Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 10/14/07.
"My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!" (Gal. 4:19).
This writing is NOT about Mary, whom the Catholic Church refers to as "the Mother of God," though she gets honorable mention later. It's really about each one of us. Stay with me and we'll get to that. Lenny and I watch a Prime Time show, "NCIS," on CBS, Tuesday nights. This past week, the plot was about a woman the crime scene investigators found murdered. An autopsy revealed that she had just delivered a baby, which was missing. The DNA evidence proved that the woman had been a surrogate mother for another couple. Infertility clinicians had united the donor couple's sperm and egg in a petri dish and implanted the fertilized embryo in the surrogate's womb. The point was made that the baby she delivered, revealed no evidence of her DNA, but only the DNA of his parents. This would mean that the child produced by this technique would have none of the surrogate's physical characteristics and/or tendencies to develop any diseases she might be genetically predisposed to get. The baby was, in effect, a foreign object in her body.
After the show, I began to think in spiritual terms, about the phenomena of bearing a child that had no characteristics of the mother. Paul talks about Christ being formed within us in the verse just quoted, and also refers to Him as our "Hope of Glory" (Col. 1:27). When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, he said, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:30-33).
Mary, a virgin, was understandably confused about how she could become pregnant, because as she said to the angel, she had no husband. He said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). I never made the connection before, but it occurred to me when I reread Luke's account, that perhaps this was what Paul was referring to when he spoke of Christ being formed within each of us. Perhaps it is what Jesus meant when He told Nicodemus that in order to see or enter the Kingdom of God, one must be born of the Spirit, saying, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6).
No, we who are born again do not birth an actual child, the way Mary did, but by the same means as she, we are impregnated with the Christ child WITHIN US, where the kingdom is, after all. At the new birth, He is conceived within us, and sometimes it takes a long gestation period for Him to shine forth, but knowing the process has begun helps us to wait for it to be manifested.
Since coming to Neosho, encountering Bible Belt Fundamentalists, we've observed how sin conscious most Christians still are. They may have been "saved" decades ago, but still, they will tell you that they are sinners, making it difficult for them to picture Christ within themselves. How can this be? Part of the problem is inadequate teaching on what was accomplished by the shed blood of the Lamb, which took away the sins of the world (John 1:29). This confusion about the One John called "the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the world" (I John 2:2), is seen in the Catholic doctrine called, "The Immaculate Conception." That man-made notion refers, not to Christ, but to Mary, whom they say was also born of a virgin, reasoning that sinful flesh could not have birthed the sinless Savior. There's a church dedicated to Queen Anne (Mary's mother) in Jerusalem. When we visited it, I remarked to my sister that apparently, there were no sperm any where in Mary's family.
The Catholics certainly are not alone in failure to appreciate the blood of the Lamb. Most Protestant Doctrine is based on works, what man must do to appease the Divine, secure right standing with God, and attempt to overcome his sinful flesh. Again, this is a failure to understand God's part in the process of salvation, justification, and sanctification. The angel said to Mary that she had found favor with God. What does that mean? The same thing it meant when Paul said of Abraham: "For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned (credited) to him as righteousness" (Rom. 2:2-3).
The Apostle of Grace goes on to explain himself further: "Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Rom. 4:4-5). BOTH Abraham and Mary found favor with God. To Abraham, God made the glorious promise that in his seed, would all nations be blessed, and to Mary, God announced that through her womb, the promise made to Abraham would become flesh and dwell among us. Neither human being was righteous in the sense the church thinks of as righteousness, but the One who "gives life to the dead and calls the things that are not as though they were," reckoned them righteous, which is, as Paul explained, "the righteousness of faith, not of works" (Rom. 4:17; 9:30-33).
BOTH Abraham and Mary were "fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was "reckoned to him (them) as righteousness" (Rom. 4:21-22).
BOTH Abraham and Mary were God's elect in the hour in which they lived, part of what Paul calls, "the remnant": "So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace" (Rom. 11:5-6). Neither Abraham nor Mary get any credit or glory, the way religious people tend to view them. They were sovereignly chosen by God to complete and fulfill His plan of the ages conceived before the Foundation of the World. Only God gets the glory for the fulfillment of His plan!
When we saw the show about the surrogate mother, and it was stated that the child had none of her DNA, I realized that God had just given me a window of understanding, a metaphor to help us understand Christ's gestation and birth in us. Mary was in one sense God's surrogate, even as in another sense, we are as well. Why would this be important, you ask, because, of course, God does not need a mother. He IS the Father/Mother Creator of everything. He has always been and always will be (Ps. 90:2; Isa. 40:28; Hab. 1:12). This is only a way to help us understand what God did for us in Christ, which many fail to grasp.
Lenny pointed out that Mary birthed Christ, not knowing that He would later be birthed in her in order for her to be born again.
