LIVING AND BELIEVING IN CHRIST

LIVING AND BELIEVING IN CHRIST Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

One of the great misunderstandings in Christian thinking is that of viewing belief in Christ as a one-time event, a sort of ticket that insures our entrance into Heaven when we die. The New Testament does not show this to be the case. Believing in Christ is a way of life—a way that leads to the fullness of resurrection.

LIVING AND BELIEVING IN CHRIST

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; And whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25,26)

One of the great misunderstandings in Christian thinking is that of viewing belief in Christ as a one-time event, a sort of ticket that insures our entrance into Heaven when we die. The New Testament does not show this to be the case. Believing in Christ is a way of life—a way that leads to the fullness of resurrection.

We are to live and believe; live and believe; live and believe throughout our lifetime, and probably throughout eternity.

A similar passage is as follows:

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)

We don’t just hear Christ’s Word once, and believe God exists, and on this basis receive the fullness of eternal life and become immune to condemnation. We have to hear and believe, hear and believe, hear and believe, every moment of every day if we are to grow in resurrection life. Hearing and believing is a way of life.

Both of the above passages, John 11:25,26 and John 5;24 could be interpreted to mean in order to be saved and go to Heaven all we need do is make a profession of belief in Christ. Now we are "saved." This appears to be the current viewpoint of numerous Christian people.

It is true also of the famous "The just shall live by faith." If we assume a correct theological position, we are saved and will go to Heaven when we die. We have joined the Christian club, so to speak.

In addition:

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13,14)

Our current teaching is that each of the above passages means if we once take the proper theological position, accepting the truth that Jesus is God’s Son, that He died for our sins, that He rose from the dead, and will return again some day, we now are saved and will go to Heaven when we die.

The truth is we can believe these facts and yet not be saved. Satan understands all this and he assuredly is not saved. What we have here is not saving faith but an orientation to truth.

It is necessary we be oriented correctly to truth, but such orientation must lead us to Him who is the Resurrection and the Life. We must come to the Lord Jesus Himself, not just to truth about Him.

More to the point: we do not come to Him once, as though we were purchasing a ticket by means of our belief. We come to Him all the time, every moment of every day and every night. We always are coming to Him.

Jesus is the Way, not a ticket. The just live by faith. This is how the righteous live. They live by choosing to seek the Lord Jesus at all times for every aspect of their life.

Let’s return now to our opening passage and look at it more closely, for it tells us how to acquire eternal life.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; And whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25,26)

First of all, the resurrection and eternal life, the Life of God, are a Person.

How eternal life and the resurrection can be a person is difficult to understand until we define "resurrection" accurately.

We think of resurrection as rising up from somewhere. Today people associate resurrection with the so-called "rapture," meaning that the term resurrection has something to do with flying up into the air, or going to Heaven.

The term itself has nothing to do with being lifted from anywhere or going to Heaven.

What, then, is resurrection? And how can it be a person?

There is more here than meets the eye, as the saying goes.

Here is a definition of "resurrection": resurrection is the giving of life to that which is dead; or leaving that which is dead and entering that which is alive. These two occurrences are where resurrection begins and ends. Our inward nature and finally our body can experience resurrection. That which is resurrected can exist on the earth or anywhere in the spirit world.

What is "death," in this definition? Death is the condition of being without the Person of God. Physical death is often termed "sleep," in the New Testament, because physical death is temporary. Physical death is temporary because everyone who has ever lived will one day be awakened and stand before God.

What is "life," in this definition? Life is the Person of God given to us in Christ.

We can have death (the absence of the Person of God) in our inward nature and also in our body.

We can have life (the Person of God) in our inward nature and also in our body.

Thus resurrection is the adding of God to that which has been without the Person of God, or leaving that which is without God and then entering the Person of God.

Let’s think first about the resurrection of our inward nature, our soul and spirit.

The resurrection of our inward nature has to do with its deliverance from the spirit of the world, from the passions and lusts of the flesh and soul, and especially from self-will. These forces and guidances are void of the Presence of God.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the resurrection of the inward nature is the change from our life being guided by our physical brain to our life being guided by Christ working through the Holy Spirit.

