…most of the Bible’s practical instructions are in the second half of Paul’s epistles. The reason is because the second half of each epistle is the applicational portion of Paul’s teaching. If you were only concerned about the [issue of] family, then you would probably address only those passages.
Yet we cannot approach the Christian life merely by looking at the practical applications. The first half of Paul’s epistles form for us a necessary foundation – they establish us in Christ. Not until we establish ourselves in the truths about being complete in Christ can we begin to apply what we find in the second half of Paul’s epistles. People who try to behave as children of God will produce little fruit when they have no understanding of who they are in Christ or how to live by the Spirit’s power.
…I have seen marital conflicts resolved and stay resolved when couples focus first on who they are in Christ, and then deal with their other problems. I’ve never seen marriage resolution work when that order is turned around. People today are spending too much time trying to change behavior, and not enough time trying to change what they believe about God and themselves.
(Neil Anderson, God’s Power At Work In You, p. 209)
I’ve been reading a bit of Neil Anderson‘s stuff recently. Really powerful stuff. I first encountered his book The Bondage Breaker about 5 to 10 years ago. I don’t think I read it then. Or at least it didn’t leave much of an impression on me.
Recently, through trying to help a friend through some spiritual bondages, I’ve been reading Anderson’s books. Anderson’s ministry is all about helping people find freedom in Christ. And the main way to finding freedom is through knowing one’s identity in Christ.
I’ve always known the importance of knowing one’s identity in Christ and how that is so fundamental in a Christian’s spiritual walk with God. But Anderson’s writings have reinforced this in my mind. Knowing one’s identity in Christ has a lot to do with knowing the benefits of the finished work of Christ. It’s about knowing who the Christian is as a result of what Christ did for him/her.
Another thing that’s been reinforced in my mind as I read Anderson is that the devil’s main weapon is his lies. He’ll do all he can to influence our thinking. He’ll make us think that our heavenly Father isn’t a loving father because of our past experiences. He’ll deceive us into thinking that we’re merely forgiven sinners, and not new creations with authority and power. Basically, a lot of what he does has to do with preventing Christians from understanding who they are in Christ simply because knowing one’s identity in Christ is so powerful.
These are of course things that New Creation teaches. New Creation’s emphasis is on grace – i.e. what God has done for us in Christ – and also who we are and what we have because of Christ’s finished work. Many other churches emphasize a lot on what we ought to do for God, that is, the practical applications portion of the Bible.
I don’t think it’s wrong to preach the practical applications portions of the Bible. In fact, it’s definitely wrong if a church doesn’t preach them at all (which one day I’ll argue New Creation could probably be accused of). However, it’s probably just as wrong, if not more so, to ignore or place so little emphasis on the foundational “who we are in Christ” passages because we think that Christians already know it all. The truth is that most of us don’t know the full implications of what it means for us to be “in Christ”. And I think that’s one reason why we see so little victory and power in the Church.