WHAT IS OUR PURPOSE
In one of his books Norman Grubb [NPG] quotes the Greek philosophers “know thyself”. All of creation “knows themselves” – trees are trees, birds are birds, rocks are rocks, fish are fish, dogs are dogs, humans are confused, especially Christian humans.
Our purpose is not “about us”. Our purpose is “about our individual worlds”. We must understand that He, as the lover of the universe lives in us, as us and through us to the world that we each live in.
The Crucifixion was an eternal success and eternal reality. It brought forgiveness of sin and reconciliation of the entire creation. We are now the royal priests, holy nation and ministers of that reconciliation. But we must intimately know our union with Jesus. Intimate knowledge is that understanding of union that has moved from head to heart.
In this regard we are, each, perfect, complete and unique human expressions of Jesus Christ. If this word speaks to you – then “talk the talk” – the spoken word will become the living word.
“Therefore from now on we know no man after the flesh;
Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet
Now we know Him thus no longer.”
11 Corinthians 5:16
WHAT DOES IT MEAN THAT WE KNOW HIM NO LONGER ACCORDING TO THE FLESH?
The term “flesh” has always bothered me. There are potentially negative connotations for “flesh”, but not necessarily for how it is used here.
[NPG] "’Flesh’ is just me in my human capacities of soul and body.”
So, as used in this context, “flesh” probably just means a physical body, or, better, an historical person.
WHAT IS THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF THIS VERSE?
It is likely that this passage was written 30 – 50 years after Jesus’ resurrection. It was perhaps, coming to the point, where very few remained alive that had actually known or even seen Jesus, according to the flesh – actually knew or even saw the historical Jesus.
This is important for our conversation in that this is exactly what we are talking about. We draw the line between a life of knowing about Him to a life of knowing Him, expressing Him and being Him. To know about Him is an outward knowing. To simply know Him is an inward knowing.
I can best explain by this story:
There are two occasions that I spoke one-on-one with NPG. The first was at Hixton [retreat campground in Wisconsin] during the summer of 1981. I was 27 years old. I wanted to talk to Norman about my concern for the salvation of my grandparents, who were both over 90. I blurted out “I’m Jewish”. He replied, “So am I”. He could be a man of few words. I told him of my concern. He said, “your grandparents lived during the time of the Holocaust – 6 million Jews, and many others, were murdered in the name of Christ – they will not believe in the historical (physical) Jesus – but, they may know His Spirit.” Well, isn’t that what we’re talking about here?
SO, WHAT ABOUT THE CHURCH?
It should be clear that we do not know Jesus “according to the flesh”. We do not know an historical Jesus. We know only an eternal Jesus – a universal Jesus – a spiritual Jesus - we know his Spirit.
What’s wrong with an emphasis on the “historical Christ”? The problem of knowing “about Him” (the historical Jesus) is that you never get to the point of Christ as me – you always see an outward Christ, not an inward Christ. Here’s the difference between truth and religion: Religion will always be about my self-improvement – it is the greatest lie ever told. Unfortunately, mainstream Christianity will always be a self-improvement religion. The focus will always be on an “outside of me” Christ. It will always look to days, times, places, objects, all based upon history – all based upon externals. “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7) Truth is the fact of the eternal Christ living His very life in us, as us and through us for our individual worlds.
Luke 17.20 “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation [outward]: 21Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
[Soren Kierkegaard] “When Christianity entered into the world, people were not Christians, and the difficulty was to become a Christian. Nowadays the difficulty in becoming a Christian is that one must cease to become a Christian. One best becomes a Christian without ''Christianity.'' Not until a person has become so wretched that his only wish, his only consolation, is to die--not until then does Christianity truly begin.”
CAN’T WE ALL KNOW UNION?:
I suppose it’s possible, but, here is quote by Norman – answering someone’s letter – on this very subject, from the Union Life Magazine of many years ago:
“Then finally when you speak of the vision of the UL Mag going to
“millions of copies” and the day when we fill “football stadiums”, once
again, it is obvious that you don’t recognise the cutting edge of our
message which will always produce the offence of the cross as with Jesus
and Paul, and the evangelical world will not receive it, except in some
The church is not wrong – the church is just childish. There is nothing particularly wrong in believing in an historical Christ and leading others to a faith in an historical Christ. It is just immature not to move on. A person will always understand an external before understanding an internal or a universal. Self-improvement religion will fill football stadiums and basketball stadiums because it is about an outside Christ and a self-improvement program which people love. That’s big business and it appeals to the masses. And Christianity is big business – raising money, building buildings and growing congregations. It’s an odd thing because the basic statement of salvation is “Jesus come into my heart” and then, ironically, we spend the rest of our lives forgetting that fact – an “in my heart Jesus” and focus on “out of my heart” Jesus – an external Christ and a self-improvement program.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF COMMUNION:
Jesus said to “do this in remembrance of Me” – but that does not mean pondering or remembering an external Jesus – because your are taking into yourself His body and blood – I think the “remembrance” part means actively bringing to mind the reality of your union with the Savior. At times Jesus seemed to have an “external” relationship to the One He called Father. Jesus prayed to what appeared to be an entity outside of Himself – to the Father – but He, more importantly said “I and the Father are one” – that’s union – He also said “If you’re seen me you’ve seen the Father” – well, we say, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen Jesus” – it’s the same thing. Could communion simply be about remembering who you are? – as in communion you have internalized Him – He is not external to you – He is your very flesh and blood – this is all about transforming your mind to the reality of your fixed inner union – of which we did not create, but only receive.
