So Now, We Are His Children

FathersI believe that I can say, without fear of exaggeration, that the process of adopting a child taught me more about the Gospel than any other experience I have had in my adult life. I have come to believe there is a specific understanding of biblical salvation that is graciously and uniquely granted to families who adopt. When Alyson and I brought our son home from Hong Kong we had been married for 15 years and had 4 biological children. And at the time, I thought I understood what it meant to be a dad. But, adoption drew out aspects of fatherhood which I had never seen before. It is like viewing stars from my home in a central Alabama city versus viewing them from the Gulf Coast. The sky is the same, but it is the different vantage point that allows me to see and appreciate the stars in a completely different way. Specifically, there are three facets of fatherhood that adoption has allowed me to perceive far more clearly and brightly than I did before: Belonging, Identity and Significance.

So first – Belonging. My biological children have always belonged to a father. From the moment they entered the world, I was there to embrace them and claim them. But for my adopted son, Jack, his father was gone long before he was born. And for the first years of his life he had no familiarity with a dad and no idea what it meant to belong to someone. He had never experienced simple joys we take for granted, like climbing up into a father’s lap just to be with him, or having someone look at us with pride and say, ‘That one is mine’. Fatherhood means belonging.

And belonging brings Identity. We live in a culture that teaches us to earn our identity by what we do. But in truth, identity is established by who we are. Immediately upon entering the world my first four children were known as son or daughter, brother or sister, niece or nephew; they were recognized as grandchildren or cousins. They had a family name, a place, and a heritage – granted not because of hard work, but because they belonged. And it was the lack of belonging that caused my adopted son to be born without a firm identity. He was not born into a family. He was not a son. He was not a brother. He did not have a heritage. But when he came to belong to us through adoption, all of that changed. He was granted a new identity. He was no longer who he used to be. He now belonged to a new family with sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles – marked by a new name. Fatherhood means identity.

And this belonging and identity has a cumulative effect – a Significance. I often find myself looking at our adopted son and wondering, ‘How different would his life be if he had never been adopted?’ For Jack, everything has been radically changed. His future will be immeasurably shaped by this reality of belonging to a family and the identity he has received. Fatherhood means significance.

And seeing these truths by way of a different vantage point, I have new insights into the magnificence of my own adoption. The bible uses adoptive language to describe the Gospel – the very salvation of our souls. God our creator, chose to adopt us (Ephesians 1:5), and so we – who once had no identity as a people – now belong to God the Father in his family (1 Peter 2:10). How amazing! The act of human adoption, is merely a shadow of the divine, greater adoption that the Father above has bestowed upon us. The bible teaches that God sent his only son, Jesus Christ, into his creation to take upon his shoulders the penalties due our sin. And if we have faith in Jesus’ work we will belong to the same Father as He does (1 Corinthians 3:23); we will receive the same identity he has: a ‘Child of God’ (1 John 3:1). Our belonging is proven by the name we now carry. We are not who we used to be. We now belong to a Father, in a new family with sisters and brothers from all times, cultures, and languages. We have not earned this identity, but have received it all because of Jesus! And the significance of this cannot be overstated, because now if God is for his children, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)? Our future is shaped entirely by this Fatherhood. Through faith in Christ, we now belong to the King of all the Universe. We carry His name. Once fatherless, we are now sons and daughters with a heritage. So now, we are His children.

Sowing Seeds of Life

Sowing-SeedsMy wife and I recently had a student recount to us a literal life or death moment that she experienced in the midst of a difficult season. We serve in a local ministry to precious men and women who like all of us are dealing with sin; but for them, the issues have reached the point of threatening their ability to be able to provide a safe, loving environment for their children. This young mom was facing the common difficulties of life, like overdue bills, medical issues, busy schedules, and responsibilities. But this was coupled with the struggle to overcome the powerful effects of addiction as she strives to stay with the child that she so desperately loves. And in a moment of weakness, with all of the stress of life seeming to pile up – the thought came: Just end this. End the struggle. This battle is too much. You are not going to make it. But she shared with us that as the thought of destruction was raging in her mind, another more powerful thought entered. She heard the words of a verse that we had read together in our class just a few days earlier: Genesis 1:27 ‘God created man in his own image’. For this young mother – that scripture was just as the Psalmist described: ‘a light to my path’. The darkness told her that giving up was the answer. Yet the light had broken through to give her hope. And as she looked at us crying, she said with determination, ‘I am made in the image of God, and I know I have a purpose. I am going to keep going’.

The language of light and darkness is a theme that is found throughout the bible; the description of a battle that has been raging long before any of us were born. The bible describes God, as the ‘Father of lights’ (James 1:17) from whom every good and perfect gift comes. And in darkness is the enemy of God that has opposed Him from before the creation of the world- ‘the thief’ who comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 3:19). And I would submit that all of us have found ourselves in the midst of this battle and many of us carry scars from it. The fight rages for us and for those we love. The battleground being thoughts, affections, and allegiance. Everyone faces choices of darkness and light– clashes between deception or integrity, hatred or reconciliation, lust or faithfulness, idolatry or sacrifice. Those conflicts are continual; the outcome of each one is not of little consequence. Because even if the choice seems insignificant at the time, the aim of darkness is to entice us toward that which will bring chaos and destruction. And in this war our hope is not in ourselves, but in God the Father who has sent His light physically and spiritually into the world. He has sent the greatest gift, Jesus Christ, who came to ‘shine on those living in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace’ (Luke 1:79).

In Christ alone is found freedom from the thief’s power. Our safe haven in this conflict, is to abide with Jesus. Our first and most pressing priority is our relationship with Him. We are all hard-pressed daily with life and responsibilities, but we cannot let good things become the enemy of the best thing. We must press into Jesus and listen for his guidance. Through Christ, in the smallest of thoughts or the gravest of actions we can choose light and the peace that comes with it.

