If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, our life, is revealed, then you will also be revealed with him in glory. (Col 3:1-4 WEB (R))
Would you be surprised to learn that you’re dead? It’s true, and scripture declares it clearly and repeatedly. We can believe it, even before we understand it. The verses below lead to this startling though emphatic conclusion: we died with Christ, and are therefore dead right now. Confused? Keep reading! Each verse states our death with Christ in the past-tense, meaning it has already occurred and cannot be changed. We don’t have to put ourselves to death – we already died! And if we died, that means what we often call ou
- Romans 6:4: “We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death…”
- 2 Corinthians 5:14: “…we judge thus, that one died for all, therefore all died.”
- Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me.”
- Colossians 2:20: “If you died with Christ from the elements of the world, why…”
- Colossians 3:3: “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
- 2 Timothy 2:11: “This saying is faithful: ‘For if we died with him, we will also live with him.’”
Let’s see if we can grasp these two verses; Colossians 3:3-4, which say: “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When (literally: “whenever”) Christ, our life, is revealed, then you will also be revealed with him in glory.”
Most of us have missed or ignored the “you died” part, and been taught to think these verses somehow mean our “true” life will begin when we die, or when Jesus returns from heaven at the end of the world. But that’s not what this is saying at all. This says our death has already happened and our life being revealed with Christ is a reality now. For example, in Galatians 2:20, Paul says he had died and Christ was “living“ in him at that moment. A better translation of Colossians 3:4 is: “Any time Christ, which is our life, is made apparent, our life will be made apparent with him in glory.” In a nutshell, this says that a great change has taken place, that “we” died and Christ is our identity. Where and what Christ is, is where and what we are.
So how did we die? What does that mean? Whether we see the full expression of this or not, Jesus’ death was the death of all men (see 2 Corinthians 5:14 above), ending Adam’s reign in man and on earth, and his resurrection was the beginning of Christ’s. As Paul wrote, Jesus was the “last Adam and the “second man.”8 Just like Adam was once the identity and life of all men, Christ is now the identity and life of all men, if they will just see and accept it. I believe it is precisely because Christ is our life and identity that scripture says things like: we are eternally perfect, free from condemnation, beloved, accepted, complete, unable to sin, at rest, free from law, desiring to do good, full of love and peace, anointed, etc. These things are true of Christ, not of our old nature (Adam). To begin to walk in their reality, we have to renew our mind to who and what we truly are, and put off the old things.
That brings me to another very important point: while what we might call our “old nature” (referred to as the flesh, Adam’s nature, the sinful nature, the carnal nature, the old man, the natural man, the human soul, the false self, the carnal mind, etc.) is dead, it isn’t “gone.” The New Testament often speaks of “death” in a spiritual sense, where “dead” means condemned, without life, irrelevant, obsolete, thrown away. Because of this, God has no recognition or dealings with our dead nature at all, and neither should we.1 Self-awareness is spiritually lethal. God doesn’t hold the badness of our dead nature against us, nor does He reward us for its goodness! If something is dead/obsolete, it is simply put away and forgotten. All that matters is the increase of Christ in and through us. The mind of Christ eats from the tree of life, but our natural/Adamic mind continually eats from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, remaining carnal and dead. It can’t be improved or changed; it must be totally shunned and left in desolation. If we don’t put off the old, we can and will continue to walk in death – Adam’s nature. The most dangerous thing of all is to remain in death, but call it life. Religion is full of that – labeling dead things as spiritual or divine. It’s a terrible deception.
Let me give an imperfect and inadequate illustration, though hopefully still a helpful one. Let’s say you are hired by a kind, generous, wealthy landowner to mow a large plot of land, mowing sections of it every day. On your first day, you arrive with your own mower, which has been handed down for generations in your family, which looks like this. Although this mower is slow, difficult, dirty, and inefficient, it’s all you’ve ever known, so you just make do. However, there is a mowing manual that describes what the landowner desires this plot to look like, as well as some of the wonderful enjoyment and excellent results which other people have had mowing similar plots owned by this wealthy landowner. To your dismay, no matter how hard you try, how badly you want to, or how much you sharpen and oil your mower, you find mowing to be difficult, and are consistently unable to measure up to all the manual’s descriptions. This causes discouragement and even fear and worry over the landowner’s disappointment. You cope by reassuring yourself that the landowner is merciful, and you frequently send Him letters thanking him for His mercy and asking him to forgive your poor results and mistakes. Despite that, you wish you could do better. One day, someone tells you that there is an unlocked barn nearby on the property with a seemingly endless supply of these, which the landowner purchased, expecting and hoping His mowers will use it. You are so shocked and amazed, that at first you can barely believe it. Almost everyone you know uses the same old style of mower you do, and some of them have seemed happy to do so for decades. Quite a few seem proud of how hard they work and how much they sacrifice to mow their plot with their old mower. You realize, however, that these people don’t really understand what’s in the manual and how far short they are really coming to the landowner’s desires. In any event, when you realize the free and permanent gift of the new mower is true, it dawns on you that this your family’s mower was obsolete (“dead”) all along, and that no one could truly have followed the manual while using it. When you realize the landowner understood this, and wasn’t upset at you for getting bad results with a “dead” mower, your view of Him changes. He wasn’t expecting the impossible and he wasn’t angry with you for falling short. You’re even a bit embarrassed by all the letters you sent him, apologizing for things He wasn’t upset about in the first place. The Landowner was mostly just waiting for you to begin using the second mower, which he freely provided. You begin learning and using the second mower while unlearning the habits and expectations you had formed while using the first. You find your results and enjoyment begin to match what is written in the manual, and are excited to honor the landowner by using His gift and beautifying His land.
