The Struggle to Be You – Part Two
Goodbye Behavior Obsession
by Fred Pruitt
A while back someone sent me some questions regarding things read in our blog. The questions eventually boiled down to pretty much one thing, is it yes, or is it no, on the idea of accepting “all” our behavior as Christ? People either downright reject the idea as impossible or heretical, or “accept it” in understanding our union and the fact that now we see He is living our lives.
It is easier in a sense to see and understand union and take it by faith, because we know that it is not of an observable nature, and we have learned that in Christ we live from and by something which is unobservable. So we have some sense of that and can take, in faith, that we are in union with Christ. But then, where the difficulties arise, is in the observable portions of our lives, and the difficulty is to resolve the two – what we can see, and what we cannot see.
From the beginning many of us thought that the way to get what we can see, to “line up” to what we cannot see, was to make some sort of effort to do so, and to try to keep all the commandments of God so we would be pleasing in His sight. It’s legalism, and all pervasive. Every issue discussed here has legalism at its basis, if we expand the meaning of legalism beyond just living by sets of rules or outer commandments. Legalism is a product of the false self consciousness that is both created by legalism (self-separated-unto-itself) and creates legalism in all its forms (self-separated unto itself). It has produced a worldwide historical monster that has slithered its way into every nook and cranny in the visible world, and it transfixes many of the saints of God into inactivity because legalism is all-about “self-focus,” establishing our own righteousness, and not “others focus,” our “own righteousness cast to the wind of who cares, I just love you …” (Hint: inner peace starts with get your focus off yourself!)
So along the way we learn that does not work, because we can never get there by that route, and it brings many eventually to understand our only reality is an inner union reality in the Spirit with Him, which we accept by faith.
But there is still all that “stuff” about ourselves, that we don’t like, or wish we could change, or quit doing, or do more – name your own, we all have them. Now I am not at this point talking about things which are not of the kingdom of which we are citizens, the kingdom of heaven. We take it for granted by the Spirit that there are things that are not named among us, as Paul wrote, and if they are and approved, then that is a different writing than this one below. What we are speaking of here is just our annoying humanity, the rough granite of who we are, and how each of us can see Christ fully formed in the rough granite of ourselves, and in all the brethren, even as Michelangelo saw David in a block of marble and never saw anything else until David was fully revealed to all.
Here is the reply –
I’ve been at this over four decades now, and what you are describing is everybody’s issue. Absolutely everybody! What about my behavior? And what most people really seem to think they want, at least in the beginning, is a tried and true 100% guaranteed formula or system to produce the “works” WE think ought to be produced, i.e., “my good Christian behavior.” Stuff we believe Jesus would do if He were us. That is sort of the Christian Holy Grail – to finally be fully “like” Jesus according to our eyes of flesh – and like the Holy Grail, it is just as useless a quest. The Holy Grail, because it never existed, and our flesh idea of what Jesus should be like if He REALLY was living my life, because that never existed either. That is all in our fleshly imagination.
In that regard, a 100% wholly guaranteed formula or system, has eluded every person that has ever been born, on the level of temporal appearances. They never were able to turn lead into gold in alchemy, though the pitchmen are still selling that idea one way or the other all over the world and have been throughout all time. Some of my friends and I used to say if we could actually find such a thing (the 100% absolute behavior guarantee), and could bottle it and sell it, we could fill stadiums and be multi-billionaires! But hey, guess what, there are quite a few out there who are offering such “guarantees,” IF you follow their system, and make sure you bring money!
First of all, though I’ve heard your thinking on the subject many times before as one of the answers to “behavior” that are constantly being thrown out there, the “old patterns” model (I’ve seen that packaged in a whole bunch of ways), “inner healings of memories,” or the “smudge on the outside,” that we have to find and clean up. I have seen that the deliverance people, who see casting out the demons of this or that out of believers, as they see it, as the road to their better behavior, are no different from some who went out from “us,” who see their job as to find and point out the inconsistencies in our “believing,” i.e., walking in “independent self,” which is their answer to the riddle of behavior, as the road to that same end – the things that bother us about their or our behavior WILL GO AWAY, IF we believe correctly!