And by His grace we can help others who have been wounded in this battle, by ‘sowing seeds’ of light into people’s lives (Psalm 97:11).  If you have ever had a garden, you know that even the smallest of seeds planted at the right time, and with the right nutrients can yield a healthy and bountiful crop. As a parent, there is no greater distress than being separated from your child. And so I rejoice in the many men and women who are giving their resources to family ministries. Workers who are sowing seeds of light in parents and children surrounded by darkness, praying for a harvest of salvation, reconciliation and healing. And opportunities like this are all around us if we look. Perhaps it is giving of ourselves through service; opening our hearts to the potential of bringing light to darkness in a new and challenging way. Or perhaps it is as simple as giving an encouraging word to the grocery store clerk who appears to be having a hard day as they scan our items. In this great cosmic battle, even the smallest of actions can be used by our Father – the Father of light – to yield life in others.

Truth and Love: Two Groups of Error

Changing or suppressing truth out of desire not to wound or offend is not love, but indulgence. Truth spoken in love is always more gentle and kind than compromise and is also always more beneficial and instructive than truth that lacks any sort of warmth, compassion or care.

Broadly speaking, there are two major groups of errors in the American church today: the Compromise Camp and the Pharisee Camp. In the Compromise Camp, we find those who, in the interest of not offending or challenging the culture, water down the truth of the Bible, bend/change – or even outright deny it. They value love above all things, and correctly point out that God is love. What is missing, however, is that God is also Holy and Jesus identifies Himself as “THE Truth.” Love without truth may seem sweet, warm and inviting….but like a hamburger made out of doughnuts, is ultimately unhealthy and lacking in nutrition. You can’t live off of love that is not intermixed with truth. You might think that you are called to balance the church’s historic “harshness” in a sort of affirmative action/balancing way….but you do not have this call or duty. NOBODY does. The world does not need love that lacks truth – love without truth might be temporarily comforting, but it is not capable of rescue/salvation. Love accompanied by inaccurate truth or compromise is even more dangerous. Merely love is NOT the Jesus way. Jesus was crucified NOT because of His overwhelming kindness, but because of His uncompromising truth (spoken in love…)

In the Pharisee Camp, we find church members who are frighteningly quick to point out the error in others and correct them with truth. You find people writing extensively about this or that false teaching; this or that false teacher; and this or that false doctrine. Individually, Pharisee Campers have a tendency to skillfully be able to diagnose the splinter in somebody else’s eye, while missing the log in their own eye. They are absolutely correct in their knowledge that the church is the “Pillar of truth,” and that we are called to “expose the darkness,” and admonish and rebuke when necessary (see 1 Tim. 3:15, Eph. 5:11 and Col 3:16). The issue is that these directives must be absolutely slathered in LOVE. Not in a compromising, permissive way…but in a kind, gentle and humble way (See 2 Timothy 2:25 and 1 Thess. 2:7)!

Truth delivered without mercy and love is harshness, and only beneficial to the degree that a drill sergeant’s barking is beneficial. Yes, it gives helpful information, but it builds significant resentment over time and ultimately alienates the listener, much like the church has done with homosexuals and others that sinned in a way that was not fashionable at the time (ignoring the fact that we are all sinners called to repentance by the glorious gospel of Jesus). You might think that you are God’s drill sergeant and that your tone or method of delivery doesn’t matter as long as you are spouting truth. Unfortunately, there is no such position in the Body of Christ. We are all called and REQUIRED to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15)! Truth unaccompanied by love is NOT the Jesus way.

Love without truth is indulgent compromise, truth without love is merely the cold delivery of information. One without the other is not the Jesus way; one without the other cannot rightly be called “Christianity.”

Ephesians 4:15 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.

Chase A. Thompson
Agape Fellowship

Be Fearful of Immaturity

This article is based on the sermon ‘Fearing Immaturity‘, given on December 7, 2014 from the Hebrews series, which can be found in its entirety here.

God has prepared us to face the ever changing, ever challenging, ever glorious expedition with Christ, by giving us His Word and His Spirit. I am not sure if there is a book in the NT that deals with the potential and the pitfalls of life’s journey – the way that Hebrews does. This sermon / letter builds upon the biblical mandates that teach us to ABIDE, WALK in and OBEY Christ, by giving us promises of rewards IF we do these things (see 3:6, 3:14 and 4:11). and Hebrews challenges us to these mandates by giving us warnings (see 2:1 and 3:12).

When I was 19 years old, I found myself in the midst of one of the deepest spiritual crises of my life. I had professed Christ with my mouth as a seven year old, and has spent many of my early years growing up in that profession. As a teenager, I fell into a trap of immorality that would consume my thoughts, behaviors and heart for the next 10 years. I spent several of those years with no signs of spiritual life, no interest in God apart from times of want or need. But at 19, I fell under a cloud of great conviction knowing my life was no longer lined up with His word; and that sin had consumed me. And I fell under great despair and fear about my own soul. So I began reading my bible and praying – begging and seeking for God and His assurance. And I remember one day in particular before work, I was trying to read my bible – and as I thumbed through my eyes fell to a passage of scripture – Hebrews 6:

‘1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity…And this we will do if God permits. 4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned’.

In the midst of great concern about your salvation – THIS is not the text you want to come across. Because this passage – at face value – indicates there can be people who experience Christ and His Kingdom, yet fall away from it with no opportunity to return. THIS is frightening. And reading this passage that day, I cried my eyes out; I cried harder at reading this passage, than I cried over the death of my father.

Many people, good people who love Jesus, have different interpretations of this text. My intention is not to go through all of those interpretations; nor answer all of the questions surrounding it. 17 years after reading this passage for the first time, I still wrestle with what it says. But I do want us to make some observations that I pray will be beneficial for our souls & that will point us toward truth:

Observation 1: God is Greatly Concerned with Our Spiritual Maturity

More than any other aspect of our life – God is concerned with our growth in Christ. This section really begins back in Hebrews 5:11, where the writer tells the readers that He has many deep things to teach them about Christ, and the Gospel – but He has ran into a difficulty, the readers have become dull of hearing; This literally can mean ‘LAZY in UNDERSTANDING the message’ or SLUGGISH in INSTRUCTION. 5:12: For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. Surrounding this text then is the issue of spiritual immaturity: which is a failure to grow in learning and applying the Gospel; these people were bored, uninterested and lazy in the things of God – which is why 6:1 starts off with a cry, imploring them to ‘GO ON TO MATURITY’.

