I've been dwelling on this verse a lot lately:
"For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus."
It's a lovely thing to think about and just rest in. Right now, we are just as much seated with Jesus as we are living down here.
There is no need to go searching for Jesus, because our very lives are hidden in Him, right where He is.
I've been understanding something in a new way lately, though I'm still very much thinking these things through, so I'm just sort of talking out loud.
I know that my spirit has been born again, that it is a new creation.
But, I think our souls are not. I've been learning that our souls are the mind- our reason and perception and consciousness, and the emotions.
I think this is why Paul says that we should renew our mind- because our mind and emotions hold all the pain and injuries and misconceptions of this current life, while our spirit holds the mind of Christ and is hidden in Him.
So, sometimes it's like we're holding two worldviews.
We're holding the eternal and lasting and true worldview- that we are the children of God, born in Him, that we are the righteousness of Christ and sanctified in Him and made perfect. This is the spiritual worldview.
But we're also holding the former worldview, the one of what was past- that we are imperfect, unacceptable, capable of perfecting ourselves, and the idea or hope we can find satisfaction and fulfillment in the things of this world. This is the carnal worldview.
The former worldview is no longer true, but our poor minds and emotions are kind of stuck there sometimes. This is, I think, the well spring for much of our confusion and distress in this life.
I think the more we can joyfully abandon ourselves to the eternal truths, to our true and lasting identities, the stronger that identity will become in our mind and emotions.
I think this is why guilt, shame and fear are not helpful in character development.
Our true character is in Christ. Out of unity in Him -abiding in Him- we produce the fruits of the spirit, which define our character and give glory to the Father.
There is no room or purpose for guilt, shame and fear in our unity in Christ.
I used to try and use these things like motivational tools -like Medieval monks who used to flay themselves over the shoulder with whips- but all this did was to reinforce my former identity.
They did nothing but hold me back. It was as though I were running from Jesus, instead of resting in Him.
It's very like the healing process from sexual abuse.
At a certain point, I had the choice to either embrace the emotions engendered by that abuse, thus perpetuating my identity as a victim, long after it had finished.
Or, I could release that identity and recognize that I am not there anymore, that it is not happening to me anymore and it doesn't define me, even if I still feel the echoes of the pain.
(Forgive me all my italics- the process of writing this out is causing my understanding of it to explode all over my head. Hence the italics)
Here's an even trickier part of this whole equation.
I'm leaning more and more toward the understanding that self will is of the mind.
Therefore, self will is carnal, not spiritual.
So, back in the day, when I tried with every once of my own self will to make myself acceptable to God, not only did I fail spectacularly in being acceptable, but I only managed to develop a toxic combination of shame and religious arrogance.
If I succeeded in something, I knew it was because I myself had subjected my own flesh or mind, by the strength of my self will.
Therefore, I could be self satisfied, thinking somehow that I had made myself more spiritually acceptable to God.
If I failed in something, I knew it was because I was a miserable sinner, subjected to the law of my flesh and mind and not spiritual enough to succeed.
See? I had drawn all the lines wrong, because I was drawing them myself. I couldn't reach spiritual perfection using carnal strength, and I certainly was not experiencing any intimacy, joy or life in my day to day relationship with Jesus.
When I gave up self will, and surrendered helpless into Jesus, He Himself drew all my lines. I think this may be one reason why Jesus said His strength is made perfect in weakness.
In Christ, we have faith expressed in love, and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God, that no one may boast.
It makes me think of Paul saying this to those crazy Galatians:
"Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.
But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love."
It seems that it's either all free gift through the perfect and finished work of Jesus that we accept by faith expressed in love and that we live out through His Spirit, producing lovely fruits of the spirit to the glory of the Father or it's obedience to the entire law through self will, doomed to failure and leading to sin and death.
But I don't think it can be both.