This Shoveletter is part of my correspondence to a discussion based out of Galatians 2 where Paul had confronted Peter with that whole thing about justification by faith and not works. What I wrote spawned from the questions in brackets.
Another issue that arises in this passage (Galatians 2) is the one of believing and having faith. Notice verse 16. A man is justified through faith and Paul says that we have believed. What do you think he means here in light of some previous discussion concerning the work of faith?
I think it all indicates the same miraculous reality. The truth is that we have come to believe HIM in spite of ourselves, our perceptions. our religious upbringing, and our decisions ... yes, even many of our so-called decisions to believe. Which is in spite of our ongoing re-attempts to find justification according to our own systems and fleshly judgments. "Even WE - Jews according to the flesh (and more to the point regarding ourselves, Christians according to the institution) - have believed". Paul wasn't commenting on believing as if it was this thing that "we" did, but upon its demand that since "we" needed salvation as a gift then all our former fleshly distinctions, laws, demands, rituals, did nothing to bring it about. The fact that we have BELIEVED in Christ presents the same demand that salvation is through faith: it is miraculous, it is of God.
More personally, what does all this mean to you? How does it work down into your everyday living? How does it become a simple principle of life in Christ that is a witness of the miraculous inside?
Yes, yes, what does it mean to me! There is a real temptation to slip into a mode of judgment according to the flesh for I understand it, I was there, it used to be the basis of my existence. Everything I learn in Christ is a reinforcement of the reality of his grace, his life. However, the way I learned life in this world would have me line those realities up in such a way as to create a system by which I might prove myself worthy. That's why the application Scripture or Christian doctrine has become a staple in most sermons and teachings. Instead of discovering or witnessing to the real connection of Christ's life we've had to force an application in order to make it real. And no, that is not what I'm hearing you ask. I don't hear you asking how to make it real, but instead how it really connects.
The fact that I have believed in Christ rather than having somehow achieved justification through a joint venture is a sobering reality that keeps demanding that no one else has to reach my level in order to know Christ. My having been raised in a Christian denomination from infancy has done nothing to make me more pleasing to God, nor has it put me in a better position to have received his grace. I still catch myself assuming that it is somehow easier to share the good news of Christ to those who have some prior knowledge of the Bible or of Christianity ... as if by the familiarity, or at least by virtue of the fact that such people would be more willing to give heed to the written claims of God. Instead, I have had it shown to me countless times that God so easily by-passes any and all of my expectations or restrictions.
What has now become just as amazing is that he even reveals himself from within the system I have come to distrust. He is not bound by the system nor does he need to break one away from the system before he can reveal himself! I find that I could easily be imposing a prerequisite for knowing God by insisting God can only be found outside the system when in truth the system is nothing, which also means that breaking away from the system is also nothing. Wherever I am in this world I could be considered part of somebody's system, but the true bondage comes when I make the assumption that I am what this world demands I am.
Bondage to the system then is a self-imposed delusion. However, such delusions are as real as real can be to those being held by them. For me to speak life to folks of different delusional persuasions I cannot insist one must hear me according to someone else's persuasion, but instead according to reality. And I cannot do this by adhering to a stance or a position or a doctrine or by words written in stone or to a prepared statement - even though any or all of those things may play part of a living testimony at one time or another - for in truth I am on my own, so to speak, in each and every situation to hear according to the ears I have been given in Christ and to speak according to the very speaking of God. I am the very embodiment of God to those to whom I come in contact with ... as are all who have Christ.
But what do I speak? The real question might be better stated, But what am I really hearing? Behind all the pomp and circumstance, behind the fluff and frills, below superficial communication (even that which is cloaked as being deep), aside from the constant barrage of fleshly judgment ... what am I really hearing? Because we are so easily sucked in by fleshly assessments we consider this idea of hearing according to the Spirit as being a difficult thing, when in fact it is not difficult ... only miraculous (which is the same as saying it is impossible according to flesh). And when I say we are so easily sucked in it is only from my own ongoing discovery of falling flat on my face from such assessments. As those made alive in Christ let us speak to what we truly hear without having to rely upon formulas or pat answers, knowing that formulas and pat answers only became so by having been empowered by the false perception that truth can be distilled and contained in order to reproduce the work of God without God having to do it.
So, what do I say, how am I to react ... how am I to live? I discover the reality of this by discovering that I have been abandoned by everything I thought to be life, by everything that seemed right to me, even though true life and true rightness has come to be realized as being far more substantial than my former perceptions ever could imagine. In my every day I am out there ... out where truth contradicts the boxes that attempt to hold snippets of true things, even to the point of contradicting the conclusions of varied collections of true things, as well as the individual things that may be true in and of themselves, but made to be untrue by the contamination of fleshly perceptions. Simply stated, regarding myself I am not concerned by another's fleshly judgment of me, whether it be according to man's laws or those recorded in the Bible. I live according to Christ, for he is my life. His life cannot be truly assessed according to the flesh, and we already know that his life while living on this earth was examined by God's law - according to man - and found wanting.
The truth is that my everyday life might not appear so miraculous, even to myself. In many ways my life is very scheduled - my job, my sleeping and eating patterns, etc - so that the routine of one week often seems to roll into the next. I used to imagine that true freedom would bring about freedom from routine, and yet I have come to see that it is neither bound by routine or by amplified by its lack. I am content, even though I may pursue a change here or there. I am not bound by my fleshly perception of freedom ... nor by anybody else's perception of it (no matter how authoritative that perception seems). I am alive in Christ and that is all that counts ... as it is all that counts regarding everything and everyone.