Observation 2: You Will Mature in Christ or You Will Fall Away from Christ

Immediately following this cry to go on to maturity, is the warning beginning in verse 4, of the impossibility of restoring someone who falls away to repentance. So, implicit in the text is that there are 2 options: Maturity or Destruction. You go on to maturity, or you risk falling away. To become a disciple of Christ is the most glorious, gracious gift of God. And it is a pathway that will be filled with ups and downs; Times of intimacy and seasons of trial. God is kind and compassionate and patient with us. But your discipleship is purposed in your salvation. You will be a maturing disciple or you will be a child of destruction.

Observation 3: This ‘Falling Away’ is Characterized by an Inability to Repent

I believe this is a key observation for us, because I think it is fairly common for people to read this passage and wonder ‘Have I fallen Away’? That was my fear 17 years ago when I mourned over this passage; And it is not my point to smooth over a Godly-fear, a Godly-sorrow that leads to repentance. But, so many of our testimonies involve a struggle with flesh; and seasons of our lives where we leave church; or leave intimacy with Christ; or find ourselves drowning in immorality. And so, is that the falling away described here? Notice verse 4, It is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened..go to verse 6, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance. This falling away ends with this individual unable to bring them self to repent. Repentance is a turning from sin; toward God. It is more than sorrow (feeling bad over what you have done) – it is sorrow that leads you to seek God’s presence. The individual who has Fallen Away in the Heb 6 sense, has lost the ability, maybe even the desire, to seek God and His forgiveness.

Observation 4: Maturity is Characterized by the Fruit of the Holy Spirit

Jesus teaches in Matthew 7, that you can distinguish the godly from the ungodly by the fruit of their lives – what their lives produce. ‘You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes. Every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit’. Later in places like Gal 5, this good fruit is called the fruit of the Spirit and examples of it are listed out. And in Eph 4, we are given more insight, when maturity is defined as ‘attaining the the fullness of Christ’. So the maturity we are being compelled toward is Christ-like character (which is the fruit of the Spirit); So see this in Heb 6:7, ’For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. If it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned’. This compares and contrasts the spiritually mature from the immature. The mature OFTEN hear the Gospel (the rain), they receive it continually in their life (drinking it in) & the result is Christlikeness, spiritual fruit (which is the crop). The immature, don’t produce fruit. There’s no crop, just thorns.

Observation 5: There is No Mention of the Mature in Christ Falling Away

In Matthew 13 Jesus tells a parable of a farmer spreading seeds (the gospel) that he throws or rains down if you will, on the soil – the land. Same picture as in Hebrews 6. In this parable, the good soil receives the gospel and indeed bears fruit and yields a crop. That is obviously the mature in Heb 6. But Jesus says there will be those who hear the word and immediately receive it with joy, 21 yet he have no root in themselves; they endure for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises they fall away. So here is the spiritually immature. The gospel comes down, they joyfully receive it; they start a journey with Christ. Maybe they join a church; maybe they start serving; maybe they attend or host bible studies; go on a mission trip, – experience community, see miracles – raise their hands in worship – as Hebrews 6 says – taste the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come. Maybe they do this for YEARS and YEARS. But what they never do is mature in Christ-like character; they do not bear the fruit of the spirit. And at some point a trial will come, something will happen – they have no root to hold them into place and they fall away; just as Jesus says they will and just as Hebrews 6 describes. I believe these passages show us that it is possible to have an experience with the Gospel; a tasting of Heavenly things – that falls short of true saving faith. And when these people fail to move to maturity, at some point (maybe years and years down the road) they fall away – and based on Heb 6 may find it impossible to come to repentance. But the mature in Christ, those who have been drunk in the gospel, producing Christ-like character, Gospel-fruit – they are saved, and I believe they are persevered by the Lord; there is no mention in this text of the mature falling away; not in the Heb 6 sense of being unable to come back to repentance.

I realize that passages like Hebrews 6 are not on the surface encouraging and hopeful; but, we do not always need encouraging – sometimes we need to be warned. When I was 19 years old, failing to move to Christ-like maturity; steeped in sinful immorality; uninterested in the Christ I claimed – I did not need someone to pat me on the back and say IT’S ALL OK. DON’T FEAR HEBREWS 6. I needed the Spirit of God to take Heb 6 & warn my soul with the fear of judgment to GO ON TO MATURITY. A good, loving Father encourages His children & warns His children; & today I am so grateful for the blessing of the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom.

IF today you are immature in Christ, yet hearing His voice, then do not harden your heart. Run to Christ. Run to Him right now. Cling to Him. And even if you are the most mature Christian reading this article – Run to Christ, cling to Him and ask for more maturity.

What the Bible Teaches about Race and Ethnicity

Whose Line Is It Anyway?
What the Bible Teaches about Race and Ethnicity
by Immanuel Marsh

Many believe that the racial, ethnic, and cultural lines that divide us have biblical origins.
Three things have contributed this fallacy. One, people simply do not know what the Bible says. Two, people lack an understanding on what Scripture means and how it works. And three, Christians, or those claiming to be Christians, have used the Bible to justify misguided ideologies and misdeeds. This essay seeks to dispel some of these fallacies by examining what the Bible really teaches about race and ethnicity. The first three sections provide a biblical foundation. The remaining sections deal with specific charges against the Bible and Christianity.

The Inherent Value of Humanity

The creation account in Genesis attests to humanity’s value. The Bible begins with God creating order from chaos, vegetation and animal from void, and man from dust. Mankind is created in the image of the Trinity, given dominion over the rest of the created order, and animated by the very breath of God. Man was created good. The psalmist provides further evidence of humanity’s significance, describing mankind as being created “a little lower than the angels” and being bestowed with “glory and honor.” Along with God’s desire to create, we see his desire to bless. God blesses the man and woman. This blessing extended to all of humanity, not just the first couple. Then follows the command to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” Any discussion of the biblical position on race and ethnicity has to begin here with the divine image, the divine blessing, and the divine command.

Sin: the Root of All Division

If God created mankind in his image, and blessed mankind, and everything God created was good, then why do we treat each other so poorly? The answer to this question also resides in Genesis. Adam and Eve’s disobedience thrust all of creation into a state of sin and death. Sin separated man from life, man from each other, and man from God. Outside of Eden, sin wreaked havoc on human relationships. Cain kills his brother Abel. Lamech kills a man for hitting him. Sin spreads until “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Sin incites the creatures commanded to subdue the earth to subdue one another. Racism, tribalism, jingoism, and the like, are products of human sin, and not a biblical mandate.

