Living Life Over Before It’s Over, Pt. 6
Study Guide, January 17, 2016 – Pastor Clay Olsen
One of the fun phrases in theology is ‘Hypostatic Union’. It just has a nice ring to it. But the phrase points to a powerful theological teaching that refers to the fact that in one Person two natures were eternally united; that Person being, Jesus Christ. And the two natures that were eternally united were the nature of God in Christ and the nature of the human Jesus. And this union is a ‘hypostatic’ union in that both the nature of God and the nature of humanity remains distinct in Jesus Christ, and yet united just the same. This is ‘glorious’!
But we point this out because this union between the nature of God Himself with the nature of a human being, or with one of us, set the course for the hope of all future life for us in relationship with our God. And that is; because Christ united His life with one of us human beings, you and me, as human beings we could now have our life united with Christ. And the result is that we, who were separated from God by sin, or were basically incomplete human beings due to the fact that our human spirit was dead in sin, could now become united with Christ’s own Spirit and therefore become complete in our soul and our spirit through our union with Christ. Note carefully the revelation about this fact in Col 2:10- “So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” NLT
In our journey of looking into things that we are to focus upon and practice in our lives before our lives are over, another key concept concerns a reorientation of our minds to think of ourselves and live out our lives in terms of our ‘union with Christ’. A Christian is by very definition, one who has been eternally united in spirit with the Spirit of Christ and is thus now complete in his or her soul and spirit because of their ‘union with Christ’.
It’s interesting how we often refer to Jewish believers as ‘Completed Jews’, or as those who are Jewish by nationality and have also accepted Jesus Christ as their Messiah. Well, in reality, for any of us Gentiles who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Messiah, we are now ‘Completed Gentiles’. Until we gave our life to God in repentance and received Christ into our life by faith, we were very much ‘incomplete’. In fact, any person on Earth who has not accepted Jesus Christ as his or her Messiah is still ‘incomplete’, since their spirit is still dead in trespasses and sin. Their soul; as in, their mind, emotions, and will, is very much intact, but their spirit is still separated from their Creator and Savior, and thus, they are not only incomplete concerning their salvation, but they are still separated from the life of God in Christ Jesus.
As Christians, we understand this concept pretty well, of our salvation in union with Christ. But what often needs a reorientation in our thinking is not so much about our union with Christ in our salvation, but the ongoing need to think and to live according to our union with Christ for our sanctification. In other words, our tendency is to understand that we are united with Christ in our position as a disciple, but we often tend to revert to disunited thinking and living in our daily practice. Or, in terms of Christ’s call to walk with Him as though we are ‘yoked’ together with Him, we tend to ‘unyoke’ ourselves from Him in how we think about ourselves, as well as how we live our life and carry out our daily activities. In other words, we pretty much just wander off down the furrows of life on our own as though we are not yoked to the Master at all. Or even another way to put this is that, in our yoke of salvation, we become ‘hinged’ to the Lord Jesus, but somehow, when it comes to our sanctification, we become ‘unhinged’ in our daily living and daily thinking. And thus, in one word we have a description for much of the conflict in many Christian’s lives – They have become ‘Unhinged!’
We often turn to that word as a description of someone who seems to have, as they say in Australia, ‘They’ve gone off the boil’. But in terms of the Christian life, it actually applies to anytime a believer reverts to thinking and living as though they were not yoked together with Christ for both their salvation and their sanctification. They’ve become ‘unhinged’, and so no wonder their yoke has become hard and their burdens have become heavy. Which as you recognize, that is the opposite of the way Jesus said it is supposed to be for the believer who stays hinged in the yoke with Him and united in his walk with Him. Matt 11:29- “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” NASU
The first signs of an ‘unhinged’ life are when you no longer find rest in your soul, and God’s yoke no longer feels easy at all, nor do His burdens feel light. Again, these are signs that you have either taken Jesus’ place on His side of the yoke, trying to be in charge of your own life, or you’ve become unhinged from the yoke and thus unstable in your ways.
Now, this is not to say that discipleship is easy or that the burdens of life aren’t heavy. But it is saying that unless we stay hinged in the yoke with Jesus as both our Savior from our sins and as the Lord of our daily lives then we will not experience the rest that we are intended to experience nor have the strength to bear the burdens we must bear as we carry out God’s will and walk in His ways. We must stay ‘hinged’ to the yoke with Christ in order to stay on task in walking down the furrows of His will for our lives and experiencing His rest for our souls as we carry the burdens we must bear.
Realize this: As Matthew Henry put it: God has for us both a helmet of salvation for our heads, and also a yoke of discipleship for our necks. And if we resist either, well, as Jesus said to Saul, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” To resist the the ways of God’s predetermined plan for our lives is both foolish as well as harmful. Prov 15:32- “If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.” NLT
Jesus put it another way when He was teaching His disciples about their true identity and how they were to think and live. John 15:5- “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.” NASU Now, if we can animate this scene a little here…You can break off a branch and set it on the ground, but hard as it might try and as much as it might strain, apart from being united to the vine, it’s going to produce ‘nothing’. Oh, it might produce frustration or even stir up some dust, but it’s not going to produce ‘fruit’. Only union with the vine can produce ‘fruit’, or those things which have lasting value and lasting blessings.
