The fall of man brought about a great deception. Since we were all in Adam, we are all born with a false sense of independence. We think we are our own boss. Even if we have the inclination for good, we actually believe we, independently, can perform it as if in and of ourselves we can. The good news is, the Bible not only reveals our deception, it also shows us the great lengths to which God has gone to restore His former glory to us.
God created man in His own image which means he was covered in God’s glory. When Adam sided with the lies of the enemy, believing himself to be “as God”, the glory departed. Since then, God has been working for His glory to be restored.
Genesis 3 tells us after Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked: and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.” Their glory covering was now gone so they were left to find covering for themselves. Man has been attempting to cover for himself ever since but to no avail.
In Exodus chapter 40, we read about the Lord telling Moses how to construct the Tabernacle and all it’s utensils. Once Moses finished, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” From then on the presence of the glory cloud lead Israel in all their journeying.
Later on after Israel had entered and settled in the Promised Land, King Solomon had the Temple built. When the time came to dedicate the temple and pray, an amazing thing happened. We read, “fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house. The priests could not enter into the house of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house” (2 Chronicles 7:1-2).
In yet another unprecedented move, God revealed His glory but this time it wasn’t in a tent or building made with human hands. This time it was within one particular man named Jesus. In the gospel of John we find out Jesus is the Word and “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Toward the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He shared with His disciples what God’s plan had been all along. He said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father…” (John 14:9). Then He said something truly astounding. He said, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father abiding in me does His works” (John 14:10). Did you catch that? Jesus, himself a man, declared “the Father abiding in me does His works!” In other words, throughout the Old Covenant and all of God’s dealing’s with man, He has demonstrated our inability to obtain His glory independently.
Moses couldn’t enter the Tabernacle, meaning he couldn’t do anything because it was God’s glory, which represents His presence, who would perform all that was required. And again in the Temple, we see the priests couldn’t enter to do “their” work because God’s glory filled the Temple. Are you starting to get the point? Only God can do what God commands.
Jesus, God in the flesh, demonstrated for us how mankind was always meant to operate. He repeatedly told His disciples “the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something he sees the Father doing..”, “I can do nothing on my own initiative”, “I did not speak on my own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent me has given me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.”
We can’t stop with Jesus though. God intends for His glory to be returned to all who call on Him in faith. Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you…In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:16-20).
While there are many things throughout the Bible which seem a bit obscure, God’s intention to give us His glory is not one of them. In Jesus’ amazing prayer found in John 17, he clearly tells the Father, “The glory which You have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and you in me, that they may perfected in unity, so that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am, so that they may see my glory which you have given me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
After the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was poured out. The Apostle Paul wrote extensively about the Spirit dwelling within us. In fact he told us in Colossians 1 the message of Christ “in us” was his message. He said it was a revealed mystery “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
In short, man turned from God’s glory but God is love, and He wasn’t going to let us go without a fight! No matter what it took, God was going to restore His glory in man. Once God’s glory is restored in your life, you will cease from your own works and enter into rest. Entering into rest means we cease from our own works just as the glory cloud forced Moses and Solomon centuries before. Now that Christ has entered man, man ceases from his “so called” independent works and learns to trust Christ in him to perform all of what God requires.
Sometimes I like to do something I call skipping a rock through the Bible. Today I would like to trace how God moved through history to find His permanent dwelling place. Of course God is everywhere all the time, but His manifested presence can be traced through the Bible.
In Genesis we read where God lived with man in the Garden of Eden. In fact it appears they may have taken walks together from time to time. Just after man’s fall though, Adam and Eve hid themselves and they “heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). Man found himself separated from God and His glory, but the good news is God didn’t give up. He set out to reunite with man.
Years later, as you read through the story of the Exodus, God still wanting a relationship with man, moved into a tent. In Exodus, after reading of the very specific details God gave Moses concerning how to build the tabernacle, God’s presence filled the tent. We’re told, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34-35).
Moving on into the Promised Land we see where the Tabernacle was traded for a more permanent structure called the Temple. King David wanted to build the Temple but God wouldn’t let him. Instead God gave that privilege to David’s son Solomon. After Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple, “fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house. The priests could not enter into the house of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house” (2 Chronicles 7:1-2).
Up to this point we can see God must really love man and want to be with Him. He already went from living in a Garden to a tent and then a building, but there’s something even greater than this! As you look into the New Testament you’ll discover He wanted to be yet closer even still.
