“We appear to be on track in every way, and very “together.” But those on the outside do not see, as I do, the missing component in our parent-child relationships.” – From a reader
I have been reading and applying Pearl wisdom for about 4 years now and have enjoyed some real benefits. But, there is still just one problem. As you so often warn, we have no joy. There are glimpses of it here and there, but more often I see a lack of connection with my children. We play by all the rules of what a “good” family would be like. We appear to be on track in every way, and very “together.” We are often complimented on the way we have raised our kids. But those on the outside do not see, as I do, the missing component in our parent-child relationships.
I have a strong bond with my husband, but he and I both feel the lack of intimacy with our kids. It is as if we are standing on opposite sides of a river from them and are desperately looking across and longing to be together. I can see the kids’ desire for unity with us, too. It breaks our hearts! We have prayed, listened to your materials, and read lots of your stuff, but are at a loss to know how to “tie strings” with them. When I try to bond with them, I sense an unnatural feeling in my spirit. They look at me as though my wanting to love them is a weakness, and they try to sabotage my efforts.
I know I have shortcomings when it comes to possessing and exhibiting a joyful attitude. It seems I am constantly trying to be joyful, but I am just not accustomed to it…I grew up in a rough home with little security and almost no connection with people. I came to know Jesus at 10 years of age by the faithful witness of a lovely woman in our neighborhood. HE became a solace for me, a quiet protection from my dangerous surroundings. I fear that I have learned to keep all of my joy safely stored away inside. Or, even worse, I have mistrusted my joy and denied it a place in my life. I am somehow missing the solution to break free from what is holding me captive and stealing the joy of my family.
This lady and her husband had the wisdom to see the whole picture and come to the painful and accurate conclusion that there is more to child training than producing well-mannered, “Yes, sir, No, sir, Please pass the gravy” kids. Many families are chugging along, impressing the folks at church—and themselves—having no idea that they are raising disconnected young souls. It is possible to train the outward performance to perfection and still not reach the heart of the child.
This mother expressed it well when she said, “It is as if we are standing on opposite sides of a river from them, and are looking across and desperately longing to be together.” In seminars this past summer, I called this “living parallel lives in the same space.” Parents and children share a house, but live separate lives—with separate activities, separate entertainment, separate work, and separate goals. Parents confine their children, constrain their children, and control their children, but fail to fellowship with them.
This divide begins quite innocently. Mother does the dishes while the eighteen-month-old entertains herself. Mother cooks while the children watch a good Christian video. Mother cleans and serves the children until she is “worn out”. Having spent the day policing them, she seeks an escape when she gets the chance, leaving the kids to try to “stay out of trouble”. And then Daddy comes home. He greets everyone warmly and retreats to his side of the river with his thoughts and needs, seeking relaxation and entertainment . . . and to be left alone. The children are sent off to “play.” To keep the herd placated, parents throw TVs, computers, books, and toys at the children. Mom and Dad expect the kids to entertain themselves, and thus create a protective “Do not disturb” aura, which leads the children, for lack of purpose, to end up fighting amongst themselves.
They see Daddy’s face about six times before Mother puts them to bed, and he is usually correcting or rebuking. In time, the kids come to the place where they do not expect to see their parents’ faces except when being reproached, so they learn to stay out of the way and not create a disturbance that will bring the “rebukers” out of their retreat. As would be expected, the children seek to avoid getting in the same space with their parents. They stay on “their side of the river”, as this mother so aptly put it. Yes, they are all living in the same house, but are living parallel lives.
This condition is not emotionally satisfying for anyone, and thoughtful parents will feel the lack. As their children get a little older and become more sophisticated in their emotional makeup, parents begin to see their kids’ indifference, and maybe even their anger. Living on different sides of this divide, they often end up as adversaries, even to the point of developing a will to hurt. The will to hurt comes from disappointed love—like a lover who has been rejected and, in return, hurts the other as a way of showing how much he has been hurt.
Some of you are just now digging a little ditch with the shovel of neglect. You feel the space growing between you and the kids—or between you and your spouse. It is not yet a river, but big rivers always begin as little streams.
