12. Perfection Requires a Weak Body
It is astonishing that our physical body is still subject to death. The fact that a Christian dies physically and his body goes into the grave is something hard to believe, because it is not the intent or expectation of the gospel. We presently possess eternal life from God, that means immortality and all the perfection of Christ. The expectation of the gospel is that we live and not die.
12. Perfection Requires a Weak Body
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you . . . For the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:11 & 18
Romans 8 is the heart of the gospel, our being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We find ourselves in an in-between place, conceived of God, yes, but not yet born of God into the full light of day. We are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, because the Spirit of God is in us. However, death still works against our bodies, in spite of the presence of the Holy Spirit; therefore our bodies die.
It is astonishing that our physical bodies are still subject to death. Physical death for a Christian is hard to believe, because it is not the intent of the gospel. We are separated from the law of sin and death. Christ was made a curse for us, and we are made the righteousness of God in Christ. We are born again, conceived of God. We stand in the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. We presently possess eternal life from God, that means immortality and all the perfection of Christ. The expectation of the gospel is that we live and not die.
But we are in this in-between place. And Paul teaches us we are in a fight.
Although we are conceived of God, we have not yet come forth into the full light of day. God has given us this awesome privilege, to share with Jesus in His victory. Having a dying body is a privilege. We share in His glory as we share in His victory, and we share in His victory as we share in His fight.
God allows us by faith in His word to battle against the law of sin and death, against the accuser of the brethren trying to keep us attached to what is dead in our minds. It is Jesus in us bringing down the enemy, bringing captive into obedience every thought to His life, suffering with Him in a body still subject to death. God does this for us because we share in His glory as we share in His victory. And we share in His victory as we ourselves win against the accuser.
God is not displeased with us; that is a satanic understanding of where we stand. Rather, God has given us the continued presence of death so that we have the awesome privilege of swallowing it up in the victory of the Lord Jesus.
We cannot know glory apart from victory and we cannot know victory apart from the fight. We could be handed all the wonders of heaven on a silver platter, but none of it is glory unless we share in His fight. That is where we stand.
Paul says, "Listen, brethren, the awesome privilege. We are debtors." To have this treasure of Christ in earthen vessels! To have a human body, a human frame. God has so honored us by giving us the privilege and honor of defeating death with Jesus our life, of casting down the accuser with Jesus our life, of bringing an end to the world system with Jesus our life.
We have no debt to the flesh. If we imagine that we are still subject to the law of sin and death, we will die. If we live in the imagination that we are some self separate from Christ, and that the cross of Jesus is something we are always escaping from and always dragging ourself back to - that is living in the flesh. We don't live there; we live in the law of the Spirit of life.
Now, a believer could still be convinced that there is value in their lives in this world separate from Jesus. If they want to pursue the lust of their body and build a life for themselves in this world, yes, they will die. Their bodies will die and go into the grave. We don't know how long they will wait until they are ready to value this privilege instead of the emptiness of life in this world.
But you see, Paul isn't writing to those. God knows who belongs to Him. Paul here is speaking to those who yearn for Jesus, who want to be with Him in His glory. Those who in their weakness and inability cry, "Oh Father, if you are doing anything in the earth, don't pass me by, don't leave me out. Jesus, I want to be with you. I don't want to be anywhere else.
My God, in that day - in that day when He stands in His glory, to be anywhere else but by His side, with Him, standing in Him in His glory is inconceivable. It is a horror that cannot even be looked at. Oh Father! To be with Him in His glory is everything. It is everything. The mud puddles, the cesspools of this world, vanish into nothingness as if they never were.
To be with Jesus in His glory - there is nothing else to look at or consider.
Whatever we go through in the sufferings of this present time is not worthy of being set against the glory that will be revealed inside of us. When Jesus stands in His glory, it will be inside the victory He wins in us.
. . . but if, by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.Romans 8:13-14
We must understand this - putting to death the deeds of the body. It is not literal, because we do not do anything except in the body. Even lying in bed is a deed of the body, getting up is a deed of the body, going to work, coming home again, these are all deeds we do in the body. Paul is not talking about that.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4
Our old life is dead, and we are hidden with Christ in God. Christ is our life, we recognize no other life. Therefore, because Christ is our life, we turn and "put to death" our earthly members. Paul names the "deeds of the body."
. . . fornication, uncleanness, passsion, evil desire, and coventousness, which is idolatry. . . anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Colossians 3:5 & 8
Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where . . . Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another and forgiving one another . . . But above all these things put on the love, which is the bond of perfection. Colossians 3:9-12
We put off the outer things because we have already put off the old man of sin who does them. Then, as we know the life of Jesus in us, as the knowledge of His love inside of us increases, we are transformed.
We bring every part of ourselves including our bodies into the sphere of salvation, seeing in our minds His nature triumphant in our bodies. We stand firmly in Him. We are not going in and out. We are not in trouble with God. The law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus is the foundation on which we stand. The Spirit of life lives in us, in our spirits, in our minds, and in our bodies. He transforms our minds so that we believe God. That same Spirit is working in our bodies.
God always leads us in triumph. He leads us in triumph!
So we get angry. It is easy to think that anger is my problem, and that unless I get anger under control, God is displeased with me. If we live in that way of thinking, we will always live under the weight of not pleasing God, of living under a God who is far separate from us. We fight with this anger, it just gets the better of us, and we see ourselves in the flesh.
