Growing Up: How To Be A Disciple Who Makes Disciples. You can view these posts at the following links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6. This week, as promised, I will introduce to you Robby's new book which is the second in a series of three. Firmly Planted: How To Cultivate A Faith Rooted In Christ was released this past Monday. I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy.
I was captivated from the beginning. The first two chapters deal with what could be the most asked questions by believers: Am I really saved? Can I lose my salvation? How can God love me after what I have done? That's right! The opening chapters deal with both the source of salvation and the security of the believer.
Let me be transparent for a moment: I remember a time in a previous church in which I served, we were having revival services. God was changing lives. As a staff member, I was part of the decision counseling team. During the invitation one night, one of our senior adult men was assigned to me. When we got to the counseling room, he confided in me that he struggled with whether or not he was saved. I don't remember what I said to him that night. I believe I found a creative way to redirect him to our senior pastor. The reason that I did that was because I had the very same questions he had. I realized at that moment that I could not continue serving in the church without settling that most important question of whether or not I was actually saved.
I labored for about a year in prayer, in Bible study and in sessions with our pastor until I finally affirmed my faith in the Lord. It was quite a "God thing". Every devotional and every sermon I heard for several months focused on that one topic. The proverbial nail-in-the-coffin was when I read a book called On a Hill Too Far Away by John Fischer. He used some imagery of an old rugged cross which stood in the middle of a church sanctuary to paint a picture of the work of grace in the life of a believer. (Since I am not writing about that book, I'll let you get a copy and read it for yourself). When ever a tinge of doubt crosses my mind, I am reminded of the imagery of that cross along with the multitude of scriptures that declare our security in Christ. I believe Dr. Gallaty also offers an excellent explanation of the security of the believer in Firmly Planted.
In addition to the source and security of salvation. Firmly Planted discusses what it means to have our identity in Christ. We are reminded that in order to live according to our new identity, we have to take off our old self with it's sin, lust and rebellion. We instead are to put on Christ by learning from Him through His Word and allowing it to transform us from the inside out. This includes a transformation of both our heart and mind. Once those are transformed then our outer behavior will change as well.
The transformation of our behavior is empowered by the Holy Spirit within us. The Spirit is the power given to us to overcome temptation. Paul makes it very clear in Romans 6 that if we are followers of Christ, we are not to continue in a life of willful sin. Our desires will change because of the Spirit living in us, teaching us and correcting us.
The reason we need God's power in us is because we face three spiritual enemies against which our strength is no match. They are the enemies of the world, the flesh and the devil. The battle against these enemies is relentless. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit in us, it would be a hopeless battle as well.
The world vies for our attention and affection and since we are born into sinful flesh, the world is the home of our nature. However, the life centered in Christ is antithetical to life centered in the world (1 John 2:16). The two cannot intersect or intermingle. That's what the word "holy" means: separate, set apart.
The flesh is the very nature in us that struggles against the spiritual blessing God has in store (Galatians 5:17). The difficult part of this battle is that you have to starve the flesh of all ungodly desires while at the same time feeding the spirit with the things of God: the things which do not occur naturally in the human heart. These godly characteristics must be cultivated, developed and disciplined through the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit.
Our most determined enemy is Satan himself. He does not stop seeking for opportunities to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8). He is constantly searching for weaknesses in our life with Christ. When he finds one, he attacks it with every resource at his disposal. He hates God and hates everything and everyone that God loves. Therefore his goal is to destroy the apple of God's eye: his people. The hope we have is the truth that no power is greater than God's. We can live securely.
However, to live securely, we are called to prepare. Any good commander of a battle will prepare two ways: First, he will prepare intellectually and then he will prepare materially. To prepare intellectually, he studies his enemy and his tactics just enough to know how to defend against attacks and to know how to wage his own attack against the enemy. This information helps the commander know what kind of resources, or materials, he needs and he promptly begins his preparations by collecting and appropriately distributing those resources.
For the believer, this means studying the Word of God because God already knows the enemy and has revealed the strategy for fighting Satan in His Word. Next, to prepare materially, we must put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20). As we "suit up" we will notice that all but one piece of the armor is defensive. We are mostly to protect ourselves. The one weapon we are given is not even wielded in our strength. Rather, it is empowered by the Holy Spirit (The Sword of the Spirit = the Word of God).
Finally, we plug into the power source through prayer. For some reason this is one of the most neglected resources of the follower of Christ, yet it is the one activity that will assure victory. The concept of prayer is contrary to the world's concept of power. When the believer prays, he declares total dependence upon God. It is a declaration of absolute weakness! How backward is that?! Remember when Israel approached the Promised Land the first time? God denied their entrance because they did not submit their weakness to His power. After forty years of wandering, the Israelites were ready to trust God. This time they saw mighty things happen. They submitted in total dependence on God for things they could never have imagined on their own. They were firmly planted!
That's what this book is about. It is about recognizing our total dependence on God to overcome every obstacle we face. It's about declaring our total trust in God because this life is too big for us to handle. It's about denying ourselves praise so that we might point others to praise the Father and God of all creation! It's about being firmly planted in Christ so that we will see the blessings that God intends to give us if we will just endure to the end!
Buy a copy of Firmly Planted and ground yourself further in the disciplines of a Christ follower. If you have not already read Dr. Gallaty's first book Growing Up, I highly recommend beginning there first. It's time to begin becoming disciples that make disciples as Christ commanded. We must begin to mature ourselves and others so we can effectively be part of the multiplication of God's kingdom. What a tremendous privilege!
For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet