The Loss of all things in the Life of the Spirit.
By Rick Friedrich
June 25 2014
But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. (Phil 3:7-9 HCSB)
I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Gal 5:16-18 HCSB)
Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4 HCSB)
The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie; just as He has taught you, remain in Him…. The one who keeps His commands remains in Him, and He in him. And the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He has given us. (1 John 2:27, 3:24 HCSB)
Every experienced person in business understands that losses are unavoidable and that one has to operate in a way that deals with that trial. Those new in business often take losses much harder because they expect everything to go perfectly. Loss can be hard to deal with especially loss of reputation. When people take things away from us in selfishness or by theft it hurts because it is an injustice to us that robs us of time and property or perceived good character. We often experience accidental loss from others or by our own mistakes. Loss is part of life. The pessimist will let each loss darken their attitude till they are crippled in anger or despair. Losses can lead people to rage or hopelessness. The optimist or realist can accept losses as part of life and attempt learn from such experiences or embrace the moment of trial as part of the testing of our faith in our short moment of probation on earth. Everyone experiences different kinds and degrees of losses. When I go through trials it always helps to think that millions of people have had it far worse than what I have experienced in my life or present circumstance. I close my eyes and imagine what life would be like without eyes and ears or the ability to walk. What kind of trials would I gladly accept if I was so shut out from the world? Gratitude for every good thing we have does put our trials in perspective. Without a foundation that can give us hope in the future losses are torture to the soul, a vexation that can drive us mad.
The problem of pain and the reality of sin are the biggest forms of loss we have to deal with in life. They are the most problematic philosophical subjects for anyone to explain. Why is there pain and sin and loss? The Christian is asked why God would allow this. The Atheist is asked why they feel so passionately about such things if life is ultimately meaningless. We all have to deal with loss and if we stop and think carefully about it we will find that the kind of life we live depends really on how we view and deal with our losses. For at the core of our being is our fundamental choice to be either selfish or loving at any one moment. When loss is experienced the person is often tempted to respond selfishly towards others or towards themselves, or even shake a fist towards heaven. Why are we so tempted? And why can some people exercise self-control? What is self-control? What is our life? Are we our own or were we bought with a price? The spirit of the world teaches us that we own ourselves and no one has a right to our property our time and to how we live out our lives. The rush and envy of the world is to have things, a life of ease, fame, beauty, power, etc. These are endless and no one can be satisfied in such pursuits as you only want more the more you have; and the less of a person you feel like the more you climb that ladder of indulgence. At the top they will tell you how empty they are. Yet the world runs after such things that really are but for a moment. Loss is what gets in the way of that pursuit. But is loss at such times rather a form of grace from God?
Twenty three some years ago I realized that for years I had been “kicking against the pricks” of such losses in my life. It was only when I saw that my agendas were being frustrated that it was actually God’s kindness towards me in demonstrating the end of such actions. “Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4 HCSB) Unfortunately many people have to come to the end of themselves before they seriously think about the past, present, future and really what life is about. And yet how would someone look at a stranger who caused them injury only to save them from worse peril? Kindness. My life as a young teen was wasted. I had no purpose, no direction, no hope, and no care to be restrained by anyone. Yet suddenly I came face to face with death, and after barely escaping it one more time in a very dramatic event my eyes were wide open. What was the purpose of living that way only to be gone all of a sudden? I walked away from an accident wondering about many things and yet sensing that my life was never going to be the same again. A year or so later I started to understand this kindness of God that lead me to repentance, this divine hand frustrating my ways.
Skeptics mock the Christian life as a crutch for weak people to need to be carried by a stronger being. And that perception is very true. At the heart of that mock is a fundamental ignorance of how weak we all really are in the face of the powerful influences of the world; and also a disgusting pride that strives to preserve and protect its personal agenda with the assumption that everything received is gained by themselves almost exclusively. Pride and Loss are also bitter enemies. The proud cannot properly deal with loss because it cuts against all their profits. It’s a vicious fight against loss at all cost. But the humble can deal with loss because they have good purpose and a sure hope for the future. Without purpose and hope we are utterly lost. The humble know their needs and how weak they are. They are wise because they take advantage of the strong. They have found the winning side and the solution to the mystery of life. I once broke my foot on a hike and used a stick to help me make it the rest of the way. Pride fights against loss in a way that rejects the stick and brings more injury to self in the end. It must do it alone without help no matter how unwise that may be.
