Being Christians in a crazy world

As Christians we live in two realities, the reality of living in this crazy world, and the reality of living in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6). But now that we’re Christians, does our heavenly reality override the reality we’re living in here? 

In other words, can we just ignore what’s happening in this crazy world because we’re already living in our heavenly world? I mean, why get all depressed, worried and frustrated by the craziness in this world when Jesus has already lifted us into his world? 

He also keeps us safe too, so “the evil one does not touch us,” 1 John 5:18 – so what craziness in this world needs to stress us out? We also “know that we are children of God,” verse 19, so we have our heavenly Father looking after us too. That’s the reality we live in every day, summarized by Paul in Colossians 3:1, that “Since you’ve been raised with Christ, set your hearts (and minds) on things above….not on earthly things,” verse 2.

So, Paul’s saying, concentrate our attention on our heavenly reality, where we are with Jesus, who told his disciples in John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” I imagine Paul would ask us, then, “Do you realize you live in the reality of that verse all the time? And if you don’t – and you wish you could – then Jesus is ready and waiting to answer your wish.” 

No wonder Paul was so adamant about getting our minds off “earthly things,” when this other reality of what our Father made possible in Jesus is dangling in front of us as well. So why not concentrate on that and let the craziness of this world go by? 

We could, but John also wrote in 1 John 5, that “We know that the whole world is under the control of the evil one,” verse 19. So, as Christians, we’re fully aware of that reality too. We’re not blind to the obvious fact that malevolent forces are at work all over the globe, and we’re living right in the thick of them. 

Do we need to know how these malevolent forces work, then, so we’re not caught out by them, or drawn in by them, or buried in despair by them?  Yes, John says in 1 John 4:1, when he writes, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 

So there are spirit forces at work which come up with all sorts of ideologies being promoted as truth, which look and sound really good. And it’s amazing how we fall for them. Even when scary demagogues demand compliance or else, we still go along with them. It doesn’t seem to matter how much they lie or wreck the very fabric of our society, they get away with it. And that, according to John, is not something we Christians can casually dismiss. 

That’s because, as he continues in 1 John 5:20, we also “know that the Son of God has come and given us understanding, so that we know him who is true.” According to John, Jesus came to help us “understand” what is true and what is false, so we come to know why HE is so true. And that comes from testing the spirits, or in our terms, grasping the comparison between the false ideas of this crazy world and what Jesus taught, so we see why Jesus’ version of truth is so much the better one. 

We could, of course, ignore the craziness because we live in another reality. But Jesus left us down here in this reality for a reason. It’s to get some exercise in testing while we’re here, so that we’ve “trained ourselves to distinguish good from evil,” Hebrews 5:14.

“Is it you we obey, or God?”

Or as Peter put it in Acts 4:19, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” That was Peter’s response to being commanded by the local government officials “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” in verse 18.

It was bold on Peter’s part, standing up against government and refusing to comply, but Peter had heard Jesus say that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus was the ultimate authority, and he was given that authority by God too, which makes it obviously “right in God’s sight” to obey Jesus first. And sometimes leaders need to be told that, like the reminder Jesus gave to Pontius Pilate, that “You’d have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:11). 

I wonder how many leaders actually realize that their hold on power and authority is only as good as what God allows them to have according to his plan and purpose. He can remove them from their position of authority at any time too – and if King Herod is anything to go by, their removal might not be that pretty. 

Herod’s demise was recorded by Luke in Acts 12. In verse 21 Herod is at the height of his egotistical glory when he strides in to speak to a crowd in “his royal robes,” and he sits grandly “on his throne to deliver a public address to the people.” I imagine he milked the moment for all it was worth, basking in the adoration of the cheering crowd, and especially when they started yelling at the end of his address, “This is the voice of a god, not a man,” verse 22

And Herod loved it. He could look out on that huge throng of adoring citizens and almost legitimately believe he was a god. But his “maybe I am a god” delusion didn’t last long, because in accepting “the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God,” verse 23, “an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.” 

