December 12, 2016

Joyful loss of life

Before Jesus went to the cross He prayed to His Father with requests for His disciples, those at the time and those who would follow Him later . . . .

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:22–23)

Chambers uses these verses to sum up his thoughts on personality vs. individually and how unity among believers and Christ is a union of personality that cannot happen if we cling to our individuality.

First he describes personality as those qualities that make me distinct from everyone else. While I might assume I know my personality, it is like an island or an iceberg with hidden depths that only my Creator knows and understands.

Chambers also defines personality as the characteristic of a spiritual person. When I walk in the Spirit with God’s power and direction in my life, I am still ‘me’ but in relationship with God, I am yielded and united to Him.

In contrast, Chambers says the main characteristic of the natural person is individuality. This means that when I am not following God but my own ways and in my own strength, I’ve taken God’s place as director of my life and have fallen into sin. That is, I can walk with God as spiritual or walk away from God and live as I once did — as a ‘natural’ or sinful person who does not know God.

From these definitions and the above passage from Jesus’ prayer in John 17, Chambers says that oneness is about giving up my rights to myself so that God can make of me the full person that He intended.

That is, unity with God sets free my personality and because of that freedom, I am being transformed. I don’t cling to ‘me’ and can grow to maturity rather than being stifled and in bondage to sin. My personality is still ‘me’ but I am becoming more like Jesus. However, this process cannot happen without yielding my old life, my natural individuality. This helps me better understand verses like these:

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:24)
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 individuality dies so the personality can be made alive in Christ.

These thoughts also explain unity. Biblical unity is not that every Christian has the same understanding and beliefs about everything. Instead, our unity is in the fact that Christ by His Spirit lives in us and is transforming each of us into His likeness. As this happens, I do not lose my personality, but I do lose my sinful tendency to insist on my own rights and be my own boss. Rather, I am becoming like Him in attitude and nature, yet retaining the qualities that make ‘me’ a distinct personality from other Christians.

The natural person does not know the things of God and if a Christian reverts to that natural individuality, that relationship with God is hindered. This ‘self-reliance” must be confessed, put off, yielded to God and taken to the Cross to die. Resisting that process may allow my individuality to remain, but then my personality is stifled.

Yielding to Jesus and rejecting individuality is “losing my life for His sake” yet He saves my personality and makes it like His own. That is the death that produces life, abundant life in rich fellowship with Him and with others that are experiencing the same marvelous transformation!

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