Rethinking Being in Christ – Continue to Seek the Lord

Rethinking Being in Christ – Continue to Seek the Lord February 28, 2023

Last time, I looked at what the Bible says it means to be in Christ – the great exchange of his righteousness for ours, and all the blessings that become our birth right when we receive Christ, including peace and joy, freedom from habits that harm ourselves and others, the gift of the Holy Spirit, adoption into God’s family, the guarantee of the glories of Heaven, and access to the unlimited love and power of Christ, who dwells in us.


Positionally, the exchange is complete and God sees us as righteous. This is a glorious truth, but there are pitfalls on either side of the path. The first is obvious, and not the subject of this post, but to clarify – pitfall number one is to overlook the exchange altogether. The church of my youth fell into this trap, identifying us as ‘sinners’ rather than saints who sometimes sin. If you self-identify as a sinner, you will certainly continue to sin and never escape the snares which have bound you.


The second pitfall is lack of growth and the end of discipleship. The revelation of who we are in Christ brings such extraordinary relief to those who’ve spent years striving to impress God that they can settle in what is meant to be a resting place. The stakes get hammered in, the tents erected, and soon we have a community of people who have escaped striving but are no longer growing either. The truth of who we are in Christ should inspire growth without striving (human effort), discipleship without condemnation (self-judgement), and closeness to God without fear.


I’ve been through this myself. I was a proper extremist in my early twenties, praying for hours every day, cutting out most of my pleasures and devoting myself to 24/7 spiritual focus. If I wasn’t sleeping, I was involved in some kind of ministry or devotion. Some of that stemmed from a sincere root, but my motivation was poisoned by a lack of self-acceptance and a need to impress God. The Lord was good enough to use me anyway, but after years of this kind of effort, I drove myself to a breakdown, and the only way out was to stop doing everything. I quit all ministry along with devotion, and even stopped reading my Bible.


For a while I experienced tremendous relief, realising in a new way that God loved me unconditionally. I understood for the first time that if I never took another spiritual step, he’d love me just the same and my welcome into Heaven would be undiminished. That part was great, but unfortunately I was so damaged that even entering church was like pouring salt on open wounds. Every now and again I’d screw up the courage to engage in a worship service, knowing that I’d suffer with mental ill-health for the next week or so. The associations were just too strong, and the wounds didn’t want to heal.


At a certain point, I became frustrated with the state of play. I wanted to grow, but didn’t know how to break the chains that bound me. Reminding myself of who I was in Christ had lost its impact – I wanted to make progress on the journey of faith. The Bible talks about running a race, after all. Heb 12:1


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,


2 Tim 4:7


I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.


Galatians 5:7


You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?


Philippians 3:12-14


Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.


Based on the testimonies I’ve heard, I suspect that many who find themselves in the Progressive Christian camp have either been damaged by other believers or by their own striving. This is, of course, a generalisation, and I’m happy to hear from those with different stories.


I remember reading Rick Joyner’s* The Final Quest – a prophetic vision – and being struck by a particular scene. Believers were scaling a mountain and reached a plateau, which represented the revelation of who we are in Christ. He describes the plateau as broad and restful, and in the vision, many chose to remain there instead of continuing the climb. Ultimately, the plateau turned out to be a dangerous place to linger. It was safe for a while, but the longer people stayed, the more complacent they became about the precipice at the plateau’s edge, and many strayed too close, even falling off.


*Quick disclaimer: I’m not in favour of Joyner’s wayward foray into politics, but he has a prophetic gift, however misled he has become. I pray for his restoration.


This plateau is where I see many believers lose their way. Intellectual knowledge of our position in Christ achieves little, and can even be a barrier to growth.  


The most common mistake I come across is a refusal to seek the Lord, and specifically the gifts, love, and power of the Holy Spirit. When encouraged to do so, the answer comes back – I already have the Holy Spirit because I’m in Christ. Why seek what I already have?


For me, this objection is based on a profound misunderstanding of what life as a follower of Jesus is all about. Our extraordinary inheritance is a gift to unwrap, rather than an ornament to place on a shelf.


What does the Bible say about spiritual growth?


There is a wealth of scriptural evidence that discipleship means a life of growth, change, and increasing revelation. Romans 12:2 clearly demonstrates that we can increasingly access and understand God’s will through a continual process of renewal of our thinking:


Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.


In John 15:1-6, Jesus urges us to abide in him. Abiding means to remain, to linger, to make our home in him, and this happens through the choice to spend time with him, connecting through the Holy Spirit, and yielding to his leading and will. You can’t abide in Jesus if you don’t linger in his presence.


I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.


It is clearly possible to draw near to God – to know him better, to dwell in his presence. James 4:8


Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  


It is of singular importance that we walk closely with the Holy Spirit, through whom all we have and are in Christ is accessed. In fact, our entire relationship with the Father and Son flows through our connection with the Spirit. The closer we walk with him, the closer we walk with Jesus. John 14:26,


But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.


The Spirit empowers out prayers. Romans 8:26


Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.


Our relationship with the Spirit has wonderful effects on our character. Gal 5:22-23


But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.


The Spirit sets us free from all bondage. 2 Cor 3:17


Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.


Through the Holy Spirit we can thrum with the positive conviction of hope. Romans 15:13


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.


Through the Spirit, we access godly wisdom and the very mind of Christ. 1 Cor 2:13-16


This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words…for,


‘Who has known the mind of the Lord

    so as to instruct him?’

But we have the mind of Christ.


The Spirit gives us great boldness. Acts 4:31


And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.


The Spirit teaches us all truth. John 16:13


When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.


A Church populated by Spirit-filled believers is the dream and goal of the Lord. Acts 2:17-18


And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.


We are transformed into the image of God by the Spirit within us. 2 Cor 3:18


And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.


Time for a reset


The Bible warns us not to quench or grieve the Spirit, commands us to earnestly desire spiritual gifts (with an emphasis on prophesy), and exhorts us to seek the Lord while he may be found. It encourages us that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him, and promises that those who ask for the Holy Spirit will receive him. I have found that the Lord always desires to deepen our fellowship with him. He always wants us to walk in a greater measure of his presence and power, and to use spiritual gifts to bless the lives of others.


Our lives should be characterised by discipleship, not stasis. We are called to bear fruit, after all. This modern Christian trend of refusing to seek greater closeness with God (because we already have everything through being in Christ) is a serious misunderstanding of the core dynamic of a life of faith. If you find yourself on that plateau, I urge you to take some time out and seek the Lord for fresh revelation and impetus. Earnest seeking is not striving; it’s obedience. It doesn’t earn you anything; it prepares your heart to receive. I hope you will heed the call to pack up the tent, leave the plateau, and move into the next chapter of discipleship.

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