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Faith Without Works

Talk about another thing being badly skewed; faith without works.

Rich

Second Hand Fear

It’s pretty much a given that most of us are aware of what second hand smoke has done in contributing to serious health conditions in non-smokers but, I want to take a look at something that is far more destructive than blowing smoke; fear.

We’ve all been born into a world that has imprisoned us and tries to keep us from seeing and knowing that there is a life beyond living and acting out of fear.
Much like a pedophile who grooms his nest victim, we have all been meticulously groomed in fear. Fear permeates everything we do, think and feel; there’s no escape apart from knowing the truth of God’s love and even then it’s a continuing ongoing battle.

Some of the most fear-filled people I know unfortunately are Christians, although most would adamantly deny their inner entanglement; and I haven’t escaped or gone unscathed from this internal mental and emotional steeple hurdling either.
Words no matter how right, good, and true they might be, be they coming from the mouth of a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu or whomever, our actions often will make null and void what we’re trying to say, what we’re trying to teach our children or even, one another.
This is in no way an indictment of blaming, shaming or heaping guilt upon anyone at all, simply pointing out that what we have been so badly infected with can be wonderfully turned around.

In getting to experience the power of God’s perfect and totally unconditional love, there is set into motion inner dynamics that are seismic in nature in my opinion. It talks about perfect love (in the scriptures) casting out all fear in a persons life, establishing a way of life and a way of living that becomes less and less of a knee-jerking sad saga. The love of God is an ongoing integration that wants to envelope us at the core of our being deeply infecting us, spirit soul and body, mind will and emotions.
From my experience, in over coming fear in so many ways, I am discovering what some have discovered long ago, that the world is not flat; fear produces flat minded thinking and reasoning that becomes the accepted dogma that begins to weave an ever constricting straightjacket of immobility.

There’s so much I could share on fear and how it’s poisoned and crippled me in so many ways, but I’d rather share a few examples of how love is daily transforming my everyday living.
There was a time when I would never give the time of day to reading anything without the holy and sacred seal of the literature being “Christian”. Over the recent years not only with literature but also with conversations via pod casts etc that do not qualify as being scared, I am discovering I am not reaching for my holy water or silver crucifix to ward of any polluting or corrupting infections. I am truly in awe with amazement and wonder of a world that is inviting me to experience, that was always there but obscured from my senses because of fear.

Relationally I am growing more secure and confident as a person, and this is spilling out in so many ways, at home with my wife, with my grown up children and with my co-workers and in general, the fellow humans I engage on a daily basis.
It is my personal belief that as the life and love of God becomes integrated into all aspects of our physical, emotional and spiritual components, our lives transmit an aroma and a soundness of wonder and beauty that appears to have been lost so very long ago. Without trying to prove anything, without trying to solicit or proselytize anyone we live and move unobtrusively and yet and in most cases unbeknownst to us others are drawn to the oasis of our lives that somehow speak of there being a living and loving place of solace, acceptance and affirmation.

Rich

Personality

This is another part of an ongoing article by my friend Art Licursi.

Rich

Part 5 of 10 – “The Law” Empowers the Sin Nature

I believe by now in this series we’ve established that “Sin” as a personality and nature that indwells “the flesh” body of all men SO long as they live on earth – both the saved and the unsaved.

Let’s now look more closely at the response of the “Sin-nature” when we attempt to live under “the Law” during this day of the “dispensation of the grace of God.” Paul plainly states below that the activating force behind “Sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3), giving its power, is “the Law.” This is the case for anyone who is trying to live under “the Law.”

1 Corinthians 15:56 … the STRENGTH (dunamis, power) OF SIN is THE LAW.

These verses here below are from Romans 7 where Paul describes the dilemma of a man trying to live righteously while living under or according to “the Law.” Note the repeated linkage between “the commandment” (the Law) and the “Sin” nature; it’s undeniable.

Romans 7:8 But SIN taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence (illicit desires). For without the law sin was dead.

9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

11 For SIN, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.

12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But SIN, that it might appear sin, WORKING DEATH IN ME by that which is good; (so) that SIN by THE COMMANDMENT might become exceeding sinful.

In these verses it certainly sounds like “Sin” is a personality, when we read of “SIN taking occasion,” deceiving,” and “working” (verses 8, 11, and 13). “Sin” sounds like a personality with a consciousness that acts and reacts in the believer who weighs his self-worth by his self-effort to conform to “the Law.”