In the gospel of John we read, “And the Word (God) became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Wow! So God became a man and dwelt among us. I can’t resist saying this: the Greek word translated here as dwelt is actually the word “tabernacled”. Isn’t that amazing? God was now located in a man and moving about with them eye to eye. Later on in the Gospel of John it’s recorded that one of Jesus’ followers, Philip said to Him, “Lord show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘show us the Father’? (John 14:8-9). The Spirit of God was dwelling within the human Jesus.
Once the time came for Jesus to go to the cross, his disciples were understandably fearful; but Jesus comforted them saying, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you…In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:16 &20). So here we have a promise that God would actually make one more move. This next move was going to be a doozy.
After the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, he ascended into heaven right before the disciples very eyes. Jesus had told them to go to Jerusalem and wait until they received power from on high so that’s just what they did. In the second chapter of Acts we can read where the Holy Spirit came rushing into the room the disciples were waiting in and they were filled with the very Spirit of God Himself. This of course was the plan God had all along. His plan was always to dwell in man. He wasn’t going to be satisfied just living in a Garden, tent or building. No, He wanted to take up residence within the man He created in His own image.
The Apostle Paul was God’s chosen vessel to spread the word about this amazing deeper understanding of the Gospel. Paul said it was a “mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27). He asked the Corinthians “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…(1 Corinthians 6:19). So it seems God’s plan all along was to inhabit mankind and live His life through them. What an amazing plan from an amazing God!
In Genesis 17 God said to Abraham “Walk before me, and be blameless.” If that’s not enough, Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Are you serious? Blameless and perfect? What does this mean to me? Is God dangling the proverbial carrot in front of us, all the while knowing we can never measure up, or is there some way for us to fulfill these over-the-top demands?
I think most would agree the God of the Bible is a perfect God, right? And the Bible tells us Jesus was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). So, a blameless, perfect God telling us to be blameless and perfect seems to be valid, right? The problem then isn’t on God’s side, it’s on ours. What are we going to do then?
If you think about it, this perfect God gave us the Ten commandments and they essentially are telling us the same thing. When the commandment says, “Do not lie, or bear false witness, it means not even one! When it says, “Do not commit adultery, and Jesus said, “don’t even lust in your heart”, it means what it says. It’s the same with the rest: don’t murder, covet and so on. So for those of us who are honest with ourselves we eventually come to the conclusion that left to ourselves, we’re doomed. It may seem odd to some but that’s the conclusion God intends. Left to ourselves we have absolutely no hope of being blameless and perfect, yet the command still stands.
This is why God Himself came here in the flesh. John told us, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). You see the perfect God became the perfect man, in order to live the perfect life, die the perfect death, to perfect all who receive Him. According to Hebrews 10:14 “By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” Did you catch that? He (God in the flesh) gave Himself as an offering for sin once and for all in order to fulfill His own demands on humanity.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he declares “those of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death.” He then goes a bit further saying, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). After establishing that we have died to sin he goes on to declare we have also died to the Law (Romans 7:4).
After discovering we have been crucified with Christ, died to sin and died to the Law, Paul then drops another big revelation on us. In Romans 8 he tells us the Law couldn’t do the job anyway because we simply couldn’t obey. He said, “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-5). Did you catch that? What we couldn’t do, “God did.” So what God has done is moved into us, by way of His Spirit, and He now lives out the blameless, perfect life He requires of us. Once we see that we have been crucified with Christ and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us, we will begin to walk in the very blameless perfection He demands.
Jesus Himself said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The key here is nothing. As long as we are attempting to live the Christian life, as if independent of Christ, we are doomed to feelings of condemnation and failure, which is as it should be. The Gospel means “good news” and the good news is Christ in you, is the hope of glory! (Colossians 1:27). Paul said, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete (perfect) in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). So you see perfection is possible, but only to those who are in the perfect one who is Christ. This is why the Bible admonishes us to walk in the Spirit rather than the flesh. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8).
In John 17 Jesus prays for His disciples and those who would believe because of their word. He prayed that they would be one even as He and the Father are one. He said, “as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us…”
Later, after the cross and the death, burial, resurrection and ascension, the Apostle Paul teaches us nothing less than this same thing has actually occurred. He said in Colossians 1 that he was made a minister of the church in order to declare a mystery that had been hidden for ages and generations, but has now been manifested. He said this great mystery is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” In preaching this message his goal was to present every man complete in Christ. You see until we have Christ in us we are incomplete; for God created us to be one with Him and that only takes place through the cross.