On the other hand the proud can also boast in their negligence and take pride in false humility. This pride is more disguised than presumptuous atheism. While atheism mocks the idea of God entirely, false humility mocks God effectually by attacking the testimony God has given about His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 5:10). False humility boasts in living a life free to partly or entirely indulge in the flesh while making ineffectual self-righteous efforts to improve self and strive to do better. There is not only an indulgent attitude in this mentality but also an arrogant ridicule towards others who may contradict such a lifestyle. This may sound harsh but let’s consider the simple facts of the matter and just a sample of verses quoted above. Jesus Christ said emphatically: “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” (John 15:5 HCSB) As a matter of fact Jesus not only claimed to be divine and to never lie, but also to be our crutch, our life, our hope, our peace, our righteousness, or sanctification, our teacher, our everything… He did not come to be a moral example for us to try and follow as best we can in the flesh, but to change us, and fill us, and lead us so that we can actually “walk in the light as He Himself is in the light” (1 John 1:7) with Him! In fact that is the message the apostles heard from Him (vrs 5). How strange to hear people say that if you think you can actually walk in the light then you wouldn’t need Jesus. What is assumed in that sentiment so frequently uttered? That if we were so (self)-righteous that we actually did our duty then we wouldn’t need Jesus. This assumes that people are supposed to have righteousness apart from Jesus or that being righteous is separate from Jesus’ leading. And so if we were righteous enough we wouldn’t need Jesus. At the core of this reasoning is a lifestyle settled belief that “the grace of God has” not “appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us” not “to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.” (Titus 2:11-14 HCSB notice the word not out of quotation is added for opposite biblical truth.) The popular belief is that we must wait beyond “the present age” for another life to live and breath the heavenly spirit. And indeed that is partly true. For in the same way the blatant atheist and the falsely humble person cannot accept the loss of themselves as the purpose of their existence. One must indeed accept all things done in this life as loss in order to know and follow and be led by Christ. We must indeed die to walk in newness of life, but not physically. We must turn away from platonic philosophies which permeate so much of history. We are to die spiritually and put to death the flesh and then indeed we are promised that we can experience the heavenly attitudes and leadings and peace. But the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit and there is much argumentation against the purpose and essence of the Gospel (Matt 1:21). There is so much teaching of how to work your way into self-righteous obedience that most people in our day are confused about what it means to abide in Christ. The boast is that we strive for something that is not actually possible, we expect not to abide actually. And this is what it means to be humble! To accept that we can’t actually believe in Christ and abide in Him as a branch to the vine. But this is not much different than saying there is no God at all to help you in your most fundamental need. It would be like the 5000 saying there is no food for their bodies when Jesus multiplied the fish for them and said take and eat! In the same way He provides for all our fundamental needs all the time. It’s His word and that is not a lie. And in addition to that He says we cannot do anything right without abiding in Him. We wither and die and are useless.
This kind of loss is much deeper than mere loss of money or time. It cuts to the heart of our being. It slaps us in the face. It is the very thing the world cannot accept. The world will not be the slave of Christ as it is the master of self. The spirit of the world is the opposite of the gospel. It boasts, it self-destructs, it enslaves. But God calls us to be humble and submit to all truth, and be selfless, and be led by a holy King at all times. That is a joke; and Paul says we are counted as fools for Christ by the world. In the same way the bible gospel cuts to the core of the self-righteous religious pride which results in the same manifestation of anger. When Saul saw the blessed Steven filled with the Holy Spirit speak the plain truth and display an heavenly spirit his self-righteous anger had to kill him. Saul could not accept that all of his religion and good works were a complete loss. What an insult. In the same way people today cannot consider that their whole life is a lie, and rather compare themselves to others around them for approval instead of choosing the narrow way of abiding only in Christ. It is going too far. How dare you say it! It is just not possible! And yet at the same time there is the admission that we know we should do better. That we ought to improve. I ask, in what way?? What really is any of our duty? Is it to move closer to Christ or actually abide in Him? Is it to abide in Him more frequently? How frequently? What does it mean to abide in Him? And what does it mean when we do not?
So the question is how can we follow Christ all the time? And what does it mean to be filled with His Spirit. I think it is important to be settled in the fact of what Christ promised and actually what was the whole point of His coming. But it is probably true that unless one can see how this can be, or an example of it, that most will not really consider the clear words of Christ’s promise to us in these matters. First consider the distinction in the words of Christ to His disciples and their lives before and after their being filled with the Spirit at Pentecost (along with all the verses in the bible about being led by or filled with the Spirit as in a few examples in our above texts). “He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17 HCSB) Notice the difference between remaining with you and will be in you. Notice the difference between their lives before and after. It was night and day. While He was with them they were so much different than after, as He promised, when He said He would send His Spirit. “Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:8 HCSB). The life before the coming of the Spirit into our lives is like Saul walking around blind not really knowing where he was going. Then he becomes Paul with an ever-present mission pleading daily with “tears” to all he can reach. The apostles in the same way were so filled and became different men altogether.
