Saturday, August 30, 2008

43 - Conceptually, Christ is . . .(1)

I remember the day it HIT ME. JESUS is God's provision for mankind's lack. I was reading along and those words just jumped off the page - "the ROCK that followed them was Christ" and my mind jumped to a couple OTHER verses: "I AM the manna come down out of heaven" and "I AM the water of Life".

JESUS is God's PROVISION for man's needs. Well, I knew at a somewhat early age that Jesus was sent to die for our sins - but I did not realize many facets of that concept. I think the first time I saw that covenant idea was in a verse or two that focused on "before the beginning". Paul wrote one in Ephesians 1:4 "HE chose US in Him before the foundation of the world" which generally just gets us into an argument about predestination because even though it SEEMS that WE are the focus of that, it is indirect - the direct focus is CHRIST. "IN HIM" is the phrase we stumble over because we don't understand it to mean JESUS is the focus of all our PROVISION.

The OTHER verse is Peter's writing in 1 Peter 1:20 "HE was destined before the foundation of the world but made manifest at the end of the times for your sake."

God did all of it before HE even made mankind - so I had to look at everything from a different perspective. JESUS is always God's provision - in Peter's context, the LAMB SLAIN - which focuses an ultimate concept.

NOW, I see the concept in a LOT more places beginning with the beginning. Hebrew covenant structure shows that creation is an expression of the creator - and we know from NT scripture that God created everything through CHRIST (Colossians 1:16) so, not to go overboard with a picture, but PROVISION started in Eden when Adam and Eve were given dominion over the whole world. That reminded me of an old song - "What will you DO with Jesus?" Israel complained about "manna" and Moses got himself in a LOT of trouble over "the Rock" and BLOOD always seems to get spilled over mankind's errors. When Adam and Even CHOOSE to not receive and be provided fully by God's PROVISION in Eden - they rejected JESUS in their disloyalty. Well - let's simply call it rejecting covenant provision. The result was they lost the whole thing - but, God will not be put off totally. HE provided them with coats of "skin/fur" and a new PROMISE - SOMEONE would come to be their Savior - and HE would crush Satan, our ultimate enemy in the PROVISION of the "lamb slain from before the foundation of the world."

Covenant structure has ONE huge concept of how the breaking of it happens - DISLOYALTY.

I'm not getting into whether WE can be lost or "re-lost" or any of that argument right now. We're simply seeing the original concept in Eden - we lost PROVISION - in a perfect world. That includes daily fellowship with God - PLUS the tree of LIFE which cannot be available to us in a fallen state - God just cannot allow us to be forced to live forever in our fallen-ness. HOWEVER - HE did make PROVISION for our escape from being FALLEN - in Christ. HE provided "THE PROMISE" - Christ Himself - for solving the problem of being FALLEN, plus HE provided continual LIFE IN HIS SON. (1 John 5:11) ALL the OT shadows find their fulfillment in the substance of CHRIST (Colossians 2:17 gives the principle.) Christ was THEIR "Way, Truth, Life" from the beginning. HE was always the Covenant for mankind. HE was always God's LOVE expressed in PROVISION - water, manna, sacrifice, and identity.

How many pictures are there? Well - that is part of our study, but I don't promise to reveal them all because I keep finding new ones. We can generally focus on Israel because we are commanded to do that. Old Testament Scripture, Paul said - was written for US - examples for US - so we won't sin like they sinned. I am convicted by the concept of "murmuring" which killed MANY Israelites and basically represented their whole history of failure to receive and be satisfied with God's PROVISION. THEY complained about the manna, the lack of water - the Provision of Canaan itself - and the GIVEN VICTORY which they refused. I'm convicted because that is supposed to teach US a lesson in "PROVISION acceptance and enjoyment."