That tells me it’s dangerous ground when government officials and other leaders overreach their authority and act like they’re God. But it doesn’t help when people, like the crowd in Herod’s day, treat their leaders like gods too. How many leaders today, for instance, survive scandals, lies, hypocrisy and bully boy tactics, because they’re allowed to? No wonder they think they’re invincible and above the law, and they can stomp on anything they don’t agree with. 

Well, Peter was faced with such leaders too, who had the egotistical cheek to try and censor all mention of Jesus. To which Peter replied, “Is it you we obey, or God?” – a highly appropriate reminder that we all, including those in the highest authority in the land, have a boss above we all answer to, and what is right in the eyes of our boss above is what we live by down here. 

And if what we live by in obedience to our boss above clashes with the demands of lesser authorities down here, we can say to them what Peter said: “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.”

For the greater good

It sounds grand, right? That you’re sacrificing “for the greater good” by putting aside your own interests, rights, preferences, and even your life for the sake of others. And isn’t that what Jesus did too? – he gave up his life for the salvation of all humanity. 

So “for the greater good” has a nice Christian ring to it. Which must be very gratifying for Christians when seeing non-Christians picking up on it too, as we saw during the pandemic when people accepted the call to sacrifice for the sake of the vulnerable. There really is something noble about thinking beyond oneself for the welfare of others.

It can put Christians in a tricky spot, though, when “for the greater good” is used to justify non-Christian actions, or actions that clash with other Christian principles, like going to war for the greater good, which meant Christians having to kill, and even kill and maim fellow Christians too. It also meant killing those not involved in war, like children.

“For the greater good” has justified such actions, however, because “that’s the price we have to pay for the security and freedom of the majority. Some people have to die; that’s just how it is, chum.” 

And that same reasoning was used during the pandemic to put children at risk “for the sake of Grandma.” For many people, however, that was not good at all. To inject a child with a drug with unknown long term effects amounted to child abuse subject to criminal charges. There was a problem, then, defining what was good.” What was good to one person wasn’t good to another. Which really confused the issue, and perhaps for Christians too. 

But a similar situation arose in Romans 14:2. Some people, for instance, believed it was “good” before God to eat only vegetables, while others thought it was just fine eating “everything.” So whose “good” was the right good? Who held the higher moral ground? And did anyone have the right to virtue signal and gaslight the other? 

Well, according to verse 3, no one had such a right, because the person “who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the person who does not eat everything must not condemn the person who does, for God has accepted him.” If God can accept differing views, then who are we to take shots at each other (verse 4)?    

But what about Christians during the pandemic having differing views on vaccinations? Some Christians, for instance, thought it good to be vaccinated because it would enable them to keep their job and support their family – which God would want them to do, right? To them, therefore, that was “the greater good.” Other Christians, however, believed it was good in God’s sight to not be vaccinated to prevent increasing tyranny taking root. And that to them was just as much “the greater good” too. Same motives, but two very different views.  

So it’s interesting to see what happened in Romans 14 where similar motives but very different views also existed. And one point becomes encouragingly clear, that if a person’s focus in whatever he or she does (or doesn’t do) is on being acceptable to God – then “the Lord is able to make him stand,” verse 4.

And that’s good to know because one day “we will all stand before God’s judgment seat” (verse 10), and “each of us will give an account of himself before God” (verse 12).

That could sound scary, but there’s no fear of God’s judgement if what we thought was “for the greater good” was based on what we believed was good and acceptable in God’s sight. Actually, it’s very encouraging, because “Blessed is the person who does not condemn himself by what he approves,” verse 22. If a person’s conscience is clear he has no fear or worries before God – and therefore no reason to feel belittled or guilty before other people either.  

“So what reality are you living in?”