In Galatians Paul explains the matter of “the Law’s” impotence to contribute to genuine righteous living. Paul reveals how “the Law” is intended to make men see their absolute need to trust Christ for their righteous standing and His life for living righteously. If we live by the law we bear “the curse,” which is the requirement too then keep ALL the law.

Galatians 3:10 For AS MANY AS ARE OF THE WORKS OF THE LAW (THOSE WHO DEPEND UPON THE LAW) ARE UNDER THE CURSE: for it is written, CURSED IS EVERY ONE THAT CONTINUETH NOT IN ALL THINGS WHICH ARE WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW TO DO THEM.

Also in Galatians 3 Paul explains how “the Law” acts as a “schoolmaster” for the unbeliever in pushing Him to Christ, and that after faith (in Christ) has come to that person then they are no longer under “the Law.”

Galatians 3:22-26 But the scripture hath concluded all (men are) under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

Note from verse 23 that “before faith came, we were kept under the law,” and in verse 24 we see that “the Law” was as our “schoolmaster” to teach us our need of Christ – to “bring us unto Christ (in faith).” And then, “after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (verse 25). So after the condemnation of “the Law” does its job – to push us to trust Christ as our only righteousness.

It’s impossible for any human, except Jesus. Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but (JESUS) WAS IN ALL POINTS TEMPTED LIKE AS WE ARE, YET WITHOUT SIN. The burden of this curse is upon those who think we are still under “the Law.” Our failure under “The Law” is intended to reveal to us our utter need of a capable righteous life, to push us to receive Christ and His righteous “Spirit of life,” whereby we are not under “the Law.” Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for (because) YE ARE NOT UNDER THE LAW, BUT UNDER GRACE.

Thankfully we were never meant to keep the external dead “Law of Moses,” which was fittingly written on lifeless stone. It has no power except to reveal our Sin to us. Now under grace, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4). The believer’s worth and righteousness is not based on their performance, neither before nor after they are converted by faith in Christ as their Savior.

We as grace believers live under an entirely new paradigm in this age of “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph 3:2); it’s a new way of living. We are not under any external “law” (except man’s civil law), thus we enjoy that now we are under “no condemnation” (Rom 8:1 below).

Romans 8:1-2 THERE IS THEREFORE NOW NO CONDEMNATION TO THEM WHICH ARE IN CHRIST JESUS,

Nevertheless, we do have within our spirit “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” to regulate us now from within. This new way of inner regulation is the living “law of the Sprit of life in Christ Jesus.”

2 For THE LAW (operative regulating power) OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS HATH MADE ME FREE FROM THE LAW (operative regulating power) OF SIN AND DEATH.

As recipients of Christ’s “Spirit of life” are free to live spontaneously. Nevertheless, we have His permanent presence within us to guide and regulate us by either His prompting or restricting. Here we see a couple examples of the Lord’s inner prompting and restricting in the life of Paul and his co-workers.

Acts 18:5 And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.

Acts 16:6-7 6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, 7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
We can learn to practice the presence of the Lord, to trusting Him to guide us. Actually, we must learn to follow the inner sense we have by His “Spirit of life” within us. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:20 But ye have not so learned Christ; Christ will guide us in all our doings; e.g., He will lead or restrict us in what or if we should buy some particular thing that we are considering; or, He may move us to change lanes on the highway, etc. He is ever-present in us and desires to be the Lord of our life in every aspect.

Wayne Jacobsen’s spring newsletter from Life Stream is a wonderful read, you can read all of it here.

Those who are loved well by Father, will love well in the world. To be a lover of people is the one thing every one of us can do each day that will do more to change the world than any personal achievement we aspire to. Loving those whom God puts before–our spouse, children, co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers–is where real joy is found and where the kingdom work is really done.
Each time you offer a greeting, show an interest, serve a need, offer a listening ear or a shoulder to weep on, or any other way you simply care for another human being, you become a reflection of his glory. And every day you treat people with compassion, dignity, and respect, refusing to put your interests above theirs, forgiving freely and seeking healing, the life of Jesus shines a bit brighter in a broken world.
Nothing else you can do today will matter more.

This succinctly says what resonates within my heart everyday. There’s no need for any fanfare or trying to promote some agenda or evangelistic reaching the lost program what so ever, thing is, if folks are ever going to get a insight into the whereabouts’ of this supposed distant and invisible God, they will need to see Him in you and me, you know; if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.

Rich

Our perception of what we think we’re seeing, feeling, or experiencing, may in fact be so very far removed from what is really true. Case in point, here are some quotes from the movie The Matrix:
“What is “real”? How do you define “real”?” Morpheus: How did I beat you?
Neo: You… you’re too fast.
Morpheus: Do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place? Do you think that’s air you’re breathing now? Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world? Welcome to the real world. If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.

