Love Without Measure
By Fred Pruitt
(Adapted from a previously published article.)
Freedom is frightening to some people. Whether it is the codified Law of Moses, or the equally binding traditions of men that have been made into a de facto New Testament law code, still many see the law like their security blanket. To illustrate hear what an old friend of mine replied to something I wrote a few years ago. He said, “Pruitt, you’re probably right about a lot of that stuff, but for me it’s easier if you go to church and the pastor gives you a ten steps program. That way you know what to do.”
I got his point. People like a map. I like a map (remember those?). Even though I have the modern gizmos for travel, GPS, Smartphone, etc., I also take my Rand McNalley 2016 Road Atlas just in case a map is required.
Now, of course, in the beginning of our Christian walk, many of us were told the Bible is our “map.” “Read, study the Bible,” said the overseers, “and you will be able to find what God expects of you. Then just do that!”
And, as Paul wrote, “And the law is not of faith: but, the man that doeth them [the precepts of the law] shall live in them [the precepts of the law].” (Gal 3:12). What does that mean, “Live in them?” It means his mind is constantly on the precepts, making sure he is obedient in all things.
There are two ways it can go from there. Hopefully, most go this first way, and we can have faith for the second group that they’ll eventually wind up here also, but for now we must move on.
The first way is to crash and burn by a confrontation with the law, coming to that most wonderful blessed foundation truth about ourselves that is the gateway to Life, and that is to see, like Paul, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.” (Rom 7:18).
Before I move on, let me clarify Paul’s statement above. Not a few have taken that verse to mean something evil dwelled in him. But I see it differently. Paul is saying he does not find intrinsic “goodness” within himself, which he in some sense “proves” by his next phrase – “for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” Paul has found the great “negative” truth about himself, that he has no intrinsic “goodness,” because even though he knows he wills God’s will, he cannot bring it about. He was helpless.
In other words, Paul, in his humanity, is “not-good.” That does not make him or it (our humanity) evil. “Not good” is the perfect opposite to the “Only Good,” Who is God. It is right that we discover within ourselves this nothingness, which is another way of looking at the “death” we died on Jesus’ Cross. Man, the “not good” was created in the beginning to be indwelt by God in a conscious union or oneness with Him. God within him being the necessary “Good” required.
It is EXACTLY what Jesus said when someone said to Him, “Good master …” Jesus’s replied, “And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.” (Luke 18:19).
That’s one aspect of the law, to cause us to find our own helplessness, and cry out with Paul, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” By the law is the KNOWLEDGE of sin, but it has no power to help us keep it.
Everyone pretty much in some degree comes to this juncture. Do we stop right here and camp, because we have found out we are sort of two-nature folks, half God and half devil? Are we doomed the whole time in this life to an up and down back and forth unsatisfying conflict-laden no-man’s-land? I have been there so I know. It is like Rod Serling’s, “The Twilight Zone,” stuck between light and darkness, where we find ourselves in a land in which we are not victorious but we are not sinking. We are just sort of teetering on the edge of the fence between the continuous inner warfare we think we have to wage, to which we are in bondage in this conflict, and the other side an open freedom, which sounds wonderful when spoken of, but it must not be true because it simply sounds too good to be true.
The other side of the fence is the path of freedom. Freedom means a total abandonment in the spirit, no holds barred, inwardly becoming “nothing,” zero, that God might be All in all in us. Freedom is what Jesus taught Nicodemus in their nighttime clandestine meeting. He described the Spirit life in us this way:
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” … The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so IS every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6, 8).
Now that’s the “Free Life” available in us in Christ. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b). When I realized years ago that we had been spinning our wheels in ministry almost for nothing, it also began to dawn on me that I seemed to be very far from Jesus’s Word in the above paragraph. O “Abundant Life,” what happened to you? Where did you go? Abundant Life sure didn’t seem to be hanging out with me that day, and for years and years worth of days.
What About Offense?
It is true, some are offended with us, usually intimidated by our freedom. Some think we have found a “convenient” theology that allows us to do anything we please, good or bad, and say it was the Lord. Some misinterpret it as license to sin, of course, but then, they also misinterpreted Paul, as he alludes in Romans 6.
But we must NOT be living by a theology! (It is the same as living by the law.) We do not live by a theology of union life any more than by the theology of Calvin. We live by Christ. Now THAT is what we are saying! It IS Christ Who by us, as us, and we live free.
The thing is – what is true in our own hearts? From what place does our “life” come? Now, there is Romans 14, and other places, where Paul speaks of not causing our brothers to stumble, because for them to “do” what we believe we do in righteousness and freedom, would be sin for them.
But we must understand, Paul is not saying that he has decided to never do anything that would offend anybody ever, so that his entire Christian life is geared toward not offending others by his freedom. What kind of boring life would that be? In Romans 14, I think in Corinthians, too, he speaks of limiting his freedoms in certain instances with particular people. But neither Paul nor Jesus were self-attentive to the “offend” situation. The offense Paul is talking about causing, is the offense of letting his freedom have undue influence on his brother and cause him to stumble into an activity in which he could not live in faith. Therefore, Paul’s actions are for particular situations and persons. They are the spontaneous outflow of his love for their sake, which Paul relates to us in his letters that we might understand it.