I will offer two answers. The first answer is what this lady called “Pearl wisdom,” which is just common-sense knowledge received from our fathers, grounded in Biblical knowledge, personal experience, and many years of observation. If you missed it growing up, you can do catch-up (but be quick about it), and your children can be the first of a new heritage. The second answer is divine grace and supernatural transformation. The first answer comes from the school of applied wisdom; the second is by the personal appropriation of “cross and resurrection” joy and power.
This mother said, “…I am at a loss to know how to ‘tie strings’ with them. When I try to bond with them, it is an unnatural feeling. They look at me as though my wanting to love them is a weakness, and they try to sabotage my efforts.”
Let me get something out of the way first. I trust that you are not invading their emotional space by trying to be too personal—too intimate. When boys are still not tall enough to reach your waist, they start their assent to manhood, growing more independent and less intimate every day. Through a span of about ten years, the clingy little boys take on the autonomy of manhood, growing increasingly guarded. It requires much adjustment on Mother’s part. There are days when she will not know whether to kiss him or ask his advice. It is a tremendous metamorphosis. It happens so quickly that most mothers are left standing in bewilderment with empty arms. If she tries to stop or slow the process of maturation, she will create strained relations with him. If the boys are emotionally healthy, they will become men whether mother likes it or not. The best she can do is to encourage this developing independence by communicating her dependence on the boys to assume the responsibilities of manhood—protecting and providing for the “weak” ladies in the family and doing the “heavy, manly lifting of things around the house. Once Mother starts respecting the masculinity of her boys, it may at first feel like make-believe to her, but “overnight” it becomes reality to both her and them.
I have known mothers who “bonded” with their sons in ways that made them weak. When your husband or the other kids are embarrassed at the mother/son bonding, there is something wrong with it. Appropriate bonding does not reinforce weakness or cater to the victim syndrome. When it is right, it does not set the bonded over against the rest of the “cruel, unsympathetic world.” Healthy bonding is not the fulfilling of personal or emotional needs of the parents, nor an end in itself; it is the by-product of a common commitment to a goal that is quite impersonal. It is not a crutch for the emotional insecurity of a parent. It frees both parties and does not make them dependent on each other for their ‘sense of self’.
This mother knows she has not bonded with her children. You do not bond by talking about it or discussing it. A recent news report spoke of a particular military group “bonding”, as if it were a milestone, a tremendous achievement that held great promise. They are now as one man—they care for one another and will work as a team. When a group of men bond, they all become brothers, regardless of their race or religion. They will give their lives for the man next to them. They watch each other’s back and cover for the weakness of the other. Every man gives his best, and then gives some more, for the sake of the group. This bonding is something that every family could use, but few achieve. It lasts a lifetime—both in the military and in a family.
What do these military guys do that causes them to bond? They don’t sit down together and get close up and personal. They would all gag just to hear me say it. They don’t discuss their feelings. If you wanted to start a fight and cause them to hate the sight of the other, just try to get touchy-feely with those guys. No, they bond in the process of their common toil of moving equipment in the heat and in the cold, going without sleep, struggling for a common goal. When men struggle together and triumph together, they bond. When they need each other, depend on each other, and rise up out of exhaustion to serve the other, they bond into a cohesive unit that is worth dying for. But when they enter battle and suffer and die together, they become closer than family. Wounded men, who have the option of going home, are willing to leave their hospital beds, still limping, and return to the dangers of battle to be close to their “family”.
This same bonding occurs where men strive and suffer together for any common goal, whether in sports or labor—like building a bridge or cutting a road through rough mountain terrain. Seven men who practice and then compete in a tough sail boat race that lasts for days will bond. If they don’t bond, they will not win the race.
Sum of the Matter
Now, if this is not the problem, if mother is not over-reacting to nature, if there really is a divide caused by the family living parallel lives in the same house, how can these parents tie strings of fellowship with their children? STOP TRYING TO BE INTIMATE AND START DOING LIFE “TOGETHER.” That’s it! I will elaborate on it some more, but that is the sum of the matter.
