The Question Box
By Norman Grubb
March-April 1985 – Union Life Magazine
Q. I am honestly confused about this whole idea of an “effortless” Christian life. Paul talks so much about working out your own salvation and provoking one another unto love and good works. Christ tells us to “seek,” “to be on your guard,” “to deny yourself and take up your cross.” Paul also says to “stop grumbling and complaining,” to “forgive,” so that this whole passive life—letting Christ live through me—sounds great, but is confusing me.
Bill, Greenville, SC
A. THIS IS NOT a passive life, but a life of far more vibrant activity than the former one of self-effort. Galatians 2:20 give us our key. We start by moving by faith into the marvel of the “replaced life,” where the “I”, who was formerly expressing the Spirit of error, is crucified with Christ, the expressor of the Spirit of truth. “Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” But then we move on by the Spirit into the restored, liberated “I”—which is really, of course, He in me as me—as Paul says, “the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the son of God.” Here we are back again in full self-acting self, yet inwardly fixed and knowing it is not really we, but He! The eternal paradox! Or put it, if you like, by combining Paul’s word in Philippians 2:13 with his previous statement of 2:12!
In this new inner union relationship, all those “commands” and “exhortations” are spontaneously fulfilled by us, for it is the Spirit who “causes” us to walk in His ways (Ezek. 36:27). Just as once you went through the chore of learning to drive you now spontaneously keep all the laws of the road!
Q. Your magazine has been my only source of joy and comfort and I eagerly look forward to each issue. But tell me, what does one do when one is old, alone and one’s children despitefully use them?
Georgie M., Springfield, MO
A. THE UNION LIFE editors sent me your letter, maybe because I am humanly as old as you, 85. (Of course in actual fact, where I live, I am eternal and young in God’s eternal being!)
Brother, I am glad God speaks to you by the magazine as He does to many. But He hasn’t yet revealed to you the reality of union by which, according to Galatians 2:20, you are no longer just Georgie, but Christ in His Georgie form!
For when you see this you will know that all that happens to you is actually happening to Him as you! So even if your children despitefully use you, praise God, for He is meaning to live the love-life by you towards them and all, as He did on earth and now does by us His body-members.
Don’t “see” opposing children, but “see” children each as precious to Him as you are to Him. He is their life as He is yours, though it is likely they don’t know that yet, but only know their blinded selves. If your attitude to them is the same as theirs to you, they will only see flesh—flesh seeing flesh. But if you simply love them as Christ’s, though they may not yet know it, and show them only love and acceptance in whatever way God leads you to do so, then they will see the Christ of love in the one they “despitefully use.” God is giving you maybe one final glorious chance of being Christ in the flesh towards what the world might call “enemies.”
Q. “As in Adam all died even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). This Scripture puzzles me. We did not choose to die in Adam—so why do we have to choose to be made alive in Christ? It seems to me that the sinless Son of God should have more power than the created Adam.
Ruth, Victorville, CA
A. LIFE IS ALWAYS a choice between alternatives. The Scriptures says that God Himself “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), meaning that God Himself has eternally chosen not to be a lying—self-loving—person. So being made in His image, we must be choosers. Jesus had to confirm His humanity (deity in the flesh) by forty days of fierce confrontation between choices in the mount of Temptation.
So with the first Adam in the Garden choosing between the two trees. Yes, we were caught up in Adam’s choice because we could only be conscious beings by having become involved in a choice. And Paul plainly states that we went along with that choice—“for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
But yes, yes, yes, our last Adam totally conquered and replaced our heritage from the first Adam just as the Scripture describes the great Adamic replacement in glowing word in Romans 5. Therefore the way of changing our choice is totally available within us, and only we are the determined refusers if we don’t (see Jesus’ word in John 3:19-21)!
