The Spirit-born Christ-abider is not always going to look “right” to human eyes, especially to those caught up in being judgmental and religious. John chapter 3 in the Wuest NT says, “That which has been born out of the flesh is flesh and by nature, fleshly. And that which has been born out of the Spirit, is spirit, and by nature, spiritual…The wind blows where it desires to blow. And its sound you hear. But you are not knowing from where it is coming and where it is going. So is everyone who has been born out of the Spirit as a source.”
This means there’s no cookie cutter, no looking, acting, and walking the same as every other believer. Jesus was highly unpredictable, and never quite looked “right” to the leading religious people. But the people who knew they needed Him, who needed their wounds bound up and their wrong ideas of God blotted out and replaced with true ideas, those who needed healing and empowerment – those people benefited from the unpredictability of Jesus.
So a believer who is abiding will often be unpredictable in his actions. He will sometimes turn right when religious people think he should turn left; he’ll sit and seemingly do nothing when religious folk think he should do something (especially join in what they are doing). He will withhold his hand when religious people think he should offer it, and offer it when they think it should be withheld. He will break the fence laws of the religious in order to love sinners.
He’ll do things in secret so that his right hand doesn’t know what his left hand is doing. He’ll not be working for men’s applause, and not be doing things because he feels he should, but he’ll be loving others because “the love of Christ compels” him. He will be driven by an inner drive, the dynamic energy of God. This love will take many forms in his actions.
And because of this dynamic, energetic wind within himself, it’s likely he’ll be judged. Those who consider self-effort as a means to being holy, who look at the outsides of things, will look at him sideways because he is not following the established religious pattern. They will be looking at his outsides, his actions that do not conform to what they think ought to be done.
Enduring this judgment of the religious, especially when they are friends, is part of suffering with Jesus. It is dying to the opinions and judgments of men; it is dying to being a man-pleaser and learning to fully rely on Christ within.
Paul endured this suffering to a massive degree. He watched his old religious crowd despise him and fight against him, even to the point of stoning him. They tried to kill him, and got him arrested and imprisoned. He saw religious folk, the Christ-plus-Law people, sneak in to subvert his converts to turn them to religion, to put them back under Law and self-effort and shoulds and ought-tos rather than faith in Christ. Paul uses the strongest language for those who twist the Gospel in this way: Regarding those who tried to add circumcision to faith in Christ, Paul said, “I wish they’d go the whole way and emasculate themselves.” He said they were perverting the Gospel. He said the Judaizers wanted the applause of men, that they wanted the Galatians to be zealous for their religious party rather than for Christ. He said if anyone preaches any other Gospel other than the one that he had preached, let them be cursed.
In the same way, Jesus saved his harshest words for righteousness that is rooted in human ability, self-righteousness that then seeks to poison others with its world-view: “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?”
To be a self-righteous snake, crawling around on the ground, earth-bound, seeing only the little bit of dirt in front of me, poisonous to those around me with my limited religious viewpoint of shoulds and ought-tos – or to fly on the breath of God, limitless, not knowing where He is taking me but seeing that God “works all things after the counsel of His own will,” to love and encourage others with the dynamic energy of Christ. I’ve done both, and I know which path I’ve come to prefer.
Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he’s not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin’ on audiences around the world, he’s taking care of his donkey named “Trash” and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.