You have heard it said, “Families who pray together stay together.” Not so! It takes much more. I say, “Families who work together stay together.” I have known unsaved families who, working together and struggling together against the hardships of life, bonded in a way that most Christian families never know.
To answer the question, “How do we get onto the same side of the river?” Stop seeking an emotional state and go about the business of accomplishing something together. What reason is there to be on the same side of the river unless you are engaged in a common project where you need each other? Share a great dream of building a pier into the water. Build a boat together. Race the boat against competitors. Catch fish for your supper. Build a cottage on the river. Dam it up and generate your own electricity. Discover a sunken wreck and search for treasure. Dig a canal from the river and irrigate your garden. Work the garden together and sell the vegetables so the family can buy shoes and repair the old truck. Campaign together to rid the river of toxins and pollution. You must have a cause bigger than togetherness—something outside of your feelings.
Rich families are at a disadvantage, even more so than very poor families. The worst thing you can do is to provide for your kids, to serve them, to furnish all their needs without requiring them to participate in providing for themselves. Buy your son a nice boat so he can take his friends out on the water, and you will find him on the other side of the river not needing you until his boat runs out of gas. When you question his activity and withhold the gas money, he will hate you for “ruining his life”. But when Father and son build a boat together, the first time they put it into the water, they are one in their “joy.” They are on the same side of the river, in the same boat, and there is no other place they would desire to be.
The strange thing is that when Father and son build a boat together, both knowing that it is for the purpose of bonding, it loses its edge. It is like receiving a compliment that you solicited. They must both be focused on the boat for it to be effective in bringing them together. Gathering firewood because it is the only means to staying warm has a positive, inherent effect that is missing when the rich man decides that he and his pampered son will do the servant’s job this weekend. When the son knows that he is playing bonding games, he highly resents the work and sees it as punishment. In the same way, a spoiled son will resent a vacation that is for the purpose of salvaging the family morale. Parents and children are drawn together when they truly need each other in a material way—when they are serving in a capacity that is meeting real needs. Money cannot buy the moments that bring families together as a team to triumph over the trials of life.
The Sign Painter
I remember when my Daddy needed me. He was painting the walls of a business that also needed a sign painted on the large window out front. I was fourteen years old and had demonstrated some talent in that area, but I had never attempted anything so bold. He convinced me that I could do a better job than he, and so late one day after school, we went back to the job. While he stood by, I painted a sign that brought in money that put food on the table and a dollar in my pocket. When I went to school the next day, I was taller than all the basketball players and smarter than all the academics.
Mother, if you bake a birthday cake for your daughter and buy her a nice present, you may fail to tie strings of fellowship. She might be irritated that it was not the kind of cake she expected, or the present was the wrong color. But if you teach her to bake a cake for her friend or for the church social, and you brag that your daughter is a good cook, and she sees delight in your eyes, then you will find that two parallel lives have woven together to form a strong, lifelong cord.
When you hand your six-year-old son the screwdriver and tell him to fix the hinge on the kitchen cabinet, and the experience does not result in criticism, you have tied strings of fellowship that will keep him from cussing you when he is seventeen.
If you make the kids spend long hours in isolation doing their schoolwork, they may remember your criticism and view you as “the old battle-ax” teacher. But if you go to the library together and launch into some great project of discovery and creativity, they will store up the memory of a thousand delightful smiles and expressions of wonder.
I remember when one of our kids was collecting styrofoam balls to construct a solar system, painting them different colors and trying to figure out ways to suspend the planets on wires in their proper relationships. Another kid was collecting and identifying leaves from every tree he could find, while another was looking up pictures and articles on every interesting creature in the ocean. Another kid was studying the history of earthquakes in Tennessee. Deb was buzzing around in excitement, getting into every project, laughing and enjoying each new discovery. She was learning as they learned. They were on the same side of the river, and the memories are pleasant beyond description.