In Romans 6 we discover those of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death and joined with Him in His burial and resurrection. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself; so for those of us who place our faith in Him we have Him in us and we are complete. This word complete is actually not the word used in the trusty King James Bible rather it’s the word “perfect.” Hebrews 10:14 tells us “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”
Not only did Jesus become sin on the cross, He has joined us to himself spirit to Spirit in the process thereby making us the righteousness of God in Him. Just as Jesus prayed we have become one with Him, a new creature. In fact according to Ephesians 2 not only have we been raised, as in resurrected, we have also been “seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Colossians 3 instructs us “If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” This is why Paul says things like “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” So you see Christ not only lives in us, He is our life. The Bible clearly states Christ is the head and the believers are His body. You can’t separate a head from a body so when you see the body your’e seeing the head. The two truly are one.
The young man asked me “What if you start feeling as if you’re going back to the old man?” Doing a Bible study with several men who are looking at a considerable amount of time behind bars is not without it’s challenges. When someone on the outside struggles with depression or feelings of isolation it’s one thing but when you’re talking with someone who probably won’t be free for years, or maybe ever, it’s another story all together.
Making our way through the letter to the Colossians we slowed down a bit to focus on Paul’s statement about his goal of making the once hidden Mystery of God known among the Gentiles. He said He was made a minister in order to fulfill the word of God and preach “the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).
As you read Paul’s writing’s you will begin to see this message of “Christ in you” to be his foundation no matter what else He teaches. For me it seems there is never enough said about how God’s plan all along was to inhabit His people. It was never His intention that we be apart from Him and live in the self-effort strife of trying to work our way up to His standards. I shared with the men how God never thought we could keep His commandments. While many think God gave us His commandments– primarily the Ten Commandments–expecting us to keep them, the reality is He gave them in order to awaken us to our inability to keep them. The deception brought on by the fall is so deep rooted in man it takes something such as the demand for perfection to shake us, bring us to our senses and prove to us our inability to make ourselves “like God.”
The core deception the enemy fed to Adam was that He/We could be independent from God. The idea that we are independent and can do our own “Good” or “Evil” is what has to be removed from our thinking. God gave us His Law to show us who He is so we would start to understand He is Holy, just and perfect and to show us we aren’t. It is only reasonable that a Holy, Just and Perfect God requires Holiness, Justice and Perfection from His creation, right? Jesus Himself did say, “Be perfect/Holy as your heavenly Father is Perfect/Holy didn’t He? The question is how are we to succeed at this impossible demand? Can we try a bit harder? Maybe we can discover a new method of self-improvement, go to a seminar. Are we to hire our very own life coach or guru? No!
After sharing with the men about the Law and it’s demands of perfection we found our way back to Paul’s goal of preaching the message of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” You see the only way we can be Holy, Just and Perfect is if the Holy, Just and Perfect one takes up residence within us. The way God does this is the cross. When the first Adam sinned we all sinned; so God’s solution is to take us out of the first Adam and place us into Christ–the last Adam. The problem God has is we are free to choose and yet that really isn’t a problem because He knows there are those of us, after trying and failing for long enough, who will come to the conclusion that we are unable and will cry out to Him to save us. The Apostle Paul himself tells us of his own experience of this in Romans 7 where He cried out ” Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” Of course the answer is “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” You see “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So it is truly only “Christ in you” that can give us back “the hope of glory.”
Once we went through all of this we came to the issue of the young man feeling as if He was slipping back into the “old man.” We went from the Law and Christ in us to the division of soul and spirit. We read Hebrews 4:12 and talked about how we have all sorts of thoughts and feelings that come and go each and every day but we don’t have to take condemnation for them. Feelings are part of what makes us human but we aren’t meant to be ruled by them so if you feel a bit blue or depressed from time to time it doesn’t mean it is you. At some point we have to start recognizing the real us is our inner man joined to Christ not our thoughts and feelings. Sure we have thoughts and feelings but they don’t define who we are. “He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17). We don’t deny or attempt to fight feelings we simply see them for what they are and let them be. It’s not as if we can fight them away, in fact fighting them tends to feed them power and we end up in a worse state than when we started most of the time.
While it sounds crazy at first we have to give ourselves permission to be human or as my friend Sylvia Pearce says, “We have to give our humanity a break.” Now this doesn’t mean we allow sin into our lives but what it means is we give ourselves permission to have thoughts and feelings and they don’t stop us from walking in the Spirit. The enemy has the free range to inject thoughts into our minds and we must learn to see them for what they are. I told the guys when you have those thoughts and think to yourself “Where did that come from? Why am I thinking that?” Right away you identify them as from the enemy, take it captive, and present the truth to it. It goes something like this: If you are feeling angry, fearful or depressed you say to yourself, “Well, that isn’t me it’s my emotions. The real me is joined to Christ and Christ didn’t give me the spirit of fear, He’s not angry or depressed so it must be the enemy so I don’t have to take it.” That is what it means to take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). You see the old man didn’t have the ability to do this because He didn’t have Christ living in him but thanks be to God we do.
