“What We Do” or “What We Are”

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As a result of a recent Leadership Conference in Kenya, I received several additional inquiries by email asking to give insight into questions related to pastoring and other issues of ministry that weigh heavily upon the pastors and leaders.  However, before addressing any of these questions in detail I believe there are some fundamental understandings of critical importance to look into first; for without this understanding any answers to questions, or the presentation of a new teaching, may not be fully comprehended the way it should be understood.

Questions may be posed or teachings presented from one of two quite different perspectives.  The first may be termed a “religious” viewpoint, which is more concerned with what we do as a church or as individuals.  For example, questions or teaching relating to the function of the church, laws and ordinances governing those functions, roles of men, women and children in the church, and of proper ways to administer church rituals such as baptism and communion.  Of course what we do is of importance, but that tends to put the cart before the horse; for whatever we do, in personal life or in ministry, must be an outflow of what we are… in Christ. 

For instance, I have encountered two types of teachers in the Body of Christ.  The first is one who aspires to be a teacher and equips himself with proper training, learning certain doctrines and church dogma, and developing speaking skills necessary to hold the attention and inspire the congregation.  The second teacher I have observed is one who is called of the Lord to teach, and in him wells up understanding of truths that flow forth from what he isin Christ.  The first teacher is an example of religion which is simply the organized practice of our faith; the second teacher teaches from the stirrings of an inward life.

If one who is solely grounded in religion hears a message of life, it may be difficult to fully grasp and lay hold of; but nevertheless something is touched in the heart in which he desires to hear more.  If however, if one is grounded in the word of life and hears a religious message they feel no desire to return to organized religion but only to press on knowing life.  Please allow me to more fully explain.

A question may be posed from a “religious” viewpoint, for example, “is baptism necessary for Christians, and if so, is there any age limit to be baptized?”  Religiously the answer is quite simple, “Yes baptism is necessary; and either at a few weeks or 8 years old, depending upon certain denominations.”  However, in all spiritual reality, if one truly understands the significance of baptism both questions are inappropriate and are limiting for the individual because, from the “life” perspective, any age is appropriate based the spiritual maturity and understanding of the individual and by the discernment of the Church leaders (pastors, elders, etc.)  Religion always sets limits and restrictions and is programmed, whereas life is freedom to move and respond to God, and is a matter of the heart (spirit). 

My position on these matters, now and forever, will be from a position of “life”, that is, living our lives by faith in our oneness with Christ.  This is a principles that delves into the highest most realm of the Gospel of Christ.  It took me many years to understand in a fuller way this important principle.  Religion can only mimic in the natural this way of life in the Spirit; however, experiencing life literally transforms us into a greater likeness of our Lord; religion performs whereas life transforms; religion falls short, life fulfills.

We must proceed from the viewpoint that Christianity is not a religion like Islam, Judaism, Hindu, or any other organized system of belief.  It is in all reality life only found in a relationship with God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ by way of the Holy Spirit.  Allow me to explain further.

Religion or Life

25Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26I 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. 27I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”  Ez. 36.25-27

In this passage of scripture God is prophesying to Israel that their religion under “The Law” cannot sustain them, but there will come a time when a new covenant, in which all the principles of the Law will not be as outward commandments “over” them but as a new spirit that works “within” them.  It will no longer be a matter of what they do or fail to do, but it will solely be a matter of what they are a new man.  The fulfillment of this word of prophesy has come… “in Christ Jesus.”  Religion has now run its course, now is the age of life in Christ Jesus.

Let us first begin our study with a foundational scripture:

“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.”  Rm. 12.2

Religion attempts to mold a person to live and worship in a particular manner and to live a “moral” lifestyle.  One is conformed to an established system of certain teachings to memorize, rituals to perform, sacrifices to make, commandments to obey, holy days to observe, tithes to pay, etc. One becomes clothed with religion, as putting on a garment, so that it is from the outside placed upon you.  It is here, under the principles of religion, one’s so-called “spirituality” is measured by obedience or disobedience and by the amount of knowledge gained.  In religion what you “do” is extremely important, perhaps even more important than what you “are.” 

If one says, “I am Catholic” or “I am Protestant” they are simply professing the religious principles and practices they follow in belief. As a cautionary note, even a practicing sinner can also practice religion; this I have all too often witnessed.  To practice religion is one matter, but to live that faith is quite another.

Life is altogether different from religion.  Here a believer is transformed from the inside by the working of God’s Holy Spirit.  As a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly by some inward miracle of life, a believer in Christ is always in the process of being transformed into the likeness of Christ; day by day, year by year, a life principle is at work in him or her.  This is true Christianity.  Christianity is not a religion but it is life in a relationship to Christ.  Here, what you “are” is of utmost importance because it will determine what you “do.”  One’s actions become spontaneous, an expression of our new nature. 

