By Fred Pruitt
The Life Jesus IS and gives is the only One He IS and has, which is eternal Self-for-others. That’s what we “get” when we are hooked into Jesus! Eating His flesh and drinking His blood means the same thing as Paul’s word in Phil 3:10. In Him we enter an eternally laid down Life for others, including and especially anyone who might be called an enemy (like a Muslim, for instance).
It is the Cross life. His heart and His soul are satisfied in the outgoing of His Love and the very precious fruit it bears. As we drink of His blood of forgiveness it is not our own forgiveness that concerns us any longer, and as we eat His flesh it is not our own holiness or sanctity that has any weight. As the Psalmist said: “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” (Ps 130:3,4). And: “How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (Ps 32:2).
Cleansed by His blood we live the forgiven and forgiving life, not retaining anyone’s sins, but seeing past them to Christ in all. (Jn 20:23; 2 Cor 5:19). In the forgiven life, we hold nothing against ourselves, because God holds nothing against us in Christ! In the forgiving life, just as God holds nothing against us, we find He holds nothing against any others in our midst either! We have neither need of judgment nor a need to evaluate any one, except to find them in the grace and favor of God, if they will hear it!
Living by eating His flesh we progressively learn of what Spirit we are, not the spirit that calls for destruction and retribution, but the Spirit Who authors peace and day by day builds the household of the Living God. (Lk 9:52-56; Eph 2:18-22).
Living by eating His flesh we progressively learn by the Spirit’s teaching what it means to lay down our lives. Though it sounds as if we are majoring on death, we are really living in Divine Joy even while suffering many deaths (some easy, others extremely difficult), for the sake of seeing so many resurrections! That is what we are about!
I will even be so bold to say this is the operating principle of the whole universe – the death and resurrection principle. It starts in the very inner Holy of Holies in the highest heaven, where “in the midst of the Throne … stood a Lamb as it had been slain,” (Rev 5:6), and “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”(Rev 13:8). The first scene, in Revelation 5, takes place in the inner sanctuary of God in the Heavens. What is happening there? John in the vision immediately points us to the Throne saying, “I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book … sealed with seven seals.” (Rev 5:1). Next an angel proclaims with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” Then John says he wept much for after searching all through heaven, earth, and under the earth, no man could be found worthy to open the book and look thereon. This is the book of our salvation, the manifestation of the sons of God, and it would’ve been a tragedy with eternal ramifications, if no one could open it and loose the seals!
But then an elder steps up and says, “Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.”(Rev 5:5). And then He sees Him. John sees the Lamb.
“And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne … stood a Lamb as it had been slain … And he came and took the book …” And thus began the loosening of the seals for the ultimate blessing of God’s elect, the final consummation of this eon or age, and the full unveiling of all things.
What I find this to be, this picture of a Slain Lamb in the very innermost heart of the universe, is an eternal Cross in the very heart of God. It is a perfect image of Who God is, He Who Gives, He Who Saves, He Who causes to be, He Who suffers death only to turn it into Eternal Life.
Jesus’ Life Is An Intercessory Life ALWAYS
I think the best way to describe it is to use the three aspects of the Cross of Jesus. The Cross for me, the Cross in me, and the Cross by me for others. They are three distinct plateaus of understanding. In the first epistle of John the same thing is described as little children, young men and fathers. Childhood, adolescence and maturity. (It is not physical gender based, also.) And of course we are not really meaning that the “Cross,” as a piece of wood, did anything, but rather the ways of God that we see and experience through the Cross which Jesus bore and His subsequent Resurrection. All of that, including and especially the Resurrection, is what I am referring to as the “Cross life,” or intercessory life.
The first activity of the Cross toward us was our redemption. It was something Jesus did, exclusive to Him and unable to be repeated by anyone, as we noted when we spoke of Revelation immediately above.
“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” We had no say in the matter because we were all at one time enemies (not in God’s eyes) because of the darkening of our minds by indwelling Sin due to the Fall. Everyone and everybody became suspect, especially God. It was we who thought God was our enemy, not the other way around.
