November 18, 2011

Free Indeed

Today’s devotional reading, this time from “My Utmost for His Highest,” rekindles a germ of an idea that I’ve not studied or thought through in great depth. However, this intrigues me and draws me to consider once more what it means to be a Christian.

My example is Jesus Christ. He is God in human flesh. How did this happen? The Bible says He lived on earth as a sinless man, not relying on His God-ness, but on the Holy Spirit, just as Christians are supposed to do.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5–8)
If I am to be like Jesus, I can think as He thinks because He lives in me and I have His mind. (1 Corinthians 2:16). Yet unlike Jesus who began as deity and occupied a human body, I started out as a sinful human being and am now occupied by deity. Also unlike Jesus who choose to live as a sinless human, I now must choose to live by faith in the Son of God who lives in me. 
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
My question is how much of me is involved in this? When I decide to live in the flesh and have my own way, I know that is fully me. Jesus, who lives in me, never instigates nor promotes that decision. However, when I decide to obey the Holy Spirit and present myself to God in humble admission of my need for Him, is that me? Or did Jesus living in me produce that decision?

The devotional says that in our own personality, those who are Christian have the capacity to humble ourselves, discipline ourselves, even to stop sinning. This is not true for everyone, but for Christians because, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

We have been released from the penalty of sin by the death and resurrection of our Savior. We are being released from the power of sin by the fact of His indwelling presence. Because of that, then our battle is not against sin and death (that battle is won) but against that old sinful nature called the flesh. The flesh is the self-centered individuality that wants to live and act apart from God. In my flesh, I will choose to ignore the new creation of “Christ in me” and try to avoid God. Yet, as today’s reading says, I have, as a set-free-from-sin Christian, the capacity to now “present that fleshy natural life to God until it is transformed into a spiritual life by obedience.

At least one cult teaches that Christ gives us the power to earn our salvation. I now understand how they think that. They err because they do not realize that when we are set free from sin (and given this power to choose), we are at that moment, set free from the penalty of sin. We never earn or deserve that. Salvation is a gift by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and with this gift, we are set free to choose how to live. The saved person can live by faith in Christ or by trusting the old flesh. Yet we discover a wonderful reality: the life of Christ is so powerful that it cannot be denied. As Galatians 2:20 says, He has identified us with Himself to the extent that when He died on the cross, we died with Him. That old self is separated from God forever. Our new life is far too wonderful to put on a shelf and ignore. It just keeps bubbling up like a spring of living water.

The devotional today says that any remnant of individual conceit will always say ‘I can’t’ whereas the new person wants more and more of Christ. God designed us with a great capacity for Himself. Sin and the flesh keep us from getting at God. Yet He delivered us from sin. Our battle is with the flesh and we can deliver ourselves from it by presenting ourselves to God, sacrificing our I-wants and selfishness until we are living by faith and not flesh.

This reading also says that God does not pay any attention to our natural individuality in the development of our spiritual life. I agree. I may have a good IQ or some sort of talent or ability, but none of that matters. It is still
‘self’ and I am not to live by it. God calls me to obey Him, whether I think I can do something or not. 

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
I cannot even plead that I suffer from wandering thoughts, because He tells me to stop doing it. I’m to instead cease from listening to the tyranny of my fleshy individuality and selfishness, and live in the freedom of one who has been set free. If I ask God to do what He asks me to do, I’ve forgotten that what I ask has already been made possible and I just need to walk into that freedom.

Father, my mind still cannot wrap itself around the God-man idea of Jesus compared to the me-Jesus idea of being Christian, but I know one thing: You have delivered me from the penalty of sin and given me eternal life. You have also provided Jesus so I am being delivered from the power of sin. That process is not about earning eternal life, but about letting the eternal life which I already have, be the source of everything that I think, say, and do. My old nature is useless, even crucified. May I continually consider it dead and therefore live as one who has been set free, because, by grace, the Son of God has made me “free indeed.”

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