Christ as the Manifestation of the Christian life
Col 3:1-4 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. (2) Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (3) For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (4) When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
Another translation for verse 4 is ‘then shall you also be manifested,’. When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then we also will be manifested with him in glory.
This is good news for those who seek the “manifestation” of the christian life. It is through that desire to be Christlike, or to be Godly, that the enemy works his most subtle deceptions as described in Colossians, Chapter 2. The vain deceit, the traditions of man, and the ordinances, (do not handle, and do not touch;) all of that kind of teaching is only seductive because it seems to present a way to be more godly, or to be more “Christlike.”
Teachers come in to Christian circles and present worldly philosophy and teachings according to the elements of this world get you all concerned about your life on this earth. They want you focusing on yourself and your life and trying to get it to match up to Christ (who by the way is in the heavens and is heavenly!). We can be susceptible to this kind of teaching because our conscience tells us, “Yes! I want to be like Christ, I want to be like God, I want to be a child of God, I want my Christian life to have all of these virtues”.
This is just like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve were already created in the image of God, already expressing Him, and yet Satan told them that if they ate of this tree it would make them wise, and they would be like God, knowing good and evil. His tactic was to get them to work to get what they already had!
If you remember in Colossians 2 I talked about the circumcision of Christ. We’ve been circumcised with the circumcision of Christ, the “true circumcision.” That has to do with our religious strength being “put off”. This is how we should view our natural ability and our attempts to be like God, to be Christlike, and to be blessed.
We saw what I believe is ultimate example in the scriptures, the Israel of God, who is Jacob. Jacob was a person who lived his whole life striving in the flesh to try to obtain, (whether through swindling or effort, or whatever means that was at his disposal) the blessing that God had already decreed was his! He wouldn’t have suffered so much if he had been able to rest, but he couldn’t stop wrestling because that’s what his flesh was. He couldn’t stop it, so God had to weaken him by touching his thigh. Then He changed his name to Israel.
That is really the true picture of what circumcision is supposed to do. The true circumcision is that our strength is touched, and we know longer have hope in ourselves, and we are no longer trying through our own efforts to lay hold of what God has already given us. We are resting in the knowledge that we already have everything in Christ and we are “complete in him”; that’s really the fruit of the true circumcision.
When you have that “fatal blow” dealt to your natural man, you can no longer stand up in your own righteousness and try by your righteousness to lay hold of anything. You learn to repudiate your own strength and your own righteousness because you see it does not avail in the things of God. That will free you from the root of the problem in you that causes you to be attracted to the false teaching that tries to get you to strive in those things.
So, on the heels of all that Paul says:
Verse 1: If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right had of God.
Paul is wanting to get my attention off of me and “my stuff.” Where’s my stuff? It’s on the earth. Where am I? I’m in the heavens! Set your affection on things above, not on the earth. What’s above? Christ is seated in the heavens and you are seated with Him! That’s where you are.
Verse 3: For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
Your life is no longer about striving to perfect yourself in the flesh and obtain the blessing of God, and do better religiously, none of that. You are dead! Where is your life? Your life is not in those things. Your life is hidden! We have a “hidden life.”
You who are struggling with, ‘Am I really born again, because I don’t see it’. God tells you right here that that life is hidden. Where is it hidden? It is hidden in the heavens with Christ in God. That’s where your life is. You don’t have a life down here on the earth. You have been crucified with Christ and you have been buried with Him, and baptized into his death and through the circumcision of Christ the old man has been put off. You don’t have to tamper with it, or touch it, or handle it, or perfect it, or make it look better, or dress it up, or parade it around; you can forget about it.
This is not easy for us to understand. But as God works on us he wears down our strength. See, that is what he was doing with Israel, he wrestled with him all that night and finally Jacob was too strong and prevailed, and so God touched his thigh and weakened him permanently so he could no longer rise up in his own strength but had to rest on a staff for the rest of his life, and then God named him Israel. Jacob was saying, ‘You must give me the blessing!’(Gen 32:26). Well, he already had the blessing. God himself was with him, and that’s our blessing.
Only God can do something about this struggle. You can’t stop struggling, you’re going to fight and fight and fight. Then one day God will issue a “blow” that will permanently weaken you, and when you have gotten past through that you will rejoice, because, after a while, you will realize, “Wow! God actually brought me into a place of rest. Because I just don’t have the strength anymore. I can’t go back to institutional church and try and please those people, and do all this stuff, living up to others expectations; I already know that entire path is already done for me. It is what it is, I am what I am, what you see is what you get. I’ve got a hidden treasure in an earthen vessel. The earthen vessel is broken, but I have the blood of Jesus, and I have his forgiveness. And I also do have a life! Where is that life? It is where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, and it’s in Christ, and it is Christ, and my life is hid with Christ in God. So I need to learn to set my affection on Him. I don’t see my life, it’s hidden, but I do see Christ seated at the right hand of God, described in the word. All of the realities of my position in him, and what I have in him, all that is true in him is now true in me.”
The light shines; the darkness has past and true light shines. You are dead! Your life is hid with Christ in God. And now when you see this, you’ll no longer be attracted to the false teaching listed in Chapter 2. That’s how you get free!
Christ Our Life
Verse 4: When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
Now, On the one hand, this is a rapture verse. When we see him, we will be manifested. First John says; Now we are the children of God, it is not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when we see Him, we will be as He is because we will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). We will be transfigured in His presence.