The Rise of Nations

Genesis presents two events instrumental in the fracturing of mankind into people groups: the proliferation of Noah’s sons after the flood, and the confusion at Babel. Genesis records the genealogies of Noah’s three sons after the flood. Japheth’s offspring spread (ד ַרָּפ) to Asia Minor (Turkey) and Europe. Ham’s descendants inhabited Canaan (Israel and Palestine), Egypt, other areas of Africa, Mesopotamia (Iraq), and the Arabian Peninsula. Within Ham’s genealogy we have the first mention of a kingdom, established by Nimrod, Ham’s grandson. We are also introduced to the Canaanites who disperse (וץּפ) to their settlements. Shem’s descendants settle in northern Mesopotamia, Syria, and Arabia. In his genealogy we are told that Peleg lived in a time when “the earth was divided (גַלָּפ).”

Each genealogy concludes with the formula “by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations,” further evidence of cultural, ethnic, and national demarcations being developed. The genealogies end with the phrase, “from these the nations spread abroad (ד ַרָּפ) on the earth after the flood,” forming an inclusion with v. 5. The rise of nations is due in part to God’s command to Noah and his family to “be fruitful and multiply.”

Genesis 11:1 describes a world in which “the whole earth had one language.” The
picture is that of a people united by language and location, two prominent cultural markers. God thwarts the peoples’ sinful ambitions by interfering with those two markers. He confuses their language; and he disperses “them from there over the face of all the earth.” Essentially, a people (one language and locale) became peoples (many languages and many locales). The rise of nations is partly due to man’s sinful nature. So we see that people groups resulted from both God’s blessing and God’s judgment. Many people believe that the Bible teaches racial separation, or at least promotes it. This simply is not the case. The rest of this essay examines several prominent fallacies concerning what the Bible teaches about race and ethnicity.

Fallacy #1: The Bible Teaches Racial Superiority

Israel’s status as God’s chosen people has given many the impression that the Bible approves of racial superiority. While it is true that God chose Israel, this is only part of the story. God’s covenant promises to Abraham were for the benefit of “all the families of the earth.” God’s election of Israel does not represent a rejection of other nations; rather it is a means for the redemption of all nations. The Bible does not paint Israel as a superior nation. In fact, Scripture highlights Israel’s insignificance among the nations. Deuteronomy states that Israel was not chosen because it was a great nation, or because it was particularly righteous. Other nations were “more numerous and mightier.” God’s love and faithfulness alone secured Israel’s election. Israel is not a special nation; it is a nation that receives special grace.

For some, Israel’s brutal conquest of Canaan represents ethnic cleansing. A few things
must be understood to view these events correctly. First, the conquest of Canaan was an act of divine judgment against the wickedness of the inhabitants. Furthermore, these nations had over four hundred years to turn from their iniquity. It should also be noted that this was a unique judgment, carried out by a unique nation (a true theocracy), at a unique time. The Bible does not present it as a model. Second, Israel was not exempt from judgment. The potential existed for them to suffer the same fate as the Canaanites. They too could be “vomited” from the land and “devoted for destruction.” Third, deliverance was possible through allegiance to Yahweh, judging by the accounts of Rahab and the Gibeonites. The conquest of Canaan was not about the race of the inhabitants; it was about the righteousness of God.

Fallacy #2: The Bible Promotes Racial Segregation

Some charge that the Bible condones the separation of the races. They see Israel as a segregationist nation, hostile to foreigners. This belief appears to have merit. However, a careful examination provides evidence to the contrary. The truth is the Israel was never a homogeneous nation. When Israel was freed from Egyptian bondage, the Bible says that they left as a “mixed multitude,” meaning more than just the descendants of Jacob were represented. They lived in harmony among the Israelites. The Mosaic Law even contained instructions on how to treat the foreigners who lived among them. Israel was forbidden to “wrong” or “oppress” the foreigner. Not only was Israel instructed not to oppress foreigners, they were also told to love the foreigner because God himself loved them. Solomon even envisioned the temple as a place where foreigners would come to worship.

There are nations which the Mosaic Law specifically barred from the assembly of the
Lord, namely the Ammonites and Moabites. The exclusion of these nations was twofold. First, these nations were the product of an incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughters. Second, the Moabites had not treated Israel well after leaving Egypt. So the status of these nations had to do with behavior, not ethnicity. Even so, there were people like Ruth, a Moabite, and Rahab, a Canaanite, who displayed belief and trust in the living God. They became instrumental in Israel’s history, both being named in the genealogy of Christ. An oft-cited example of Israel’s segregationist tendencies is the Mosaic Law’s ban on intermarriage with other nations. The prohibition appears to validate this charge. But the truth is the commandment was intended to prevent the worship of foreign gods. Idolatry was strictly forbidden under the law, and had dire consequences. During the lawless time of the judges, Israel’s intermarriage among the Canaanite tribes caused them to “forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.” King Solomon began as a devout servant of Yahweh, but his love of foreign women eventually eroded that devotion. In his old age “his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God.” Solomon begin to worship the gods and goddesses of the Sidonians, the Ammonites, and the Moabites. The very man who built the temple of the living God built high places to the abominable gods of his foreign wives. Nehemiah uses Solomon’s exploits as a cautionary tale when Israel’s intermarriage in his day caused them to forget the Sabbath, an observance they were specifically told to remember.

In the New Testament, Paul’s admonition for Christians, “Do not be unequally yoked
with unbelievers,” carries a similar sentiment, although not expressly dealing with marriage. Paul explains this partnership would be just as irrational as the antithetical relationships of righteousness with lawlessness, light with darkness, Christ with Satan, and idols in the temple of the living God. Just as in the Old Testament, race is not an influential factor. The ban on intermarriage was a matter of religious purity, not racial purity.

