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REN204 Naturally Supernatural Final Paper

Abiding in Christ Practical Living

by Robert Cardinal

Introduction

The objective of this final course assignment is to describe how I have mastered the lifestyle of abiding. I am to give a practical discussion of how I have done this, what blocks were encountered and if I was successful in overcoming them.

 Not even considering the writing of this final course paper, I felt overwhelmed just having to answer the above questions. Tough questions. Do I have anything to write, and how have I progressed in this lifestyle of abiding? This final course paper is probably more an exercise in honesty and sincerity, requiring much self-examination and self-evaluation.

 Nonetheless, even though most of the time I dont feel like Ive made much progress in the lifestyle of abiding, it isnt accurate to claim that no progress has been made. There remains room, and even a need, for improvement in mastering the lifestyle of abiding.

Part I - Mastering the lifestyle of abiding

Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, Where are you?  (Gen. 3:9, NAS)

Before being able to master the lifestyle of abiding, the Spirit had to lead me to a realization of what this lifestyle is and to contrast it to the lifestyle I was actually living. For this to happen, I had to be able to hear His voice in order to appreciate where I was positioned relatively to the truth. So, where was I?

 Some foundational truths were brought to my attention through my course studies and my personal devotions. Though the truths were basic teaching, they amounted to fresh revelation in the sense that some unconscious attitudes and thought patterns were brought to light. For example, I understood that to sin is to disobey, but did not appreciate that unbelief underlies disobedience. Also, to understand the flesh as representing the mind and to crucify the flesh as meaning to do away with my own thoughts and thought life helped to bring some clarity and understanding in how I was living and operating.

 The revelations mentioned above served to bring issues to the surface of my consciousness where previously I wasnt aware of them. Being aware of my condition was but a spark to initiate change, correction and transformation. I have realized that my lifestyle was characterized by living out of rational thinking and my own strength rather than out of Christs strength and a relationship with Him. I thought that my life was directed by my own thoughts. Chapters 6 and 8 of the book of Romans caused me to ask, What have the captives been set free from? How are they being held captive? (Isaiah 61:1), and I Corinthians 2:16b revealed how the believer functions. Through the Holy Spirit I was enabled to perceive that I was a prisoner of my own thought life and that freedom from captivity comes by receiving the mind of Christ. If I allow His thoughts to dwell in me, and His thoughts are obviously not my thoughts, were my previous thoughts truly my own?

All this helps me to appreciate that within myself there is much unbelief to be dealt with and untruth to undo. In a previous paper I shared that for many years I was incredulous when Christ told people to go and sin no more (see verse 14 of John 5:1-14 and verse 11 of John 8:1-11). Because I didnt know how this could be achieved, I wondered how that was possible and how could one avoid sinning at all? I wasnt aware that my heart didnt believe Gods truth (a classic case of the human mind versus the Spirit, i.e. the flesh being incapable of receiving what is intended for the heart).

 

 

Abide in Me, and I in you.                                                                      (John 15:4a, NAS)

For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to do for His good pleasure  (Philippians 2:13, NAS)

How did I manage to master the lifestyle of abiding? The more I think about this question the more I realize that mastering the lifestyle of abiding is not a result of my own efforts. The two Scripture verses quoted above provide some wonderful insight into how I was lead into this lifestyle and continue to be lead in it.

 Jesus instructed His disciples to abide in Him (John 15:4). His teaching was not presented as a mere subject of discussion, a suggestion or as an optional choice but should be understood as a command. If so, therefore the command is intended for me as well. My first step toward mastering the lifestyle of abiding was to receive this command. Then followed a conscious decision to do as I was instructed, to abide in Him. However, making that choice did not automatically translate into an immediate change in lifestyle or into a resounding and final victory over self. To abide in Christ requires me to remain aware of my decision to do so and to continuously rely on Him to keep me in the state of abiding in Him. If I depend on my own efforts to abide in Him, it is not long before I am no longer found in Him and He in me. Probably my only contribution in achieving the lifestyle of abiding was (and remains) to accept His directive.