When we no longer are driven and guided by our trust in the world spirit, by our lusts, and by our mental reasoning, but are driven and guided by the Lord Jesus Christ working through the Spirit of God, then we have been resurrected in our inward nature. We no longer are merely a descendant of Adam and Eve. We have become a new creation. The old aspects of our personality have passed away and we have become new in Christ. We have been renewed with the Person of God.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (II Corinthians 5:17,18)

This is eternal life. This is the Kingdom of God. This is the resurrection from the dead.

Notice that this process has nothing to do with a rising up from somewhere. Rather it is a transformation of our personality, of how we live and move and have our being.

Now we can see how Jesus Himself is the Resurrection and eternal Life. As we make the change from Adam to Christ we are changing from death to Life. This is resurrection. Christ Himself is this Resurrection and Life.

"He who believes in me will live, even though he dies."

The above statement is of the utmost importance to us. It means even though our body dies, our inward nature, being of the Substance and Virtue of Christ, continues to live in the Presence of God. We die physically, but there is no interruption of our conscious existence and our fellowship with Christ and the Father.

In this sense we do not die at all. We merely shed the constraints of the physical house, the mortal body, and walk forward into the Presence of God.

If the believer has only a theological orientation to the facts concerning the Kingdom of God there has been no inner resurrection. When he dies his original adamic nature will enter the spirit realm. Where he or she will go then I have no idea. Probably to a place of rest until the Day of Resurrection. Or, in the case of the wicked, into an area in the spirit realm of torment, of corruption, of degradation.

But if someone professes belief in Christ, won’t he or she go to Paradise? I am not certain. I would have to have a scriptural basis in order to be assured of this. The New Testament teaches that if we as a Christian sow to our flesh instead of to the Spirit of God we will read corruption and destruction.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7,8)

Some Christians may assure us that Paul is not addressing the above to Christians. But he is!

So we see that the inward resurrection takes place as Christ is formed in us and as we put to death the actions of our body. The death leaves and eternal resurrection Life enters.

When we die we cannot bring our money or possessions with us. But we will bring our inward nature with us, whether or not it has been transformed! A sobering thought indeed!

As far as the resurrection of the physical body is concerned, this means our body will come forth from its place of interment and become alive by being filled with the Life of Jesus Christ, providing our inward nature has been transformed. Thus He Himself is the resurrection of both the inward nature and the outward body.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20,21)

"And whoever lives and believes in me will never die."

How could we die when our inward nature is Christ? We will pass fully alive into the spirit realm when we die physically, and then, in the Day of Christ, our mortal body will be raised from its place of interment and be filled with the eternal resurrection Life of Him who Himself is the Resurrection and the Life.

I think what I have written above would be accepted by most Christians without too many reservations.

However, this is not the point of challenge of the present essay.

The issue is found in this statement: "He who lives and believes in me."

It is not a case of making a profession of belief, it is a case of living and believing. This means our life changes from the ordinary way of using our wisdom, strength, and talents to make our decisions and carrying them out. Instead, we change from trusting in ourselves to looking to the Lord for every decision we make and action we take.

We trust in the Lord with all our heart. In all our ways we acknowledge Him. By "all our ways" I mean literally every aspect of our being and doing. We continually are looking to the Lord. We instantly are obedient to His slightest wish. We cultivate His Presence at all times. We pray without ceasing. It is Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!

Now as we change from our old ways to this new way of living and believing, living and believing, something is taking place in the spirit realm. We are being fed in the spirit realm with the body and blood of the Lamb of God, which are our eternal Life.

We find this process set forth in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John.

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." (John 6:32,33)

It is not enough to profess belief in Christ. We must eat Christ. He is Bread. There is the written Word, the Bible, and then the living Word, Jesus Christ. We are to read the written Word and meditate on it. We are to eat the living Word. We are to receive His Life into ourselves.

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35)

Obviously the Lord is not speaking of physical hunger or thirst, for we can come to Christ and still be physically hungry and thirsty. Rather Christ is speaking of an inward hunger; an inward thirst.

Whether or not an individual realizes it, he or she has a need, a hunger for righteousness, for joy, for peace. Only Christ can satisfy this hunger and thirst. The victorious saint is satisfied only as he keeps on eating of Christ and drinking of Christ. It is not a case of eating of Christ and drinking of Christ on only one occasion. Eating and drinking Christ must be the way we live each day.

