The optimism of Philadelphia to walk apart from our sin and to be crucified with Christ, to pay price we must pay for a certain spiritual perfection in the eyes of God and Christ, can be expressed in the following analogy of an oil burner I once owned.

I was having a great deal of trouble with it. It spewed soot, leaked oil and water, and produced far more noise than heat. When the electrode failed to fire the oil would accumulate in the burner and the fumes would stink up the entire house. It always seemed to fail when it was needed most when the weather was coldest. It tried to do its job, even sounded like it was putting in the effort, but it fell far short of getting the job done at the most inopportune times.

Being a Scottish skinflint by nature, I tried to fix it myself. Hoiw pathetic was that. Finally, and wisely, I broke down and decided to call a professional repair man in to take a look at the problem.

After examining the furnace the repairman gingerly approached me and said he had a bad news, good news scenario for me. As a natural pessimist, I asked for the bad news first. He told me frankly that the furnace was hopelessly gone, absolutely beyond repair. I needed a completely new burner and furnace. Not totally surprised, I wondered out loud what the heck the good news could possibly be?

The good news, he told, me was that he could put in a completely new system and that I would not have to pay for it, or the installation, right away. In fact, he would not make me put anything down on it for six months and after that I would start making some regular monthly payments. Being short on liquid cash, as they say, I was thankful for the installment plan and instantly agreed to the terms. All I needed to know was what the final price would be and how much it would cost me per month once the payments began, so I could fit them into my budget. What started out pessimistically ended with utter optimism. I did not have to struggle through the winter of another discontent. Thankfully, I could be sure I would have a warm house, hot water and a safe home for the future.


So what does this have to do with becoming free from our sinful condition?

It was the great American thinker Will James who turned his back on the field of psychology calling it, '
a nasty little science'. His disgust was due to its pessimism about the human condition, a belief that he simply could not abide. Having been Harvard educated he had also felt the oppressive influence of Puritan theology. Though Puritanism had rightly emphasized the depravity of human nature, James was deeply offended because it offered no hope for change, no route for the improvement of man's sinful condition. He saw Evangelical religion as a pessimistic theology, as well, one which conceded to man's sinful plight as inalterable, offering no hope for escape.


Will James was right to be offended by the 'nasty little science' of psychology and the theology of raw Puritanism. In desperation, like so many 'foolish' wise men, James turned to his own brand of Evolution hoping that man would somehow evolve through philosophy, or improve by introspection, or somehow be freed by his rational mind from the iron shackles of his degenerate nature. He had hoped in man. He vowed to do at least one deed of kindness every day, to build in himself a righteous love for mankind.

As a result, he gained a reputation on the Harvard University campus as a man with a generous and kind spirit. James' vow to do good seems quite laudable, but it does not solve the problem of our sin which can so easily boil over and beset the soul of the most well-intentioned man. James, of course, missed the boat, for he overlooked the solution - the true Gospel of Jesus Christ - and was unable to see that the Gospel had provided a means for man to walk upright before God by faith. In spite of being engulfed in Puritan pessimism by the traditions of his famous family, Will James had been unable to break out and see the light of the Gospel
's great optimism about man and his nature. That optimism is centered wholly in being born again and that man can be given a whole new nature through the power of the shed blood of Jesus Christ to pardon and sanctify man in God.


Though the Philadelphia faith agrees with Puritanism about the depravity of the human heart - for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God - and we know that there is none that is righteous no not one - the Philadelphian has great hope because there is perfection, even in this life, in Christ. If Will James had only known he could have lived out his life's hope by walking in the Spirit through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. We hope somehow that Will James was saved, but we doubt it.


The Philadelphia faith, while honest about sin, and the battle we must wage all our lives against it, is the most optimistic because it believes in the victory of righteousness in the human soul and heart thanks to the living power of Jesus and the Holy Ghost. It believes that God's commands to us to love him and love our neighbor are not given in vain. They are given because mortal man, through Christ, by the power of the Holy ghost can have access to the mercy seat of God Himself and can keep the ‘law of liberty’ to love God and one another.


Overcoming sin, not in the world, but in willing man, was the business of Jesus. He did his business and returned triumphant to His Father. This is why Jesus could say: "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Jn. 16:33. Jesus did His work to overcome sin, now we must do our job. Our job is to overcome tribulation by walking in the Spirit. But this should not be done with doubt, or pessimistically. It should be done in hope and with an optimistic spirit and ready and willing frame of mind. Just prior to telling us that he has overcome the world Christ informs us:"In the world you will have tribulation". By this He obviously means we will have pain, sorrow, distress, mistakes, failures, misjudgments, persecution and betrayals to overcome, to deal with, to forge through. We shall all suffer fiery trials of personal disappointment and seducing temptations. This is life. Christ is our advocate, protector, provider and counselor through them all. We shall have a lifelong struggle against our mortal enemy and the voices of sin: the flesh, the world and Satan. But sin, whose wages are death, does not have to hold sway over the born again believer, for we have been bought with a price we are told. And we are no longer our own, but Christ’s blood has purchased our temple for a dwelling place for the Holy Ghost that we might in all truth be the Temple of the Holy Ghost.


This we concede to not only in principle or mind but in all truth and deed. We give our body, soul and spirit to the rightful owner, which is our reasonable service. This is the great and daily good deed we must faithfully perform every day. Then we can truly accomplish that daily good deed to which Will James aspired and have goodness flow like a river by the power of the Holy Ghost as opportunity is presented by God’s doing and His Will.


