On July 4 of every year, the United Sates of America celebrates its independence from Britain. Independence can be a good thing in a national sense. When it comes to the Christian life, however, God does not want us to be independent. Independent living is not Christianity but a man-made, devil-induced caricature of Christianity.
I have an ancestor who signed the American Declaration of Independence. I hope he was not independent from Jesus, since he was the only clergyman to sign the Declaration.
Sadly, however, many Christians have signed their personal declaration of independence from Jesus. Their independent living is not a joyful existence.
One of the major lessons of the gospels is dependence. Jesus was totally dependent on His Father God. And Jesus wants us to be dependent on Him.
When people hear our name, Freedom Church of God, they often ask if we are affiliated with any other Churches of God. I often reply by saying, “We are independent of any other entity — except Jesus.” We depend on Him and His Word and the Holy Spirit to determine our doctrine and govern our activities.
Perhaps a better way to describe the tragic independence that is rampant in the church today is to ask this question: are you a cordless Christian?
We live in the age of cordless phones and Bluetooth technology that allows us to be free from wires. These advances allow a freedom of movement never before seen in our modern world. Battery-operated devices can be convenient, but what happens when the battery goes dead and you’re looking for batteries? Jesus wants us plugged in to Him all the time, minute by minute abiding in Him.
We live in a cordless society. When it comes to the Christian life, however, does such a situation bring true freedom? Not at all. We are called to be attached to the true Vine, Jesus. Our Savior said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Living our Lives for Jesus?
Yet one of the most prevalent mantras of Christendom today says, “Live for Jesus!” The deceiver has convinced Christians that they are to live their lives for Jesus. Many of the over 9000 doctrines of demons in the Christian churches today are blatantly false. Others are subtle in their deception. This is one doctrine that has crept into the church and has infiltrated our songs.
In Freedom Church of God we sing many of the popular songs from modern day worship leaders. God has warned us, however, not to sing out words that are false, words that contradict the Word of God. And there are many!
One powerful song pollutes its message quite subtly with the words, “I am free to live for You.” What presumption! Jesus never told us to live for Him, as if He were weak and needed the help. He is not some impotent weakling who needs our help. He comes to live in and through us. He doesn’t say that without us He can do nothing. He says the opposite: without Him living in and through us, we can do nothing.
By the way, we changed the lyrics to, “You are free to live in me.” And yet some of our members get caught up in the emotion of the song. They sing the false lyrics we try to override in our karaoke system as we sing over the artist being played on our stereo system.
God calls us to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Yet falseness abounds in our songs today.
While it is true that God needs us to speak out His Word to accomplish His will on earth, that ability and grace comes from Him. We can do nothing without His power working in us.
Satan wants us to “give it the old college try.” This means we depend on ourselves but we leave a voice mail on God’s answering machine in times of severe trial. Many Christians do it all themselves, and they cry out to God only in moments of desperation. “What a friend we have in Jesus,” we sing, yet we only want to be friends with Him when we’re in dire need. It doesn’t work like that. Good friendships are cultivated over time. In times of trouble we know we can call on a friend with whom we have established a relationship. Most Christians “go it on their own.”
Satan has convinced about 95% of the Christian churches that they need to encourage Christians to use their own resources, abilities, judgments, and strength to live the Christian life. “Living for Jesus” is a common theme in songs and in doctrine. Too many believers are self-reliant, self-containing, and self-rechargeable. They believe more in themselves than Jesus. They trust they will succeed, prosper, and be victorious on the strength of their own personalities and strengths.
While glorified by humans, independence is not a virtuous pursuit. It is a paltry caricature of the Christian life — a life God intends for us to live by His power in us.
In Whom Do You Have Faith?
After all, did we come to Jesus by faith in ourselves? No. We believed in Jesus. We had faith in Him.
Paul stated it clearly: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of [your] works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).
Faith and faithfulness are part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). They come from God, not us.
Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).
God tells us not to lay again a foundation of “repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (Heb. 6:1). Doing things in the flesh, with faith in yourself and your works, brings dead works. But faith toward God allows Jesus to do His works through you.
Why would you trust in your intellect, your talents, your strengths, the beauty or form of your body, your charisma, or your abilities to live the life that you acquired by faith?
Is Jesus Your Life?
While we realize the utmost importance of Jesus’ death to pay the penalty of our sins, many forget the importance of His life in us. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6).
Many Christians make the church their focal point. Some even make Jesus their main emphasis. Most Christians, however, do not let Jesus be their life. They will not let Jesus live His life in them. They don’t yet know their identity in Him.
Their batteries of self-sufficiency quickly wear down through the attacks of Satan, who loves to wear down the saints (Dan. 7:25). Satan tries to take the life and joy of Jesus out of us and supplant them with wearisome religious duties and rituals. Many Christian churches “activity their members to death.” They are killing their joy by making so many religious activities the members feel they must participate in to win God’s favor. Busyness has squeezed the life out of many a Christian.
