“The spirit’s willing but the flesh is weak” – even non-religious peopleuse this saying at times to express the idea that “I really want to do this,but haven’t the strength”. The suggestion is that there’s something inside methat wants to do what is right, but the rest of me is too weak to do it. Atother times we’ll say “I didn’t think I had it in me” or other people will saythe same thing about us: indeed, we will often surprise ourselves at theabilities we discover we have. Sometimes we’ll say “I don’t know where thatcame from” – what we mean is that this particular thought or feeling or actionseemed to come from someone other than ourselves.
All of these instances are examples of a life within us that is actuallybeyond ourselves. We will refer to this unexpected energy or attitude inanother person by saying “he shows remarkable spirit” or “it’s as if adifferent spirit has taken hold of him”. This is reality – because inside eachof us is the actual spirit of the Son of our Creator. As Paul wrote to thepeople at Ephesus in 58 a.d., “for we are God’s workmanship, created in ChristJesus for good works which he has prepared beforehand that we should walk inthem”, so Christ is the great human being who is within each of us endeavouringto do and say things through our lives. Deep within us – in our spirits, HisSpirit has prompted, guided, and rebuked us from our earliest days. Although wehave learned to dismiss these impressions as inherited prejudices andinstincts, they are actually signs of our Maker’s life and desires for his lifein us.
Living from Within
The first step into the life we were made for is whole-heartedacceptance that God Himself is within us and that we are in his Son. The secondstep is to recognize that the Spirit of Christ moves in our own spirit so thatwe can commune with Him, be guided by Him, and be corrected by Him. As we beginto take this reality seriously, we sense increasingly the life of the universalhuman existence of Christ inside us. Just as he is with His Father, ourCreator, at this present moment, so are we too – in Him ! As Paul wrote, “God,who is rich in mercy towards us, out of the great love with which he has lovedus, even when we were dead in our trespasses, make us alive together withChrist and raised us up with him and made us sit with Him in the heavenlyplaces in Christ Jesus”. And very reason he did this was “so that he might showforth the riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus”.
So, the whole point of our present life here on earth is so that yourCreator can demonstrate the richness of his own life and kindness to us in ourlives. Far from being little puny human animals trying to eke out an existencefor ourselves, we are here specifically so that the Creator of the universe canexpress his kindness to us through the infinite life of his Son inside us. ThisHe does as we respect his presence within us, as we act in response to theimpressions He makes upon us, and as we submit to His opinions. But all ofthese attitudes and actions by us take place in the context of two staggeringrealities that most of us have grown up ignoring completely.
The first is that the infinite Creator conceived you and your existencein His Son before He made the world: Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians1:15-16, ” He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of allcreation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth “. So,before even the earth was created, you were conceived as part of the humanityof Jesus Christ who was not only the first-born of all creation, but later wasthe one who made the earth. So, the infinite Maker saw your existence frombefore the beginning of time – and obviously saw it all in one millisecond intimeless eternity. This means He didn’t need to wait for your life to be livedby you day-by-day in order to see how it would turn out. He knew all thatbecause he put within you in his Son all the potential and He also foreknew allthe people and events that you would encounter.
He had only to arrange all these things so that you would really have afree will that you could exercise yet one that He Himself could deal with andyet not turn you into a mere puppet or robot. Only this way could He ever begetin His son others who were similarly free to love and trust and enjoy Him. Thisis what He did in Christ before ever the world was created. He foresaw andexperienced in Christ your whole life – all your smiles, your tears, yourkindly words, your cruel acts – in Christ He was forced by you to hurt others(whose pain He also bore); and at the same time, He graciously and justifiablyinduced others to act in ways that would draw you continually towards Himself.
Your Present Life
Then, after the earth was created, that millisecond in eternity waslived out day by day, moment by moment, act by act, word by word, so that youcould actually experience all that had happened in Christ. This is the firstgreat fact of the context in which your life takes place – it has all beenforeseen, foreknown, and experienced by Christ, so that your whole future hasbeen lived by Christ, yet your free will have always been preserved.