We have gone over Body and Blood quite a lot elsewhere, so we will skip that for now. (The Body and Blood issue has mainly to do with the second stage. That’s the Cross “in me,” the purpose of that stage being learning Who we are and how we operate. For this writing I’m skipping that part and moving entirely to the third stage, adulthood or fatherhood.) I just wanted to be clear about this first point, that in this initial birthing in Christ, all we know is our sins are forgiven or we have found Life, and that it happened through grace because of God’s love.
One of the main impediments to my initial coming to Christ when I was a young man was the concept of grace. I could not imagine that one did not have to “work and produce” to be accepted by God and at peace with Him. And when the Spirit finally broke all the way through to me on His eternally appointed Day, I finally saw grace, because I knew a miracle had occurred, one that I simply did not expect. A joy flooded over me for no apparent reason, joy that was completely unexpected, completely new and based on nothing “tangible,” and unable to be resisted! I kept saying to myself for weeks, “I was dead, and now I’m alive!” In one sense, nothing had changed. But in a real sense, EVERYTHING CHANGED! And it hasn’t changed back in forty-six years!
All I knew in those early days was that Jesus had died on the Cross for me, and risen again for me. I knew absolutely nothing about the “deaths” we are speaking about here. I vaguely knew He had “come into” me, but really hadn’t a clue for some time what that meant. Even though He was in me, I still thought of Him and looked for Him as if He was not “in me,” but was somewhere apart from me, above me.
When I finally saw that He was truly “in me,” and I in Him, I still saw “separation” for years afterward. According to my working understanding in those days the best I could describe His indwelling was to say He lived in some separate compartment inside me, alone, and He would come out and do His Divine thing IF I did all the right stuff and didn’t do any wrong stuff.
It wasn’t wrong so much as it was just a baby understanding. Babies don’t even know their parents’ names, and they don’t care. They DO know mom and dad (ideally) are the providers and doers of everything as it concerns them, and (ideally) they feel loved, while every one of their material and emotional needs are met by mother and father. For a while they do absolutely nothing except receive. (They do have some output during this time, too, but nothing to keep for posterity.)
Early on our pastor did a teaching on Romans. He was a great teacher and preacher, so it was always a delight to listen to him. I distinctly remember when he got to chapter 6, and the verse that says, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Rom 6:3).
That is the first time I remember encountering the concept of our “death” in Christ. Of course, by that time I had read Romans many times, but that “baptized into his death” concept had never registered before. When pastor moved to verse 11, I knew I did not understand what Paul was talking about. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (6:11). Although it was more than 40 years ago when I took that class, I still remember the difficulty I had understanding what it meant to “Reckon yourself dead to sin.” At that point in my life I didn’t seem to be “dead to sin.”
But by God’s design, the “dead to sin” question was put on hold for a few years, since it was not a subject being emphasized much at the time. We were deeply into “what we do to serve the Lord,” and in finding out techniques to “get the power” for ministry and miracles. Unknowingly, we had put the human self issue to the side, while we focused on activity. Understanding the workings of the human self in God is the key to almost everything, and until we see and know it, it should get top billing. But the church by and large has put that issue over to the side in a limbo-like “we don’t know what to do with it” state, while focusing on activity, politics, worldly issues, building programs, end-times, healing, reputation, and accumulation of wealth, etc.
Of course, the “Church” is rampant with all that stuff, most of it off point and missing the mark. Unlike so many of us “modern” Christians, who are constantly praying for personal blessings, for God to “fix” something in our lives, to prosper us, to heal us, to please make us feel better, to get us a better job, etc., this was Paul’s ultimate prayer: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” (Philippians 3:10). Paul is speaking of living the life of the Cross, which is an intercessory life, a life laid down that certain others would discover true Life for themselves.
