Adapted from Personal Disciplemaking by Chris Adsit (used with permission)
The disciple has a basic understanding of his new identity in Christ and the struggle that exists between his old nature and his new nature.
BIBLICAL BASIS FOR THIS OBJECTIVE
When a person becomes a Christian, several fundamental changes take place regarding his basic identity. I’ve listed a number of these below. Look up the verses that support each point, and jot down a summary of each in your notebook.
1. He is no longer the same person he was before.
2. He has been given a new nature.
3. His true nature as a believer is now one of righteousness, completeness, and perfection. (Notice the past or present tense in each verse listed below; it’s particularly significant.)
• Romans 8:28-30: Note especially, “justified…glorified.”
• Ephesians 4:20-24: Note especially, “created.”
• Hebrews 10:10, 14: Note especially, “have been made holy…has made perfect.”
• Philemon 4-6: Note especially, “we have.”
• 2 Peter 1:3: Note especially, “has given us.”
4. However, the old nature still exists in the believer. It is at war with his new nature, and can produce ungodly behavior.
• Romans 7:15-23: Notice especially in verses 17 and 20 how Paul has distinguished clearly between his true, righteous new nature, and his old sin nature, which he disowns. We know from his writings elsewhere in Scripture that Paul in no way holds that a person is not personally responsible for his own sins (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 1 Corinthians 3:12-17; 5:9-11; 11:28-30; 2 Corinthians 2:5-6; Galatians 2:12-14; etc.). He’s simply pointing out here that it’s no longer part of his true nature to be sinful. It’s not “like him” to sin since Christ entered his life.
Identity in Christ: Who we are in Jesus Christ; the distinguishing characteristics of the born-again Christian in his basic nature or essence; what is true about the basic nature of a Christian as a result of his becoming indwelt by the Holy Spirit upon conversion.
PEP TALK FOR THE DISCIPLEMAKER
In follow-up sessions #1, #2 and #3 you have told your disciple that he is now a new creature, indwelt by the Holy Spirit who imparts to those who belong to Him the power to live abundant and victorious lives.
Immediately upon salvation, some Christians experience a drastic, positive change of behavior. For others, the changes aren’t so dramatic. They begin to wonder if there were any changes. They say to themselves, If I’m a new creature, and the power to live a godly life is within me, why do I still lust? Why do I still covet? Why do I still fly off the handle at the slightest provocation? And look at all of these other Christians…so many hypocrites. I know lots of non-Christians who are so much better people than those Christians. The Bible says I have been changed on the inside, but I really don’t see much evidence of it.
What can you say to him? I’d be surprised if many of you didn’t experience the same disillusionment from time to time. We’ve been told that we’ve been given a greatly improved new nature, a supernatural new power. So why don’t we do the things we know are right, and stop doing the things we know are wrong? We want to change. We want to be obedient to Christ, but we just seem to lack the power.
The Holy Spirit is our power source. If He is in control of our lives, we will experience power, victory and the abundant life (Galatians 5:22-23). The trick lies in daily, even moment-by-moment, dethroning of the old self, putting the Holy Spirit back on the throne, and keeping Him there.
When you think about it, though, why should we? Before I came to Christ I had logged over eighteen years of life in Satan’s shadow, and I got pretty used to it. I loved to sin, and though I hate to admit it, I still love to sin. And if the truth were known, you probably love to sin too. If we didn’t love to sin, we wouldn’t do it. It’s the consequences we hate. We hate how it makes us feel, we hate how it grieves God, we hate the damage it does to the advancement of the kingdom of God, and we hate how Satan exults in it. So why do we tolerate this tendency in ourselves? Why can’t we learn from our past mistakes?
We should be able to figure it out. Remember how sin works? First comes the temptation. It looks good, but the Spirit within warns us to steer clear of it. However, if our minds aren’t set on things of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17), rather than obeying instantly, we begin analyzing other alternatives. We proceed to list the pros and cons of doing the suggested sin, and, being optimists, we usually list the pros first. After having such a high time listing the benefits of the act, we’re in no mood to think of the liabilities. The analysis ends and we skip merrily down the road of sin, only to find we’ve been snookered again.
Each time we’re tempted, we’re given a choice: to go God’s way or to go Satan’s way. We’re so used to going Satan’s way, and (without really thinking about it) we love going Satan’s way, so why should we spoil the fun by seeking the filling of the Holy Spirit?
In the midst of the temptation, the Spirit is standing there armed, ready to come to our aid, ready to do battle with our foe and rescue us. But we don’t give Him the chance. He would take the throne immediately if we would let Him, but the bottom line is that, “just this once,” we’d as soon He’d butt out so we could assert our own will. Of course, we always feel bad afterward. We confess our heads off, and we vow to be more stalwart in battle the next time—but why should it be any different next time?
These questions may have bothered you for many years, and your new disciple certainly will be wondering about them. The answer is not simple, nor is the process whereby one gains victory over habitual sin. And the victory usually is not complete or life-long. Temptation and sin will plague you and me for the rest of our lives here on earth. Major victory can be ours, though—with only occasional skirmishes from the resistance still residing in our flesh—if we know a few things and if we do a few things.
This training objective will deal primarily with what we need to know, while Training Objective #5 will handle what we need to do.
The main thing your disciple needs to understand is that, while he does have a new nature, he also still possesses his old sinful nature. Both are equally accessible. Actually, the old nature is probably more accessible, due to the fact that it’s all we ever knew before our conversion. When we exhibit carnal behavior, it indicates that we are drawing on our old nature. Christlike behavior can be manifested only as we draw on our new nature. To get this truth across, I’m going to give you an illustration you can use. Your disciple will be able to remember the truth easily, and he can apply it, and later pass it on.