As I have shared in many different ways on my blogs, we have all (in my opinion) been stamped with a bummer of a birth mark. Not one of us has escaped unmarked! The deeply engraved and imprinted message that weaves and filters through everything we do is laced with a cancer- like fog endeavouring to convince us of one thing; “I AM NOT.”

Psycho-babble would convince us that there are two kinds of people in the world – those with a good self-image/healthy self-esteem, and those with a poor self-image/self-esteem. The former tend to think of themselves as being a quantum-leap cut above the latter. What garbage! If the enemy of your soul can’t convince you you’re a worthless loser, then he’ll convince you that in your lovely wholeness you don’t need God whatsoever (a.k.a. self-righteousness). The concepts of self-esteem and self-worth are meaningless labels attached to an endless pursuit of shadow-boxing, trying at best to alter one’s view of him/herself from the outside in, a form psychological botox.
When I talk about none of us escaping the internal scarring, disfiguring by virtue of the fact that we have been born into the human stream is because, if there are any exceptions (and there are none) then the need for the Father’s love and grace is primarily for the losers, the rejects and the sickos – but isn’t that great news? Jesus came for the sick – and for those who know in their heart of hearts they’re hopelessly lost. I see this sickness being dyslexic and anorexic in the soul, unable to distinguish or decipher the truth of what God the father really has to say about us.


It appears to me right now in this season of my life that many things are culminating and coming to a head, and all of it is directly interrelated with knowing the truth, slowly seeing with ever increasing clarity what life looks like apart from living way too long seeing it through a shattered windshield.

If there is any true confidence and assurance beginning to take form within me, it has to be something far removed and coming to me from a source much deeper than me having a great gene pool.
I cannot separate what is birthed in us of the spirit of God apart from that which is inseparable from great meekness and humility. As I was thinking about this, I was reminded of scriptures that compare Adam as a ‘natural’ man with the last Adam (Christ Jesus) being the ‘life- quickening man’. I also was pondering about why God didn’t choose Ishmael instead of Isaac – perhaps it was because the first son had been born out of fleshly effort and Isaac had been the promised son as a result of God’s doing.

As I am learning to let the Father of my spirit love me and to integrate who and what He is within every aspect of my being, out of the fractured and shattered pieces of what used to define me is coming forth a manifest son of God.

Rich

“How do you view God, how do you view how he sees you”; these were some of the questions posed in a conversation I was listening to today.
As the conversation progressed one of the people was saying that so many if not most of the mental disorders experienced by so many were symptomatic of a much deeper need, the need to let God the Father love them to the very depths of their being.
We are a reflection of who we believe He (God) is! We will ultimately be conformed to the image of who we believe our Father in heaven is.

There has to be something that touches, goes to the very depths of our inner most being, as it were an inside job of freeing us from our shadow boxing with one symptom after another.
In my opinion so much of what presents itself as “self-help” cure all’s is nothing more than an old snake oil disguised in a modern and hip language that continues to appeal to the longing of our heart; and that longing is to be 100% unconditionally loved.

In the New Testament Jesus said to his disciples; “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you,” and I believe it goes without saying that this applies as much to us today as it did then, we’re all the same in that we were created to be lavishly loved, we were wired to receive His love in copious amounts.
This has nothing to do with trying to follow or attempting to obey the Law as in, “You are to love the Lord your God with all of your being and your neighbour as yourself.” It’s impossible, we love Him because He first loved us, and most of the Christian world will wag their heads in agreement to that fact, but, sadly this is more of a believed dogma than an internally received and accepted reality.


As I was listening to something the other day it was put this way to me, Jesus was saying; “let me love you first and last, in so doing we will discover how to love one another. IN choosing to let the Father love us is not something that can be boiled down to a set of steps or principles. More than anything else it like everything dealing with God is all about revelation.
The video clip I chose to use here with this blog entry says through some crazy humour what I am trying to convey, a repeated and chanted mantra of in this case of, “I feel great, I feel good, I feel wonderful” is not going to free us from our internal demons that plague us relentlessly.

