Thursday, October 20, 2016


So we've discussed how the New Testament, especially the Epistles, has two underlying assumptions when it discusses the Christian life:

  1. we have experienced new birth
  2. we are abiding in Christ
That is, the commands in the New Testament were never intended for those who haven't been born again; and they really can't be obeyed by our own efforts.

So really the Christian life is the work of God in me, as opposed to my efforts. But we've already discussed how Christianity is really a sort of active passivity: I can't do it myself, but God expects me to be onboard.

There really is human responsibility in the New Testament: I'm not going to experience what God has for me in Christ if I just decide to sit on my sofa with football and beer and wait for Christ to work in me. That might be a better approach than what most Christians are trying, but it's not really what we're called to.

I've tried the "football and beer" approach to Christianity. It doesn't work, because it denies my identification with Christ. Scripture says I have died with Christ (Galatians 2:19–20, Colossians 3:3). It says I've died to sin (Romans 6:11), to the Law (Romans 7:4), and to the world (Galatians 6:14). If I just sink into the world, then I'm really denying that I've died to it. How do I expect my life to look, if I deny in practice what Scripture asserts is the starting point? I've put myself into a position God will not bless.

No, I'm not speaking out against football or baseball or even hockey. But I am saying that if we live like we're alive in the world, then find ourselves in Romans 8:12–13. We find ourselves returning to what we've supposedly left behind. I can say from personal experience that it's possible to go from Romans 8:3 to Romans 8:13 shockingly quickly.

Colossians 3:1–4 is a powerful description of the Christian life. It starts out with the command to "seek those things above, where Christ is." Why? Because my life here has ended. My life is up there now, and I ought to be paying attention to that.

Several years ago I was talking with my daughter about baptism. She was probably six or seven at the time, and I was telling her that baptism really means "I'm done with this world". She said to me, "So what you're saying is that we're here on a business trip, not a vacation."

Think about that: we're here on business, not on a holiday. Yes, we live here. Yes, we have certain responsibilities here. Yes, there is even a sense of godly worldliness (1 Corinthians 7:32–34). But we're not called to make this our home, nor our source of joy, nor our source of meaning. We're here on business, not pleasure.

Robert pointed out 2 Corinthians 3:18. As far as I know, that's the only verse in Scripture that actually tells us how to be like Christ. What does it say? If you want to be like Christ, you need to look at Him. (And someday we'll get a really good look, 1 John 3:2.) Isn't that just what Colossians 3:1 is saying?

There's a lot more to be said, but this seems like the place to stop for now.


Robert Thomson said...

I really like this:

"As I look at that glory it has a formative power in me. I tell you, beloved brethren, and I say it to myself, as well as you, what we all stand in need of (I speak especially to those who have a genuine desire in their souls to be a little more after the power of this ministry) is, to be long enough in the presence of that blessed Christ who is glorified to catch the features of that Christ, and so have Him engraven upon the "fleshy tables of our hearts." That is what is wanted. It is not an effort. You might try to be like Christ in glory until you were worn out with trying, and you would not catch one feature of His. The very fact of your striving proves your inability. But what is it? It is a thing that nobody can explain. I do not believe you can ever convey to another what it is to sit engrossed with that blessed One who is there in glory. Who could explain?"

Surpassing Glory and Surpassing Power WT Turpin

clumsy ox said...

What an excellent quote. Thanks for sharing it!