Pondering Truth In Christ
Ephesians 2:3 (context verses 1-10). Among them (referring to those dead in trespasses and sins, the sons of disobedience under the prince of the power of the air) we too all (“we” - clearly Paul includes himself, although he had been quite “religious”) formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
At times it can seem like life is giving us a beating. The following are some thoughts about what this might be about, if we love Jesus and are truly desirous to follow Him. It helps to get some clarification on how things work in this relationship with Him.
When we are born of the Holy Spirit, or “born from above”, there is a difference between what we were by nature and what we have become and are becoming in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing short of a spiritual sea change (a transformation) - in thought, attitude, word, deed, worldview, and more. Everything of the self centered, self absorbed life decreases as Christ increases. That includes self righteousness appealing to human pride. Sometimes this is fast and drastic; at other times the pace is very slow. It depends on what God is doing and what He has in mind for the individual.
Locally along the coast of Lake Michigan, where the Great Lakes are sometimes referred to as the “Inland Seas”, we are being given a glimpse of this by the powerful forces of nature - if only we have eyes to see it. There is much of the “sea” rising up against the shore - sand, dunes, bluffs, trees, flora and fauna, trees, and even a few houses of those who have built on the sand are being washed away. The dirt and rocks are no match for the power of ever encroaching wind and waves combined. A sea change is being imposed upon the land by the forces of nature.
Could this be a lesson God has placed in front of us through His creation? As the purpose of the water and wind will have its way, so shall the purpose of God!
The soil, sand, and whatever is growing from it, or is built on it, is being washed away by the power of the water. The “dirt” must go. It stands in the way of God’s plans and purposes for our life, to remold and reshape us into His likeness. We cannot move what stands in the way of that of our own volition. We are part of it in fact. But it cannot stand against the Holy Spirit, represented by the strong wind and relentless waves. Once this process is occurring, it reconfigures everything, never to be the same again. This is God’s kind of “re-formation”. It may mean a dismantling of how things have been entirely, followed by a restart.
This analogy might be a poor one. When we ask and keep on asking for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:5-13), He does not damage us irreparably. He demolishes within us that which keeps us captive to the prince of this world, the works of the devil in us which Jesus came to destroy (1 John 3:8), his “hooks” of the world, and the flesh. He does not damage us like the waters beating against the shore, but He does “storm” the kingdom of darkness within us which has established a beachhead and a foothold in His kingdom! This occupation of His Kingdom by darkness is not to be allowed. Our body and being are God’s holy temple, and His will is to remove all within it that has been set up by the prince of this world (with our complicity!), that stands against His good intentions for us, which is His love and blessing. That is what brings brings Him glory.
At the same time He restores and rejuvenates us, evidentially validating all of God’s promises, which are yea (sure) and amen (firm) in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).
If one is born from above, the process goes on to which we surrender, like the sands must surrender to the invincible sea - to His grace which changes us, causing a sea change within us. At times God’s love must be tough and persistent as a maelstrom. So it is good to understand that this can be a possibility.
“See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39.
If anyone is experiencing God’s sea changes, the evidence will be that we will see changes in that person. This witnesses to the reality taking place, in a living relationship with Christ Jesus. The old heart - core of the being and its motivations - is replaced by a heart that resembles Jesus, because His transformation is taking place within. What takes place on the inside is seen on the outside. At some point. Sometimes quickly. Sometimes very gradually.
For truly, we are His workmanship! (Ephesians 2:10).
We can see Jesus’ example when the heat was on, in ways you and I cannot imagine.
Jesus’ Arrest: 'Then said Jesus unto Peter, "Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"' John 18:36.
Jesus On Trial: 'Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world; if it were, My servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jews. But now, My kingdom is not of this realm."' John 18:11.
Jesus’ Execution / Crucifixion: 'And Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." And they cast lots, dividing His garments.' Luke 23:34.
There's something deeper here than meets the natural eye. How did Christ walk? How was He led? How did He know His Father's will for Him, which was the way of the Cross? He was led of the HOLY Spirit. (See Matthew 4) He spent many hours in prayer (communion with the Father).
Although the Son of God, 2nd person of the Holy Trinity, 'Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.' Philippians 2:6-8.
'During the days of Jesus’ earthly life, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from what He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.' Hebrews 5:7-9
'Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.' 1 John 2:6.
'Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.' Romans 13:14.
'Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in step with the Spirit.' Galatians 5:24, 25.
