Nov 14, 2011

Me Two

I talk and write about a lot of things, but the one subject nearest and dearest to my heart is God's redemptive effort. I have made it my life's work to understand the operation that saved my own soul. And the more I have looked, the more I have become enamored with the beauty and gracefulness of what God has done though Christ. To this very day, I stand in absolute awe of the absolute genius of His Christ enabled redemptive work.

In the early days of my search as to what God was up to in this soul saving thing, like most I suspect, I focused on the Cross and God's wonderful forgiveness. But eventually, my search took me past the Cross toward the redemptive outflows of the Resurrection.

As I moved past the Cross, I started to recognize something astounding. It was this: Redemption is not just about forgiveness. It is about Forgiveness and Renewal. I realized that the whole point of the forgiveness was to position the believer to experience a profound personal newness.

I eventually came to understand that the newness that the Bible speaks of for the believer is not a function of the Cross at all, at least not directly. Rather, it is a function of the Resurrection. 

So, it turns out, the Cross is for forgiveness and the restoration of our relationship to God. But, our newness, in real terms, is a direct outflow of the Resurrection.

Said another way, it is the Dying Christ who secures our forgiveness, but it is the Living Christ who empowers us to become "new creatures." And that empowerment is entirely enabled by our Spiritual Baptism into the Living Christ. 

That baptism literally enables a merger between the character essence of Christ and that of the believer in order to revitalize us. So, obviously, this personal Spiritual merger Christ is as necessary to the redemptive purpose as is the conversion moment. 

The Spiritual baptism is primarily aimed at fixing one intolerable reality in the human condition. It is the evil inner twin who lives within all of us - even after we become believers. This is that inner, subconscious person within us who absolutely refuses to voluntarily surrender to the lordship of Christ and the authority of God, much less, embrace His value system. 

Paul, in his writings, refers to this inner person as the "old man," the "carnal nature," or "the flesh."  And, he paints a very clear picture of this carnal us in Romans, chapter 7 where he says this, "I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"

Oh yeah, we know this condition. We have all felt the pressure of that chronic waywardness that lives within our inner person. This is that involuntary rebellion, even within the heart of a new believer, that refuses to submit to the lordship of Christ.

So, just as Paul describes above, with our conscious mind we have given ourselves to God. But in our subconscious mind, this carnal self wreaks constant havoc upon all of our good intentions. 

Thus, though we can see the high road of God's pleasure, this inner evil twin keeps us from walking it. So, every day we fight this inner battle, our conscious mind subscribing to God's way, but our subconscious mind refusing to go along - pulling us the wrong way and tempting us with a thousand subversive ploys.

If this is newness, who needs it - right? But this is not the newness that Christ offers. It is just the condition in which we find ourselves between the time of our conversion and the moment of our Spiritual Baptism into the Living Christ. And this period of time serves very important purposes in God's redemptive scheme, and our journey toward newness.

This very personal inner conflict is the time when serious believers confront their subconscious rebellion. And this inner battlefield is the place where we are humbled by our own failures. It is the place where we are made desperate by our own frustration. It is in this place that we begin to intuitively seek after the "mystery that has been kept secret since the foundation of the world." Paul describes that mystery this way, "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

So, it's simple really. The "demon self" who lives deep beneath the surface of our conscious mind, even after conversion, has no intention of ever surrendering to God. The Bible says of this incorrigible, carnal mind that "it is not subject to the law of God, neither, indeed, can be." 

Thus, there is really only one option for dealing with this subconscious trouble maker. He must be subdued by one stronger than himself on that very primary level where he lives. He must be subdued by the Living Christ in Spirit form.

And that is exactly what Jesus does for the believer through the Baptism of the Spirit. This is the remedy that Paul reveals if we just continue reading in Romans through chapter 8, where he answers his own question from chapter 7: "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"

His answer in chapter 8 is this. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

"But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

"But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."

