If you ever wonder, “What’s going on with me?”, here’s a way that you can know, here’s how you can trace back through your thoughts and feelings to the influence that made them happen. In other words, “How did I get here?”
If you’ve often been thinking and saying things like, “I’m such a sinner.” “I’m so broken.” “I am no good.” then you’re feeling generally hopeless. But that is the proof that you’ve been surrendering your thoughts to what the Bible identifies as the ministry of the law. What it serves you, what it does is offer you a required standard of behavior that you agree would be right, while giving you absolutely nothing to accomplish it. Zero. (History proves that no one can pull off what it requires—except for One—Jesus. Certainly not me! Likely not you, either.)
Always it brings out your failures by accurately proving your guilt—it nails you every time—and you agree that you’re guilty. “It’s true! Look at all the evidence!” And then it condemns and serves a sort of depression, of course, and a slow death (See Romans 7). You’re going to feel that. It’s going to affect you. You’d almost hope you would because it’s a sign that something’s gone wrong.
However, the ministry of the Holy Spirit—what God does—is bring out Christ’s success for you, and removes guilt, proves innocence, and produces righteousness and life given to you because of Jesus. Always. That’s His ministry, that’s what He’s doing with you right now. So if you’re tuned in to the Spirit and the truth, then you’re going to think and say things like: “I am actually a son of God.” “I’m complete in Jesus. I lack nothing.” “I am truly good.” You’re affected and feeling hopeful.
If you, a believer in Jesus, are hearing or sensing or knowing anything else, then you’re not tuned-in to God. You’re not tuned into the truth. So check your channels, check your dial, check what you’re thinking and reading and watching because He’s saying something fantastic and deeply satisfying to you right now.
In essence, Jesus is saying to you, “Because of Me, you are well.” You can’t get well-er. He means for you to know all about it—that’s what He’s doing with you, that’s what He’s working toward—and He knows that it’s the greatest, most pure motivator there is.
This is what we serve, this is what we offer to people—not the old covenant (Jewishness) but the new (Christianity)! We offer the gospel; the good news about Christ for you and for everyone. And the Holy Spirit will see to it that your thoughts bear fruit, and you’re often going to feel that. By itself, it isn’t a feeling, but it’s a work of truth that oftentimes results in feelings. I like that, and I bet you do, too.
2 Corinthians 3:6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone (the Ten Commandments), came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation (the Ten, the law, any one or all of them—take your pick) was glorious (in that it brought us to Christ; see Galatians 3:23-29), how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! (Italics mine.)
That’s the New Covenant! That is having all things in Christ. That is why we are well—because of Him! You are well because of Him. How often? At all times. You might not know it, you might not feel it because you may be tuned into a commandment, a law, a rule—something that’s going wrong—rather than the gospel and the Spirit, who serves it to you. You are well because of Him.
This is what we serve to each other, because it’s what He’s saying to you today. It’s the New Covenant. It’s good, isn’t it?
Romans 8:18 reads this way: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
What does that mean?
When you receive Jesus, he brings all that He is into you: perfect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control—not eventually, not occasionally, but at all times, at every moment, in every situation. Now. He is the Treasure you’ve been looking for, the Reward for which you long, and the Answer you’ve got to know. And He is in you. Jesus is the solution you want, the success you were made for, and the glory now in you. It’s all Him.
If you’re suffering or enduring hardship as I sometimes do, avoid the temptation to work up more fleshly strength (you’re already exhausted), and beware the thoughts that assign you to the failed scrap heap of humanity. That’s a lie. His glory, the incredible evidence that He lives within you, is best seen through suffering, most obvious in calamity, and most triumphant in hardship. So offer yourself to Jesus. And where is He? That’s where you make the offering—to the inside, to Jesus who has made you His home.
Romans 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God (and He is in you right now) as those who have been brought from death to life (Where is the life? He is on the inside); and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” (Italics mine.)
Listen for Him. Look for Him. Feel for Him inside of you—with you. This is worth quieting yourself. Pay attention to the thoughts and pictures that play in your mind. Talk aloud to Jesus—you may get reckless or even loud—as you give yourself to Him. You’ll find that He gives Himself to you, and that’s where the life is! Respond to what you feel and to what He reveals, and trust that he loves you far more than He cares about mistakes you might make in the adventure of knowing Him. It’s okay if you’re a sloppy baby with Him now and then; He’s not going to reject you! You’re His baby! If He knows everything, even before it happens, then He knows and has planned for your sloppiness. He doesn’t resent it. Be needy with Him! That’s also where His glory is best seen—in the pressure! In our weakness.
Consider what Paul wrote to the sloppy behaving, perfect vessels for God nevertheless, the pressured sons and daughters at Corinth:
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay (We’re sure fragile, aren’t we?) to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (If God were to show up in a jar of clay, it would be obvious, wouldn’t it? That’s the plan with you and me.) We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 2 Corinthians 4:6-11 (Italics mine)
And what a life that is! God’s life in you and in me, for us to experience and for others to witness. That’s the glory—He is the glory now in you. Finding Him there is the best discovery there is, and it’s the best treasure hunt you’ll ever go on. It’s the hunt for glory, and it’s found in you.
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.