Once a person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, it doesn't take them long to realize that is impossible to do what Jesus commanded in the gospels through human effort. For example, Jesus said in Matthew chapter 5 that we should love our enemies, bless them, to do good to them, and to pray for them, but if we are honest with ourselves we would have to admit that these things are hard to do.
Looking back on most of my Christian life, I must admit that when someone had done wrong to me, revenge was the more natural course to take than to forgive them. And to bless, to do good, and to pray for them? I had to concede that only Jesus could to those things. The truth is that only Jesus can live the Christian life, and He lives it in us through the Holy Spirit. Until we realize that the Christian life is a life that is lived in the power of the Spirit of Christ, all that Jesus said in Matthew chapters 5-7 will be impossible to do.
I have talked with many sincere believers who spend much time in prayer, studying the Bible, and doing the things they think would please God, but yet they find it difficult to deal with life's problems. They know what the Bible says about their situations, but it seems hard for them to grasp the reality of Jesus living in them during their crisis. Though they have sought for answers from their spiritual leaders, they have yet to find real solutions to their problems.
I received a call from a minister who said in a frustrated manner, "I need an answer. What do I do about my co-workers; they profess to be saved, but their behavior (towards me) is unbecoming as Christians. I have tried (as far as I know) to do what the Bible has said, but nothing has changed. What do I do now?"
Although this person has been an evangelist for more than 25 years and knew what the scriptures had to say in this area, the words that she had read and quoted from the scriptures had no reality for her in that situation. She said that she had tried (as far as she knew how) to do what the Bible had said concerning this problem, but nothing seemed to help. To make matters worse, she said that she had begun to develop hard feelings towards her Christian co-workers due to the continual persistence of the problem.
There are many believers all over the world who like this minister, and are faced with difficult circumstances with seemingly no hope of relief. What we need in times like these is more than the deadness (though well meaning) of dry words to bring relief to our wounded and broken lives. Just to know what the bible says is not enough. We need to see the reality of our union with Christ and that it is He living His life (in all of His sufficiency) in and through us no matter what the outward circumstances may be.
God has brought us into fellowship with Himself through Christ to live in and enjoy His abundant life. But you may say, "I can't do it," and how true that statement is. Until we embrace the reality of our inability to live the Christian life (much less solve life's crisis), and to accomplish God's will and purpose out of our strength, abilities, and resources, all of our paths in life will inevitably lead to frustration.
Let us go back to the basics. What does it mean to be a Christian? There are those who define a Christian as, "a person who has accepted the Jesus as their Lord and Savior and thus has been forgiven of their sins and redeemed by the blood of Christ. This person now has eternal life, and is going to heaven when he or she dies." That is a good definition, but let us take it further by adding that "This person having believed on the Lord Jesus and received eternal life - is joined in vital union (made one) with Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Therefore the Holy Spirit works in this person, moment by moment manifesting in and through him or her all that Christ is."
This additional meaning adds one-ness and takes away the sense of us being separated from Jesus that the former definition implies. When a person is born-again, the Holy Spirit brings the believer into vital union with Christ right then, and we can see this in I Corinthians 6:17, for God's word tells us; "but he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit."
Many Christians interpret (although not intentionally) a separation (being apart) from Christ. Let me explain what I mean. The first definition that I gave of a Christian tells us what has been done (past), and what will be done (future), but gives little hope to us now. Yes we were forgiven (past), and we were redeemed (past), but this definition delegates all the benefits of our forgiveness and redemption to the future hope of going to heaven when we die without taking in account of their benefits to our present living.
Even though many Christians say, "we have eternal life," they think of it only in terms of living forever and coming into possession of it after they die, and when they get to heaven (future). The problem here is that we don't live in the past or the future. It is true that we learn from the mistakes as well as build upon the successes of our past, and yes we need hope for our future, but we need Christ living in us for the now - present moment by moment daily living!
There are many Christians who only see Jesus as the disciples did in the Gospels. They see him walking over there, coming by, stopping in, visiting, and showing up to help. These Christians have not seen the revelation of the one-ness of all believers with Jesus and the Father through the Holy Spirit. Look at Jesus' prayer to the Father for those who believed in Him in St. John 17: 21-23 He prayed; "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me."
When believers are ignorant of their union with Christ, they are at the mercy of their circumstances. They are often burdened with the spirit of despair, and feeling that they are forsaken and all alone. Instead of resting in the assurance of Jesus always being there (in them), they become frustrated through worry hoping that God will show up in time to save them out of their troubles. These are the believers who hopefully embrace the words of the saying; "He (Jesus) may not come when you want Him, but He is always on time."