So, when we literally become integrated with the nature of Christ through the Baptism of the Spirit here is what happens. The Divine Essence goes immediately to our subconscious mind to settle the issue of whose in charge. He instantly arrests this stubborn carnal twin of ours and establishes humility (faith) toward God as the ascendant value even on this subconscious level.

At that point, the spiritual tug-of-war ends. No longer is the believer's heart divided in its loyalty between God and self. This heart is now undivided. It is singularly devoted to God on its most primary level. 

And, having a singular primary devotion is the essential definition of Holiness. To be undivided in your devotion to God, both in your conscious and subconscious mind, this is Holiness of heart. And, it is entirely the Living Christ who enables this heart purity, through the Spiritual Merger.

And with this personal completion, a deep peace finally comes to the believer. The peace that Jesus described as, "the peace that passes understanding." No longer is this child of God painfully suspended between two opposing governments in his or her heart.

And now, the believer is positioned to become truly and profoundly new as he or she begins to live life in the vitality of Christ and guided by His values. Now, in the real terms of the everyday, "behold, old things are passed away, and all things are become new."

But, there is also something else that these 30 years of discovery have shown me. It is simply this. Alarmingly high numbers of believers neglect this completion through a personal Spiritual Merger with Christ. Far too many believers in the grass roots of the modern Church, especially, are unaware, even of this possibility.

Many, these days, simply assume themselves to merely be hopelessly consigned to the daily spiritual failure which the divided heart brings. So they quietly accept the failure-forgiveness-failure-forgiveness cycle as the mormal reality of their redemption.

Others assume the Baptism of the Spirit to be a mostly imperceptible benefit that is intrinsic or automatic to conversion. So, they never invest themselves in seeking, with some determination, this divine completion as the Bible instructs us to do. (Ref. Luke, chapter 11)

Still others view a realistic newness in Christ as more of an option than a natural necessity and a real requirement of the redemptive process. Thus, with all of these easier, though mistaken, options in play in the modern Church, this more sophisticated Gospel becomes a pretty hard sell.

And, in fact, we live in a time when minimal investment is the norm. These times have been drained of real clarity regarding God's authentic process by the long prevalence of easy believism and "pop preaching." 

 So, it has become easy to ignore the need for this personal completion after our initial conversion. Rather, we tend to simply focus on forgiveness, and then move on to devote our energies to pursuing the temporal things of this life in a kind of "peaceful co-existence" with our sinful daily failures.

However, there is one thing we have trouble escaping, even in these shallow times. It's His voice. The voice of God still calls to the heart of believers to finish the redemptive course, to rise, to draw near to Him in this completely devoted way.

When I encounter a young child at the alter of conversion, I am careful to tell them something before they return to their parents. I tell them this: "Just listen for His voice in your heart." 

I tell them to do that, because I know that, as surely as they have given their heart to Christ, He will begin to speak to them and urge them forward through the redemptive process. And those urgings ultimately always lead all of us to the exact same place - the place of the undivided heart, a place of personal empowerment, a place of a true and profound newness in Christ.

And so, I would encourage everyone - run toward the voice that calls you to a completely devoted heart. Obey that voice with a true passion. If you hear the Holy Spirit of God calling you to Spiritual completion in Christ, then covenant with Him to put the silliness of this life on hold, and begin to devote yourself to the pursuit of this Spiritual completion above all else.

This literal integration with Christ is the indispensable, stand alone, target event of the New Testament. It is this event to which God calls every believer, after conversion, in order to touch them with this profound renewal in their inner person through the power of the invisible Living Christ. And, once we make it to the foot of the Cross, this immediate benefit of the Resurrection lies just ahead.  

So, it simply comes to this.  True redemption is not merely about the  "Fire Insurance" of forgiveness.  It is every bit as much about a Christ empowered transformation of heart and life.

It's never been a secret - until recently. Nevertheless, it remains true.  Only undivided hearts will be admitted to God's Heaven.