You Are Here

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Over the last several months, our community has been exploring the large Story of God that spans from creation to new creation. I feel this time of immersion into God’s narrative has drawn a large and detailed map for our understanding of God’s creative purposes – something I have been disconnected from throughout most of my Christian life and ministry.

But extended immersion in God’s Story has allowed me to emerge not only with a map for our journey, but with the essential “You Are Here” marker that allows me to live my life in greater alignment with God’s movement. Perhaps this is what Paul meant when he wrote:

“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

In an effort to understand what the Lord’s will is, I have become gripped by one particular aspect of God’s lengthy and complex Story — Christ is the climax of both human history and Israel’s history. By his life, Jesus embodies, demonstrates and announces God’s intentions for humanity, made in God’s image, to be the cooperative and creative care-givers of creation, dynamically nurturing further goodness from a his creation. And by his life, Jesus embodies, demonstrates and announces God’s intention for Israel as God’s chosen people, those called to incarnate the fullness of God’s transforming presence among the nations so as to move original creation, now broken and disjointed, to the new creation by dealing with the sin and evil introduced by Adam.

This climax finds its fullest expression in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. By his crucifixion, Jesus lets evil take its best shot. All of the shame and evil in the world concentrate upon the true Adam and the true Israel. And it works its fullest consequence on him – death. But the crucifixion is not God’s final statement. Jesus presses through the “Red Sea” of death to the other side – emerging into a new kind of life that death can no longer touch. By his resurrection, Jesus emerges as the full expression of God’s new creation. N.T. Wright states that the resurrected Christ is the “full flowering of God’s new creation.” The resurrection doesn’t simply redefine death as “life after death.” Rather, the resurrection destroys death. It is life after “life after death.” It is the life of the new heaven and new earth that neither sin nor death can ever touch again. As such, Jesus’ resurrection is the first day of God’s new creation!

As a follower of Christ, this puts me on God’s map — You Are Here.

First, of all, my understanding of God’s Story is completely rewritten. I now understand that God’s new creation has already dawned. And although I live between its inauguration at Jesus’ resurrection and its full consummation at his return, I am living in God’s new creation now! Not only that, but Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that anyone who is living immersed in Christ has become a “new creation.” In other words, our lives have become part of God’s new creation as well. So by following Christ, I am also in Christ, participating in his crucifixion (Gal 2:20) and his resurrection (Col 3:1-4) today.

With this lens, I am now blown away by how much of Paul’s practical instructions to God’s people are anchored in Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. I’m discovering that Christian ethics differs completely from other ethics. Why? Because Christian ethics is not about following a code or a set of rules. Nor is it the goal of following Christ. Instead, Christian ethics is learning to live our future lives in God’s new creation right now. It is about learning to become incarnational — to live a life of divine love as displayed fully by the crucifixion (Eph 5:1-2) and a life of divine power as displayed by the resurrection (Eph 1:19-21). Incarnational life as God’s new creation is easily and naturally ethical as a byproduct.

So let’s revisit Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 5:15-17:

“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

This statement, along with many others in the New Testament, is the “You Are Here” on God’s map. My life matters because of who I am and who I am becoming as I live immersed in the crucified and resurrected Christ – the climax of humanity’s and Israel’s history and the flowering of God’s new creation.

But living “in Christ” requires effort on my part. As Paul states in Ephesians 4:22-24:

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

My old self is corrupted by deceitful desires. My new self is created to be like God in righteousness and holiness. I must put off one and put on the other. And the bridge between the two is being renewed in the pneuma – the attitude or spirit – of my mind. And this occurs by “making the most of every opportunity.”

The Greek word used in the NIV for “opportunity” in Ephesians 5:15 is kairos – God’s special time. But it’s not just special time, it’s the consummation of time, again, God’s new creation. In other words, in each moment of my life I must make the most of living in God’s new creation. I have to intentionally live my real daily life as God’s new creation and in God’s new creation – living interactively in God’s grace, which “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12).

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