Monday, January 10, 2011
Christ Being Formed
(Here's a terrific post from a great guy I've "met" on facebook--one of the many friendships I have received from grace-minded people all over the world. It's about one of my favorite topics, Christ being formed in us, something I and others have called "The Immanuel Agenda." You may read more of Ole Henrick's posts by going to his blog at http://crossingtheriver.wordpress.com.)
It might seem to most of us that there are some inconsistencies between what the Bible say is the truth about us and what we experience in our daily lives. We learn that we are holy, righteous, and perfect from the Bible, but it seems to us that we are entrenched in a perpetual battle against temptations, mood swings, a variety of ordeals etc. We do not feel very holy when we lose our temper or are depressed.
It is in this context that the following verse makes a lot of sense and brings comfort to those of us who are confused by those seemingly inconsistencies between what we somehow know is the truth and our personal experiences: “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrew 10:14)
This verse contains a statement which at first inspection seems like a paradox. How can we be perfected in one instance and in the next instance we are in a process of being sanctified? As redeemed humans we inhabit two realms. We operate both in the invisible and the visible, the eternal and the temporal. These realms of course intermingle. We cannot separate them. However, in order to understand our predicament we will treat them as two separate spheres of influence.
From God’s point of view, that is, the eternal, we are perfected. We are holy and righteous in the invisible. Simultaneously we are in a variety of processes in the temporal something which the author of the letter to the Hebrews points out when he says that we are in the process of being sanctified.
What does it mean to be sanctified in the temporal? It simply means that our faith is exercised so that it increasingly is aligned with the facts of the eternal. Paul calls this process as Christ being formed in us. God moves us from being external beings to internal so that we ultimately find Christ in our center and not out there somewhere. In this process we learn to trust Christ in us as us, which signifies that we learn to trust His life in us and that He manifests Himself as us.
Our major challenge is our desire to do good, be good and establish an identity in which we can clothe us. We try keeping the law to be good, and make any effort to avoid evil. This means that we still derive our identity from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Our identity is in the beginning also tied other externals. I am a Baptist pastor. I am a preacher. I speak in tongues. I am a charismatic.
Those ties to the externals are quite powerful, hence God repeatedly have to shake our worlds so that we can come to our senses and leave those rudimentary teachings and mature into Christ, who is our life. I am not saying that God permits abuses and other evils to rear us. I am saying that he lets us fail miserably and encounter a variety of temptations so that we can shake off those external fixations.
Notice how the letter to the Hebrews is written. It deals extensively with how far superior the new covenant is compared to the old. The author goes to great lengths to accentuate Christ’s perfect work and in what ways it affects us. He very lucidly establishes our new standing with God and who we are in Christ on account of His finished work. Then he writes the famous faith chapter. The whole letter is permeated with the following idea: This is the truth, but you have to attain it by faith.
We are reared to think of sanctification in terms of conduct and behavior modification. We can ascribe this approach to the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It is evident from the Bible that our character and behavior is expected to change due to who we are in Christ. However, the Bible speaks in terms of fruit. Fruit gives rise to associations such as juicy, colorful, diversity, tasty, sweet and healthy. A single focus on conduct induces notions such as dull, empty, passionless, and uninteresting. Fruit is the Spirit! It is simply His life being manifested in us and this life derives from the tree of life, that is, Christ.
Those who have matured into Christ and ceased from their works are spontaneous, free, genuine, authentic, rough, edgy, un-rehearsed, un-prescribed. The resemblance between those free spirits and how God has created this earth is striking. Our planet is definitely edgy, rough, un-rehearsed and un-prescribed, but it is good (Gen 1). Those adjectives also very distinctively describe Jesus when He walked this earth.
It is on this backdrop that the Bible calls for spiritual judgment. Who we truly are can only be appraised spiritually as long as we are sojourners in this temporal realm where we daily are confronted with our human weaknesses.