June 12, 2016

Spiritual Measles?

Chambers paints an interesting word picture. He speaks of how God writes a new name only on those places in our lives where He has erased the pride and self-sufficiency and says some of us have this new name in spots only, like spiritual measles.

While I agree that we can look good when in our best “spiritual” mode, it does not fit with the rest of Scripture to say that we only have that new name written all over when self-interest and pride and self-sufficiency have been completely erased.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

When drafted into the army, we are instantly soldiers in uniform, but it takes time to learn how to act like one. It is the same for those who are made new by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. However, it takes a lifetime of His purifying work to make us more like Jesus. I will not be exactly like Him until I see Him face to face in glory (see 1 John 3:2).

I see this progression as a process in John’s writings illustrated by the concept of abiding in Jesus. He begins with a simple physical abiding. It first means just being where Jesus is . . .

“He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.’ So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.” (John 1:39)

The next description of abiding is in John 15 where we are to go beyond just hanging out with Jesus to relying on Him for spiritual fruit in our lives. Jesus uses the illustration of a vine and branches . . .

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4–5)

John amplifies the result of this deeper abiding in his first letter. It goes beyond both a cozy relationship and passive reliance to obeying what He says . . .

“Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:4–6)

But there is more. Sometimes an unsaved person can at least appear to be obedient on the surface. I know cult members whose lives are exemplary and would be difficult to fault. It was to these and all who think that salvation is by works that Jesus spoke to with words that his disciples called a “hard saying” and caused many to turn back and no longer walk with Him . . .

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:54–56)

The Bible makes it clear that abiding is built on the foundation of eternal life, on the crucified body and poured out blood of Jesus Christ. Only those who have dropped all self-effort and pride in their own worth know what it means to feed on His flesh and drink His blood.

Chambers seems to mock those spiritual measles, but if a person is truly saved, then those spots are marks of God’s transforming work. He makes sinners into new creatures, then changes the way we live so we look like what He says we already are.

Chambers does hit on something important. He points out that pride says things like, ‘Oh, I’m no saint,’ or ‘I am much too weak and hopeless . . .’ This so-called humility before men may be unconscious blasphemy before God. Saying such things defies or denies the power of God to change lives. It is the opposite of abiding in Christ for it is saying ‘I am who I am — and God cannot change me.’

The remedy for such an attitude is spending days with Jesus until His transforming power is not only seen and acknowledged, but deeply desired because we have seen how much we need Him.

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