The only pathway to victory and a ‘certain kind of perfection’ over sin that tends to reign over us, is by way of Jesus Christ. As he said, we must pick up our cross and follow after Him and any disciple who is not willing to do this is not worthy to be his disciple (Matt. 6:24, 10:37; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23). We must deny ourself if we are to serve Him perfectly as righteous stewards of the good things of God. How can anyone doubt that Christ has declared that the pathway to righteousness goes through him by way of the Holy Ghost and our taking up our personal cross. A man must first lose his life if he is to find it. We must die to self. For, yes, they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of their testimony and that they loved not their lives to the death. A all too often we overlook the third part - they loved not their lives unto the death.

The Christian who breaks free of the shackles of sin is the one who will do as Paul advised to Timothy. "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." The crucified Christian will disentangle himself from this world as much as he can while faithfully picking up the cross of Christ, not loving his life more than his service to his master. Persecutions, struggles and lesser, even trite, inconveniences will be endured. "All those who will live godly lives in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."  If we do it with understanding and trust, it can be done with optimism that God is doing this to build us up and make us into free and righteous men and women.

The goal of picking up our cross and being crucified with Christ is so we no longer walk in the flesh but start to walk in the spirit. The overcomer must be walking in the Spirit and not the flesh (or ways of the world).

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

  For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

  For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." (Romans 8:1-6)


True Christian optimists will shed off the hopeless ways of the world, not lean to their own understanding, let the Spirit lead them to love and righteousness and be freed from the depravity of the fallen human heart into the righteous, holy realm of the Divine Nature which resides in Jesus Christ, "in whom is all the fulness of the Godhead bodily". Peter tells us that the Gospel promises man that he can be free from sin and become a partaker of God's nature in this life when he says; "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."

Our nature is to doubt, but God's nature is to believe. Our nature is to sin, God's is to be righteous. Our nature is to despise, God's is to love. Our nature is to defile ourselves with lies, God's is to honor only the Truth. Our fallen nature is to be unholy. God’s is to be holy. We are fearful. God is fearless. Without God, lost in the world, man is in terrible darkness and cannot help but end in a pool of pessimism. With God, and walking in Him, we should be full of optimism. We have a future in eternity. We have the chance to walk free. But there is a cost; the cost of the widow who gave everything she had (Matt. 12:22), a cost to be counted. The cost David was willing to pay: repentance and all his being and earthly wealth for the glory of God in His service (1 Chronicles 28-29). The cost is that we love not our lives (more than Christ) unto the (day of our) death.


The oil burning furnace represents man's spirit, his true inner being. The oil burner itself is symbolic of the Spirit of God and the heat that is supposed to be thrown off by the oil furnace stands for love, or, in other words, the opposite of sin.

Before being born again, man is like that old oil-burning furnace. We are unable to produce any warmth (love) because of our broken, useless condition. We cannot be overhauled. We must be entirely replaced, turned into a new creature and be given a new spirit (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10, and so on). We are always on the verge of self destruction ready to explode, throw dark clouds of soot and make a lot of threatening rumblings while producing very little good, if any at all. The repairman represents Jesus. He talks us into replacing the entire unit (spirit) and gives us a new heart, one that can receive a brand new oil burner that will work perfectly if we let it. The oil burner, of course, is the Holy Ghost and it is His oil that burns in us to produce the warmth, or love, of Christ which radiates from us into the world.

But remember the good news, bad news part. Christ gives us a new spirit free, just for the asking. There is no down payment or set-up fee just as in our analogy, but Christ told his disciples they must count the cost Luke 14:28 of the installation and what it will require to have the burner always operating in perfect fashion. It would have been ridiculous for me to keep the old dilapidated furnace out back of my house and try to reinstall it to correct any problems, or to avoid paying any of the agreed to payments when the time to pay came due. How absurd would that be? There are installment-like things we must pay after our initial born again honeymoon experience. There are adjustments and maintenance costs to be paid on the ‘new furnace and burner’. There are such things to be done in the Spirit.

Among the installments and regular maintenance is carrying our cross daily as discussed in a previous part of this teaching. These are called
"enduring hardships as good soldiers" in Christ 2 Tim.2:3-4 by letting God use our bodies as He did with Peter and Paul. They are in the fiery trials that must try every disciple 1 Pet. 4:12. They come in the form of persecution, and we are told that every Christian "that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." 2 Tim. 3:12. Killing the flesh within us hurts. It is a surgery of the spirit that requires endurance, steadfastness, patience and suffering - all things that are contrary to the way of the flesh and the flimsy ‘gimme’ doctrines of the modern Laodicean Christian faith which is to be loathed without apology.

These 'sufferings' may be euphemistically termed – the bad news. To defeat the flesh we must count the cost and pay the price. I am sure the reflective reader will be able to come up with even further instances of paying the price of killing the flesh. The true disciple knows that our hope is built on the solid Rock of truth, Jesus Christ. It is the Rock and the grace of Jesus Christ that will see us through so difficult a journey as triumphing over our flesh.

True Christian optimists will shed off the hopeless ways of the world, not lean to their own understanding, let the Spirit lead them to love and righteousness and be freed from the depravity of the fallen human heart into the righteous, holy realm of the Divine Nature which resides in Jesus Christ, "in whom is all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Peter tells us 2 Pet. 1:4 that the Gospel, in fact, promises man that he can be free from the flesh and become a partaker of God's nature in this life when he says; "hereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust [of the flesh]."
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                    IN THE SPIRIT