Six Letters that Explain the Mystery of the Gospel By Paul Anderson-Walsh
Have you ever found yourself wondering – “Who is the real you? Most of us have. Moreover, many Christians have to live with the added guilt that comes from a numbing sense that who we are is not who you should be. Consequently, they live their lives trapped in a cycle of performance, rotating between commitment, failure condemnation, confession, and re-dedication.
Evangelical homiletics has left all but a few caught on the barbed wire of apparent contradiction between “image” and “integrity”, the person that I appear to be and the person that I actually am. The ancient philosopher Socrates once said, that, “greatness is to be in reality what we appear to be,” this laid down gauntlet has been picked up by the unrighteous and the self-righteous alike. However, to the Christ–righteous this is the antithesis of union, where greatness [which, in this paradigm must also be redefined, as other centred living] is to accept as reality that we ARE precisely who we appear NOT to be.
Speaking personally the apparent paradox of union has been a great struggle to accept. To become settled and live out of the reality that I am who God says that I am regardless of how I feel is a matter beyond intellect, it is in the final analysis a matter of revelation. Before we can face the question, “Do we believe that we are who He says we are?” For most of us, this question begs a preliminary question, and that is “who does He say that we are?”
Before we answer that let me just restate my simple conclusion, the real us good or bad, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer CANNOT be anyone other than who God says we are. Before I understood union it was easier for me to believe that I was not who and could never this side of heaven be the person that God wanted me to be – perfect [Mtt 5:48]. Nonetheless, becoming who I knew I could not be was the goal of the Christian life.
Sanctification, A.K.A. “Mission Impossible” was the goal that I was determined to reach. Whilst I knew my efforts were doomed to failure, I would still be going to heaven because believing in Jesus not sinless perfection was the salvation criteria. My favourite verse was 1 Jn 3: 2 “ Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we know is this; when He is revealed, we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” I had understood this to be a reference to the second coming, but, then, I saw that John was addressing the “little children” [1 Jn 3:7] a group he had identified earlier [1 Jn 1:12-14].
These were the spiritual babies; those who knew no more than their sins had been forgiven, however, in the case of what he called the young men and the fathers, the mature or more aware, knew, that “Just as He is so are we in this world” [1 Jn 4:17]. Then suddenly, as a cloud burst union made sense to me, I could see it “when he is revealed, we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” and He is in me, expressing Himself as me. 1 Jn 3:2 was not speaking of His return it was speaking about my coming of age. Imagine my surprise then when I began to see that I already was the person that I was trying to become. Being the product of a Jesuit education I had become accustomed to reading reports about myself that always said something like “Paul is a bright child but could do much better, must try harder.”
What was I to make of God’s claim that I am the following things, not that I will be, or might be, or could be if only he would try harder but AM: Perfect Hebs 10:14 The righteousness of God in Christ 2 Cor 5:21 Holy Eph 1:4 A saint 1 Cor 1:2 A partaker in the divine nature 2 Pet 1:4 A new creation 2 Cor 5:17 Complete Col 2:10 Just as He is in this world 1 Jn 4:17 Beyond reproach Col 1:22 Blameless Eph 1:4 Seated with him in heavenly places Eph 2:6 Container of the fullness of God Col 2:9 The foregoing list is far from exhaustive and in the light of its claims we are confronted with two choices, [a] belief or [b] unbelief.
It is the role of the Holy Spirit to convict both believers and unbelievers alike of unbelief. In the case of the lost man, their unbelief concerns Christ becoming sin for them [Jn 16:9] and in the case of the saved man concerning his becoming Christ righteousness. [Jn 16:9] To progress in the union journey it is necessary to become as convinced that we have become as He is as we are, that He became as we were [2 Cor 5:21, Phil 2:6]. He who knew no sin became sin, paid it penalty, death, in order that we who knew no righteousness became righteousness and received its benefits, divine life.
Now whether we believe that this is true or not, does not alter the fact that it is true. If the Great I AM says I AM, then, I AM. To doubt that is to call God a liar. Well now Christian, do you believe that you are who God says you are? Through the prism of union, rather than the prison of performance, I can see that sanctification is simply recognition. That it is not a progressive rectification of one’s behaviour but rather a progressive recognition of your new identity. What was to me the cornerstone of the Christian religion [a contradiction in terms if ever there was one] that sanctification was a process of becoming holy has been replaced by the axiom of union, which is to know that I AM.