Fallacy #3: The Bible Endorses Racial Subjugation

Perhaps the most heinous perversion of Scripture relates to the issue of slavery. The belief that the Bible advocates racial slavery arises from two interpretive issue. The first issue involves the “Mark of Cain.” The earlier description of Cain’s countenance, “and his face fell,” was translated as “and his face became sad” in the Syriac language. The Syriac word for “sad” is related to the word for “black.” Thus Cain’s mark become associated with blackness. It must be noted that Cain’s mark was given to preserve his life. It was an act of God’s grace.

The association of blackness with slavery arose from a tradition that erroneously saw Ham as black. Noah’s curse of his grandson Canaan (Ham’s son) to be a “servant of servants” became the “curse of Ham;” thus linking blackness with slavery. Since some of Ham’s descendants settled in Africa, the black Africans were seen as a cursed people. This amalgamation of unfortunate interpretations was used to justify slavery for centuries.

The references to slavery in the Pentateuch cause many to think that the Bible endorses slavery. Several things must be understood about slavery in the Bible. One, slavery in the ancient world was not akin to North American slavery. Slavery in the Bible was not based on race. Slavery in the ancient world was primarily the result of indebtedness or being conquered by another nation. In fact, the Bible forbids what would be analogous to modern slavery. For example, kidnapping a person (referred to as man-stealing) and selling him was forbidden under the Mosaic Law, and punishable by death. Also, the Law required slaves to be treated well; mistreatment of slaves had consequences. For instance, killing a slave resulted in death. Gouging out a slave’s eye or knocking out his teeth resulted in the slave’s freedom. The New Testament also decries slavery of the modern variety, listing “enslavers” in a vice list. Some consider Paul’s desire for Onesimus, a runaway slave, to return to his master, Philemon, detestable. But they miss the point that he calls for Philemon to receive Onesimus as a “beloved brother” in Christ, not as a slave. Slavery in the Bible, especially as it related to the people of God, was the result of economic factors, not ethnicity.

Conclusion: Unity, Diversity, and Division

To say that there are no divisions between people groups in the Bible would be untrue. In fact, the Bible very early on makes a distinction between two groups of people. Genesis 4:26 tells us that at the time of Seth’s son, Enosh, “people began to call upon the name of the LORD.” The prophet Joel says that in the coming day of the Lord, “that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”Paul affirms this by saying no distinction exists between Jew and Greek “for the same Lord is Lord of all…for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” There is a line drawn between those who are holy unto God, and those who are hostile toward him. This is the only division than can be thought of as truly biblical. All other partitions are the result of being conformed to the sin-stained pattern of this world.

In the New Testament, we see the Gentiles formally grafted into God’s covenant people
through Christ. We see people of diverse backgrounds and cultures become followers of Christ: the Roman centurion, the Samaritan woman, the Ethiopian eunuch, Lydia from Thyatira. Paul’s epistles often concern themselves with preserving Christian unity in the midst of cultural differences. In Christ, Jews, Gentiles, men, women, slaves, free men, Scythians, and barbarians come together to worship the triune God. The kingdom of God is marked by diversity and unity; all nations and ethnicities are welcomed. The scene in Revelation 5:9 depicts a throng ransomed by Christ “from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Believers are baptized by one Spirit into one body, and worship one Lord, and one God. This is the unity the Scripture foreshadows in the Old Testament and fulfills in the New Testament. But this unity is not at the expense of diversity. Notice how the Revelation verse still mentions those factors we divide over. Why does the verse not erase those ethnic and geographical markers? It is because Christ does not remove our ethnicity – he redeems it.

 

Growing in Unity

Celebration
A
s a church pastor, one of my great concerns for our congregation, is that they would be steadfast together in unity. Being forged together in unity of the Spirit is something that I pray for our entire church, all of our families, often. It is something that I think we all have to constantly grow in and move deeper in, and it is something that I think the enemy is always working against. No matter how connected a family may feel or how much they love the church, I have seen Satan use mis-communication, missteps, sin and deception to quickly weave in rejection, confusion and separation. Jesus prayed for His church:

‘that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.’ (John 17:21)

The unity of His people was on the heart of Christ the night he was to be turned over for death. That is striking to me. Of all that he could have been concerned for, or praying about – unity of the church was on his mind. And if Christ was praying for this, that tells me that it probably will not come easily.

Christ also tells us there that our oneness is a sign, a testimony of the gospel. So it is easy to see why Satan would work against it. He continues praying in verse 23:

‘I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.’

The word perfectly means to ‘execute fully, to reach the end of, to advance to final completion‘. So again, through this prayer we see that oneness, unity of believers, is something that we advance in and fulfill; it will be a lifelong pursuit. Unity takes work and it will not come to those who are unwilling to strive hard after it. As humans, we are all sinners; all of us fall short of perfection. We all have preferences and opinions, that our natural man constantly elevates to the forefront of our mind. We all make mistakes, and often those mistakes will offend or even hurt those close to us. Which is why the bible instructs us, that it will take a new mindset, new attitudes and new actions for the church to reach and remain in unity:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts,kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. (Colossians 3)

I have been asked, ‘What does unity in the church look like?’ I am not sure I can give an exact definition. To a degree, just like we spend our Christian life learning what holiness is, I think we also learn what unity is as we grow together. I do believe we get a picture of Spirit-forged unity in the book of Acts, where this was the testimony of the early church:

‘They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common.’ (Acts 2)

I would say that the early church had not yet reached a place of perfected unity; But we do see that they were continually devoted (intently engaged in, remaining constantly in) gathering together for prayer, the word and meals (communion). And they were devoted to the fellowship. The word behind Fellowship is Koinonia. It is such a great word!! It means a sharing, a participation, a partnership. The picture of the early church is that they were continually devoted to a gospel based partnership with other believers: loving each other, learning the word together, taking care of each other, praying, using their gifts for each other and going on mission.

So for me, when I say ‘being forged together in unity’, I am praying that my church is together in this Koinonia – a deep, abiding, loving partnership for gospel purposes. If we have this, then we will take care of each other; we will disciple each other; we will use our gifts to help each other; we will pray for each other; we will forgive each other; we will eat together AND we will go on mission together.

May it be so in all of our churches, for the glory of Christ!

