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We Regard No One According to the Flesh

August 14th, 2017

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:16-18 ESV)

If there were one passage of scripture that I would speak to many Americans today it would be this one. We are becoming an increasingly divided community, with harsh political, social, and ideological divisions. The terrible display of racial hatred from this past week in Virginia is just one recent expression of this reality.

The majority, of course, are not of this mindset. The majority of Americans, of all races, are united as one nation. Yet increasingly I seem to see Christians taking sides against others, giving up hope, condemning and judging with harsh and cruel words. We need to hear afresh these words: “We regard no one according to the flesh.”

To regard according to the flesh means to see everyone as intractable, unchangeable, unalterable, and, thereby, to pronounce them hopeless. They are on the “other side” of the matter, regardless of what that other side might be. They are “over there” and we are “over here,” and we will have nothing but contempt for them.

Paul said that in Christ they no longer saw anyone like that, rather their entire message was an invitation to everyone to come to Christ, to come to reconciliation, to life, to a new foundation. And this invitation was not to come to agree “with how I see things,” but rather for all to come to Christ, to God through Christ, for a new life.

The ministry of reconciliation: Paul had at one time viewed Christ that way – that Christ and His followers were “over there” and Paul the Pharisee was utterly opposed to Him. But on the Damascus Road all of that was radically changed. What Paul had feared, perhaps, was that if he believed in Christ that he must then hate his fellow Pharisees, just as he had as a Pharisee hated Christians. But to his surprise he received not hatred but love, not a ministry of destroying them but a ministry of reconciliation that they too may become new in Christ.

In Christ we all become new creatures. The one who was raised in a conservative environment, politically and socially and spiritually, does not enter into more conservatism at his conversion – if he did, then that would be mere legalism. Rather he enters into life, into a new reality that the old is passed away and behold everything is new. His spirit is reborn, his heart is new, his direction and hope are all new, and he is given a new heart of love for others.

And the one from a liberal back ground, who sees the excessive narrowness of the ultra-conservatism, likewise finds not an argumentative edge to use against the ultra-conservative, but rather than God call all to a new reality, to a new life. Not to a new synthesis that is merely man made. Any argument or philosophy that is man made will fail eventually, but Christ calls us to a new life, a new spiritual reality of His Lordship.

In His Lordship all human differences disappear and what we see is the incredible love and compassion, the hope and new life that Christ calls all people to. None of us, in His Lordship, stands upon our “rightness” and their “wrongness.” Rather we come together under His Lordship, to be ruled by Him, to love each other, to seek to know Christ better and to help one another.

And all of this is merely a prelude for eternity, that there it will merely be Christ and Him alone that is the focus of heaven. And in praising and serving Him we will find our safeguard as a new and redeemed people. Not that “I am right” and “you are wrong” but that Christ is all.

2 Corinthians , , , ,

God’s Purpose in Redemption

August 2nd, 2017

Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Cor. 5:5 NIV)

The phrase “made us” refers not to the original creation of God but to His work of redemption. Katergazomai in the original Greek, it means to accomplish, to achieve, to work out, or, by implication, to make one thing fit for another. Paul used it earlier in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” So in a similar way the work of redemption is achieving for us eternal life.

The gift of the Spirit in the life of a Christian brings new life, hope, transformation, the capacity for intimacy with God, and the gifts and fruit of the Spirit. We may think that these things are purpose enough in and of themselves. But here Paul teaches us that they are merely as deposits guaranteeing that eternity for the Christian will be much greater and grander.

In this day and age we make a great deal of the Christian life, and there is much good in this. We do not wait until heaven to receive the blessings of salvation. But let us not be confused – the blessings of heaven will be infinitely greater than what we receive here. It will be glory and understanding unequaled in this life. In his first epistle to the Corinthians Paul wrote:

For now we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfection comes, the imperfect disappears … Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor. 13:9,12)

There is much thought assumed in this chapter of 2 Corinthians that is taught elsewhere in scripture. It is taught that only in Christ do we come to God and to salvation (John 14:6), that only through the cross of Christ are our sins paid for (Rom. 4:25), and that the cross has become not only the means of our eternal salvation, but the model and example of how we are to live the Christian life today. We are to deny ourselves daily and take up our cross and follow after Christ (Luke 9:23).

The new life and the eternity that God brings us into is not merely one thing added on top of other elements of our thoughts and values. Rather it is entirely new and of God, and none of it is from us. God in the redemption fashions us fit for a new type of life and the old life must go, the old thoughts must go, and old ways of living must go. _We shall not enter into eternity bringing little tokens of our self righteousness as proofs that we deserve to be there. It shall all be by grace. And we are not to live today with the thoughts that these little tokens of self-righteousness or self-achievements earn for us anything from God. A.W. Tozer wrote:

The witness of the saints has been in full harmony with prophet and apostle, that an inward principle of self lies at the source of human conduct, turning everything men do into evil. To save us completely Christ must reverse the bent of our nature; He must plant a new principle within us so that our subsequent conduct will spring out of a desire to promote the honor of God and the good of our fellow men. The old self-sins must die, and the only instrument by which they can be slain is the Cross. “If any man come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me,” said our Lord, and years later the victorious Paul could say, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

Roy Hession in his classic, Calvary Road, wrote:

If, however, we are to come into this right relationship with Him, the first thing we must learn is that our wills must be broken to His will. To be broken is the beginning of Revival. It is painful, humiliating, but it is the only way. It is being “Not I, but Christ” (Gal 2:20), and a “C” is a bent “I.” The Lord Jesus cannot live in us fully and reveal Himself through until the proud self within us is broken. This simply means that the hard unyielding self, which justifies itself, wants its own way, stands up for its rights, and seeks its own glory, at last bows its head to God’s will, admits its wrong, gives up its own way to Jesus, surrenders its rights and discards its own glory – that the Lord Jesus might have all and be all. In other words it is dying to self and self-attitudes.

If you will permit me to speak this way, it is as if our choice at death is to remain in the stinking decay of the grave or to rise in Christ Jesus to life eternal in a glorified body with a new eternal reality. And it is our choice in life to either remain in the stinking decay of our lusts and pride, of our silly ego trips and meaningless self desires, or to die to sin and self and to live in Christ.

If the Christian life today will make sense, it will be spent and invested in putting aside our own wills and letting Christ have His way fully in our lives. And this is the blessed life!

2 Corinthians , , ,