Do WE enjoy Jesus? Do we EVEN DRINK deeply enough to satisfy our DEEP thirst? God provided JESUS to be our EVERYTHING - and us humans have a really terrible habit of getting off the focus of ultimate things and onto stuff that is not Jesus. As I study the history of Christendom and see it more fully it really depresses me - and I only see tidbits of it. If I saw it in its bold stark REALITY - I'd be so depressed, I couldn't continue to live almost. I say almost because I know so little, but I know Jesus is designed to have all preeminence - to be Lord and King - to BE OUR LIFE. But - what Paul called the "Israel of God" isn't doing much better than the shadow did. We fight and devour one another - we murmur and we express hatred to Christian brothers - we raise a personal interpretation above "the one for whom Christ died" Romans 14.

So - as Long as JESUS is covenant to me - I then have "The Way, The Truth, The Life" - I have HIM - so I have everything. But - if I am not satisfied with HIM - and I look for meaning in"things that are not Christ" - I lose the whole thing in essence.

"If we don't learn from History, we are doomed to repeat it" seems cogent at this point. But, more to my focus - IF we don't allow Jesus to be our EVERYTHING - we will be continually doomed for our everything to be something ELSE! And - my covenant friends - that is my definition of TRAGEDY. More to come

Monday, August 18, 2008

(42) "In Christ; Christ in you" conclusions

Many questions start out with a concept which says "What's the big deal about . . .?" and that refers to "covenant concepts", being "in Christ", and even "baptism" - and my response is always pretty much the same. The BIBLE says - "live up to what you know" 1 Timothy 4:6 - so I am trying to do that. I may "attain" to a lower level than some and may actually be at a higher level than one or two - but - the focus is "be fully convinced in your own mind" Romans 14:5.

GUESS WHAT ? We don't KNOW the full meaning of many things - so we "know in part" 1 Corinthians 13:9. So - I am trying to share my pilgrimage of learning - and this area was where I was MOST woeful in understanding Hebrew background concepts which are undergirding our Christian life understanding. I did not understand what a "Covenant Representative" was, so the concept of faith in Christ focused on ME - not Him - what an error on my part ! Part of that error was helped toward Scriptural reality when I learned that the CONCEPT of faith came from three Hebrew ideas put into one covenant response concept. Faith/obedience is one concept - so many of us evangelicals focus on a mis-defined idea of obedience which focuses on PEOPLE. The three ideas: LISTEN toward a speaker, RUN toward the speaker; and HIDE UNDER the speaker's provision - make the correct focus - the one to which we respond for protection. SURE - we need to respond - but it is a faith response to the Covenant Protection of God. He provided it all - He supervises it all and HE provided the invitation, the protection and the security as it continues. We simply focus on that protection IN HIM - and make sure we are THERE by faith !

The actual "Covenant protection" is in what CHRIST did and provides. So - ultimately WE end up under HIM for our covenant security - and it is as strong as HE is - just like a lesser nation would hide themselves in the power and protection of a greater nation - they are as secure as the focus of their trust ! So - their trust is "IN THE POWER OF THE GREATER" - not in themselves - so the only boast is about the power of the greater. Christians have only ONE boast - "in the Lord" 2 Corinthians 10:17 - and we should keep that focus in everything - because God's provision, Christ, should have preeminence in EVERYTHING !

"Christ in you" is the theme of Colossians. Just one thought - the focus is identity (as Christ taught in the "vine and branches" teaching on John 15) and if Christ is our identity, then we have 4 fine books which we access our "family album" for conceptual pictures of our lifestyle and pursuits - Matthew through John. The CONCEPT, however - is simply Christ being allowed to EXPRESS Himself through us - and love the world again - like He did the first time He came here. The focus is CHRIST as Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. We become "ambassadors" - so God is making His appeal through us - and our message is "BE reconciled to God". So - once we are "in Christ" by identity, HE is in us in action ! Paul explained that in Philippians 2:13 - "For GOD is at work - in YOU to will and to work" - and my conclusion is - "willing and working" equals ALL of life - and God designed to be IN our lives to DO THAT - will and work ! Those are my simple conclusions to this part of our study - as Paul wrote "it is faith from first to last" - because we are to LIVE by faith. Both focuses are in the concept - we are "made alive by faith" and "we "live out the rest of our lives by faith". So - one person asked - "Do you have NO place for WORKS ?" And - my response is - if God is AT WORK IN ME - to will and to work" I need to LET HIM RUN ME ! Result - God's works get done as God works in and through His project - me - and that fulfills Ephesians 2:10. Result - God gets the focus and we are ambassadors FOR HIM - ambassadors ONLY do the will of the one they represent - it is not the ambassador's work - it is the one represented whose works are done. But - note that the ambassador is always active . . .on behalf of his boss ! So - God WORKS and hopefully, we make sure HE works in and through US - since HE runs us now ! Note - that is Christ in us - being allowed to continue HIS work of loving the world HE died for and was raised for . . .as Paul wrote so cogently in 2 Corinthians 5:15 - "that those who LIVE might no longer live for themselves, but FOR HIM who for their sakes died and was raised." Our focus is not US - but HIM - more to come

