By Seth Huenink
Are Christians different? What separates Christians from the rest of the world? Salvation? Is that it? It’s said that they (the world) will know we are Christians. They’ll know because of our love. So, is it easy for you to see who is and who isn’t a Christian throughout your everyday life? Moreover, if love is the standard, can you tell that YOU’RE a Christian in your everyday life?
Since the garden, this world has been a pretty tough place. Disease, famine, natural disasters and even your everyday, run-of-the-mill not loving your neighbor as yourself. It only takes a quick observation to realize that this is Satan’s realm. We’re not where God intended us to be.
God cannot merely be described as loving but is actually love Himself; the source and author of love did something about it. Simply put, He bankrupted heaven to fill our accounts. His only son, became like us so we could then become like Him. Righteous. What is this but the forgiveness of our sins?
Forgiveness in Christ
In Luke 5, Jesus heals a couple of people (among other things). One was a paralyzed man. Through a series of events Jesus states, “Friend, your sins are forgiven”, but initially doesn’t physically heal the man. As to say, THIS is the paramount thing that this man needed. It was a profound statement. Jesus later catches flak from the Pharisees. Their response is “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
For me personally, I can become jaded to the fact of how short I have fallen and the depths of what it took to redeem me from my endless list of past, present and future shortcomings. Before the resurrection, one teeny, tiny little sin meant A LOT of work had to be done to make it right. Burnt offerings, grain offerings, spotless lambs, spotless bulls, spotless birds, drink offerings and the list goes on and on. To me, Jesus’s interaction with this paralyzed man absolutely puts into focus a unique perspective of my impotence, my need for a liaison with the Father and the magnitude of my inability for self-redemption. In other words, the actions of Jesus on the cross and resurrection were a pretty big deal.
But for all intents and practical purposes is that it? Of course, this question may sound a bit arrogant. To clarify this question, I would ask: How did knowing this change you? Do other people now know you are a Christian because of this knowledge that you received? Or does it feel like you’re white knuckling yourself into the kingdom on daily basis and struggling just to not say anything that would make people think “that person is DEFINITELY not a Christian”?
I ask this because in Matthew 11 Jesus tells us, “…take my yoke upon you…For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Scripture says the hard work has already been done on our behalf. Furthermore, Jesus didn’t say, “you’ll have to make it to heaven before you can take my yoke upon you.” In other words, he didn’t say that we needed to wait until we get to heaven before we can enjoy this gift. We can have it right here and right now.
I’m not saying circumstantially that things won’t happen. People die. People are mean. Loss happens. But all of that is of this world. Our mindset is not to be set on this world. Rather, the world of the spirit. One of my favorite references for this is in Romans 8:1-17. A less extensive version can be found in Colossians 3:1-2 which states, “…..set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Ultimately, scripture doesn’t tell us that “everything will be ok”. But it does call us who have received Christ to strive to be ok regardless of circumstance. A better way to say this would be, regardless of circumstance, God gives us an opportunity for inner peace. Especially, in the storms of life. If you’re like me, you don’t need anyone to give you inner peace when things are ok near as much as you do when you’re in the storms. This is a prodigious reason why I believe Christianity is special.
Change of Thinking
When I was young I went to church camp and ‘prayed the prayer’. I would define this moment as categorically emotional. Enigmatically, I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of the next 15+ years making a complete mess of things and running the show my way. If there’s ever a movie made about my life during that time I think it would be called Dumpster Fire: The Musical. I digress.
It wasn’t until later on in life that I began to understand the concepts of Christianity. Like many of us learned—if we accept Jesus into our hearts, our sins are forgiven. Once we begin to grasp this and the surrounding concepts of this, we begin to see and feel some change. We begin to see the value of our lack of necessity for performance. The weight begins to lift when we see that we’re free to love others. We also begin to see that if the Father (and son) would commit such a remarkable act of love then he’d likely care about most other areas of our lives. That we didn’t need to stress over the little things. We began to develop this thing called faith.
Although the knowledge of Jesus forgiving ours sins is noteworthy and vitally important, in and of itself, it was never meant to carry us. To give us an ‘easy yoke’. It’s only part of the puzzle. God never intended for us to miserably white knuckle until we get to heaven. Though, some gifts seem to be reserved for heaven, many that we think are in fact, aren’t.
Back to the Very Beginning
To understand this I must first mention God’s broad plan from the beginning (I’m sure there’s some theologian out there that’s called this something much more sophisticated than I just did). God’s plan from the beginning was to show His magnificent glory to and through all of creation. It always has been and it always will be. So when the serpent showed up, the fall got in the way of this plan.
