- the basis for one’s essential identity,
- the description of our new identity in Christ, and
- the “doctrine of identification” (Gal. 2:20; Romans ch. 6).
Dr. Ron Cobb has taught at Luther Rice Seminary since 2002, advocating Christ-centered, exchanged life counseling. He recently gave his spiritual journey and ministry testimony for the GFI audio podcast. Here is an excerpt from the written edition:
” [After seminary and years of pastoral ministry] … In the weeks ahead I grew more and more frustrated with my life. Finally one day in my office at church I came to a crisis of brokenness. I looked up at God, raised my fist toward Him and said, “God, if this is all there is to the Christian life I am disappointed.” I was sick of self-effort and self-righteousness. God did not strike me dead, instead, I sensed Him make an impression on my heart that things were going to turn around for me spiritually. I had admitted my own inability to live the Christian life in my own strength; I was a broken man.
I believe God caused me to remember a book I had started to read several years before and had tossed aside. Underneath a pile of books at home I found the book that God would use to change my life. God used the book Lifetime Guarantee by Bill Gillham to lead me into an understanding of the Christ-like life (or Exchanged Life) concept. It was as if my eyes were opened and my heart was made to understand the essence of Christianity that
I had been missing for my entire Christian life. In rapid succession I began to devour everything about the exchanged life that I could get my hands on. In a matter of a few months I read Grace Walk by Steve McVey, Classic Christianity and Growing in Grace by Bob George, Birthright and Alive for the First Time by David Needham, and The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. By His grace God enabled me to understand the important elements of the Christian life that I had failed to comprehend in the first twenty-three years of my life in Christ.
Through the authors listed above and through many others I began to understand why I was a miserable and frustrated Christian. I was trying to live the Christian life out of my own resources and out of my own strength. I thought it was all up to my self-effort if my Christian life was going to be a success. I was self-focused rather than Christ-focused. By the grace of God I came to a place of total surrender to the Lord. God revealed to me the fleshly ways I had been trying to please Him and I renounced them all. Once again the Christian life became a delight instead of a duty. Instead of trying to live for God out of my own strength I began to trust Jesus to live His life through me and supply me with His strength. Several texts from the Bible quickly became favorites for me.
Like Hudson Taylor in the nineteenth century I began to see from Isaiah 40:31 that God would “renew me” or cause His very life to manifest supernatural strength through me. John 15:5 became precious to me as I realized that I could “do nothing” without the Lord but that He wanted to use me uniquely for His kingdom purposes. Galatians 2:20 spoke to me of my identification with Christ in His death and resurrection.
It became clear to me that I had been functioning out of only half the gospel (I was functioning out of Christ’s crucifixion for me but not out of Christ’s resurrection for me). From the beginning of my life in Christ I understood that through Christ’s death on the cross I had been forgiven but I had never comprehended the wonderful truth that through Christ’s resurrection I had the very resurrection life of Christ dwelling in me as my source of victory.
In short order things began to come together for me in the Christian life. The joy returned, the peace returned, I became a better husband, a better dad, and a better minister not because I was trying harder but because I was trusting Jesus to be through me what I could not be in my own ability. The joy of ministry returned because I realized that all the responsibility for success was not on me. I came to understand that it was the Lord’s church, that it was the Lord’s ministry, and that He delighted to do His work of grace in the lives of others through me. I comprehended the fact that my calling was to be faithful and allow the Lord to do the work of ministry through me. I was active, I still worked hard, but He was my source and my strength.
Personally, I lived over 20 years of my life in a spiritual wilderness before appropriating my identity in Christ. The scriptural concept of “abiding in the vine” had always escaped my grasp. I longed in my heart to experience it, yet no matter how much I “did,” the abiding life and its associated abundant living remained elusive. I did what I knew best and threw myself into my studies. I devoured Richard Foster’s, Celebration of Discipline, and the associated theological teachings of Dallas Willard. I read every one of their books. I studied the inward disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting and Bible study; the outward disciplines of simplicity, solitude, submission and service, and the corporate disciplines of confession, worship, guidance and celebration. I assiduously researched and then painstakingly emulated the ways of the early church Christian mystics and Desert Fathers. I studied the writings of John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, Madame Guyon, and William Law, to name a few. I saturated myself in the writings of Henri Nouwen. I longed for the abundant life that I read so much about. I set out to be the best Christian I could by attempting to implement all of the spiritual disciplines that I learned from those great authors. Yet, ultimately, it was to no avail.
