About twenty-six years ago, we moved to this city and I found a family doctor. She was young and without much experience, but I stuck with her. She has become a very wise and helpful expert in what she does. She was a doctor in the beginning, but continues to become a doctor!
In a similar way, when a person enlists in the army, that person is a soldier as soon as he signs up. However, it takes weeks, months, even years before he becomes a soldier.
The principle of the kingdom of God is like that too. When Jesus arrived, so did the kingdom, yet it was not visible to most, only the disciples. As time passes, more people are added to God’s family and become part of His kingdom. I like the theological term, ‘now and not yet’ because this kingdom is here, yet it is not here in the fullness that is to come.
Paul wrote about living in the kingdom and how those who enter it are totally changed. It is a ‘now and not yet’ experience as well . . .
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:14–17)
I became a Christian forty-five years ago. On that day, at that moment, I was made a new creation, complete in Christ Jesus. The old person passed away, died to all that I was. Yet that new creation was like a new doctor, or a new soldier, or a newborn baby — with a long way to go toward being mature and functioning as a Christian should.
Christian maturity is also odd in that the closer a person gets to God, the more easily they can see their sinful flaws and weaknesses. This means that instead of feeling mature and ‘all grown up’ as an experienced doctor or soldier might feel, those who are growing in Christ often feel an increasing need for Him, not any sense of having arrived.
Jesus experienced a pattern of change too, but His experience was not exactly like ours. The ‘old’ life He left was “equality with God” and the perfection of heaven. He came to this sin-filled earth to become a God-man, eternal in being, yet that incarnation was a new thing — the Son of God put on humanity and totally submitted His life to the will of His Father and to “learning obedience by the things He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).
I am part of the sin-filled people of this earth. Christ came to give me new life and this new life includes His way of thinking . . .
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)
He died for my sin. My ‘death’ is to sin and to self. As Chambers’ devotional says, there is only one thing He wants of me, and that is our unconditional surrender. At first, I had little understanding of what that involved, but now I know that the Holy Spirit takes that new creation and begins to make it a new creation.
Chambers says, “There will come a time when there is not a bit of the old order left . . . the old attitude to things . . . and ‘all things are of God.’” This includes death to all lust, self-interest, sensitivity to irritation, and develops a love that is not provoked, thinks no evil, and is always kind.
A younger person once said to me that it must be easier to be a Christian as you grow older. I laughed and told him that was not true, at least not as long as you want to keep growing. God wants not one bit of the old life, only a simple and total trust in God, even to the place where He can withdraw His blessings and my faith will not waver. And just when I think I have arrived, He shows me that I’m not there yet.