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The Framework of the Relationship 

A born-again Christian is essentially a new person.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17. Specifically, two entities are different: the new believer is a “new creation” and “all things” are new.  A brand new set of dynamics are at work here.  A new framework for life needs to be learned, plus the relationship to the old framework has changed dramatically.  Learning this new universe is vital for one to function as God intended. 

A framework operates like a map.  On a road map, once you locate your position, you can find out where you are in relation to cities, villages, lakes, rivers, parks or any other points of interest. You can also see boundaries, jurisdictions and property lines.  This information allows you to plot your route by choosing the best way to arrive at your destination.  Without the map, you would wander around from place to place, not knowing where you are going, what road to take, or how far you would have to go to get there.  With no map, you may even end up in dangerous or forbidden territory.  This illustration has vital clues for the relationships you have in life, and especially, your relationship to and with God.  You have a new and unfamiliar relationship framework.  

A relationship framework tells you who you are with regard to the people and influences around you.  Who are the most important individuals in your life?  Where do you stand in the pecking order to those persons?  Do they have authority over you or are they dependent upon you?  Who do you consider to be your peers?  Who do you look to for companionship, alliances or teamwork?  Are some people closer to you than others? Are there forces or influences that you need to respect, or can you disregard them?  Are there forces that can overpower you if the opportunity arises?  These characteristics inform you about how you relate to the elements in your framework. 

Other factors, however, exert some unexpected effects on how things go within the framework.  For example, do you like the most important person in your life? How do people view you as a person?  Do they like you?  Are you in conflict with some people? Are you forced to deal with some people because of the formal structure even though you don’t care for their personality or character?  What are the criteria by which you judge and are judged by others?  Do you forge alliances with some people because they have talents or resources you need, but otherwise, you have nothing to do with them?  Do you have weaknesses that can be exploited?  Do you have fleshly proclivities for certain activities or pleasures that are illicit, or at least unwise?  These questions demonstrate how complicated relationships can be.  As we work through the theme of these pages, the most important relationship of all needs a thorough analysis.  How does this new framework articulate your relationship to God? 

Just like the points on a map are permanently placed, so also are there fixed personages and fixed forces in the relationship framework that are absolutes:  they cannot change.  They must be accepted for what they are and where they are.  The attributes of God, the new characteristics of the born-again believer, the new identities of everyone around the believer now operate in a new paradigm.  As we move through the framework, we will begin to understand these changes. 

The Sovereignty of God.  

In your old framework, you had no substantive, meaningful relationship with God.  He was a mystical, illusive character.  Sometimes you loved Him, sometimes you hated Him.  Sometimes you felt at peace with Him, sometimes you were afraid of Him.  Most of the time, however, you simply ignored Him.  You lived your life as you wished, with no thought of consulting with God about your decisions, unless you were thinking of Him as a good luck charm.  For all practical purposes, God didn’t exist.  You assumed yourself to be a believer, but you lived like you were an atheist. 

When you became a born-again believer, you embraced a full acknowledgement of God.  This new dynamic totally revolutionized your life.  Now, you understand that God not only created you, He sustains you in every respect in your present life, and He will determine the destiny of your soul.  He is the Sovereign God.  The Psalmist sets these sentiments to words that characterize this relationship and applies to us today.  O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.  So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:1-8.  

By definition, a sovereign possesses supreme or ultimate power.  Because God is sovereign, you cede to Him the control of your life.  His will, His purposes, His methods and His desires cease being mere suggestions or preferences; they become your marching orders.  The Apostle Paul expressed it this way:  Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.  Thus, God’s sovereignty is an absolute.  It forms the primary parameter in your framework of relationships. 

Much could be written about the theology of God’s sovereignty, but, from a practical standpoint, it has an expansive and direct impact on our daily life.  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2.  A closer look at this verse reveals the totality of God’s influence on us.  Our bodies, our service, our relationship to the world, our minds and our definition of the will of God are all governed by the sovereignty of God.  This factor alone constitutes a complete transformation of our former selves.  But, there is more. 