Asked that question rather bluntly (as above), what would you say? My immediate thought was what I’m going through right now. That’s my reality; it’s having to deal with family, job and health needs, and the reality of living in a world that’s getting crazier by the minute pressing in on me mentally, emotionally and financially. 

But what’s a Christian’s answer to that question? 

Scripture tells us we’re living in two realities: the reality of living in this “present evil age” (Galatians 1:4), but also the reality of being “hidden with Christ” now too (Colossians 3:3). As Christians, then, we’re living in two worlds at the same time. On the one hand, we’ve “been raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:6), but on the other hand, Jesus prayed that we not be taken “out of the world” (John 17:15). So, we’re stuck here in this world still, but we’ve also been raised into the world where Jesus is. 

But why would God do that to us? Why leave us in this world when Jesus’ resurrection lifted us into his world? Surely, it would be better to get us out of this world into the eternal security of Jesus’ world, so this world doesn’t overwhelm us. 

It’s a dilemma, echoed by Paul in Philippians 1:23-24 when he wrote, “I am torn between the two; I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” – and stay in this reality here. 

So Paul would agree that, yes, it would be “better by far” to “be with Christ” forever in his world – but – he also realized there was a purpose in him staying in this world, and a reason why Jesus prayed for us to remain here physically too. And Paul gives us the reason too, in verse 20, “that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body.” 

This was the reality Paul “always” lived in, that while he was still in his physical body Christ would be honoured and magnified – or “more accurately known,” as one translation phrases it. And who would Paul be doing this for? “For you,” he said in verse 24. Paul lived to see people grasp the greatness of Jesus. And it worked in Ephesus, because “the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honour” (Acts 19:17). 

This was why it was “necessary” for Paul to “remain in the body,” as he phrased it, so that in how he spoke and acted he could be a visible reflection of Jesus to people. If Paul, then, had been asked just as bluntly, “So what reality are you living in?” he would likely have replied, “The reality of reflecting Jesus in my life, so people get to see and understand just how great he is.”  

But if asked, “How is that possible? How can you accurately reflect Jesus when you aren’t Jesus?” Paul could handily reply, “Ah, but I live in another reality too, that of being raised with Jesus where he fills me with himself (Colossians 2:10).” 

This explains why we live in two realities at the same time. We remain in this reality so people get to see how great Jesus is in us, but we also experience the reality of Jesus filling us with himself so people CAN see Jesus in us. And that second reality becomes more real as Jesus does fill us with himself, and we sense we really are reflecting him more accurately in how we speak and act.

And to think that God set it up this way, that while we remain in these physical bodies of ours, Jesus is being made real in us. And that’s the reality we Christians are living in. 

Is sorcery just as real today?

It never ceases to amaze me how a leader can pretty well say and do anything he likes, including blatant hypocrisy and lies – and be rocked by numerous scandals too – and yet people still fawn all over him.

It doesn’t matter if he’s a fat slob living in luxury, or if he presents himself as a caring person while making it obvious he cares for nothing but his own quest for power and control. It’s as if he’s cast a spell on people, bewitching them into sycophantic flattery and total submission.  

There are many such leaders littered through history, but they’re just as real today. So how is it that these abhorrent and tyrannical leaders are able to command such power and devotion, and make people so fearful that they daren’t say a word against them? 

Two clues from Scripture came to mind to explain how. The first was Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8 who “amazed (mesmerized) the nation of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great,” verse 9. What drove Simon was wanting god-like status, and he was given the power of magic to make it happen, which very much fits the definition of sorcery as “the use of power gained from the assistance or control of evil spirits.” Well, with that kind of power behind him it’s no wonder that Simon could hypnotize people into total adoration (verses 10-11).  

The second clue is Elymas the sorcerer in Acts 13, a deliberate deceiver and liar, who knew what was right and true, but twisted it into making it seem evil instead (verse 10). And that, to Paul, made Elymas “a child of the devil.” Elymas’ ability to so convincingly deceive and lie clearly revealed that he too had the “assistance of evil spirits.”