Feasting on Colossians 3 – Day 5

In August 2014, our faith family at Agape took one week to read, meditate and ‘feast’ on the word of God out of Colossians chapter 3. One of our Elders, Chase Thompson, wrote a daily devotion as part of this journey. Today we present part 5:

Hello friends,

I am writing today about good old Colossians 3. What a magnificent passage of God’s truth that we have had the wonderful opportunity to study this week! I am hopeful that this email chain has caused God’s Word to go deeper and deeper into our hearts, minds and actions day by day, as we have read the Scripture together.

Today we focus on Colossians 3:12-14

love12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 

We, as believers, are to be clothed (think: obviously covered in) compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. We must BEAR with one another – even the annoying one anothers!! ;)   The Holy Spirit working through Paul anticipates that this might not be easy. He anticipates that we might have a few problems and complaints with each other. What is His advice in God’s Word when you have a problem with a fellow believer?? FORGIVE them. Not MERELY forgive them…but forgive them AS CHRIST FORGAVE YOU. Without cost. Without initiative on their part. Why? Because….“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

How in the world can we do this sort of thing? How can we REALLY and genuinely (and constantly and persistently…) walk in humility, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, patience and meekness towards each other? Well…the answer is, ultimately, to PUT ON LOVE….which is the binding (the girdle…the ligaments, if you will) that holds it all together. Allow me to quote from that great church father Chrysostom, who preached the following OVER 1600 years ago (in the 4th century AD):

Now what Paul wishes to say is that there is no benefit in those things (humility, kindness, etc), for all those things fall apart, unless they are done with love. This is the love that binds them all together. Whatever good thing it is that you mention, if love be absent, it is nothing, it melts away. The analogy is like a ship; though its rigging be large, yet if it lacks girding ropes, it is of no service. Or it is similar to a house; if there are no tie beams, of what use is the house? Think of a body. Though its bones be large, if it lacks ligaments, the bones cannot support the body. In the same way, whatever good our deeds possess will vanish completely if they lack love. Chrysostom, Homilies on Colossians. 

Wow. One more question…where does that love come from…and how do we walk in it? Briefly, the love comes from Jesus, and His work on the cross. (See part 4 in this series). In fact, “we love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)  AND we are commanded to PUT ON that love! Putting on love is an action. An intentional choice, and I’ll close with Richard Kent Hughes describing how putting on love looks like in marriage. (Hint: it looks the SAME in life in the fellowship of believers. It is an INTENTIONAL act of clothing yourself in love for each other.)

“I have grown tougher with the years in my demands on couples who want me to perform their wedding ceremonies. I tell them that wedding vows are a volitional commitment to love despite how one feels. I explain that it is rubbish to think one can break one’s vows because one does not “feel” in love. I point out that the Scriptures call us to “put on love” (Colossians 3:14) — and despite the canard about such love being hypocritical, it is never hypocrisy to put on a Christian grace. I tell them that if there is the tiniest thought in the back of their minds that they can get out of the marriage if the other person is not all they expected, I will not perform the ceremony. The truth is, marriages which depend on being “in love” fall apart. Those which look back to the wild promises they vowed in the marriage ceremony are the ones who make it. There is no substitute for covenant plus commitment.” Richard Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man.

Feasting on Colossians 3 – Day 4

In August 2014, our faith family at Agape took one week to read, meditate and ‘feast’ on the word of God out of Colossians chapter 3. One of our Elders, Chase Thompson, wrote a daily devotion as part of this journey. Today we present part 4:

Hello friends, 

It’s that time again!! Time to dig deep into God’s Word together. Time to get back into Colossians 3. I got one snippet of great feedback yesterday from our old pal, Rachel. Here’s what she wrote:

I really like how all throughout the Bible, not just Colossians, we are told and encouraged to give thanks over and over again. I’ve found that starting and ending the day with a time of thanksgiving really helps my attitude and puts the whole day in a new perspective =) 

A good word, and very true. May we be a people of thanksgiving!! What a transformation that brings to our character, our trials, our relationships, our families, and our marriages. Today, we jump back to the very beginning of Colossians 3. Here are verses 3-4:

3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

WOW!  WE HAVE DIED…and our life is now hidden WITH Christ in God. Not only that – Jesus is coming again, and we are going to gloriously appear with Him. How about that!?  This is the gospel – the good news of Jesus. When we dive deep into the depths of the gospel, we are diving deep into one of the most glorious and wonderful and comforting truths in this universe. I read a message by pastor Tim Keller this week that gave one of the best explanations of the Gospel of Jesus that I have ever read. It is long…BUT, so WORTH your time to read it. I beg and implore you to take about five minutes and understand what Keller is writing here…and, more than that, the depths of what Jesus has done for us!   More tomorrow….

(PLEASE DON’T STOP HERE…EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU DON’T NEED TO READ THE REST. YOU DO!)

Keller:  One of the things Jesus did is that he received the punishment we deserve, and most everyone has heard about that part. Jesus died for our sins. He took our punishment, and it’s a moving thing to talk about his punishment.

I just heard another great illustration. It was a true story of two young Chinese brothers who lived in Chinatown in San Francisco in the early 1900s. There was an older brother and a younger brother. The younger brother was on the wrong side of the law, and he was a rebellious kid.

He was into gambling at one point, and he got in a fight. He killed the person who he was in a fight with. There was blood all over his clothes. He ran. Unfortunately, too many people had identified him. He ran home, threw the clothes down on the floor and tried to hide them, changed clothes, and took off. But of course, the older brother, who saw this happen, realized that he had been identified. The police knew who he was. Everybody knew who he was. It was inevitable the clothes would be found, and they knew where he was running.

So what the older brother did was he put the bloodstained clothes on. When the police came in, they immediately recognized him as being the wrong person. They arrested him. He was tried. He was older, but not a whole lot older. He was similar in height, size, and looks and so on, being the brother. He was tried, and he was executed for that crime. The younger brother finally came to his senses and, in great contrition, came and told the authorities what had happened. They said, “It’s too late. The crime has been paid for. We can’t arrest you.”

You know, there’s a wonderful set of stories that says, “Somebody has already done that.” In Luke 15, there’s this awfully strange ending to the story of the prodigal son. You remember the story? We talked about it this morning, where a younger son went off and lived a profligate life. Before he went off, he said to his father, “I want my inheritance now. I don’t want you to die. I want my inheritance now,” and the father gave him one-half of his estate, liquidated it and gave it to him, gave him the part that was due to him.