 Philippians 2:13 sums up what happened after I accepted Christs instruction it is God who is at work in me, both to do and to will for His purpose. This speaks to me that whatever it is that I undertake, it is to be initiated and directed by Him, and accomplished in His strength. Any attempt for me to accomplish His projects according to my ideas, plans, experience and knowledge amounts to me relying on my own strength, which is not abiding in Jesus. In a very simplified manner, the lifestyle of abiding could be compared to continuously accepting to say yes to a series of choices presented to me by God, one at a time and one after the other. My contribution and collaboration with the Lord is minimal; it amounts to accepting His offers. He does everything else if I will allow Him to, that is, to provide the motivation, ideas and plans, direction, resources and strength. When I choose to abide in Him, God undertakes to take charge of my life. Psalm 46:10 (Amplified) reads Be still, let go, cease striving, relax and know that I am God. It is through resting from my own attempts to figure out and do things, and yielding to Him that I can see His power and great ability manifested. Thus, mastering the lifestyle of abiding involves letting go of all control, setting self aside and yielding to His thoughts and strength. Very little of this lifestyle involves what I have done but rather what the Lord is doing.

 To master the lifestyle of abiding it has been helpful to realize that I must maintain my commitment to this relationship with Christ. This attitude is not magically maintained; I must consciously choose to abide day after day, moment by moment.

 

 

I will show you my faith by my works.  (James 2:18, NAS)

From a practical perspective the ability to abide in Christ has come significantly through obedience to His voice. It wasnt just a conscious choice of accepting to abide in Him but it was also followed by decisions to do what I heard Him ask of me since I initially chose to adopt the lifestyle of abiding. Several examples of what I heard Him ask me and that I obeyed are detailed below. However I cant claim that I am always aware of Gods leading and presence. It is possible that at this time in my life, a good part of the abiding lifestyle has been achieved due to Gods grace and not solely as a result of my faithfulness and determination to please Him.

 Many years ago I heard a testimony through which God asked me if I was worshiping Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. He was asking me if I would honour Him in and through dance (i.e. free dance/worship) during times of corporate worship. I was very shy to do so but complied anyway. Back then I didnt realize what impact this act of obedience would have on my life. For the most part, I have maintained this practice since that occasion. I have no logical explanation or point of reference for this lifestyle habit. I can only express that dancing is gradually and steadily bringing deliverance and freedom to my heart. Was this a precursor to what I would experience later?

 More recently, I sensed the Holy Spirit guiding me to go and receive prayer after every Sunday service. This has been an ongoing practice for several months now. All I can report is that I see results; my spiritual growth is progressing more rapidly. Since completing REN 103, Communion with God, and while working through REN 310, Wisdom Through Dream Interpretation, I have committed to continue journaling and analyzing my dreams. These choices are important ones in maintaining the lifestyle of abiding.

 To help me persevere and grow in the lifestyle of abiding the Lord has also provided positive teaching through individuals who have experienced this lifestyle before I have. Andrew Murray, author of Abide in Christ, encourages me that it is possible to abide in Jesus and reminds me that it is God who can and will undertake to keep me abiding. In his book, Naturally Supernatural, Mark Virkler shares that he yields his Bible reading to the Lord, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide him as to what he should read. My initial reaction when I read this was one of incredulity; I thought, What, even something as simple as this? I can make a simple decision like that myself. Of course, I had never yielded this part of my life to the Lord. Very soon afterwards, the Holy Spirit required that I yield this to Him. Again, I can only report that it has been a very exciting experience and that I have been receiving more revelation through my Bible reading than I have ever before. (He does know what I need to read!)

 Building on this, the Holy Spirit required that I complete a word study in addition to my present schoolwork and personal devotions. I had never done this before and reacted to Him asking, When will I have time to do this? I was able to undertake the word study after correcting my attitude and asking, How should I go about doing this? The Holy Spirit has showed me how and this too is a very profitable exercise and experience.

 Adopting and committing to the lifestyle of abiding requires faith and obedience. God rewards my faith and obedience by helping me see the results of my actions. One way in which I have been assisted in mastering the lifestyle of abiding has been through simple obedience to His voice. The more one chooses to obey the Lord, the stronger the lifestyle of abiding grows and the weaker the lifestyle of sin becomes.

 Another positive outcome from applying the lessons of this course concerns increased efficiency and productivity, and decreased stress. Ive observed that Im much more productive and much less stressed when I dont allow time to rush and control me and that I do things Gods way and in His timing. Obedience to the Lord actually becomes enjoyable and replaces the unpleasant sense of condemnation one feels because of disobedience.

 

 

Part II Surmounting Blocks, Hurdles and Obstacles

 

 

 

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  (Romans 8:37, NAS)

In general terms I would describe the blocks Ive encountered (so far) in my pilgrimage of transformation as mindsets, attitudes, habits, thoughts and, behaviours such as relying on myself, being driven, striving and rushing. In short, lifestyle patterns contrary to that of abiding in Christ. As for overcoming these many obstacles, a part of my comprehension is that they are surmounted through awareness, obedience and commitment. These three dimensions of abiding and the identification of the blocks have come by the Holy Spirit and from remaining in communion with Christ. A person cannot respond to personal issues or matters unless one becomes aware of their own condition. Again, this is only possible with the support of the Holy Spirit, as well as grace and mercy from God.