DOES SATAN FIT IN?
Satan is described as the most subtle liar [Genesis 3.1]. He appears as an angel of light as he attempts to deceive the church into believing in an external Christ and that Christianity is a religion based upon self-improvement. Satan does not work outside of the church - much. He does not create evil – if you’re not sure check out Isaiah 45.7 – satan spends little time conjuring up what seems to be evil – human beings do that just fine without his help. Satan’s job is keeping the Christian eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – when the Tree of Life is right there.
Don’t get bogged down by the concepts because the concepts actually focus on separation – and we are no longer talking about separation. The concepts are important, however, in the infancy of your walk as you come to “see” and understand your union. Okay, what are the “concepts”? The bible gives us some concepts. Why? Concepts are used in education to help a person learn – but – concepts are tools, only. The bible uses the concept of “containing”. The examples are “treasure in earthen vessels” - “vine to branch” – but these concepts are not exactly true. NPG said correctly, “when you see someone you don’t say ‘I see a body’ you say ‘I see a person’”. If, and only if, we were just bodies then we could be containers. But we are not just bodies. The concept is used only to help understand the truth. The truth is that Jesus lives His life in you, as you and for your world. But that is who your person is. And the person you are is unchangeable and eternal. You are not a combination of things or people. You are not simply a “container”. You, ultimately, are not “just” a vessel or a branch. You are the One you contain. The treasure becomes the vessel – the vine becomes the branch – you become Him. This is His choice and His doing. It is real at the moment of salvation – you just don’t know it for a while – but you will.
Are we the same as Him? No. We are created.
But, then, in John 10. 33 “The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. 34Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? 35If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;” Here, Jesus quoted:
Psalm 82.6 “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.”
COME FULL CIRCLE:
But now, I’m coming full-circle, after saying we do not know an historical Christ – what I really mean is that we do not know an outside Christ – a Christ of two thousand years ago – we know an inside Christ. Actually, we really do know an historical Christ – are you ready for this - that historical Christ is now you and I.
When I speak of the humanity of Jesus – DON’T GET ME WRONG – I do not doubt the divinity of Jesus. When I call Him a human I am not saying He is not God.
Jesus knew His union. But that union was always lived as a human. As we live our union as humans. Paul Anderson-Walsh said a few years ago, when speaking of Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness – that if He did not go through it as a ‘human’ “its all over for us”. Inotherwords, Paul said that if Jesus went through His temptation as God it was meaningless. I’ll take it one step forward, I think He lived His entire life as a man – a human – 24/7, 365 days for 33 years. I would say that if He was not a man then He could not die for men.
Philippians 2:7 “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men…”
Hebrews 2.10 “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”
Jesus did not turn on and off his deity with His humanity. He is a unified Person as we are unified persons. He knew His union. But that union was always lived as a human.
WHAT ABOUT HIS PAIN, SORROW AND GRIEF:
You must understand His humanity to understand your own. That you are now the historical Christ – reconciling your world to Him. Understanding humanity is to understand and experience the pain, sorrow and grief of being a human. Further, as Him, you must understand your humanity to understand the humanity – pain, sorrow and grief – of your world.
Now, search the New Testament and you will find the story of Jesus, but little of His psychological make-up – inotherwords, little of made Him human – with a few exceptions. One of those exceptions is the description of how He sweat blood at the thought of His impending arrest and murder. And, another, as He was about to die on the cross He said, “why has Thou forsaken Me?” Does that sound like a human or God speaking? Sounds like a human to me.
