By Norman Grubb
Now these are two radical statements: 1) that I am crucified with Christ and thus actually dead to sin and the spirit of error, and 2) that I am no longer just my Norman Grubb I, but Christ is in such an eternal inner union with me that it is He expressed in my human form. It is difficult to make that confessed word of faith which says straight out, “I am not I, but Christ in me,” because for so many years as a born-again Christian I have been such a flesh-conscious, oppressed, failing, guilty, and self-condemning I. How then can I honestly say that this I – so tempted, so often stressed and strained, hurt and angry, resentful and lustful – is not only dead to sin, but is Christ Himself?
First, let’s get it clear: the human self is always a tempted self, and temptation is not sin. We know that because Adam & Eve were tempted before they sinned, and Jesus, the one sinless man, was tempted so totally that He is the only one ever named in the Bible as tempted in every way in which we are tempted, and that is saying a big thing. So I can be as perfect as Christ is perfect, yet constantly tempted in every channel of temptation through my bodily desires or soul emotions or feelings or reactions, or through mental doubts or questionings.
What then is temptation? It is the drawing and pulling of a world which in its fallen condition is totally geared to self-interest and self-gratification (John’s “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life”), continually pulling at me to respond to some independent self-reaction or self-desire. James describes it as being “drawn away by our own lusts and enticed” (James 1:18).
Temptation is a subtle attempt to make my human me forget who I really am (Christ in my human form), and act as if I am back off the cross as an independent human being responding to some drawing of my human desires or appetites. In other words, it is the presence of sin (self loving desires) enticing me back to the illusion of, being my old independent self (not joined to Christ), enticing me to commit spiritual adultery (James 4:4). It is the pull back to that illusory, independent, struggling self that Paul so completely describes in Romans 7:14-24, and from which he says in verses 1-4 we have been delivered by Christ’s death cutting us off from the old control of the law. For the law held us in its tight grip while we were independent of God, presented us with impossible demands, and thus exposed us to the realization of our captivity to sin.
But now we have died in Christ to being those independent selves in the power of sin, and instead have become united selves to Christ, so that there remains no independent self. “Dead to the law” must mean that there is no separate self on which law can make its demands. To put it another way, my old marriage to sin and the law of “ought to”, which gave sin its control over my independent self, is dissolved eternally in Christ’s death, and is replaced in His resurrection by the new marriage in which my Husband has taken over my redeemed human self. This human self is God’s beautiful creation in His own likeness, which for a time had been stolen and made captive in a false independence by sin and Satan. But God graciously gave the law to expose our blinded selves to the fact that we were captives in our false independence, so that now we are released to be our true selves.
Therefore, temptation is the agency by which sin would deceive me (Romans 7:11) and pull me back to the illusion of responding as my old independent self, which was subject to the laws of “you ought” and “you ought not”. Then sin, “taking occasion by the commandment,” makes me react as an independent self. I temporarily forget that I am Christ in my human self, and thus in my illusory independence once again I become a slave to sin, doing what I ought not, for the independent I can never fulfill the law. So there lies the snare. If by temptation I can be tricked and deceived into responding as if separate from who I truly am, I am caught, enslaved, and defeated, and guilt and condemnation then follow. The full implication of Paul’s insistence that I am dead to the law is that this apparently independent I is an illusion, because that “I” comes under the law. Being dead to the law means there remains no independent I for the law to give commands to! The new I – Christ in me and as me – is the law; and thus in my union relationship “the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in me.”
So what do I do when temptation pulls at me as though I am an independent self? I act as quickly as I can. I can always be who I am. To be competent in a profession means that I have a settled know-how in the use of my tools. It is perfectly easy and spontaneous for a carpenter to use his tools and make his measurements, because he operates by his inner know-how of how to do his job, and not by the outer tools. His years of apprenticeship and training transferred his outer learning into inner know-how. He now enjoys practicing his profession. Recently when I was admiring the paneling of a friend’s new house, he happened to say, “Yes, I have a good carpenter. But he would be insulted if you were to tell him how to do his job. You only tell him what to do, not how to do it.”
We operate happily, freely, and spontaneously when we know our profession by an inner know-how. That knowing is being (just as the Bible word for knowing always means being mixed with a thing or person), and so we are the carpenter, cook, or doctor.
And that is precisely how I know I am not I, but Christ, the real me in my human form. The faith that changed the apprentice with his outer learning into the professional with his inner knowhow is the same faith by which I possess my possessions (as crucified with Christ, and now Christ replacing me in my resurrected I). Faith, being substance (Heb.1 1:1), has become my fixed inner consciousness that this union and replacement is the eternal fact, so that I now live freely, spontaneously, and happily by my permanent know-how.