Maturing Toward Wholeness in the Inner Life

New Life Comes Forth from Death

It Is No Longer I Who Live, But Christ Who Lives In Me

1 – “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). God is renewing creation. He has made every provision for each of us to become a new person.

2 – Making something anew is not the same as making it the first time. It is a re-making. In the fullest sense, salvation is about re-creating what has been ruined.

3 – What is involved in the process of re-making something?

  • The old—that which is damaged—must first be removed.
  • The new can then be formed.

4 – What does the process of re-making a person look like?

  • The old life must first be removed—put to death.
  • A new life—an eternal kind of life—Christ’s life—can then be formed in its place.

5 – What are the outcomes when a person is re-made—redeemed? Forgiveness of sin? Heaven when we die? Absolutely! Is that all? No! There is more—much more!

6 -My sinful behavior expresses the broken, lost person I have become. Would God work forgiveness and heaven but leave character—who I really am—unaffected?

7 – “As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

8 – Being born again is not the end goal. It starts a process by which I am gradually re-formed toward becoming like Jesus on the inside. The fruit is Christlike behavior.

9 – Jesus: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil” (Luke 6:45a).

10 – Two megatrends guide and empower this life-process:

  • I submit to Christ as he, by his Spirit, works his death in me.
  • I rely on Christ as he, by his Spirit, replaces my brokenness with his beauty.

11 – I do not control my re-creation. God does. But I must choose it. The Holy Spirit gradually forms new life within me as:

  • I choose to rely on God (walk by faith) in all of life.
  • I validate my decision to rely on God by obeying him.

12 – “Death” here has nothing to do with self-abuse or condemnation. It is a grace-filled offer to remove the undesirable effects of wrongness within me.

13 – “For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:7). This is a death I must choose. God will not force it on me.

14 – These two processes permeate the teachings of Jesus and the apostles:

  • I allow Christ’s death to work in me.
  • Christ, by his Spirit, forms new life—God’s life, eternal life—within me.

15 – Jesus: “For whoever would save his life will loose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

16 – The apostles: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

17 – These truths permeated not only their teachings. Jesus and the apostles lived what they taught! They chose death, knowing it was the avenue to life.

18 – Jesus: “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him” (Philippians 2:8b-9a).

19 – Apostles: “We who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:11).

20 – Throughout Church history Christ’s followers, across Christian traditions, have taught that the path to life in God’s Presence and Kingdom leads through death.

21 – The well-known prayer attributed to the Roman Catholic, Francis of Assisi (c. 1181-1226), ends with these words, “It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

22 – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Protestant who stood against Nazi terror in his native Germany, wrote, “Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death.”

23 – That new life emerges from death is a principle seen throughout nature. Jesus used this reality to illustrate his teaching.

24 – Jesus: ”Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

What Must Die? The Self-life!

25 – Why is the choice to die unavoidable in accessing Christ’s new life? Because the root from which all sin grows—self-centeredness (self-worship)—blocks the way.

26 – God created us for a relationship with him of mutual agape love. We were to be central in his affections, and he was to be central in ours.

27 – A scribe asked Jesus which commandment was most important. Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Mark 12:30a).

28 – This would allow God to meet our every need directly, each moment, as we rely on him alone. His power, wisdom and kindness would be fully available to us.

29 – Sadly, our first parents violated this arrangement. They turned from God as the center of their affection. They installed the self-life there instead.

30 – Being separated from God by their own choice removed them from the Source who alone could meet their needs. They were left relying on themselves.

31 – But they were unable to meet their own needs. They slid into neediness, then further into damage, ruin and lostness. We have each done the same thing.

32 – Self-worship leads to self-reliance, self-will, self-effort. Self-worship drives us unavoidably into the darkness and lostness of the self-life.

33 – The “old man” or “natural man” of Scripture develops out of the choices, thoughts, emotions, behaviors and relational wounds generated by self-worship.

34 – We need to be saved from the self-life. It was formed as we sought fulfillment in all the wrong ways. It yields emptiness, pain, darkness—lostness.

35 – “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28).

36 – My ruined self-life must be put to death. This allows me to be re-formed with a new life—God’s life—eternal life. I must choose it, but I don’t do it—God does.

The Christian Believer Is “In Christ”

37 – The process whereby the ruined self-life is put to death and replaced by God’s new life takes place “in Christ”—a condition of God’s design.

38 – By repentance and faith we turn again to God. He then sets us “in Christ.” This is a mystery. We can’t understand it by trying to analyze it—by living in our heads.

39 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). I just rely on God’s word.

40 – When God sets me “in Christ”, by his grace I am given a new reality. But I am responsible to access its benefits. How? By daily choices to trust expressed by obedience.

41 – What is meant by “in Christ”? One way to understand this: Rather than me trying to hold on to Christ, Christ is actually holding on to me.

42 – What is meant by “in Christ”? This means that God has united me with Christ in his death and resurrection. When he died, I died. When he rose, I rose.

43 – “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5).

44 – This may seem unreal. I died to sin? It doesn’t feel like it! I often fail when faced with temptation. Now I must decide not to live governed by what I feel.

45 – “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). “Consider” means to choose to rely on this being true and to act accordingly.

46 – “Do not present your members to sin…present yourselves to God…and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Romans 6:13).

47 – Our “members” are our bodily parts, but perhaps also our wills, thoughts, emotions. Spiritual practices assist us in presenting our members to God.

48 – Accepting a truth by faith is more than giving mental assent. I make choices, take actions that are logical if the truth is indeed true. Faith without works is dead.

49 – For a disciple of Christ to vacillate between yielding to the self-life or dying to it is to vacillate between unreality (yielding to self) and reality (dying to self).

50 – Yielding to the self-life obstructs my formation by the Spirit into Christlikeness. Dying to the self-life co-operates with the Spirit as he forms Christlikeness in me.

What Does This Look Like In Practice?

51 – Limiting these truths to the realm of theology renders them sterile—inoperative. They must shape my choices and my actions. Some examples:

52 – I allocate time to be with God—to practice his Presence. To do this I must say “no” to other things—even good things. I “die” to them.

53 – I choose not to demand my own way. When my will is crossed, I lay down my reactions. I “die” to retaliation. I make space for my Father to work his will.

54 – I “die” to any desire to win over others, to be more important, more successful, more praised. I thank my Father for the place in life he has given me.

55 – I choose to learn to be a servant. Jesus: ”If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:36). I allow Jesus to form this in me.

56 – When wronged, I reject “pay back”. I accept God’s role as Judge. I entrust my abuser to him. I “die” to anger and revenge.

57 – I choose to release my felt need to be in control. I accept that it is God, not I, who is in control. I marvel in the deep peace this brings.

58 – I choose spiritual practices that train me in dying to self. One example: Fasting teaches me that I do not need to be in bondage to my bodily appetites.

59 – In each life situation I seek to learn to love. Love is choosing to set aside self interest in order to serve the interest of another. Jesus modeled the way.

60 – This teaching must never leave us focused on death. The whole point is life. In Christ, the cross precedes the resurrection. Death is the doorway into life.

61 – Christ’s ways gradually mature me into life characterized by victory. Yes, there will be failures along the way. We grow into victory, not perfection.

62 – My failures offer me fresh chances to “die”:

  • I admit my failure. I confess. At least once a day is not too often.
  • I repent.
  • I choose to trust God’s Word that I am “in Christ”.
  • I move forward relying on Him.

63 – “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10).

 

 

Last edited—August 22, 2017

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