But the one verse that is most meaningful to me is also the shortest verse in bible. You know which one. It’s bible trivia time! At the tomb of Lazarus, John 11.35 “Jesus wept”. Jesus did not live on a level where He was only “playing at being human”. At Lazarus’ tomb we have Jesus, King of the Kings, Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace, Almighty God, weeping, not just crying - weeping. He was weeping, despite the fact that He knew that in two minutes He would bring Lazarus back to life. He is overwhelmed, personally by His own sorrow and grief. That’s right – His own sorrow and grief. Some say that Jesus wept vicariously for the others around Him that were grieving – I do not agree. His sorrow and grief were His personally. Yes, He does bear our sorrows and carry our grief, but it is one thing to say that He is touched by what touches us – but another thing to say that He is touched in the same way that we are. His pain is the same quality as ours – because of his humanity – because He is a human. If He is not one of us, He cannot die for us.
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND SORROW AND GRIEF?
Sorrow and grief touches everyone. It is the most basic and most painful human experience.
Jesus was up to His elbows in His humanity and the human needs of those He served – and so are we.
What are my verses?
Isaiah 53.3 “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Now that was the personal part. That verse described Jesus personally – His psyche – His consciousness – His awareness – His humanity.
Now this is the vicarious part. This is the verse that describes how He suffered for others:
Isaiah 53.4 “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”
His life, as lived for others, was based upon His own personal suffering – because He was a human. Why wasn’t Jesus described as a man “full of the joy of the Lord?” Isn’t that what Christianity teaches – that we are to get the blessing, be joyful, etc. Why is this so important? Because you and I are Him to our personal worlds. We are the historical Christ at this moment in history. We will know sorrow and grief. And for that reason we will be totally, absolutely human.
WE MUST BE HUMAN TO BE THE CO-SAVIOR OF OTHER HUMANS:
[Dan Stone] “Our humanity is God's asset. If we are meant to function on the human level, which is how God made us, we can't deny our humanity. We don't like things we think and feel, so we want to reject our humanness. But our humanity has to be part of God's plan; otherwise how can we express Him? He has designed us to express Him through our humanity. So denial of our humanity isn't the answer.”
We share the same quality of life as Him and therefore, we can bear the sorrow, and carry the grief of others. At the moment you realize that you carry the sorrow and bear the grief of others, then you realize that you are truly Him to your world. You don’t have to go out of your way looking for it – it will find you. The only way to identify with others is to have the same depth of pain in yourself – Jesus had this depth in Himself, in a personal way.
SO HOW DOES IT ALL HAPPEN:
So, the question is “how do I make this happen?” – the answer is, “you do nothing” and “you do everything”. The “nothing” part is just be yourself. The “everything” part is when you know who you are, then your life has a completely different perspective and purpose. You are free to be Him – Yourself! And, we are not becoming Him, we already are Him. We may not be learning, but we are gaining understanding.
Jesus did, in fact, wake up one morning and realize that He indeed was the Messiah. But He never woke up wondering if He was a good enough Messiah. He never woke up and said “I wonder if I’ll live my life for others today”. These are eternal facts, for Him and for us. The question never has to arise “am I a good expression of Jesus today?” No. Or - “did I live my life for others today?” No. Jesus lived His life simply, with an understanding of the Life expressed through Him. You do not have to take one step out of your normal way – but you may have to open your eyes and look around at your world. You do not have to hear anymore than normal – but you may have to begin to listen to what the people of your world are actually saying to you as they open their hearts and reach out hoping to understand your hope and be accepted and loved by you.
Remember “As He is, so are we in this world.” (I John 4.7) Inotherwords, whatever is true of Him, is true of us – right now.
John 14:9 “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?”
[Dan Stone] “What this tells us is that we can stop seeing ourselves as a liability. We can cease thinking that something more needs to happen to us spiritually before we can be an asset to God. If we keep focusing on ourselves externally, we'll keep thinking, ''He can't use me yet.'' If we focus on Christ living in us, we can put ourselves on the shelf as a liability and begin to see ourselves as an asset.”
So, how do we deal with apparent shortcomings:
[NPG] “He has taken such tight hold of us, and so joined Himself to us - Spirit with spirit- that His union with us remains a fact, no matter how we slip, deviate or even sin. Never changes His choice of us. So we walk in recognition of that fact, even when the devil or our friends or we ourselves point an accusing finger at us and say, "How can you be a manifestation of the indwelling Christ, when you are such a failure?" But it is a lie and we learn to refuse these false condemnations.”
[NPG] “We see that the uniqueness of the Gospel is that when He who is self-giving love takes over a human life, the one who is taken over himself becomes an other-lover, and not just blessed but a blesser, not just healed but a healer, not just loved but a lover.”
AND NOW THIS IS AS TRUE OF US AS IT IS OF HIM