Then there is the whole wing of the church, the just-accept-life-in-the-wilderness-give-up crowd, that just stops at Romans 7:25, seeing it as a lifelong struggle with sometimes the flesh on top, sometimes the Spirit – “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” For people who embrace that and seek no further, that struggle is all this life will ever be; they will (according to their faith and consciousness) “sin every day,” and always live in condemnation for their condition until they die. Always in defeat. And the others listed above, are always incomplete because there are always more old patterns showing up, so we can take refuge in being “in process,” a process which is never completed.
We have a friend who lives in Columbus Ohio. We visited him one time and only four or five, if that, of his Christian friends showed up to join us to talk about Christ in us. He wrote me later that they had a “Spiritual Warfare” seminar at his church, and a THOUSAND people came. Four to our meeting, a thousand to the devil’s meeting! All sorts of people were “delivered” of this and that habit, idiosyncrasies, or maybe even downright “sin,” and the conference was a huge success. I wrote him back that the happiest guy at the seminar was the devil, because he was the center of all their attention – him and his “wiles,” “ways” to defeat him, what to be on the lookout for, etc. And the even neater thing the devil was happy about than having that one meeting, was that they would be sure to come back for more deliverance. He will be happy to provide the condemning accusatory fodder for their inspection, and even seem to “go out,” just so he can go back in for another run for a different deliverance next week, and he’ll keep on bringing them! He’s happy – he has those people right where he wants them – living in fear of him and focused on themselves.
Though their language and theology is extreme among the “deliverance” folks, I believe the mindset is the same in each of those models mentioned above. It is ALL the very subtle encroachment of the law, because that is the law’s function – to reveal sin. But just as the law promises “blessings” if you can overcome – you’ll have the life and behavior you want! – so that subtle “self-improvement thing” sneaks back in, and self-improvement IS sin, biting right back down on the “I will be like the Most High” apple!
John Bunting, Boyd Williams and I went to visit a fellowship in northern CA a few years ago. We didn’t know them, but they had found us on the internet and asked us to visit when we were in CA, so we did. They had told us they had read Norman and were very interested, but we had no idea what we were really getting into, which is not unusual. Too many details, but it was very cultish, led by a wealthy man who lived in a very luxurious house, who had built and I believe owned the large Christian school, pre-K to 12 where they all worked, as his employees. So he was both their spiritual leader AND their employer. A pretty dangerous combination.
It’s a long story, but I’ll get to the point. Like many, they agreed with the concept of union with Christ, and they had been heavily influenced by another writer about union with Christ. Two of them had been to that writer’s “school,”, and, as they said, they operated by what they were trained to do at the school. As I saw it finally before we left, yes, they had the “idea” of union firmly in grasp. But because of their “process” – it was only theoretical union life. Process says, “I will be.” Union says, “Yes I am.”
(The “I” that “will be” is already false in its presumption, because it is a separated-unto-itself “I”. The “I” in the union statement speaks out of our oneness in Christ – the “I” of the “I AM THAT I AM.”)
Back to the folks in that group. What they had set about doing, therefore, was to use the “old patterns” model, but they put it into different words. They saw it as in the inner landscape of our lives, that we have all these “rocks” out there, like stones in a desert, and each one of those rocks represents stuff about us we need to face and overcome, past memories, traumas, patterns, etc. So our job, helped by the brethren, was to find and turn over those stones and reveal and deal with whatever was underneath.
We didn’t know all that at the time, but found out pretty quickly, because some of them seemed to be lying in wait for us. It’s crazy to consider, but they sort of “sucked” us in, it seemed all premeditated, not so that we could share with them as had been understood in the initial invitation, but so that we would “submit” to their process, and sort of be on a “hot seat,” in a forum where all the people were free to point out what bothered them about the one in the “hot seat,” so that person would be “corrected,” and “whoosh,” life is better – until you get to the next rock.