How can this be so? Well in simple terms the Bible tells me that as a believer, I am One spirit with Him [1 Cor 6:17] that I am Indwelt by Christ [Col 1:27] that it is no longer I that live but it is Christ that not only lives IN me but also AS me and BY me [Gal 2:20]. The real me, the essential me, is JesUS There is a line from the long awaited sequel to the Matrix, Reloaded, where Morpheus, in response to the protest that “Not everyone believes what you believe” replies “The beauty of what I believe is that it doesn’t require you to believe it in order for it to be true.” Moreover, this is true of union, whether you as a believer, believe that these things are true about you or not they are still true. Now whilst it does not require you to believe it to be true, it does require you to believe it to live in the power of it.
As a believer, [and if you do not believe this what do you believe] you like unbelievers have a choice, either: You choose to believe that you are who He says you are and simply BE who you are allowing him to be the reproducer of his own nature in you enjoying your branch/vine relationship with the Lord [Jn15: 5] Alternatively, you will say that these are things that I COULD be or SHOULD be and aim to BECOME. If you should choose the latter then inevitably you will be left to languish in the misery of a life dedicated to trying to cultivate the appearance of godliness, but denying the power thereof. Each one of us lives within the power and limits of our choices.
Either the limitless and liberating vistas of allowing God to be the reproduce His nature & likeness in you or alternatively be limited by trying to reproduce His nature and likeness through your flesh. It is impossible to imagine that given the choice anyone would choose imitation over participation. However, given that the mystery of the New Covenant is the best kept secret in Christendom millions of precious, sincere believers have committed their lives and are condemned week after week to re-committing and re-dedicating their lives in the futile pursuit of trying to become who they already are. How distressing it is to know that the vast majority of Christians are squandering the opportunity to enter into His rest never discovering that between the historical Jesus who was, and the futuristic Jesus who will be is the imminent present day Jesus who IS.
Fulfilling in, through and as us his eternal purpose [Eph 3:11] first revealed in Genesis, that He should have a man made in His image and in His likeness, to exercise His authority and represent Him on this earth. He was that man, Jesus Christ Last Adam [1 Cor 15:45] God made in the appearance of flesh [Phil 2:6] He remains that man, though now in resurrected, and ascended, no longer incarnate, with us, but indwelling, in us, as us [Col1: 27]
The Christian is re-made in the IMAGE and likeness of God and as real persons, rather than as the false persons, we once were, when we were by nature children of wrath [Eph 2:3] but now as partakers in the divine nature [2 Pet1: 4] we are containers and conduits of Him. No longer separate as before [Eph 2:14] but one [Jn 17:23]. The nature, His nature, which you and I now express, is fixed by His eternal choice as an other-centred-lover [God cannot be a self-lover] that is the essence of agapē [1 Jn 4:8] now radiates from us to others. [Jn 13:35] The extent to which we become aware of our oneness or union with Him we can safely say [not for fear of being incorrect in our deduction, but immature in our reaction] that we are the express IMAGE and LIKENESS of the PERSON expressing HIS love purposes through us towards others. In other words we mean by which the IMAGE of the INVISIBLE GOD manifests, expresses and ministers Himself to His world.
Each one of us is empowered to live by faith in who we perceive ourselves to be and consequently we will bear the fruit of that belief, either fruit unto death [Roms 7:5] or the fruit of the Spirit [Gal 5:22-24] a harvest of either self-righteousness or Christ-righteousness. [2 Cor 9:6-10] Most of us have been raised on a staple diet of Jesus died for our sins, but that is only half the Gospel – whatever happened to the other half, that Christ is my life? Without a revelation of the mystery Gospel, that it is no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me and the life that I do live I live by the faith of the Son of God [Gal 2:20].
I will never know union and live an impoverished sub-Christian life unaware that all the time I was Him in human form. We are courtesy of Last Adam, Adam at Last, Man United, united with God allowing that unity, that oneness to express itself to one another, gladly suffering for the Gospel, for one another and simply suffering one another, and in so-doing counting it all joy [Jas1: 2] knowing that producing righteousness, love, peace, patience, self-control is not a work of the flesh, but the fruit of the Spirit, the consequence of Him giving his life for you in order that He could give His life to you in order that he could live His life through you. Enabling you to say, “Ah, have we been with you so long, and you still don’t know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Son “ [Jn 14:9]