Christ Our Life

roman-holiday-audrey-hepburn-gregory-peck-1953Gregory Peck made more than one movie about an assumed identity. That plot device is probably popular because it appeals to our curiosity about being somebody different, or how we would act if we were.  Many yearnings including this one, can be traced to some profoundly spiritual truth.

Peck and Audrey Hepburn star in “Roman Holiday,” (1953) a movie about a princess weary of her official duties and expectations. She assumes the identity of an ordinary tourist, but Peck, playing the reporter, figures it out.  In “Gentlemen’s Agreement,” (1947) Peck again plays a journalist.  This time he accepts the challenge of writing hard-hitting articles to expose anti-Semitism.  So he poses as a Jew for an insider perspective.

The intriguing idea of being someone else hints at the Christian life that many encounter only after years of trying to live it. Who wouldn’t want to be in touch with your “better angels” or to “be all that you can be”?  So we try, but sense something is still missing.  Do the phrases “I need more of God in my life” or “I’m going to live for God” really express the most profound meaning of the gospel of Christ?

Authentic Christianity means assuming a new identity. Some of your personality may remain but you have exchanged your life.  It’s not a life that has only “turned over a new leaf.”  These words express something quite different:  “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.”  “Consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Gal. 2:20, Rom. 6:11, Col. 3:4).  The profound spiritual truth is that Christ is your life.  In Him, you assume a new identity!  It is not just that you can be better, but that you can share in the divine, eternal life.

Major W. Ian Thomas served in the British Expeditionary Forces in Belgium in WWII, and died just a few years ago.  After the War and for decades he effectively promoted Christian education and personal spiritual growth.  But in his early life he was ineffective.  One evening, he sensed the Lord saying, “For seven years, with utmost sincerity, you have been trying to live for Me, on My behalf, the life that I have been waiting for seven years to live through you.  You cannot have My life for your program.  You can only have My life for My program!”  And so he finally understood the exchanged life.

Living the life of Christ means rest (Heb. 4:10), such as rest from trying to do what only God can. This is amazing grace, that God would work in and through you, so you can live the life of Christ!

Grapevines of Grace

VineyardThe idea of agritourism is really catching on in Georgia.  Around the state but especially in North Georgia, vineyards are a big draw, with estimated economic impact of $15 million.  Viticulture has persisted throughout history, so no surprise that Jesus spoke to the ages with lessons from the vine.

 Jesus may have been walking by a vineyard with his disciples when he spoke these words: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  To the one who tries so hard and fails so often to live a righteous life, this is a foreign thought.  The branch does no work but cling to the vine.  The believer to be fruitful has but one goal, to abide (reside) in Jesus.

 Hudson Taylor, notable missionary to China, discovered this secret, and he came to call it the ‘exchanged life.’  Though full of activity as he tried to do enough to please God, he suffered the futility of never being enough.  You can hear the relief in a letter to his sister, “The weight and strain are all gone.  But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.  I am no longer anxious about anything as I realize this; for He, I know is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. His grace is sufficient.”

 The believer is “in Him.”  What are the things that can only be true because of that, and not from our own activity and futility?  We are a new creation.  We are his workmanship.  We receive the gift of his own righteousness.  Seventy times in the New Testament, ordinary believers are called ‘saints’ (holy ones).  We no longer live but Christ lives in us.  If all these things are what God does as we abide in Christ, how is it possible to add to them by our own effort?  Ephesians 1 is the “in Him” chapter.  Read it and be blessed while you learn to rest.

 Taylor shared with his friends a booklet with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s words, “How, then shall a Christian bear fruit? By efforts and struggles to obtain that which is freely given; by meditations on watchfulness, on prayer, on action, on temptation, and on dangers? No: there must be a full concentration of the thoughts and affections on Christ; a complete surrender of the whole being to Him; a constant looking to Him for grace.”

 You know the words of the song Amazing Grace.  You know God’s grace means His unmerited favor toward you.  But do you know the exchanged life that comes from abiding in the Vine?  “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).