I will never forget the time our youngest child, Shoshanna—twelve years old at the time—decided to dig out an old groundhog hole to see if it might lead to a cave. We had noticed that in the winter the eight-inch hole, located about ten feet above the pasture on the side of a steep limestone ridge, would be covered with frost in the morning, indicating that warm moist air was coming from it during the night. I mentioned to the kids that it might be a cave. One day, skinny little Shoshanna and her friend started digging out the hole. I stopped by to see how they were doing and to offer words of encouragement, all the while thinking that it would probably just lead to a groundhog living room. After one day of nearly constant digging, about six feet down, they ran into solid limestone rock, but the small hole continued downward, following the face of the rock. By the end of the second day, they had tunneled down about eight feet and were beginning to tunnel under the rock. On the third day, I helped them by pulling the dirt out of the hole with a bucket tied to a rope. By the fourth day they were digging deep in the hole, beyond my sight, under the rock, about eight feet down and six feet under the rock. Then, toward the middle of the day, they came out of the hole to tell me that there was a pointy rock hanging down from the rock ceiling above, blocking their way. I got excited and squirmed into the small hole with my flashlight. There, hanging from the ceiling of their hand-dug cave was a beautiful stalactite. Up until then, I had just been humoring the girls and getting a kick out of their determined mining efforts. The boys and friends who passed by had been laughing in ridicule. “The only cave is the one they are digging,” they would say. In great excitement, I explained to the girls what the presence of a stalactite might mean, and right there we made a secret pact not to tell anyone of our discovery. The hole continued to angle downward at about 45 degrees and was getting too deep and too long to make removing the dirt practical, so I called in a backhoe to remove all the dirt up to the rock face and about ten feet down to ground level. It cost me about $100.00, but sometimes mystery and adventure are expensive.
Shalom pitched in to help her sister, so they now had a relief digger. The girls could now dig straight back under the rock. They found that the tunnel they had dug had rock on either side, about thirty inches wide, another exciting sign. We went to the shop and cut the handle off of a hoe and a shovel and made a small pick so they could dig in the confined space. We made a sled to drag the dirt out of the hole, and then, with great hope, returned to the task.
We could still hear the laughter, but we were silently laughing back. We had a secret! On the first day of our renewed efforts, the girls were on their bellies digging the dirt out of what appeared to be a cave about thirty inches in diameter. They discovered more stalactites. By the end of the day they had tunneled about twenty feet beyond the opening. And I had pulled out a dump truck load of dirt. We began the next day with great hope. The girls had tunneled so far that I could hardly hear them grunting as they dug. They would fill up the sled, and I would drag it out. With a rope attached to the other end, they would drag it back in to fill it up again. I cautioned them to make sure the rock above was solid and that there was no loose dirt above them. Yet I was beginning to grow concerned.
Toward the end of the day, I could barely hear Shoshanna shout, “The dirt is falling the other direction!” “Be careful!” I cried. “It is opening up,” I heard the other girl shout. But when I called to them there was no response. The light from their flashlights disappeared, and my flashlight beam revealed nothing. I shouted several times, and was about to panic when I heard their voices shouting in excitement, sounding as though they were in a big hollow room. In a moment, they came scurrying out of the hole, both of them talking at once. They had found a big room full of beautiful stalactites and stalagmites with other caves going off in all directions, each one full of wonderful sights.
If you could only have seen their faces that day, seen the wonder and thrill of it! I will never forget it. They came out of that dark hole like the sun rising. But then came the sweet satisfaction of telling the boys that “the girls” had discovered a cave never before visited by mortal man, much less by three skinny little cave rats who had a vision and worked unrelentingly to see it through. Need I say, Daddy and daughters were on the same side of river that day?
I know you are not likely to ever discover a cave with your kids, but visiting one together will do. Building a tree house or digging a hole for a swimming pool is a good family exercise.
I pity the family that must hire someone to install the swimming pool while the kids play games on the computer. The kids will be on the same side of the river with some sword swinging, dragon killing womanizer instead of their parents.
You get what you expect
The most troubled kids today are those who grew up without anyone expecting anything from them. Children grow and mature as they succeed at things that matter. Children need to be needed for their contributions to their quality of life and to the preservation and maintenance of their habitat. House-plant children get diseased emotionally. Emotional healing has often occurred when a patient was simply given an animal to take care of.
