Last week’s audio was entitled ‘God Of Confusion’ and in that program you and I discussed the confusion that results from the mind of the flesh when attempting to understand the Life of the Spirit. We talked about the bogus idea that God somehow is out to ‘confuse’ His people and that some see him as a ‘mad scientist’ just waiting to get the chance to inflict terrible misunderstanding and pain on them. We also talked a little about how confusion can simply be the result of our ‘best efforts’ in relying on the flesh for what only the Spirit can do and does. What we came up with was not exactly what I think most end up telling their converts in the religious environment. Would you agree?
There are many religious environments I may not be personally acquainted with, but I see very little evidence that would convince me other than what you’re suggesting. I mean, in view of all the individuals and groups I have dealt with over the years, the confusion that arises from attempting to understand the mind of God through the rules of human logic tells me that it’s all coming from the same basic place. I imagine that since this confusion is so pervasive, the religious mind simply has to integrate it into its belief structure. In other words, by throwing out a phrase such as “God’s ways are mysterious” when I’m confronted by circumstances or events that just don’t fit within my perception of how things should be in a world controlled by God, I can not only explain away my inability to understand, but I might also come across sounding somewhat spiritual in the process.
ADAM, ANYTHING TO ADD BETWEEN THESE TWO PARAGRAPHS?
You see, I understand all too well the fear that I may have bought into nothing more than a superstitious perception of a God who only exists through the persistence of religious ignorance. If we are to understand what it truly means to be rescued from this world in Christ, we have to abandon all hope of finding this reality by approaching the wisdom of God through some kind of blended reasoning of the natural and the divine. Let me tell you something. As you cease being afraid of the supposed wisdom of the intellectual mind, you will begin to recognize the true ignorance of the superstitious mind of this world that continues to discover more and more evidence that testifies to the miraculous work of God rather than to the system that seeks to remove him. As long as you are trying to explain God through the methods of those who ignore him, you will continue to hit that brick wall of confusion. My friends, that’s not an example of a God who works in mysterious ways, that’s the result of attempting to blend that which cannot be blended.
Well this week’s audio recording is entitled: ” Living Up to Standards” [Are you Expecting Something?]
Jim, I have been thinking lately about the fact that the world has taught us many empty things with respect to our former selves and that we often find ourselves still hanging onto those things until the Light of Christ has shown them for what they are. Consider what Jesus had to say to the ruler of His day when standing before Him about to be judged and put to death, He said “My kingdom [a]is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not [b]of this realm.” John 18:36
Also consider what Paul said ” the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4
Adam, this fits quite well with last week’s topic, but then again, we should continually discover that the true gospel —that is, the good news of Jesus Christ, and him crucified— all ties together. I mean, the statement found in John 18:36 represents the same clash between the mind of man and the mind of God that not only all the apostles dealt with, but also that we still deal with today. When Jesus spoke these words to Pilate, he totally baffled the man. After all, over what possible realm could Pilate imagine Jesus being king? When confronted with the proposition of truth, Pilate dismissed it with a rhetorical question —What is truth?— and had nothing more to say to him. Pilate’s conclusion suggests an assumption that even if Jesus was a nut-job, he posed no real threat.
The verse in 2 Corinthians also testifies to the same inability found in the natural mind of man. So, tell me more about where you’re going with this.
Those who are pinning their hope on a world and its elements have no understanding of the Hope stemming from the kingdom of God in Christ Jesus. For the world we were once a part of has no understanding of the realm where we in Christ truly live, nor does it accept it. As we walk through life in this world with its darkened understanding, we have the light to see that the confines of the fleshly mind still seeks to subdue us and control us. We can hear the elemental calls to us in the form of expectations and standards everyday. We learned to base our whole life of existence on those dead things while we walked with them in our ignorance. They call to us “If you loved me, you would say this” or “if you care, you would do this or that”. You might also hear the voice of the world in “How will anything EVER get done unless you worry over it?” Or even what Paul out out there as the fleshly mind “What shall we say then?”
