Why do we need to grow in Christ? or What happens when we “die”? (2018-04-16)

When Christians believe, they have received Christ as the Spirit into their beings. Because the Spirit is eternal, as a consequence, Christians have eternal life and will live forever. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) When we believe him, we receive him into our spirits as the Spirit, (John 1:12) who is eternal, so we live forever. That is why “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6) From a very human perspective, the ‘reward’ of eternal life seems to be an ultimate motivation for believing in God. At the very extreme, some people think we can live our lives independent of God, exercising our own will, and believe when we are on our death beds to gain the reward – eternal life — and enter through the pearly gates into the ‘mansion in the sky’. This, however, is a concept that is flawed.

When we believe in God, it is not like believing that something is true, it is receiving something into us. That is why, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name,” (John 1:12) is separated by a comma – they both are the same things. This is crucial for understanding what believe is. When we believe, we receive Christ. That is why, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that every one who believes into (eis) Him would not perish, but would have eternal life.” (John 3:16 – Recovery Version) The word eis means into according to Strong’s Concordance and is translated into in multiple passages.. (Here is a list of just a few starting at Matthews — Mat. 2:11,12,13,14,20,21,22; 3:10,12; 4:1,5,8,12,18,24; and so on.) When we believe into God, realize we are not doing something externally, but something is happening internally. It changes us intrinsically. That is why, “I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and love them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23) We are being perfected when Christ lives in us. That is what spiritual growth is. It is to perfect us today.

The purpose of our assimilating God, of our knowing him (Phi. 3:10; Heb. 8:11), of our eating of the bread of life (John 6:35), of our transformation into his image (2 Cor. 3:18), of our eventual perfection (John 17:23) is not to just make us holy, it is so God could be expressed through us. He is making a new creation that is divine and human. In divinity, he is invisible; in humanity, he is visible (Col. 1:15-17). Christ is both. That is why, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:16-17) In unifying heaven and earth according to the purpose of his will, (Eph. 1:9-10) he is being expressed through us. He is the heavenly element. We are the earthly element. He is transforming us inwardly into his image not just to make us better people, he is transforming us inwardly so we could express who he is. This happens to us individually and collectively. Individually, the goal of perfecting us is so we are expressing him. Collectively, the goal of perfecting us is to create the one new man, “that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,” (Eph. 2:15) who expresses Christ. Christ is expressed in a corporate fullness called the church, which is his Body, with him as the Head, expressing his will through the Body, putting all things under his feet. (Eph. 1:22-23) That is why we submit our wills to him. That is why we need to be transformed. Realize we are transformed not to just become holy and righteous, we are being transformed to his image so he could reach the “ends of the earth” (Acts 1:9) to unite heaven and earth. This begins first with those around us. Each member of his body affects those whom God has placed him or her with. That is how God is expressed today for his multiplication. That is why our day-to-day life matters.

Realize we are being transformed into his image – the image of a man whose will is fully for God. When he was on this earth, he lived a human life that was fully for God. As the man, Jesus’s human life was perfect. In his human living, he was “perfect, as [his] heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mat. 5: 48) His love for man was absolute, that he would die for us. He truly ‘loved us to death,’ as the saying goes. Although he was limited by time and space when he was living on this earth, he expressed the perfect humanity. His Spirit expressed “the fruit of the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:22) He expressed “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” (Gal. 5:22-23) in a perfect and complete way. Today, when Christ is manifested from us, it should be the same. We are not there yet, that is why we need to grow in Christ. Growing in Christ is not simply for overcoming sin, for perfecting us, for making us holy and acceptable to God, it is for all those whom God has placed us with. It is for all his members to be transformed to express him throughout the generation so God is no longer limited by time or space. That is why, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father,” (John 14:12) the work is left to Him working through us. Christian’s who have believed into Christ become God’s multiplication as the sons of God.