Life is not worth living unless it has two things: a great love and a great purpose. Many parents direct great love toward their children but never lead them to adopt any purpose beyond pleasure. Children raised on pleasure will not find lasting pleasure, only addiction. Addiction takes the place of purpose, and becomes the only love. But if you give your children rousing visions, and then work with them to accomplish even the smallest of “their” inspired dreams, they will love you for it and quickly dream up another. When you become your child’s favorite fan, you make yourself indispensable to him. People seek greatness for somebody they love. He who loves no one has no reason to be great. Furthermore, he who has no vision for greatness cannot accept love. He is embarrassed and saddened by his lack of self-worth, and will look elsewhere to find it.
By greatness, I don’t mean being famous or superior to others. A grandmother achieves greatness by making a quilt for her granddaughter who is getting married. A child who colors a “beautiful” picture that mother praises and hangs on the wall has achieved greatness. When Laura Rose, 24 months old, helps Deb with the dishes, she rises to greatness in my eyes, but, more importantly, in her own. When a three-year-old boy has the sole responsibility of keeping the wood box full of firewood so the family will stay warm, he knows he is needed. He matters to Mother and Father, and to his older brothers and sisters. That they expect something of him and are satisfied by it makes the child into a man. When he has completed his job and Mother bathes him in a look of pride and appreciation, she has tied some strings. When the kids are trained to prepare the evening meal, set the table, wash the baby, arrange the house for Daddy, and then see his satisfaction and appreciation, they have tied strings. Silly boys and frivolous girls are children without meaningful responsibilities.
On the other hand, if Mother prepares the meal, frequently stopping to rebuke the rowdy kids back in the play room, complaining about the mess the house is “always” in and nagging them to clean it up, and they are fighting over who is doing the most work, and all the while Mother is cultivating a scolding look of condemnation, and Daddy comes home and feels the tension, that family will assuredly be living on different sides of the river. The kids have no goal, no vision, and no purpose except to stay out of the way and not cause trouble, while real life is being lived by someone else more important and valuable than they. They will have poor self-esteem, and all the positive words and praise you can speak will not make them feel anything other than aimlessness and dissatisfaction. The river grows wider as the years go by until one day parents realize their teenagers are angry, unthankful strangers.
Kids need to have personal projects and the means to cultivate their dreams. When parents share those dreams and participate in the pursuit of them, they will tie the strings of fellowship and mutual respect. It doesn’t even matter if the dream is practical or realizable. It is struggling together that matters. Your squeaky-voiced daughter wants to be a great singer. Believe in her—if not her voice. Your gangly son wants to be an Olympic gold-medal winner. Help him build a high jump bar, and then watch as he falls on his duff and gets up to try again. Celebrate every advance in his performance.
Your face is the key. Your face! Love them with your face. Praise them with your face. Be proud of them with your face. If your heart truly loves them, words need not be spoken. But if, in your heart, you are troubled and critical, all the positive words spoken by Mr. Rogers in the course of his endless reruns will not be enough.
If your child has low self-esteem, take him by the hand and lead him to do something worthy—anything, just as long as it is meaningful to him. The first, most basic task at hand is the preservation and maintenance of your habitation—the gathering and preparation of food, cleaning, repairing, organizing. This is the essence of the institution of the family! It is something available to all children, without exception, if parents don’t hog it all to themselves. Don’t work for your children; work with them. Don’t serve your children, and don’t have them serve you. Together serve the family; serve Daddy; serve others. Volunteer to clean the church. Cut the grass for an old widow. Bake cookies and distribute them at the nursing home. Practice and sing songs for the old folks who are bed-ridden and down-trodden.
Give them a vision!
As kids get older and start looking out to the bigger world, they need to have visions for something more than keeping house, but the strings are tied and relationships are built while they are very young. Lead the boys to get involved in small engine repair, rebuilding a bicycle, music, art, construction–any endeavor in which you can play a part, even if all you can do is be their best fan and admirer. Be there. Win together. Serve together. Fail together, and then get up and try again together. Life is not so much about what you do as who you do it with. It is the pursuit, not the end that makes life so rich.