Admittedly, this illustration falls short in several ways, one of which is that God doesn’t “give” us Christ, but placed us in him! But I still think it’s helpful. As is probably obvious: the landowner = God the Father, plot of ground = our time on earth, first mower = old/natural/carnal/Adamic nature, manual = Bible, letters to landowner = prayers, second mower = nature of Christ in us, other mowers = fellow believers. Now, in this scenario, why would someone ever continue to use the first mower? I can think of a few reasons. Maybe they don’t realize it is available, or don’t believe it. Maybe they don’t know how to use the new mower, so they get discouraged or believe it really doesn’t work. Maybe they don’t know how to keep gas in it, so they do well only for a while. Maybe the high standards described in the manual are so intimidating, it’s easier to stay limited by using the first mower. Maybe they are so familiar and comfortable with the first mower that it’s scary to change, or maybe because everyone they know still uses the first mower, changing would cause tension or persecution and so it’s easier to just keep going the way they always have.
The ramifications of our identity as Christ are both exciting and sobering. If it is true, then our call and potential are much higher than if we were truly just “saved sinners.” The appropriate results using an 1800’s push mower are far different from those using a 2016 riding mower. While we, as Christ, are not under condemnation2 or any religious obligation,3 Christ in us contradicts what remains of Adam. We have freedom to grow in the Father’s love, but Christ humbly serves others, loves those who mistreat him/her, and seeks the Father’s will and Kingdom above all else. Seeing Christ as our identity and life is glorious, but thinking, speaking and walking according to that life isn’t always easy, and many never do. It leads to suffering of various kinds, often through rejection or persecution from those stuck in religion who remain fearful, proud, and blind. I have also found it takes desire, time and effort to learn to inwardly connect with and follow Christ instead of my old nature. While the way of Christ is full of challenges and even suffering, the glory of being manifested as a being of wisdom and light and love and peace and joy, just as Jesus was, outweighs any cost.
The truth is, you are not a “saved sinner.” That is no longer your identity. You are Christ! It’s true! I’m not saying you or I are the equal of Jesus, because we’re not, and never will be. I’m saying we are individual members of Christ’s body,6 and together, we are the fullness of Christ on the earth.4 This makes Christ our identity, who we are, and God intended and accomplished this in Jesus. This is a precious, glorious, amazing, sobering truth! It’s not something to take and use selfishly, it’s something to rejoice in and submit to! When Christ’s body realizes who and what it is, and connects with its head (Christ himself), we will again see the manifestation of Christ on the earth, just as we did 2,000 years ago in Jesus. Perhaps the biggest limitation the church has had is identifying as “human” and “natural” and “sinful,” which do not describe us, and never have.
I understand this may sound heretical or crazy to some, and you are certainly free to disagree with me. I’ll love you anyway. However, I hope you won’t let offense or fear stop you from seeing the truth in the scriptures I quoted, and more importantly, from connecting with the truth of your inward being. I don’t claim to know or fully live up to all of this, but I’m seeing it and growing in it. If we can learn to silence our restless minds and let go of our own beliefs, allowing ourselves to simply be in God’s presence without agenda or distraction, humbly seeking His mind and His heart instead of validation of our own way, I believe some of these things will begin to make sense and the Spirit will reveal things that we couldn’t have seen on our own. As 1 John 2:20, 27 says so plainly, you have no need for a man to teach you, but Christ, the anointing/spirit of God within you is your only teacher. Trust and connect with Christ within you, and be taught there inwardly.7 You will find truth if you do. Christ resides in you now, because that’s who you have been made to be. What a gift! God bless you.
- Romans 12:1-2, 6:11
- Romans 8:1
- Romans 13:8-10
- 1 John 4:17
- 2 Corinthians 5:21
- Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 6:15, 12:12, 27
- 1 John 2:20,27
- 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47