Ah yes, this has been a reoccurring theme with us lately, and it fits so well. I used to imagine a complexity in the various voices that called to me in this world. But as time went on, I began to hear a repetitious drone. I mean, how many different ways can the same basic question be phrased?
Personally I find that in the midst of the demands, I learn I am no longer UNDER the demand. When I have some situation before me demanding that I am under expectations, I am reminded that the realm of expectation has been destroyed but still seeks to stay alive. We who are in Christ are free from expectation, and yet we are put into many intimidating scenarios where we get forced into a corner. While I am NOT saying we MUST [law] go out of our way to throw off any expectation in the world, what I am saying is that we need to recognize exactly what we DIED to in Christ. The Spirit has totally removed us from the realm that seems so familiar to us and we need not play the game anymore.
Jim, do you see our life in Christ as being filled up with these set-ups where we get confronted with these roots of elemental wisdom and expectations all throughout our time here on earth?
Consider the words Jesus spoke to his father on behalf of his disciples the night before his crucifixion: John 17:14-16
Being left in the world while not being of the world cannot be understood apart from the obvious setup implied by it. My friends, do not assume that just because the world appears more civilized it has ceased its stance of hatred toward you. For no matter how much you attempt to blend in, because you are in Christ you have been removed from the domain of this world. You are the subject of another realm, which is the very same kingdom Jesus claimed to be king of. In Christ, your real citizenship is found outside the confines, including its rules and expectations, of the world you have not been taken out of. Why else do you imagine Jesus told his disciples (in John 15:18-21) to expect hatred and persecution from this world? The feeling you lived with, that of being an outsider even when you’ve done what you could to blend in, might just come from having been made alive while being left in the midst of a dead world.
How wonderful it is to realize that the Spirit is revealing our freedom to us in the midst of these false obligations and expectations of the flesh isn’t it?
That’s for sure, Adam. It’s all too easy to give in to the lie that would have us begging for deliverance from the world, rather than as recognizing how the real setup God established continually provides testimony regarding our true citizenship. Look, just because those who belong to the world have found reason for boasting in any and every privilege bestowed upon them has absolutely no bearing upon the implications of your having been set free. What I’m saying is that the arrogance often associated with knowing and standing in one’s freedom can only happen within the imagination of those who are guided by the spirit of this world. For you see, this world is a kingdom that has been structured on elemental principles, and it is bound by that which can be measured and judged according to whatever standard or expectation can be validated by those basic principles.
Growing up in this world, we learned to think of freedom in terms of being removed from the circumstance that seems to cause the bondage. But the cause is not the circumstance, rather it arises from within the heart and mind of those who walk in darkness and futility. I’m not suggesting that it’s all imaginary, for the imaginations of the futile mind have produced very real and terrible results. But this is exactly where we get derailed.
ADAM, COULD YOU ADD SOMETHING HERE? MAYBE AS SIMPLE AS A REQUEST FOR ME TO EXPLAIN TO OUR LISTENERS WHAT I MEAN BY GETTING DERAILED.
My friends, listen. When you were rescued from the domain of darkness, you were also transferred into the kingdom of light. Don’t question the reality just because at the same time you were also initiated into a setup brought on by having been left in the arena of your former bondage. At one time, the logic of Christ —which is diametrically opposed to the reasoning of the natural mind— well, it made living sense to you. It was just there. It was so real that you went along with things you cannot explain to this day. Somewhere along the line —which may have been days, weeks, months, or years— somebody pulled you away from the truth of your freedom. Now, when I use the word truth here I don’t refer to some kind of doctrinal shift in your belief system, but rather a shift in your mode of operation. For somewhere in your journey, the message of bondage finally broke through so that you once again began to accept those same standards and expectations from which you had been delivered. Once accepted, those standards begin to replace your new-creation outlook.
ADAM: SO, HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?
How does this happen? Simple, once the miraculous truth regarding that shift from darkness to light becomes relegated to little more than a fairy tale, the reality starts to seem more and more imaginary, while the battle for morality in the world begins to appear more substantial.
