Aug 15, 2009

Wearing Christ

Implicit to the Baptism of the Spirit is the idea that the believer is actually merged with Christ. In some wonderful, mostly unexplainable way, God integrates us with what Peter, the Apostle, calls the "divine nature." Through this merger we are somehow spiritually enveloped in the Invisible Christ.

At that moment, everything changes, and not in a vague ethereal way, but in the real terms of everyday life. We begin to experience a new existence as we "wear Christ" into our daily lives. Thus, Paul would say to the Galatians, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ."

But what does it mean to "wear Christ" in this life? What exactly does that look like? Well, in all honesty, most days, it "ain’t" pretty. The process is usually a kind of rough and tumble deal that includeds a multitude of daily failures. But somehow, even including the kaos of every day life, Christ empowers success in the devout believer. He manages to grow us up, to bring us to an attractive spiritual maturity.

So, whatever the "snap shot" assessments that may be made of believers involved in this transforming process, it should be remembered that this transformation is better understood as a movie. And you just can't judge a movie by looking at one or two frames here and there.

And, while it's true that the bulk of our day to day "life show" may be clearly "two thumbs down," still, the finale is well worth the wait. So here is at least a bit of what Christ empowers in those who keep the first admonition.

He empowers faith through suffering. (Let’s get the scary part out of the way first.) That is why He said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." But know this. This is a suffering with the most noble purpose, and yielding the greatest benefits and blessings.

This suffering is not the empty suffering of excesses, or foolish pursuits, or bad choices that are all too normal for this world. Rather, this is the suffering encountered in service to truth. This is the suffering that comes in the defense of "rightness." This is the suffering that flows out of protecting the sacred and opposing evil.

If you bear the scars of such suffering because you choose to wear Christ into this life, just know that it is better to bleed than to quit. And though you may have been hurt deeply, or for a long season; yet Christ will make your scars a precious badge of faith, well worth the price of your tears. But suffering is part of what it means to wear Christ.

"Putting on Christ" also looks like humility. Overly zealous, self centered, mission oriented "power drivers" who serve only their own interests and visions are a dime a dozen in this world. But I dare say, they will be nonexistent in Heaven. Jesus does not enable conceited "hotdogs." He does, however, target such attitudes for destruction. And He leaves in their place an enduring humility.

Show me someone who has truly worn Christ for a while, and though they may be very vibrant, energetic, focused, and dynamic, they will be humble of heart. They will know the worth of the people around them, and they will be constantly sensitive to and bowed before the whim of their God.

Humility is the correct attitude for every day, every setting, every circumstance. And Christ empowers humility in those who wear Him every day.

Beyond that, Jesus also empowers Fruitfulness in those who wear Him daily. The book of Galatians gives us a glimpse of the character fruit that Christ enables in the believer. It says this in Galatians 5:22 and following, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."

It is impossible to wear Christ and be unchanged for the better in character. Thus, in His own words from John, chapter 15, Jesus says, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

Fruitfulness: an expanded, and beautiful, and God pleasing character, is the mark of our spiritual maturity. Much character fruit equals true success in Christ. When we wear Christ, after a while, it kinda' begins to look like a godly maturity.

Wearing Christ also brings us to very vital private relationship with God, the Father. Paul said, in His writings, "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Loving the Father, up close and personal, is empowered by our life in Christ. So, our intimacy with the Father, in Christ, moves beyond just the worship hour on Sunday morning. It moves beyond Sunday, itself. It moves beyond difficulty and human frailty to cause us to run to the Father simply to spend time with Him, to hear His voice in our heart, to discover His truth, His direction, His help, His blessing. We run to the Father, because we are in Christ, and so it is merely our natural inclination.

And finally, wearing Christ looks like love. It is His vitality that enables us to love with an expanded, godly capacity - and not just in the feeling, but in the doing. Godly love is always much more about what you do than what you feel.

So, as we put on Christ, we find ourselves actively seeking ways to empower people instead of simply ignoring them, or worse, tearing them down. Love becomes a deeply held moral responsibility for the well being of others, and not just those we know and have affection for, but even those we don’t.

So, what does it mean to wear Christ in this world. Exactly what does that look like? It looks like a life long movie with some real twists to me. Lord, bring em! Amen.