Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Amazing Exchange

  • "Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God's overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly the abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10). The cross-shaped yoke of Christ is after all an instrument of liberation and power to those who live in it with him and learn the meekness and lowliness of heart that brings rest to to the soul.... The correct perspective is to see following Christ not only as the necessity it is, but as the fulfillment of the highest human possibilities and as life on the highest plane." Dallas Willard
Dallas Willard's words set down very clearly the cost of nondiscipleship. As believers in Christ our highest goal should be to become like Christ. Considering that he is the most remarkable person to have ever walked this earth, that is a formidable challenge. His teachings, as recorded by the gospel writers, contain some of the most challenging precepts ever to be written down. His parables still tantalise with hidden meaning and significance today. The Sermon on the Mount lays down a way of living that is completely contrary to human instinct and even common sense. To turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to not resist an evil person... that's challenging enough. But how about not even saying "You fool!" when you are exasperated by someone's utter stupidity? How about avoiding all thoughts of lust?

The promises of blessing in the Beatitudes for attitudes that are completely unnatural to the average human life in this fallen world, show the way to an ethic of love we will never quite master. But Jesus' perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection open the way for us to have peace with God, salvation, and make possible an ongoing process of sanctification by the working of the Holy Spirit who Jesus sent to comfort and direct us. By this remarkable process, this becoming disciples of the Master and Lord, we gradually learn to put into practice this ethic of love. We are filled with the Father's love and we are blessed with abundant life. We become a channel of this life, peace, love, and joy to others. It is a mystery how this exchange of Jesus' righteousness for our own sin, his healing for our brokenness, and his peace for our chaotic emotions takes place, but this mystery of redemption is made possible through his blood shed for us.

We are made into completely new creatures. Our desires change and our motivations change, and we scarcely know how. We still mess up on a regular basis, but we are moving in a new direction on a journey to a destination that is clearly spelled out on the pages of Scripture: a new heaven and a new earth where we will finally look on the face of our Saviour and we will finally have a complete likeness to him in every respect. In losing our life, we truly find it! The cost of nondiscipleship is to miss out on this amazing exchange and forfeit our place in God's kingdom. However, Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it, and it is for each person to decide whether to accept his offer of life. In the choice of life or death, blessings or curses, I choose life!

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