But when do we eat Christ and when do we drink Christ? Every time we choose to turn away from our natural desires and be guided and helped by Christ we are given His body and blood in the spirit realm. Every time we choose to go our own way we are not given His body and blood but are living in our sinful human nature, which is to live in spiritual death—in separation from the Person and Life of God.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37)

Salvation does not operate according to the plans and programs of man. God the Father always is in charge of the operation of salvation. All that the Father gives to Christ will come to Christ. Whoever comes to Christ will not be driven away. We come because we are guided to Christ by the Spirit of God. He always accepts us. It is not a case of our accepting Christ but of His accepting those whom the Father has given Him.

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. (John 6:38)

This is how we are to live. We are to seek the will of Christ in every aspect of life. This is what it means to eat His flesh and drink His blood. This is the resurrection and the life—doing the will of God in every circumstance.

And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. (John 6:39)

We know from the Scriptures that every person who has lived on the earth will be raised.

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice And come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)

But from John 6:39 forward Jesus begins to speak of a resurrection in advance of the general resurrection from the dead, the general resurrection being that of John 5:28,29)

There is a "first resurrection," an advance resurrection that will take place when next He appears.

We do not have to attain to the general resurrection. No effort is required to participate in the general resurrection, the resurrection that will take place at the conclusion of the thousand-year Kingdom Age—sometimes referred to as the "White Throne Judgment.".

We do however have to attain to the resurrection that will take place at His next coming, to the first resurrection.

Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)

Those who merely have professed belief in Christ, who have assumed the correct theological orientation, and have not gone beyond this, will not participate in the first resurrection. The first resurrection is for the blessed and holy members of the royal priesthood.

To participate in the first resurrection we have to first enter the inward resurrection, which occurs as we live in Jesus each day instead of in our adamic nature.

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40)

Again, we could interpret the above to mean we make an initial profession of belief in Christ. But it signifies rather that we are to look to the Son continually and believe in the Son continually. Salvation is not a ticket. Salvation is the manner in which the righteous live at all times.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. (John 54:55)

When we say we must eat the flesh of Christ and drink His blood if we are to enter resurrection life we are not speaking figuratively. His flesh is real food. His blood is real drink. They are tangible virtues in the spirit realm. They are of Him and from Him. They are part of His Being.

Thus, when the slain Lamb appears in the sky, those who live by His body and blood will be caught up to Him. The eagles will gather where the Body is. We will not be raised when the Lord appears on the basis of a profession of belief in the facts of theology. It is the body and blood of Christ that will raise us, for they are resurrection and they are life.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. (John 6:56)

Paul said, "The dead in Christ will rise."

We interpret this to mean, "All who have made a profession of faith in Christ will rise."

This is not the case. To be "in Christ" means we are living in Christ now, will continue to live in Christ after we die, and still will be living in Christ when He appears, although our physical body is asleep in the ground.

Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6:57)

The above is one of the most important verses of the New Testament. It is telling us that we stand in relationship to Christ as He stands in relationship to the Father.

As Christ is of the Father’s Being and lives by the very Life of the Father, so we are to be of Christ’s Being and live by His very Life. We enter this relationship of total union with Christ and the Father by continually feeding on the body of Christ and drinking the blood of Christ.

Belief that transforms, therefore, is not a mental recognition of truth. True belief, in the sense the Lord Jesus uses the term, is the eating of Christ’s flesh and the drinking of His blood. We do not just accept the truth concerning Him, we enter a relationship with Him that is so total, so entire, so beyond description, that we must refer to it as eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." (I Corinthians 11:23-25)

"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people." (Hebrews 8:10)

Eating the flesh of Christ and drinking His blood constitute the new covenant. The new covenant is the writing of God’s eternal moral law on our mind and heart. Christ Himself is God’s eternal moral law made flesh. As we continually eat His flesh and drink His blood, He is formed in us. As Christ is formed in us, God’s law is inscribed in our thinking and in our will. Thus we are the flesh becoming the Word.

This is salvation. This is the resurrection. This is eternal life. This is the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is the government of God. Paradise is the country that the Kingdom of God rules. When Christ has been formed in us we become part of the government of God. Then all of God’s creation becomes our inheritance.

The goal of the Apostle Paul was to attain the inward resurrection, to be followed by the first resurrection from the dead when the Lord appears.

