Hidden in Christ — practically

28 05 2012

A major theme in my spiritual journey of the last few years has been the way God continually brings us through cycles of death-burial-resurrection in order to conform us to the image of His Son. This post delves into that a bit.

For the person who has, through conversion to Jesus, died to his own life agenda — in effect being crucified with Christ — that person, when yielded to God will be compelled to live out the life of the resurrected Jesus. How will this gospel, in its death, burial and resurrection, display itself? Paul develops this, by inspiration of the Spirit, in his Colossian letter. Let’s consider the first four verses of chapter three.

Christ our life

As we live out the gospel, the focus of our life is on God and His life. Our reason for living is not earth-bound, not material, but heavenly and eternal. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1, NKJV).

All the capacities of our mind increasingly align with this Godward focus. Our ambitions (those dreams of achievement) now lean into God. Our decisions (the evaluative processes and resultant judgments) now draw from God’s perspective. Our values (the core of what we hold true and lasting) now come from our life in Christ in whom we are permanently secured. As Paul puts it, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” And again the reason is that the gospel is now the pattern of our growth spiritually: “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:2-3).

In the big, end-time view (the eschatalogical view) the resurrection aspect of the gospel re-emerges on earth with the re-appearance of Christ in glory. That will be the time of reward for our death and burial with Christ — the sufferings and willing self-denials of our earthly life — for we will share in the unveiling of Christ’s glory. In fact we will be a part of amplifying His glory! “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). [The “who is” is supplied by the translators. I prefer the bluntness of the Greek, “Christ our life.”]

But there are many foretastes of this glory in the meantime as our death-to-self leads to manifestation of the character of Jesus in us. Our ongoing conformity to Christ is a present glory that points to the coming breakout of glory when in His presence we will be fully conformed to Him, for we will see Him as He is!

So what do we take away from this?

First, this is what God is working on in our lives. This is His gospel agenda for growing us, perfecting us. Through our consumption of the Word, through our experiences (mostly difficult), through our community life, God causes the Jesus-life to take increasing prominence in us. That is reassuring, and a source of understanding. It helps us figure out why some things happen to us and those we care about.

Second, Jesus looms much larger in our everyday life. He is not up in heaven sipping lemonade. He is, by His Spirit, living His life through us. “Christ our life” means He is the sphere in which we find existence and vitality.

Third, the condition of our health cannot detract from this reality. In fact, the suffering we may endure in our physical body may enhance the reality of the gospel in us, because it forces us to cast ourselves on the life of Jesus rather than relying on what we can accomplish with our own know-how or energy. My wife’s ongoing weakness as a cancer-survivor is a daily reminder that God is more desirous of our dependency than our ability.

Lastly, every experience we encounter serves God’s gospel purpose in our lives. We must assign gospel meaning to our confounding experiences, for they fit into the pattern of maturation God uses. This must be an act of faith, for we usually cannot figure out why unwanted things occur. In this way, our walk with God continues to be one of faith, which always pleases God.