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 brought me to this deeply fulfilling friendship with God. And the more I have looked, the more I have become enamored with the sheer beauty and gracefulness of what God has done though Christ. To this very day, forty+ years later, I stand in complete 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 actually 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 transformation, in real terms, is a direct outflow of the Resurrection.

Said another way, it is the Dying Christ of the Cross who secures our forgiveness, but it is the Living Christ of the Resurrection who empowers us to become "new creatures." And that empowerment is entirely enabled by our Spiritual merger with the Living Christ - the event the Church refers to as the Spiritual Baptism

This merger literally enables a connection between the character essence of Christ and that of the believer in order to literally revitalize the sincere believer through the vitality and value system of the Living Christ. So, obviously, this personal integration with the character essence of Christ is ultimately as necessary to the redemptive purpose as is our conversion moment

In the redemptive process, 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, truly and thoroughly embrace His value system. 

The apostle, 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 subconscious 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 in Christ. But, in our subconscious mind 
(what Paul calls, our members), 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 opposing 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 metaphysical merger with the Living Christ.  And, while disconcerting, nevertheless, 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 own remaining subconscious rebellion. And this inner battlefield is the place where we are profoundly humbled by our own failures. 

It is the place where we are made desperate by our own frustration. But, driven by this desperation, it is also the place where we intuitively begin to reach out and 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 trouble-making subconscious twin of ours. He must be subdued by one stronger than himself on the most primary governing level of our core person, where he operates. Thus, he must be subdued by the vitality of the Living Christ.

And that is exactly what the Living Jesus of the Resurrection does for the believer through the Spiritual merger. This is the remedy that Paul reveals if we just continue reading in Romans, 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
[daily vitality] to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." [Brackets added]

So, when our character essence literally becomes Spiritually integrated with the character essence of the Living Christ here is what happens. The Divine Essence goes immediately to our subconscious mind to settle the issue of who is in charge in our life. He instantly arrests this stubborn carnal twin of ours by removing the value of self-determination as the prime value of our subconscious person.  And, in it's place, the vitality of His character essence now firmly establishes Faith, a consistent humility toward God, as the prime value even on this subconscious level of our being.

At this point, that inner "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, not just on the conscious level, but also on the most primary governing level of the subconscious.  

And, that singularity of heart, is the very definition of Holiness - Having a singular primary devotion in one's heart.  And, it is entirely the Living Christ, in Spirit form, who enables this heart purity, through a very real and impactful character integration with the devout believer. 

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 sustaining and energizing vitality of the Living Christ.  Now guided by the new values of His integrated character essence within the believer, in very real terms, "behold, old things are passed away, and all things are become new."

But, I must mention, there is also something else that these 40+ years of discovery have shown me. It is simply this. Alarmingly high numbers of believers entirely neglect this completing Spiritual Merger with Christ. For whatever reasons, modern believers seem to prefer impotency and daily failure to the experience of this very real empowerment in the Living Christ.

Thus many, these days, merely assume themselves to be hopelessly consigned to the daily failures which a divided heart always brings. So they quietly accept the failure-forgiveness-failure-forgiveness cycle as the normal reality of their redemption.

Others assume the Baptism of the Spirit to be a mostly imperceptible thing which is just an undifferentiated part of their conversion moment. So, they never invest themselves in seeking, with some determination, this divine completion as the Bible instructs believers to do (Ref. Luke, chapter 11).  

And, still others view a realistic newness in Christ as more of an option than a natural necessity and a real requirement of God's redemptive plan.  And, indeed, we do live in a time when minimal investment has become much more the norm for believers. 

Plus, the sad reality is that the modern Church has been largely drained of real clarity regarding God's authentic redemptive process by the prevalence of pop-preaching's "easy-believism"  Thus, with all of these negatives now in play, this authentic redemptive process does becomes something of a "hard sell."

 So, bottom line, 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.   It's really a kind of "peaceful co-existence" with our own waywardness born of a heart still caught in the throes of decision between self and God.

Nevertheless, there is one thing we have trouble escaping, even in these shallow times:  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 younger 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 truly embraced the lordship of 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 who hear them to the exact same place: A Spiritual Merger with Christ - which becomes for us, the place of the undivided heart, the place of noble personal empowerment, the place of a true and profound newness in Christ.

And so, I would encourage everyone - run toward that voice which calls you to completeness in the character essence of the Living Christ. Ignore all others; and, obey that True Voice with a true passion.  Put
 the tedium of this life on hold, and begin to devote yourself to the pursuit of this empowering connection to Christ with all stubbornness. 

This literal personal integration with Christ is, absolutely, the indispensable, stand-alone, Target Event of New Testament redemption. It is to this event that God calls every believer, after conversion, in order to touch them with this pervasive, Christ-enbled newness in their inner person.  Truly, this immediate benefit of the Resurrection lies just beyond the forgiveness of the Cross for every believer who will sincerely seek it.  

So, it simply comes to this.  True redemption is not merely about the  "fire insurance" of forgiveness.  It is ultimately and absolutely about this Christ-empowered newness heart. Truly, this is God's authentic redemptive purpose and His indispensable requisite for entry into His Heaven.

"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."  - The Apostle, Paul, from The Book of Romans