8. The Exchange
Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh back then. Theology can accept that. But faith says that He comes in the likeness of sinful flesh right now in me. The Word is made flesh. Jesus lives in me; I live in Him. Jesus has become me; I have become Him.
8. The Exchange
I have sought to know the Lord Jesus all my adult life. Yet I have never really begun to know Him until now. Seeing Jesus as He is brings us into a rest so complete; He in us and we in Him. I would like to share in these short letters both my experience with the Lord Jesus Christ and the truth upon which that experience is found.
There is an extraordinary series of verses in the New Testament that I have never seen together before. It would have done me no good because I used to live separate from Jesus. Oh, I believed He was in me, yes, but somehow separate from me; and I was in Him, yes, but that was theology, not personal.
What is the difference? Theology says, “It’s true.” Faith says, “It’s true in me.”
Consider these verses (I paraphrase.)
He shared in flesh and blood, that I might be released from the fear of death. Heb. 2:14-15
He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, that righteousness might be fulfilled in me. Rom. 8:3-4.
He became a curse for me, that I might receive the promise of the Spirit. Gal. 3:13-14.
He became sin for me, that I might become the righteousness of God in Him. II Cor. 5:21.
Theology says it’s true, but faith makes it personal. Theology gives a measure of salvation, but faith brings us into the intimacy of rest in Jesus that we long for.
“Jesus became like us, so that we can become like Him.”
Most Christians can accept that as an outward proposal, but is it also true inside of me? Does Jesus become me, so that I might become Him?
But I’m sinful!
Consider the last verse in the list. Jesus became my sin. If I see sin in me, I am seeing Jesus, dead upon the cross. Jesus became my sin. But Jesus never stays upon the cross. Just as surely as He became my sin, so also, He became my life.
Christ, who is our life . . . Col. 3:4
Jesus becomes me, living out His life in my humanity. All of my sin, all of my human nature, all of my “flesh,” He took into Himself and became long ago.
I look at myself, my human self, and I see Jesus. There is nothing else to see.
This is the tree of life.
Most Christians (and I, for all of my life until now) live in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The entire Old Covenant was spoken into the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was of God, yes, but not for life.
The tree of knowledge says this, “Here is me, there is God. God says, ‘Obey.’ I do the best I can to do what He says. He helps me to obey, yes, but I never really will.”
The tree of life says this, “He in me and I in Him. I am made perfect in oneness with Him.”
Here is the funny thing. Those who try to obey God, even in the power of the Holy Spirit, never find what they seek, not really. In fact, that theology drives them further and further from the One they seek. But those who abandon all separation from Jesus, those who stop “trying to obey” and simply rest in the belief that “He works the wanting and the doing of His will in me,” these, contrary to all human reason, become more and more like Him.
That is the power by which He subdues all things to Himself.
And they are not the least bit bothered when they see things inside themselves that appear human. Of course!
Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh back then. Theology can accept that. But faith says that He comes in the likeness of sinful flesh right now in me.
The Word is made flesh. Jesus lives in me; I live in Him. Jesus has become me; I have become Him.
For over thirty years, I longed to know Him. I have seen great glory; I have known great pain. But I never could know Him so long as I believed that He was separate from me.
Now, no matter whether I feel horrible and yucky or happy and anointed, it makes no difference. The only thing I see when I look at myself is Jesus. And when I look at Him, I see me.
And the sweetness and intimacy of love that my soul longed for through all those dark years is mine forever.
Jesus is my life.
At that day you will know that I am in My Father and you in Me, and I in you. Jesus, in John 14:20
This is that day.
Always before, we held the idea that this statement of Jesus is fulfilled in a geographic way. Somewhere inside of me, over there, maybe, in my “spirit,” is Jesus. From this geographic view, we get statements such as, “Jesus wants to move into every part of your life, if you will let Him.” Or, we create a theology that says, “That may be our ‘position,’ but it is not our ‘experience.’ So we have to make our position our experience.”
Both of these concepts are convenient ways of calling God a liar, and calling ourselves believers at the same time. We look at ourselves and we judge God’s claims about us to be wrong. God says “You are dead.” I look at myself and see things with my natural view that tell me that God cannot be correct. So I cook up a way of thinking (theology) that allows me to be wiser than God while imagining that I am humbly seeking Him at the same time (death to self.)