'The greatest among you shall be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let in those who wish to enter.' Matthew 23:11-13.
"fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:2,3.
This is all a reminder of some lyrics from an old song: "Dance in the darkness, slow be the pace; surrender to the rhythm of redeeming grace..." by Carey Landry
What is of paramount importance to God? As time goes on, it becomes clearer and clearer that it is about our being in this world as He (Jesus) was in this world and in this life. True religion, worship in Spirit and in Truth, has little to do with the performance of rites and rituals, except that these communicate the foregoing to us, and need to be received as such as we participate in them.
Neither does amassing a great deal of religious / spiritual knowledge accomplish being Jesus in the flesh - the reality of being in Christ, with Christ also being in us, and manifesting His life within and through us - as we see, recognize, and acknowledge Him in every person God puts right in front of us, along our path each day every day.
Rituals, observance of days and calendars, and spiritual knowledge should enhance this experience and edify it. But the personal, prayerful attitude with which I must approach Jesus constantly is, Lord, how do You wish to work in and through me today? Who will You send my way that I ought to see and serve as You right now? If I am part of Your Holy Body, I want to get real about this! Please send Your Spirit to me so that I may have the capacity for awareness of You, and the will and the wherewithal to serve You as needed today and every day.
The Churches have been rent asunder for 2 millennia over rituals and perspectives. Anyone who thinks this is not so has not been present in Earth reality but off on some other tangent - as we think and dwell on “our tribe’s” narrative, to promote it. The question is, is it the tribal narrative we pitch, or the Living Christ? We may be guilty of being incredibly shallow thinkers, naive or “ignore-ant” of history, as well as in denial of the workings of the fallen, finite, frail, feeble human mind.
Do we not tend to quibble more over the lesser realities of form and miss the substance? Jesus hits the nail on the head here: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You pay tithes of mint, dill, and cumin, but you have disregarded the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Matthew 23:23-25.
It’s rather amazing how He mostly has issues with the religious leaders, who were so blinded by their perspectives that they could not recognize the very Messiah they claimed to await! He’s not advocating for throwing out the rituals, but they were in severe neglect of what all of it meant! We might say they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. It begs the question, Do we?
The fact is that, if we come face to face with the simple but radical person, claims, and teachings of Jesus and the Apostles every day, with every person Christ sends our way, it would be blatantly obvious how everybody has missed it (including yours truly; Lord have mercy!), blind as we are. Conflicts and disputes are often over perspectives and rituals, but seldom over the fact of our failure to notice the outrageous, insane love called for by Jesus, whereby He says that all men will know you are my disciples! See John 13:34,35. Could it be that these things have become stumbling blocks to the manifestation of Jesus in the flesh?
Jesus calls for “evidence based Christianity”. The walk needs to match the talk, as has often been said - a reality that is so potent that it can proclaim without a word that we know Jesus The Christ, that we belong to Him, that we are actually in Him and He in us. The Holy Spirit must bring conviction of this very real need! Scripture is full of this word of admonition, revealing the fullness of Christ. “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” John 1:16. What is also revealed is our failure to live out from what we have been given and what we claim to be!
1 Corinthians 13 should be prayed, pondered, and practiced daily and continually by all of us who claim the Name of Jesus Christ, because it is out here on the rugged terrain of this life desert that we are tested, trained, tried, and hopefully made true to Him in what He asks of us. And it is not simply about the behaviors of Love, as we can see, but about the attitude, the interiority, from which they arise.
If all I had of the Bible was a little paper containing this word of Love, inward heart spiritual digestion of it would be enough to sustain me here in my own desert. Or even the contents of the admonition of Jesus Christ: “Love one another as I have loved you. Love your enemies. Do good to those who are spiteful to you. By this difference will it be known that you are My disciples.” The “diet” of the desert is simple. Manna for the Israelites. Locusts and wild honey for John. Bread form the ravens of Elijah.
Only self serving kings need daily sumptuous feasts and lavish banquets. God has written the former “diet” on our hearts. Men have given us the latter feasts through the ages. We are without excuse. Libraries full of books are feasts; they are fine. However, we should be warned, “The words of the wise are like goads, and the anthologies of the masters are like firmly embedded nails driven by a single Shepherd. But beyond these, my son, be warned: There is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body. When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: Fear God and keep His commandments, because this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:11-13. (Can I get some amens?)
