Christ Being Formed

It might seem to most of us that there are some inconsistencies between what the Bible say is the truth about us and what we experience in our daily lives. We learn that we are holy, righteous, and perfect from the Bible, but it seems to us that we are entrenched in a perpetual battle against temptations, mood swings, a variety of ordeals etc. We do not feel very holy when we lose our temper or are depressed.

It is in this context that the following verse makes a lot of sense and brings comfort to those of us who are confused by those seemingly inconsistencies between what we somehow know is the truth and our personal experiences: “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrew 10:14)

This verse contains a statement which at first inspection seems like a paradox. How can we be perfected in one instance and in the next instance we are in a process of being sanctified? As redeemed humans we inhabit two realms. We operate both in the invisible and the visible, the eternal and the temporal. These realms of course intermingle. We cannot separate them. However, in order to understand our predicament we will treat them as two separate spheres of influence.

From God’s point of view, that is, the eternal, we are perfected. We are holy and righteous in the invisible. Simultaneously we are in a variety of processes in the temporal something which the author of the letter to the Hebrews points out when he says that we are in the process of being sanctified.

What does it mean to be sanctified in the temporal? It simply means that our faith is exercised so that it increasingly is aligned with the facts of the eternal. Paul calls this process as Christ being formed in us. God moves us from being external beings to internal so that we ultimately find Christ in our center and not out there somewhere. In this process we learn to trust Christ in us as us, which signifies that we learn to trust His life in us and that He manifests Himself as us.

Our major challenge is our desire to do good, be good and establish an identity in which we can clothe us. We try keeping the law to be good, and make any effort to avoid evil. This means that we still derive our identity from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Our identity is in the beginning also tied other externals. I am a Baptist pastor. I am a preacher. I speak in tongues. I am a charismatic.

Those ties to the externals are quite powerful, hence God repeatedly have to shake our worlds so that we can come to our senses and leave those rudimentary teachings and mature into Christ, who is our life. I am not saying that God permits abuses and other evils to rear us. I am saying that he lets us fail miserably and encounter a variety of temptations so that we can shake off those external fixations.

Notice how the letter to the Hebrews is written. It deals extensively with how far superior the new covenant is compared to the old. The author goes to great lengths to accentuate Christ’s perfect work and in what ways it affects us. He very lucidly establishes our new standing with God and who we are in Christ on account of His finished work. Then he writes the famous faith chapter. The whole letter is permeated with the following idea: This is the truth, but you have to attain it by faith.

We are reared to think of sanctification in terms of conduct and behavior modification. We can ascribe this approach to the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It is evident from the Bible that our character and behavior is expected to change due to who we are in Christ. However, the Bible speaks in terms of fruit. Fruit gives rise to associations such as juicy, colorful, diversity, tasty, sweet and healthy. A single focus on conduct induces notions such as dull, empty, passionless, and uninteresting. Fruit is the Spirit! It is simply His life being manifested in us and this life derives from the tree of life, that is, Christ.

Those who have matured into Christ and ceased from their works are spontaneous, free, genuine, authentic, rough, edgy, un-rehearsed, un-prescribed. The resemblance between those free spirits and how God has created this earth is striking. Our planet is definitely edgy, rough, un-rehearsed and un-prescribed, but it is good (Gen 1). Those adjectives also very distinctively describe Jesus when He walked this earth.

It is on this backdrop that the Bible calls for spiritual judgment. Who we truly are can only be appraised spiritually as long as we are sojourners in this temporal realm where we daily are confronted with our human weaknesses.

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12 Responses to Christ Being Formed