There is something mysterious about the teaching and experience of the Spirit as indicated by the above verse noting that the world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or understand Him. The mission and leading of the Spirit is not so clear as Christ dying and rising from the dead which anyone can accept factually. This makes it difficult for people to seek and experience. People want a creed to verbalize, a work to perform, and it is very hard to totally let go of self in all respects and just believe in Him to so be filled in a way that is altogether unknown. It almost flies in our face like opening ourselves up to a spirit or something. The way I see it is that many who have experienced it were of the same attitude as one preparing to die and meet the Lord the next day. You let go of all your life and past and your spirit is preparing for that pure heavenly fellowship. What does the world mean to you now that your time is up? That is just the attitude necessary to count all things as loss and cast oneself upon Christ and be grafted into the vine for life continually. And once that is done how else can anything be seen but as a loss? The life of the Spirit is the experience of the fruit of the Spirit. It is indeed the spirit of heaven here on earth. It actually has crucified the flesh and its desires. It is the spirit of love or benevolence. It is the faith that works by love. It is the fulfilling of the law. There is no condemnation in that life. It is the life that abides in Christ so that He can bring us into the Father’s presence in His name and not in our own name. There’s no self-righteousness in any of that. All that self-righteousness is as filthy rags and has been set aside. The life of the Spirit and abiding in Christ is living water always as Christ promised. It is the bread from heaven which we live off of. The true manna. Our eyes become opened while our hearts are filled with love and peace. Our purpose becomes real and meaningful and not drudgery and frustrating. Then all things work together for good. Then the Lord can grant us the desire of our hearts when we thus open wide our mouths to Him. Then we see our mission all around us and it is no longer about how we can be entertained or get what is owed to us or how to work ourselves up into our duty. It’s about leaving Romans seven and believing and experiencing Romans 8.
What then are we to say about these things?
If God is for us, who is against us?
32 He did not even spare His own Son
but offered Him up for us all;
how will He not also with Him grant us everything?
33 Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect?
God is the One who justifies.
34 Who is the one who condemns?
Christ Jesus is the One who died,
but even more, has been raised;
He also is at the right hand of God
and intercedes for us.
35 Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
Can affliction or anguish or persecution
or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
36 As it is written:
Because of You
we are being put to death all day long;
we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.
37 No, in all these things we are more than victorious
through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that not even death or life,
angels or rulers,
things present or things to come, hostile powers,
39 height or depth, or any other created thing
will have the power to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! (HCSB)
I was unclear on these things early in my Christian life. I gave myself to the Lord according as I understood. And He was faithful to show Himself to me and led me as much as I abided in Him. No one told me to expect to abide in Him and no one warned me about any of these things. So I was confused because the teaching was essentially telling me to make self-righteous efforts to be obedient while at the same time have “a personal relationship with Christ” that never really was defined. I found better teaching in the works I republished on the truthinheart.com website and that helped me. Yet the influence all around me prevailed many times and I found myself compromised in my relationships and thus grieved the Spirit of God. There was a tremendous struggle in my spirit and it was difficult to accept the testimony of God over the teachings of people everywhere. This kind of struggle sometimes leads a young man to present the truth in a frustrated manner to others in the hopes that if some people respond positively then maybe they can feel more comfortable accepting it. There is so much pressure to follow the crowd, we are so weak in ourselves, so easily influenced, so weak to accept the truth. Later I found more stability but was not always careful to be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit at all times. My error was in leaning upon my own understanding of how I was to minister. I know now how I took on ministry and made choices that were not necessarily unwise or wrong, but were not waiting upon the leading of the Spirit. And here I cannot really explain easily these distinctions but I know exactly the difference. And I count all things and all time and all actions as loss apart from abiding in Christ and walking in the Spirit. This must be thoroughly investigated as it is absolutely vital. People can waste years of their lives and wither and die in a life of self-righteousness.
Yesterday I had a long talk on the phone with my friend about some of these subjects. As we talked about the need of the hour and what the essential problems were in the church today, it all came down to this. I explained that I saw good people here and there in churches trying to reform them while at the same time struggling to survive spiritually. Not knowing what to do about fellowship and ministry and duty in general they experience an up and down religion. We talked about these things until we both stated at the same time the need for the continuous filling and leading of the Spirit. As a side note I’ll add that in the morning I had a wonderful time in the Word and prayer followed by one of the most difficult business days. But I had to laugh about that and just continue to abide in Christ. There really is nothing important in this life besides walking with God. That is why it is said “Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever.” (1 John 2:15-17 HCSB)
All scripture quoted HCSB is from the Holman Christian Standard Bible 1999-2009.