What is the Way to Real Life?: renunciation and realization with Jesus Christ

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I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes. (Psalm 17:6-7)

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:37-39)

To take refuge in God through Jesus Christ is to forsake all other “lives” so that we might truly live in Him. The things and people we associated with those other “lives” are radically revalued in light of absolute allegiance to Christ as well as the absolutely more true love found in God through Him.

We find that all other lives were not really life as be behold the glory of the Lord and step forward to follow Jesus. “The old has gone and the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17) “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

In our daily lives, we begin the day—and continue through the day—with renunciation and realization. By faith we renounce our selves as king and realize that God is King. We renounce our will for the day—whether good or evil—and realize God’s will for the day, which is supreme. We renounce our approach to others—whether well-intentioned or wrong-intentioned—so that we might hear and follow (realize) God’s approach to others. We die to ourselves, our possessions, our relations, our dreams—whether we evaluate them as good or bad in light of God’s revealed truth—that we might live to God in Jesus Christ. We live toward His ideal life for our, our relationships, our possessions, our dreams, not our own.

First the cross, then the crown. First renunciation, then realization. This pattern defines our living minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. Any other way is not the Jesus way and, therefore, is not life. But here, in this way of the Cross, we will find what Jesus promised: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

We Belong to God: John Calvin on the Duty of Believers

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As I read through John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion this summer, occasionally I am sharing sections that strike me with particular force. Here is Calvin reflecting on the summary of the Christian life beginning in self-denial in order that the life of Christ might spring up within us by God’s grace.

Even though the law of the Lord provides the finest and best-disposed method of ordering a man’s life, it seemed good to the Heavenly Teacher to shape his people by an even more explicit plan to that rule which he had set forth in the law. Here, then, is the beginning of this plan: the duty of believers is “to present their bodies to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to him,” and in this consists the lawful worship of him [Rom 12:1]. From this is derived the basis of the exhortation that “they be not conformed to the fashion of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of their minds, so that they may prove what is the will of God” [Rom 12:2]. Now the great thing is this: we are consecrated and dedicated to God in order that we may thereafter think, speak, meditate, and do, nothing except to his glory. For a sacred thing may not be applied to profane uses without marked injury to him.

If we, then, are not our own [cf. 1 Cor 6:19] but the Lord’s, it is clear what error we must flee, and whither we must direct all the acts of our life.

We are not our own: let not our reason no our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are nor our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours.

Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal [Rom 14:8; cf. 1 Cor 6:19]. O, how much has that man profited who, having been taught that he is not his own, has taken away dominion and rule from his own reason that he may yield it to God! For, as consulting our self-interest is the pestilence that most effectively leads to our destruction, so the sol haven of salvation is to be wise in nothing and to will nothing through ourselves but to follow the leading of the Lord alone.

Let us therefore be the first step, that a man depart from himself in order that he may apply the whole force of his ability in service of the Lord. I call “service” not only what lies in obedience to God’s Word but what turns the mind of man, empty of its own carnal sense, wholly to the bidding of God’s Spirit. While it is the first entrance to life, all philosophers were ignorant of this transformation, which Paul calls “renewal of the mind” [Eph 4:23]. For they set up reason alone as the ruling principle in man, and think that it alone should be listened to; to it alone, in short, they entrust the conduct of life. But the Christian philosophy bids reason give way to, submit and subject itself to, the Holy Spirit so that the man himself may no longer live but hear Christ leaving and reigning within him [Gal 2:20].

[From John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, edited by John T. McNeill (Philadelphias, PA: The Westminster Press, 1960), 689-690.]

Thursdays with Murray [Humility, week 9]

Andrew Murray 2Continuing my series of posts on Andrew Murray‘s brief book Humility, today I look at both chapter ten, “Humility and Death to Self,” and chapter twelve, “Humility and Exaltation.” While I admit I’m pulling these two chapters slightly out of order, I believe they fit together as two book-ends around chapter eleven (which we’ll look at next week) on “Humility and Happiness.”

