Maybe we started off the week on the wrong foot, the wrong page, the wrong side of bed. Whatever metaphor works for you. Maybe my timing was wrong.
Because I think you might be feeling tired and burdened. After reading two long posts about our new mission and purpose in life, are you overwhelmed, thinking, That’s ‘way beyond me. How could I ever do and be all that?
This post was originally planned for Saturday, but I think it’s time is now… because, to be truthful, after writing those first two posts, I’m feeling pretty inadequate for the mission we’ve been given.
Have you noticed that Jesus, when He was gathering His disciples, did not seem to place a high priority on qualifications for the mission? At least, not the qualifications we might expect. He was going to leave His work to these men—the task of bringing the world back to the Creator. He would turn over this mission to His chosen circle.
But who did He choose? Small-town, average Joes. Some were uneducated. We know that at least one was a social outcast, despised by his neighbors. We don’t learn to know all of the disciples well, but in those we do know, we see personality traits that might cause us to scrap their applications to work in Christ’s ministry: hot tempers, doubting minds, greed, critical and judgmental attitudes, mouths too quick to speak, minds often too slow to grasp what Jesus was trying to teach them.
Oh yes, Jesus’ closest associates were just like us.
Yet what they did after Jesus left the earth would change the world.
The secret is in this new power for living we’ve been given. I need to remind myself, often, that this connection to the Vine is the only way I will fulfill this new mission God has given me.
Two letters make all the difference: IN.
After Jesus’ resurrection, there was a huge shift in God’s relationship to men and women. And it’s all in the preposition (yes, the grammar teacher now emerges).
Before Christ, it was a matter of coming into God’s presence. Even then, one came with the proper sacrifice, proper prayers, and proper attitude. I imagine it as coming into a throne room, coming only at special times, with special permission and procedures, hoping the great King will give you an audience.
After Christ’s resurrection and ascension to heaven, the preposition becomes in. Now—incredibly—God dwells in His people, in a relationship more intimate than even our closest family.
Take a look at Scriptures, and notice those two little letters:
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (John 15:4)
Christ will make his home in your hearts (Ephesians 3:17)
Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20)
God has made the light of His glory shine in our hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6)
Righteous character will be produced in you by Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:11)
This is the secret, really, of our new lives. Everything flows from Christ’s life and character IN us—being a holy people, being priests of the Lord Almighty, fulfilling the rest of the mission (which we’ll look at more in the next days). All of it is possible not because of who or what we are but because God now lives in His children on earth.
That sounds radical. It is. It was radical in Jesus’ day, too, when He said He and the Father were in each other.
John’s Gospel begins with Jesus coming into the world “as the true light.” Jesus says the same. Then, He also told His disciples that they/we are the light of the world!
But it is not our light that shines—it is His, shining in us. And He is the one who places the lights exactly where He wants to shine, setting them on a hill in the dark world.
It is His light shining in us that the apostle Paul compares to a great treasure contained in fragile clay jars. “This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”
God said His power actually works best in our weakness. When it is clear that we are unqualified and inadequate for the mission, it will be obvious that is only God’s power at work in our lives—not our own skills and strength. The light in us, the strength in us, the compassion, the love, the mercy—all of that is nothing we could do on our own. Only God could do it.
To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist. (Emmanuel Suhard, a French Cardinal of the Catholic Church)
I like the idea of being a living mystery. A mystery that only makes sense if God exists and lives in me.
We know the secret of the mystery.
Jesus was a flesh-and-blood-like-us embodiment of God in this world. And we’re to be the same. We are the same. Humans, walking on this earth, with God in us and working through us.
God’s children are here for a reason—the same reason Christ came to the earth—to show the world who God is and bring men and women back to their Creator.
But I’m not the sort of woman who would or could do that on my own. Not me.
Only God IN me will do it.
Teach me how to live, O LORD.
Lead me along the right path.
More radical IN words for the inadequate and unqualified:
John 14:17, 20, 23; John 15:4-5; John 17:23; Romans 8:10-11; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 4:6-7; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:17; Philippians 1:11; Colossians 1:27
© Elaine Starner 2015
Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)