We don’t see many in our time in the “developed” world who talk about such things – martyrdom, suffering persecution including violence, enduring hardness as soldiers, making ourselves servants of all that all may come out of the insanity of darkness and enter the peace of God. There are some who still do, but it is not a popular message. A majority of those who say they believe in Jesus pray those “help me out Jesus” prayers, thinking Jesus’ main job is to be around to fix us and make everything okeydokey all day long every day. He helps me cope when I can’t cope. Jesus helps me achieve my dreams. Stuff like that. (Stuff that is a far cry from Paul’s: “He works in me mightily!” And, “I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” ([1 Cor 15:10].)
It isn’t necessarily their fault that so many believers have never moved from spiritual infancy, and by no means am I criticizing that critical time in our spiritual growth. We all start there. But just like in primary school, we are not to stay in first grade. The problem is, church leaders cannot give people what they do not have themselves. “Come to Jesus for what He can give you,” was the gospel message taught in many American churches these past few decades. Need your marriage fixed, your money flowing, a better self-image and all your problems with your teenagers solved? We had the answer: it was the “Come to Jesus and He’ll meet all your needs and fix everything in your life” Gospel.
I didn’t think that way in the beginning, until the Lord put us in a church for His own purposes. The pastor was preaching that message and I bought it just like everybody else. We were trying to attract people to Jesus by offering a God with great features and benefits, instead of the impending judgment and doom we normally used while “witnessing.”
So a whole generation of Christian people learned to go to churches or other meetings “expecting a miracle,” or to “get a blessing,” because they had been taught that is what church is for, since they’re “children of the king” and “deserving of the best!” I even saw someone post on Facebook recently that Christians should demand their “right to be healed!” Poppycock! It would be better to be able to join with Paul when he says, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor 4:8, 9).
What we learn from the second stage pushes out into the world as God- expressers, co-saviors, co-creators. A great example of this is the story of the prophet Elijah and the priests of Baal. It is too long to quote but one can read it in First Kings chapter 18. Elijah acted “as God” in that contest with the priests of Baal. We don’t know what kind of inner life Elijah had since we are not told, but long story short, Elijah knew that whatever he said would come to pass. Elijah no doubt, like all the people of God, had to go through a training stage to become the “Elijah” we read about. But there’s no doubting the effects of God’s training program with Elijah.
Moving on then, when Paul writes, “I die daily,” he is not saying he wakes up every morning and goes through the steps again that brought him to life in union with Christ and the overcoming of sin. That is an already done deal in Paul’s eyes. “I die daily,” is the cry of Paul’s heart, at the stress and strain of all that which was upon him, much like Moses in the wilderness, who would “fall on his face” before the Lord, when certain issues and questions were brought to him. All that suffering of death is not meant to bring melancholy or fatalism, but rather JOY because we KNOW THAT WE KNOW that life always comes out of death!
So what is this sort of “death?” Plainly said, it is sacrificial. It costs. Paul repeats Jesus’ word with his own: “That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” (1 Cor 15:36). In this final stage, where we have entered into the maturity of the Cross life, we take up the mantle of our adulthood.
What do adults do? They can live purely for their own pleasure, or they can provide for others, and bring new life into the world. At the adult stage in Christ, we exist to do one major thing – to participate in the travails of Christ, not just for the general salvation of souls, but that Christ might be formed in certain particular others that God makes known to us!
What we might call our deaths at this stage are simply whatever things we might have to do or to endure to bring about the resurrection of certain others that God has revealed to and in us. One day we just put down our mirrors, quit worrying about how we feel, disregard what our health is, pay no attention to how much money we have or do not have, quit trying to enlist anyone else in a pity-party for poor little me, and take up the mantle of Christ in me as me in the world, that comes with everyone’s salvation kit! It was included in the package when you signed up, or realized you had been signed up! One with Christ, one with the Father, one with the Spirit, one with God!
We have the goods, precisely because we “do not have them.” What do I mean? I mean that we live in the Spirit, where we do not “possess” God, but rather express Him in His nature as the wind, which blows where it will, and we cannot tell where it came from or where it is going. No one may possess the wind, but he is free to ride upon it, if he can.
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.