We can trace all of mankind's problems straight back to the Garden of Eden when Adam was deceived into believing the lie that he could be independent and self-sufficient. Even though we are born again, many of us still believe this lie. Until we see that we are living in union with Christ, and He is living in us for the purpose of being our life (our all), and thus expressing His life and nature in and through us by His Spirit, we will subconsciously see ourselves managing ourselves. We will also see ourselves facing our circumstances and fighting life's battles alone in our strength, instead of embracing the reality of the fact that Jesus said that He will always be with us, and that He will never leave us without support because He is our life.
We were born into the deluded state of being self-sufficient and able to manage ourselves, and it is usually through much tribulation that we come to realize that we need God. Tragically though, after receiving Jesus as our savior, most of us still remain under the delusion that we are independent (self-managed persons). Therefore the struggle goes on to manage ourselves, and to deal with life within our strength until we receive the revelation of who are, and why we were created.
To give us a clearer picture of this, I will further add to the definition of a Christian. "A Christian is a person who having believed on the Lord Jesus and received eternal life - is joined in vital union (made one) with Jesus by the Holy Spirit, and thus the believer and Christ live as one through the Holy Spirit. Therefore the Holy Spirit works in this person, moment by moment manifesting in and through him or her all that Christ is in all that makes up life."
Now that we know what a Christian is, let us look at the dilemma of the minister faced with the problem with her co-workers. First of all, we must realize that we do not live our lives separate from Jesus. Remember that, "he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit." There is no Christianity apart from being vitally united to Christ. We share one common life - His; but before we can really appreciate the truth of that statement, we must receive the revelation that we also shared in His death.
Galatians 2:20 tells us; "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." The old sinful defeated life that we had before we were saved was put away in Christ Jesus' death, and when Jesus arose from the dead, we arose out of death in His resurrection to forever live in the strength of His new life. Therefore all of life is now lived in the place of total dependence on Christ through our union with Him. He is now living in and through us, and we living in and through Him. It was for this reason that we were created in the first place. Just as the branch is united to the vine, we are united to Christ. This means that we never face the elements of life alone, and in our strength and resources.
Instead of this dear sister recognizing that she was just a dependent branch of the true vine (Christ) by which the Holy Spirit expresses Him (Christ), she saw herself as the manager of her life and circumstances. As long as everything seemed to be under (her) control, she had a false sense of security in her deluded state of being self-sufficient. This situation between her and her co-workers merely pointed out her inability to produce the fruit of the Christian life. Every mature believer knows that the fruit of the Spirit, i.e. love, joy, peace, temperance and longsuffering, etc. should be manifested in our lives in situations like these, but most of us like this dear sister, manifest the works of the flesh instead of the fruit of the Spirit. God tells us in Galatians 5 that, "if we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh, which simply means that the essence of the Christian life is to be led (managed) by the Holy Spirit who is in us producing the fruit of the Spirit.
The key to this sister's problem is not to be found in studying, in confessing the word, or in fasting and prayer, but rather in realizing that she has been joined in vital union with Christ by the Holy Spirit. It is in recognizing (by revelation of the Holy Spirit) that she was made one with the Lord Jesus the moment that she accepted Him into her heart (see I Corinthians 6:17). This means that she does not have to face that situation or handle life's problem on her own. Christ is her (our) sufficiency and He lives within her (us), who is the victory that overcomes every adverse circumstance. To realize this would have led her to depend totally on the Holy Spirit to manifest Christ in and through her in that particular situation. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." This is not a cliché or just mere words to be taken lightly, but the reality of how the Christian life is lived.
The apostle Paul asked the question in Romans chapter 6; "know ye not that as many as have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death?" Paul also wrote in the epistle to the Galatians, "...For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." In these scriptures the Holy Spirit unveils the glorious reality of us (believers) being made one with Christ in His death, resurrection and in our daily Christian experience. In fact we are so one with Jesus that He (Jesus) compared the oneness of our relationship with Him to the relationship of a vine and its branches, and made the statement, "without me you can do nothing."
Therefore in all of life (and confrontations that we encounter), Jesus is our life, wisdom and strength, leading and directing our every path, and bearing all of life's cares and burdens. When we know this we find rest and assurance in Christ who is our life. Every problem and circumstance that confronts us is in reality confronting Christ who is in us, and all that He is. Therefore we can take courage realizing that in this very moment (and in every moment), He (God) is effectively working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
Theory Stringer is the Pastor of the Community House of Prayer, and president and founder of Cherubim Communications. He is the author of 4 books that are designed to help ordinary people experience the abundant life. Find out more about how you can get your Christian manuscript published, as well as read the many articles available at: http://cherubimcommunications.org