Then, through a seemingly inconsequential connection with Luther Rice, I ended up being introduced to the teachings of the Exchanged Life, first through the reading of Dr. Charles Solomon’s Handbook to Happiness and The Ins and Out of Rejection. My initial exposure was meant to be a simple academic exercise, yet I struggled with the principles that were taught. In particular, I couldn’t come to grips with the notion of appropriation. I later realized that my struggle was not with terminology, rather it was with the fundamental concept of faith. Interestingly, it took a simple paragraph out of Bill Gillham’s book, Lifetime Guarantee, to help me realize what faith truly is. Gillham said that, as a believer, I was united with Christ. I was crucified with Him, buried with Him, raised with Him, and ascended with Him in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:4-7). He said that Jesus is the Vine and I am a branch of that Vine (John 15:1-8). He said that just as I was born in Adam and likewise condemned in him, I was now legally and spiritually made righteous in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:12-21; 6:4-14; 1 Corinthians 1:30, 31; 6:17). He said that I was crucified with Christ 2000 years ago, and that it was no longer I that lived, but Christ lives in me; that the life I now live in my body, I live by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20). That was my true identity. All I had to do, he said, was count that to be true. To reckon it to be true. To appropriate it. In essence, I was to rest in the facts and promises of God. And, he told me, I was then supposed to act as though they are true. Because, in reality, those facts about me are true. God said so.
In my humble opinion, that’s biblical faith.
Bill Gillham taught me the true meaning of faith. Yes, I had saving faith. But God, in His infinite wisdom, deemed it necessary for me to return once again to the Cross. And, after reading that little paragraph in a relatively obscure manuscript that I learned about through an equally obscure podcast, I appropriated my identity in Christ, through faith in Jesus and His Word. I can now say that Christ is my life. Praise be to God that after a long journey in the wilderness, I was ultimately led to brokenness … and the resurrection truth that Paul spoke so highly about. I praise God that I really know what it means to abide in Christ and experience the abundant life.
In closing, I must mention one thing that I learned about the abiding life through my studies. Although you would think that it would be foremost in my mind, Miles Stanford reminded me that “we are not to know the Lord Jesus in order to emulate Him as our example. Rather we are to behold Him in His Word and allow the Holy Spirit of God to conform us on to His image. Not imitation, but conformation.” I am to enter into the mindset of being and not doing. How many times have I heard that phrase and failed to grasp its significance and failed to understand how to truly apply it to my life? I learned that in order for me to grow I must enter His life through the Scriptures and feed on Him. I am to appropriate Him. I am to know Him. Stanford goes on to say that “we come to know Him as He is from the vantage point of our position in Him at the Father’s right hand, and this ever by the means of His Word.” I am to see how He patiently and lovingly dealt with Nicodemus and the woman at the well. I am to see how he ministered to Peter during the good times and the bad. I am to learn from Him as He presents His life-giving parables and displays His humble nature at the Last Supper. So much rich truth to saturate in. So much raw and precious material that the Holy Spirit has to work with. In essence, through this journey I have relearned the importance of the Word of God and its absolute necessity in the continuance of my progressive sanctification and my conformation to the image of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:12; Romans 8:29).
 Miles J. Stanford, The Complete Green Letters (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 175.
 Ibid., 176.
 Ibid., 177.
PDF copy: Testimony_Rob_Semco
Christian marriage has great potential for mutual fulfillment, but also faces disappointments, stress, and trials. In this webinar, life coach Lisa Hummel gives a testimony of how she has come to appreciate the importance of personally abiding in Christ, and how she and her husband, Tom, approach premarital and marital coaching. John Woodward of Grace Fellowship International presents three contrasts that reveal the difference between a self-righteous attitude and a grace-full attitude in marriage.
This webinar was given on February 17, 2021. The video recording is here:
Morning and Evening with A.W. Tozer is daily devotional in the public domain that is online at www.studylight.org/ Here is a sample:
Live by the Spirit
Actually the purest saint at the moment of his greatest strength is as weak as he was before his conversion. What has happened is that he has switched from his little human battery to the infinite power of God. He has quite literally exchanged weakness for strength, but the strength is not his; it flows into him from God as long as he abides in Christ.
