What is our part in a face-to-face relationship with Jesus?

Craig Kuhlman submitted the following questions related to our personal participation in the salvation we have in Jesus. I encourage your reply to his questions via "comments."
  • How can we maintain engagement (in face-to-face relationship with Jesus) without ebb and flow? 
  • How do we continue to live in that relationship and bear spiritual fruit without becoming formulaic, or something "that must be done" by ourselves, when all was done by Him? 
  • How can we maintain the Spirit's active regeneration that comes from face-to-face relationship with Jesus and yet avoid the impression we must "do" the spiritual disciplines, when Jesus has already done it all? 
  • What is "our part," if any? And is it fair to say, that if there is any "our part," isn't that part initiated by Him to begin with? 
  • If we have a part now, why didn't we have it from the beginning when we were dead in sin?

Comments

  1. Hi there!
    These are indeed interesting questions, and I would like to give my two cents on the matters posed by these questions.

    Basically, my response is that we would like to see transformation and fulfillment in our Christian lives, but we so often miss the point of how these things come to pass in our lives. This lack of seeing is because we are addicted to law, and this law causes us to look at ourselves and how we are doing with law and thus with God. This approach never works for us and can only prove over and over again that we are sinners.

    For instance, Christians are often told to "love your neighbor as yourself" from Moses (Lev. 19:18.) This is nothing but law as Jesus showed the law types of His day. Also, no one can love their neighbor to the standard this law demands. So, we can end up quite frustrated by seeking transformation and fulfillment from this or any other law or law based doing way.

    In contrast, the New Covenant shows us where our transformation and fulfillment come from. It is from looking at Christ in us our hope of glory. As Paul told the Corinthians:

    2 Corinthians 3:14-18--But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 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. (NIV)

    But my experience has shown me that we humans naturally find what Paul said to the Corinthians highly counter intuitive because we want to be doing something--especially law stuff.

    The long and short of this matter is that Jesus Christ does the transforming and gives the fulfillment. But we must stop looking at the law, and thus at what we are doing or need to do, if we ever want to see Jesus in action in us.

    The best to you always!

    J. Richard Parker

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  2. # How can we maintain engagement (in face-to-face relationship with Jesus) without ebb and flow?

    (We can't apart from Jesus! This is why He shares with us His trust that we can trust only in Him.)

    # How do we continue to live in that relationship and bear spiritual fruit without becoming formulaic, or something "that must be done" by ourselves, when all was done by Him?

    ( In the 1st instance we can't! We can ONLY in the literal person of Jesus, and we can trust him for helping us to participate even more fully in His relationship with the Father and the Spirit as He does! From glory to glory, to glory, etc.)


    # How can we maintain the Spirit's active regeneration that comes from face-to-face relationship with Jesus and yet avoid the impression we must "do" the spiritual disciplines, when Jesus has already done it all?

    (In the 1st instance we couldn't possibly do such an impossible feat! In one sense we MUST do what Jesus does, since he shares his actual life with us, but it will only be because he has already done it and is still doing it through us!)

    # What is "our part," if any? And is it fair to say, that if there is any "our part," isn't that part initiated by Him to begin with?

    (Our part is his part shared with us in our distinction, and a definite "YES" to your second question based on the answer to the first! :-)

    # If we have a part now, why didn't we have it from the beginning when we were dead in sin?

    (We did have a part from the beginning while we were dead in sin. Jesus was playing our part for us as determined from the foundation of the earth. He was even playing his part in us while we were dead in sin, but part of the nature of sin is to be in darkness about the truth! The issue is more one of enlightenment and quality. We have always been fundamentally good in his goodness, even in our sin!)

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  3. In answer to Craig's several questions, and in solidarity with the replies from Richard and Timothy, I'm reminded of the words to the hymn, Not I, but Christ:

    Not I, but Christ, be honored, loved, exalted;
    Not I, but Christ, be seen be known, be heard;
    Not I, but Christ, in every look and action,
    Not I, but Christ, in every thought and word.

    Not I, but Christ, to gently soothe in sorrow,
    Not I, but Christ, to wipe the falling tear;
    Not I, but Christ, to lift the weary burden,
    Not I, but Christ, to hush away all fear.

    This hymn develops Paul's thought in Galatians 2:20, which declares that we have been crucified with Christ, and thus we are dead in Christ. So it's *all of Christ.* Yet, we live, and the life we are given is a participation in Jesus own living and loving with us and for us - and we participate in that life by faith (the faith of Jesus which he shares with us).