And that leads us back to our need to have a united mind, which then enables us to think with a united mind. Otherwise we are left with a ‘divided mind’. And what did the Apostle James say about that? James 1:5-8- “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” NASU
James packs a lot of punch into a few statements here. Now remember: God is not reluctant about leading and guiding us here. We don’t have to convince God to love us and to find pleasure in being our Shepherd. He does love us and He loves leading us. But we have to trust Him to lead us and guide us once we ask Him. Plus, when we ask God for wisdom, that is not to be like asking God to sign off on our plans we have already made for our lives, but to better understand His plans for our life that we have already ‘signed off’ on ourselves. That’s like my college Pastor used to say that many Christians come to God with their plans for their life all outlined and ask God, “Now, Lord, would You just sign Your name here on the bottom?” Rather, we are to come to God with our name already signed to a blank page and say, “Lord, would you now please fill out Your plan for my life?”
How many plans are you trying to follow in your life? Or, whose plan are you trying to follow, God’s or your own? Remember, James says it can’t be both, for that’s being a double-minded person, or one who is now unstable in all of his or her ways. You see, you will either live anchored to the Rock or tossed about by the waves like both James says and as the Apostle Paul put it: “…tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming…”Eph. 4:14 NASU
A point we are making here is that not only do we need to orient or reorient our thinking to think in terms of our union with Christ for the sake of producing the fruit in our life that lasts and has lasting blessing, but also for the sake of protecting ourselves from both the damage that results from having a ‘double-mind’ and from the deception of a scheming enemy. Life is tough enough in itself. We don’t have to subject ourselves to even greater frustrations and conflicts and crises that come from double-minded thinking or double-minded living. We may have to endure the harsh confrontations from a world that is living in rebellion against God, but we don’t have to expose our lives to the harmful results that come from an undisciplined life on top of that. To bring harm to yourself is just flat out foolish. James has already warned us about that. We don’t have to expose our lives to that. Like Jesus taught us: It’s entirely possible to walk in the yoke with Jesus in such a way that even though life is full of hard things, something in the experience of it all will be ‘easy’ as well. Jesus reveals that it is entirely possible to walk with Him in such a way that even though the burdens of life are constant and heavy, something in the experience of it all will be ‘light’ as well.
And what is that something that will make our yoke easy and our burdens light? That something is this mystery of our ‘union with Christ’. Again, we need to orient or reorient our thinking about that fact that ‘in Christ’ my life is no longer about ‘me’; it’s about ‘we’. As Paul stated in 1 Cor 6:19-20- “…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” NASU You see, that is both your identity and your purpose. Your life is now a shared life; a life that is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God; a life that is now united to the Person of Christ, who is both Lord and Master of your life and who has eternal plans and purposes for your life.
One thing this means is that when you or I think and act independently from this united life that we share in union with Christ, then no wonder our ‘soul rest’ becomes unraveled and life’s yoke feels hard and our burdens seem heavy. We’ve become ‘unhinged’. Plus, remember, we do not live in a world that is neutral toward God’s sheep.
We live in a world of wolves. And the safest place for sheep is when they are yoked to their Shepherd. Now, granted, a sheep and its Shepherd yoked together is kind of an unusual picture, but just go with it for now. Our connection with our Lord is what we’re after here. The mindset of us being ‘hinged to Jesus’ is what we’re after here. It’s reorienting our thinking to ‘We’ instead of ‘me’; to ‘Us’ instead of ‘myself’; to my life ‘belonging to God’ instead of belonging to me.
It’s kind of an odd way to put it, but years ago I heard it said that once Christ comes into your life and makes you His disciple, He ‘ruins’ you for anything else. That does sound odd, doesn’t it? But it was meant to be a little ‘tongue-in-cheek’ way of saying that once Christ comes into your life, He comes in as Who He is; He is Lord and Master, and you cannot go back to living as though you are the master. You’re not. And things cannot be as they were before or cannot be contrary to the Master’s will, without some regrettable fallout. Remember – ‘double-minded’, ‘unstable’, ‘unhinged’, ‘tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming’… These are not good things. Wise men and wise women do not expose their lives to harmful and foolish things like these. Good things don’t result from bad thinking. Good thinking, right thinking, thinking that revolves around your ‘union with Christ’, is the kind of thinking that we are to use as we think about anything and everything in life. This is the kind of thinking that is ‘yoked’ to the Master. And when you stay committed to staying yoked to the Master and keep abiding in the Vine is when the Master then produces the strength of the Spirit working through your life and produces the fruit of the Spirit growing in your life.
And this is the commitment we need to make to our Lord Jesus over and over…before our life is over.