One of the heaviest problems in the Christian life is that of sanctification: how to become as pure as we know we ought to be and must be if we are to enjoy intimate communion with a holy God. The classic expression of this problem and its solution is found in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, chapters seven and eight. The cry, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death”” (7:24) receives the triumphant answer, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (8:2).
No one who has given attention to the facts will deny that it is altogether possible for a man to attain to a high degree of external morality if he sets his heart to it. Marcus Aurelius, the pagan emperor, for instance, lived a life of such exalted morality as to make most of us Christians ashamed, as did also the lowly slave Epictetus; but holiness was something of which they were totally ignorant. And it is holiness that the Christian heart yearns for above all else, and holiness the human heart can never capture by itself.
The Monday night online Bible study of October-December explored the New Testament book of Hebrews using a study guide by Warren Wiersbe- Lets Go! The Epistle to the Hebrews for Twenty-first-Century Christians (CLC)
The video teaching by John Woodward and lesson outlines have been published as a new, free course at www.GraceStudyHall.org
Pastor and author, David Kuykendall, authored several helpful books on believers living from their union with Christ. His workbook on marriage enrichment is titled A Graceful Body. His ebooks are available for free download at LivingByGrace.org.
With permission, this book has been imported to www.GraceStudyHall.org as a free online course. This biblical exposition is Christ-centered, practical and countercultural. The book in PDF is available here.
Pastor Frank Friedmann has just published a new book. Stunned by Grace: It’s Beyond Amazing conveys the message that has gripped his heart for over 30 years.
“It should make us leap for joy to proclaim the awe and wonder of the goodness of God. In the person and work of Jesus Christ, we are not only going to heaven, but are supposed to be experiencing heaven right now. But what if our experience isn’t lining up with the promises of God? Is it possible that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of His amazing Grace? In his signature candid and relaxed style, Frank Friedmann unpacks the pure beauty of the New Covenant that leads us into the glorious life with Christ we were created for.”
See a promotional video and read an excerpt at https://ourresolutehope.com/stunned-by-grace
…The certification journey began at the conference in 2019. I had come to Pigeon Forge alone and was staying at a hotel. Each night in my room, I reviewed what I had learned that day. The last night, I cried like a baby in my room as I reflected on everything I had learned. If being honest, I had some things that I needed to fully surrender. That night I released those things I had been clinging to. Afterward, I felt free and so much lighter.
After the conference, I began all of the reading. During 2020, I read one book after the next, I watched the Solomon lecture series, and listened to the Christ is Life conference. I noticed that as I was working with clients, these truths that I had been reading about and listening to were coming out in our appointments. What comes into our mind comes out through the mouth and through our actions.
One of the most beneficial parts of the process were the Marie Marshall videos. Before then, I felt like I understood the message but I didn’t understand the “how.” Just like with Pastor Dave, I was able to EXPERIENCE what real-life appointments would look like. This series was so helpful to me. Watching the counselor lead Marie through the process was a beautiful thing to observe.
In August of 2020, I was able to come to the workshop. Because of the hands-on approach to the workshop, I felt like I gained confidence and understanding. I especially appreciate learning how to lead someone through the line diagram. Walking into the workshop, I felt like I had a good idea about the wheel, but the line diagram scared me for some reason. I was able to grasp the meaning and the message, and since then, I’ve walked a few clients through with ease.
Today, I am approaching the last few hours of my practicum….
Read Beth’s full testimony here: Practicum Paper – Beth Gates
Readers of Charles Solomon’s Handbook to Happiness may recall the testimony of David Glenn (which is included in chapter 8). David and Denise Glenn are authors and teachers of exchanged life discipleship for men and women: motherwise.org and fatherwise.org. Both wings are under the ministry they lead: Kardo International.
Here is an introduction to Freedom for Fathers, by David Glenn
which is based on John 8:32; John 15:1-8.
It’s an eight week Bible study on the abiding life, especially for fathers. Although parenting insights are included, the content is relevant for all men. The format is designed for weekly small group discussion.
The outline is:
Week 1. The principle of the vine: fulfilling your life from the power source
Weeks 2 & 3. The principle of the branch: running out of steam
Weeks 4 & 5. The principle of the shears: the ultimate solution
Week 6. The principle of the bud: the transformed life
Weeks 7 & 8. The principle of the fruit: keeping the basket full
See also their instruction document on starting in facilitating a small group Bible study.
This year David taught some of this content on vimeo:
David and Denise’s materials have been translated into five other languages. Learn more at https://kardo.org/home/