“Together” is the key word. “Apart” is the ugly word. Together on the same side of the river. Strings are best tied when someone is there to put their finger on the first knot and hold it place while you tie the second knot.
Now for the second answer: Let us reread the last paragraph in the letter from our concerned mother.
“I know I have shortcomings when it comes to possessing and exhibiting a joyful attitude. I am constantly trying to be joyful, but I am just not accustomed to it…I grew up in a rough home with little security and almost no connection with people. I came to know Jesus at 10 years of age by the faithful witness of a lovely woman in our neighborhood. HE became a solace for me, a quiet protection from my dangerous surroundings. I fear that I have learned to keep all of my joy safely stored away inside. Or, even worse, I have mistrusted my joy and denied it a place in my life. I am somehow missing the solution to break free from what is holding me captive and stealing the joy of my family.”
She is telling us that she is broken. Her family crippled her emotionally, so she is now creating cripples after her kind. Sounds like emotional evolution in reverse: survival of the un-fittest.
At the risk of sounding insensitive and judgmental, I will nonetheless be so bold as to make a very important point in a way that will not be missed. This dear mother is more of a “victim” of the lies of “Christian” psychology than of her past. How nonsensical when she says, “I have learned to keep all of my joy safely stored away inside… I have mistrusted my joy…denied it a place in my life.” Joy anywhere is joy everywhere! It is a well of water “bubbling up” unto life everlasting. If she had joy inside, she wouldn’t even be able to keep it a secret from the IRS. Where else does joy exist but inside? “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” “From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
This sincere, struggling mother is a descendent of fallen Adam, plagued with an old-fashioned disease called guilt. Her guilt is not a psychological condition from which she needs healing; it is the condition of all mankind, and there is only one sure cure—Jesus Christ. The modern preacher conveys the idea that God can save your soul in eternity, but it takes human counseling to save your life in the here and now. The wisdom of the fathers can direct her in what to DO to train her children; psychology can trace the history of her insecurity—walk her through her problems—and give names to her hurtful responses. Bible principles and commands can inform her mind, but all are equally ineffectual. Only the miracle of a new life in Christ can change her into the joyful person she knows she should be.
I am not being religious when I offer this solution. There is a way provided by God that has nothing to do with “knowing and loving yourself, forgiving yourself, being comfortable with ‘the me inside this skin,’ releasing your joy.” It is the absolutely supernatural deliverance from all sin by the resurrection power of The Man Christ Jesus.
There is a way of deliverance and righteousness that is becoming less known in the churches everyday. In most circles, it is lost and forgotten altogether. Through what can only be called a miracle, Jesus Christ can sanctify this lady and fill her with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Joy running over! It doesn’t matter what your past has been, for you will trade your past for His past, and your present will become His present.
The “newness of life” of which Paul spoke, the “sound mind” that he said was in the “new creature”, where “old things are passed away” and “all things are become new” produces a life the likes of which Paul said, “sin shall not have dominion over you”, for you are “free from sin”, and you “shall not fulfill the works of the flesh”, for “he that is born of God sinneth not” and “the wicked one toucheth him not”, “we are more than conquerors through him that love us”.
The Biblical way of deliverance from sin and self is so little known that the Scripture itself seems almost fanciful to many. There is not space here to relate this gospel effectively. There are so many things you first need to unlearn. Our CD set called “Sin No More” or our Colossians or Romans studies cover the Scriptures verse by verse in a thorough and understandable way. These messages are not motivational teachings or principles for you to apply. They are the wonderful good news that Christ has done everything to free you from all sin, all the time, from this day forward, to sin no more.
However, below is an outline of the gospel of sanctification. The first half you will recognize as the gospel of justification. The second half will probably be new to you. This Bible study may take you several weeks to complete. Look up each verse, and read the context as well. Prayerfully consider what the Bible is actually saying. Make notes. Underline meaningful verses in your Bible. Study with a friend or in a group. Discuss what you learn, and expect God to fill you with his “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). Then, please write us and tell us what you discovered.