It indeed is remarkable that the aged apostle still was seeking to lay hold on the inward resurrection. This reveals to us that our "ticket doctrine" of today is really a destructive error, because it hinders the believers from pressing forward toward the goal that has been set before them.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7,8)

Paul was seeking, toward the end of his distinguished career, to know Christ; to gain Christ. Can you see how Paul’s words reveal that our present cheap, easy "plan of salvation" falls far short of the new covenant?

And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Philippians 3:9)

In the above verse Paul is contrasting gaining righteousness by observing the statutes of the Law of Moses, and gaining righteousness by seeking each day to know Christ, to gain Christ. Paul desired to be found in Christ, to be living as part of the Life of Christ.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)

If there is a more remarkable passage in the New Testament, I do not know of it.

Could you imagine a minister of today exclaiming that he was striving to know Christ, to know the power of His resurrection, to share Christ’s sufferings, to become like Christ in His death, to somehow attain to the resurrection from the dead?

Have you ever heard a pastor or evangelist fervently cry out these words?

If not, why not? This is one of the few instances where an apostle stated the goal of redemption. Why don’t we hear it all the time?

A good question.

The answer is, we have not understood what it means to live and believe in Christ.

We have conceived of salvation as a statement of belief that we then hold to faithfully throughout our life. We believe God will bring us to Heaven when we die if we maintain our statement of belief.

It is true rather that salvation is a way of life and a state of being. We always are looking to Christ, always sharing His Life. We listen for His voice and seek His will in every circumstance.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)

I press on! I press on! I press on!

I press on toward what?

I press on toward the fullness of Christ until He is living in me and I am living in Him.

Paul did not count that he had fully changed from Adam to Christ, that his inward resurrection had been completed. But he was forgetting what was behind and was straining toward the fullness. Paul knew his mistakes of the past had been forgiven through the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus, and now he was reaching toward more of the eternal resurrection Life of Jesus Christ.

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13,14)

The expression in the New International Version "has called me heavenward" leaves the impression that Paul was endeavoring to go to Heaven. This concept does not fit the context. Rather, the call on Paul’s life was from Heaven. It was a call to be part of the Resurrection and the Life.

The great mythology of Christian thinking is that our goal is to go to a place called "Heaven." While there is a literal Heaven, going there is not our goal. Christ is not the way to Heaven but to the Father.

Heaven is a place. The Father is a Person.

Being in Heaven would never fulfill our desire for righteousness, peace, and joy. Sin and rebellion began in Heaven. Heaven is a place of spiritual warfare.

Only the Presence of God the Father can ever satisfy our desire for righteousness, peace, and joy. It is the Father, not the place termed "Heaven," who is our goal.

It has pleased God to give all of Himself to the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore all that we desire in the Father is found in Christ.

Now it is the will of Christ that we enter that same relationship with Him. It is Christ’s will to give all of Himself to us, so righteousness, peace, and joy are found in us. Then the saved peoples of the earth can come and drink freely from us of the water of eternal, resurrection life.

"The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come’"

There are waters to swim in. There is a fullness of God to be grasped. There is a good fight of faith as we move from the life of Adam to the Life of Jesus Christ.

There is a resurrection unto life to be attained, first in the inward nature and then in the body.

There is a vast multitude of people waiting for us to lay hold on that for which we have been laid hold on by the Lord; for they are our inheritance. They will obtain life and healing from us as soon as we become a tree of life.

The Lord Jesus is the Resurrection. The Lord Jesus is the Life. Our goal is not to go to Heaven, it is to become an integral part of God through Christ.

As I stated previously, the Kingdom of God is a government. Paradise is the country ruled by the Kingdom of God. In the present hour God is perfecting, through Christ, a royal priesthood who will be able to govern the people in Paradise in a righteous, peaceful, joyous manner.

The change from Adam is difficult. It is painful. All of that to which we cling must be given to the Lord when He asks for it.

Keep in mind, while in your pain and in your prison, that the end is a crown of life and righteousness, provided you remain faithful unto death.

If you will stay the course, as they say, the time will come when God sees you can be entrusted with the nations of saved people whom God loves. Then God’s joy, Christ’s joy, and your joy will be complete.

Adam is not fit to govern God’s people. Only Christ is able to govern God’s people in a satisfactory manner. It is only as you and I become part of Christ, being filled with His Person and Spirit, that we can exercise our authority and power as a coheir of the nations and bring righteousness, peace, and joy to them.

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1)

For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise

spring up before all nations. (Isaiah 61:11)