my sins faithfully to my counsellors. I also tried very hard to live a life acceptable to God.
The more I confessed my sins and tried to live the Christian life, the more I failed. I was often driven to utter despair and even self-hatred. I often cried out to God, “Oh, wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death”.
God in his grace, however, brought a book by Watchmen Nee across my path, “The normal Christian life”. It was there that I read about the grace that we receive through Christ Jesus and through his death and resurrection. I learned truths such as these:
- Through the death and resurrection of Christ I have received forgiveness of all my sin: past, present and future.
- I have died with Christ. My body of flesh (carnal nature) has been put to death with Him. (Romans 6).
- It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:20).
- There is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ. (Romans 8)
- I must believe these truths.
- I must reckon myself as dead to sin. (Romans 6).
- Living under law arouses sin in me. (Romans 7)
- Through Christ, however, I have died to the law (Romans 7).
- I cannot do anything to save myself. Christ has done a completed work to save me.
- Through the death and resurrection of Christ, I have been justified and am righteous in God’s sight.
- I only have to trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ and to abide in Christ through faith.
It was these truths of the Gospel that got me out of my failure and depression and that gave me victory, peace and joy.
I do not remember ever hearing these truths clearly preached or expounded from the pulpit at the church where I grew up. Instead we were taught that coming to the cross for salvation means confessing one’s sin to a counsellor.
Unfortunately, the lack of the very important truths of the Gospel being proclaimed, resulted in me repeatedly focusing on myself and not on Christ.
It caused me to try to save myself through my own efforts of confessing my sins to a counsellor and of trying to fight against sin by striving in the flesh.
So, time and again I went through this cycle:
- Focusing on myself and on sin and temptation.
- Striving in the flesh
- Failure and despair
Confessing my sins even in the greatest details to my counsellor could not help me. The only way that I could get out of my depression was by reminding myself of the truths of the Gospel that I had learned in Watchman Nee’s book. I also found these truths clearly laid out by many other verses in the Bible. These truths helped me to put my focus on the finished work of the Lord Jesus on the cross. That would give me peace and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ, and I would experience victory in Him.
I remember one night, I had taken my eyes off Christ and focused on myself and as a result ended up in despair. I lay on my bed. The tears were running down my face. I cried out to God, “Oh, wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death”.
I prayed to God and told Him that I was tired of living a life of failure. I told Him that there were at least three portions in the Bible where He promises a life of victory. I pleaded with Him to show me how to make the following scriptures a reality in my life:
- John 7:37-38 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
- Joh 15:4-5 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
- Romans 8:1-2 There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
I cried out to God:
- Oh Lord, I thirst! I desire your living water! How do I drink it?
- Oh Lord, how do I walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh?
- Lord, I so much desire to abide in you! How do I abide in you?
Then suddenly the meaning of those scriptures became clear to me. If I believe in Jesus Christ, as the scriptures say, then I will have that living water. In child-like faith I must believe that Christ has done a full and finished work on the Cross for my salvation. That is what believing as the scriptures have said means. I must believe that He has done everything that needs to be done for me to receive the following:
- Forgiveness of all my sins: past, present and future.
- To become a dearly loved and accepted child of God.
- To receive Christ’s imputed righteousness.
- To be dead to sin and alive to Christ.
- To walk in victory.
I realized that walking in the Spirit and abiding in Christ simply means that in simple child-like faith I believe that:
- Christ has done a completed work for my salvation,
- which He gives to me freely as a gift (Romans 6:23).
- I do not have to do anything except believe it (Ephesians 2:8).
- He is the one who will work in me to will and to do what is pleasing to Him (Philippians 2:13).
- I must just rest in Him (Hebrews 4).
Another time, the Lord gave me this verse three times on the same day:
Isaiah 12:2-3: “Behold God is my salvation, I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.
I realised that the reason for failure and falling into despair is the following:
- Not trusting God fully for my salvation.
- Thinking that God’s acceptance of me depends on me.
This results in fear and in me striving in the flesh to try to become acceptable to God. That causes failure and despair, because we cannot please God by our own efforts or works.
The Christian life is impossible for any person to live by their own efforts.
The Christian life can only be lived by:
- Trusting God fully for my salvation (Philippians 1:6)
- Resting in Him. (Hebrews 4)
- Knowing that I am fully loved and accepted by God, just as I am, because of Christ’s imputed righteousness, which I have been given as a gift and receive by believing in Him. (Rom 3:22, 2 Corinthians 5:21)
- Trusting Christ to live His life in and through me and to accomplish what is pleasing to Him in me. (Philippians 2:13)
When I am trusting Christ and resting in His finished work on the cross sin has no power over me, and I experience Christ’s joy, peace and victory in my life. Even when a mistake happens and I do sin, I am not under condemnation, because:
- No one can bring any charge against God’s elect. It is God who Justifies (Romans 8:32)
- No one can condemn us, Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Romans 8:33)
No matter what happens, I do not have to fear or lose my joy because nothing can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:35-39)
Being sad is not the normal state of a Christian. A Christian should always be rejoicing in the Lord. (Philippians 4:4) The joy of the Lord is our strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)
2 Peter 1:2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
John 6:28-29 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
Joh 3:14-16 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 7:37-39 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Joh 8:31,32, 34 and 36 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”… Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin…So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Mark 2:5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Romans 3:21-25 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Gal 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Titus 3:4-7 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Hebrews 4:14-16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
1Timothy 2:5-6 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
Rom 9:1-3,30-33, 10:1-4 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. …What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Rom 10:9-11 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Ephesians 1:3-9 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ.