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LIVING IN REVERSE PART 7. JESUS LIVES YOUR LIFE
We’ve been moving through this series about Living in Reverse. We’ve learned to put what God says after the “but…” – to agree with Him, and to let our dominant reality be determined by God’s Word and God’s actions. We’ve learned to draw life from the Spirit, not from our outward circumstances – not even the good ones. We’ve learned that when we are in Christ, our old self has been crucified, and we are dead to sin to the law. We’ve begun to learn how to fight the ongoing temptations that would try remove us from all these truths we’ve been talking about. We have begun to explore our new life as citizens of heaven, and all the resources we now have in Christ. We’ve been learning our new identity.
All this is leading toward an ultimate purpose: so that Jesus Christ can express His Life through you. Let me put a different way: The purpose of it here on earth is so that Jesus Christ can live your life. Paul puts it like this:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20, ESV)
Now, as I have preached these messages, I have noticed that some people have a certain amount of fear. I have had some fear of my own. That fear is that if we believe that sin is truly taken care of we (or maybe other Christians) will sort of go crazy and completely indulge ourselves in a lifestyle of sin. Now, I’ve addressed that in other messages, by trying to explain the relational connection we now have with God. But I want to point that there are two probable roots to this kind of fear.
The first root is control. Believe it or not, a lot people feel more comfortable with the idea that spiritual things are up to them. If I have to somehow measure up, then I have some control – I can work to make sure that I do in fact measure up. Some folks are very uncomfortable with the idea that they can’t do anything about their spiritual condition – not even after they are Christians. Some people would rather check spiritual items off a list than actually interact with the living God in a daily, personal way.
The second reason we often fear grace, is that we don’t really trust that Jesus will live his life through us and other Christians. I had neighbors once who weren’t Christians. The woman was pretty much a pagan feminist. We prayed for her and her husband for years. Eventually she started coming to our church. One night in our small group she confessed to us, and to the Lord that she was a Wiccan – a witch. She asked for God’s forgiveness. The next day she renounced Wicca and burned her Wiccan books. Not long after that, she completely gave her life to Jesus.
Shortly after she became a Christian we had a conversation, and I realized that she still held a lot of pagan and feminist views. She believed that there was nothing wrong homosexual behavior or abortion. I thought, “Oh my goodness, she’s a Christian now, but she still has all these pagan attitudes.” I had no idea where to start with her.
You see this really works. When we are truly surrendered to Jesus, he really will live his life through us.
I didn’t have to. Over the next year or so the Lord worked within her to change her attitudes. I don’t know exactly when or how it happened, but Jesus living within her made sure that she did not continue in unbiblical beliefs or practices.
I didn’t even know she was a Wiccan, before she told us, but the Lord did. He worked within her to change that. The Lord knew before I did the thoughts and attitudes she held that were wrong. He worked within her to change that. She had been a feminist, but before any of us more mature believers talked to her about that, she felt the Lord leading her to change her feminist attitudes and actions toward her husband. That change led him to become a Christian a few months later.
You see this really works. When we are truly surrendered to Jesus, he really will live his life through us. I didn’t have to lay out religious rules for my neighbor to follow – I just had to introduce her to Jesus, and once she surrendered to Him, He began to live his life through her.
We had another lady who started coming to a cell group in that church. She had been raised in a Christian home, but as far as we could tell, she didn’t have a living faith. She lived with her boyfriend and thought nothing was wrong with that. One night she wanted prayer to receive the Holy Spirit. I thought that was jumping the gun a little bit, since she didn’t really know Jesus. But we prayed. When we were done she said, “when you prayed for me, I really did get the Holy Spirit.” I didn’t think so, but I didn’t want to burst her bubble, so I didn’t say anything.
The next day she called me. “I just told my boyfriend he had to move out,” she said. “I have the Holy Spirit now, and the Holy Spirit doesn’t want to live like that.” She told me some other changes she was making in her life. I was floored. She really did have the Spirit!
Once she was surrendered to Jesus, once he lived in her through the Spirit, I did not have to tell her it was wrong to live with her boyfriend. The Spirit showed her.
Now I am not saying there is no use in knowing what the Bible says. The Spirit works through the Word to guide, correct and teach us. Both of these women got extensive Bible teaching and mentoring. But the changes in their lives were brought about not by other Christians giving them rules to follow, nor by them making a tremendous effort, but rather Jesus living his life through them. Their main work was simply to trust Jesus and respond to him as he led them.
I could tell you more true stories but my hope is that if you are a believer, you will see for yourself that Jesus will live his life through you if you let him. And this is why we don’t need to focus on whether or not we are sinning. If we are focused on Jesus and if we respond to him as he teaches us and leads us, we are not going to sin very often. You see, if Jesus is the one living your life, Jesus isn’t going to sin. It’s only when we stop believing it, and stop responding in faith to Jesus that we get into trouble. We get into trouble when WE try to live our OWN lives. Even when we are trying live our lives in a holy way, if we are doing it on our own, we tend to get into trouble.
READ ON TO FINISH THE MESSAGE….