Friday, August 8, 2008

(41) IN Christ/Christ in you

I have heard some who very quickly say - "You're in Christ - so Christ is in you" and I'd like to ask "WHY" do we say things like that with no explanation ?

There are some similarities, but some concepts are partly very different. So - let's separate first. "You're in Christ" is a covenant phrase which means we joined Christ's history by faith. We are "grafted into" Christ's family tree of faith in God's performance and faithfulness. Romans 11 talks about Israel being "cut off" from that tree. But - Paul reminds us - Israel can get grafted back into the original vine - so the Israel of faith can be joined by the Israel of History. And - Paul concludes "all Israel can be saved". But - he makes it clear that FAITH is the concept that joins us to Christ; the concept that gives us righteousness as a gift. So - that is how we get to be "in Christ" - we join Him by faith - first century Christians had a ceremony of faith for that - we call it baptism, a well known initiation ceremony to Hebrew folks.

Christ in you - is something else, but it is one result of the ceremony of initiation. It refers partly to the new identity we get when we receive HIM as our source of hope. We are "sons of the Living God" - and since we are sons, then heirs - joint heirs with Christ, Romans 8:16-17. IF Christ in is YOU - then you are a son of God by identity. If you received HIM to be your life - by faith - then HE is in YOU, through the Holy Spirit. Problem is, the Holy Spirit concept causes all kinds of misunderstandings. And - since it is mysterious, we can only understand it by what the Bible actually SAYS about it - along with our common sense. Since Jesus is the New Covenant (I believe) then when He says He will come to us (as He explained to the Apostles) in the person of the Holy Spirit, then from that point on (John 14-16) we know that receiving the Holy Spirit is the way we receive Christ. And - HE promised to be with them ALWAYS (as opposed to being WITH them in Judea IF He was in Judea) and actually be IN THEM. Later Paul would say, "Christ, who is your Life" Colossians 3 - so it is appropriate to say the Holy Spirit is now our Life because Christ is in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. One complication though is - we CHOOSE to be led by the spirit, Galatians 5:22, and if we use our regular lifestyle principles we also realize that sometimes we allow things that are just "NOT US" to lead us. Paul is challenging the Galatians to not be allowing "the works of the flesh" to have their influence in our behaviors.

Confusing ? Well, it is to me - but I have watched my 4 children be born and BIRTH - the most common experience of all of us - is pretty confusing as well. Even after all those drawings in Biology and experiencing birth firsthand - much mystery remains for me - but that doesn't bother me - in fact, I enjoy the fact that something as common as LIFE - is still beyond our grasp at the same time. I anticipated that a little bit when Jesus talked to Nicodemas about being "born from above - or born again" in John 3. (Speaking of confusing - tell me what was wrong with translating the word "from above" simply and plainly - instead of using the concept of AGAIN - which is true but redundant ? Sorry - my rant - I do that sometimes in the middle of the night.) Anyhow - Jesus uses the wind to talk about the Spirit - and says we don't "see" it but we do see its results - same with the Spirit.