“Death to self” is a phrase that we don’t hear too often any longer but derives from Paul’s description of Jesus in Philippians 2:8 (“he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death”) and Jesus’ teaching on discipleship in Luke 9:23 (“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”). On this theme and its connection with humility, Andrew Murray writes:

The first and chief of the marks of the dying of the Lord Jesus, of the death-marks that show the true follower of Jesus, is humility. For these two reasons: Only humility leads to perfect death; Only death perfects humility.

This chapter comes into strong conflict with the prevailing approach to Christianity in our day as strongly as any other aspect of Murray’s book. In a time when we are focused so much on self-actualization, finding our gifts, understanding our personality, living out our uniqueness, the call toward death to self and its defining mark of humility seems like a message from another age. Read More »

The Life I Live in the Body (Galatians 2:20, part 3)

Today, I conclude my reflections on Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20 with attention to the final phrase: “the life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

If we have been crucified – killed – with Christ, and if we have been overtaken by the resurrection life of Christ, then our daily, bodily lives must be different. Christianity is not an abstract philosophy, but an embodied approach to living. We cannot rust to heaven and live like hell. If our body-living is not reflecting the present, dynamic life of Christ, then there is a problem.

Paul declares our bodies to be temples of the Holy Spirit while calling the Corinthians to repentance from sexual sin. Paul’s exclamation at the end of this challenge is: “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:20). What does honoring mean other than letting God’s plans be preeminent and God’s presence be pervasive in our daily living? Our physical life – eating and drinking, work and rest, affection and sexuality – must all honor God.

“Faith in Christ” is the theme of Galatians, permeating the entire letter. The word ‘faith’ or derivations of it appear over 20 times in this brief letter. Paul lives by the words of the prophet Habakkuk: “the righteous shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11).

Yet this faith is not a generalized faith in ‘something more’. Rather, it is a faith rooted in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He faithfully lived without sin, displayed the truth and grace of God, died through crucifixion, was buried, and rose victorious over sin and death. It is this Faithful One in whom we place our faith.

Yes, we know that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son” (John 3:16), but here again Paul gets personal. Jesus “loved me and gave Himself for me” [italics min]. Through the cosmic truths of God that echo from eternity in Christ, we experience the personal love and sacrifice of Jesus. “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (Galatians 3:26).

Lord, thank you for buying me at a price.
May my living in my body reflect my relationship with You.
Thank You, Jesus, for Your faithfulness to the Father that gives birth to my faith.
Help me to live each day full of faith in You, my living Savior.

I No Longer Live But Christ Lives in Me (Galatians 2:20, part 2)

I continue my reflections on Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20 today by looking at the second phrase: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

If through Christ’s death we participated in death, then through Christ’s risen life we participate in life. We die with Jesus and rise to life in Jesus. Elsewhere Paul writes, “if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him” (Romans 6:8). In John’s Gospel, Jesus consistently teaches about a real, indwelling relationship that we can have with Him. Praying before His arrest, Jesus asks the Father that future followers would experience the unity with one another like they – the Father and the Son – experience with one another: “that they may be one as we are one – I in them and You in Me” (John 17:22-23).

Jesus lives within us as a community of followers of Him, but also lives within us individually. Augustine said this unifying bond of love between the Father and the Son was the Holy Spirit. So, the unity we experience of Jesus (“I in them”) comes by the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. Because of this, Paul can describe us corporately as “the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16), but also individually saying “your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Both the corporate and individual aspects are true. How could it be otherwise?

Here in Galatians, though, Paul is referring to himself as individually being completely overtaken with the life of Christ. He is, as he states in another letter, “a new creation” in which “the old has gone” and “the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Boiling it down to the basic level in another place, he says: “for to me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).

Lord, I never though it would be good to stop living, but thank You that You live in me.
Thank You for the gift of life that I experience with and in You.
May it be true for me that to live is Christ.