FREE TO BE
Thirty years ago I was writing an article about the grace of Christ and how good it was to live in grace’s release rather than in the narrow constrictions of law and legalism. As a farmer's son I had seen sheep drafted into long, narrow pens that made it easy to drench them with chemicals against worms and parasites or brand them with the owners sticky blue mark of possession. Sheep provide wool and legs of lamb. But they are not the brightest animal in the firmament. When driving the farm ute out to collect the mail, mobs gathered under the trees on one side of the road in perfect safety. Yet they would take it in to their woolly heads to run across the road in front of me to the other side. Sheep jump over gates that aren’t there and refuse to see gates that are. That’s what sheep do. Hmmm. 'All we like sheep have gone astray…' Makes you think.
SPIRIT AND LIFE
Scribbling away, I did not know then, as I know now, that grace is not actually a means of coping with the law. Grace is God’s means of living in Christ’s Spirit. We are talking new creation here. One who lives in law can never flourish as a human being. I’ve observed that non-Believers who live in nothing, other than human decency are in some ways better off than Christians living as a legalists. Law, binds, constricts and limits. It does not make us a better person. It often makes us painful and tiresome nitpickers. Grace is the door to the Spirit of God, the ignited spirit of man and life without limit in the person of Jesus. Grace enables us to love. Not so law.
Make one ‘law-addition’ to Christ and we live in the law. Live the Christ our life, life and we live infinitely better than any inmate of the law. Our spirit is alive because of Christ.
'Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation' Gal 6.15 NIV.
I wrote that article many years ago from the story of Jesus and Lazarus. Jesus said, ‘Take off his grave clothes and let him go.’ I applied this to the law and the legalistic mind-set. Get it off! But we can’t escape from its toils just by deciding to. We need the spirit of freedom within to do that and we have it. It's ours when Christ is our life and not when a belief system is our life. Let's be clear. If circumcision is powerless to fill any one with life, then neither is any other behavior, set of rules or sacred observance. Day’s, times, clothing, special food, strange hats and flowing robes have nothing to do with life and impart nothing. Christ alone imparts life that is infinite and eternal. You can live this out into temporal affairs right now. Your new creation life occurs a result of the resurrected Jesus in you.
LAZARUS DIES UNDER THE OLD COVENANT
Back to Lazarus. Lazarus dies under the old covenant. You have been re-born into the new.
A friend of mine, with whom we spoke often of life in God, told me that the message of the old testament is ‘Obey and live.’ And it is. This is grist to the mill of the legalist and performance monger. But that was then. This is now. Today we have the new covenant, a dramatically complete departure from pre-cross living. Here the reality is ‘You are alive to obey.’ Alive in what? Alive in Christ; alive in a person; alive because the trinity is in you releasing their life into your being. That’s the incarnation. This is the soil of the spirit of sonship and the gifts of the Spirit. Life in the Spirit is by definition life in the new covenant relationship where you and Father are one.
To be fully human and fully alive the risen Lazarus needs to be set free from rules, human artifice and restrictions to realize the unlimited life he had been given as a son of God. That was it. Well not quite. Back then I had no understanding of old and new covenants. I did not understand the difference between the old ‘Obey and live’ and the new ‘Christ is your life.’ 'Obey and live' was a function of the law and old covenant. Christ your life is the new realm of the Spirit of Christ manifest as you. Today the dictum is reversed. We are alive in Christ and equipped with His gracious life to bear much fruit.
When Christ is our life, Jesus is the righteousness of God in you and more. He is the Son of Man as you. This is something that is achieved in the Spirit but which is impossible in the letter. The mystery revealed in Jesus is that Christ in you is the hope and the reality of our glory today and in the future. Your glory is the ever - increasing growth in your being into the Spirit of Sonship. Jesus and the Father have already defined you as a son. You increase in the reality of this state of being as the fullness of Christ increases in your life.
The skill and the discipline of our Christ life is this. Learning to rest more and agree more that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. That our life an individual or as a denomination may not be the life and can be a contradiction of that life and that this life come to those who are willing to lay down all and follow Jesus. There are times and situations when not only new need to bring ourselves to the foot of the cross in order to rise again, but entire denominations and their beliefs need to come to the foot of the cross to exchange their gospel for the gospel of Christ and His Kingdom.
Today we are fully sons in the name of Jesus. Yet each day we grow into His fullness increasing into the completeness of sons and daughters of God. There is nothing mean about such a state of being, nothing wooly minded about Christ as our life. It is wisdom, revelation and life-unlimited because the Son of God has incarnated Himself in you. The good news is not that you have come to terms with the law. The good news is that Christ is your life and that you are a new creation.
'For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do' Eph 2.10 NIV.
Yet many live more like sheep bound to other shepherds rather than human beings bound to the One Shepherd and the Shepherd who lives in them. Don’t be a Lazarus wearing grave clothes all your life. Jesus ordered, ‘Take of His grave-clothes and let him go. Through His cross and resurrection He has done this for us all. In any case we are not a resurrected Lazarus. We are a resurrected Jesus.
Only in Christ can we step into new creation life. Only in the Christ of the Father and the Christ of Paul and John are we in the daily resurrection of the new creation. Reject law subservient christs, old covenant christs and limited christs because all of them are false christs.
The new creation came into human being at Pentecost when the Spirit of the living Christ entered all who believed. From now on Christ's church would be the manifestation of the Son of Man on earth. Pentecost was not only tongues and divine revelation for all who believe. It was the resurrected Christ come to live in all who believe. The was the start of the adventure of Christ in you. One can no more live the Christ-life without the Spirit than one can breathe without air. The incarnation is Christ in us and more. It is Christ as us. This is the meaning of the Lord’s Table and the import of Jesus’ command, ‘Those who eat me will live because of me.’ The new creation is bigger than righteousness versus sin. The new creation is about sons. It is about life; about living in the fullness of being human in the Son of Man. It's the new and living way to be who we are - Sons and daughters of God.
'The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go' John 11.44 NIV.