Is there an element in Christianity that when anyone who receives this, they will be guaranteed to change and be on the road to perfection? This is what all mankind is looking for. That secret ultimate element that God gives to us that perfects us.
First of all, we must define what it means to be perfected. To be perfected is to be in line with God’s will for us, that is, to unite all things in Christ. (Eph. 1: 9-10; see blog “What is the will of God?”) It is not just to perfect ourselves, that would be a selfish goal, though as a consequence we are being perfected to be like Him. To be united in Christ means to make us have the same spirit as Christ (1 Cor. 6:17), the same mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), and even the same body as Christ (Rom. 8:11). That is why humans will become divine in nature. That is to be united in Christ. That is the common goal that God and man are striving for.
Before Christ was born, men thought they could follow God’s laws on their own to be perfected. The first covenant, according to the Mosiac laws, did not work. [Although there are many covenants noted by Biblical scholars, the Bible only refers to two, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.” (Heb. 8:7) As such, reference will only be made to two, the first with Abraham, based on circumcision and the Mosiac laws, and the second, based on Christ, his redemptive work and the release of the life-giving Spirit.] The people of God repeatedly violated his first covenant when they had to follow laws because they had no ability to follow their conscience. If man could do all the right things himself, then he would live in a divine way, with all the attributes of God not only in his mind, but living it out through his body, and heaven and earth would be unified. However, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23)
The second covenant is based on Christ, coming into man and living out of man as the reality of all the attributes of God that are stipulated, however incompletely, by the law. This unifies heaven and earth, God’s ‘world’ and man’s world. This is obviously the better way that works. However, how does this work? How is Christ brought into man and made to live out of him so that all things are unified in Christ? There must be a way that is absolute. There must be a way when “x” happens to a man, then “y” results and we are transformed so Christ is lived out of us, doing what is divine in our human bodies, thus unifying heaven and earth. When “x” does not happen, then “y” will not happen. Is not that the reason why we have our differences? We think that various groups are not following God’s way so they are wrong as they are not practicing this essential element, ”x”, that God requires. If, however, it is a non-essential practice, then it should not cause division. What is that element that the Bible talks about?
Throughout history, many ways have been proposed. One in that we physically consume a divine element so our bodies are spiritually, and mentally, and physically transformed to be like Christ. So if we physically consume the body of Christ, we should be like Him. [There is a way of reading the Bible if you dissociate John 6:63 from what Jesus said before, to make this reasonable in the human mind.] However, do we see Christ lived out of all those who regularly consume this divine element? Are the people who eat transformed? Are there individuals who do not consume this physical body of Christ who still express his life? A second is baptism. Are all individuals who are baptized expressing the life of Christ as they are physically or symbolically born again? Are there those who are not baptized physically who are accepted by God? It is similar to circumcision. Are those circumcised who are God’s children or are those who are not circumcised his children also? Is the second covenant only for those who have done a physical act? “Baptism, which corresponds to this, [the saving of eight people in the ark in Noah’s days], now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pte. 3:21) Baptism is simply an appeal to God for a good conscience and does not qualify us or purify us to enter the kingdom of God. A third is confession. Do we have to confess before someone else before we are redeemed? Are there individuals who do not confess before someone else, but confess privately to God, who are redeemed? A fourth is knowledge of the Bible. Are there people who know the Bible well but do not express Christ? Are there people who express the nature of Christ but do not know the Bible well? The list can go on and on, with many, many factors. But what is the essential element common to all Christians?
If we answer these questions honestly, then we will narrow down the answer to what is truly important. It is the Spirit. It is God Himself. The common element among Christians is Christ. Without him, we would not be Christians. The things we debate about relate to human practices. However, the things of God are spiritual. That is why human practices cannot ‘trigger’ a spiritual reality. The one thing that is a guarantee of perfecting us is the Spirit, not our practices. “For while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened – not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Cor. 5:4-5) God uses the analogy of clothing us for our transformation. We are further clothed in finer linen (Rev. 19:8) as we change from mortal to divine. Our mortal beings are swallowed up by the divine life. God has prepared us for this very thing. And the Spirit that has been deposited into us is the guarantee. The Spirit is the factor “x” that guarantees our transformation “y” will occur so we will be like Christ, in his image, in the image of God that we were created for. “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statures, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (Eze. 36:26-27) He “has put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Cor. 1:22) While we are “In this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.” (2 Cor. 5:2) When we groan to the Spirit, hungering for the Spirit, we will be further clothed. That is a guarantee. That is how God changes us into his image, from mortal to eternal, from human to divine. What are the things of the Spirit? The Spirit gives us the realization within that somehow Christ died for us and forgave us. That through his death over 2000 years ago he accomplished redemption for our sins. That Christ released the life-giving Spirit to live inside each of us, transmitting the Father and the Son to us. These realizations occur because of the Spirit. It is the Spirit of reality that Jesus sent us that makes it real to us. (John 14:16-17)
However, the Spirit may still seem too intangible to some, as it resides in the invisible part of our being. It is easier for us to relate to this physical world. So what is tangible is what the Spirit expresses. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23) The ‘agape’ love is the predominant attribute of God. “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16) He loved us so much that he gave his Son for us. So against the fruit of the Spirit there is no law. There is no rules to say we have to do things a particular way if we dwell in the Spirit, if we dwell in these things produced by God’s Spirit inside of us. It is really hard to drop the human concepts of what our ‘good’ religious practices should be, especially if we were brought up with them as a child. It requires Christ to reveal himself to us, just like Paul. (Gal. 1:12) On the road to Damascus, Christ asked Saul, “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4) “Although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing,” (Acts 9:8) as he was “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” (Acts 9:1) being “so extremely zealous…for the traditions of [his] fathers.” (Gal. 1:14) When Christians look poorly at each other, are we persecuting Christ? Do the issues we debate about affect God and his transformation of us to fulfil his will, or are they related to our ‘good’ religious practices? Ask the Spirit within you to reveal to you the Christ that is in you. That is what the Spirit of reality does. When Christ is revealed, you will see He is purely love. He is the unifying force between all men. “For God so loved the world.” (John 3:16) That is why “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:1-3) Even thinking you are extremely ‘spiritual’ with a full understanding of the divine revelation is not enough. The Spirit has to be expressed out of us in love. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) The ‘agape’ love expressed by the Spirit in us is how heaven and earth will be united. It is how all Christians can come together. It is how we have the same mind. (Phi. 2:2, 5; 1 Cor. 1:10; Rom. 15:6; Eph. 4:4-6) His love expressed through us is how we will become perfectly one, both with God and with man. (John 17:23) That is what the whole creation is waiting for. (Rom. 8:25-26)
When we are in love with God, we think about him often. Our thoughts drift back to him all day. We have communion with him. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) The love is mutual. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing.” (1 The. 5:16-17) As we think about him often, we are praying unceasingly. We are dwelling in the Spirit. Christ has made his home in our hearts. When we love, there is a certain joy within our hearts. There is an enjoyment of who he is. Just like when we fell in love with our spouse, we would think about them all the time and want to be in their presence all the time. This enjoyment keeps us in his presence. As we remain in his presence, he transforms us. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18) Our love for God makes us behold the glory of God, and he transforms us into his image just like a reflection in a mirror. We become like him. Man becomes like God because of our love for him. That is how man is perfected. That is how humanity and divinity are unified. That is how heaven and earth becomes one.