Friday, October 28, 2016

So what?

I have a friend who speaks at Bible conferences a lot. I don't know how many times I've heard him say we need reality in our lives. Not only for our own benefit, but as a testimony to those around us.

We started out talking about how my co-workers and my neighbors and my friends and my family and the people in the little gathering here don't need to see me – not even the best version of me. They need to see the life of Jesus in my mortal body (2 Corinthians 4:10–11). Let's give some thought to that in practical terms.

2 Corinthians 4:10–11 tells us two things about this manifestation:

  1. it's self-evident that it has to be Christ Himself they see, not my imitation
  2. the cost is death working in me
May I suggest that the very first step is to go to the Lord Jesus in prayer, asking Him to manifest His life in my mortal body? May I also suggest that we ask for His patience and His grace as we contemplate the cost of death working in us? It is His work to do, but there will be very real pain associated with it, and we'll need His grace in the face of it.

The principle we keep coming back to is "abiding in Christ" (John 15:4). How do we abide in Christ? Robert commented

I was asked at the weekend, 'what does it mean in practice to abide in Christ'? I think John's answer may well have been, it means to be at the table and lean on His bosom John 13:23.
Paul's answer to the same question would have been, 'But we all, looking on the glory of the Lord, with unveiled face, are transformed according to the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit' 2 Corinthians 3:18

Colossians 3:1 takes up this thread and talks about setting our affections on things above because that's where Christ is. We understand that if I continue to look for fulfillment and meaning down here, I'm not looking for it up there. This, too, has to be the work of God in my heart. Can I suggest we ask the Father to show us His Son? Can I suggest we ask Him to put Christ between my eyes and this world, to keep me from being distracted by the bright and shiny things here?

Exodus 24:9–14 tells us the story of Moses and the elders of Israel seeing God on Sinai, "they saw God, and ate and drank" (Exodus 24:11). Verse 14 is particularly interesting, because Moses specifically told them to wait there for him to return. But they didn't wait for him: they got impatient and turned to idols (Exodus 32:1–2). We do exactly the same thing when we decide The Man who brought us up out of bondage (Exodus 32:1) has been "up there" too long (Colossians 3:1–4). We soon start looking around for something down here we can turn into a god. So the New Testament tells us again and again, "He's coming back!" "Don't give up waiting!"

Let's not get tired of waiting for Him to come back down from up there (Philippians 3:20–21).

We come back to this theme of eating in God's presence in Joshua 5:8–12, where four things are associated with Gilgal:

  1. circumcision, a rolling away of the reproach of Egypt (Joshua 5:8–9)
  2. the Passover (Joshua 5:10)
  3. eating the old corn of the land, a type of Christ in resurrection (Joshua 5:11, Leviticus 23:10–13, 1 Corinthians 15:20)
  4. eating manna, a type of Christ in humility (Joshua 5:12, John 6:32–33)
For us too, there are these four things. We've discussed Romans 6:11 and Colossians 3:1–4 at length. We have died with Christ. But Gilgal reminds us more of Colossians 3:5–7. Here there is a mortifying, a putting to death. There is a real pain associated with Gilgal that's not associated with the Red Sea. And there is a real pain in Colossians 3:5 that's not in Romans 6:11. It's relatively pain-free to reckon myself to have died with Christ; it's not at all pain-free to put to death my members on the earth.

Here again, we need to go to the Father and ask Him for grace and courage.

But of course it's not all pain in Gilgal: there's eating too. There are three meals mentioned: the Passover, the manna, and the old corn of the land. If you look closely at the timetable in Joshua 5, there was just one day when they ate both the old corn of the land and the manna. We, too, have a very narrow window of opportunity to eat both. We'll never get beyond feeding on Christ in resurrection, but we can only feed on Christ in humility while we're here. The supply of manna ends when we're out of the wilderness.

When we eat with Christ, we can expect to get what my buddy Caleb calls "Luke 24 heartburn" (Luke 24:29–32). We all need that kind of heartburn, and we should all ask the Father to give us a really "bad" case of it. That kind of heartburn comes from lingering over the table with Him and contemplating Him "starting with Moses and the prophets" (Luke 24:27).

I've heard this time and time again, but I still fail really to practice it... Can I start to see time spent with the Savior as an investment? The very best use of time is to spend it with Christ.

Those are some simple suggestions for "where to go from here". They're simple, but hopefully practical.


HandWrittenWord said...

Great point, Mark, regarding the contrast between Col 3:5 and Rom 6:11 in practice:

"And there is a real pain in Colossians 3:5 that's not in Romans 6:11. It's relatively pain-free to reckon myself to have died with Christ; it's not at all pain-free to put to death my members on the earth."

I would only add (which you have probably covered elsewhere) that, until we believe from the bottom of our hearts and put into practice Romans 6:11, we have no chance at all of obeying Colossians 3:5. For that matter, we will not believe and obey Colossians 3:1-4 without the reckoning of Romans 6:11.

clumsy ox said...

Thanks for bringing that out! I couldn't agree more.

Anonymous said...

"The more I go on the more I see how we are in a wholly new position; but, oh! how poorly we are in it." JND

Robert Thomson said...

For years I have had a mental block about Peters teaching in 1Peter 3:regarding the days of Noah. I was always viewing the controversy about the spirits in prison as the big thing. Recently I asked myself why Noah and his family are brought in to that chapter and the fog cleared and I saw that it is to compare their new position with our new position!