Sunday, May 1, 2016

More important, doing or being?

So which is more important, 

·        doing (faithful obedience, action) 
or   
·        being (recognizing/resting/abiding in the reality that we are infinitely valued and fully loved in Christ regardless of what we do or don't do i.e. no strings attached)

There is a tension in the Christian life between being (abiding) and doing (obedience) which is often confusing. As with any tension we tend to fall on one side or the other when both are equally true and necessary and actually connected. 

How do we reconcile these seemingly opposite realities?

On the being side

1. We are first created in God's image
  
2. We are also a beloved child of God (if we are in Christ).

This is the status of our being or existence in Christ. It is something that was done for us not by us. 

To flesh out these two key aspects more fully:

  • BEING
1. Before Christ:

We are someone valued by God first by virtue of being his image bearer (we possess the capacity to reflect and display his infinite worth unlike anything else in all of creation). This is something about us he loves even before he adopts us as his child and places us in Christ.

Since he loves that which is most lovely, namely himself, he loves those creatures who also have the greatest capacity to best reflect his love back to him and display him to others. This has nothing to do with anything we do and is true before we are adopted as his child in Christ. This has everything to do with our being who he made us to be; like himself, in his image (marred for sure but still bearers of his image, nevertheless, with the capacity to reflect him in a way the rest of his creation can not. Not even angels).

2. In Christ:

If
 we are in Christ, adopted as his child, we are also someone loved by God (without us doing anything to cause that love) to such an extent he took on our pain and suffering so we might reenter into and participate in his glory and joy as his image bearer (similar to how we participated in his life and glory before the fall/rebellion).

We not only have the capacity to display his infinite worth to others by virtue of being like God (in his image) but in fact can again and do now display his glory as his adopted child by his Spirit. God is now in us and for us, not against us.

This is who we are before Christ and in Christ. These two have to do only with our being (who we are), not our doing. 

  • DOING
Once we are in Christ, we are to love as Christ loves i.e. sacrificially. Our "doing" does not add to our "being" (i.e. make us any more his image bearer [thought it certainly makes us more like him in behavior] or his beloved child any more than we already are in Christ) but springs forth from it and is the expression of it. We love sacrificially because we were and are loved sacrificially.

However, we can not do as were created to (empowered by his love, life and Spirit), until we know (in the fullest sense, not just cognitively) who we are (being) first. We can not "do" in our own strength but in the strength we receive in knowing we are ("be") infinitely loved by God no matter what and designed to reflect him like nothing else can. This is the nature of our design (how we are suppose to operate) from the beginning and is still true. 


Experiencing our BEING in DOING

Now here is where there is significant confusion. Doing and being have a direct connection and merger. 

It is hard to keep the distinction while at the same time make the connection. 

It is also hard to make the connection without loosing the distinction.

We can not fully experience who we are (being) unless and until we live out (do) who we are (be).  

You may wish to pause and read this last sentence over a couple of times to let it sink in. 

Participating in who are (and were created to be), as empowered by the love/Spirit of God, is to fully enter in and experience who we are created to be.

Doing is the means by which we fully participate in and engage who we were created to be and who we now are in Christ. Who we are in Christ is a matter of being. In other words, we can not fully experience subjectively all we are (objectively) without acting out and upon who we are objectively. Granted this is an act of faith i.e. believing and fully recognizing we are (being) who God says and acting (doing) accordingly. 

Yes we are still broken but we are also in God's image and as his redeemed child, now indwelt by his Spirit, which, when fully participated in by faith, is a far more significant part (when we fully recognize/believe it) of who we are than our fallen condition. It is in fact the final word. 

This is not something we will necessarily feel before we act but once we act in this way (by faith, regardless of feelings) we enter into and participate in who we are (an infinitely loved image bearer and child of God), in a way we won't without acting/doing (our brokenness is no longer an issue as far as God's love and desire to work in and through us. In Christ, this is a given. He is committed to us in love and will never back away. Why? Because it's based on Christ's efforts not ours). 

But this is still an act based on who we are (being) and not doing without first being. Not a doing to become someone, but a doing because we are someone infinitely love in Christ.  

In other words, we may not necessarily feel we are loved or valued by God, but we act simply because God says we are and we believe his assessment because of who he is (the fully trustworthy, wise, powerful and loving God).  Again, the connection is we act by or out of faith in who God is and says we are and not how we feel. Why?

1.      He created us in his image
2.      He has declared us his fully beloved child [proving this by sending Christ for us]... 

Therefore he cherishes us whether we feel it or not, whether we view and cherish ourselves in the same way. We are simply called to believe God in his assessment of us. Christ's work on our behalf is our proof. Sending us his Spirit to live within us is our confirmation. It is also the power by which we live out this love. 

We act based on his evaluation, claim and promise, not necessarily on our experiencing any sense of that love. 

Even if and when we do have a sense of his presence, this itself is the result of faith i.e. the more we believe we are loved the more loved we may actually feel (though this isn't necessary to act. It simply helps make the action easier). Nevertheless our action is based on faith in who we are (who God has declared us to be), not necessarily our experience/feeling of who we are.