Now - mystery is revealed according to Paul and he claims it to be an original mystery - "Christ in YOU" Colossians 1:27. To a Hebrew, this concept wasn't hidden - as in not able to be known, it was hidden in that God had to REVEAL it in the coming of Christ. Jesus then is the answer to many mysteries - and Paul reminds us that Jesus is the substance of that which the Old Testament was the shadow. That's an area of needed study - we do see some "fulfillment" of OT prophecy in Christ and we do see some pictures in Israelite life and activities in Christ, but sometimes we cannot see that Jesus gets ALL preeminence and HE is everything and we HAVE HIM IN US. So - we get everything. OK - I already said that.

Results - well, being "in Christ" means what He gets, I get and where He is, I am - as Paul said "When Christ who is our life appears, WE MUST appear with Him in Glory" Colossians 3:4. It is simply a covenant concept that what happens to the covenant head, happens to the covenant recipient. That was understood by Paul. We don't "do covenant" the same way, so some things that were very familiar to first century folks are not simple to us at all.

But - isn't that strange language - Christ is in you - but when He APPEARS, then we must appear with Him - like we were not with Him - but we were or at least He was with US - or something ! Well - now He is with us through the Holy Spirit - but then FACE TO FACE ! (That's an old figure of speech which means full knowledge by full intimate relationship.) We may well LONG for that day - but, sometimes that is because we don't have any full relationship with the Holy Spirit now ! And - since the Holy Spirit is our badge of being God's kids - maybe we need to focus a little more in that arena of thought. In fact, Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit is our GUARANTEE of salvation. There is an interesting thought - for now let's say it this way - the Holy Spirit is God's LIFE in us - and God's LIFE in us - is our guarantee of salvation and our cause for full confidence on Judgment Day - as we've already said - as HE is, so are WE in this word - so we have confidence on Judgment Day (1 John 4:17) means that God assures us that our key to entering Heaven is the mark of HIS life in us - His identity that we NOW have which makes us sons - the Holy Spirit (Romans 8) and to conclude for today - I use the DNA concept spiritually - God knows our spiritual DNA and therefore claims us as HIS OWN - so we have full confidence on Judgment day because if we have CHRIST IN US - and WE are in HIM - we are RECOGNIZED by God as belonging to HIM. Awesome - and mysterious - just terrific ! More to come

Monday, August 4, 2008

(40) - "in Christ" thoughts

Several of my so-called friends have challenged me to continue this thread a little longer. And - since I have called it "ULTIMATE IMPORTANCE" - well, I can't argue against it. Just remember - JESUS is what is of ultimate importance. So - after an hour or so of thinking - I am ready to dig deeper. (Why do people get up at hours like 2 or 3 am to think anyway - sounds real suspicious to me.)

As I contemplate going back to our ROOTS of covenant thought, it seems cogent to actually make a case for PRIORITIES of thought. I admitted openly that I feel very loyal to the concept that Jesus gets ALL preeminence - since God chose to do that. However, once I do that - then there's no going back to situations less than Jesus getting all preeminence. So - from now on - I have to stay there and allow Jesus to be EVERYTHING. Well - not non-things like sin and rebellion (God certainly doesn't ignore any of those things either) - but the concept of our word TRUTH is not the original focus of Greek or Hebrew thought. Truth for them is much closer to our idea in the word REALITY. So - what I'm getting to is an idea of "reality" which focuses on Jesus as ULTIMATE reality and the source of reality. He did claim to be The Reality - along with being The Way and The Life. Those concepts are confrontational to me - in a good way seemingly - but very challenging. Our world would love for us to use "a way, a truth, concepts of life" - for Jesus - but to say "THE" - well, that's a horse of a different color (colour for my friends of Canadian and other European roots !) The concept of the word "THE" is just a challenging conceptual construct. "THE" means a focus on singular concepts. It gives Jesus a singular place in several areas of REALITY.

Then, when we quote the verse about what happened when Jesus came to our dimension, it becomes even more challenging. The phrase I have mentioned and now mention again for emphasis was "God was in Christ" 2 Corinthians 5. Wait just a minute - God was IN Christ - and now I am IN CHRIST ? That means we're TOGETHER !

