An eight-inch pipe would be her casket unless something brilliant and heroic reached her in time. It was March 26, 1986, in Midland, Texas. Jessica McClure was playing in her aunt’s backyard while her mother answered a phone call. She experienced a mother’s worst fear when she returned to the yard to find her eighteen-month-old daughter missing. Jessica had fallen twenty-two feet down a well casing. Singing “Winnie the Pooh” to herself, little Jessica could not comprehend her threatening circumstances. She needed a rescue. For the next fifty-eight hours, emergency responders, local oil-drillers, and even a roofer who was born without collarbones defied a couple dozen feet of rock and complicated drilling conditions in order to rescue the helpless child.
As I read through the first two chapters of Romans, I recognize our human condition is as hopeless as an 18 month-old child in an eight-inch well casing. However, we did not haphazardly fall into this predicament. Being fully complicit in our actions, we became victims of our own willful ignorance. “That which may be known of God is manifest in them…so they are without excuse. They did not like to retain God in their knowledge…[but] knowing the judgment of God…not only do…but have pleasure” in their uncleanness, vile affections, and reprobate minds. Even the most morally upright of mankind is “inexcusable” for though they teach what should not be done they still do “the same things.” We are our own accusers for our consciences bear witness of the law written in our hearts which God shall one day “judge the secrets of men.” Only “doers of the law shall be justified.”
We desperately need a rescue. We don’t deserve to be rescued because of our rebellious hearts, yet Jesus Christ accomplished the greatest rescue in history. He did not defy bedrock. Rather he defied death. His holiness meant death had no grip on Him. Through His resurrection and power, we now have a way of “obedience to the faith” through the righteousness of Christ. If we were only rescued from our plight yet left to live our own way, the rescue would be incomplete. Death would be like the house cat playing with a mouse. The rescue would prolong the inevitable!
The gospel of Christ has the power of complete salvation “to every one that believeth…for therein is the righteousness of God revealed.” The gospel is the message of hope for it tells us we can receive the righteousness of Christ which equals the fulfillment of the law. Through the holiness of Christ, the stranglehold of death slips away.
“The just shall live by faith!”
In 1802, Thomas Jefferson mailed his reply to the Danbury Baptist Association which has etched an imaginary chasm between church and state. He reassured them the national government would not be permitted to establish a recognized religion. In this letter, the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” has been grafted into legal proceedings. For decades, many have misconstrued this as the eradication of a religious world-view and the relegated America’s first liberty—the freedom of religion—to the pew and restricted it from public view. They denounce any overt recognition of Jesus Christ. They must remove crosses from public grounds. The bully public school teams from praying openly on the field.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul teaches the church at Corinth an important principle:
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
The same separation between church and state in the political theater parallels the misconception in believer’s lives, separation of church and life. Remember, the church is not a place you go to worship. You are the church, and your body is the temple. Many believers have dual standards of general life and worship. Some have called it the difference between the secular and sacred. God-honoring worship is a must in the church but in my car, anything goes. One should be more conscientious of their dress on Sunday, but the rest of the week modesty is a non-issue. Of course, my thoughts should be focused and filtered during worship, but the rest of my life blissfully follows my fantasies.
The separation of church and state has become a brutal vise which will squeeze religion out of politics. The separation of church and life can never bring about positive results. This lie of the devil weakens the believer’s resolve by satiating his flesh with the confections known as the pleasures of sin. If a believer is “on duty” for an hour or two on Sunday, yet they are “off duty” the rest of their lives, then who is watching the “roaring lion” walking about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). You cannot afford to be “off duty.” There is no such thing as a separation of sacred and secular in your life. You are a mobile house of worship and “whatsover ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). Live fully for Christ, unadulterated by the world.
Having knocked on doors and engaged in several gospel conversations, it is clear many have a memorial to The Unknown God. They placate this God with some right actions, with some church attendance, maybe even some financial gifts and time, however, he is an unknown God to them. They have not been arrested by the desire to know God more.
You can read about Elisha’s commendable desire in 2 Kings 2 where he would not be satisfied with a portion of the God Elijah knew in his ministry. He would not even be satisfied with an equal “serving” of the God Elijah walked with on this earth. Elisha asked for a double portion of God’s power over his life. How did Elisha get to this point in his life where this desire completely arrested him? He left everything to know this God. He was consumed with accompanying a man who knew this God. He craved to devote his life to serving this God.
