In my attempts to understand the next sector of my life, I have begun to ponder what seems to have begun with a calling as a child, a desire for God – a wanting; now maturing into a longing that anticipates a delight which could lie just beyond that veil of full surrender to Christ?
It seems there is a discipline to purity, but one that far exceeds religious rigor and the putting off of sinful vices; rather, one that in grace depends upon the pure righteousness that comes from Christ alone…”Christ in me”…a purity that passes the litmus test of the “hope of glory.” (With this scripture, I always picture a balcony loaded with saints and angels cheering us toward that milestone of faith)!
That fulfillment may come simultaneously with participation in the sufferings of Christ or it may even be a necessary step before being entrusted with true suffering? The sufferings mentioned by Paul and other martyrs, though excruciating physically, seem to emote quite differently than might be observed if borne by the typical American Christian of today?
Was physical pain in those early believers felt, but somehow over-ridden by an inner quality which we know little of; their pain somehow muted by the joy set before those suffering ones? I recall reading about the outcries of John Huss, in the midst of his being painfully burned at the stake; his body pulled fast against his pyre by tormentors who had hastily thrown a chain around his neck upon his prophesy of a swan that would follow him, Martin Luther. Huss’s cry: “Christ has borne the chains of my sins; surely I must bear this rusty one for Him!”
He surely must have been at a different place in relationship with Christ than this aspiring writer? It would seem that participation at the level described of Huss, Paul and others is a privilege bestowed only on those who have “violently” journeyed with Christ.
Are we missing something in our contemporary gospel of prosperity and rank capitalism; prevented of our own crown of sufferings, never understanding true delight? These martyrs, unlike many of the religious radical terrorists of today, loved others beyond self, and possibly though in no way self inflicted, knew a passage from death unto life, mortality to immortality, different than today’s religious majority who at best fear death, avoid suffering and despise loss on this earth.
In a discussion of II Cor. 4:7-10 just yesterday, the scriptures seemed to speak loud to this point: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (NASV)
Clay Jars, cracked pots, depending on the version of the text, describe the life of this flesh and the sovereign design of God’s plan. Our objective should never be blessing and comfort, or even ‘happiness’ though at times we do experience relief and refreshing, even undeniable blessings of prosperity, by His grace . Our objective though must always be only Christ in us, manifest in a way that is undeniably Him when examined for our works.
“Always carrying in our bodies the dying of Jesus,” that’s the part of this scripture that jumped out at me yesterday…the dying of Jesus was about His bearing my sins, even the sins of the whole world. That must have been a grave burden? If I then am “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus” is there any wonder at times that I feel so sinful, though I am not sinning, so fraught with a sense of wickedness though I do no intentional wicked deeds? Can we be honest here?
We often blame these thoughts, even desires on the enemy, but could this be our redeemed spirit wrestling with who we in the flesh really are apart from His grace? Is this body of death, this flesh, this clay jar unredeemable by design? Yet, is my Spirit so redeemed through the righteousness of Christ, that He in fact even inhabits and freely moves throughout my sinful flesh, demonstrating God’s power through me often in the same way as He did in the flesh of the son of Mary?
I am coming to believe that this journey really has little to do with my sin-less-ness and more to do with His righteousness. Will there ever be a place of sinlessness while in this flesh? I doubt it, for John states “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Wow!
Is there such a thing as sanctification, yes by all means, for if I lived out at times what emerges in my flesh, I might even be found criminal; but as the writer of Romans proclaims, where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. Should I sin, God forbid, do I have the potential, all the time, but for grace!
So what is my goal? According to Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God, its right alignment with God, “God wants to align our lives with Him so He will accomplish His divine purposes in and through us.” My desire is to be done dealing with sin in me, rather fully surrendered to the Christ in me. For beyond this threshold of true purity-right alignment- lies the ability to be “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” True delight!