Yes and no - is the answer to many questions for me - so let's have a go at that. "YES" - God was represented in Christ - and He was there to get us back ! He wanted us - He designed a way to GET us back - and it was a one time happening. It was an ONLY begotten son - the only time the spirit was involved directly in causing a pregnancy (well - it's sort of hard to say healing a womb or opening a womb was indirect - so pardon my failure for words in reference to these concepts.) First year Greek students learn the concept of a word happening only once in Greek or in the Bible - we call it a "hapox legominon" - a "one time said" word - one time used - therefore there are not any other contexts to help with the meaning. My contention is that God's dealing with US is a "hapox" concept - ONE TIME happening and therefore not a lot of contextual help from Philosophy or any other knowledge sources. Don't forget then - those other sources of knowledge cannot help us with MUCH of the Bible meanings and happenings. The idea of "in Christ" is known in human understanding in one aspect - we know we were in our ancestor thousands of years ago - so if something had happened to him, we'd never be born the way we are or even born at all. That concept helps - but there is so much more to it. Just the idea of us being in Christ when He was on the Cross - is challenging - but I think we sometimes get it by "spiritualizing" it to say - "Well, He represented me and all the human race in God's eyes" - and that is true. However - we must get farther into this - He took MY personal place on the cross - "He took the hit" for me in the cause of JUSTICE. He received and absorbed MY punishment for sin - on the cross - HE paid for it. Keep that very personal for each of us. It makes a difference then for us to read "God was in Christ" - and realize that God was taking the hit for our sin - and HE was so much FOR US !

OH MY - I am so in awe of God's great agape. Is there any way to grasp that ?

But - once I continue this "hapox" situation - I have to receive the reconciliation fact into my reality awareness. God did it - but I GET IT. I am NOW "hid with Christ in God" Colossians 3:3. And - it is not a "figure of speech" - it is a reality concept. How can we make it more of a reality on a day to day basis ? Problem - for our thinking - it is always a "hapox" situation - not available in our world for comparison - not available in our knowledge banks to access. Not only are we saved by faith (trusting what God DID) we understand life on that basis and we live on that understanding and commitment. The focus is not us, but HIM. But - isn't it amazing that when we focus on HIM we notice that HE is focused on us - so we get the blessing of ultimate reality ? By the way - I think that is a template for life - God didn't focus on Himself - but gave up all He had for us - and He then got the blessing of seeing us as sons of the Living God ! So - as we live we "might no longer live for ourselves for for Him who for our sakes died and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:15) and we can give ourselves away and get the fulfillment in life of God's design where love gives unconditionally and that kind of love is not always accepted or appreciated, but it has an effect on some who then discover their ultimate reason for being alive. That is the faith life - the life of knowing we have plugged into an ultimate concept - THE reality - THE life - in Christ. In the end another concept is necessary to "see" - and maybe to some degree "understand" - "in Christ" means that HIS perfection is my hope - HIS performance is my identity now - but that awareness and reality causes me to know that even on Judgment Day itself - John writes that we have NO FEAR because - "as He is so are we in this world" - so as I stand on that day - I can know that His performance is mine by faith so God must receive me or reject what Jesus did - because that is my plea - what HE DID ! And - His performance, Paul said was authenticated by God in that "HE raised HIM from the dead" Acts 17:31.

"In Christ" is reality - and that reality is now my life - so resurrection is a heaven affirmed reality for me - and since I am in Christ - heaven is my guarantee, because Christ gets in and I am in Him.

I don't SNEAK in - I don't fool God - it was simply God's plan to give Christ all preeminence and I am IN HIM - so I get His performance and His inheritance - just like God planned. He planned to give Him ALL PREEMINENCE - and He will and does - I got in on that my trusting Jesus to be THE WAY, THE REALITY, THE LIFE - and by the way - when you add up those concepts, you get everything. We get it all - in Christ and God wouldn't have it any other way. That is the eternal plan from before the foundations of the world. (note Ephesians 1:3-10 gives a wonderful thumbnail sketch of the whole plan.) More to come