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The great exchange

When proposing marriage, you basically suggest a barter, containing the following elements:

  1. I want to share everything with you – my bed my table, my finances and my property, my future and my success, and even my ability to have children

  2. The condition is, however, that you renounce all others, and vow to love me, and me alone, no matter how life turns out

A successful proposal will one beautiful day culminate in a wedding, followed by a countless number of ordinary days where the two of you will practice this barter in real life.

Every day, for as long as you shall live, you will work on these conditions, to keep them and make them work. If granted a long life, we may talk of some twenty thousand days.

A barter of this kind is called a covenant.

Faith and pacifier

The Reformation was needed and was indeed a great endeavor. The movement lifted the love of God and his grace to the forefront, which is also clear from the five solae:

  • Sola scriptura – Scripture alone, and above tradition

  • Sola fide – faith alone, over works

  • Sola gratia – grace alone, over merit

  • Solus Christus – Christ alone can save

  • Soli Deo Gloria – glory to God alone

The mindset is that God in his greatness is “for us”.

This too is a barter, as we exchange our sin for his grace, our death for his life, our helplessness in reestablishing our relationship with God for his salvation. He saved me.

These are great truths, but at the same time there is a danger of becoming a consumer of grace. As there is nothing with which you can contribute, you do nothing. You only believe, and you are saved by your faith.

This does not wholly reflect the Biblical rendition of a life in the Kingdom of God, as there is a danger of a pacifying faith. Being deceived in this way, you may live a life on the wrong premises, at both your and the Kingdom’s loss.

This was obviously not the intention of the Reformation.

However, the parallel to a child’s pacifier is not way off – one may be led to suck on a replacement instead of the real thing. It fools the brain and gives no nourishment.

The believer is left to live his or her life as an eternal infant. In this understanding we are not partaking in the Kingdom, and our relationship with God becomes one-sided, with more emphasis on infancy than on growing to maturity. Being a child of God denotes relationship, not helplessness and immaturity.

There are several passages in the New Testament that suggest a dynamic life in a vibrant relationship with God. One example is having a well of living water flowing from our innermost being, lifegiving for others as well as ourselves. This goes far beyond the pacifier-image.

We will in the following look at five passages that describe a life of consequence rather than remaining an infant. This is not meant to be a full interpretation of these passages, but touching on some important issues.

Rom 6:3-8

Paul suggests that the Romans may be ignorant that those who are baptized to Jesus Christ, are baptized to his death. This is not the place neither to discuss the theology of baptism, nor how it is performed. I will just state the fact that baptism is necessary for every believer. Most believers understand that you are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit[1], which may also be expressed as being baptized into Christ[2]. Now, if baptism is performed by full immersion into water, the imagery becomes clearer than with the sprinkling of water on the head: The person baptized is laid into his grave, and then raised to life.

The purpose is to be made capable of walking in the extraordinary newness of a life in the Kingdom, not to be given a pacifier for life. Through baptism we grow into unity with Christ’s death, and as his death is an atonement for our transgressions, we also partake in his resurrection.

The natural man is thus crucified with Christ to annihilate our body ruled by sin and to be slaves no more to our inclinations. Being dead means you are justified from sin, as we in this instance are looking at capital judgement. And so, you are raised from the grave to live with Christ.

Even though all this may be complicated theological language, one may agree on one thing: The life depicted does not sound passive!

Rom 12:1-2

Some chapters later Paul urges his readers to present their bodies as a living sacrifice. This sounds quite gruesome. Even though sacrifice might denote death, this very imagery has trickled down into modern language, so that we even today may talk about sacrificing time and energy to accomplish something of value.

Paul makes it abundantly clear that life in the Kingdom is not a metaphysical phenomenon, but something that takes place in our daily practical life. Your body is not something etherical, but highly concrete. He therefore urges his readers to sacrifice, not feelings, nor beliefs or understandings, but their living bodies to God as a sacrifice. Having a body is a prerequisite to experiencing the world.