He went off, and he spent it in riotous living. Later on, he came to his senses and he came back. He was ready to say, “Father, just accept me back into your house as a slave. I’m not worthy to be called your son.” What happens is the father, as you know, says, “What are you talking about? You are my son. I receive you back gladly.” He puts a robe on him. He puts a ring on his finger, and he says, “Kill the fatted calf. Let’s celebrate.” I mean, that’s a great parable, and that’s how it ends? No.

One-half of the parable is about the fact that the elder brother (there were two sons) spent a lot of time grumbling and grumping, remember? He says to the father, “I have slaved, and I have worked for you. This young boy goes off, and he spends his life on all this strange stuff, and then you receive him back. It’s not fair.” The father says, “What’s with you? This is my son. I love him. I’m just being a father. What do you think fathers are for?” That’s how the parable ends. It’s a strange parable, don’t you think? What was all that elder brother stuff?

Well, you see, you first have to remember Jesus Christ was talking to the Pharisees, and he was trying to hold a mirror up to the Pharisees to show them what they were like. They hated the sinners. They hated the prostitutes, the gamblers, and the whoremongers, and all these awful people, and they didn’t want to have anything to do with them. Jesus was saying, “You’re like this elder brother, stuck up.”

But the elder brother had a case, because now that the father had liquidated the younger brother’s inheritance and it has all been spent, everything the father owned belonged to the elder brother, right? So when the father said, “Give him a robe,” that really was the elder brother’s robe. “Give him a ring.” That really was the elder brother’s ring. “Kill the fatted calf.” That really was the elder brother’s fatted calf. That elder brother was a bad elder brother, but the Bible says, in Hebrew 2, Jesus Christ is not ashamed to call us brethren.

That means what we have here is a pointer in the parable to the real elder brother, because Jesus is an elder brother who puts an end to all elder brothers. Because Jesus Christ is the one who comes and says, “Yes, you know, my little brother, my little sister …” He says this to every one of us. “… the ring God is putting on your finger, the sonship, the adoption of the family, the righteousness, the robe, all the things the Father is putting on you, they’re mine. They’re mine. They didn’t belong to you, and I bought them at dear cost, and I’m so glad you have them.”

The real elder brother, who is Jesus Christ, went way beyond even the one who was killed in Chinatown for his younger brother. Jesus Christ goes beyond that because Jesus Christ didn’t just get killed for us, but he also did something else, and that’s the other side of the gospel, the active obedience of Christ. The active obedience of Christ means not only that Jesus Christ took our punishment for us, but he also earned our reward for us.

Now my wife and I can remember, clearly, a particular Old Testament course in, I think, the fall of ’72 in which this came clear to us one day. We were listening to a lecture, and essentially, what the professor showed us … He was trying to show us not just the passive obedience of Christ and the death on a cross but the active obedience. He was saying it’s more like this: Imagine two racetracks, and at the end of each racetrack is a circle. At the end of Jesus’ racetrack is the victor’s laurel. Because Jesus Christ runs a perfect race … He never stumbles. He runs it perfectly. He never knocks down one of the hurdles. It’s perfect … at the end there is the Olympic gold medal waiting for him at the circle at the end of his course.

Now take a look at your course, and you see what you’re doing … running in the wrong direction, stumbling, knocking down every hurdle, griping and grumping, tripping other people on the way, doing everything you possibly can, okay? At the end of your course, the Bible says, for people who have run a race like that, for people who have repudiated their rightful master as Master, at the end of that race is what? The punishment. It’s the death penalty. It’s the chopping block. It’s the hangman’s noose.

I remember in this course, something spiritual happened in the classroom … it’s hard to believe. He says, “Imagine not just that Jesus Christ comes and dies for us. Instead, think like this. Jesus Christ comes to the end of his race, and there, waiting for him, is the victor’s laurel. Suddenly, he cuts in front of you, goes over to your circle and puts his head down on the block, and he is killed. He takes the punishment.” That’s the passive obedience of Christ.

Your circle goes dark. The lights go off, and all that’s there for you, the only place for you to go, is the winner’s circle. Why didn’t Jesus pick that up? Because it’s for you. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “For he has made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” It’s not just that he took our penalty, but he also earned our blessing. He didn’t just take our curse. He earned our blessing. He didn’t just take our punishment, but he earned our reward.” (FROM: Finding Our Identity in Christ, part 3. By Tim Keller)

Amen. Now – that is something to be thankful for!!

Feasting on Colossians 3 – Day 3

In August 2014, our faith family at Agape took one week to read, meditate and ‘feast’ on the word of God out of Colossians chapter 3. One of our Elders, Chase Thompson, wrote a daily devotion as part of this journey. Today we present part 3:

Hello all, 

As you know, I am suggesting that we focus as a congregation for ONE WHOLE WEEK on one particular passage of Scripture, Colossians 3. Below you will find Colossians 3 in a translation that is likely entirely new to you. It was written by New Testament scholar Murray Harris for a commentary on Colossians. Far from being stuffy or overly academic, I think that Harris’ translation is eye-opening and faithful to the Word of God. Please prayerfully read through this translation with fresh eyes, and perhaps write down a few questions or comments that strike you as you read through the text.

Grace to you.

