Last Tuesday I had the privilege of leading our weekly Bible study. Not being given any particular subject to address, I thought that it would be useful to look into some of the basic truths of the Bible. I offer you a little of that, and a prayer that these great truths will become our experience.
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again – 2 Cor. 5:14-15
As far as the Bible is concerned, the Christian life is lived on the basis on who we are in Christ. In other words, when we come to salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, we become new creations, as Paul writes further down the same passage: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new – 2 Cor. 5:17.
Much can be said about what the Christian’s new nature is and how it is expressed, but we won’t delve into that here. Suffice to say that it involves a complete transformation that takes place inside and then naturally and progressively manifests outside (Rom. 6:4).
What I would like to draw attention to are the apostle’s words in 2 Cor. 5:14-15 above. This spiritual change that takes place upon salvation is expressed with an attitude that gives less and less importance to the self and more and more importance to Christ. John the Baptist expressed it nicely: “[Christ] must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30.
Sometimes I wonder if every problem in the Church today doesn’t have its roots in a problem with this reality. Think about it: if we were to live our lives with an increasing desire to put Christ above ourselves, if we strove for this constantly, would we then find ourselves trapped in “old nature” sin patterns? Would our conversations not be naturally filled with and fuelled by the Word of God and the proclamation of the Gospel? If we were to honestly and fully commit ourselves constantly to the glory of our Lord, would we not inevitable and willingly fill our minds and hearts with His Word? And if we did, would we then easily be ensnared by false teachings and deceived by false prophets?
But above all, would we not finally be free of ourselves? Imagine the Church of the 21st century being truly free of its noxious self-absorption, of today’s “me-me-me” culture that leaves thousands of Christians empty, cold, tired, disappointed and cynical after spending fruitless years chasing their tails in pursuit of self-contentment?
I’m not selling asceticism here, nor nirvana. I’m not saying eliminate yourself, but submit yourself. We live in a world that panders to every aspect of our lives, trying to control not our consumer options but our consumer desires. “It’s all about you, as long as you’re not content. Want more.” That pretty much summarises it – and we ignore the infinitely greater treasures that our Father has given us in Christ and focus our lives to pick the world’s garbage.
Whenever I come across another burned-out/apathetic/cynical/modern Christian, my mind always returns to those words of Paul. And if said Christian seeks my advice, I always try to pinpoint which aspect of his/her life keeps them from living not for themselves but for Christ, in Whom they’re dead to themselves and are called to live in Him. And I’m sad to say that more often than not, a pin is not enough to point to all those dark corners. Many times they are just things that are not bad in of themselves – even “virtuous” things – but simply done for the wrong reasons, or too much, or with the wrong company. No wonder Solomon wrote: Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes – Song 2:15. When it comes to idolatry, size doesn’t matter.
I pray that we will come to know the wonderful freedom that comes in submitting ourselves to God so that He can glorify His Son in us. Then we can be used by Him fruitfully, then we can be blessed in ministering to others – believers and not – and then we can know what “freedom in Christ” really is.