What we need to hear is going to come from a much deeper place than the thoughts and voices we hear most days pointing out what a worthless shit we are. We have been so groomed to hear what we believe to be true about us; I guess you might look upon these as being “true lies.” In learning to let God the Father love us is in my opinion is quite simple although don’t ever confuse that with being easy, the simplicity is in simply attempting to agree with what will sound so foreign to us in that we are Loved.
There will never be any real lasting going the distance of having any confidence, or sensing a true and vibrant beauty to our lives apart from learning to take those baby steps of agreeing with God that what he is saying about me is the Truth!
The beauty of who we are must be a revelation.

I want to bring this to a close by sharing something here that deeply touched me the other day when my wife who has been doing a huge amount of preliminary steps of working with our son in dealing with a fire he had in his house almost two years ago, a much too long story to share here right now. She was told that in the case of house fires one of the most thorough and complete ways of dealing with smoke damage is to use a thermal fogging machine. A professional using one of these devices will successfully eradicate and neutralize the odours completely.
The pigmentation of our soul has been infused with something far more intrusive and destructive than smoke damage, we have been born to believe that God hates us and that were not worthy to receive any love.
I saw open up before my senses that (at least for me) I need God the Father’s thermal fog machine to free me from what has stained my every thought, and in so doing freeing me to be the best Rich that ever could be, and that isn’t going to happen by repeating a lifeless mantra.

Rich

Learning Christ

The following article is a continuation of a series of thoughts my friend Art Licursi entitled; Casting Down Imaginations.

Rich

Part 3 of 10 – The Sin-Nature Within Man’s Flesh Body

We today as believers are in fact the members of “the body of Christ” right now on earth. We have Him, His life and His guidance that flows to us from Him as “the Head” of “the body” (Eph 5:23). Just as The Lord’s “Spirit of life” dwelled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, so today the Lord’s “Spirit of life” dwells in every member of the “body of Christ.” We each are well equipped by His resurrected “Spirit of life,” which is precisely located within “our (human) spirit” (John 3:6, 1Cor 6:17, Col 1:27, Gal 2:20), which is located in “the midst of my (our) body” (Daniel 7:15).

The Lord is presently seated at “the right hand of the Father,” withholding His wrath and judgment yet to come to the earth. Thus His manifestation is personally absent from the earth today. Yet at this time He has us as the members of “the church, which is His body” (Eph 1:22b-23a) on earth. Christ desires to utilize our soul’s mind, to lead our emotion and will; to flow His life and love through us to others. The only mind Christ has on earth is the minds of the members of “the body of Christ. He lives in us and desires to flow His love and the good news of His “gospel of the grace of God” to others… through us.

But none of us are born with a mindset that is in agreement with God’s nature or His eternal purpose and plan. When we are first converted we still have the same twisted fallen mindset of Adam, but then we also now possess Christ’s “Spirit of life” with His mind resident within our spirit. “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind (nous, intellect) of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16), but we need to permit His mind to flow through our mind.

So long as we walk in accord with the Lord within, yielding our mind to His mind and will, we are walking in the presence and “mind of Christ.” The key to living in accord with God’s eternal purpose is that we gain a renewed mindset or attitude of mind, which is one of submission to His spontaneous prompting or limiting that we sense within us to guide us.

Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world (Gk aion, age): but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Ephesians 4:22-23 That ye put off concerning the former conversation (behavior), the old man, which is corrupt (defiled) according to the deceitful lusts (of the flesh); 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

Acts of sinning are always the result of the promptings of the Sin-nature that indwells the flesh body of all men since Adam’s fall. Paul writes the Ephesian believers, describing this Sin-nature as the “SPIRIT that now WORKETH IN THE CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE,” by which men suffer the sinful “DESIRES OF THE FLESH AND OF THE MIND.”

Ephesians 2:1-3 And you (believers) hath he quickened (made alive), who WERE DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the PRINCE OF THE POWER OF THE AIR, the SPIRIT that now worketh in the CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation (manner of living) in times past IN THE LUSTS OF OUR FLESH, fulfilling THE DESIRES OF THE FLESH AND OF THE MIND; and were BY NATURE THE CHILDREN OF WRATH, even as others.

All of us, as Adam’s progeny, were conceived in this “Sin.” Psalms 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Thus, Sin is part of our innate human condition at birth and so long as we live in our physical body. “Sin” in the flesh of man is the original Sin “nature” that we were born with.

Paul here lists the “works of the flesh,” which are the acts of the “Sin” in “the flesh.”

