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Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Yes I Am 32 - Paul Moving Into The Third Level

Yes I Am by Norman Grubb
Chapter 32
PAUL MOVING INTO THE THIRD LEVEL

The most revealing of all analyses of these three grades of experience is by Paul himself in his Philippian letter. In 3:3-14 he pours out to us some of the Lord’s dealings with him. He starts by mentioning the many qualifications he had "in the flesh," but plainly states that he no longer has confidence in such things. We can sense his thankfulness for his awareness of the false pride he had in his own righteousness, and his disgust as he sees it as the rotten rags of Satanic self-love. He declares: "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ" (vs. 7). Here he is alluding to his "Damascus road" conversion experience. There the truth had first pierced his honest heart like an ox goad. There the contrast between his own hate and rage and the glory and rapture on the face of Stephen, the battered but forgiving martyr, had been clearly revealed. There, on the Damascus road, in a blinding flash Paul had seen that same supernatural love in the face of the ascended Jesus, who spoke to him not in wrath or retaliation but in loving appeal: "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? Don’t you know I love you?" There he had exchanged the rags of his self-loving self for the eternal gain of Christ’s own garment of self-giving self.

But then Paul made a startling and costly discovery: The ascended Jesus, now a marvelous Savior to him, was much more to him. Christ made it plain that He had come to take over Paul’s whole life and express His own love-selfhood through Paul. "Yea doubtless," continues Paul (vs. 8), "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord…" This was something altogether more revolutionary and advanced than merely Jesus as his Savior and Justifier, marvelous though that was. Now this One is to manage his whole life - take him over - so that Paul becomes an embodiment of Jesus Christ formed in him as well as revealed to him. And this Paul "jumped into"! Everything earthly must go to the winds for that, whatever the cost. There was pain in it: "…for whom I have suffered the loss of all things." There had been the painful cutting-off from all his ambitions as a leading young Jew of his day, with a great future among his own people. This was the paying of the "disciple price," where we hate father, mother, wife, children, houses, lands, physical well-being, and in fact, "all that we have," to be a disciple. Paul paid that, and at that time it was a sacrifice. And this conditioned Paul for his great Galatians 2:20 revelation, which was his unique contribution to the body of Christ through all the coming centuries. This was Paul as a "young man" (1 John 2:13), in the second stage where he now found himself - which meant finding Christ as the exchanged self in him.

Now comes the most revolutionary change of attitude. He suddenly says that the things it "cost" him to surrender would now be a stench in his nostrils to retain! What was once precious is now disgusting to him. What he had called "suffering the loss of all things" he now says he counts as "stinking dung"! "I count them but dung, that I may win Christ…" A total reversal. And why? Because he was no longer concerned with getting his own inner need settled. This was now completed in Christ - not only Christ for him, but now Christ in him, as him. Now he’s free to be one with whom Christ would delight to share His inner self and His purposes. A great ambition had seized Paul - to "win Christ." "Winning Christ" means not depending on Christ for my own convenience any longer but being privileged, rather, to reach a place where He can share with me as His companion, bosom friend, and intimate cooperator what He came down on earth to do. And how supreme this ambition is! But it is not attained through any methods of the flesh, but only through "the faith of Christ." For Paul continues: "... and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (vs. 9).

Then Paul explains what these highest ways "in Him" are: "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death…" To thus "know Him" means an inner understanding of His ways as the Savior: living by the power of His resurrection, as a heavenly man in every earthly condition or daily demand, as Jesus did; fellowshipping with Him also in His sufferings, not now the joys of union but in Jesus’ costly identification with the world in its needs, as well as meeting its antagonism. Finally, it means pouring out one’s life, not in some quiet retirement, but in God’s appointed way - spiritually or physically dying that others may live. This Paul now embraced and lived out in his co-saviorhood, right to its last limit and into its final glory. As he wrote, "…if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from among the dead" (literal Greek). In this he did not refer, of course, to his share in the bodily resurrection (which is a gift of God to all believers) but to a death like that of Jesus which brings resurrection to others - that "bringing many sons to glory" for which the Captain of our salvation tasted death (Heb. 2:10).

