The Bible only expresses what we all know, that “There is none righteous, no, not one.”
It’s something of a relief to know that we don’t have to pretend any more.
So when the world’s thinkology blithely encourages us to “Be who you really are” it takes no account of those inner feelings of inadequacy or guilt. What if the person that you really are is damaged and hurting?
Far from ignoring that point,or glossing over it, or pretending it doesn’t matter, the Bible both acknowledges the fact and offers a solution: “You must be born again.”
That’s more than a metaphor for change. It’s a spiritual reality; it’s the powerfully transformative experience of allowing God to work in your life.
So from the Bible’s perspective “You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3) Christ has become the new centre, the starting-point of this new life.
All the old way of thinking is passing away…
I guess we have to use the present tense there, because it takes time for our minds to adjust.It’s like moving house from one country to another. You have to learn the language, and adapt to the new conditions, the new culture and customs. I’m not talking about fitting into a local church -the new way of thinking is much more radical than that! For a start, according to Paul, the old distinctions don’t count any more. You can’t distinguish between male or female, rich or poor, one class or religion or another. (Galatians 3:28)
We have much to learn, don’t we? We constantly make such distinctions.
But living out of this new centre means a radically transformed worldview. Any form of patriotism is redundant because we are ” citizens of heaven.” And equally redundant is any form of gender-distinction or racial bias or ageist slant or job applicants judged on class or educational background…. do you see how wide the ripples spread?
This new “culture” is like no other. You have “died” to the old one. This is the reason that some groups of Christians refuse to vote, or participate in wars, or even partake of state benefits or pensions. They say, “We may be “in the world” but we are “not of it.” ”
Paul even went a little further. You are not simply “dead” to the world, but “crucified.” This refers not just to life-choices (Should I vote? Should I defend my country in its hour of need?” Should I get a pension-plan?) but to the way you face life’s deeper,emotional challenges.
It is a truism to say that Hardships reveal who you really are, but if Christ is the secret centre, then when I am at my worst moments of pain,upset and vulnerability, I am driven closer to Christ and to the cross.
Does that mean that the times of pain in my life can be redemptive? Is that what it means to “carry the cross”?
No one is exempt from hard times.It could be due to heartbreak, a job loss, disappointment, a death in the family or a divorce. All can be truly tragic and upsetting to the rhythm of your life and dreams. So how do you respond? During every hardship, you can choose to remain stagnant and fearful or you can choose something else, something new and unexpected; something drawn from the secret centre of your life in Christ.
For “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
To put it at its simplest level: How do you act when you’re upset?
Amy Carmichael used to examine that word “upset” in relation to a full glass of water. When it is “upset” then what is inside will come out. Similarly, when you are upset, the inner you will be known by your outer behaviour. For “by their fruits, shall you know them.”
If getting upset or disappointed involves you taking your anger out on others (verbally or even physically), you are revealing yourself negatively. Even on a basic human scale, it makes people want to step away from you and not be your friend. It repels good people from your life.
But if you are living out of the secret centre of your life, you will respond with a different spirit. “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20). Love, peace and self- control are the sweet fruit that the Spirit of Christ is developing within you.
So pay attention to how you react when pushed. Never forget, as Mark Twain once wrote, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
Live out of your new identity. Choose it. Practise it every single time someone nicks your parking spot, or some Thing happens that throws you momentarily off-balance. If your life is like mine, these things come on a twenty-minute cycle. And what do you do?
Here’s an ABC guide, a primer: You start with with a guard on your lips.
“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3:8)