Every Man Perfect in Christ Jesus
By Fred Pruitt
“Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (Col 1:27-29).
Each of us manifests or expresses Christ uniquely and afresh in our generations. What that means is that the Christ of D.L. Moody, or Jacob Boehme, Billy Graham, Norman Grubb or even the Apostle Paul, is, in a sense, not “my” Christ. I don’t mean to say it was a different Jesus or a different gospel. I just mean that living Christ cannot be lived vicariously – through other people.
Because He is unique, fresh and uncompromisingly new in each generation, in each person in that generation, we build on the faith of those who went before us. Of course, we come to it by the Spirit with the faith of God already in us and “working mightily,” as Paul wrote above. (Though we hardly know it ourselves!)
We can and do partake of the Spirit-Truths from those who walked before us, but we cannot operate their faith. The Father has no grandchildren. Because for us to see and walk in the liberty of Christ that our predecessors knew, it can only happen as the Spirit supplies Himself so that each of us may come to fully know, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his pleasure.” (Phil 2:13).
For once we have come into God’s “willing and doing” in us, finding ourselves established there by the Spirit, everything changes. A new metamorphosis takes over. We begin to know ourselves finally by the Spirit, and not through the shoulds and oughts of our (always tempted) imaginations. Yes, continue to work out your salvation through fear and trembling! That’s the initial “man-side” of this new height. Believe! Just know that on “God’s side,” whether we’re in on it or not, He is ALWAYS willing and doing of His good pleasure – for us!!
He IS our forever vigilant Keeper! “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper.”
Therefore, we are approaching everything through the eyes of the faith God has given US, not the faith of those who went before us. That is how the faith then becomes real in us. HE becomes us in oneness with us. For this reason we no longer pine after “their Christ,” because we have discovered Him within us as our everything – Alpha and Omega, First and Last, Christ our Righteousness, Christ our Wisdom, Christ our Holiness, Christ our LOVE.
Doesn’t this “new uniqueness” in each of us spring from and only from the absolute freedom that is found in His depths? Yes, absolutely! The sky is no limit to the freedom of the sons and daughters of God. Because once freed from the law which has been partly our impediment, partly our obsession, partly our security blanket, partly our compulsion, becoming finally the instrument of our breaking as we come to the end of our fruitless self-efforts, we enter the wide meadow of the Kingdom of Heaven where there are no holds barred. (Rom 7 & 8).
It is possible even in this life to live in at least partial fulfillment of Paul’s great word in Ephesians, when he speaks of our coming “unto a perfect man … [growing] up into Him in all things, Who is the head – Christ.” (Eph 4:13-16).
(Though newer Bible versions usually substitute “complete” for “perfect,” as it is used in the KJV, I l usually prefer the word “perfect.” People are afraid of the word, “perfect,” thinking it is too far, so the translators of those other versions opted for “complete,” which in a sense can mean much the same thing, except that “perfect” is to me the stronger word, and expresses what Paul meant better than simply “complete.” Paul uses the word “perfect” to describe who we are in other places as well. See 2 Cor 13:9-11; Phil 3:12,15; Col 3:12; 2 Tim 3:17; 1 Cor 2:6; Col 1:27-29; Col 4:12.)
The Good News is that God became man and walked as Emmanuel among us. He was “God with us.” but had to go away and send the Promise of the Father so that God would be closer than “with us,” (which was all Jesus could ever be), but in us as “one” with us, including also the Father and Holy Spirit. (John 17:11; 20-23; 1 Cor 6:17; Gal 2:20)
As the Lamb of God from heaven He brought us into His own bosom, and made us one person with Him in a union of everlasting love. In that union He walks and lives again in fulness and newness in and as us, where He has not set limits on Himself. In His presence (which is ALWAYS and has nothing to do with how we “feel”), there is the continual dialogue of God every moment. It isn’t history or doctrine but instead making each moment new and real and FILLED WITH the fulness of God. That is the continuation of the incarnation in each of us.
What the Sanhedrin did with their Moses, was the establish the fact that God was “active” and “real” way back in the past. God was safely tucked away, back there, in the past, so we look only to the God of the past. But real “religion” came in the form of John the Baptist and his almost antithesis, Jesus of Nazareth, and overturned their applecart of the “God of our fathers.”