The working of God in our lives is from an entirely different viewpoint. We live in the mindset of one who is filled with the life of the Spirit of Christ; we know our Father. Jesus is our life; we recognize no other life. Now He, from the inside out, transforms that anger into good. Christ Himself brings out through our bodies His tender mercies, His kindness, His love for other people, the river of life that flows out of our hearts, moving through us, that God in us might bless and touch and bring life and healing to others.
This is our glory, to triumph over, to swallow up the death that still works against our bodies by Christ Himself in us.
Do you see how God has positioned us. We cannot condemn the body, even though it still dies. Paul makes it very clear that I myself am with Christ. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that Holy Spirit is right now working in our bodies to transform them with the power of the resurrection life of Jesus.
We have been given this privilege, because if we did not have death remaining in our bodies, we would not be able to share in the fight of Jesus, or to know His victory, or to receive His glory as ours personally and true.
We must have the perspective of God found here in 2 Corinthians 2:14.
Now thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
This is how God leads us. This is our present reality, not something we hope for, maybe some day.
Believe what God speaks, He always leads us in triumph.
Some pastors have changed this to read, "He always causes us to triumph," they really are not saying, "triumph," they are saying "win." God causes us to win. And this is true. It is right to believe that God causes us to win.
But, you see, triumph and winning are two different things!
When you live in the life of the One who is in you, you are fighting to win. At the moment your enemy is totally defeated and you have won life for your physical body, at that moment you win. God does cause us to win.
But triumph is not winning; triumph normally comes right after the win.
Think of it this way. The Superbowl is the end game of the season. Whichever team wins is the greatest team in America for a year and will enjoy all that glory. "Joe" has trained for years; he has prepared himself. He has disciplined his body, placing his whole focus on the knowledge of the game.
It is just a few seconds before the final bell; the score is even - tied. Joe's side has the ball; he runs, evading his opponent. The quarterback sees him and throws the ball to him. With all of his skill and training, in that moment, Joe leaps high into the air, catches the ball, and comes down on the other side of the finish line. The bell rings, and his team has won. In that moment, Joe won the victory.
That is winning, and yes, God does cause us to win. But that is not triumph.
The triumph comes moments later as Joe is suddenly grabbed by many hands. He is pushed up into the air, finding himself on his back on the upraised hands of his team mates. He sees the night sky, the lights of the stadium all around. He sees the crowds around the periphery of his vision all on their feet, shouting, "Joe, Joe, Joe," in unison. He knows he won; he knows he brought victory. Everyone knows he won. He lies there basking in the glory that will always be his.
That moment is triumph.
The word "triumph" is a Roman word describing the return of a victorious general who is LED by Caesar through the crowds of the city celebrating a victory already won. Because the general was led by Caesar, all the glory of Caesar rested upon him.
So, you can cause to win, but you lead in triumph. Triumph is the celebration of glory after the victory has been won.
Paul makes the claim that right now, on this side of the sea before the waters open, on this side of the victory before it is completed, God leads us in the procession of triumph. We are always led in the very triumph of having won.
We do not doubt, "Shall I win? Maybe I'll make it, maybe I won't."
No, God always leads us in triumph.
Let me read you the definition of the English word "triumph" adapted from the Websters 1926 dictionary. (From my book, The Jesus Secret)
God always leads me in the imposing ceremony of honor given to a victorious general who has overcome every obstacle, defeated every foe. God always leads me into His city crowned with life, bearing His scepter in my hand. God leads me in the procession of the fruit I have produced, the great work I have done for His name. I offer all I am, all I have done, and all I have produced from His investment of power in me as an offering of praise to the glory of Jesus. God always leads me to receive the honor of triumph. God always leads me to celebrate full and total victory and success with exultation. God always leads me to exult boastfully in the victory of Christ in me.
God always leads me to exult boastfully in the victory of Christ in me!
Someone says, "Well brother, you really don't know if you are going to make it or not." That voice is a lie. Don't consider it.
God always leads me in triumph. God always leads me to exult boastfully in the victory of Christ in me. Anytime I want to know whether something is God's leading or not? If it is God's leading, in the center of it will be a mighty boast in the victory of Christ already won inside of us. If not? Well - my God always leads me in triumph.
We dance on this side of the sea, before the waters part. We are always confident! Our salvation, our being partakers of Christ is based on the maintaining of our confidence with rejoicing firm all the way through.
So what if I struggle with anger. I am absolutely convinced that God is leading me right now in triumph celebrating the victory that I win over anything that is separate from Christ. His kindness wins against the anger I may yet experience, and I celebrate that victory even before it happens - triumph!
So, I just blew it. My son argues with me; I see red and express anger. I tell you where my faith is. Though I ask for forgiveness, I do not ask forgiveness because I am bad, I ask forgiveness because there is a river of life inside of me. That love flows out and covers any hurt I may have caused. I love and am confident, fully confident, in the victory of Christ. I boast in His triumph.
Though I might not see it with my natural eyes right now, I have the full expectation of it in this life, in this age, in my flesh, in my dying body. I see Him in His glory in me by faith. And that expecting of faith, that rejoices in triumph before the victory, is the faith of the Lord Jesus inside of us. This is the victory we presently have over this world and everything that is in it - even our faith.
God always leads us in triumph.
And so in this view, Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12, establishes this conclusion.
He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, most gladly, I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Consider these words. Jesus says, "My strength is made perfect in your weakness." If we want perfection, then we must have a weak body.
We must know weakness before we can know His strength because His strength is made perfect in our weakness. We carry this human body with all of its weakness, all of its infirmities, its distresses, its needs. It is our glory.
The power of Christ is made perfect in our weak bodies. His life is revealed in our mortal flesh.
We know Him in our weakness before we know Him in His power.