Some years ago a friend introduced me to the idea that Christians can be good people yet not represent the Kingdom of God. To do so we must be positioned in the new covenant and never in the old. Let me explain.
NATURE OF FLESH
‘The flesh’ has a bad name in Christian circles. Related to carnality, yet not identical, the flesh is well described as our life in Adam compared to a life not lived in Christ. Even here in Christ means ‘in the Spirit’ of Christ and not a new form of Christ inspired law-keeping. Well may it be said that Christianity is a person and not a religion. The Kingdom is Christ in us and as us rather than a Jesus empowered agenda of good works.
‘The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you--they are full of the Spirit and life’ John 6.63 NIV.
When Jesus said, ‘The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing’ He denoted the truth that in Adam all die and that in Himself is found all spirit and life. Adamic mindsets produce non-life.
JESUS HAD A BODY AND COMES IN YOUR FLESH
But Jesus was not dumping on bodies or giving encouragement to Platonism. Jesus came in a human body – the Son of God incarnated in flesh and blood. The Son of God incarnated in Palestine is completed today in us in Ringwood and Narromine. By the Spirit Jesus Christ, our Father and Holy Spirit inhabit our bodies. John declares that the difference between Kingdom Truth and mere religion is embracing the actuality of Christ come in our flesh. Christ is not only in you. He manifests as you.
‘This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God’ 1 John 4.2 NIV.
The fullness of Christ is realised in the church built without human hands but nevertheless by God’s daughters and sons being the multiplication of Jesus. Jesus multiplied is the new creation – the new social structure called the Kingdom of God. Richard Rohr observes,
“Apart from a general Platonic denial of the body in most religions, Paul made a most unfortunate choice of the word flesh as the very enemy of Spirit (for example, Galatians 5:16–24). Now we would probably say “ego” or “small self,” which would be much closer to his actual intended meaning. Remember that Christianity is the religion that believes “the Word became flesh” (John 1:13), and Jesus even returned to the “flesh” after the Resurrection (Luke 24:40)—so flesh cannot be bad for us. If it is in any way antibody, it is never authentic Christianity. Merton rightly recognized that it was not the body that had to “die” but the “false self” that we do not need anyway. It becomes a too-easy substitute for our deeper and deepest truth.” (1)
Observation reveals that by retaining ourselves in the law and old covenant we can be good people but live from the old self and not know it. The law binds us to externality for that is what it is.
If we are attached to the law, we have not emerged from the old covenant; in other words have not been reborn and we will have retained the old self – a self that is not wicked but a self that is not spirit and life. We may have a career and achievements but these are not us. In Christ all are made alive and we are who we are: Sons of God in spirit and in truth.
Sons are who we are in relationship with Father. Our real self is the person we have become in an encounter that is so real that it is called Christ our life.
(1) Rohr, Richard. Immortal Diamond: The search for our true self . SPCK. Kindle Edition.