This was God in the present moment in a person and they couldn’t deal with God face-to-face, like the children of Israel who were afraid to look at the mountain and wanted Moses to go up there for them. They were still doing that in Jesus’ day. Keeping God “separate” while denying others access. They could handle tithing their mint and rue with great fastidiousness and fanfare and call that “keeping the Law of Moses.” That was easy. The weightier matters eluded them, however, as Jesus pointed out:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” (Matt 23:23).
But their plan backfired and in trying to avoid God they instead got their sins forgiven by the word of the one on the Cross. They yelled to Pilate, “His blood be upon us” – and so it was! They mocked and raged and He broke open the graves of the saints.
There is always this resistance to God in the present moment. To stand before God in the present moment, means we are faced up. We are at the place where all bucks start and stop. God in the past is comfortable and safe. God in the future is the Hope. God in the present moment can strike terror for some. How can we “come boldly” before the throne of Grace? Only someone who has died can see Him, for “no man shall see God and live.” There is always the necessary resistance to death, but only in dying and rising in Him do we lose the shame of our nakedness and going back the way Adam came we once again walk naked with no shadows with the Lord God in the cool of the day.
And, interestingly, that Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, is still over there. However, having tasted it AND the other Tree called, “Life,” I’ve learned I like the Life tree better and there’s a much better view from there. So I’m sticking with the tree I like!
But then what does that mean? It means that the God of our Fathers, who was to them the present-moment God, the God of Abel and Enoch and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, is our God. He is not some dead concept from the past. Instead, just as He was millennia ago, He is today in this moment the God of Elijah, the God of David, the God of Daniel. And in THIS DAY He is also the God of Fred or the God of John or the God of Ray. The God of Daniel is MY God! Now, today, the Lion’s Den is conquered by the present-moment God, MY God. And further, Emmanuel is alive in me, HE has risen, He walks in this world, fresh, new, unique, surprising, in a mysterious totality of love, in me.
That is why the mystery of freedom is at the heart of all this. ONLY in freedom can we become His Sons. He is free and He is love. To live in God one must be “what” He is, or be burned up (those who walk according to the flesh cannot go up onto the mountain of God. Only someone who is Who and What He is can be in the fire, smoke, lightnings and not burn. He IS free. “Fear hath torment,” but “perfect love casts out fear.” (Hint – He does it, so we do not “try” to overcome fear. We just accept it as fact that He is in us, He is Perfect Love, and HE [not we] casts it out!)
To live in Him means living from the unbounded depths of His Being, recognizing One King Only, and knowing no contrary will.
Where we do this of course is in the whole of our lives. When Janis and I attended our first Union Life Weekend held at the Buntings and Wearrens in 1981, I thought we had found heaven on earth. And it certainly did seem that way. We were totally renewed in Christ after some years of struggle. Every moment spent at the conference (and most since) was joy and praise.
Then came Sunday afternoon, time to go home. That’s when I found out we couldn’t take the “conference high” home with us. Our “real” problems were looming ahead of us, dreading going back to the daily “grind.” I imagine lots of folks have those feelings in situations like that. The meeting was WONDERFUL – and then we had to go home (sniff sniff).
It went on like that for some years. Not just for the conference in Louisville, but we hit other ones as well: Albany GA, Ocala FL, Christian camp in NE Alabama, Memphis TN, Nashville TN, Hopkinsville KY to name a few. And I experienced the same “dread” through those years when it came time to go home.
One day, however, I realized that automatic “dread” that clang-clanged in my brain like the worst dissonant chord every played on a soap-opera organ, was no longer functioning. The dread was gone. No cloud looming ahead.
Why? I finally realized, in a way unconsciously, that His Life is in me, established in me, had finally “grown up” in me. What changed? Not much outwardly. It’s really not about that. What came about was that I realized that every day is the same, every hour is the same, every activity is the same, because each of those hours reflects the totality of the Spirit in every nook and cranny, in every high place and every low place, in darkness, at dawn, under the noonday sun, walking in the cooling of the day in late afternoon. IT’S ALL CHRIST IN US! “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21).
So the “conference high” has now percolated into everything in my life. Where do we find God now? Here’s a few spots where He’ll be, in you, and everybody else. In traffic jams on the freeway, in line at the post office, in front of the boss, arguing with our kids, paying our bills, writing letters, late nights alone with our spouses, watching a good movie, watching a terrible movie you’re sorry you rented, opening the January heat bill, preaching sermons, taking showers, walking in the park, shopping at T J Maxx, cooking supper, changing a poopy diaper, reading a toddler a bedtime story, losing your cool with your rebellious teenager, getting a hundred on a test, etc etc etc ….
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt 5:8)