The mind set upon rule keeping and law keeping as a way of living will result in failure, sin and death. You’re going to be a wreck. Romans 7:8 says that sin seizes the opportunities that commandments give! In other words, if you want to see a whole lot of sin and failure in your days, try living by some commandments—any commandments! Just cook a few up and watch what happens. Or you could also try viewing other people by commandments, such as we do regarding our politicians. (“He’s lying!” “She’s lying!”) You’ll have the same result in your life. (Please read Romans 7 and 8. Both are loaded with this.)
Plus, the one making the attempt will go through his days in a perpetual selfie mode. “Do I look good?” “Am I doing it right?” will be at the top of his self-righteous question list, the concern of most every moment. That thinking, that mind, will keep him in failure, as it has for all who have ever attempted it. (It’s Jewish, not Christian.) One thing is fortunate: he will break down. He will weary.
If you meet someone who has wearied of “Selfie Christianity” (“Do I look good?” “Am I doing it right?”), do not condemn him for being messy, inactive, uninvolved, disconnected or passionless. DO NOT.
The Spirit is seeing to it that the one born of Him is abandoning the false and futile focus, and is beginning to look to Jesus as His representative and life—if only a peek to begin with. You and I can assist him with that little look. His hope is actually beginning to grow because it has been exhausted in a false attempt, and must be reborn where it belongs—on Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to produce the life that is His to produce.
He’s beginning to live by believing the truth. His hope is that nothing is demanded of him. All is provided! He lives by faith that Someone Else has done it all. He was crucified with Jesus, and no longer lives—that’s actually true, he just doesn’t know it (See Galatians 2:20). The life he has been attempting—“Selfie Christianity”—is not life, but death. He has unintentionally been bringing a false self to life, if you will allow me that. That cannot work.
The way of life for him—his true hope—is to believe into Jesus, who gave Himself for him, and who lives now on the inside.
How active, how involved, connected and passionate is Jesus? Plenty! And that’s what he will discover.
The mind set upon Him is life and peace—Romans 8 says so. But it’s His life and His peace, not your life made better so your selfies look better. In other words, the mind set upon Jesus is going to find out what life is really like. That’s the hope.
The mind attracted and given to Jesus actually works, which is why you and I love the gospel of Jesus Christ so much—giving it and receiving it. Because Life is an inside production and not an outside parade captured by endless selfies, you’ve got to get off of the Selfie Christianity mode, and get into Jesus and how He is with you.
Why is it important to think about what your nature really is and what the real you is really like—maybe at the start of the day? To answer that, here’s another question: How do we escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires? Have you got any of those? Do we escape corruption by exposing it? Do we escape corruption by becoming a nation of whistle-blowers—everybody ratting on everybody else? Do we escape corruption by imposing penalties and prison sentences? Evidently, no. Not really.
Besides, corruption isn’t the primary problem: it’s the sign of another problem—evil desires. Right? And that’s where you and I are set up for God with us.
Corruption is the process of bribing you or of luring you into doing something unlike you, something crazily different from your true and genuine design. You’re going to feel that! James alluded to this when he wrote in the first chapter of his letter that fleshly, evil cravings begin to drag the real self, the one made by God, toward something unnatural, which then gives birth to corruption and sin—the terrible twist of our design. So how do we interrupt the process?
We escape corruption by participating in God—which is where we are, in Christ—because we have been given His nature now as our own. Don’t miss that because that’s the plan of redemption; not only to make you “good with God,” but to share Himself with you in your day, every day, redeeming the moments, especially the ugly, corrupting ones with you. He is with you in those! You needn’t be embarrassed or shy away from Him during those evil desires. In fact it’s vital that you don’t.
2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate (partake) in the divine nature, and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (Parenthesis mine.)
Talking with or at Jesus, thinking about what He did at the cross and resurrection, asking Him questions—and listening!—singing or taking a walk with Jesus, complaining or whining to Jesus in the midst of junk, these are all ways of participating with Him in everything you experience. Don’t hold anything back, because that’s the set up for Him with you, participating with you, and seeing to it that you escape the result of nasty desires. The desires aren’t the problem! The problem is that we go quiet with God or try to corral them on our own. But that’s not the set up for God and you—God with you.