An unbeliever cannot practice this life because the Spirit of Christ is not “in him.” This principle of life flowing out from the Spirit of Christ dwelling within the believer is not only fundamental to life, it is of absolute necessity.  One can practice religion having the outward appearance of righteous behavior but within he remains a fallen sinner in nature.  On the other hand, if a true believer sins he cannot remain in sin but is immediately convicted because the seed of Christ is within him.  His conscience will not permit him to continue in that sin but will convict him of his unrighteous behavior thereby leading him to heartfelt repentance.  (See 1 Jn. 3.9)

And so, as the scripture clearly shows, there must be a renewing of the mind.  We simply cannot think the same way we learned to think all our natural lives.   This is difficult because all our lives we learned to think one way, with logic and the power of reasoning, and to sense with our physical senses focusing on what we can see and touch, and to feel with our emotions. This is being natural, but when applied to Biblical principles it is being religious.  And, it is not being spiritual no matter how hard we try or how often we try.  Its end is always frustration with a sense of falling short.

It is written in 1 Cor. 2.9-16 (please read)  that the natural man cannot receive the deep things of God because they are spiritually discerned (understood); it reads further that these deep things are revealed by the Holy Spirit to the spirit within man. The scripture also reads  that the very Spirit of Christ knows the mind of Christ, and is revealing His mind to us. He bears witness within us and unveils His words in the holy Scripture to us.  O’ how different are the ways of the Spirit than the practice of religion.

So do you see a clear distinction is made between the way man seeks God, which is outwardly in religious practices, and how the spiritual man seeks God by faith and revelation from God. Once again, religion is a matter of what we do; spiritual life is a matter of what we are.  Take for another example the following scripture,

17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!  2 Cor. 5.17

Let us focus intensely upon this scripture because it is life to all who believe.  Note first it does not read, “if anyone is religious”, but it does say, if anyone is “in Christ.”  In Christ!  May our Lord, in this moment, spark insight into this marvelous and divinely powerful expression, “in Christ.” This is spiritual and requires faith in the invisible and intangible for spiritual understanding.  It is written, “But of Him (God) you are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor. 1.30)  When we confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and open our hearts to receive Him, God the Father places us, spiritually, according to all Divine laws and power, “into Christ.”  We have spiritually become “one” with Him. This is a glorious revelation.  Almighty God beholds us, welcomes us, and fellowships with us because we are one with Him,  we are “in the Beloved.”  (Eph. 1.6)  Religion cannot copy this life but can only mimic it in certain ways; this life can only be experienced by faith.

This passage quoted above also reveals a life changing truth.  It says that in Christ we are a new creation and that old things have passed away and all things have become new. A believer, having received the Spirit of Christ into his heart is a brand new creation, not reformed or remolded, but a new creation as of something brought forth out of nothing; one is “born again” of God, who is now our Spiritual Father, being born of His spiritual seed.  (Please refer to Jn. 1.12-13; Jn. 3.1-5; 1 Pet. 1.23)  This is a higher truth than that of God being our Father by creation; He is now our Father by spiritual birth, as we are now a member of the family of God.  (Eph. 3.15)  This is life, life that is eternal, received by faith

It is a new beginning, a new life in Christ.  The single most objective now is seeking with all our hearts to know Him as the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. (Jn. 17.3).  Why seek the Father and Son as divine persons and not the furthering of religion? Because to know them, truly know them, is revelation and revelation brings forth life.  Life finds its manifestation not out of what we do, but out of the mere revelation of knowing our God and Lord. 

Thus, our Christianity becomes extremely personal. As He is reveled to us, the mystery of Christ is opened to our understanding in teaching and the reading of scriptures.  Our lives are transformed, our understanding of the true nature of our eternal hope and calling, becomes clearer, and we are never the same again.  We have crossed the threshold into the Kingdom of God; we now have a walk before us in His Kingdom; a walk never to be ventured alone, but in the fellowship of His Church, the Body of Christ, as Christ is the Head.  (Eph. 1.22-23)

 11And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

20And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.  1 Jn. 5.11, 20

    Picture of Daniel DeVitis

    Daniel DeVitis

    Daniel P. DeVitis (Dan) has served in ministry for over 50 years. Since 1972 he has overseen a home church, Immanuel Fellowship, Shippensburg, PA, where he currently resides with his wife Petra. He was a professor of Geography and Earth Science at Shippensburg University until his retirement in 2003. He now serves as an elder in Unto Full Stature Ministries where he continues to author newsletters, write articles, and speak at leadership conferences and churches at and abroad.
    Picture of Daniel DeVitis

    Daniel DeVitis

    Daniel P. DeVitis (Dan) has served in ministry for over 50 years. Since 1972 he has overseen a home church, Immanuel Fellowship, Shippensburg, PA, where he currently resides with his wife Petra. He was a professor of Geography and Earth Science at Shippensburg University until his retirement in 2003. He now serves as an elder in Unto Full Stature Ministries where he continues to author newsletters, write articles, and speak at leadership conferences and churches at and abroad.

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