We've noticed that the concept of "Christ in you, the hope of Glory," is in short supply here in the Bible Belt. I grieve for these dear ones who are so down on themselves because they've been taught that they are sinful, and no matter how hard they try to do it right, they can't. No surprise there, but perhaps it would help those who still insist on labeling themselves sinners, and who apparently think they are too sinful to house the Christ child, to get past this mental block by considering themselves as surrogates. These types of "word pictures," metaphors, and parables help us to think outside the doctrinal box in which religion has kept us chained up.
Perhaps if sin conscious Christians thought of themselves as surrogates, they would realize that the holy one within us is NOT subject to our "sinful flesh," because it is conceived by the sperm of God by which He planted the Christ child within us. Peter said, "You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God" (I Pet. 1:23).
Lenny reminded me when I was discussing this with him, that when God created man, He said, "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). Because of Adam's sin, and countless centuries of having our backs lashed with the whip of sin and condemnation, we've lost the awareness of that declaration by our Creator. Christ came to remind us, and the Holy Spirit does a really fine job of that when we're baptized in the Spirit.
I agreed with Lenny, however, that the surrogate mother concept really is an inadequate analogy, because as Christ increases, we decrease, until we are filled up with Him who is the fulness of God, be it this side or the other side of Jordan. To use another glorious Pauline expression, our mortality is swallowed up by His immortality and our perishable is overtaken by His imperishable. This is the sense in which death is defeated while we yet live.
In other words, we are much more than a womb, a container for God, as some mighty voices in the church have suggested. When Paul wrote, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" some have taken that to mean that we ourselves disappear and only Christ remains (Gal. 2:20). That idea cannot be supported scripturally. Paul's analogy of the church as the body of Christ, with many members, each with his or her own function, shows that we are individually transformed by the blood of the Lamb, but not erased. We are justified by faith, but our individual identity is clothed upon, not snuffed out. Otherwise, we would all be the leg, or the heart, or the eyes of the body, rather than "many members" of it (Rom. 12:4-5; I Cor. 12:12). Paul stressed our individuality: "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it" (I Cor. 12:27).
Thus, I conclude that certain writers who maintain that we are only the container, have gone too far. Christ is not just a "peanut" rattling around in our shell, but rather becomes an integral part of who we are. Paul said that it was God's will that we be transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. Here's the passage: "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us?" (Rom. 8:29-31).
It can't get much clearer than that. We are called, justified, and glorified, integrated into Christ experientially, even as we were chosen in Him BEFORE the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). If we were meant only to be a container, there would be no need to conform the shell to the image of His Son, but since we ARE to be so conformed, we can rest assured that who we are is important to God. Peter used the metaphor of "living stones," which he said God is using to build a spiritual house (I Peter 2:5).
The Body of Christ is like a magnificent orchestra, with different instruments each contributing their special sound. When blended together under the director's careful guidance, they create one sound, one mighty voice combining the many different voices of the various instruments into a seamless whole.
Right now, it seems to me that the Body of Christ is splintered into various groups in which like minded individuals align themselves together. The more intellectual, less emotional personalities would no doubt choose one of the main line churches, such as the Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or Methodist, whereas more emotional types would feel more comfortable in denominations, such as the Assemblies of God, Baptist, and Pentecostal where feelings are acceptable, even stressed. This is sad because the members of the churches which stress vitality in the Spirit could really benefit from the structure of the more intellectually oriented denominations, and vice versa. By separating into groups that look and feel similar to themselves, Christians miss the beauty in diversity which God wove into the very fabric of the Universe.
When we look to the flesh, we see only corruption, decay, and failure, the Old Man, the Carnal nature. That's depressing until we realize that our old man was crucified with Christ, and now the Author and Finisher of our faith lives within us, supplying our New Creation everything we need to escape the bonds of earth and flesh, that we may joyfully soar in the heavenlies with Him. The glorious truth that Christ is my hope of glory helped me to escape the grip of sin consciousness, for it came to me decades ago that when God looks at Jan, He's not looking for my flaws and shortcomings, the way most church dogma suggests. Rather, He sees Jesus, the Christ, and all is well in my Father's heart and in mine.
Father, we praise You with all that is within us that we are no longer enslaved in Egypt, under the lash of the taskmasters, bound by sin and condemnation. You have taken us out from that charnel house of death and bondage, leading us by the hand over the Red Sea, through the wilderness, across the Jordan, and into the Promised Land where we enjoy fellowship with all the Saints who went before, and best of all, with You.
Dear Father, You are the best: our Abba, our everything. By Your grace, may we share You with all who long to hear the Good News that God has declared Peace with men. The separation has ended; the warfare within has ceased; the cherubim with flaming swords no longer block our path, but instead, welcome us back home with Hosannas to the Christ and His many brothers and sisters. Amen. Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
God's Womb by Lenny
The Glory Road
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