But, also for Paul, the Christian life is a matter of Christ being manifested. First of all, what is godliness? First Timothy 3:16 tells us that great is the mystery of godliness. He was manifested in the flesh, seen by angles, taken up to glory, I’m paraphrasing.
Godliness is a person! What is our life? Our life is Christ himself. “When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested.” Paul says in Philippians 1:18 “this shall turn our to be for salvation, through your petition, and the bountiful supply of the spirit of Jesus Christ, that as always, even know, with all boldness, Christ will be manifested, (or magnified) in my body, whether through life or though death, for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
That goes along with Galatians 2:20, “I through the law, died to the law, that’s that process of circumcision, it just exhausted me and wore me out, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I live by the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me”. The Son of God loved me, he gave himself for me, and now he is my life.
If you want to ask what is the manifestation of the christian life, what is godliness, the real answer is that it is this person being manifested in me. Anything short of that is not the christian life!
You may read a bunch of self-help books, or supposedly good spiritual books on how to love your wife and be a good husband, and be a more generous person, and be a Christian leader, and be a godly person in your home, and all of these things. If you learn to do all these things in an ethical way, you may become so refined that the church will make you an elder, and say “this guy is really living the good godly life, his kids are in order, his house is clean, he brings in the bread and butter for his family, and his wife is happy, and they go on vacations, and he takes such good care of her, and loves her, and he always has his hand around her, and they have the perfect marriage, it’s just wonderful! Look how godly he is! We should put him on the board.” These are the people they exalt in Christianity and they have zero life of Christ manifested. It is entirely an ethical shell!
It is the cleansing of the outside of the cup, and yet the inwardly is full of self indulgence. It’s just a different kind of indulgence. It is an indulgence where you love the praise of men and you love navigating society and you do it really well, and you are political and you are charming, and you always have the right thing to say, and you always have the right answer. You win every discussion, and who would ever accuse you because you are such a “great guy.” You go to Starbucks, and you tip your waitress real well, and you say “God bless you”, and yet when it comes to talking about Christ, you don’t have anything to say. All you can talk about is well, this is how you can be a good husband. I’m going to have a ministry about men raising good children.
I’m not saying all this stuff isn’t beneficial. I wish I had been raised by a father. I had no father in my life, and I had no life skills. Now I’m learning, by the grace of God, how to be a parent. I’m sometimes terrible at it, and sometimes good at it, and it is a mess. My marriage is okay, I’m not a real great husband, I’m really a graceless person in a lot of ways and I can be so cold sometimes, there’s just so much to look at in my own life, where people would say I don’t look godly. But because of that, I have had to cling to Christ as my righteousness in a way that someone who’s got it all together could never understand. I look at Christ, and say “You are my life. Only if You are manifested will there be anything good in me that’s worth talking about.”
So Christ is my life, and when he is manifested, then, (not before), then I will be manifested with him! You know what? You may go through a whole period of your Christian life where you’ve got nothing but “naked faith.” You just have to believe the promises of God, and what he says about you in Christ, and keep asking for forgiveness of your sins, but at the same time He is also faithful.
He said in John 14, “if you love me, you will love my word and my father and I will come to you and manifest ourselves to you.” That goes along with Laodecea where he says if any man hears my voice and lets me in I will come in and sup with him (Rev 3:20).
We can have fellowship with Jesus Christ. I guarantee you, if you’ve got fellowship with Jesus Christ, and you are enjoying that feast, and you are seeing all the truths of who you are in Christ and what He has done for you, and you have a heart full of thanksgiving, even if your outward life seems like a mess, your heart will be full of the fragrant atmosphere of Christ and you will be holy and you will have joy and peace, and love for the brothers of against which there is no law.
There’s plenty of laws that says you should be a better husband, and you should be a better provider, and you should be a better this and that. You should learn how to be nicer to people, but there is no law against believing in Jesus Christ and having love for all of the brothers. And what is that love? In first John, it’s not as complicated as you think it is, its just recognizing the children of God by their testimony.
Cain hated Able because he hated Abel’s deeds, which were the offering of the blood. Cain’s deeds, which were the offering of his works, were evil. Therefore he hated and judged Able. So to love the children of God is to recognize the blood as their only sufficiency, and not demand righteousness, but demand nothing but Christ as their sufficiency.
That’s not to say we fellowship with people who are living in open sin and are unrepentant, and all that. No! But, if they believe in Jesus Christ, that he has risen from the dead, and has shed his blood for their sins, we recognize them as the children of God. They may have to go under discipline, and we may be partakers of that discipline, to the extent we don’t fellowship with them while they are living in this sin, but we know that God will deal with them, whether he takes them home and deals with them there, they are the children of God.
When it comes to the children who have the testimony of Grace and are learning to walk in it and actually enjoying Christ to some extent, we don’t even have to like them that much. They may be totally annoying to us, but you know what, if they are full of Christ, they won’t be. We will love them. It’s because we love Christ, and we love Christ in them and we recognize that he is in them. We recognize the children of God. That’s what it means to love the brethren. Don’t turn it into this thing where you got to have warm feelings toward everyone. That’s just your earthly flesh talking. We are not looking for things on Earth! Our life is hid with Christ in God. It’s what we see is true in the word that describes our life. When that life is manifested, then we will be manifested with him in glory. The Christian life is the matter of the life of Christ, or Christ as life manifested in me. That operates through faith as I have a heart full of thanksgiving for what he has done and its through that that Christ makes his home in my heart.