ADAM: I’LL BET OUR AUDIENCE WOULD LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN BY THIS TRUTH BECOMING MORE LIKE A FAIRY TALE.
Yeah, I imagine so. You see, when religious leaders are more concerned with getting new believers on board by teaching Bible doctrines and Christian principles, making sure to establish church hierarchy as well as enforcing church discipline, the actual life within those born of God takes a back seat in everything. So, when I suggest that the miraculous truth of your being joined to God through Christ becomes little more than a fairy tale, I mean that even though you might acknowledge it as a true doctrine, when it comes down to how you approach life, the living Spirit of God within you too often becomes the very last consideration in your Christian life. Instead, the doctrines become your mantra and the principles become your guide, don’t they?
Jim, knowing that there are two realms : one of the devil and one of God , do you find it interesting that most often we who are in Christ still live as if still in the other realm? Take for instance the statement of Paul’s: “and we know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose”. Don’t you think that if we were not constantly attempting to view this reality according to fleshly thoughts, that we might actually SEE this working in our very real experiences in various ways as God is doing it?
Yes, this ties right back in with your original question as to how we come to recognize the Spirit revealing our freedom in the midst of false obligations and expectations. Now, it might seem that our run-ins and struggles should be regarded as a waste, but our God causes all things to work together for good for us. Remember, God is not bound or confused by our confusion. He works from and out of the life that is in us, which is Christ, and through your weaknesses you are being made aware of the fundamental distinction between life and death, between Christ and every religious substitute.
Paul wrote, Philippians 3:13-14. Consider the phrase “forgetting what lies behind” in view of what he stated just prior as “whatever things were gain to me.” Living according to standards and false obligations has everything to do with that which lies behind, for this is how we establish and rate those standards, as well as who we owe what to. To forget what lies behind demands that we stop using our past failures or successes —as well as those of our peers— as the basis upon which we live and judge. Pressing on toward that to which we have been called in Christ is the only valid course before us. And yes, if we were not so caught up in viewing this reality according to the judgments and standards of the natural, fleshly mind we might actually see some of this working out in very real ways.
Take for instance the next statement of Pauls : if God is for us who can be against us? The fact is that we who are His offspring ALWAYS have good working toward us according to the inward man-despite what man may do to us! God is working in us good while death is working at us death. For every deathly demand, expectation and error thrown our way we see the light of God’s living reality in the midst of it and overflow with the goodness of God. In other words we ‘stand up under it’. No, no not in some ‘stand for christ’ way. Not in some fleshly outward way, no, from WITHIN and in view of the Lord Jesus who is our Life. God does this and we see it working in us. We no longer NEED expectations nor its WHOLE realm. We no longer NEED rules and we no longer NEED demands. WE HAVE BEEN FREED. Walking in view of this is God’s will working in us. We are blessed by the recognition that though all men may throw at us their condemnation and expectations, we are not under even a single part of it. Jim, how freeing is this to know?
Adam, for me, this reality touches at the very heart of freedom. After all, if I regard myself as being under the condemnation and expectations of men, what am I left with in regard to life in Christ? Won’t my only hope be found in getting out of this hell-hole? Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to the unfolding of his salvation when this shell finally dies off, but “reaching forward to what lies ahead” was not Paul’s way to describe his desire to get out of Dodge. Rather, it has everything to do with living as one who is alive in the midst of a world that defies and rejects everything about the life of Christ.
To know that I have been freed from the rules and expectations of the world, including the religious versions of it, confirms and supports my understanding of Christ. As a matter of fact, knowing that I am not under law in any way sets me free so that I can subject myself to laws that are not mine. In other words, I can choose to live “as under the Law, not being myself under the Law” (1 Corinthians 9:20) On the other hand, if I am trying to operate under the Law as if I AM under the Law, I am only establishing a contradiction within myself that is continually gnawing away at my confidence. To know that I am free from any and every demand of man witnesses within my spirit that I am born of God. In this confidence, I can live as one who really is alive, no matter what the circumstances.