Making Christ Visible

My purpose is to allow the

invisible Christ to be

made visible.

Ian Thomas

In one of his messages, Ian Thomas related overhearing a discussion in which an individual was very insistent that his way was the right way.  This brought him into sharp contrast with others in the group.  During the discussion, he turned to Ian Thomas and asked “What about you?”, “What is your role in this situation?”  It was then that Ian turned toward him and related his answer as quoted above “My purpose is to allow the invisible Christ to be made visible.”

Terry Taylor, former president of the US Navigators, once commented that people live their lives in either Philippians 1:21 or in Philippians 2:21.  Philippians 1:21 states “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Philippians 2:21 relates “For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”

In Ian Thomas’ message, he described the lack of Christlikeness by reference to the following passage in Romans 7:14-20.  As he quoted the passage, he gave special emphasis to the word which is italicized in the passage.

 

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I 

hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.

As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  I know that

nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to

do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want

to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I 

do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

 

In the above paragraph the problem is referred to no less than twenty one times.  As a Pogo cartoon strip years ago stated, “We have found the enemy, and it is us.”   The apostle Paul, however, conscious of the enemy within, claims in Philippians 1:21 that “For to me to live is Christ.”  Why was Paul able to make this claim?  He refers to the reason in Romans 7:24-25.  “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  He was able to do so by participation in the prerequisite for Christ likeness as defined by Christ and by participation in the provision as supplied by the Holy Spirit.

The prerequisite for Christ being made visible in our lives is found in Luke 9:23.  “Then he said to them all:  ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’”  The inward, hidden refusal to follow the claims of self is to be followed by an outward, visible involvement in sacrificial surrender to the will of Christ, and manifested by following Him in trust and obedience.  The provision of the life of Christ to be made visible in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit is seen most clearly in the relationship of Christ with God the Father.  Jesus states in John 5:19, “The Son can do nothing by himself.”  John 6:38 states, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”  He also related in John 8:28, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”  He again relates his dependence on the Holy Spirit in John 12:49.  “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.”  He also relates in John 14:10, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?  The words I say to you are not just my own.  Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”  Jesus lived in moment by moment dependence upon the Holy Spirit to manifest the Father by word and deed.  He never departed from absolute trust in the provision of the Holy Spirit to make the Father visible.  Near the completion of His earthly ministry our Lord makes this statement in John 17:18, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”  The same Holy Spirit that manifested the Father in the life of Christ is given to us in order to manifest Christ in our own lives.  The Holy Spirit is freely given; not dependent upon our background, training, education, or social position.  He delights in using instruments that are made available to Him.

Periodically I meet with a friend of mine for breakfast.  A few weeks go as we met he began to talk about his background of alcoholism and how the Lord had changed his life and given him a heart for people.  As a result of recurrent strokes, he had been in the Veterans Hospital for several weeks, and was very limited in his ability to walk.  Despite this, he went every day to see other veterans at the hospital, sharing his life with them.  He met weekly with another man in a long term care facility with whom he played checkers for several hours, sharing his life with him and helping him recover his ability to speak.  He also related that he travels downtown to the river area, locating five homeless veterans and spending time in the Bible with them.  Several of these men have come to know the Lord and the rest are in the process of knowing Him.  When I asked him how much time this required weekly, he related that it was usually about 35-40 hours!  When I asked him, “What do you do with them?”, he replied “I try to be the best Christ I can be to them.”

My friend’s life reminded me of the passage in John 12:24-26.  “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.”  My friend had denied self, taken up the cross of identification with Christ in sacrificial service to others, and was dependent upon the Holy Spirit to manifest the life of Christ in his own life.  His example has stirred me to ask myself.  “Am I willing to fall to the ground?”  “Do I love my life?”  “Am I where Christ would be in our community?”  Am I dependent upon the Holy Spirit to manifest the life of Christ in my life moment by moment?  To the measure in which I am able to answer in the affirmative is to say with the apostle Paul, “For to me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

In Christ,

Richard Spann

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