To gain this - that by his dying many should live - Paul, now in his old age, pressed toward the mark in that high calling. As he wrote, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." He lived to take hold of that for which Christ had taken hold of him. People often mistakenly interpret this saying of Paul’s as if he wasn’t perfect in the sense of sanctification, not yet in the full victory life, and had yet to attain that one day. Not so. Paul had long passed through that second, "young man" stage of handing his whole life over to the Lordship and indwelling of Christ. That was settled forever, as with us who now know our second stage. But here he was in his co-saviorhood with Jesus... who Himself had also said that He had "a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" As Jesus cried out triumphantly on the cross, "It is finished," Paul also in his final letter to son Timothy, when facing his execution, wrote, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course" - the glorious course of a gained intercession. Paul the father, Paul the co-priest, Paul carrying right through the purpose for which he was seated in the heavenlies in Christ... yes, Paul the corn of wheat sown in the ground and dying, and bringing forth much fruit.

Now we see what this third level means in our own experience, and that it is to be taken seriously as a third crisis of faith and experience. As seriously as the first and second crises. The key scripture summoning us from the second level, to move into the third, is Paul’s Romans 12:1: "I beseech you therefore, brethren,… that ye present your bodies [as] a living sacrifice." (For intercession involves the body, as we shall see later.)

The second stage had been thoroughly established with its final triumphant shout of "no separation" - no separation possible from our eternal union. Paul’s "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?... I am persuaded that [nothing] can separate us…" (Rom. 8:35-39). But now a shock! There is a new and glorious reversal from "no separation" to a voluntary separation from God if necessary - even going to hell that our brother humans may be saved. For Paul immediately thereafter writes about his "great heaviness" for his own people: "I could wish myself accursed [i.e., separated] from Christ for my brethren." This was Paul the intercessor, and it is as such that he calls on us all - all who are redeemed - to present our bodies now as living sacrifices on the altar of self giving for others. While death works in us, life will come to them. And from this point on in his Roman letter, nothing is spoken about except how the light and life of Christ reaches out by us to the world, and how we thankfully use the various gifts with which the Spirit has equipped us - about eighteen in all.

What this means is a total move over, by the compulsion of the Spirit, to a life of unceasing love-activities in spirit and body - from the discipleship to the apostleship level, from the apprenticeship to the proficiency level, from the school of faith to the life of faith… yet all (as ever) on the "can’t help it" level, with all the zest of living, the enthusiasm, the gaiety-at-heart of a permanent seriousness, where "the zeal of God’s house" has eaten us up.

So this is as much a total entry into a fully meaningful relationship with Christ on this third level as was the entry into the "replaced life." It is entering into the final and total meaning of our portion of suffering in this life. From the suffering in our sin condition, to the suffering in our striving condition, to the suffering in our self-giving condition. It is revolutionary - and to those not settled and at home with the Trinity in our union relationship, it will again appear blasphemous - because we are really now saying that we are co-gods with God, just as the man Jesus said this to the Pharisees opposing Him (John 10:34-35).

So we see how we have now been permitted to share in the true purpose of sonship: no longer just the privilege of fallen sinners being sons and brothers with the Son, but joining with the Father in His eternal love-purposes for the "final reconciliation of all things," when He’ll be known as "God all in all." But if that is glorious for us, it is also most serious; for it means that as sons in this present moment of history, we are co-saviors, co-intercessors, in completing the number of His elect, co-laborers with Him in the harvesting. That also means co-sufferers with Him in "filling up that which is behind [i.e., still lacking] of the afflictions of Christ... for His body’s sake" (Col. 1:24). We’re on the saving level with Him, and boldly accepting ourselves as such, carrying out the details of His plans, pressing toward the mark, paying the price, and "knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord."


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