I have seen that often, those who practice “death to self” the hardest, take on a flavor of harshness and religious arrogance that is not the sweet Spirit of Jesus. Those who walk down this path of unbelief can never overcome, they can never be “dead.” Those who cannot believe that they are already dead cannot ever “die.”
Jesus says, “I am in you.” But we look at ourselves and see very un-Christ-like qualities. So we judge both ourselves and the words Jesus speaks by our carnal judgment, by what we see with our eyes. I lived for many years under the teaching, “See Christ in your brother.” But our unbelief led us to ignore that teaching in practice and pretty much see “the flesh” instead.
When Jesus said, “You are in Me.” He meant all of me. He meant my human self, my flesh, my sin, my aspirations, my hopes, my dreams, all of me - I am in Him, organically, personally, really. And when Jesus said, “I am in you.” He meant He, Jesus, is in every part of who and what I am, organically, personally, and totally.
I dare not ever to judge myself by what I see with my eyes or feel with my emotions. I will only know anything about myself by what God says. God says that Christ is my life. He says that old things are passed away and that all things in me are made brand new.
But now let me come to the truth that God has made so real to me, once again, as He does over and over. Yes, we will overcome sin and the flesh and this world and Satan and death. And we will do so in this age and on this earth. The question is how! Here is the secret. The One who fills me in all that I am has already overcome all things. But Jesus does not live in me as a mystical “force.”
No, the One who fills me is Jesus, the person, Jesus. He is the One living His life in me, in all of me.
“At that day. . .” We are in the day of the revelation of Jesus Christ; He is fulfilling all things spoken by God inside of us. Satan knows those who are marked by the election of God. We understand that the demonic realm assaults us because they are terrified. Never do we overemphasize the assault, but we bear it in faith, holding to Jesus, holding to Jesus.
The other night, I was hit with all the discouragement and despair that is so familiar to me. In my mind, I had every reason to quit. Who was I kidding? I am alone, cut off from fellowship, maybe because God has cast me off. I’m a jerk, a loser. I decided to wrap myself in despair. I did not call on Jesus.
I tried, but I could not. Jesus laughed out of my heart, throwing off the darkness, “You silly boy, you belong to Me.” Joy and faith and hope flooded me, filling me full. The darkness vanished as if it had never been.
I did not desperately cry out; I did not need to.
Listen, it is Jesus who lives in us. He is the Savior. He is the One who overcomes all things.
My part is to believe in Jesus, who lives in me.
There are two parts to this exchange. I give myself to Jesus in weakness; He gives Himself to me in power. The Jesus who lives in my humanity, lives there in power. I am so very weak. I cast myself in all of my weakness fully into Him and He carries me.
But He is so very strong. And He pours Himself, at all times, in all ways, in all of His mighty power into every part of me. It is Jesus who wills to fill me. I did not choose Him; He chose me. And He chooses to be Himself in me.
I know those who have walked with all commitment and zeal for 40 years or more, believing that they must obey, overcome, die to self, before Jesus will fill them in all of His fullness. They can never, ever believe that that moment is come. If they persisted in their faithful pursuit of a Jesus who is separate from their weakness for ten thousand years, at the end of that time, we would find them as they are now, hoping that some day, some day, they will overcome and then, Jesus will reveal Himself in them.
Of all unbelief on this planet, Christian unbelief, pursued with all zeal and faithfulness, is the very saddest of all.
I will never become like Jesus until I know that Jesus has become me. Then, as I delight in the pure joy that the simplicity of faith in my complete and utter oneness with Jesus, my Savior, gives, I discover what I know to be true.
Jesus is power. And that power changes me, from the inside out. He changes me to be like He is, not because I try, but because He is.
But never do I worry when I imagine that I don’t look like Jesus. Jesus is living His life in my life, in both the utterly human and the inconceivably divine.
All that I am as a man, I am utterly in Jesus. And all that Jesus is, as both man and God, He is utterly in me. As Jesus said, He and I are one.