No time is available to rest in Jesus and receive His life, joy, and peace. Oh yes, Satan will allow Christians to believe in a heavenly rest some fine day, but he does not want them to experience rest in Jesus. Then they might learn to allow Him to live in and through them.
Satan loves to get Christians involved in peripheral activities that squander their time and give them supposed spiritual merit badges of acceptance. Anxiety and fear enter, along with addictions to try to fill the void. God meant for Jesus to be the life of His people, but when He isn’t, they try to fill that empty hole in their soul with sinful time wasters from Satan. Empty legalism often tries to fill this void in the soul.
God never intended for us to put a new spin on an old story by trying to make our sinful life in Adam better. He wants to have a new life in Jesus.
How Can You Rise if You Haven’t Been Buried?
One reason this new life never truly begins is that many Christians don’t believe baptism by immersion is necessary. Yet Mark 16:16 says, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved…” So baptism is a prerequisite for being saved. That’s because you can’t say you are really saved if Jesus does not live His life in you. And the truth is that accepting Jesus only brings the seed of eternal life.
A seed can sit on your counter, but nothing will happen, no growth will begin until it is planted. We are buried with Jesus (the French version uses the term “planted”) in the waters of baptism (Rom. 6:4), so we can rise in newness of life with Jesus living in us.
Speaking of His death, and of our death and burial in Him through baptism, Jesus said, in John 12:24, “…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth, and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
A watermelon seed will not produce a watermelon by simple sitting on your kitchen counter. It must be “die and be buried” in the ground before the seed can start sprouting and become a watermelon. When we accept Jesus, we accept the seed of new life. But until we choose to die to self and be “buried” in baptism, we cannot be raised with Jesus’ new life in us. Once we recognize our identity in Jesus, baptism becomes a must. Chagag is the Hebrew word for feast, and it means dancing in a circle, or “risen ones,” those who rise with Jesus to dance with Him in celebration of their new life in Him.
No wonder so many Christians have taken the independent, do-it-yourself exit off God’s freeway. These cordless Christians experience defeat — a wearing down of all energy. They open themselves up to more attacks from Satan in the form of depression, mid-life crisis, and a general feeling of passivity, a “who cares” attitude that is deadly.
These Christians may have recognized that Jesus died for them, but they seem to forget the “much more then” of Romans 8:8-10. Paul shows us the importance of Jesus’ life in us: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
Without Jesus’ death, no eternal life would be possible. The Passover is the first feast day of the year in God’s scheme of things, and for good reason: without Jesus’ blood being shed, we would all have to die and never live again. Much more, however, is available that Christians have not accepted.
Jesus rose again and wants to live in and through us. Eternal life is much more than a joyous existence forever. Eternal life is a Person. His name is Jesus. He is the epitome of life — real life, abundant, eternal life. Without Him no life exists. Without Him real life is impossible.
A little song came to me as I was preparing this message:
On this day of independence
I celebrate my dependence
On the One who died and lives in me
On Jesus Christ who set me free.
Do You Trust in the Arm of Flesh?
The pagan king that came against God’s people and King Hezekiah epitomized the way of death, the way of the flesh, the way of trusting in one’s self. Hezekiah declared, “With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the [Eternal] our God to help us and to fight our battles” (II Chr. 32:8).
God will fight our battles — if we let Him. Jesus will live in us — if we let Him.
Habakkuk said it strongly: “But they will be held guilty, They whose strength is their god” (Hab. 1:11). God will hold us guilty of putting our own flesh as a god in our life above Him. He will have to wait until we confess and repent before He forgives us.
God says it directly in His own words in Jeremiah 17:5-6: “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the [Eternal]. For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant.”
How much better to allow Jesus to live in and through us, instead of trying to be our own god! Jeremiah continues, “Blessed is the man who trusts in [Jesus], and whose trust is [Jesus]. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit (Jer. 17:7-8).
The same blessing is issued in Psalm 1 for the man who does not listen to the counsel of the wicked, the lie that says you can do it in your own strength. Judgment is now on the house of God, the believers (I Pet. 4:17), and the judgment will become more severe as we enter the time of Great Tribulation soon. The “wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous” (Ps. 1:5).
What a warning for those who have said the “sinners’ prayer” and have called and continue to call themselves sinners, not saints who sometimes sin. They will not stand when the assembly of the righteous stand before Jesus in the first rapture. They do things in their own strength, and they fail miserably.
The man who makes Jesus his strength is different. His steps are “established by (Jesus), And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because [Jesus] is the One who holds his hand” (Ps. 37:23-24).