Colossians 3: 1 In your baptism, then, you came to share in Christ’s resurrection. In light of this, always seek whatever belongs to that heavenly realm above, where the risen Christ now reigns, seated at God’s right hand in the place of unrivaled honor and authority. 2 Focus your attention and your thoughts exclusively and constantly on the heavenly realm above, not on the earthly realm below. 3 This is appropriate and necessary, for in baptism you died with Christ to sin and the world and now your new spiritual life, enjoyed in union with Christ, is concealed in the safekeeping of God in heaven. 4 Although your life is now hidden, when this Christ, who is your very Life, appears at his second Advent and his glory is manifested, then you too will fully share in his appearance and in the open display of his glory.5 So then, give evidence of your death to the world: regard your bodily limbs as completely dead with respect to their former earthly actions—immorality and impurity of any and every type, sensual craving and debased passion, and especially covetousness, which makes the desire to get and to have into a god. 6 Never forget that it is these very sins that bring God’s wrath. 7 There was a time when you yourselves also indulged in these sins, when your life was given over to such action. 8 But as things now stand, you must put off all sins of any kind, including chronic anger, sudden rage, malicious spite, slanderous talk, and foul-mouthed language. 9 Do not lie to one another in either word or deed; remember that you have stripped off forever the old Adamic nature, the old humanity, together with the actions that expressed it, 10 and have put on the new nature you have in Christ, the new humanity, which is being renewed day by day in conformity with Christ, who is the image of the God who created this new nature, until it finally attains full knowledge of God and his will. 11 In this new humanity, the Church, all personal distinctions are eradicated—between Greek and Jew, the circumcised and the uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, the slave and the freeman. On the contrary, Christ himself amounts to everything and he is in all of you. 12. So then, since you are God’s chosen people, his elect, dedicated to his service and the objects of his special love, clothe yourselves appropriately— with tenderhearted compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness of spirit, and patient endurance. 13 You must patiently bear with one another and readily forgive one another if anyone has a complaint against his neighbor. The Lord readily forgave you; so you, for your part, ought to follow his example and readily forgive. 14 And in addition to all these garments just mentioned, clothe yourselves with the robe of love, for when this final, outer garment is put on, it binds together and perfects all the other virtues. 15 And let the preservation of the peace that Christ gives be the determinative factor in your decision-making, for in reality your Christian calling as fellow members of the one body of Christ is to share in that peace. And always remember to be grateful. 16 Let the message of Christ be operative in your hearts and in your midst and enrich you with all its wealth through your teaching and admonishing one another with all possible wisdom, as you sing to God with thanksgiving and with your whole heart—not simply with your lips—using psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. 17 To sum up: whatever you are doing, whether it be speech or action, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, at the same time giving thanks to God the Father on the basis of the mediatorial work of Christ. 18 You wives, submit yourselves to the leadership of your husbands, for this is fitting behavior for those who belong to the Lord. 19 You husbands, show love to your wives constantly—never be harsh with them or foster bitter feelings against them. 20 You children, be obedient to your parents in every respect, for such behavior pleases the Lord and befits those who belong to him. 21 You fathers, avoid exasperating your children by over-correcting them or scorning their efforts; for if you do provoke them, they will become disheartened and sullen. 22 You slaves, be totally obedient to your earthly masters. Serve them well, but not with concern only for external appearances, as though it were your responsibility simply to serve humans. Rather, serve them with heartfelt sincerity and out of your reverent fear of the Lord. 23 Perform any task you may have enthusiastically and as a service rendered to the Lord and not to humans, 24 since you well know that it is from this same Lord and Master that you will receive the glorious inheritance of believers as your full recompense, whatever dues you may or may not now receive from humans. So then, Christ is the heavenly Master whose slaves you must be. 25 For everyone who does not serve the Lord Christ but engages in wrongdoing will be duly requited for all the wrong he has done, and this Master shows no favoritism in dispensing rewards and punishments or in treating masters and slaves.

AMEN!

Stay tuned for more tomorrow. May God’s Word and the message of Christ dwell RICHLY within us this week, and forever!

Feasting on Colossians 3 – Day 2

In August 2014, our faith family at Agape took one week to read, meditate and ‘feast’ on the word of God out of Colossians chapter 3. One of our Elders, Chase Thompson, wrote a daily devotion as part of this journey. Today we present part 2:

Hello all,

axeIt is our second day together in this experiment of going through the Scriptures together this week by electronic means. As you recall, we are in Colossians 3 – one of the most magisterial and wonderful chapters of Scripture. A chapter that is absolutely bristling with divine nuggets of truth and assurance and faith and much more. Get your pickaxe out, and lets go apprehend some of these treasures that God has ALREADY given us, if we are IN CHRIST.  (I guess we won’t need that pickaxe after all…)

We are still in Colossians 3:1-4. Still thinking about the glorious truth of being in Christ. Here’s the passage: 3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

How is it that we are “Hidden with Christ?” How can we be IN CHRIST?  Here is some great writing on this very topic from Watchman Nee’s The Normal Christian Life. In this excerpt, he talks about one of my personal heroes of the faith (literally since I was a 2nd grader), Hudson Taylor.

So our first step is to seek from God a knowledge that comes by revelation—a revelation, that is to say, not of ourselves but of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. When Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, entered into the normal Christian life it was thus that he did so. You remember how he tells of his long-standing problem of how to live ‘in Christ’, how to draw the sap out of the Vine into himself. For he knew that he must have the life of Christ flowing out through him and yet felt that he had not got it, and he saw clearly enough that his need was to be found in Christ. ‘I knew’, he said, writing to his sister from Chinkiang in 1869, ‘that if only I could abide in Christ, all would be well, but I could not.’

The more he tried to get in the more he found himself slipping out, so to speak, until one day light dawned, revelation came and he saw. ‘Here, I feel, is the secret: not asking how I am to get sap out of the Vine into myself, but remembering that Jesus is the Vine—the root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit, all indeed.’

Then, in words of a friend that had helped him: ‘I have not got to make myself a branch. The Lord Jesus tells me I am a branch. I am part of Him and I have just to believe it and act upon it. I have seen it long enough in the Bible, but I believe it now as a living reality.’

It was as though something which had indeed been true all the time had now suddenly become true in a new way to him personally, and he writes to his sister again: ‘I do not know how far I may be able to make myself intelligible about it, for there is nothing new or strange or wonderful—and yet, all is new! In a word, “whereas once I was blind, now I see”… I am dead and buried with Christ—aye, and risen too and ascended… God reckons me so, and tells me to reckon myself so. He knows best… Oh, the joy of seeing this truth—I do pray that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened, that you may know and enjoy the riches freely given us in Christ.’

Oh, it is a great thing to see that we are in Christ! Think of the bewilderment of trying to get into a room in which you already are! Think of the absurdity of asking to be put in! If we recognize the fact that we are in, we make no effort to enter. If we had more revelation we should have fewer prayers and more praises. Much of our praying for ourselves is just because we are blind to what God has done.

Amen, and Amen!