The Infallible Word.  

The second absolute in your new framework of relationships is the Word of God.  For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12. Whatever your situation is in life, the Word of God provides the answer and the direction you need.  It must be consumed, committed to memory and obeyed.  David said, “Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!” Psalm 119:11. The Word of God becomes the ground plane of reference with regard to all spiritual or moral decisions.  Secular, conventional wisdom sayings, like “to thine own self be true,” “God helps those who help themselves,” “listen to your body,” “follow your instincts,” and similar mottos must be vacated and Bible truths must take their place. 

Jesus confirmed the authority of the Scriptures at several points in His ministry.  In his rabbinical inaugural appearance in the synagogue, recorded in Luke 4:14-21, he pointed to the writings of Isaiah to validate his ministry.  And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:21. On four separate moments during His suffering on the cross, specific references were made to the Scriptures as prophecies which must be fulfilled.  In the Acts of the Apostles and both the Pauline and general epistles, this same pattern emerges.  In addition to the miracles and wonders that Jesus did, the appeal to the Scriptures form the greatest confirmation to His authenticity.  It is no exaggeration to say that the entire ministry of Christ was foretold by Scripture.  This fact alone attests to the supremacy of the Word of God.  

Another Scripture passage that demonstrates that the Word of God plays an active role in our lives is Acts 19:18-20.  And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the Word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.  It is more than a philosophy or a collection of ancient writings.  It manages and directs our choices in every venue of life. 

God has ordained that His Word be the medium of communication with us, because, as a Spirit, He would be incomprehensible.  The simplest way to state this truth is that if you want to know the mind of God, read His Word.  Two scriptures establish the importance of the Word of God in the way God deals with man.  First, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1; and, second, By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. Hebrews 11:3. Thus, we can equate God with His Word which elevates the Word to the level of God’s person; and we understand that God uses His Word as the agent by which He accomplishes His will.  

These statements are more than meaningless semantics.  They exert profound influence over the way we order our lives.  Paul wrote to young Timothy, his protégé in the ministry, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:16-17.  In the framework of relationships, the Word of God establishes boundaries for behavior, forbids or restricts access to some areas of life, regulates interaction between you and other people, and controls the quality of your life.   These new realities are not coerced; rather, they are functions of the relationship with Jesus Christ and the Word of God.  The born-again believer understands that the new paradigm is best for him or her, and brings glory and honor to God.

The Holy Spirit. 

The sovereignty of God and the Word of God are activated in our lives by another great power granted to born-again believers: The Holy Spirit.   But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. John 14:26. The Holy Spirit is not a sporadic, random force that has no permanent impact on us, but He is a resident power, an integral part of the relationship framework.  But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:9-11. 

One of the most critical relationships that every born-again believer must negotiate is how to become acclimated to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  Constant tension exists between the flesh and the Spirit of God, and it tends to interfere with the relationship.  Paul wrote to the Galatians, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:16-18.  

Those who resist the leadership of the Holy Spirit show obvious signs of a dysfunctional relationship because they allow their flesh to dominate their behavior.  Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Galatians 5:19-21.  This catalog of sins clearly defines the areas of life where the Spirit of God is denied influence.  If the Holy Spirit is not in control, then the sovereignty of God and the Word of God cannot be effective.  

But, when a believer surrenders to the leadership of the Spirit of God, a relationship is forged that gives birth to wonderful things.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25.  In fact, one of the great reasons why Jesus came in the form of man was to demonstrate the need for the Spirit to always gain the victory over the flesh.  It played out for us in His victory over Satan in the temptations.  It was voiced in its most profound way in the Garden of Gethsemane when Christ prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39. He is our example.  We cannot have this victory without ceding the control of our lives to the Holy Spirit.  

As mentioned in the previous chapter, the birth of the Spirit is a vital part of our regeneration.  The resident Spirit makes it possible for man to live as God intended. Ezekiel’s prophecy spells it out for us.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Ezekiel 36:26-27.

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