Needless to say, we clashed, and neither John, Boyd nor I submitted to them after they tried really hard to make us “confess stuff” that we had trouble with, so they could see our “honesty.” Well, it was all hogwash, and we departed after two days instead of the three planned, by mutual agreement. The night before they had put John in the hot seat, though he refused to get up and go to the actual “seat,” (there was one there), but they started in anyway, by the brother sitting next to him who said to the group, that he was disappointed in John, and looked for better things for him, something along those lines, all with the goal that John would confess his “negatives,” his weaknesses, his sins, not sure what they were looking for. Perhaps whatever Job’s three friends were looking for. But he wouldn’t budge. He kept saying he was complete and perfect in Christ, and had nothing to say further than that. They never could break him, and they didn’t even try with Boyd. I loved what John told them, too! This below is my paraphrase.
“Look, I’ve had to endure many oral examinations in my medical career. They are always conducted by seasoned professionals who are tops in their fields, often the guys that wrote the textbooks we studied. I’ve been in a room in the Mayo Clinic where the committee tried everything they could to shake me or refute me, and you guys are small potatoes compared to that!”
At the time I was seeing a friend in town, so I missed that meeting, but by then we knew what was up. The next morning before we hit the road, we went to their school where they had a morning meeting of the staff and their leader, “whatever” he was, and they tried to suck us in again. No budging. By that time some of his people were definitely liking the fact that we stood up to that guy. None of them ever did that we could tell.
The final thing in the meeting still with the whole group assembled, he asked everyone to say some sort of final word with we three at the end. My last words to him and the whole group were quoting Jesus, but applying them by the Spirit to myself: “I do always those things that please Him.” (John 8:29). All that produced was silence. And that was our cue to head to the next destination.
Then there’s the tried and true “old time religion” model, that of “rooms” in us, and we have to “invite” Jesus into each of those rooms as we get to them, so that He can clean them up, sweep them out, etc., and so we’re all waiting for whatever next “room” appears that needs to be dealt with. And we always remain incomplete. If anything “good” came out of us, that was God, but if not, well, that was us. (By whose yardstick?) Or so the thinking goes. Always a hit or a miss, but we hope we get a hit, but do not really believe until we “see” it according to our fleshly idea of us, that Christ will work “through” us –- and that of course, would be so as long as we are able to get that nasty “us” out of the way! Aye, and there’s the rub, isn’t it?! We can’t get rid of that, as we perceive it, nasty “us.” And neither, it seems, can God!
This is what we mean by “Christ as us,” and that is exactly where we find conflict with others. They don’t like the “as” because in their minds that puts too much Jesus in there and not enough of us. “As” leaves no gap. We cannot get “closer” to God than “one” with Him, He in us, we in Him. And the “as” is either all or nothing, really. It’s a meaningless word if not actually believed and applied .
So back then, to this seemingly wayward “me.” We can either see this “us” as something dangling just out of Christ, not too far away, that always needs to be reeled in, suppressed, fixed up, changed, etc., and this dangling us is just hanging there, being “itself,” OR, we can see that same “us,” not dangling just outside Christ in the process zone, but that now our members (the whole of our humanity) belong to Christ now, and that includes everything in this house (us) which he purchased with His own blood. So nothing of me or you is dangling just outside Christ in us. We are a union which produces a unity, we function “as God,” but not in the Tree of G&E sense, but because it is God by our humanity functioning as Himself in human form, AS us. He does not need to be invited into any rooms or closets. He owns it, so He needs no invitation. Once he moved in as the new owner, kicking the devil out, He took over the whole place – which includes not only our spirits, but also our souls and bodies, now put to His usage through the supposedly “cracked” earthen vessel which is us. That even includes our screwy psychological makeup, our thoughts, our desires, our emotion, our reason – it all belongs to Him, not us (never did, they used to belong to the devil and he ran us around making us believe it was just us, but the offense was him), and since He is the new owner He decides what fences to mend or closets to clean out whenever he wants, and He always gets what HE wants. He is not ashamed to be in a union relationship with us, but willing to allow His Divinity to take up residence in a body of flesh and to manifest Himself IN that mortal, dying flesh, that Life might come to more others.
