It’s not so surprising that so many attempt to be their best selves by adopting a philosophy or religion. All of them, other than the Gospel of the Kingdom present a solution couched in the knowledge of good and evil. That is to say, an ethical system is made out of things one should do and things one should avoid. In this mindset, we can have a belief system to adhere to and a theology to tout and converse about. But theology is not an end in itself. It is a possible path towards the truth about God, ourselves and His Way. Theology can position us in the Kingdom. Then again it can deny us the Kingdom if it is not the teaching of Jesus and the apostles – but some amendment or alteration that presents itself as fresh revelation when it is really a cunning fable.
‘Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit’ 2 Peter 1.20-21 NIV.
OUR BEST SELF
According to Jesus and the apostles our best self is realised as we take on the reality of who we are in our Father: The sons and daughters of God. This is ours as ‘sonship.’ Sonship not because we lived to an agenda or measured up, but sonship because we are adopted and live in the spirit of adption. God is part of us and we are part of God. The lived reality of this is incarnation – our new covenant post cross inheritance in which the nature of the Father is expressed in the sons and daughters of God.
We are sons because we were created by God, redeemed by God and made one with God. Our being is interwoven with the trinity in the spirit of sonship. ‘On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you’ John 14,20 NIV.
We are imbued with God’s spirit and life when we embrace this reality. OUR BEST SELF IS OUR IDENTITY LIVED OUT IN THE SPIRIT OF SONSHIP.
REACH OUT AND GRAB IT
Our inheritance is our inheritance. But not ours in spirit and in truth until we possess it. We possess it by believing it. By believing the truth. By agreeing that it is Christ who has come in our flesh and not the law, religion or some agenda.
We are not imbued with the Spirit when we have fenced ourselves off in the law. It’s either one or the other. Life in the Spirit is not living in a sophisticated version of the letter no matter how much we might want it to be. We simply are not in the Spirit when in the law and are in a state of death that Paul calls ‘this body of death.’ The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. The Spirit is Christ our life.
FATHER OF LIFE VERSUS FATHER OF LIES
A belief system couched in the knowledge of good and evil can send us in two directions. One is towards the judgmentalism that flows from the law. The other is towards a liberal ‘anything goes, let’s all hang loose’ relativism. None of them produce a best self as none can form us into sons and daughters of God.
The simplicity of the lived Kingdom of God is our oneness with God. This is the testimony of Jesus, Paul and John; of the church fathers and of the pure in heart who see God and know God as God is.
ALWAYS WAS, ALWAYS WILL BE
By the early 1960s, a spiritually mature Thomas Merton knew by a contemplative, intuitive grasp that ‘oneness’ is less a goal toward which life is pressing, as it is a return to the truth in which we have always been held. Oneness with God is what we had before the fall and a superlative oneness is what we have in Christ following the resurrection.
‘Realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you’ John 14.20. Here union with God is the reality that is our, just as it is in the entirety of John 17 and Ephesians 1.10.
Regressive Christianity see’s the best- self solution as adherence to the law. More subtle versions present a Christian cultural agenda as the way. Gregory Boyd calls this, ‘a Christian version of Adam’s knowledge tree.’ But this is not the way the truth and the life. Nor is it the new and living way. The way offered you by heaven is the Christ of God expressed by the Spirit as you. No. You do not become God. You become a son as distinct from a worker or a slave. How? You are a manifestation of the Christ. As a son/daughter you are an expression of our Father. This is in the Spirit and what is actually meant by life in the Spirit.
If Christ came in the flesh as Mary’s Son – and He did – Christ will also come in you as you agree with Him that He is your life. ‘When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory’
Col 3.4 NIV.
Your glory is your best self, your real self-expressed in the Spirit of Jesus. This is your life in the Spirit lived out in your physical body.
LIFE IN THE SPIRIT IS CHRIST COME IN OUR FLESH
Life in the Spirit is not some new version of the letter. It’s not the teachings of the new testament lived out in you with Jesus’ help as I heard one speaker suggest. It was disappointing to hear it as it confirmed that he had been living all his life as something less than he was – an effect of the letter rather than the expression of the indwelling Christ. Christ and not words are our life. This is the difference between the person of religion and the person of spirit and 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.
LIVING WAY DEFINED
Jesus does not present a list of rules and values and say. ‘Look here folks. Focus on these and I will help you do them.’ It’s way better than that. His ‘way’ is to be Himself in us. There are many separationist versions of the gospel that are held together by a try harder mentality. One of these is ‘Keeping close to Jesus.’ Another is ‘What would Jesus do? Jesus is not separate from Himself or from us. His being is right-life and right-action. He has blended Himself into our being by His Spirit. This is life in the Spirit, the effect of the incarnation.
Another dilution is seen in the inverting the whole idea of the fruits of the Spirit and re-defining them as things to do to gain acceptance with God. Like qualities to strive for to please God. But this is not what fruits are. They are simply and naturally the expression of Jesus in your being.
LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
The gospel of the Kingdom is about sons and daughters and not about abstractions. The gospel of the Kingdom is not some kind of austerity package. It’s radical in its grace and generosity. It is infinite in its life. It is Christ your life as Paul declared and the vicarious humanity of Jesus as defined by God’s theology which is new covenant theology.
We cannot live from the old covenant and be Spirit-filled people. We cannot have the law as our father and be sons of God – notionally yes, but not in spirit and in truth. The Mirror Bible puts it this way.
“The one whose idea you are to begin with, designed you to radiate his image and likeness; he is the true pattern of your beingness! So, be who you are in realizing the exact detail of your genesis! You are whole and in perfect harmony; seamlessly one with him! (The word kaleo, to define by name; to surname. The word genethete, referring to genesis, or birth, is in the aorist, passive, imperative case; the distinction between the aorist imperative and the present imperative is one of aspect, not necessarily tense. Thus, to get something over and done with! Your beingness is complete - you cannot add or subtract from it - you can certainly mature in it! Eternity is our arena!)” 1 Peter 1:15
NOT AN EFFIGY OF YOURSELF
We can be the expression of Christ or an expression of Christianity. One is life in the Spirit, the other is life in religion. One is an existence in the flesh. The other is the Spirit of Christ manifest as you. We can plod onwards rubbing oil into an old wineskin. Then again, we can be new oil and the new wineskin because we are a manifestation of Christ.