Lifetime Guarantee is a book full of stories about ordinary life, like making eggs for breakfast, mowing the lawn, and sitting in your car outside the post office watching a pretty girl walk past. There’s also a riveting story about closing a closet door. That might sound dull if you’re Indiana Jones, but Bill Gillham’s book was written for the majority of us living ordinary lives. We commute, we pay the bills, we cook, feed the kids, and wash-up. If this sounds a bit like your life and you want to know what living under grace means for you, this is the book to read.
Many Christians struggle to live the Christian life. They want to do the right thing; they try to do the right thing; yet they often fail to do what they want to do. When the frustration builds they snap and do things they later regret. They have no idea how to fix this sad state of affairs beyond trying harder next time. But no matter how hard they try, they will fail again. Why? Because the Christian life, according to Bill Gillham, is not difficult to live – it’s impossible to live! Only one Person has lived the Christian life perfectly and it wasn’t you. But the good news is that He lives in you and He is your victory in all those areas where you’re failing.
For years we Christians have been told there’s a civil war going on inside – the bad me versus the good me, the sinful nature versus the new nature. This is simply not true according to the Bible. You had a sinful nature but it’s gone:
“In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ…” (Col 2:11)
If you still had a sin nature, you wouldn’t be distressed when you sin. But you are. You do the thing you don’t want to do and it makes you miserable. This regret is actually an encouraging sign for it’s one proof of your new Christ-like nature. It’s not your old man come back from the dead that’s making you miserable; it’s sin. Don’t identify with it. It’s not you. “It is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me” (Rm 7:17). Recall that when Paul writes about sin in Romans 5-8, he’s describing sin as a noun, not a verb. Think of sin as an enemy agent “crouching at your door desiring to have you” (Gen 4:7).
Some people will tell you that we’re in a battle with ourselves. But the Bible says my old man has been crucified with Christ and I am a new creation. Now I’m collaborating with the Holy Spirit in a fight against sin. As Gillham says, “It’s God and me against him.”
However, this is a fight that we will lose whenever we engage with our flesh. You’re born of the Spirit but you can still walk after the flesh. What is “the flesh”? It’s a way of living that says, “I can get my needs met outside of Christ.” In a word, it’s independence. It’s a mindset that says, “I can do it, I can fix things, I can make it happen.” Plenty of Christians are living exactly like this. Their motives are sincere – they’re trying to do the right thing – but they’re stuck in Romans 7. “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” The problem is I’m the one trying to do what I can’t do. So many think this is cycle of trying and failing and rededicating your life to God and resolving to do better next time is normal but it’s not. It’s abnormal. It’s carnal Christianity dressed up with the respectable rags of religion.
Are you trying or trusting?
To summarize, many Christians are skewered on two problems; (1) they think they’re in a ceaseless conflict with their old selves (even though the Bible says that our old self has been crucified with Christ – Rms 6:6), and (2) they’re fighting with carnal weapons of will-power and resolve. You could not find a better example of walking after the flesh than this!
Let me give you an example of how this plays out in everyday life from Gillham’s book. Put yourself in that car outside the post office with the pretty girl walking past. What do you do? If you’re a red-blooded male with macho flesh, you’re going to be tempted to seduce that woman to bolster your need to feel manly. That’s temptation but it’s not what you actually desire. You’re happily married and you want to stay that way! Plus, as a Christian you have a desire to live holy. So your desire and the temptation in front of you are at odds with each other. All clear so far?
But notice how that temptation is received in your mind. Sin will speak to you using words like “I” and “me” to deceive you into thinking that his thoughts are your thoughts. Sin will say, Man, oh man, she’s hot and I’d like to get close to her. It sounds like your idea but it’s not. It is sin’s idea. The idea originated with sin, not you. Now if you respond with your flesh and you have weak flesh, then you’re going to feel powerless. You might find yourself doing the very thing you don’t want to do and you’ll end up wretched and miserable. Conversely, if you respond with your flesh and you have strong flesh, you’re going to resist the temptation and feel real good about yourself for doing so. Do you see the problem? Weak flesh will lead to guilt and condemnation; strong flesh will lead to religious pride. Either way, you lose.
We have this idea that if we do the wrong thing, we’ve sinned, but if we do the right thing, we’ve beaten sin. But sin doesn’t care what you do; sin just wants you to engage with your flesh. Sin wants you to lean on your own understanding and trust in your own resources instead of His. Adam ate the fruit because he thought it was good (Gen 3:6). He thought he was doing a good thing, but it was a carnal act that led to spiritual, and eventually physical, death.
So how do we respond to temptation? Victory is found in appropriating your true identity in Christ. When sin makes his suggestion, you respond like this. “No! I’m dead to that. That is not my thought. It’s true that I have sexual needs, but I trust you Lord to take care of that for me. That’s your problem, not mine.” Do you see what we just did? We refused to take ownership of an idea that originated from sin and we refused to tackle the problem in our own strength.
You’re dead to sin, so act like it
Since sin is always looking to get a reaction out of you, the best reaction is to play dead. Here’s Gillham:
“How does a dead man response when you try to stimulate him? He doesn’t! He just sits there!… This is a faith (belief) position taken by the mind and will. God said that I am dead to sin but alive to God in Christ (see Romans 6:11-13), so I will choose to act as if I’m dead to sin by acting as though Christ is living through me in this situation… ‘Gee, Lord, those are interesting bricks on the post office. I wonder how many there are under each window? Yes, there are seven. Isn’t that interesting.’” (p.109)
Now you may be wondering, isn’t this a little hypocritical, to act contrary to how I feel? Isn’t this dishonest? Well that depends on your definition of hypocrisy. Here’s Gillham again:
God’s definition of a hypocrite: Pretending to be what you are not.
Satan’s definition of a hypocrite: Acting contrary to how you feel. (p.135)
Satan will always try to get you to act on the basis of your flesh – your emotions, your feelings, your own understanding of things. He will try to tell you that what you feel is real. He would have you believe that if you act contrary to what you feel is right, you’re being dishonest and hypocritical. But this is pure flesh! We don’t determine truth by what we feel but by what God says. And He says you’re a new creation, holy and blameless. He says Christ is in you and you’re in Him. So when you act dead to sin and alive to Christ, you’re not pretending at all. You may feel like a phony, but you’re actually starting to walk by faith in your true identity:
“Now, what if you would simply act (by faith) as if Christ were expressing His life through your personality and earthsuit to bypass the flesh and speak loving, encouraging, tender words to your wife and children. What if you act (by faith) as if Christ were using your arms to reach out in love by giving them a hug or pat on the back? You would be acting as if Christ actually were your life. You would be acting like something is true that is true, wouldn’t you?” (p.136)
“Believing in Jesus” is not merely an intellectual acknowledgement of His Lordship. It is our daily occupation. It is living as if He will supply all of our needs because He said He would. It means we stop playing the angles. We stop looking to make things happen. We stop keeping score. And we begin to believe and act as though we are safe with Him because it’s true. As Gillham says, peace is not a feeling but a knowing –
“- knowing that the Father has everything under control; that you are in Christ, seated in heaven, resting; and that He is in you now, living.” (p.172-3)
There are plenty of books out there that tell you what living under grace means, but Lifetime Guarantee teaches you how to do it. This book, which I suspect has spawned countless grace ministries, is one of the best books you’ll ever read on how to make the Christian life work.