Of some ministry, all that can be said is that it alleviates guilt and a sense of obligation and duty. There is other ministry that releases spirit and life.
There’s a stark difference between the worker and the son. The difference between living from obligation and living from yourself is the difference between being a shadow of yourself and being your real self. It’s also the difference between purveying death and purveying life. What is the inheritance sons carry within? This is the spirit-life of God.
‘But what does Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son’ Gal 4.30 NIV.
The effect of Jesus’ life for us is that we and our Father are one. The result of this is that like Jesus, we do only what Father is doing and only what He intended that we should be doing. As a result we release His spirit and life. We are life-gives who do not tire ourselves and irritate other.
There’s a benefit in grace. It frees us of guilt. Grace empowers us to live free of obligation to externalities such as the expectations of others, their often misplaced view of what God expects and our own distorted attempts to earn God’s favour through religion. Sadly the most uptight and the least fruitful, but the most busy in good works are the religious. This is why in the Kingdom, Christ is your life and not religion.
Last week as I walked around the suburban block in which my house is situated, I thanked the Lord that I could stroll joyfully at leisure along this pleasant, slightly less than one kilometer circuit of street, garden and expansive nature strip. I could do this as a free spirit without being burdened by myself in any way. I could, so to speak, walk with the Lord entirely un-cast down by guilt or paralyzed about the carnality that surfaces periodically in me. Carnality that I wish I had left behind but apparently have not.
I told Jesus that I was thankful for His cross, His grace and the liberty to be myself. To be me without being burdened by my sin and the knowledge that there remains much in me that is the carcass of the body of death. The fact is. I don’t live in that death and I don’t drag around that body. But I do live in Christ because I have learned to believe that Christ is my life and step into the reality that it is He and not me who is my real life.
The treasure of grace and the Spirit is that we can live in freedom, without guilt or a sense of obligation. There is nothing to be earned because Jesus has already earned it and is it. Is what? Everything towards God and humanity that we could desire to be.
When swallowed by Christ our life we are declared as who we are. Like Jesus we do only what Father is doing and only what He created us to be doing. Like Jesus we come to end of our allotted time and can say to Father, ‘I did all that your intended me to do.’ But not if we are living from a Christian performance orientation. We will not reach our own potential as a life-giver and we will impede others in theirs.
The treasure of grace is that I can live in His life while abandoning increasingly more of my own death. I’m talking about the death that is in me from Adam. This is continually being denied and expelled by the life in me that is Christ. This is the freedom of life in the Spirit that Paul describes in Romans 8.
Not only does grace set us free. Grace empowers us to multiply the spirit-life of heaven. Grace releases us to live in complete spontaneity to multiply life because it is life and for no other reason. Any kindness done to establish one’s credentials and avoid condemnation is devoid of the spirit-life of the Kingdom. Why? It belongs to the Adam and the tree of death. Thus Paul writes,
‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit’ Rom 8.1-4 NIV.
There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus when we sin and when we don’t. This leaves us free to be ourselves as an expression of Jesus. Not with artifice, not with obligation and not in any attempt to avoid condemnation because there is none. Yet we are free because the person of Christ imbues our being to be our spontaneous selves joyfully releasing acts of spirit and life.
Paul is saying that if we are earning our personal freedom from condemnation by good works we remain in Adam and even our best efforts multiply not the spirit-life of God but sin and death. But in Christ we are joined to our Father by the One Spirit. In Christ we and Father are one as Jesus was one with His Father. One with the trinity we are a channel of spirit and life. If this were not so then the charity of the non-believer would be as fruitful for the Kingdom as the Believer. But they are not. Because in the Kingdom, the flesh accomplishes nothing. Only the Spirit gives life.
God in us drives out death and fills us with His Spirit and life. The beauty of this grace is that we live a life that is not ours in the reality that it is ours. The kingdom is not an obsession with sin or an addiction to performing or overcoming. The Kingdom is the effect of the adoption of Jesus as our life. The outstanding fact of our Kingdom life in God is that we are living in His life and not in our own.
‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ Gal 2.20 NIV.
Heaven permitted Jesus to die so that we can live in heaven’s life. Religion is about sin and sacrifice, about obligation, avoiding condemnation and accumulating merit and self-worth. But spirit and life is about Christ and the presence of Father and Holy Spirit in us and their spirit flowing through us to multiply life and drive out all forms of death. Don’t maintain death in the name of God and your need to recommend yourself to God. Jesus has already done that.
‘The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you--they are full of the Spirit and life’ John 6.63 NIV.
The greatest damage to ourselves and our potential as sons of God occurs when we are captured on the treadmill of attempting to secure our own righteousness. But the fact is, we have been given life and we have been placed in God. Joined to our Father we are channels of His Spirit and life. Joined to ourselves in a mentality of earning we are channels of lifelessness and death. Don’t multiply lifelessness in the name of religion. Agree with Father that you are one with Him courtesy of His Son. Welcome the infilling of the Spirit of Christ. Know that you are the manifestation of Jesus. Your will find yourself doing what Jesus is doing and only doing what you are meant to be doing. As well as this you will stop burdening others with the Ishmael’s that describe your life.
Romans 8 describes the core of Kingdom life - the life that flows from us because we and our Father are one and we live in that reality. Any act, any deed done from duty, any attempt to demonstrate worthiness or even pay back Jesus for what He has done lacks this spirit and life. Paul calls this activity ‘dead works’ because it is. It is ‘dead ministry.’ Any act done from obligation or to avoid condemnation has no more power to transmit heaven’s life than an act of a non-believer of rebel. That which transmits the spirit of heaven is Christ in you.
‘To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory’ Col 1.27 NIV.
Anything of the flesh accomplishes nothing for the Kingdom of God. To live from duty, obligation and a bid to demonstrate self-worth to God and ourselves, saps Kingdom life from any action, no matter how well intended. Why? It is a form of legalism and our new creation living is entirely spirit and life.
To persist in dead works as a Christian is to deny Christ’s offer of life and side with those who insisted that they were the way. And so they put Christ on the cross. Don’t crucify the Son of God anew with a beggars religion. Legalism suffocates the life of God in us, robs us of spirit-life and denies the world the only kind of life that can reveal Jesus and His new creation. To ignore life in the Spirit and Paul’s Romans 8 declaration is to inhibit the new creation and slowly wither ourselves.
The sad truth is that human beings rejected life and killed life when they saw it. The bottom line is that what counts is not us demonstrating kindness or acting from obligation. What counts is new creation life beginning in Father. This spirit-life flows through Jesus, Holy Spirit and us to build the kingdom of spirit and life in the world of things. We can do this in the new and living way or the way of humanism and legalism that rejected Him, placed Him on the cross and said, ‘I’ll do it my way.’
‘But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world’ 1 John 4.3 NIV.
Apostolic teachers have written,
“The inherent legalism of the Western Church trains our eyes to see Jesus’ suffering as the judgment of God upon our sin, and virtually blinds us to the more obvious point that Jesus suffered from the wickedness of humanity. It was the human race, not the Father, who rejected his beloved Son and killed him. The wrath poured out on Calvary’s hill did not originate in the Father’s heart, but in ours” - Baxter Kruger, posted on Facebook by Francois Du Toit.
So the question is, are we living in a soft brand of legalism? Are we rejecting Him and His new and living way today or have we accepted and agree that He is our life, that He lives in us and that the spontaneous expression of Jesus in us is His spirit and life for a dying world?