God created the human race for his glory, that we might share his life and live in his presence. (Ps. 8:4-6; Heb. 2:7; Isa. 43:7; Jer. 13:11; 1Cor. 2:6; 1Cor. 11:6)
The sin of Father Adam separated him and all his descendents from God. (Rom. 5:12-14; 1Cor. 15:22)
We are all born estranged from God. (Ps. 58:3; Ps. 51:5; Job 15:14; Eph. 2:3)
God gave commandments, which would bring us favor in his sight if we did them. (Deut. 11:26; Lev. 18:5; Luke 10:28; Ezek. 20:11; Matt. 19:17; Gal. 3:12; Ps. 19:7; Ezek. 18:5-9)
No human (apart from Jesus) has ever kept the commandments of God and maintained a character sufficient to merit him a place in God’s presence. (Rom. 3:23; Ps. 53:3; Ps. 14:3; Job 15:14-16; Rom. 3:12)
All have sinned and failed to come up to the standard of glory for which we were created. (Rom. 3:23; Ps. 4:2; Rom. 1:23. Philp. 3:19)
All are lost and unfit for God’s presence, voluntarily enslaved to habits and acts of sin. (Ps. 14:3; Ps. 53:3; Ps. 14:3; Ecc. 7:29; Rom. 3:11-18; Jer. 9:3-6)
God looked the sons of Adam over and found every single one of us worthy of death and hell. (Ps. 9:17; Luke 16:32; Heb. 10:27)
That should be the end of the tragic story. The Creator gave us a chance when he created us, and we threw it away. He gives each of us a chance to keep the commandments, and again we have all failed. The wages of sin is death. The soul that sins shall die. Ditto for every descendent of Adam. (Rom. 6:23; Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 5:12)
But God chose to do what was not called for, what was not required; to have mercy where it was not deserved. (Rom. 6:23; Matt. 19:26; Rom. 5:20; Eph. 2:4-5)
The Son of God came to the earth as a human being and succeeded where the first Adam failed. By his faithfulness and good works, he became the first man since Adam to live his life in a way that merited favor with God. So God gave him authority over the human race. He became the legitimate and legal representative of the entire race. He chose to stand for the debts and liabilities of the race. (1Cor. 15:45, 47; Heb. 4:15; John 5:27; Col. 1:19; Luke 3:22; Matt. 12:18; Heb. 2:9-14; 2 Cor. 5:19-21; Isa. 53; Heb. 7:26)
After he had met and defeated the devil, after he had kept the commandments for 33 years, after he had been tempted and tested in every way that any man has ever been tested, and he maintained his integrity, he was good enough as a human being to step into heaven and sit down on the right hand of God. (Matt. 4:1-10; John 16:10; Heb. 4:15; Acts 5:31; John 17:4)
But, at the moment that he could have gone into heaven, he took upon himself the complete sin debt of the entire human race. He stood in for the wages of sin for all men through all time. He came before the judgment bar fully representing all sinners. God laid on him the iniquity of us all. He bore our sins. God made him to be sin for us. (Isa. 53; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 5:2)
He died on a cross and was made the vile sinner I am, yes, even as if he were all the vile sinners who ever lived. The perfect man became the perfect substitute for imperfect sinners. The wages of sin is death, so he died that death for every man. We accumulated the debt, and he paid the price in his own blood. (Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:24, 3:18)
He now invites all to come and share in the salvation he has provided. It cost him everything; it costs you nothing. (1 John 2:1, 4:10; John 3:16; Eph. 2:8-9; Romans 11:6)
The sole condition for salvation is repentance/faith. Repent—acknowledge your worthiness of judgment and eternal death. Faith—give up all other confidences, and believe on Christ as God come in the flesh, who paid the price for your sin and offered himself as the only way to God. (Acts 16:31; John 3:15, 36; Acts 11:18; Acts 5:31; Acts 20:21)
But, this is not all. This is only half of the gospel.