I know that this is crazy stuff for some people because they don’t see themselves as God sees them. They’ve got a dispute with their own Creator. They think they’re right—right-er than He is. “I know who I am! You’re wrong about me, God!” But on the chance that He might see and know them correctly after all(!) and be able to win that argument, there are a whole lot of us who will keep offering the great gospel because we love Who and what we’ve found: God and our uncorrupted selves. It’s one of the ways we participate with Him, too, and escape the fleshly desires that lead to our corruption, the twist of our perfect design. So we’ll keep serving up the gospel—and I hope you’ll serve it to me, because I’m going to need it, too.
Do you ever wonder what amazing and fantastic verses meant to the people who first wrote them down? How about this one?
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
Think what that must have meant to the apostle Paul, let alone to you and me. I think it drove him fairly crazy with joy! Everything he had long been working for, and sweating and fretting and worrying about concerning his life and standing with God, Paul had been given. For free! Everything.
Paul was a specialist at hard work for God—he had graduate degrees in it, I’m sure. There was no one who was better at working for God’s blessing than Paul. And there was not one moment of work left, not a second of fear over whether or not God was pleased enough with Paul to bless him. God’s blessing, His all-the-time favor, had been entirely dumped on Paul for an entirely unrelated reason:
God wanted to! So He did. And Paul believed Him.
The want to of God—the love of God—compelled God and it still does. I’m so glad. It’s my favorite thing about God. He doesn’t wait for me to deserve His love or for me to be lovable. Oh, I’ve heard the love of God described as a love that “decides” or “chooses” for the benefit of another. And I know we’re all supposed to love like that. I wonder how many times I have heard someone say, “Love is a decision.” The implication is always, “So get busy making decisions.” Well, that has always been my problem! I’m not always good at making good decisions. Haven’t you struggled to make right decisions?! Anyway, the goal of “right decisions” is a good one—better relationships, which is no small thing.
But it seems so calculated. Is that really what motivated God? Is that why God “…blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ”?—because He calculated it? Because He did the math and the idea proved workable? I don’t think so! I know that somewhere “way back when,” God decided to send Jesus to the cross and to raise Him again, bringing us with Him. But was it calculated only?
No way! That’s not the love I know from God. He wants to! And it’s the want that motivates the decision. He’s full of want to! His love is always overflowing to us, and His decision—to give us everything—is in the overflow of the want to.
Imagine Jesus going to the cross thinking, “Well, I suppose this has to be done. After all, Father put it on the road map of history a long time ago, so I have to carry it out.” No way! Hebrews 12:2 tells us that it was for JOY that Jesus did it. God’s love was about to be consummated in the joy of bringing many people to Himself! He did it for love. He wanted to.
That’s why He is always convincing you about what He thinks of you—How good and high it is, and how well off you are with Him. Love is the reason that He spends His time rescuing you from your enemies of doubt and fear and covetousness and lust and unbelief. Because of love, He wants to rescue and comfort you. He really is as good as He says He is with you, the one He loves. As He did for Paul, God has given you everything. He has blessed you with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
So try this: the next time you’re in fairly serious prayer with God, ask, “Father, do I have to worry about asking you to bless me? Is that an everyday decision you make, a moment-by-moment calculation based upon something I do? Or did you already bless me all the way, holding nothing back?” And then be still and listen. He has so much fun answering that, because then you can proceed with being convinced over and over again by God about His love for you . . . and that He’s holding nothing back.
“Really, Father? You’re not kidding? I don’t have to earn anything anymore? I have it already in Christ, and you’ll never change your mind? You really love me that way?” And the answer will always be: “Yes. It’s true, my son. It’s true, my daughter. I’ve held nothing back and I’ll never change my mind.”
All that’s left for us to say is, “Ahhhh. Amen.”
2 Corinthians 1:20 “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
Here’s my paraphrase, my Ralph-a-phrase of John 19:30. By the way, you should know that I figure, “Why say in ten words what you can say in 100?” But here it is, updated for Easter, 2019:
“‘It is finished.’ did not mean ‘until you sin some more, and then you’ve got to re-start the heavy burden, accountability and apology lifestyle all over again to make sure everything is cool between you and me. You understand that, right? It meant that ‘After THIS, you’re going to live out of what I’ve done and given to you, because there’s nothing MORE. Okay? You’ve got it all, and it’s all really and perfectly good!
“And I’m giving you the Spirit—He’s really good with all of this—to remind you and convince you that I meant what I did and said, on purpose. That’s what We call ‘THE PLAN.’
“So say it with me: ‘It is finished!’ And with a southern drawl: ‘It’s dun, y’all!’ How about in spit-filled German: ‘Es ist vollbracht!’ In Spanish: ‘¡Consumado es!’ In Greek: ‘Tetelestai!’ In French: ‘Il est terminé!’ In Croatian: ‘Svršeno je!’ How about Dutch? ‘Het is volbracht!’ In Swedish: ‘Det är fullbordat!’ And in Afrikaans: ‘Dit is volbring!’