Paul states that such a sacrifice should be holy. Normally believers understand the word “holy” as an ethical concept, living in a certain way according to certain commandments. That is understandable, as “holy” pertains to something connected to God. Holy means that something/someone is exclusively reserved for God to further his glory and purpose. Therefore, believers in the New Testament are named “the saints”[3], and not because of their high moral standard.

Paul states that such a sacrifice must be pleasing to God, thus expressing the sacrifice be according to God’s will. A human’s understanding of what is a pleasing sacrifice to God will most probably differ severely from what God wants. To bear sacrifice to God that he has not requested, may become a dangerous endeavor[4]. Hence the emphasis on acting according to God’s will.

Paul then states that presenting your body unto God as a living sacrifice, to let him rule your life, body and soul, is your reasonable service. The content denotes this is a ministry, not towards man, but towards God, and this is why it is often translated “spiritual service/worship”.

The church and its believers are in a constant adjusting process. The gospel needs to be communicated in a legible manner, and so forms and methods need to change. When this applies to content, things go wrong. God does not change – that is a human condition.

Pouring melted metal or wet concrete into a mold, forms a shape. Paul states that the times we live in, function as a mold, but that we should not let us be shaped by the contemporary ideas. Rather, we should be changed from those ideas by the total reformation of our minds. Having grown into Christ, sharing his death and resurrection, man will be transformed, and can then discern what is the will of God. From his perspective we will understand what is good, what is pleasing to him, what is perfect in his eyes.

And this defines life in the Kingdom.

Rom 14:7-8

In this context we find a warning not to judge our fellow believers for the way they deal with food, drink, and esteeming certain days, connected to non-Christian religious practices.

Then text then goes on to say that none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord. If we die, we die to the Lord. The passage culminates by saying whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

We can, of course, understand this as spiritual language, but by doing so, we use it as a pacifier – it fools the brain and gives no nourishment. The content is pregnant with practical meaning.

There is no room for compartmentalization in our faith. There is no space where faith adheres and others where it does not. Every aspect of our lives is to the Lord. Even our decease is to the Lord. And this is the true meaning of Lord – he rules our lives and our death. When this becomes reality, people around you will see Christ in all aspects of our life. Even in our death.

A non-believer once asked me: “Can I talk with you alone, without God?”, but I had to disappoint him. We do not constantly talk about God, or preach, but he is present in our every thought and priority, he encompasses our entire existence. There is no “without God” in a believer’s life. We are the Lord’s.

2 Cor 5:11-15

As this passage starts, there is a presupposition of transparency, both to God and to our fellow man. From this place of openness, Paul states that the knowledge of, or the insight into, the fear of God, makes us persuade others to believe. This is not a covert activity, it is not a hidden agenda – it is what we are expected to do, and what we need to do. As we know what the fear of God is.

As Paul talks about this transparency, we also get a glimpse into his personal life with God. He says, possibly referring to the past, that if he was in ecstasy, it was for God. While as if he now is of sound mind, it is for the Corinthians. Let me just state here that the Christian ecstasy is much underrated and leave it with that.

Having knowledge of the fear of God, leads to persuading others. The love of Christ, however, drives us, compels us, besieges us. This love makes us understand that one died for all, and therefore all died. When Christ died for all, the purpose was that those who live, no longer should live for themselves but for him who died and rose again for them.

This is where the pacifier gets thrown out.

The great exchange is this: Christ gave us his death, and we give him our lives. Love begets love.

Look at this simple image, where “I” is placed in the center.

The arrows around suggest what a normal believer’s life contains. I have friends, I have property, I have family. I hold my finances in order, I fill my leisure time, I minister in my church, I want a stronger anointing, and seek the Lord’s blessing. I care for my self.

Should you die, however, the chart will look like the next image.

The cross in the middle symbolizes a grave marker, not something religious. All the people and all the things remain, but you do not. When you are gone, all relations to the different parts of your life is cut off. Your family will have to do without you, as will your church and your friends. There is no more blessing or anointing on earth for you, and your property and finances are given to someone else. You do not have leisure time, as you do not have time anymore. And you do not even care for you self. This is what death does – it cuts us off from the things of this life.