Believers stumble in various ways. Some worship the local leadership of the church. Some put too much faith in their pastors and apostles, relying on then more than Jesus. Others think they always know better than the Holy Spirit-led counsel from an apostle or pastor, and things are delayed in their life because they know better. And sometimes they don’t want to wait on Jesus. At times He gives immediate answers and miracles. At other times He has us wait on Him in faith and patience. Some answers take months or years, and we can grow weary waiting. We can fail to persist in faith in Jesus. But when He is our life, even if we stumble, He picks us up.
When you are a cordless Christian, however, you have to try to recharge your own batteries. You also fall, but you fall more often. And you don’t get up stronger. You get burnt out. You get depressed. You stumble badly. You go backward, not forward.
Rise in Jesus!
Those who have been baptized can receive the living Jesus and rise with Him in newness of life. Paul encourages them to keep seeking the things above, the things that please God, for “you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3).
Who will be revealed with Jesus in glory? Will it be those who accepted Him and did not allow Him to live in them? No. “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4).
If Jesus is your life, you will live forever with Him. You will be a part of His bride that He will marry. You will be in the first, the better resurrection. If He is not your life, you may have to wait and have a lesser reward. Jesus wants to be your life now. He wants the best for you.
Rise and let Jesus shine in and through you. Let people see His light shining through your eyes. Enjoy the abundant life He promised by letting Him live in you.
In God “we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28). While that is a general statement applying to all living beings, since God gives life to all, this concept should strike home much more to believers. We should be totally dependent on Jesus, as He was upon His Father as He walked the earth.
People see what Jesus did, and they think they can’t do anything that He did. “After all,” they say, “He was Jesus.” But He said we would do even greater works because He would come and live in us through the Holy Spirit (John 14:12). He expects us to be totally dependent on Him and the Father the way He was totally dependent on the Father.
One reason Jesus used the example of little children as role models for the Kingdom of God was their total reliance on their parents. These little ones look to their parents as gods. They are humble in their complete trust in their parents.
It is pride that makes us look to ourselves as gods. Jesus told us to humble ourselves as little children. The Kingdom of God is for those who are like little children, who know they cannot rely on themselves. They rely on their parents for everything, and at all times.
How about us? Do we rely on ourselves, or like Jesus, do we know that we can do nothing without our Father, without Jesus? Jesus told us to deny ourselves, not trust in ourselves.
The religious bigots of Jesus’ day had no connection with God. They came to accuse Jesus of anything and everything. They accused Him of breaking the Sabbath He Himself made for man by pointing to His good deeds of healing on that day. They also accused Him because He “was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).
He was indeed one with His Father, and He wants us to be one with Him, His and our Father, and the Holy Spirit. He went on to explain to these religious fellows His total dependence on His Father: “…the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19).
Jesus set the example of dependent living. He lived in total dependence on the Father. And He wants us to be totally dependent on God.
He further stated: “I can do nothing on My own initiative…” (John 5:30). Nothing.
Yet we tend to go ahead of God and rush into things He has no intention of us doing. God tells us that “he who hurries his footsteps errs” (Prov. 19:2). One of Satan’s favorite demons in these hurried, harrowing last days is the spirit of mercury, the speedy messenger, also called hermes in Greek mythology. This demon loves to attack Christians, especially those who are cordless, who are not attached to Jesus, the vine, who are not plugged into the real power source.
Their power fails. They putter and peter out. They huff and puff and run out of breath, because they are not living and breathing in the One who gives them every breath.
They don’t take the time to slow down and rest in Jesus. They especially avoid the day of rest He ordained, the Sabbath.
Many Christians are hurrying along in their own strength, headed, willy-nilly and clueless, headlong into the Great Tribulation. Satan is wearing out the sad saints (Dan. 7:25) who have made their declaration of independence from Jesus.
God holds out a wonderful promise to those saints who are connected to Jesus, dependent totally on Him, and filled with His joy. To these special saints Jesus declares: “…you have a little power [of yourselves, because you know you need to depend on Me], and have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (Rev. 3:9). In other words, Jesus is saying, “You seek to do My will, not your will, by reading and studying My Word. You know My name and are intimate with Me.”
“Because of your total dependence on Me,” Jesus says in Revelation 3:10, “I will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”
That hour is indeed extremely close now. And the hour of testing for the church is now. Those who pass the test will have to tear up their declaration of independence from Jesus. They will have to stop saying and singing, “I live for Jesus,” and start saying and singing, “Jesus, live in and through me.” They will have to cease saying their mantra, “Yes, I can, by my own strength,” and change it to, “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.” They must be willing to say and believe, “Without You, Jesus, I can do nothing!”
Are you ready to make your declaration of dependence? If you are, speak it out: “Jesus, I declare my total dependence on You. I can do nothing without You. You are my Life. Live in and through me so the world will know that You are Love.”
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