But Paul did warn us that such devilish people would exist, even “masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light,” and “his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness,” 2 Corinthians 11:13-14. Which can feel very frightening, having people wielding such power over us, but Paul did add in verse 15, that “Their end will be what their actions deserve.” Rest assured, there’s a power far greater than the most cunning deceivers, who won’t let their evil go on forever.    

Peter advised Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:22, therefore, to “Repent of this wickedness” and “Perhaps God will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.” Drop the facade, Simon, in other words, and admit who and what you really are, because the power that’s so much greater than you does forgive, so that you won’t have to receive what your actions deserve. But be advised to get that repentance done soon, so there’s no need to worry when the axe will inevitably fall (Matthew 3:10). 

How well does God know us? 

I like to think God has always known us, because it’s his “pleasure and will,” Ephesians 1:5, “to adopt us as his sons (or children).” And that’s not something I see God taking lightly, nor does any parent when planning to adopt a child. Knowing that child really well is very serious and very personal. 

Human parents, however, may decide to adopt a child later in life, due to circumstances, like not being able to conceive a child naturally. But with God he “predestined” us to be his adopted children “before the creation of the world,” verse 4. That’s an interesting phrase, because Jesus also used it to describe “the glory you (Father) have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world,” John 17:24

So, at what point before the creation of the world did the Father begin loving his Son? Was it just before the world existed, or a billion years earlier, or what? Well, the Father has always loved his Son, right? They’ve been Father and Son for eternity (John 10:30). “Before the creation of the world,” then, is really a term meaning “forever.” And Jesus himself supports that too, when he prays back in John 17:5, “now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” In other words, “Can we now get back to what you and I, Father, always had together before this physical creation existed?”

Adopting us as his children, therefore, has always been God’s plan, but has he always known us individually and by name too? It’s not beyond his realm of possibility, because he tells Isaiah that he “makes known the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10). So God has the ability to know everything before it even exists. He could know us individually and by name too, then, couldn’t he? And there are hints of that very personal knowledge he has of us when he tells Jeremiah, “I knew you before you were born” (Jeremiah 1:5). The same is said of Paul too (Galatians 1:15), and of David (Psalm 139:16), and of Isaiah (Isaiah 49:1). God knew all these men before they existed, they were that real to him. 

But that’s not so strange on our human level either. A couple dreaming of having children picture having a baby boy or baby girl, and what type of personality each may have, and what names to give them that fit their ancestry and personality. Their children become very real and very personal to them, long before they’re born. Such is the power of their dream of having children. 

But are we not God’s “dream” too? According to Paul in verse 5 we are God’s “pleasure and will.” Does he not think about us individually too, then, long before we’re born? And especially when he knows what he’s got in store for us, like “blessing us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ,” verse 3

All this is God’s dream, which Jesus knew and prayed about in John 17:24 too, that one day we’ll all be a huge family experiencing being loved by the Father forever like Jesus has always been loved by him. 

So, if we’re loved that much, God must know us extremely well.   

What does it take to redeem a human being?

To begin with we humans had nothing that needed redeeming. But in the span of just two chapters in Genesis we lost everything. And it’s what we lost that God is redeeming. He’s restoring us back to what we had in the Garden of Eden. 

So what did we have back then? In Adam we see that humans had three things: a SPIRIT that enables us to relate to God who is spirit, a MIND that enables us to think and decide for ourselves, and a BODY that enables us to function independently. Put all three together – spirit, mind and body – and they perfectly equipped us humans to become God’s very own children, capable of fulfilling his purpose for his creation with wisdom and love, and in bodies that could last forever.  

I imagine God took whatever time was needed, therefore, to get all this into Adam’s head so that Adam was fully aware of what God had created him with, and what for. He also gave Adam a perfect companion in Eve to talk all this over with, and with their offspring discover just what God had in mind in creating such a world to live in.  