Galatians 5:19-21a Now the WORKS OF THE FLESH are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like…

The word “flesh” in the Greek is “sarx,” meaning the “meat,” or “flesh body” but “the works of the flesh” are the acts of the Sin-nature, extending from “the flesh” to also pollute “the mind.” This list of the “works” or sins “of the flesh” (above) includes both “body sins” such as adultery and fornication, and also “sins of the mind” such as “envyings” and “idolatry.” Sinful men are those that choose to live by yielding their polluted soul’s mind of the “the flesh.” Thus they live by their “carnal (fleshly) mind” (Rom 8:7). In this way we may be the “servants” of “Sin.” Paul below instructs us concerning which we will serve, either to Sin or righteousness.

Romans 6:19 I speak after the manner of men because of the INFIRMITY (INABILITY) OF YOUR FLESH: for as YE HAVE YIELDED YOUR MEMBERS SERVANTS TO UNCLEANNESS AND TO INIQUITY (SIN) unto iniquity (sinning); even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

All believers, “have the mind (nous, intelligence) of Christ” always available and operative within our spirit (Rom 8:8-9) to guide our minds (1Cor 2:16), but they also are free to choose to yield their body members to the impulses of the flesh or serve the Lord within them.

God is a lover of others; He is other-centered, and He streams His love and gifts out to others. “For God so loved the world He GAVE His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). Being made in God’s “image,” man was made to be a lover of others, but we see that man is basically self-loving and self-serving (perhaps offering occasional random acts of kindness). How did man, who was made in God’s image, become so different? We know that through the fall of Adam mankind became defiled and twisted. Mankind thereby also acquired a false mindset of the “Sin nature” that usurped fallen mankind. “…the carnal (fleshly) mind (Gk. phroneo, MINDSET) is enmity against (in opposition to)God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7).

Paul commends us to a renewed mindset to replace the self-serving mindset of the flesh. We can adopt the actual mindset which of Jesus of Nazareth maintained when He lived on earth. He with His mind lives in the believer’s spirit. Philippians 2:5 Let this mind (Gk. phroneo, MINDSET) be in you (in your soul’s mind), which was also in Christ Jesus: Jesus had the humbled mindset to only do the will of “the Father.”

Most honest believers will admit that we as all men are first born as self-lovers; our thoughts concern our own self. Our thoughts are self-based most of our waking hours. No doubt this is why Paul wrote this to the new believers at Rome . Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, NOT to think of himself more highly than he OUGHT to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. Only as our faith and trust in the Lord grows in the knowledge of His love, sovereign grace and care toward us, can we become secure and more other-centered as the Lord is. Our thinking then begins to change.

You can be assured to know this, that throughout our lives, through both our failures and successes, we are in a process of “learning Christ” (Eph 4:20), learning to think and live righteously in and by “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” as our new life. We’re being trained for glory, to live and reign in righteousness.

So yes, we may fail at times, but be assured that we live under God’s grace, that new paradigm wherein there is “NOW no condemnation” for those “in Christ” (Rom 8:1). Just as we would never condemn a small child who is learning to be potty trained or learning to walk but has moments of failing, so the Lord never condemns His children. He picks us up and says “let’s keep walking.”

By all our experiences, good or bad, God our Father is at work using every situation for us to grow up into who we in fact are “in Christ.” Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh IN YOU both to will and to do of his good pleasure. He is using our circumstances and situation of life to reveal His love to us and to thereby motivate us, teaching us how to live righteously by relying upon “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” who now is our only legitimate “life” (Col 3:4a, Gal 2:20).

We have somewhat answered the question of identifying the real source of these sinful thoughts of our mind and how can we deal with them. But the Apostle Paul offers us more insight.

The fact is that though we as believers are saved from judgment and we possess Christ alive within our spirit, we still live within a Sin-laden flesh body that Paul calls the “body of Sin” (Rom 6:6), also called the “body of this death” (Rom 7:24). It is this Sin-infected “body of flesh,” which contains our individual soul’s self-being and spirit. That “flesh” makes us prone temptation, provoking us to acts of sin.

Yet, the fact of the Pauline “gospel of the grace of God” is this. The good news of the Pauline mystery gospel is that we have been freed from the power of the Sin-nature (Rom 6:6-7). How can this be? The answer is that we have been crucified with Christ and the Sin-nature, still resident in our flesh, has no power over us because WE IN FACT DIED with Christ (Gal 2:20). Though we are tempted by the impulses of “the flesh” toward whatever kind of sin, we as Christians no longer have to follow the dictates of that sinful nature that Paul calls “the flesh.”
The fact is that there is a new nature within the believer’s spirit. We can say there is “something good” in man, but only because it was put there by God to renew man. That “something good” is the resurrected sinless “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” His life bears the sinless nature of Christ, which has been imparted to every believer.