This post was inspired by an email I received. There’s no personal information in my response, but paragraphs that start with something like “If you’re going to fight for any teaching …” refer to points in the email I received.
Something that is very hard for us to understand is that the Christian life is lived by revelation (Eph. 1:17). It is lived by the Spirit of God. The new covenant is “not of the letter, but of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:6).
If you’re going to fight for any teaching, I’d say the best teaching you can fight for is Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). At the end of it, he says that if you obey his commands in that teaching, you are like a wise man who built his house on a rock. Even when the storms come, you will stand.
That is a process. There is no law, not even the commands of the Sermon on the Mount, that can bring life. Life comes from Jesus, and from Jesus only. If you have the Son, you have Life. If you don’t have the Son, you don’t have Life (1 Jn. 5:12).
That means that if you want to live out the commands of Jesus, and so prove to be his friend, you are going to have to grow (Jn. 15:1-15). That growth is not like we wish. That growth is “remaining in the vine.”
Jesus once said to fall into the ground like a seed and die (Jn. 12:24-25). A seed grows from a dead thing in the ground to a living plant in two ways. Inside, the life expands, cracking and working its way out of the hard shell. Outside, the pressure and moisture of the ground softens and weakens the shell to make room for the life.
You are that shell. We achieve godliness by the work of God. The life of God presses on us from the inside, convicting us, moving us, leading us. From the outside, God sends pressure and moisture. Moisture is life-giving. Pressure is painful, but it is also life-giving.
All of it is so that the shell, your soul, can be broken so that when people touch you, they do not touch your soul–whether your soul is trained or untrained, good or bad–but they touch your spirit within you, where Christ dwells, and where the Spirit of God is mingled with your spirit in unity (1 Cor. 6:17).
You can’t speed that process up. You are a new creation when you believe, but that happens by the implanting of a seed, not the implanting of a full tree (Jam. 1:18-22; 1 Pet. 1:23).
It can be a joyful and edifying thing to learn the deep things of God. It can also cause an addiction to disputing and to pride, and the results of that will be envy, strife, insults, and suspiciousness of others (1 Tim. 6:3-5).
If you are submitting yourself to the working of God and trying to obey the commands of Christ (and the Sermon on the Mount is an excellent and quite complete place to begin), you are going to be too busy to get involved with the sensual and demonic wisdom from this earth that so easily captures us and makes us Pharisees. The wisdom from above produces the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Jam. 3:13,17).
Every member of the body of the King is joined to the head, our Master, living in heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father.
However, Jesus is not a detached head. “He is the head of the body, the church” (Col. 1:18). The whole Christ, the whole Anointed One, is the head and body together. That makes a whole person. We are in desperate need of one another (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:11-16). We grow together into “the fullness of the stature of the King.” That means for us to be full-grown, we have to grow together into the full size of the King’s body.
Growing on our own is difficult. It can be done, but it is not the right way. We’re supposed to be exhorted daily by the saints (Heb. 3:13).
The practical application of this is that you have to be careful about your judgment of others and where you cut people off because they aren’t “like-minded.” The greatest danger to you is yourself. That is why Jesus tells you to hate your own soul. The more people you cut off, the less people you have to take a chisel to that rock-hard seed that is your soul, crack it, and let the life of God pour forth from your spirit.
We can’t be undiscerning. There are plenty of false believers, especially today, and they will not encourage you in the way of righteousness. Nonetheless, if we are too “discerning,” we will cut off a major source of our life.
It is important that we learn to live spiritually and to discern spiritually. We are commanded to maintain the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3), not the unity of the faith. The unity of the faith is a product of the unity of the Spirit and the working together of those united in the Spirit (Eph. 4:13).
I’d like to recommend to you that you look at http://www.austin-sparks.net. He has a lot of really good advice about living spiritually. An excellent book to get is Watchman Nee’s The Release of the Spirit, which was life-changing for me as a young Christian. Chances are you can find it online for free, but if you have to buy it, it’s not expensive.
Side Note: In heaven, at the right hand of the Father, is not up in the sky, somewhere around Alpha Centauri or in the constellation of Taurus. We, too, are seated in the heavenly places, in King Jesus. The spiritual realm is all around us. In him, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). He is close to you, and Paul told the Athenians to “grope” for him. We need to long for a spiritual relationship with him and feel for him (17:27).