But all that was lost when a crafty creature told Adam and Eve that God was not being truthful with them. And, first of all, it affected their spirit that had given them their wonderful, open relationship with God, because now they wanted to hide from him instead. It affected their minds too, because they felt guilt and fear, and they were embarrassed about being naked. And instead of their bodies living forever, their bodies would die. So in spirit, mind and body they were dealt a fatal blow.

But a fatal blow forever? No, because Jesus took that fatal blow on himself as a human being, by being hit in his spirit, mind and body too. 

Jesus was hit in his spirit, for instance, when he cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” For those few shattering moments his relationship with God was lost. And in the agonizing hours before the cross, his mind was so distressed he appealed to his disciples to pray for him, something he’d never done before. He even resorted to begging God to change his plan. But as God willed, Jesus went to the cross and the death of his body. In spirit, mind and body, then, Jesus experienced the loss of all three as a human too, because that’s what it took to redeem us from the fatal blow on our spirit, mind and body that evil and our disobedience had inflicted on us. But that’s not all that his sacrifice did for us; it also set the scene for the Holy Spirit to restore us in our spirit, mind and body as well. 

We see that in Romans 8. In verse 16, for instance, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children,” so it’s through the Holy Spirit that our relationship with God is restored. And in verse 6, “the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace,” so the Holy Spirit restores our minds as well. And then in verse 11, “life” is given “to your mortal bodies through his Spirit,” so “the redemption of our bodies” is included in the work of the Holy Spirit too, verse 23.

So in spirit, mind and body the Holy Spirit is restoring us back to what we humans had in the Garden of Eden – with one major addition in verse 26, that “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” We now have the Holy Spirit “interceding for us with groans that words cannot express,” so that we are “in accordance with God’s will,” verse 27. And that’s hugely important, because it was NOT being in accordance with God’s will that caused the loss of everything we humans had in Eden. 

In answering the question, then, “What does it take to redeem a human being (and restore us back in spirit, mind and body to what we had)?” – it took Jesus experiencing what we lost, or “personally taking on our human condition,” verse 3 (The Message), and now it takes the moment by moment dedication of the Holy Spirit helping us to trust and obey God, so that we don’t do what Adam and Eve did.  

“God has the power to stop evil, so why doesn’t he?” 

It’s a good time of year to ask that question, because the traditional Christian celebration of Pentecost gives us an answer. 

Jesus told his disciples in Luke 24:49, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” So the disciples are going to receive “power” – but power to do what, exactly? 

They’re about to find out, because only a few weeks later on “the day of Pentecost” in Acts 2:1 “they were all together in one place” when “Suddenly,” verse 2, “a sound like the blowing of a violent wind filled the whole house where they were sitting,” and “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit,” verse 4. And in verse 38, this same Holy Spirit was also promised to anyone who acknowledged that through Jesus all their sins had been forgiven: “You (too) will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” Peter said. 

So, first of all, we have Jesus’ disciples being “clothed with power from on high” as promised, and now the same promise being opened up to “you and your children and for all who are far off,” verse 39. It’s obviously important, then, that the power of the Holy Spirit be given to people, but what for?

That’s answered by Peter in verse 40, when he “pleaded” with his listeners, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Or as another translation phrases it, Peter “urged them over and over, ‘Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture.’” Peter repeated that later too, in 2 Peter 1:4, when he wrote that God “has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 

In answer to the question, then, as to why God, who has the power to stop evil, doesn’t stop it, Peter offers us an answer: God IS stopping evil, by giving US the power to stop it. And what better solution to evil is there, than that? God could, of  course, just blast evil people into oblivion, or sizzle to a crisp anyone thinking an evil thought, but if he did that how many of us would be left? Not me, for a start, because I know what unsavoury thoughts I have toward neighbours whose dogs never stop barking, or toward politicians who lie through their teeth. 