We need more than just forgiveness and justification. We must be freed from the condition that made it necessary for Christ to die, that is, to be delivered from the power of sin as well as its guilt. (Eph. 2:10; Rom. 6:4; 1 John 2:1)
So, here is what most Christians have missed. When a person believes on Jesus Christ, God immerses him into the very body and life of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-14). He becomes a member of Christ’s body (Eph. 5:30). As the whole human race was in Adam and his acts became the acts of all, so God places into the body of Christ all who are his, so that Christ’s actions become the actions of all who are in him (1 Cor. 15:22; Rom. 6:8). Just as when Adam sinned, I sinned (Rom. 5:12), so when Christ didn’t sin, I didn’t sin (2 Cor. 5:21). When Adam died, I died, so when Christ died for my sin, I died with him for my sin (2 Cor. 5:14). Just as I failed to overcome in Adam, I did indeed overcome in Christ (Rom. 6:6). Just as being in Adam took me away from God, being in Christ takes me into complete favor and glory (Col. 2:10). At one time my history began with Adam. Now my history begins with Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). As went Adam in his flesh and spirit, so went I. As went Christ overcoming in the flesh by the Spirit, so go I (Col. 2:9; Eph. 1:15-23).
Here is the crux of sanctification. When Christ died, he not only died for sin, he also died to it (Rom. 6:10). That is, his death as a human being put him out of reach of sin and conquered the power of death (Heb. 2:14). He served his time and is now done with it (John 19:30). Christ is now on the other side of the flesh (Luke 24:39). His flesh is free from the power of sin (Rom. 6:10). His flesh is seated on the right hand of God (Acts 5:31). His flesh is eternally holy human flesh (John 20:27). He reigns victorious, the overcoming man (Eph. 1:20-21; Heb. 6:20).
Satan is defeated (Heb. 2:14-15).
Remember, Christ’s history is now my history. Being in him, I have not only died for my sin, I have died to its power (Romans 6:14). As sin was defeated in Christ, and because I am now in him, sin was likewise defeated in me. I am as dead to sin as is Jesus (Rom. 6:7; Romans 6:2; 1 Pet. 2:24).
When Christ was raised from the dead, all who are in him were raised from the dead with him (Rom. 6:5-6; Col. 2:12-13, 3:1-3; Eph. 2:6).
When Christ ascended up to the right hand of God, I ascended. As he is seated, so am I—in him (Eph. 2:6). His history is my history. His future is my future. His glory is my glory.
Finally, as Christ is now the reigning Adam, the fully overcoming man restored to the glory intended for the human race, a man with authority, so I am the fully reigning man, bathed in eternal glory, filled with all the fullness of God, an overcomer in every way that he is an overcomer (Eph. 1).
In Christ there is no emotional disorder, no addiction, no weakness, no insanity and no enslavement to sin. Satan is ineffectual against this one new man that is Christ (2 Tim. 1:7; 1 Cor. 15:57; 2 Cor. 5:17).
The believer’s responsibility is to believe that what God says is true—that he is dead to all sin and alive unto God, that is, he is now freed from the power of sin. We should and can sin no more! (Rom. 6:11 especially, but all of Romans 6; Gal. 2:20. 5:24; 1 John 2:1; Col. 3:1-4; Rom. 8:3-4; Col. 2:11-15)
This lady in the letter above has been believing a lie—that she is a victim of her early upbringing. The truth of the matter is that she is no longer in her father or her family. She is in the heavenly family, with God as her Father and Jesus as her brother, and all the saints as extended family. She has the joy of Jesus, the power of Jesus, the grace of Jesus. She should be singing and praising God for this new life that is hers. Then the kids will want to be on the same side of the river with her. Then the joy that has not naturally been hers will readily flow when she believes what God says in his Word.
I have been preaching and living this gospel of sanctification for many years. It is not a theory. It is practical, Scriptural reality. I preach it in the prisons, and it works on men who have lived lives of total addiction and enslavement. They come up to me all the time, bubbling over with joy, and tell me that they are now free from all sin. I have followed them when they get out, and I can put you in touch with sons of Adam who are now Sons of God walking in complete victory over sin and self.
This is the old fashioned gospel. It is still God’s way, and it still works. Read the Bible again. And this time, believe what you read.
If you want further instruction on this subject matter, order the Bible tapes on Romans, Colossians, Sin No More, and Galatians. The series, Sin No More, covers all the material in the verses listed above. Romans provides you with the background for justification and sanctification.