The “offense” some of our brothers have with our freedom, is often a different kind of offense. It is less the idea that we are getting away with what is to them, sin, and calling it Christ, a fact about which they are jealous, than the greater Truth we share, that “I live yet not I, but Christ,” and, “I and my Father are one.”
They hear it exactly the same way they heard it from Jesus in the gospel of John (chap 7 I think), and their reaction is the same, that even though we are men, we are proclaiming ourselves to be God. That is the real offense to them. Are they offended for God’s sake? Not usually. They are offended because their independent domain is threatened. Because proclaiming Christ in You to the whole church, when believed, will tear down the whole fabric of the worldwide religious system and break down all the barriers men have placed in each other’s ways for millennia. Those who won’t let go of the system, will go down with the ship. “I will have no other gods before ME!” “No flesh shall glory in My Presence.”
There IS NO system! There is only the Living God, the Father, who is above all, through all, and in all. HE IS the system, and He is past finding out!
As long as those brothers have to go and consider, could they have been more polite, could they have refrained from saying this or that, could they have been more sensitive, etc. – blah blah blah blah! That is PRIDE, the opposite of humility. They still think that by doing all that God is pleased by their efforts, that they are doing “their part,” but what it really is, is just self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self self! And “religious self” is the worst of all! It reeks of King Saul, who presumed to perform a sacrifice which was not given to him to perform, and to alter God’s specific instructions to him to suit his own needs. For that the kingdom was ripped from him.
If you poke a dead dog with a stick, it won’t do anything – it’s dead and cannot react. That’s what they’re trying to do, trying to “fix up” their humanity. So God sometimes uses our “offense” to pull out the bottommost brick out of the fragile single stack of bricks they’re standing on, so that the whole thing tumbles to the ground. May they know their total death in Christ, because there is no other way on through to the other side. (I am not meaning after this life. I am talking about living victoriously as a conscious Son in the Son, living in the “abundant life” which was promised and which we find in Christ in God.
Don’t sweat it, my friend. Be yourself! I cannot imagine anyone having any legitimate reason to be offended with you. But they will anyway; it’s just part of it. But you, you just continue as you are now, Christ in you as you, and say what you say and do what you do, not second-guessing yourself, but trusting the Lord to fulfill His promises! Let the chips fall as they will. God has it all in hand!
One more thing, I wanted to reply further on this you wrote:
“I know that the Lord no longer sees us after the flesh, but many others do. Ok, I am not always a good listener when I have sunk in my own thoughts, I am not very empathic, and often too convicted of my own correctness. I can accept that, but what if others do not and condemn me for it. I can accept my own weaknesses, but what if others tumble over my weaknesses?”
First of all, my friend, it is my thought that you are still “trying” to be certain that what you do and think falls along certain doctrinal guidelines – for instance, your completely leaving out the flesh as something “in Christ” in your paragraph above. Well then, where is it? Does the devil still have it and exercise control over it? If we are speaking of the physical body then the answer cannot be yes, can it? If we are speaking of the flesh consciousness, i.e., the mind set on the law of sin and death, then yes, he has some say in that environment. But then we’re back in that one-day-up next-day-down mode, and that is not the Life we know. His Life is, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30).
All those things you describe as your “weaknesses,” – your excessive believing in your own correctness, not being empathetic, not a good listener, etc. – is all that same “humble bunk.” All those qualities are Christ in you, and all those qualities serve and express Him. I’d say, “Lord, if you want to be that way in me, though it baffles me and offends some, I am still going to stick with the Truth you have revealed – you are the Real I in me, and this is You coming into the world every moment as me.”
And frankly, you just described ME! I came home from one of my first trips with John Bunting in 2005. All my “weaknesses” had come out on the trip. I came home thinking I needed to “listen better,” to find a way to be empathetic with people, to remember names better, along with the thought I really needed to get back hard into the Bible, for the reasons we usually think of.
Well, the Spirit would have none of it! I knew by Him that I was not to “try” to be, or not be, any of those things, no matter who or what came against me because of it. And He also caused me to know that I walked around as the Living Word, and no great new campaign to “get deeper into the Word” came about, because one cannot be “deeper” than One.
Anyone who knows me knows I haven’t tossed the Bible out, no, not hardly! The issue was not whether I would read/study the Bible or not, but in which consciousness I would be doing it. If coming from a consciousness of need or lack in myself, thinking I am “adding something” to myself or performing an act which God approves by studying, then I am off-base. It’s all right. The Bible is good at upsetting us when we are off-base, and is meant to do so. We are talking pure Romans 7 here.
Coming from a consciousness of union and oneness, reading and studying the scriptures becomes a holy joy and we do it as we are led. It does not mean we will have “devotions” every morning, or that we will not have devotions every morning. It means we are free to do either, or something else. We are He expressing Himself in our selves, with our whole spirit, soul and body. I see ONLY Christ!
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” (1 Thes 5:23-24).