  1. Wow do I love this. Back in 1984 I nicknamed Hebrews for myself “the suck it up book.” I knew it was gas for those out of gas. I was always running out of gas and vaguely got the concept by faith of Christ in me, but I didn’t realize how much law was still hanging around in how I saw God, myself, and others. Of course law takes us to the bottom, and a hearty congratulations to law to doing its job. Finally, in 1994, after spiraling to the suicidal bottom, a friend in NC, Louis Tucker, who invited me out to his home on a serene country road where he grew up on a farm, suggested that we read Hebrews together. I would read aloud, and Louis would comment. When we read Hebrews chapters 9 and 10, suddenly I had the sensation of having been struck over the head and seeing stars. I knew instantly that God was saying, “I have done all that is needed; don’t expect me to do anything else. Take it or leave it.” Wow, there was completion. Christ had done it all, and Hebrews 10:14 became my logo verse. Somehow I knew that God had perfected me in Christ and BOOM, that was it. Sin consciousness went out the door. I knew that sin is possible, but I knew that God was now keeping me from sin, and not to walk at ease in that would lead back to the very sin I had tried to root out by every kind of method that came along. One day while working as a carpenter’s helper between jobs, it seemed that the devil beat upon me all day, and my thoughts and feelings felt so bad that I thought surely there must have been something culpable about all this, but I wasn’t sure what to say. I got home and plopped on the sofa and asked God about it. He said, “Well, did I keep you today?” The question astounded me for its implication that He had, and so I marveled that a day could be so assaulted with such intensity and yet I could thank God for His keeping. And so I told God, “well, yes You did keep me today.” I mean I thought if it can be that messy looking, hallelujah. Ole, your post here is the splendid fruit of the Spirit, and fruit has been a favorite word of mine these years now, for indeed the Spirit bears the fruit, and we are the delicious tress, with the laden branches, and we hardly notice it, except that we marvel that we’re not in bondage like we used to be, and we know a lightness and ease of living, and a sprightly enjoyment and mischievous riddling with those still pinned under law, and we invite them on in to the god land. Your is oh so good my brother. A big hug to you!!! Brian

  2. Ole Henrik says:

    The are many similarities between our stories, Brian. I came to end of myself in March 2003. I entered a severe depression, and had suicidal tendencies. My encounter with grace was staged a year later when the Spirit sent me to Oslo to listen to Joseph Prince. I left the premises with tears in my eyes. Finally, I had got a glimpse of who God truly is and who I am in Him. The process towards where I am today begun in earnest that day.
    I have to admit that your testimony coupled with your gracious words regarding my article filled me with joy. Thanks for your friendship! A big hug to you too!!

  3. cindi estep says:

    “Fruit gives rise to associations such as juicy, colorful, diversity, tasty, sweet and healthy.” Fruit of the Tree of Life!! I Love this!! Fruit of the tree of good and evil…black and white…..

  4. I’ve been bounding around here with exuberance myself since reading yours. I even found myself sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor in a mood of hilarity, and my wife certainly thought that was cool.

  5. I forgot to tell you that I emailed your blog “The Gospel in a Nutshell” to a lot of friends. My brother-in-law here in Hopkinsville is named Brad (my wife Tandy’s brother) and he is in our Bible study on Monday nites at his mother, Mimi’s. He brought it printed out on Monday and read it aloud. We all just glowed.

    I meant to say also about today’s that I think this sentence of yours is one that will be quoted: “Those who have matured into Christ and ceased from their works are spontaneous, free, genuine, authentic, rough, edgy, un-rehearsed, un-prescribed. ”

    Wow, what a sentence!!

    • Ole Henrik says:

      Your generosity is stunning! God sure knows how to manifest Himself and glorify Himself through our simple testimonies. What an amazing Father we have!!
      Please say hello to your friends at the Bible study!
      Regarding that sentence: I borrowed parts of it from a mail I received a couple of weeks ago. While writing this article the Spirit brought it to my attention again and I felt free to use that part which spoke to me and adapt it into my manuscript. It obviously is God’s sentence, which makes it even more powerful.

  6. Marmee Janet says:

    Once again, your God-thoughts have encouraged me so, as well as Brian’s response. I haven’t had a chance to read much of your book, just picking a page and reading it here and there and have been blessed. But the title is what God seems to want in front of me right now. I think of those words, “Crossing the River”, almost every day. God is bringing my mind-world-life into focus on one choice…to look at the seen and temporal, OR to ‘cross the river’ and look away to the unseen and eternal. More and more the truth is settling inside me that what I see and experience in this ‘earth suit’ is a grand invitation to turn away, to cross the river, and to call those things that be not as though they are. I don’t belong on the ‘seen’ side of the river anymore, and when I am invited to visit there and give in to it, it is uncomfortable, miserable, dark, heavy. So, with lots and lots of practice, my senses are being trained to discern good and evil, life and death, where HOME is for me. Those old grave clothes are more ill-fitting every time I try them on! My side of the river is full of life, depth, color, taste, smell, texture and I AM forever changed to long to live there. I loved what Brian said…we are kept by the power of God, and it is not of ourselves. He has settled forever who I am, and I do live and bear fruit living on the unseen side of the river. Hallelujah!

    • Ole Henrik says:

      We make the transition is our consciousnesses when we enter into the promised land. We possess our possessions by faith. Wonderful comment Marmee. It so full of light and life!

  7. Ralph Harris says:

    In a word, Ole, FANTASTIC!

    Well done.

    Hooray!

    – Ralph

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