Jesus taught His disciples a higher way than just knowing His words and parroting them.
Whosoever comes to me, and hears my sayings, and does them, I will show you to whom he is like: He is like a man who built a house, and dug deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that hears, and does not, is like a man that without a foundation built a house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. (Luke 6:47-49 KJ2000)
It takes both hearing and doing the sayings (the Logos) of Jesus if we are to withstand the tests that life throws at us. True doing comes from the working of the abiding Christ within-- a house that is built upon the Rock, not the sands of self effort and religious works. We are to love our enemies, do good to those who spitefully use us, and speak well of those who speak out against us just as Jesus commanded. How are we to do this? Are we truly thankful in all things that come our way as Paul said we should be? Do we live like we believe that all things work together for our good?
It is all so contrary to our human natures to be like Jesus. The harder we try, the worse we do. We set our teeth and swear to do better the next time, all to no avail. Just when we think we are doing pretty well at being a Christian, we read Jesus' words that to just hate a person is the same as murder, to covet what another has is the same as stealing, and to just lust after a woman is the same as adultery. Failure to be a Christian (i.e., living as Jesus lived) seems inevitable. And yet, that is the point. The first and most important lesson learned in this walk is that we cannot walk it!
How will we ever become "more than overcomers" and lights in a darkened world? As we look around Christendom today, it seems that we, the salt of the earth, have lost our saltiness and have been cast out to be trodden under the feet of men. This has been called the post-Christian era as we watch the rise of radical Islam on all fronts and the decline of a moral church leadership. So what is missing, and where has our mission in the earth failed?
In Romans chapter 7, Paul seems beyond despair. He says that the things that he would do as a follower of Christ, he finds no strength to do them and the things that he would not do, he finds himself easily doing these. He finally concludes that in himself, that is, in his flesh dwells no good thing. He agrees with Jesus that, "none are good, only the Father in heaven is good." So did he throw-up his hands in defeat? No, he kept going until he found the answer. "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 7:24-25a KJ2000)
In the closing verse of Romans 7, Paul mentions two laws that had held him in a constant state of condemnation and defeat--the law of God and the law of sin. The law of sin is served with the flesh. The law of God is served with the mind. Both are weak and unable to walk as God demands. Paul, however, is about to introduce another law, a higher law that is served by another faculty in man. Man is comprised of body (flesh) soul (mind, will and emotion) and spirit. Paul is preparing to introduce the reader to a higher law—the law of the Spirit of life. It is not enough to serve God with the mind. That leads to the divided state or condemnation described by Paul as having the desire for good with no ability to carry it out. The good news of the New Covenant is Christ in you! Christ living! Christ obeying! Christ loving! The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is the liberating law. It frees us from the law of sin and death, opening the way to true worship, in Spirit and in truth. Paul found that exchanged life. He continues:
There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 KJ2000)
Again we see this phrase, "in Christ Jesus." The life of the Spirit is found in Christ Jesus. How important is this two letter word! In Christ Jesus is our victory. We believe into Him and there we abide. Paul wrote, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the word of God." He also wrote that even the faith that we have is of Jesus Christ--it is His faith. It stands to reason that our understanding of spiritual things is from Jesus the Word of God as well. To the Corinthians Paul wrote, "All things are yours and you are Christ's and Christ is God's." We will always fail in and of ourselves, but if we are hidden in Christ as He is in the Father, we can't fail.
The secret of a fruitful Christian life is a twofold abiding. Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing." (John 15:5 KJ2000) This speaks of the complete inundation of Christ's sanctifying presence in our spirits souls and bodies. The hope of fruitfulness is our life in Him and He in us.The hope of glory is Him in us. We fall short of His glory when Christ in us is not our hope of glory. We fail because we trust in our own strength and righteousness. Paul wrote, "And he [Jesus] said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 KJ2000)
In Romans 8 we read about a great victory and a greater salvation.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:28-31 KJ2000)
For those who are hidden in Christ, neither Satan nor their flesh gets the last word. In Romans 7 we read about defeat, but in Romans 8 we read about a great victory. What is the difference? In Romans 7, the personal pronouns of I, me and my are used forty-seven times. In Romans 8, they are only found three times and these are not pointing to Paul, but to Christ. Jesus Christ and the Spirit are mentioned over twenty times in Romans 8 and only twice in Romans 7. Paul is demonstrating to us the utter hopelessness of trying to obey God and the commands of Jesus in and of ourselves, but the total triumph we have by abandoning the flesh and walking after the Spirit. If you want to see if a person is truly a triumphant Christian, just count the number of times they use personal pronouns in their speech and letters and then compare it to how often they speak of Christ and the Spirit. "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." If a person is full of themselves, it will show. Love is the utter absence of personal ambition. It selflessly desires what is best for others. "Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends." This is the love of Jesus who died on the cross and who continues to live in us.
Yes, Jesus takes away our sins. John wrote, "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2 KJ2000) But unlike modern preachers who mention only this part of our salvation, keeping us forever weak against the wiles of the devil, John does not stop there. He continues, "And by this we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that says, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: by this we know that we are in him. He that says he abides in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." (1 John 2:3-6 KJ2000)
You might read this and conclude that it is our duty to imitate Christ by always asking ourselves in each situation, "What would Jesus do?" But are we to be mere imitations of the real thing, like some kind of cheap knock-off? Are we to be content with being a plastic Jesus mounted on the dashboard of Christianity? So many Christians today are like a toy made in China that was advertised before last Christmas. It was a Jesus doll that can be activated and it speaks Jesus' words out of the gospels. It came complete with a little New Testament, all for $300. What a deal! But is that how the world sees Christians? I am afraid it is. Just pull their strings and out comes a Bible verse.
"And by this we know that we know Him..." Does keeping His commandments mean that we scour the New Testament and make a new list of commandments to take the place of those in the Old? How do we keep His word? Later in this same chapter John wrote, "I have written unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one." Jesus is the Word of God. John makes this very clear in the first chapter of His gospel. It is the abiding Christ that keeps His commandments in us. It is the life of Jesus as our life that gives us the power to do what is right by filling us with Himself and His love. Against love there is no law. (See Galatians 5:22-25)
In First John we read the phrase, "He that says he abides in Him ought to walk even as He walked." The translators arbitrarily put the last word in the past tense. It should read, "even as He walks." Jesus still walks! He still conducts His life in us! To the woman that was caught in adultery and about to be stoned to death whom Jesus rescued, He said, "'Woman, where are those your accusers? Has no man condemned you?' She said, 'No man, Lord.' And Jesus said unto her, 'Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more.' Then spoke Jesus again unto them, saying, 'I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.'" (John 8:10-12 KJ2000) Later to the Jews Jesus said, "While you have light, believe in [into] the light, that you may be the children of light." (John 12:36 KJ2000) This word walk in the previous verse is the same Greek word as the one in 1 John 2:6. Jesus did not put this sin-prone woman under a new law. "Go and sin no more" was a pronouncement of grace. What He said to that woman that day was, "Go and sin no more for you have me and need no longer to walk in darkness, because I am the Light of the world and your Light of life!" We will have the correct walk with our Father if we believe into the light of Jesus Christ.
All too often the translators and church doctrines make it seem like we have a relationship with the Christ who died and never rose again! Thus we read, "He that says he abides in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." We are to walk even as He walks within us. We are not left alone to follow His example in our own strength. Satan would love nothing more than to have Christians cut-off from the ever present life of Christ, trying to be righteous without Him. When Jesus was about to be crucified He told the disciples, "I will never leave you nor forsake you [leave you behind]."to top