This is in fact the very order and truth brought forth in the greatest commandment.

Mar 12:28  And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" 29  Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  30  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31  The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

Though it isn't directly stated,  it is implied that the love for God is rooted in and springs forth from knowing God as he truly is. The expression "Hear, O Israel" is the equivalent of saying, listen up, pay attention and recognize who this great God is. He is the one and only God and he alone. There is no one else. In the original quote in Deut 6:4, the word for LORD is Yahweh. He is the "I AM"; the self existent one. This implies he needs no one. The commandment to love him that follows is a response to knowing this about him i.e. that he is the all sufficient God.  He is the God who loves simply because he is love and is lovely, not because our love is needed by him or earned from him. If we truly know God as the all sufficient, all loving God he is, we will love him with everything we are and have.

In short, to fully experience all that we are, we must act by faith upon the reality of who we are as declared by Him. And who he says we are is rooted in the belief that he is who he says he is. This is the essence of what Paul declared in his doxology at the end of Romans 11. 

Rom
11:33  Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 
Rom 11:34  "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" 
Rom 11:35  "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" 

Rom 11:36  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. 

Another reason experiencing who we are comes in and by doing, is it involves an order of priority. In order to do we must first be but if we only receive without giving out we become spiritually fat and lethargic and never become all God intents i.e. like God who is always flowing his love out to others. God's intent is not that we simply and only be (loved) but that we are (loved) for the purpose of loving/doing (love others as we are loved). This is why the second part of the greatest commandment is tied to and follows or flows out of the first. He created us to not just receive his love but to share it, give it outAs (in the same way) the Father has sent his Son, so he sends us.

·        Verses that indicate doing flows from being.

Joh 14:12  "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me (being) will also do the works (doing) that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
In a sense believing is a kind of doing (work), but not an outward act as we normally considering doing but an inward disposition that requires great effort i.e. it's hard to believe we are loved when we don't feel we are loved or when we experience hardship and pain. 
"Abide (be) in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit (do) by itself, unless it abides (is/being) in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide (be) in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides (is/being) in me and I in him, he it is that bears (does) much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." - Joh 15:4-5

·        Verses that indicated experiencing who we are (being) is the fruit of doing.

(GNB) Joh 13:17  Now that you know this truth, how happy you will be (who we are - i.e. our being) if you put it into practice (doing)!

(ESV) Joh 
13:17  If you know these things, blessed are you (who we are - being)  if you do them (doing).

"Whoever has (a state of being) my commandments and keeps (does) them, he it is (being) who loves me (demonstrates love by doing loving acts). And he who loves me will be loved by my Father (subjectively enter into the experience of God's objective love secured by Christ), and I will love him and manifest myself to him (subjectively experience God's presence/caring)."  

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?"

Jesus answered him, 
"If anyone loves me (is in my love), he will keep (do) my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. " - Joh 14:21-23 

On the surface this sounds like God's love (objectively) for us is dependent on our obedience. But this can not be, based on other passages. These passages are talking about our experiencing his love (subjectively), not the objective and fixed reality of being the objects of his love or being fully loved by him.

We see this with Christ himself. Christ says, " If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. " Joh 15:10 

Was the Fathers love for Christ a reality prior to Christ incarnation and Christ's subsequent obedience? Did Christ earn his fathers love by his obedience?

Not in the strict sense. The love between the Father and Son existed from all eternity past. The Father has always loved his Son and never stopped loving him at any time during the incarnation; even while he poured out his full wrath for our disobedience on him.

But there was a sense in which the Father's love was experienced by even Christ through Christ's obedience (obedience being the fruit of faith/abiding). God's love for his Son is a fixed objective reality. But this is not the same as Christ's subjective experiencing and participation in that love. Read the verse again. 

Christ says, " If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide (trust, rest and fully participate) in his love. " Joh 15:10 

Christ entered into and fully participated in (experienced) his Fathers love as a man through his obedience. Obedience is the fruit if faith.

What Christ's obedience did was prove his love for his Father i.e. it was the evidence of his love. And by Christ's acting out of love for his Father, he entered into and experienced that love in a way he could not have without obedience. 

"Whoever does not love me does not keep (do) my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me." - Joh 14:24 

"...but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know (as evidenced by my obedience) that I love the Father..." - Joh 14:31 

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide (be) in my love.  If you keep (do) my commandments, you will abide (be) in my love, just as I have kept (do) my Father's commandments and abide (be) in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." - Joh 15:9-11   

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear (do) fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.   These things I command you, so that you will love one another." - Joh 15:16 

Joh 16:27  for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me (do) and have believed (be) that I came from God.

1Jn_2:5  but whoever keeps (do) his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 

perfected: τελειόω, teleioō

Thayer Definition:

1) to make perfect, complete
1a) to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end
2) to complete (perfect)
2a) add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full
2b) to be found perfect
3) to bring to the end (goal) proposed
4) to accomplish
4a) bring to a close or fulfillment by event
4a1) of the prophecies of the scriptures


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Grace to you
Jim Deal