The truth is God remains unknown to those who refuse to know Him. Paul acknowledges the memorial in Athens, “To the Unknown God, whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:23). Yet a few verses later in his sermon he says, “Though he be not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:27)! The very one who is “unknown” is also as close as the mention of His name. The difficulty is not getting to know God. The difficulty is swinging wide open the doors of your heart and welcoming Him in without restriction. One scribe answered Christ discreetly probably out of fear of his peers. Jesus said, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). God is not unknown because He is elusive. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
Do you hear him knocking? You may have a shrine in your heart to the Unknown God. You refuse to let Him into your heart, but you have a shrine where you lay some trinkets of your respect. Letting in God means your life will change. The invitation is the surrender of your soul.
Your hunting for the perfect gift…for yourself. It’s been something you’ve wanted for a long time. Right before you click purchase, you are taken to a page where you can completely customize your purchase. You can make it fit you! If you like zig-zags or bright colors or camouflage or flowers, you can make it your own. Your gift for yourself becomes a tool of self-expression. Pretty cool, right?
Except when it comes to following Christ. It’s irresponsible to overlay the same approach of self-expression upon the work of the Spirit. To be brutally honest, the truths of liberty in Galatians have been some of the most misinterpreted passages in Scripture. Many rush to these verses and select their style, flavor, color, and variation of what following Christ means for them. What they have actually done is abused the Spirit as a tool of self-expression! They have held the Spirit hostage as a mute sychophant who capitulates to their personal lusts.
Walking in the Spirit enables us to do the will of God. The will of God is one coin with two sides—fleeing and fulfilling. “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). The application is general enough for us to understand fornication as being anything which violates the nature of God. Anything we do which is unfaithful to God. This eliminates all blatant sin but also worldliness. Would you go without that music, that style, that attitude, that whatever for a month? No? You have an idol of self-expression which strangles the Spirit’s leading to a whimper. You’ve simply dragged the Holy Spirit against His will into your life to placate your sinful desires.
The other side of the coin is fulfilling the law. Right now, you are probably thinking, “Paul said we are liberated from the law by the Spirit.” When you walk in the Spirit you do not fulfill the lust of the flesh, but you fulfill the law of Christ which is to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. The truth is many Christians are more in love with themselves and their self-expression than living a life of absolute denial in order to flee fornication and fulfill the law of Christ.
Nowhere in Galatians (nor the Bible for that matter) does it say the Spirit liberates you to live as you deem honorable. Your will has been crucified and it is dead. Your preferences don’t matter. Your arguments for what you think is right and best are moot. When you walk in the Spirit you actually do what He deems honorable. When you walk in the Spirit you are not focused on self-expression, rather on God-expression which is displaying the holiness/unworldliness of God.
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself…This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh…And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts…Let us not be desirous of vain glory…(Galatians 5:13–14, 16, 24, 26)
The heat in one of our classrooms at church has mysteriously stopped working. The only change in recent history was when I took the thermostat cover off, to look at the wiring. We were looking at moving the unit down the wall so we could center a whiteboard on the wall. Since then, the heat has not worked. The wiring seems to be loose. With a gentle nudge of the wires, sparks fly in all different directions. Power is available, but since the connection is not strong, the heater will not work properly.
In our lives, the key to success is our connection to Christ. Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). We are often frustrated with the deficiencies in our lives (i.e. no heat from the heater) while we ignore the detachment to Christ. The energy to live a significant life is available, but because of our weak connection to Christ, the power shoots out in different directions instead of being harnessed for your life. By our intentional focus on Christ, our deficiencies disappear.
The command “Be ye holy for I am holy,” is not a command for you to manufacture holiness (see Leviticus 20:7; 1 Peter 1:15-16). According to the wisdom in Galatians 2:20, you need a transfusion. By the transfusion of Christ’s nature with our nature, our inherent worldliness fades away and the righteousness of Christ shines through. So the command of holiness is not something you do, but something Christ does as He lives in you. You must be crucified with Christ. The end of your nature creates room for Christ’s nature to overtake you. The only reason the domination of Christ’s nature has not occurred within you is that the complete annihilation of our nature has not been accomplished.
“I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31).