The purpose of Christ’s redeeming work was to make it possible for bad men to become good—deeply, radically, and finally.
~A. W. Tozer (1897-1963)
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that One has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
~ from 2 Corinthians 5
Oh beloved, it is true. The profoundest of mysteries in the gospel, is that a believer has fully, completely and absolutely died. But, instead of this death being the end of it all – it becomes the true beginning a now-real life which will never (read not ever) end.
We have begun to become the right action of G_d. We are being built into the very foundation of His throne. We are now, the hands and feet of the One who saved and is saving us to the day. We now – even in our (especially this writer’s) profound stumbling – are the visible manifestation of the G_dhead on this earth.
Now, this writer sees and feels the after-effects of the old man in his life. And it is in moments of failure that i wonder if i can ever actually be an effective ambassador for the One who is now attempting to work through me. i, like Paul, and so many of us, am often beside myself with passion over the lost – and my desires to bring people to the light often cause some to scatter away. Our presentations of the gospel become somewhat tainted by the fact that we are trying to present out of the depths of our soul – instead of in the power of the infinite Spirit at work within us.
And He gives more grace. Through a passage. Through a picture. Through a friend.
He shows and gives and pours His peace out on us. As we weep over our own weakness and failure, He mercifully begins to show us the decision we came to at the beginning of our relationship with Him. We re-come to the end of ourselves, and see – like a new convert coming up out of the waters of baptism – that the true joy is in the new Life HE has given to us.
Our expectations about the positions and places He has moved us into, reset back into the simple truth that Christ has reconciled us to Himself already. And this One mighty to save, is One who does not change and cannot lie. The ministry He has given us, is a work which He has already accomplished. And the lie we (some of us) were beginning to believe is that our work was something we were doing FOR Him – instead of Him doing it THROUGH us.
Can we see it? We could never do the job we thought we were doing anyway. When our lives are becoming effective, it is indeed Jesus controlling us, living through us, and manifesting His presence in the world. And when our lives begin to ebb from usefulness in the kingdom, it is generally because we are trying to accomplish something in our own strength – that He generally never even called us to do. We just start doing it because it seems like a good idea. But assumptions usually simply leave us looking like the first three letters of the second word of this sentence.
For this fool of a writer, the last few days have shown him the profound failures his life yields when he lives to fulfill some sort of mission for G_d. And in the same few days, this same G_d has shown this fool the profound power of His Spirit at work within me, Who can accomplish His own good will – even as the ambassador screws up the message and the mission.
Weeks like this are the most painful. Weeks like this are the very best. They remind us, like the picture above, that it is the joyful resurrection He has brought about in our new Lives which is the power at work within us. Oh how He Loves you and me. Oh how able He is to complete that which He has begun.
We are, beloved, dead. And this is the best news we have ever heard.