Encountering God and understanding his love for this world and for you individually, compels you to grasp the consequences of dying with Christ and likewise being resurrected with him, so that your whole existence becomes truly his. Whatever you do, and whoever you appear to be, from now own you do on behalf of Christ – wise or unwise, good or evil, edifying or destructive – your life reveals Christ to everyone around you. And so, Christ is honored or disgraced by his own. Look at the chart with Christ in the center.

This is not just theoretical. For as you relate to you family hereafter, you do so for Christ. His will and values will then touch your family as a whole and as individuals. If true, they experience love. The same goes for all your relationships, the way you run your finances, your leisure time, your property, and the way you minister in your church. Blessings and anointing are no longer for you, but for Christ, and you even care for your self to honor Christ. A Christ centered life is having the Lord influence, affect and run all parts of life with joy and love.

From this life of love and joy follows another effect. As we relate to one another as believers, we no longer recognize the natural man – we see the new creation, the new man, the new woman. The old one has passed away, and the incredible has taken place: All the new things of life have come. We acknowledge what God has done in our fellow believer’s life and relate accordingly. The fellowship in the Kingdom is one of enemies of God who by Christ’s love were turned into friends.

There is some confusion going around. Some believe Christ has died for all sin, and therefore for all sinners, so everyone is a child of God. And so, we need to look at two different words.

Firstly, we understand the word expiation. This word speaks of atonement. It denotes that a sacrifice for sin is needed to atone for transgression. There is no forgiveness without someone paying the cost[5]. And so, Jesus died for all. In a way he created a deposit of forgiveness for all time. It is sufficient for all humans, for all times and all places. It covers all debt of all sin for ever. But it is a deposit. You do not get to use somebody else’s deposit. You cannot make a withdrawal until the owner gives you access. It is all there, but not accessible to you.

Secondly, we understand the word reconciliation. The concept means to turn enemies into friends. Therefore, we can use this word between friends, between spouses or parents and their kids. Anywhere there is enmity, this word can make friends. There are many ways of reconciliation, but in the Kingdom there is only one way – forgiveness. To reach into that deposit, you need to repent from whatever you did to offend God or man. Repentance is the means of access to the deposit of Christ’s atonement. He who repents, will gain access. He who will not repent, will not be given access. Those who look for an easier way, look in vain, and many deceive themselves.

We, all who are risen with Christ, are ambassadors of God. And so, we sincerely urge anyone and everyone on behalf of Christ: “Be reconciled with God!”

For to me to live is Christ

This quote[6] is often misused. Paul is in jail in Rome, writing to the Philippians. He writes about his ministry for the gospel, that Christ must be honored through whatever happens to him.

This quote is not about:

  • Talking Christianese

  • Expressing wishful thinking

  • To voice a purpose

  • In faith to reach for a change of lifestyle

What Paul says is that his whole life after his God-encounter, was about one thing: his life and ministry for Christ. It is a description of his life, not a policy-statement. This is also why he continues to say that death is gain. He does not have a death wish - he is home sick. He wants to be with Christ, a longing known to every believer who is resurrected with Christ.

To me to live is….

If you genuinely want to know what life is to you, look at:

  • Where your attention is at

  • How you use your time

  • What is more important in your daily life

  • How you engage in friendship

  • What you talk with people about

“Repentance is beautiful,” a female prophet said the other day.

A marriage starts with a proposal, develops to a wedding celebration and is normally followed by thousands of ordinary days. Life in the Kingdom follows much the same pattern - and is a precious covenant. It starts in love and joy, and as in a marriage, you work every day on the relationship to make it continue in love and joy. If you want this vibrant life, every day counts.

What I have written here is beauty, as it describes your life - the way it is, or the way it will be.

For repentance is beautiful!

[1] Matt 28:19

[2] Gal 3:27

[3] Saint from sanctus (lat.), meaning holy

[4] Lev 10:1-3

[5] For a more thorough explanation, se my article: “Why would anyone love the cross”

[6] Phil 1:21

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