December 19, 2014

Who is the real me?

There are two types of opposites in the Christian life. One is the polarity between the flesh and the Spirit. The Bible says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:16–17)

These opposing forces are sin and godliness, selfishness and being like Christ. However, in Christ there are other opposites that are not sinful, such things as sorrow and joy, weakness and strength. It is not sinful to be sad when tragedy happens. I know that God is in charge, but I cannot imagine being joyful concerning events like the massacre in Pakistan, or 9/11, or seeing whole towns wiped out by a flood or fire.

It is not sinful to feel or be weak either. In fact, it may be a preferable state. Paul had a problem with something that made him weak. He said, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8–10)

The devotional reading today focuses on the first set of opposites. It points to Jesus’ response to a lawyer who tested Him by asking which is the great commandment in the Law? Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:35–38)

Then the reading speaks about being of two minds about living for God. One part wants to serve Him and the other part wants to serve self. One part is humble and the other is filled with pride. This is the conflict between the mind of Christ and my old mind that is of the flesh.

Because I know this, when the readings asks “Which is me?” I’d have to say: “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)

The flesh died with Christ. It may not act dead but it is eternally separated from God, meaning it IS dead. Because I am united to Christ, I am now a person of faith who by faith. This is a new person who is not old flesh and not the Spirit, yet somehow a combination of the two. I can be strong in the Lord, yet weak in myself. I can be joyful in sorrow, hopeful in times of grief and stress, not because I have to fight to be positive but because the Spirit of Christ lives in me. The questions should not be, “Which is me?” but “Whom do I trust?” The Lord? Or the way I feel? My limited resources? Or His great power?

If I keep thinking my opposites are flesh and Spirit ( and I have done this many times), then I am denying the truth of my redemption and the reality that I have been crucified with Christ. I no longer live in sinful flesh but in a body of flesh (same word, two meanings, one is figurative, the other literal) and in that body of flesh I live by faith.

The person who has the mind of Christ needs to learn how to think as Christ thinks, not think as their old sinful self used to think. I too easily focus on the way that I was, not the way that I now am. The former kind of focus has brought me down many times. However, the truth sets me free, just as 2 Corinthians 5:17 boldly declares, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

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