John 19:30 When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
In other words, “BOOM!” It’s all done and it’s all yours!
If we are induced into navigating relationships (and everything else) not by the Spirit in us, but by the designs and the here’s-how-to-get-along-with-EVERYBODY instruction of this world, we will not know the fact, power and authenticity of Christ in us—the real deal of Christianity (Colossians 1:27). Even if we attempt to navigate by LOVING EVERYBODY, we will have chosen a method, a be-nice-to-everyone template (Really good manners! Better than anyone else’s!) that excludes knowing and enjoying the life and love of Jesus Himself. In other words, we’re cheated, we’re robbed of Jesus in us—and the world is too, because it’s not going to see and experience Him from us . . . but something less . . . something else.
In the great love chapters of 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4, the point is that life and love come from God in us, and work out from there. That’s the promise, that’s the offer and wonder of Christianity—Perfect Himself, the original source, comes to live in us! And the design of God to live in man—in you and in me—is fulfilled and has a staging area in this world in your relationships and in every part of your day. Him for you. And Him for everyone.
Life is Christ; anything else is something else. And it’s not for you. So the high goal today—It’s really difficult!—is to enjoy Jesus, the real deal. And watch what He will do in you and with you. You’ll like that, and it will be much easier than you thought.
One of the big difficulties worship leaders and speakers have is the temptation to work toward something great that believers can become or get during musical worship or during a message (for example, getting clean hearts, getting forgiven, getting more of the Spirit, etc.), rather than to work toward something great that’s already happened being revealed.
When we draw together with other Christians, the great opportunity, the great purpose is to be built up in Christ (Ephesians 4:16), no matter how small the group is—2 or more of you new creation creatures will do. Our purpose is not to arrive in Christ, it’s not to get better in Christ, it’s not to get a clean heart in Christ, it’s not to get more of the Spirit in Christ. That’s not even possible! You’re already there, you’re already better, you’re already in Him, you’re already TERRIFIC. You can’t get any “terrific-er”! You’re already clean and forgiven and full.
Sometimes, however, that terrific you has been covered over, veiled, even to yourself. So that’s the opportunity of getting together with other believers. “Please help me remove the veil! Help me with this awful thing!”
I encourage you to look for ways to remember your condition in Christ—to enjoy your own unveiling—and to look for ways to share in that unveiling of others. We are “the great unveilers.” That’s what we do for people. The greatest exercise there is—the one that’s most fulfilling and the one that lasts forever and has the best benefits—is participating in the great unveiling. One person here, one there, 2 or 2,000. What we’re doing, what we’re saying is, “Let me help you to know and enjoy what has already happened to you in Christ. You’ve got to know this, you got to see this, so I’m going to help you with that veil.”
I know some people won’t believe it, but you do, so wrestle with their veil. It’s a good wrestle! Point it out to them. It’s awful, and they should know how it affects them.
We are the assistants for the great unveiling, so for our conversations and our get-togethers, that’s a good starting point.
It is far better to tell Christians that they have been changed than it is to tell them to change. Only then can they live by faith in what Jesus did, rather than by faith in what they must do. That distinction is crucial! Marveling at the change that took place for them and to them is the only way of hope for the uncertainty of their days in this world.
Get that order out of order (which we all-too-often have), and life by works is the unavoidable result. That won’t work. Not for anybody. It’s not supposed to. Life is by faith that Jesus was successful for you and with you, and that He will continue to be—that’s the gospel. Stay in it, because it’s fantastic news! And that’s where the power of God is for you and me.
Stay there, and works will follow.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation (soundness) to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (Parenthesis mine.)
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Let’s talk about everybody’s favorite topic, “religion”—the suggested rules of godliness. At its worst, religion entraps people by suggesting and encouraging “one day.”
“One day you’ll be holy.” “One day you’ll have it together.” “One day you’ll be closer to God.” “One day He will bless you.” “One day you will be fully surrendered and committed to God.” “One day you will become what God wants you to be.” Won’t that be great, one day?
Do you see the trap? Religion at its worst suggests you’re not holy, which means Jesus didn’t make you that way after all. Religion says you’re not set apart and just right for Him, you’re still dirty and sinful—even though He thinks you are not. Might that affect your relationship with Him and your approach to Him, and maybe your prayer life? I think so.