The easy way out has always been all the models mentioned above, as well as many others, which all have the same inner quality despite their differences of language and theology. Nobody is offended with anyone who is “in process.” They’ll pat you the back and say, Good job! Wonderful honesty, such humility! You’re like one of us”
But they will fight you tooth and nail if you say you are complete, right now today, sanctified wholly body, soul and spirit, which we embrace by faith and in that faith we accept it as our reality, now, and that in Him, we “always do those things that please Him.” That’s a leap of faith of the highest order, which we can only take by the Spirit.
The Lord gets our attention in many ways. I was watching the old 70s TV miniseries rendition of “Jesus of Nazareth,” a while back, my favorite of all the Jesus movies, except for the Gospel of John. When they came to the synagogue scene, a HUGE piece of the puzzle dropped into place for me. Jesus returns to Nazareth after His temptation in the desert, and He asks to read a scripture passage in the synagogue, which He had a right to do as did any male adult Jew. When He read from the Isaiah passage, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” He had their attention right away, because they knew very well those were Messiah scriptures. He finished, gave the scroll back to the rabbi, and sat down. They were still waiting, because it was also customary that the reader could give a comment about the reading,. They were expecting that, but not a one of them ever thought they would ever hear the words that came out of Jesus’ mouth: “This day, in your hearing, the scripture is fulfilled.”
It made ‘em madder than a nest of raging swirling hornets! “He’s Joseph’s son, the carpenter, a man just like us. How DARE He say He is the Messiah!” And they were mad enough to kill Him!
That was what struck me so, that they saw Jesus as a man just like them. Obviously, they didn’t see Him as especially holy or set apart, other than perhaps as a rabbi might be, one like their rabbi, who could not speak with the voice of authority concerning the things of God because he did not know them. They probably could have handled it if He had just said, “I have decided I want to become a rabbi, and I hope you will support me, brethren.” They might have patted him on the back for that, “Good goal, you should be proud!” They could say that to a man just like them. But they knew they were imperfect. The Moses system kept them thinking that way, and they had to participate in the Temple feasts and sacrifices in order to be justified because of their sinfulness, which of course had to be oft repeated over the whole course of a lifetime.
But in their minds the Messiah could not be a man just like them. They were imperfect, so in their minds Jesus must be also. What’s good for me, the goose, is good for you, the gander. Ipso facto – “You can’t be the Messiah because I can’t be the Messiah.”
Now I believe that was written not just so we would know that story of Jesus, and see what He went through. The puzzle piece that fell into place that night was this: we are just like Jesus commenting in the synagogue. We can either believe we are complete, perfect and entire, needing nothing, (Col 2:10 ; James 1:3,4), or not. The first way, is to say, like Jesus did, and it was just as much faith for Him as it is for us, “This day, in your hearing, the scripture is fulfilled.” What scripture? The ones God has revealed in us, declaring His Life in us. “Arise, shine, thy Light IS come!” That one word, takes in all of them. What Light? The Light of the Lamb, the Light that needs no outer sun nor moon to shine, nor separate temple in which to dwell. He no longer lives in stone temples, except as those who are His are there! We don’t “go to church” to get holiness, or to partake of the holiness of some special building – that went out with the Temple of Herod, the descendent of the Temple of Solomon. Yet so many of the faith of Jesus today still try to rebuild that temple, when that, first of all, was never His dwelling place, only a representation of the True Temple which would come after, the Temple (Body) of His Son, and that Temple-Body is of course, what we know as the Body of Christ. The Body itself IS the temple, and each of us complete in ourselves in our function as individual temples, all functioning perfectly together in our purposes as Paul brought out in Rom 12: “4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”
END PART TWO