“In Him I live and move and have my being”.
I used to think that quote from Paul meant that “I” no longer existed. I laid down my life and become consumed by Christ living in me. (“It is not I that live, but Christ that lives in me”.) There is an extent that this is true, but the fullness of this is much, much more. It has to do with identity. The big question we all have to eventually answer in order to be healthy is “Who am I?” We are only partly who we are without our connection to Jesus Christ, who embodies the fulfillment of all things. He is our completion. The rest of the story begins at birth and lasts a lifetime. As a child, I used to be taught that our time down on earth, before we are called to “our heavenly home” was a time of testing and service; sort of trial by fire to see what we are made of. The better we do the bigger our mansion in heaven. Are there any stars in your crown? Have you prayed, read the Bible, witnessed? In later years those messages faded into “you walk by faith, not by sight” which could also be interpreted as something to be measured by. The basic orientation to our earthly existence tends toward performance. Depending on our personality, we learn to try harder, give up, slip-slide hoping no one notices, or rebel. I believe the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as well as the sum total of Jesus life on earth had nothing to do with how we (or He) perform, but everything to do with clearing that out of our lives, and living the simple gospel of “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and your neighbor as yourself”.
I have come to think that our earthly existence is less a proving ground, and more an expression through us of God’s love and mercy to all of His creation. We are called to bless, as He has blessed us. Out of the fullness of our hearts, having discovered His mighty grace and forgiveness, we are the agents that offer hope to those caught in the web of confusion, performance and despair. If there is a task for us, it is that. Beyond that, God simply delights in the uniqueness of all that he has created, and delights in our delight. He has the same joy that a loving earthly parent has when children realize who they are and become joyful in manifesting their potential. Perhaps it takes a lifetime to make that discovery, but to a God who doesn’t live in time, but lives in eternity, it doesn’t matter. There is no “look at all that time you wasted” or, “you could have done better” or “why didn’t I know this before?” There is NO performance timeline. I’m not saying that He is patient with rebellion. That is another matter. Scripture is clear about God’s views on a hard and rebellious heart. I am saying that whenever that self-discovery…that understanding that our unique, personal self is fully completed when we are “In Christ”…takes place, God and all the angels rejoice! That is what redemption is: A free gift. Redemption, like “being saved” is a life process and one we can rejoice in, no matter when it happens or how long it takes.