Discussing complex metaphysical palaver is always a fascinating pursuit. But we do well to not hold in a critical eye those we may pridefully regard as “simplistic” or “reductionistic”, when perhaps Jesus regards them as His “little ones.” “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” 1 Corinthians 8:1. Perhaps those we so criticize seek to build on the foundation of the simplicity that is in Christ, our God Who is love! Let us never rule out that possibility. Perhaps they came to an end to sorting through all the available “bricks” and simply laid the foundation?
So if all the big headed, self impressing mental / theological gymnastics keep us away from the reality of Christ love, what good are they? Just how many books - regardless of how ancient (or recent and trendy) they may be - does anyone need? They pile up like a wall of futile defense - against the enemy within ourselves - our blind refusal to love as Christ loves.
With this complexity one can easily deny that Jesus has come in the flesh, which is one’s own body-temple, as well as those to whom He sends us every day.
“By this you will know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and is already in the world at this time.” 1 John 4:2,3.
To confess Jesus in the flesh carries more than one level of meaning:
1. Jesus as He manifested through the Blessed Theotokos, lived as a man, died, was resurrected and now ascended into heaven - the historical Person - is the first recognition of His coming in the flesh.
2. The Spirit of Christ in the believer: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we remain in Him, and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world.” 1 John 4:12-14.
3. We acknowledge Jesus in “the other”, according to His own words. ”When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’” Matthew 25:39,40.
This is how we "confess / witness” as Jesus coming in the flesh in conclusion. We have the revelation of Jesus Christ - we believe - in the historical Savior, eye-witnessed by the Apostles, revealed by the Scripture. We are to acknowledge how the Spirit of Christ wishes to reveal Himself in us, and then through us to all with whom Jesus chooses to identify Himself. There are no exceptions! Enemies included.
Dear, sweet, radical Savior Lord Jesus! Teach us Your ways, which surely are not our ways, for we are finite, and You are infinite. You make possible supernaturally what is impossible naturally! Please set us on fire with Your Holy Spirit so that we will continue in Your Word and truly be Your disciples, and then we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free (from John 8:31,32), free to be all that You intend for us, as Your dwelling place from which You manifest Your love to the world. Then keep us aglow in Your Spirit’s holy fire. Thank You for Your magnificent power and Your never failing promises, whereby we become partakers of Your divine nature. Amen.
When people don’t care about prayer or Scripture reading because they are frankly spiritually dead, no amount of cajoling or threatening or coercion is going to change that on the part of pastors or others who care. Instead maybe it’s time to realize that something supernatural needs to happen and how that comes about.
The only thing that can change a person and his priorities and aim him in the direction of the desirability of becoming godly is that there must be a Holy Spirit imparted hunger and thirst after righteousness in the very core of his being. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ. There must exist a perceiving of one’s need and the realization that I don’t have in myself the skill set or strength to accomplish this! Those who understand this must pray for conversion and regeneration to take place. Pray for the “dead” who line the pews (or stand upright as the case may be) that they will be awakened from spiritual death, regenerated, and restored to God’s perfect will and priorities for their life.
No amount of pleading with the dead to read the Bible or pray is going to work. Jesus must be implored on their behalf to raise them up!
When Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, she woke up hungry! He told those who witnessed this to then give her something to eat. Lk 8:55. Mk 5:43. Similar instruction was given regarding Lazarus. The onlookers were told to loose him and let him go. Jn 11:44.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.” Mt 5:6. But they have to wake up hungry first! And this only comes from the spirit of Christ, in answer to the prayers of those who understand how spiritual awakening first takes place.
As one awakens, then the true fathers and mothers in spiritual Israel in Christ are charged to feed the spiritually hungry newly regenerated, and to unbind them from the remaining bonds of death so they can grow properly.
No amount of external pleading or pressure can bring about spiritual hunger in the spiritually dead. Such efforts are futile. Yet one hears preachers of every ilk of Christianity doing this all the time. But when Jesus raises someone out of spiritual death, he is gong to have a supernatural hunger and thirst for God’s Word, prayer, and growth in Christlikeness. Such do not need to be force fed. The craving for fellowship with God and one another is a natural outgrowth of this supernatural rebirth. As is desire to know God, study His Word, and grow in His grace and Christlikeness.
That is part of the evidence that confirms that such a thing has happened.
If persons at not so motivated, it never works to preach to the dead. Even if they “try” the result is dead works of the flesh and religion.