There is religion that is formulae and a Christ who is spirit and life. One produces death and the other limitless life.
We had this thing going at the Bible College I attended as a youth. The big keys to godliness were stated to be prayer and Bible study. As noble as these disciplines may have been they had little personal effect on my godliness and precious little effect on any victory over sin. I was not Robinson Crusoe in this. Disciplines in themselves have little effect on anyone. As shocking as it may seem - the truth must out: Bible study does not make us better people. Sure, we need to know what the Bible says. The word does say that it is ‘profitable for instruction in righteousness.’ But it has no power to change you into what you are reading. It cannot give you life in the Spirit. It has no power to heal your soul or impart divine health to your body.
Change is caused by the resurrected Jesus imparting His resurrection to you.
Only Jesus transforms and to be specific, it is His Spirit in you that achieves our transformation. Recently a whole church decided to bury themselves in Bible study. They would have been better to bury themselves in Jesus - then they would be alive. The assumption that a whole church engaged in Bible study is transforming cannot be supported by the Bible of by the gospel of the Kingdom. We are transformed by the Spirit - the Spirit of Jesus. Here it is the incarnation that counts - Christ in you, Christ as you. This will make you a son, not a phony or a religious workaholic. It will make you a son/daughter of God.
Nevertheless we are most unwise if we do not know the scriptures and the power of God.
If you have led the normal Christian life, you will most probably have been taught a list of things we should do to be good people, good Christians and worthy witnesses to each other and the non-believing world. You may also have been given to understand that your success in this kind of enterprise achieves intimacy with Jesus and acceptance with our Father. The fact is, it does not. Intimacy with God is already yours.
‘For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility’ Eph 2.14 NIV.
What are the facts? We are already in intimate relationship with Jesus and we and our Father are one. This is entirely not of ourselves. It is the gift of God. It may come as a shock but I hope as a pleasant relief, to find that our fellowship with Father and life as sons, has little to do with us ‘doing things’ and a lot to do with us living in what God has done for us.
‘You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives lifebecause of righteousness’ Rom 8.9,10.
Law and the attempt to do it changes no one. The Spirit of Christ in your changes everyone. The spirit of life and righteousness that flows into from Jesus into you is more real than any attempt to live the law or conform to Christian norms. Jesus is in your by His Spirit and He imparts His completeness to you.
MAKE A STRAW RIGHTEOUSNESS
You can make up a false righteousness of your own - a list of things that your think you should do to commend yourself to yourself or to God. Non-believers do this. So do the religious. But our list is always short because what is required is not a list but a life - Christ your life!
Not a few people live in primitive religion. They live from a matrix of things Christians should do. Unfortunately they can be somewhat pleased with themselves. But this should not be considered as spirituality, wholeness or holiness. It is threadbare and unspiritual. The effect is smallness of mind, bigotry and a deficit of genuine wholeness. This is the shadow-life of one still attempting to find life in Adam and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Spirit of God in us will not make us bovine. Jesus makes us sons!
Life in the Spirit is more radical than many know. It is an affront to the materialistic secular mind, an offence to the religious man, a challenge the worker, working his way to heaven and often an affront to the exponent of Christianity. It’s His life as you!
NO NEED TO WINDOW SHOP
In His introduction to Corinthians Francois du Toit writes,
‘In the first four chapters he [Paul] takes his time to reinforce their faith in the finished work of the cross as the only valid reference to their lives. In chapters 12 and 14, he brings clarity regarding the charismatic gifts. Then he highlights the essence of the gospel in the most beautiful love poem in chapter 13. For many years this chapter was read and preached in a typical window-shopping frame of mind. In Paul's gospel this mind-set is totally reversed; he proclaims that what God has done in Christ actually unveils the life of our design. Love celebrates the completeness of all that God has always had in mind for us. Love is not some prize one has to labor for. Love mirrors who you are! What we perceived in prophetic glimpses is now concluded in completeness!’ (1 Cor 13:9, 10).
We are complete when we live in completeness - the wholeness of Christ our life. Note the words, ‘window shopping frame of mind.’ This refers to the habit of plucking principles from epistles and gospels or aspects of Christ’s character and asking Jesus to give them to us or make us like this. The gospels and the New Testament are not an extended law or a new way of expressing the law. The new covenant is a radical departure from the old.
Here is what you should do. Remove the treasure from the field and own it because it is yours. The treasure is Christ, not only for you but Christ as you. This is the vicarious humanity of Jesus. It is Galatians 2.20. Plucking morality and Christian values from the Bible is noble but not the gospel of the Kingdom. The latter is Christ come in the flesh. Your flesh. Christ has come in you with His life expressed as you. Jesus is more than bits of righteousness. He is life itself. He is the person who is life. He is the life of heaven in you because God has come to live in you. Jesus was transfigured with the light of heaven. You are too. The invisible light of the Spirit in you is just as real as it was in Jesus. Just live in what we have been given. Your glory is that you are a son.
‘When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory’ Col 3.4 NIV.