Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Christmas Treat to You

Reading this will not be a waste of your time.

The Holy Baby
Written by Ron Block

We’ve heard it hundreds of times - the Bible story of the Redeemer’s birth. The Baby in a manger, Silent Night, the angels and the shepherds, the wise men following the star. As a boy I grew up knowing Jesus came to save me from the consequences due my sins, that He came to shed His blood for me so that I could go to heaven. I didn’t learn until 30 that that was only half the reason.

In the Messiah’s birth, God struck a tent of human flesh and entered our human situation. He set aside his omnipotence and took on the feebleness of an infant; He laid down his omniscience and accepted the absorbent, blank consciousness of a baby; He gave up his omnipresence and localized himself in a human body. Why?

Adam and Eve had taken the wrong road, the way of self-effort, the path of false independence from God; Eve, rather than believing God, believed the lie of the Serpent that the human itself could be like God, knowing good and evil, and not die; the implication was that she could choose good and gain eternal life apart from God. Instead of eating of the tree of Life, which is Christ, they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and so became infected with “..the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.” (Eph 2:2). This spirit of independence, of self-effort, self-actualization and self-improvement, is at the heart of the world system; performance-based acceptance is the fuel the Matrix runs on. Every world religion is steeped in it, and even much of Christendom is tainted by what Jesus called “the leaven of the Pharisees.”

But there’s a major problem with human effort - it doesn’t work. The end result of it is either self-condemnation or self-righteousness, both springing from the same source - false independence from God. The entire history of humanity is one of fallen dreams, dashed hopes, unreachable utopias. We’re not meant to run on our own effort, our own vision, our own ways and means of coping, because really there is no such thing as human independence from God. “He that is not with Me is against Me.” This is an either-or situation. We are either in union with Christ through dying with Him on the Cross, or we are still powered by the mindset of the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.” Self-effort or inner reliance on Christ are the only two options available to us.

Jesus said, “Only God is good.” The perfect Man said of His humanity, “I can do nothing of Myself,” and “The Father in Me does the works.” He claimed that the only source of righteousness in the entire universe was God Himself, that at the heart of His humanity was the God who had created humans to be expressions of Himself. God in the flesh He was, and is - yet He set aside everything to become a human being indwelt, directed, and empowered only by the Spirit. “I do as I see My Father doing.” Though He was God, He lived as an ordinary man who had to trust the indwelling Spirit.

The holy Baby was born to become what we are meant to be - a vessel, a cup, indwelt by the Wine of Spirit. He “learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” As our representative He came to take our place in life, and having done that He traded places with us in death as if He were the sinner. The angel told Joseph in Mt 1:21 “ shall call His name JESUS; for He shall save his people from their sins.” Jesus came to save us from being a sin people - not merely saving us from the consequences due our sins, but from being the kind of people who commit them. I came to the point in my Christian life where I realized I didn’t want God’s forgiveness anymore if He didn’t change my behavior; the hamster wheel of self-effort, of try-sin-repent-try-sin-repent ad nauseum had done its holy work. I was utterly spun out on self-effort, and came to the place in my consciousness where I began to agree with God, in spite of appearances, that I was ‘dead with Christ’ and ‘raised with Him to walk in newness of life’; it was at that point I began to see real life change. The old “I”, the old union with the prince of the power of the air, had long ago died in Christ, and the new union with Him became operational the moment I put my faith in Him. It took years for me to see that fact, and I’m just now beginning to appropriate it.

The Baby of Bethlehem was born so I could become right with God - and not only right with Him, but indwelt, directed, and empowered by Him. That infinite inheritance is available in the here and now - Christ is now our peace, our patience, our holiness, our love, our life. He is our all in all. But in order to access that inheritance, we have to let go of the mindset of self-effort, of self-improvement, of self-actualization. I don’t at all mean our actions shouldn’t be good actions - but what we must recognize is at the heart of our inner being, Christ lives, and we are complete in Him, holy, and acceptable to God. We don't start at the bottom of the mountain of holiness and start the climb; God has put us at the top in Christ. All that remains is to rely on the indwelling Overcomer. That is why Paul could say both, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” and “I press forward to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” “When I am weak, then I am strong,’” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We are to trust violently in the indwelling Spirit, always reaching to trust more fully. We “cease from our own works” but “labor to enter His rest.” We move over from self-effort to putting our concentration on inner reliance, from trying to be good to living from His indwelling righteousness.

He was born in a common stable filled with the dirt, manure, and junk of animality. God is still striking tents in the dirt and grit of human flesh; He is still entering the messy human situation. Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, but through Him by grace we become His brothers and sisters; the Spirit of Jesus Christ washes, enters, indwells, directs, and empowers His people. Eze 36:27 says, “...I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” That’s why the holy Baby was born.

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