We only become mature sons of God because we have first tasted the horrible negative in our first Adam and through God’s mercy respond to the voice of His Spirit pressing us into our faith choices. But because He must have responsible sons to whom He can entrust the inheritance of managing His universe, He will only manifest His total victorious power in those who choose to respond. It is His pressure on us and revelation to us of His love in Christ which “causes” us to make that choice, so it can barely be called a choice! But all fits perfectly into the total harmony of truth as in the verse you quote.
Q. I have always tended to be overweight. It is not a gland or health problem; I know it is accentuated by frustration and times of pressure in my life. If self-effort and personal discipline is not the answer, what is? If you want to change a bad habit, whether it is over-eating, or laziness, or smoking, or nail-biting, what should a person do?
A. HOW DOES ONE change a bad habit? Don’t try. But much more radical than that, change your whole negative outlook on yourself. Instead of seeing yourself as a poor, weak human with some distressing habits (over-eating, smoking, or what not), see and delight in yourself as God sees and delights in you—as His precious possession, as His dwelling place, as His holy temple.
You should admit to yourself and to Him that there are certain things you like and to which you are partial. Admit that you are tempted to feel guilty about doing those things, and that it might be better if you were rid of them. But also honestly admit that a main reason for wanting to be rid of them is because they hurt your own self-esteem or reputation in the eyes of others.
Then tell the Lord that since you like them, you will go on with them; it’s no good trying to stop doing them, and you are not going to bother about it. But being His, if He wants you to stop them, then you take the position of faith that He will do it in His own way and in His own time. Meanwhile you are free, refusing the guilt or condemnation of others. You continue to “love God and do as you please!” And God does have His ways of doing things!
Q. I have been questioning what it means to have been “crucified with Christ” and to have “Christ in me.” I have been taught that Romans 7:14-25 is an accurate description of the normal Christian life; that we have within us two contrary principles, one inclined to sin, the other to obey; and that, so long as we reside in our mortal bodies, a never-ending and often-times discouraging struggle between flesh and spirit will be a natural part of our day-to-day lives. I find it hard to believe, however, that what I now experience is all there is to Christian sanctification. What does “walk by the Spirit” and “Christ in me” mean? It seems to me there is a power and liberty available to us that I have not yet tapped into. I am not looking for an easy, carefree life. I am merely looking for a consistent, true-to-the-Bible walk of holiness before God, appropriating the power He Himself has promised me.
Tom, Lemon Grove, CA
A. IN MY SMALL BOOK Who Am I? I have sought to explain the fallacy of the dreadful teaching (that many of us have been soaked in) that humans have two fiercely fighting natures in them. Paul himself totally wipes out the dog-eat-dog of Romans 7, in his Romans 8:1-2! I am so glad you have enough inner honesty to perceive that such a foot-dragging life of struggles in Romans 7 would be a pretty insufficient experience for the kind of victory in Christ Paul so glories in!
The truth is that we humans are never created with a “nature” of our own. We are “vessels,” “branches,” “temples,” “slaves,” “body members,” for Him who eternally manifests Himself in His nature by and as us.
But because persons are only persons by consciousness of opposites—light/dark, soft/hard, etc.—we had to go through the experience of the two trees in the Garden and thus started off occupied by the spirit of the false deity, Satan, the god of self-centredness, instead of by the God of self-giving love.
Therefore, the Last Adam had to come to replace the first Adam, and He did it by going through an intercessory death on the Cross in which we participated (II Cor. 5:14). Out from the dead body went that sin-spirit—the false deity who was expressing his nature by us (see John 8:44)—and into the holy body, representing ours, came the true Deity with His nature (see II Pet. 1:4). Thus He arose, and we also, partakers of His divine nature.
Once we dare to recognize this reality and get out of the confusion of Romans 7, boldly making our faith confession that we are sons of God with one nature only, the Spirit will then confirm to us our word of faith. Then our reckoning of ourselves dead to sin (Rom. 6:11) becomes our realizing of Romans 8:2. Now we begin this liberated walk, for “the spirit of life in Christ Jesus set me free from the law of sin and death.” We learn to utilize our temptations as assets in giving us many chances of experiencing swallowing-up grace!