    So is there a part for us in this relationship with Christ? Most definitely. It is our participation in Jesus' own vicarious human life - his faith and his works.

    Richard, Jesus truly is loving our neighbor perfectly, not merely to fulfill the Law of Moses (which he did), but because love is what Jesus is and what Jesus does - that is his life. And we are called to participate in Jesus' living and loving through trusting in him.
    So Jesus loves my neighbor perfectly and I share in his perfection. I, yet not I, but Christ.

    The way of Christ is the way of grace. And grace is all of Christ AND all of us (in Christ) (see 1Cor. 15:9-11 for an example of Paul's thought along these lines). The fullness of our life in Christ is, to a large extent, now hidden from our view - we see it through a "glass darkly." But one day it will be seen fully - "face-to-face."

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  4. Here's a reply from Craig commenting on the comment so far:

    Hey guys,

    I appreciate your comments and I think this is a great place to start, but it was more like where the rubber meets the sky, vs where the rubber meets the road.

    Let me try again...I used to be a spiritual discipline junky... meaning that I felt it was my responsibility to pray (out of duty, even if I didn't feel desire) for at least :30, study for :45, and really stretch...meditate for :15.

    I remember in my AC days that I could leave the house not having prayed or studied, and by noon I felt fully "filled" by the HS. Just sitting in class listening to the lectures, turning to scriptures, etc., etc., and I loved that. Now, by filled, here I mean, it was kind of like being fully energized, or engaged, much more outgoing and interactive with people I came into contact with etc. So, I determined that I could somehow "control, initiate, or regulate" the Spirit coming upon me in a way that I would feel or sense something had changed.

    Later, in my more tempered days I began to see SD as placing myself on the path of grace so God could do his thing (once again I had some control over when I would feel "filled").

    And, more recently, I learned that we "set our sails into the wind" of the Spirit with the SDs. But for some reason I'm becoming more and more uncomfortable thinking that I can actually have some part in "regulating" the effects I feel when I'm fully engaged. I would love to be able to feel that way ALWAYS...but in my now 30 years as an "official" believer, the only time I came close was back in my class days.

    As to the experience or feeling of being filled, it would seem that there is some way in which the HS interacts with our physiology.

    So, have I inferred correctly that if we experience a "feeling" of being "filled" through engaging in the SDs that it is Jesus' own doing in the first place? And although we may schedule ourselves to pray and study out of duty, when we don't feel the desire, we must wait upon the HS to engage us? Obviously, I don't like that response because that means I must simply wait/trust in Him for the "unction" and I'm back to an ebb and flow. But if that's the whole point in our Trinitarian understanding, I'll fully accept it, because in reality, there's nothing I can do about it anyway.

    Your thoughts please,
    Craig

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  5. Craig: If I'm hearing you correctly your concern might be stated in this question:

    Since the positive feeling of being "filled" by the Spirit through the spiritual disciplines ebbs and flows, and since Jesus does it all for us anyway, why should we bother at all with stewarding our time and energy to participate in the spiritual disciplines?

    I think the answer might become evident by re framing the question related to your marriage:

    Since my wife is bound to me in marriage, and loves me and cares for me anyway, why should I bother to talk with her and spend time with her?

    I realize the comparison I am making is not a perfect one, but I think it gets at my point, which is this: the spiritual disciplines are a means for us to commune with God and thus we do so because we love God and want to commune with him. Sometimes that communing comes easily, and sometimes (given our human weakness) we have to exert some effort and self control. Either way it is a meaningful and beneficial way that we spend time.

    But why do it if Jesus is doing all the communing with God on our behalf? Because Jesus, in the Spirit, wants us to participate with him. The triune communion, in Jesus is opened to all humanity, and we are invited to partake.

    On this side of glory, our partaking (participating) is subject to the "ebb and flow" of our humanity in its brokenness and weakness. We understand that and God accommodates us in our weakness. Sometimes, frankly, we don't know how to pray or what to pray; but the Spirit prays for us. But that doesn't mean we don't pray. Why? Because to pray is to relate, and it is to relating - sharing in Jesus' relating with the Father, in the Spirit, to which we are called.

    So it not all Jesus or all me (as though one excludes the other). It's all of Jesus and all of me. He's perfect, and I'm not, but he wants me and includes me nonetheless. Praise God! Oops, there I go again exercising those e spiritual disciplines!

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