As the sons of God, we are to be transformed into his very likeness. Christ was “the image of the invisible God,“ (Col. 1:15) a God who was only described in words. This God took on substance in his creation and became a real person in the form of Jesus. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) The very being of God, his nature, his attributes, his thoughts and his will, became flesh and took on a form in Jesus. By dying on the cross, as Christ, he multiplied himself to live within men so they could contain his life and express his reality. To make this precious to him, he let men have free will to choose him, as a bride chooses her bridegroom. He continues to cultivate his relationship with his bride until she and him, he and her, are one. “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” (1 Cor. 6:17) At that juncture, “’when the Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’ – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints,” (Rev 19:7-8) the Bride would be transformed into his image. The Bride is the church, and the matured ones have made themselves ready, having been clothed in fine linen, now doing the deeds of the Lord. These ones are the blessed ones “’who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me. ‘These are the true words of God.’” (Rev. 19:9) We become the expression of the very being of God, his nature, his attributes, his thoughts and his will so “These are the true words of God.” Christians, who have matured in Christ, express the very being of God and so are the true words of God just as Christ was the Word made flesh, uniting heaven and earth. As such, they “have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20) and have “presented their bodies as a living sacrifice,” (Rom. 12:1) so they “came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:4-6) During this thousand years, they will simply enjoy the Bridegroom in the marriage feast of the Lamb. Because their hearts seek only the Bridegroom, they will be rewarded with Him in the marriage feast of the Lamb. They will “know him,” (Phi. 3:10) and be known by him, (Mat. 25:12) having been prudent to ensure they have sufficient oil in their lamps to meet the Bridegroom. (Mat. 25:2-3) They have “put on Christ,” (Gal. 3:27) “put[ing] on the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Rom.13:14) and have dressed themselves in fine linen, (Rev. 19:8) wearing wedding clothes when the “king invites them to the wedding feast of his son.” (Mat. 22:2) Christians who are admitted to the first resurrection will spend the millennium enjoying Christ as a bride enjoys her Bridegroom. Only those who have known how to enjoy the Bridegroom will cherish this as they have established a relationship with him. This enjoyment is actually the expression of the very God we worship…now expressed in us. Christians who have not known him will be left in outer darkness during this period. That is why the bridegroom says to the five virgins with insufficient oil in their lamps, “I do not know you.” (Mat. 25:12) This is the same for those who have “no wedding garment,” (Mat. 22:11) as they are unprepared for the wedding feast. They will be casted into outer darkness, a place void of Christ as light to them. They are void of the reality of what God is expressed through them. There will be great regret and anxiety and sorrow…a “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mat. 22:13) at that time. That is why we need to grow in Christ.

God’s glory was hidden in Jesus when he came as a man. “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten from the Father), full of grace and reality.” (John 1:14 – Recovery Version) His glory was expressed in the tabernacle of his body. Realize “In them He has placed a tent for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber.” (Psa. 19:4-5) The Lord is living in us, the tents, as “the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5) This ‘sun’ shines forth, “And there is nothing hidden from its heat.” (Psa. 19:6) “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13) In maturity, we will realize “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.” (Psa. 19:7-9) “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold” (Psa. 19:10) because they will withstand his test of fire. (1 Cor. 3:12-15) “Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psa. 19:11) “If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive great reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:14-15) Realize that we, who are his servants, have been warned to grow in Him. Realize though we have been saved, we might just squeak by, ‘as through fire,’ if we are not careful to surrender all to Him. Realize the great reward is Christ himself expressed in man.