Our monthly trip to the women’s prison went well. There were eight of us so we split into two groups of four. One went to what’s called MSU (minimum security unit) and the other went on the compound (medium security). Tracey and I always go to the compound which is inside the fence and tonight was no different.
After introducing myself and the others Tracey, Carl, and Doug I sat down. Tracey led us in a few songs from the hymnals that are provided. At first it seemed the ladies were all in, but as we finished the last song over half of them had taken their seats. I’m not saying people can’t sing sitting down, but I couldn’t help wonder what the sudden need to sit down might have implied. We never mentioned it rather we just kept on with what we were doing.
I told them about our friend Doug’s moped wreck 14 years ago. When all this happened Doug had to have a tube in his throat which caused damaged to his vocal chords and hinders his ability to speak clearly sometimes. Hence, the reason I spoke on his behalf. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and collided head on into a semi truck. The officers and medics at the scene couldn’t find a pulse and were talking about declaring him dead. Doug was taken to the hospital in Nashville without much hope of recovering. The doctors told his father even if he did survive he would most likely be in a vegetative state and have to be in a nursing home for the rest of his life. This is not very encouraging news to hear about one’s child, but his father cried out for God’s intervention and prayed. Without going into all the details let me just say as I shared how the doctors didn’t think Doug would make it he said, “They were wrong” which received almost a standing ovation from the ladies. Doug is walking, talking proof that God is alive and still performs the miraculous.
After Carl, our other friend that came with us, finished telling the ladies about Christ and encouraging them by saying, “We come here because we love you and to tell you to look to the Lord” It was time for Tracey to speak; so I got up and introduced her. Since she talks with and councils the ladies in our local jail on a weekly basis she talks with the women in prison with ease in an open and honest fashion they all seem to gravitate toward.
Tracey shared with them about our Christmas holiday and how it seemed to be focused on Jesus even more than usual. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the extras of the holiday’s and forget Jesus Christ is the point. She read to them from 2 Corinthians about how we are ambassadors for Christ and we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. Our role is to declare to people how God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. On top of that it isn’t just reconciliation to God but also to each other. As believers in Christ we are to be a forgiving people. We are to be an example of Christ to the watching world. While Christ was on the cross he said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” He said this and it included even the very ones that nailed him to the cross. It takes a supernatural move of the Spirit, but if we are Spirit people we will have the same nature as our father won’t we?
When my time came to talk to the ladies I started by sharing my testimony with them. I told them of my addiction and how Tracey and I divorced. We were divorced for two years but thank God he had something wonderful in mind. You see he was going to bring us back together but this time it would be “In Christ.” He is the God of reconciliation isn’t he? I told them the message of the gospel is only for those desperate enough to receive it. If you still think you are okay then you probably won’t really hear the message.
The message of the Bible isn’t that we try to be a Christian. No, the message is without Christ you can do nothing. The Apostle Paul’s discovery was “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The Christian life isn’t about us and our attempts to be a “Good” Christian rather it’s about Christ, by the Spirit, living the “Christ life” in and through you. He is the only one who ever lived the Christian life, and guess what? He’s the only one that ever will. The good news is now because of the cross and the death, burial, resurrection and ascension we can receive the Holy Spirit and be made whole. All that we were lacking in Adam can only be realized in Christ.
One of my favorite things to share with people is how there is nothing outside of Christ himself that can fulfill you. I repeated three times to them “There is no other human being on the planet that can make you whole.” After the third time several of them clapped their hands because they finally were hearing what I was telling them. My experience has been there are so many men and women, particularly women, looking for some man to complete them. I told them when you get a man and women together looking for the other to bring them fulfillment it’s like two ticks with no dog. You end up sucking the life out of one another but in the end it simply can’t work. Whereas if you have two whole people, two people filled with the Holy Spirit, coming together not expecting to receive more from the other than is possible you find peace. This is God’s design for us. His plan is for two people, that look to him for their life, to come together and live as a demonstration of God’s perfect design for his people.
Of course I can’t write here all of what was said and done, but I hope you get the gist of our time with the women in prison. I ask that you pray for them and their families. For some of them, that have been locked up for a long time, and have a long difficult road ahead of them. The good news is they are learning to look to the only one who can get them through and his name is Jesus Christ.