 It is a journey in self-discovery. Specific examples of what Ive learned about myself through revelation from the Spirit include those listed below.

My rational mind gravitates to the law and battles against flowing in the Spirit.

I feel secure in my personal routine. Changes in schedule disrupt my perceived sensitivity to the Spirit.

I tend to rely on my thoughts and efforts to find solutions and accomplish tasks.

A typical reaction to a request from the Spirit is to resist or respond with a negative attitude.

My behaviour could be characterized as living from the outside in (i.e. carnal, the physical world is my reality) rather than from the inside out (i.e. spiritual, the invisible realm is truth and reality).

Seldom do I stop to rest in the Lord. I typically rush through the day and ahead into tasks, allowing the demands of time and work to drown out the voice of the Lord.

My mind wants to make all the decisions, based on logic, experience and information gathered from the world around me (of course).

Weekdays belong to God while weekends are mine. (That is but one of many surprising revelations about heart attitudes.)

My expectations of how things work and when to expect results are not in line with Gods perspective.

These are deeply ingrained patterns that need to be identified and brought into awareness before they can be dealt with. (How many more are there hidden in the heart?)

 As stated in the opening paragraph of this section, I am able to overcome the many blocks and obstacles to abiding through the Holy Spirit. I have progressed in doing so because of His presence and activity. Here are some of the ways in which the lifestyle of abiding is being established in my life.

By simply being obedient to what I am asked to do. (e.g. yielding my Bible reading to the Spirits direction, undertaking a word study).

By focusing on what I am directed to do (i.e. keeping my attention on that which I am doing).

By asking questions (hopefully the right ones) to Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Starting the day and offering it to the Lord; yielding it one activity at a time.

By talking frequently and naturally to Christ (as I would with anybody, i.e. informally).

By asking the Holy Spirit how to? rather than focusing on the perceived impossibility of the request He has made.

By turning to the Holy Spirit for what I should do next. For example, sometimes Im wondering what would be the best use of my time, so I turn to the Holy Spirit for guidance and suggestions as soon as Im done, rather than taking a rest or allowing the enemy to make suggestions.

It may be something as simple as speaking out the name of Jesus, singing a song that rises up in my heart or singing in the Spirit.

By recognizing, confessing and repenting from my wrong attitudes.

Simple perseverance is required.

Plainly resisting is sometimes the way to overcome a temptation.

 Being able to recognize the source of the thoughts entering my heart has been very helpful in assisting me to abide in Christ. It is important to distinguish where the thoughts come from. Sometimes I can recognize the enemys voice because of the negative content of the message. The presence or lack of peace (calm or unrest) may be an indicator to guide me. It isnt always apparent that some thoughts are not from the Lord. Undoing untruth after having lived in it for so long definitely requires the assistance of the Holy Spirit to reveal those areas in my thought life that are false.

 I cant declare that the struggle with my old thoughts and self is over. The battle continues and requires that I remain vigilant. Like a tenacious opponent, the flesh does not let up; old habits, such as religious thoughts and routine, and striving, have a tendency to creep back into my life. I am still tempted at times to yield to physical tiredness or rushing in the morning headlong into the day without Him. There have been failures and shortcomings, but the positive side to these is that one can and does learn from negative experiences, eventually overcoming the stumbling blocks of the old lifestyle. I believe that I still tend to rely on my own strength at times to put to death the deeds of the flesh, forgetting that I can call on the Holy Spirit to overcome them. This old reflex has not completely died yet.

 

 

Part III Lessons Applied in My Life

 

My son, keep my words, and treasure my commandments within you. Keep my commandments and live.  (Proverbs 7:1, 2, NAS)

How wonderful it would be for me to write that in only a few months I have mastered the lifestyle of abiding and am now able to teach and lead others to do the same. Alas, I cannot.

 Reading the course text, Naturally Supernatural by Mark Virkler, has sensitized me to my shortcomings as a disciple of Christ and to the actual state of my spirit, but it has also shown me the path to living in Christ and indicated that the objective is attainable. There has been much new information to receive and I am still in the process of assimilating it before I can thoroughly apply it to my life. The teaching in this book is not only relevant but also very practical. It is Virklers practical approach that I find distinguishes his teaching from that of other authors and that particularly appeals to me because it shows me how to apply what I am learning.