And doesn’t that illustrate the source of evil? It’s what’s going on inside our own heads, just as Jesus said in Mark 7:23, that “All evils come from inside” us. Conquer what’s inside us on a worldwide scale, then, and evil would be eradicated, which is exactly what God had in mind on Pentecost, to give us the chance at last to eradicate evil right at its source, inside ourselves.

The problem with that is the massive influence of the sick and stupid culture we’re stuck in. But “You, dear children,” John writes in 1 John 4:4, “are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 

We have the power IN us, then, to “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,” Romans 12:2, and instead “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I can have a mind that can see through the sick and stupid thinking of the culture, and therefore not be taken in or influenced by it. 

So in answer to the question in the title, God IS using his power to stop evil, through his promise of the Holy Spirit filling people with his nature instead. 

Is the Holy Spirit real? 

Is the Holy Spirit real personally, that is? Historically, the Holy Spirit has been extremely real, witness Luke’s detailed journal in the book of Acts. In Acts 2, for instance, he recorded the dramatic arrival of the Holy Spirit to a crowd of thousands in Jerusalem, who saw and felt it. And in Acts 13:2, the Holy Spirit spoke to the church in Antioch – and to Paul personally in Acts 20:23. So to all these people there was no doubt the Holy Spirit was real.

But how is the Holy Spirit real to us today? According to Jesus in John 14:16-17, the Father gives us “the Spirit of truth” and we will “know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” The word “know” tells me the Holy Spirit is meant to be real to us, but HOW do we know it’s the Spirit? Are there clear identifiable signs, for instance, that help us know it’s the Spirit? 

Jesus answered that for us in verse 26, when he said, “the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Well, that’s an easily identifiable sign of the Holy Spirit: it’s finding ourselves with a concentrated focus on Jesus and what he taught, because we believe it’s only in his teachings that “all things” about our human existence are made plain. And that’s observably different, because who today believes that Jesus is the only source of all truth, and only he has the solution to (and the explanation for) all our human problems? Any politicians you know who believe that? Any corporate heads? Any highly credentialed academics? Any religious leaders? Any city councillors? Any neighbours, or even family members? Few there be, I imagine, which isn’t meant as a criticism, but as evidence that there are very observable and noticeable differences we can clue into that identify the Holy Spirit as real in our lives.

Jesus also demonstrated in his own life what those observable and noticeable differences are – things like his deep love and respect for his Father and never straying from his instructions, and his deep love and respect for his fellow humans too, and especially the marginalized and ignorant. He also bristled at anyone who didn’t respect his Father, or didn’t care for others. If we feel the same way, therefore, we can take that as clear evidence of the Holy Spirit being real in our lives too. 

There’s obviously something very different happening in our heads – and noticeably in the heads of many non-Christians too – who also take what Jesus taught seriously and try their best to live good lives, even if it means going against the flow of the culture and being criticized and picked on for it. It is surely evidence of the Holy Spirit being “with” them, because they too are observably (and pleasantly) different. 

But Jesus went one step further, because he talked about the Holy Spirit being “IN” us, and in such a way we’ll “know” that too. So, what’s the difference, then, between the Holy Spirit being “with” us, and the Holy Spirit being “in” us? 

Jesus gave us a clue in the next verse, John 14:27, when he says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” 

That’s enlightening, because no matter how much the Holy Spirit has been “with” people, the history of the human race has shown that peace has always been beyond our reach. But verse 27 tells us that Jesus put peace within our reach personally. And Romans 8 tells us how: it’s  through the Holy Spirit (the source of peace, verse 6) living “IN” us, verse 9

So, what does the Spirit living “in” us actually do to make this peace real? According to verse 16, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children,” and when that dawns on us it surely has to make a huge difference in how we react to our human dilemmas, both personal and global. Because as God’s very own children in his mighty and loving care  we have nothing to fear, which is exactly what Jesus said back in John 14:27 – “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” 

But how is that possible in a world like ours, with crisis after crisis feeding fear and anxiousness? It isn’t. So if we, personally, are becoming less fearful and anxious, because in the depths of our being we know we’re safe in our Father’s care, isn’t that what helps us know for certain that the Holy Spirit is real and very much “living in us”?   

