There are folks who leave churches where they are taught nothing to join churches based on the law and the old covenant. ‘Doing’ and ‘Not doing’ looks substantial and has the appearance of serving God. But this is not His new and living way. It is the dotting of the ‘I’s and the crossing of the ‘t’s that is vaporous and unsubstantial. Substance is the Spirit – Christ come in our flesh.
Life and Kingdom fruitfulness comes from an unlikely source. It flows from the spirit with no help from the flesh. The life of the Spirit has infinite substance and does not dissipate. This is why it is core of the new testament age – incarnation active in you. Christ come in our flesh.
‘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.
INSTITUTIONALISM: THE FLESH MANIFEST
There are folk, lots of them, who leave legalistic or institutional churches in order to find more of God's life than they presently have. Many of them do not find it however, not immediately. Because the solution to passivity and spiritual drought and was not really a new form of church. Not in the first instance. They needed the person of Jesus as their life and His gospel of the Kingdom.
'And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come' Matt 24.14 NIV. What is the gospel of the Kingdom? It’s more than salvation. It is Christ come in our flesh.
Millions of Believers are living in the knowledge of good and evil, with Jesus added as though this is the gospel of the Kingdom. No Kingdom here! Moses left Egypt and went to the wilderness. But it took 4o years to get Egypt out of Moses.
It's easy to step out of a church but not so easy to step out of the assumptions of a church 'try harder' mentality that we may have absorbed. Some imagine that if they can get out of the normal church and fellowship in something smaller and less contrived, they will be able to be more focused, work harder and recruit others to help them carry out their agenda. Trouble is however this 'agenda' was an old covenant performance based program in the mode of Adam. What they need is Christ as their life and His life in the Spirit of Sonship. Living in the new creation life of Jesus they can be agents of the new creation. It's easy to renounce legalism as a concept. More difficult to renounce the performance mentality that is our mistaken religious life.
'He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life' 2 Cor 3.6 NIV.
The letter is ministry by doing. The Spirit is the life of God flowing to others through being. Being what? The sons of God.
The gospel of the Kingdom is lived entirely in the Spirit, never in the flesh and always as a son and not a worker. Jesus asserted that the flesh profits nothing and Paul rejoiced because the law of the Spirit sets us free from sin and all that is dead and lifeless. Sons of God minister the Kingdom of Christ's life. They live in the Spirit and are led by the Spirit of Christ. They are not living in the natural or doing Adam. Christ is their life. In the Spirit we are doing only what Jesus is doing in us. Why? Because we and Jesus are one, we and the Father are one. We are joined to the Father and we are an extension of His life at every time and place.
The following scripture is not only written about sin and righteousness. It is contrasts the life of flesh and spirit, Adam and Jesus, working hard and being fruitful, doing what seems natural and doing things that have the infinite life of God to multiply life into eternity.
'Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God' Rom 8.5-8 NIV.
The law is the flesh and the spirit is life. Life and peace comes from Christ in you. So does the new creation. As a new covenant minister you are a tree of life. As an old covenant minster you are a dead tree.
Since there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, we are released from the need to earn approval from Jesus, the Father or onlookers. We are set free entirely from the need to show ourselves worthy or establish our right to fellowship with Father by performance. Yet paradoxically we are empowered because we have been set free from guilt and the feeling of not having done enough as a worker. We are already a son/daughter of God.
Here the Spirit of the Father in us prompts us to do what the Lord plans for us to do in the moment and throughout our years. We do what the Father is doing because we are sons. In our Father we are who we are and empowered to do what we were born to do. This is not from self-effort because the Spirit of our Father animates us as sons. Yet there are Believers who cling desperately to their life in the flesh as workers and reject their life in Jesus in the spirit as sons. No matter how much they may protest that they have abandoned legalism they are intent on establishing their own credentials. Don’t do it.
TO WHOM DO YOU BELONG
Jesus speaking through Paul says, 'You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ' Rom 8.9. This is a hard and direct saying that needs thinking on. It’s telling us that in the law, our humanity is dulled because our relationship with Jesus is smothered. Law attachment is a successful way to dull the effect of Jesus in our lives and smother our humanity.
The above scripture is a factual statement if ever there was one. 'Workers' cannot represent His Kingdom of infinite life. While not living in the Spirit of Christ may not ban us from going to heaven, a life of working in the flesh denies us and others the spirit-life of God. It prevents us releasing heaven into earth. Such workers customarily live in confusion and fantasy. Jesus will not multiply the old creation in Adam and his flesh. That would be to deny the cross, the resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit. We multiply His Kingdom by releasing Jesus' resurrection life. Never the life of Adam.
There are Believers who are determined to demonstrate their worthiness. They are so so fixated on establishing their own credentials that their spiritual eyes are veiled to the reality of who they really are and what they can accomplish in the spirit of Christ. Why? Many of us have absorbed the idea that Christ died for us but it is up to us to prove ourselves worthy of His sacrifice. Rather than a God who is love, many of us have absorbed the belief that God is Performance and that He ever lives to see if we measure up. The fact is Father lives to love us!
In 'Saints in the arms of a Happy God,' Jeff Turner reveals the the blinding effect of this 'other gospel' when he writes,
"I had never truly experienced the love of God for myself, and therefore had no grid for understanding it. I lived in a constant state of condemnation and self-loathing. I was burdened by a perpetual fear that I wasn't doing enough or being enough, and always "just knew" that I was somehow falling short.
When a preacher would stand up and whip me for an hour plus with a man-centered message on sin, I'd feel like I'd "been to church," and would come home licking my wounds and hatching plans on how to get more holy".
When he would speak a message of encouragement or preach on the simplicity of God's love, however, I'd feel cheated. I wanted someone to stand up and confirm my suspicions about myself; that I was no good and dirty. I wanted someone who would agree with my own ungodly thoughts about myself. When I heard God's love preached and expounded upon, I would sit numbly, watching the clock and longing for the talk to be over, because I simply had no grid for understanding such a thing."
This is not just Turner’s impression. There are many religious Believers for whom the kind of thing described above is substantially their life.
Christ is your life. The old covenant was obey and live. The new covenant is live and you will be fruitful.
All we need to do is agree with God about God and accept His version of ourselves in His arms. Father cannot make us believe His version of Godliness if we insist on our own. The fact is there is nothing you can do that can separate you from His loving presence. And nothing you need to do to earn your place in His arms. Except agree with the fact that you are already there! Knowing you are a son empowers you to live as a son!