Follow Me: Make Room for the Divine Nature

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Follow Me

Make Room for the Divine Nature

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Follow Me: Make Room for the Divine Nature

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In the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of World War II, the United States waged a systematic campaign of conquering a line of islands that led eventually to the doorstep of Japan, the ultimate goal. Island by island, the Navy would soften up the Japanese defenses by continual bombardment. The Marines (my father being one) would then be sent onshore to establish a beachhead. Once secured they would radio back to the ships offshore, “Mission accomplished!”

But that was true in only a limited sense. Most of the island was still under Japanese control! It would take time till every vestige of the island was secure under one command. And that doesn’t even include the overall operation, with many more islands to go. Thus the landing was but one juncture in an unfolding journey towards victory.

A fundamental question to ponder is this: If Christ dwells in us, and we are offered salvation by God’s grace and not by our own merit or human endeavor, then what’s left for us to do?

This historic episode has relevance to the calling God has set before us. As people of faith, we can sometimes operate under two false allusions that can hinder God’s desired activity in us. The first false notion is that once we have repented of our sins, accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and been baptized, the greatest challenges are then behind us. After all, we have arrived just like the Marines on the beach—mission accomplished!

The second false notion comes when the fog of spiritual warfare envelops us while we are hunkered down in the crossfires of life, projecting blurred internal messages that we are alone and that what we need to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12 1 Timothy 6:12Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto you are also called, and have professed a good profession before many witnesses.
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) is out of reach.

Both misconceptions are clearly torpedoed by clear biblical statements and additionally coming to understand and appreciate what God alone can do and what our own responsibility is in grateful response to His intervention in our lives as we strive to live by Christ’s call of “Follow Me.”

A spiritual wake-up call

In my previous “Follow Me” column in the Sept.-Oct. 2016 issue of Beyond Today, it was explained that the Holy Spirit isn’t merely some spiritual screwdriver or wrench that we reach for when needed, but is the abiding inward presence of God and Christ, which allowed Paul to proclaim that Christ lived through him (Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
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).

The reality is that God has elected to work from the “inside out,” which is just the opposite of how humanity operates. Consider Adam and Eve, who reached outward for something to put them on par with God—when God had intended a completely different avenue for them to travel toward transformation to His spiritual likeness.

A fundamental question to ponder is this: If Christ dwells in us, and we are offered salvation by God’s grace and not by our own merit or human endeavor, then what’s left for us to do?

Are we to merely sit back and, as it were, follow the old Greyhound Bus advertisement of “leave the driving to us”? Or are we called to an active and dynamic partnership with God to advance from His initial landing into our lives to something even grander in which ultimately His Spirit lovingly occupies every last element of our existence? Paul alludes to this process when he writes of looking forward to the time when “Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19 Galatians 4:19My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
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).

What are we still holding onto?

There is no question what God desires. There is no question that He and Christ literally reside in those who have accepted His calling and received the Holy Spirit (see John 14:23 John 14:23Jesus answered and said to him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our stayed with him.
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). The only question is: How much personal territory in our lives we are still holding onto that we haven’t willingly handed over to God?

Yes, territories not yet fully occupied by His Spirit such as our marriages, child rearing, challenges with coworkers, neighbors and fellow church members, alcohol, gambling, financial responsibilities and whatever other personal valley of decision we have been keeping off limits to God’s saving power.

Let’s be real for a moment: Most of us have rooms at home that I call “stuff rooms.” Oh no, you won’t find them on an architect’s blueprint, but we all know they exist—don’t we? That’s where we put everything we haven’t had time to get to or don’t know how or want to deal with—so it’s hands off.

Some things are in boxes. Others are just scattered on the floor. Some of the toughest stuff is crammed into the closets of the stuff rooms. We lock the door when company comes over so we can project to everyone a well-ordered life—when we know down deep that we have unfinished business.

This scenario parallels our lives. There are rooms of spiritual stuff that we need to open up to God, yielding to His entry and cooperating with His work on our behalf.

God already knows about your stuff. He’s just waiting for the invitation to continue to expand His operation in you—not by constraint but according to your heartfelt desire.

Paul is not the only New Testament author who speaks of God dwelling in us. The apostle Peter echoes Paul’s expression and anchors us into the reality that we are to be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
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).

Here was the individual to whom Jesus offered the invitation of “Follow Me” from the start of discipleship (Matthew 4:19 Matthew 4:19And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
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) to their last recorded conversation (John 21:19 John 21:19This spoke he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he said to him, Follow me.
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). It’s essentially the same ongoing invitation and admonition that Christ offers each of us as we step forward from His initial beachhead incursion into our lives and begin to allow Him to occupy every element of our existence.

How, then, do we make room for the divine nature?

Embracing God’s blueprint of making room

Peter supplies the blueprint, commencing by describing himself not only as an apostle, but a slave of Christ.

We can easily focus on the incredible apostolic call to preach the gospel and quickly overlook this other self-disclosure of servitude. Some English Bible versions translate the original Greek word doulos here as “servant.” But it means more than that. It means slave.

A slave was bought and paid for, and his life was not his own. The master’s will and bidding was ever his task to perform. Every fiber of his being and every moment of the day was dedicated to one purpose—responding to his master’s bidding in faithful obedience.

Peter’s self-description should be the same as ours, as further defined by Paul when he stunningly reminds us that “we have been bought with a price” and are now “slaves of righteousness” (1 Corinthians 6:20 1 Corinthians 6:20For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
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; Romans 6:16-18 Romans 6:16-18 16 Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness.
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).

But this servitude to a good God comes with incredible blessing. Peter refers to God as a loving Master of “divine power that has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3 2 Peter 1:3According as his divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us to glory and virtue:
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). This knowledge is not earthbound, but heaven sent. It’s divinely given and not humanly generated.

He is not speaking of a knowledge of 1+1=2, but that which came from his personal encounter with Christ when asked by Him, “But who do you say I am?” Peter had responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus then answered, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:15-17 Matthew 16:15-17 15 He said to them, But whom say you that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father which is in heaven.
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).

Understanding who God is and what He’s done and is doing in us through Christ is a revelation. Let me put it bluntly: It’s a miracle, and a gift. We can’t generate this ourselves. We can’t buy it. We can’t earn it by human merit. It comes from God through His Spirit and His Word.

But we must yield and cooperate, with a great appreciation for God’s work in our lives. We can show God that we understand what He’s done through Christ, that we truly “get it,” by how we respond in loving obedience in allowing His Spirit to ultimately occupy every facet of our lives—again, not by constraint but according to our heartfelt desires.

Is it a little scary to let go and allow God to enter some of those closed-off rooms of our lives? Sure it is! But that’s where living faith comes in, with the Spirit of God the Father and Jesus Christ personally dwelling in us. The gospel was always intended to be the means to a personal encounter with God and not merely acquisition of successful living techniques.

It’s noteworthy that when reflecting on His own calling Paul stated, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12 2 Timothy 1:12For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day.
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). Notice the emphasis was not on what Paul knew, but on whom he knew!

As spiritual soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3 2 Timothy 2:3You therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
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), we are not alone on the beach, and we don’t have to succumb to the fog of war. The next “Follow Me” column will be devoted to opening up some of those currently closed-off rooms in our lives—one by one—as we consider more of Peter’s insights on how to make room for the divine nature.