The New Jerusalem is not a place we go to, it is what we become. As Christ is pictured as the foundation on which we build, the New Jerusalem is the result of this building. That is why only items of preciousness remain that has been tested by fire. In Revelations, Christ, as the one sitting on the throne, “And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper,” (Rev. 4:3) had the appearance of jasper; we, as the living stones, (1 Pet. 2:5) will have been “transformed into the same image” (2 Cor. 3:18), to be like jasper. That is why when the angel says, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb,” (Rev. 21:9) John is carried away in Spirit and shown the holy city Jerusalem. “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” (Rev. 21:10-11) The living stones in this holy city is like jasper, exuding the appearance of Christ. “The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass.” (Rev. 21:16) Christ is the foundation on which the saints are built, (1 Cor. 3:11-12; Eph. 2:20; Mat. 7:24-27). So “The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper,” (Rev. 21:18-19) the foundation of Christ, and the transformed saints, the different members of the Body with its various functions, form the other precious stones. (Rev. 21:19-20) Jasper seems to be the nature of the entire wall, “The wall was built of jasper,” (Rev. 21:16) yet the saints are different precious stones. Christ not only forms the foundation, but shines forth from each of the saints producing works that are pure, with nothing hidden, that will withstand God’s test of fire, “while the city was pure gold, like clear glass.” (Rev. 21:16) So when the Bible talks about the “twelve gates were twelve pearls,” (Rev. 21:21) realize the gates are not to keep the ‘unqualified’ man out. In fact, the “gates will never be shut by day — and there will be no night there,” (Rev. 21:25) so the gates will remain open all the time. The pearl on each gate signify how Christ coats the saints so they could enter into the New Jerusalem. Just like a grain of sand is a suffering to an oyster, we are a suffering to Christ, but over time Christ coats us with Himself. We become like him, coated with Christ, putting him on layer by layer so we will be dressed in fine linen, until slowly a pearl is formed within us, as his Spirit grows in us to become the treasure hidden in our earthen vessels. By realizing Christ, the invisible Spirit will become visible in us. This is Christ in us, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27) This is how we gain ‘entrance’ to form the holy city of God. Realize this within your spirit. The misconception of the “heavenly mansions” has been explained previously (see the blog “Why?”). We are the abiding places of God today. So the holy city, the New Jerusalem, is not a place we go to, but a place we become. That is why we need to grow in Christ.

Today, although we have the divine life in us, we are not fully transformed. We continue to struggle with God in our spirits. We do not submit completely to his will. This is pictured in the Old Testament when Jacob wrestled with God. The three figures in the Old Testament — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – were a type of the Father, Son and Spirit. Abraham represented God, the father of a nation producing the people of God who were all supposed to be for God. By the redemptive work of Christ, God our Father, has produced “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession,” (1 Pet. 2:9) “who were born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor of the will of men, but of God.” (John 1:13) Isaac represented the Son, Jesus, as he was born unnaturally, from a barren woman, Sarah beyond her age of fertility. In fact, the Bible records the conception as, “The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him.” (Gen. 21:1-2) The angel of the Lord reminds us of this, when “Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’ And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.’” (Luke 1:34-35) Isaac was to be sacrificed by his father and, at the last minute, a lamb was used as a substitute. Christ became the lamb that was sacrificed by the Father for us. Jacob represents the Spirit. The Spirit today is the way we communicate with God. [That is why in the passage where the trinity is mentioned, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all,” (2 Cor. 13:14) the main attribute of the Father is love, of the Son is grace, and of the Spirit is fellowship.] It transmits to us as the Spirit of truth (reality) the realities of God. That is why Jacob had the dream of the heavenly ladder, forming a communication between heaven and earth, with the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man. (Gen. 28:12-15; John 1:51) That is why Jacob said, “‘This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’ So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.” (Gen. 28:17-18) The Spirit today, poured out on the living stones, will be how the church, eventually becoming the holy city of God, will be built, “set up for a pillar.” That is why he said, “This stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house.” (Gen. 28:22) As with Jacob, realize “I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Gen. 28:15) It is, however, in our spirit that we continue to wrestle with God, as Jacob wrestled with God, “face to face.” (Gen. 32:30) In our wrestling, realize he is transforming us, changing us into a new creation (Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:17; Rev. 3:14) so we have a new name (Rev. 3:12), just as Jacob’s name was changed to Israel (Gen. 32:28). Often he touches us to show us our disability so we would rely on him. With Jacob, God touched his hip so he became lame, changing him so he would be dependent on God to walk for the rest of his life. It is in the spirit that we become aware of him who is in us. “Do you not realize this in yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Cor. 5:13) Each day, as we feed on Him, we come to know Him, depend on Him, and realize Him more and more…until the angel can finally says to us, “These are the true words of God,” (Rev.19:9) That is why we need to grow to maturity in Christ.




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