Proverbially, darkness appeared where there was light. Hence, the need for a redemption story to get the plan back on track. One of the consequences of the fall was that humankind from that point forward would be born with the seed of the serpent. In a sense, this meant that Satan was to be our father. We had his nature and we were unable to act in accordance to any other way than this. We were enslaved to sin from birth without any ability to ‘be good’ for any substantial period of time on our own.
Getting Back on Track
Back to the redemption story. In order to get His plan back on track (the one where His glory shows through all of creation like it did in the beginning) He had to put His glory in us. When Christ defeated death and made a public mockery of all of the fallen angels we were then given a new seed. The seed of Christ. Numerous times throughout New Testament writing we are told that we, in fact, are dead. Not just dead to sin (which is also mentioned countlessly), but that we were crucified with Christ. Colossians 2:20, Colossians 3:3, 2 Timothy 2:11, Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:3-14 just to name a few.
In fact, the ‘theme’ of the New Testament isn’t ‘sinner saved by grace’ so much as it is–reckon yourself dead indeed. Also, consequently, alive because of Christ in you—In other words, reckon yourself righteous. “…It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me….”
THIS is what changes us. It’s the understanding that it’s no longer us who lives, but the Spirit of the Father who lives in us. If you’re like me you’ve run on ‘my sins are forgiven so I SHOULD act accordingly’. Somewhere along the line we feel like we’re running on fumes. Trying to love our neighbor as ourselves. Striving to not lose our cool on our spouse, kids, co-workers, boss, etc. We no longer need to strive. “….take my yoke upon you..”
Life Changing Revelations
At some point I’ve learned three very profound things. 1) The Father, Son & the Holy Spirit are one. 2) At the exact moment that we asked Jesus to come into our lives we received the Holy Spirit. 3) This is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.
So if we were crucified with Christ, thereby, given His nature, what does that say about us? It means that we received the nature of the Father. Many Christians can get hung up on what I just said. Allow me to clarify. I didn’t say, “Once you receive Christ you become God”. Just because we become Christians doesn’t mean we’re deity. However, we are the container that houses deity. Did God really say that?
– For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13)
-In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)
-You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9)
The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead—the same Spirit that is in holy oneness with Jesus and the Father is in you. The old you has been put to death. Christ became like us so we could become like him. The seed of the serpent is dead & the seed of the Son, which is life itself dwells within us. Doesn’t that sound like a bit more than “your sins are forgiven, now go arduously try to act like Christ did”?
But I still Sin…
The good news is that we no longer need to try. We were married to the nature of Christ when we received Him. You might be asking, “But why do I still sin?” In short, sin works in the exact way that it did in the garden. We’re lied to—and we buy it. Unfortunately, we still live in Satan’s realm. Moreover, he’s extremely good at what he does and he often knows us better than we know ourselves. As for next time, I’d like to go more in depth on this specific topic. For now I’ll just say that Satan doesn’t lie in the way we often think he does so much as he specifically attacks our new identity.
Living in Truth
I want to conclude by looping back to how these truths translate to living a life characteristic of Jesus. We’ve addressed the fact that we are now married to the person of Christ. To know what that means, we need to know who Christ and the Father are to understand who we are now. We might say that Christ was loving, patient, peaceful, etc. But this isn’t simply a description of Christ. Christ, therefore, the Father IS love. He IS patience. He IS peace. Wherever these characteristics might exist within the universe, they cannot exist without the Father. Contrastingly, when Satan was our father–Satan IS malice. Satan IS deceit. You get the point.
When the father of lies was our father we were a house for the source of all these tragic characteristics. Unable to produce fruitful life. Destruction wherever we went. The same is true on this side of our salvation. The Father of Truth resides in us. This now is what we’re capable of. How can we curse our spouses when we have limitless love residing in us? How can we react in rage towards our kids when limitless peace resides in us? Walking out the person of Jesus is who you are. Anything else is living a lie. We don’t have to beg for the things we’ve already been given.
Know Your True Identity
The life source that is the Father is at your disposal. Acting any other way isn’t in your nature. Understanding this is paramount. If we don’t understand this, we’re constantly paddling upstream. We act out of our identity. If we believe Satan is still our father a little bit, we’ll act accordingly. But if I believe that God told the truth when He said I was made righteous by the blood of Christ, I also act accordingly. If I truly believe that I’m now righteous, I will always perceive sin as selling myself short. Something less than the real thing. Why, if I’m a holy temple—a magnificent, righteous mansion of Christ would I permit garbage to enter my life? This only happens if I believe—or if I’m tricked into believing that I’m a dumpster.
May you begin to see yourself as the Waymaker does.