 The seven truths presented and discussed in Naturally Supernatural have provided great insight and assisted tremendously to clarify many issues, nonetheless, in many ways I am still caught up in the wretched man syndrome Virkler refers to. These principles would be of little use if it were not for the practical information provided on living by the Spirit. This aspect of Virklers teaching has been significant for me and is where I have been able to begin applying the lifestyle of abiding. More specifically, the rules listed in the seventh chapter have been very useful as guides and a starting point. They are 1) learning to become spirit/Spirit conscious, 2) focusing on the Holy Spirit, 3) welcoming the Holy Spirits presence, and 4) speaking forth that which the Spirit is revealing.

 I believe that I am still in the early stages of growing into the lifestyle of abiding and breaking free from my old ways. I continue to reflect upon the content of Virklers teaching and I am gradually and steadily putting into practice the four points listed in the previous paragraph. I have made more progress in applying the first three rules and can see their result; that is, an increase in revelation from the Spirit during personal devotions, journaling, through dreams, as I study or go about my activities during the day. Much of this I can attribute to a conscious effort to speak with the Lord and maintaining a running conversation with Him. It can be as simple as asking a question such as, What should I do next? or What would be the best use of my time right now? I hear the Spirits reply if I take a moment to stop and listen for it. (Of course, there are occasions when He speaks first.)

 I have yet to reach a point where I instinctively call upon the Lord to help me when I am weak or tempted. This I have noticed is particularly true early in the morning. I believe that this is probably due to my mind and logic assaulting my spirit with arguments and carnal reasoning, and that I am not yet sensitive enough to realize what is going on at the time. Neither have I completely broken free from striving in my own effort. This mindset is still strong and the Holy Spirit often corrects me of my errors in thinking. He also frequently reminds me to call upon Him to accomplish tasks that I typically assume I can do myself without consulting Him. My flesh still reacts strongly, urging me to work steadily, to consider the time that is passing away, and to be concerned about providing for my needs.

 Maintaining the habits of journaling and meditating upon my dreams has been helpful to reinforce the lifestyle of abiding. I find that the more of the teaching I integrate into my life the more the old way of living seems to be displaced. These are my first steps but I perceive it as an important and encouraging beginning.

 

 

Conclusion

The end of a matter is better than its beginning.  (Ecclesiastes 7:8, NAS)

Although most of the time I dont feel like Ive made much progress in the lifestyle of abiding, it isnt accurate to claim that no progress has been made. There remains room, and even a need, for improvement in mastering the lifestyle of abiding. Mastering the lifestyle of abiding is a work in progress in my life.

 Yes, its possible to live in God-consciousness all the time. When I have remained in a position of abiding I have made a conscious choice of staying in this state, of going to Him for direction and guidance, of turning to Him when I sense I need to be sustained, and of obeying His voice when I hear it. Disobedience is certain to take me out of His presence and to focus my attention elsewhere.

 In order to master the lifestyle of abiding Ive learned that there needs to be a genuine desire to please God, to be free of all feelings of condemnation and a commitment to walk by faith. I need to make a conscious decision that Ill commit to listening and obeying His voice even when it doesnt line up with my experience and logic.

 Im encouraged by the results I have observed so far. The more I obey the more I progress, and even enjoy myself in the process. I remember well a day when I truly was lead by the Spirit; it was such a feeling of exhilaration and it left me wanting and thirsting for more of Him.

 Its not only the progress I have noticed in my own walk that encourages me, but the example of real people who have gone before me and have shared their personal experience of abiding. Among them I list Jesus Christ and the authors of the two course texts for REN 204.

 If I dont put into practice what I am taught, there is no hope of being transformed and of progressing. Abiding in Christ is a very practical lifestyle. Unless I do it (i.e. abide) there is no possibility of experiencing Him, His fellowship and whatever He has prepared for me.

 My senior pastor often quotes the verse cited at the beginning of this section, expressing that how a matter ends is more important than how it begins. So help me Holy Spirit not to fix my eyes on what is behind me or on myself but on what is before me; help me leave behind my old life for Christs lifestyle.

 

You can experience exactly what Robert has experienced, and live the way he is currently living every day. The following books will teach you step-by-step how to abide in Christ: Sense Your Spirit, The Great Mystery and Naturally Supernatural

These books are also part of two distance learning college courses from Christian leadership University: REN204 Naturally Supernatural and REN206 Increasing the Anointing. Committing to this level of discipleship will allow you to fully integrate these principles at the level that Robert describes.