“So that Christ’s power may rest on me”

The quote above is by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, which reminded me WHY Jesus was resurrected from the dead: it’s so that we can experience his power resting on us. And why do we need such help and protection? The context tells us.

In verse 7 Paul explains. He needed Christ’s power to “keep me from becoming conceited,” or to protect him from becoming proud and getting big ideas about himself (verse 6). And why is that important? Because, verse 9, God told Paul “my power is made perfect in weakness.” And because God knows that to be true, Paul “was given a thorn in his flesh, a messenger of Satan, to buffet him,” verse 7. In other words, God purposely allowed Satan to weaken Paul, just like he allowed Satan to weaken Job.  

And he’s given us a world that weakens us too, right? We face endless uncertainty and powerlessness on so many fronts, caused by power and money hungry corporations, media propaganda and lies, and dithering politicians mandating policies that damage our youngsters and pit us against each other. We are puppets exploited by the rich, creating mass hypnosis, neurotic fears, and serious mental problems, all of which we have little to no control over, that leave us feeling weak, helpless and scared.  

And God allows this to happen, and even deliberately causes it? Well, yes, according to Scripture, but at least he tells us why. It’s because he’s motivated by grace (verse 9), that in allowing us to be weakened by a satanically driven world, this is the most effective way we experience God perfecting his strength and power in us. And as Paul explains in verse 10, it is also “for Christ’s sake,” because this is what Jesus in his death and resurrection made possible for us. He opened up a completely new world for us to experience, that operates in radically opposite ways to this world, so that instead of us feeling weak, helpless and scared, we “delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties,” verse 10.  

This was Jesus’ experience too. By emptying himself to be battered by Satan and his world, he too got to experience his Father perfecting his strength and power in him, so that “for the joy set before him” he “endured the cross and scorned its shame” (Hebrews 12:2). And now Jesus has flung the doors open to that kind of joy and power being available to us too.

But lurking in the shadows is the one devilish enemy that can destroy that. It’s conceit and pride in our own strength, and directing our energies to making us think and feel we’re strong too, to give us reason to boast, brag and even believe we are the infallible elite. It’s the kind of conceit that scoffs at other people’s weaknesses, loves judging others as inferior and stupid, looks down on others as merely populist rabble, delights in others’ failures, and complains at every set back to its ambitions and self-image.  

And Paul could have been a conceited boaster like that too. He had tons of reasons for bragging about what he’d accomplished – and what he’d survived (2 Corinthians 11:21-28). “But,” 2 Corinthians 12:6, “I refrain (from doing that), so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.” He much preferred boasting about the “things that show my weaknesses,” 2 Corinthians 11:30 – like readily admitting he was driven way beyond his strength and ability to cope (2 Corinthians 1:8). 

So why was Paul like that? Because he looked to Jesus as his example, who was “humble and obedient to death,” Philippians 2:8, and “God exalted him to the highest place,” verse 9. So this is how human’s deadliest and most devilish enemy is beaten. It isn’t by strength it’s by weakness and humility, because when Jesus was at his lowest ebb and he couldn’t cope either, that’s when he called upon his Father’s strength – and got it (Hebrews 5:7).  

And now we’re up against “the dark powers of this world” too, that are far more powerful than we are, but call on God and his grace for the strength just to survive another day, and he answers. That was Jesus’ experience and Paul’s experience, and now our chance to prove it true as well. And what a punch in the devil’s face that is. So he hits back, like he did with Paul. But all that did was get Paul to call out for more of “Christ’s power to rest on him,” and again God answered. He learnt, therefore – just like we do, and so did Jesus – that “when we are weak, that’s when we are strong.”