Obviously responding to Jesus does involve us in doing things, in action. We are not supposed to sit on the couch and say, “Come Jesus! Aren’t you going to move my feet?” The point is that we do should be the result of us responding to Jesus. Jesus, living in my neighbor, wanted to burn the Wiccan books. My neighbor only had to say, “OK. Since you want to do that, I’ll go get the books, some kerosene and a lighter.” Jesus living in the other woman did not want to have an illicit relationship with her boyfriend. She didn’t say, “Well then, stop me!” Instead, she let him use her mouth to tell her boyfriend to move out. It was her body. She had to open her mouth and say the words. But it was the life of Jesus through her that made it all happen. By the way, her boyfriend became a Christian a few months later, and a year or so after that they were married. They are married today, actively leading in their church and doing missions trips every year.
Now, I want to be clear. We aren’t living for Jesus. We are letting Jesus live through us. The first one still relies on our own flesh-based efforts – we have worthy goals that we are accomplishing (or not) by our own effort. The second one is about completely relying on Jesus to do it. We have to give him our response – we have to say yes to Him and let him use our arms and legs and words, but we recognize at the same time that is His Life flowing through our unique body and personality.
Jesus lived this way in his own relationship with the Father, while he was on earth. He said:
“If you know Me, you will also know My Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:7, HCSB)
Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. (John 14:10 HCSB)
In this same passage, Jesus himself gives us a clue that he will live the life in us, just as the Father lived the life in him:
We often think this means we will imitate what Jesus did. I think, in light of the rest of the New Testament, that it means Jesus will live his life through us.
Either Jesus will do it as you let him, or you are on your own. Letting Jesus live through you calls for faith that the first is true. So maybe you are in a situation where God is calling you to speak and act in love toward another person. You don’t feel very loving. Maybe some people wouldn’t even pray. They’d just grit their teeth and try to be loving. Maybe others would pray something like this: “Lord, give me the strength to love this person right now.” But that isn’t exactly right either. That means we are still living the life ourselves, even if it is with God’s help. I think our attitude should be more like this: “Lord, I don’t feel loving. I can’t love this person right now. You do the loving through me. I am willing for you to do that. I make myself available to you for that.” And then we trust Him to come through.
Maybe you need to forgive someone for something they have done to you. This is often one of the hardest things to do and let go of. Many times, we try to do it on our own strength. Sometimes, we begin to get a glimmer of a clue, and we say, “Lord help me to forgive them.” Again, the focus of that prayer is still myself and my own performance.
Remember what Jesus prayed for those who crucified him: “Father forgive them…” We often think of this as Jesus asking the Father for forgiveness on our behalf. And perhaps that is what it was. But what if it was the human-nature of Jesus, who was dependent on the Father to live his life through him, asking the Father to do through him what he, the human-nature of Jesus, could not do on his own? Given the verses in John above, that is a real possibility – this was Jesus, praying in dependence that the Father would continue to work through him and speak through him even in this extreme and terrible situation.
And so we can say, “Jesus, I feel bitter toward this person. I can’t forgive him myself. Please forgive him through me. I give you permission to forgive through me right now. Lord forgive him – through me.”
Do you see how this could change everything? Our performance could never, will never, achieve our salvation. Jesus did that on our behalf. But our own performance will also never be enough live the Christian life either. Just think of it: It is the CHRISTian life. It is his life. He is the one who will live it. Our part is to allow him to; to respond when he speaks through the bible or in our hearts; to let him have our arms and legs and mouth and thoughts and the rest of us, so that he can life our life. This is why Paul puts it like this:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:1-2, ESV)
We are to present our bodies to Jesus, so that he can use us. We are to let him renew our mind, to transform us from the inside out so that we can hear and respond to Him living his life through us.
One of the wonderful things about this, is that we do not lose our person-hood when we do this. In Hinduism and Buddhism, the goal is to completely lose yourself into a kind of cosmic one-ness. But the Bible teaches that as we become one with God, we retain our individual personality, and in fact, he has plans and purposes for our unique individuality.
Jesus wants to express his life through all these unique people. No one personality could possibly show all the many facets of Jesus’ power, His creativity, His person, His purposes. That’s why Paul says “we are the body of Christ, all of us parts of it.”
Jesus wants to live his life through me because he can show others some of his words and thoughts in a unique way through me. He can think and write through me in a way that he can’t through anyone else. Jesus wants to live through Kari because he can make a unique kind of music through her, songs that he can’t make through anyone else. I’m not saying we are better than anyone else. But we are different from everyone else. So are you. You get the picture?
He can show his compassion to people through you in a way that he can’t show it through anyone else. He can make a beautiful painting through you that he can’t make through anyone else.
I’m a poor craftsman, but at times I am forced to do farm or home-improvement projects. I have dozens of tools. Each tool is there to do my work. They all express my will and purpose (or they would, if I was any good), but each one expresses it differently. The saw expresses my purpose in a way that looks completely different from the hammer. But they are both used to create what I am building or repairing. A tool that tried to be both and hammer and saw at the same time probably wouldn’t be very useful for either task. Even the hacksaw has a task that is different from the wood saw.
I am not asking you to go back to prison and keep trying to be good. I am asking you to trust Jesus to live his life, to express his life, through you, as you. You don’t have to become someone or something else – Jesus has already done all the becoming for you. He wants to use the unique person that he has made you to be. Your part is to trust that he wants to do it; to let him do it; and to trust that he is doing it, and the results are up to him.