In his letter to the Galatians Paul refers to a process he calls “Christ being formed in you.” He makes it abundantly clear that this process somehow is reversed if we subject ourselves to external laws. The Israelites in the wilderness is parable of this same truth. There was a perishing, a death, before the new man could enter the Promised Land. It was the new man who perished in the wilderness, but out of the ashes the fully matured man arose. It is the same man, but not. He that crosses the river knows who he is and who is not. The wilderness or the law, if you like, has conditioned him well. In a sense he wouldn’t have known who he truly is without the wilderness experience. However, according to Paul Christ is impeded from being formed in you and me while in the wilderness. But, paradoxically, we cannot fully know who we are without that wilderness walk.
What does it mean then that Christ is being formed in us? First of all it denotes a shift in the consciousness from believing that outer laws is something we can obey to realizing that the law is written in our hearts. When we were born again from above the law became an integral part of our new makeup, so to speak. God does not follow a set of written rules in His dealings with human kind or the universe. He perpetually spontaneously expresses His self-for-others nature. Created in His likeness and as new creations indwelled by His Spirit that has become our nature as well. It effortlessly comes to fruition in the Promised Land.
Secondly, when we followed outer ordinances, rules and regulations those exact things we thought would lead to life we distressingly found had the opposite effect. The law killed us in the sense that under its influence we never was genuinely ourselves. We covered our shortcomings with fig leaves. We played a variety of roles to create an illusion of holiness. We erected protective fences in order not to be exposed as impostors on account of the simple fact that we couldn’t obey the law. In this wretched condition authenticity evaded us. Christ fully formed within in all its simplicity means that we finally are free to be ourselves trusting our new heart and fully knowing that we are forever embraced by God and further that we are a members of the Triune fellowship or union and thus included in the eternal conversation between Father, Son and Spirit.
The Israelites crossed the river by faith. The generation that perished was unable to cross due to unbelief, that is, they didn’t live by faith but by sight. We have all been that generation ridden by unbelief and hence clung to the law unable to cross the threshold in our consciousnesses. The bottom-line is that authenticity is a fruit of faith. Authenticity means that the Spirit’s work in us has been a success – He has unequivocally shown us that our self is a right self. We must learn that this new self is a right self despite circumstances, appearances, what we do and what we don’t do. This is a reality we live in by faith. Before we perished, some call it coming to the end of ourselves, we were so preoccupied with ourselves that we were quite unable to live by faith. All we could see was that we didn’t measure up. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews teaches us that not everyone respond favorably to the conditioning in the desert. Some harden their hearts and for some odd reason prefer wretchedness to emancipation.
God has created us in freedom to be free citizens of the new Jerusalem which is from above. As Christ is increasingly formed in us we move more and more freely in God’s freedom because we have learned who we are; safe persons expressing His nature and that every desire in us originates in that same outgoing self-for-others fire which is the Father’s self.