Religion motivates you to work and focus on becoming better, because Jesus didn’t make you complete, finished and perfect in Himself. Sooo, you’ve got work to do, even though He thinks you don’t, because He did it all already. Don’t live by faith in Him and His word, live by your feelings.
Religion promotes the possibility of drawing closer to God, which implies what? That you’re not now. You’d better figure out what’s standing between you and God, even though He thinks there’s nothing between the two of you that’s bad and that’s causing any distance at all. When you’re in Him and He is in you, there’s no moving away.
Religion induces you to keep striving in faithfulness because there’s a blessing He will give you that He hasn’t yet—a blessing that depends upon your faithfulness rather than upon His faithfulness. So you’d better keep tithing, keep praying, keep witnessing, and keep being nice because the blessing train is coming (“It’s right around the bend!”), even though He thinks that He has already arrived in you with all that He is and has. If He is the train, then you’re the station.
Religion suggests that you are still against God somehow and stubbornly resistant—that’s how you are—but if you try hard enough, you will eventually become real friends and get along. Won’t that be great? And, living the “surrendered life,” you will finally be useful, even though He thinks you’re entirely compatible already.
Religion falsely encourages you that, while you are not now much of anything good, “one day” you will finally give yourself a really good scrubbing and arrive. You know, “God’s gift to you is life; your gift to God is what you make of it”, even though He thinks His work in you is plenty already. He actually knew what He was doing. He’s finished.
The six statements I made at the beginning of this (and there are plenty more) suggest the lie that you don’t have everything that God thinks you do and that you’re not actually right now in Christ, who earned it all, who provides it all, and who maintains it all—right now and forever for you. In fact, you are fantastically wealthy and secure because of Him, and believing it is how you live! That’s the life of faith—believing that in Christ, you’re safe because He did it and you’ve got it all. Religion that entraps encourages you to see yourself (and others, such as your kids) as outside of Christ, with a whole lot of stuff to do so that YOU can earn what He hasn’t, so that YOU can provide what He won’t or might not, and so YOU can maintain—Keep things together!—what He cannot. That is not the gospel. That is anti-Christ.
Fortunately, we have already received “the promised eternal inheritance” (see Hebrews 9:15), and we’re becoming more and more convinced about how God is toward us and for us and in us—He is Perfect! And we trust and glory in His ability and in Him, “. . . who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). That’s the faith! We believe in Him; that He is perfect and good, and that He is in us—and we are forever secure because of it.
So let’s help each other with the truth—big, heaping platefuls, served regularly and at all hours. That’s how we’re nourished and how we can resist the lies, no matter where they come from.
It’s only when you look at an ant on a sunny day through a magnifying glass that you realize how often and easily they burst into flames. So it is when we stare at people through a computer monitor or television screen, analyzing and pretending we’re actually seeing them in the bright light of truth.
No one can withstand that angle of scrutiny, mostly because it’s not accurate! It’s not true! Only those who see from enlightened hearts—and insist upon that view—can walk with the ants and not make them afraid of the heat.
My prayer—maybe it’s your prayer, too—is that Christ in me (basic Christianity—Colossians 1:27–He is my hope inside me) will become more and more evident to me, to you and to those around me. His affection for people gives my heart a knowledge and an insight—a true way to know and an accurate way to see people that doesn’t burn them—which enables love for them to abound. AND—I will know from there what’s best. That’s my starting point. Maybe it’s yours, too.
Philippians 1:8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Most relationships tell a truth. Most of the relationships we’ve had over the years have sent us the message that no one wants to be around us when we’re ugly or doing ugly. You know—when we’re rude, when we’re angry or sloppy, or when we’re sick or when we’re dying. We’re not comfortable with ugly, and that’s at least somewhat understandable. Naturally, that carries over into our thinking about God: “God likes being with me only when I’m good enough to be good company.”
Fortunately, that is a terrible lie, one that He loves disproving to you. It’s perhaps the worst one when you consider that Jesus came to be with, to love and to rescue the “uglies” and the “ugliest”, many of whom remained strugglers in their version of ugly after meeting Him. Maybe you can relate to that. I can.
The truth of earthly relationships shines the light on the one that is Perfect for you. Jesus is Perfect with you—at all times, in every way. He is unrelenting, perfect love and ability for you; in every weakness, in every ugly, in every other relationship that cannot match His with you, but which in fact spotlights His with you. Every other relationship becomes an avenue for the one that is Perfect with you.
That’s the gospel, and that’s your starting point.