This was Paul's magnificent obsession! Not only was the Lord revealed to him on the Damascus Road, but by revelation through faith. This revelation came not from men, but by God:
"For I neither received it [the gospel] of man, neither was I taught it,
but by the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Paul's exalted goal was more than "to know" Christ; it was to actually have the living Christ in Him!
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:
and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave Himself for me."
A believer must be "crucified with Christ" in order to have the Son "revealed in him" and to have Christ living in this body of flesh.
No conversion alone results in Christ in the believer. Only a crucified life of total commitment, holiness and Christlikeness will effect Christ "formed" in the believer:
"My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you."
God's word is explicit in its call for Christians to follow the example of Christ in us! Here's the spiritual life, light and faith of the living Christ in the believer. There's no plateau in spiritual development. The call of God is always onward and upward. Every Christian should seek to have Christ formed in him or her.
One sign of the indwelling presence of Christ is the "Fruit of the Spirit" of Galatians 5:22-23:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…"
Love, joy and peace result in longsuffering and patience. Gentleness is kindness in action. Goodness shows in fidelity. Meekness and temperance radiate in self-control. Faith is all of the fruit in action.
"Christ in me" should be the priority of all Christians. This incomprehensible concept cannot be limited to the leadership, but sought and shared by all in the Body of Christ. Christ in a believer is faith working in love:
"For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision;
but faith which worketh by love."
The religious rites of the flesh don't reflect genuine internal righteousness. Only the constantly abiding residence of Christ in the believer will affect true obedience to God and His Holy Word.
The "faith" of Galatians 5:6 above is produced by Christ Himself. To have Christ formed in us is the upward call of God to His people. The importance of the call is shown in the apostle Paul's statement to the Galatians that he suffered the travail of birth pangs again for Christ to be formed in these Galatian believers. It's not enough to have Christ as an example; we need to have His character, His characteristics, and His holiness formed in us.
Any man or woman who's born of the Spirit of God, has the Spirit of Christ.
However, not all Christians hunger and thirst equally to the point of having the
living Christ fully formed in them. There's a maturing 'process.' This comes by
total commitment---denying self and
taking up the cross and following Him.
Religion As Culture
Let's be reminded...lest we forget...
Religious culture emerges...people learn to be "Christians" like they learn to be Americans or Chinese or whatever cultural group they happen to belong to. They learn the beliefs, words, behaviors and activities that go with the particular brand of religion. The result is multitudes of religious people who appear to be Christians, but are complete strangers to the new birth.
Into this growing spiritual void come great numbers of demons, wicked spirits whose specialty is the infiltration and takeover of religious movements. Careful to preserve the form so as not to raise too much alarm, they shepherd the gradual apostasy along, tightening their grip as they go: their men in places of influence; their wisdom and ideas embraced; and so forth.
When God begets His children, He does so through the incorruptible seed of the Word. The ability to sow this seed in the heart is a special gift and calling of God exercised by way of His anointing. It cannot be learned in a school. It's far more than correct words and sound doctrine.
As is the case in the natural world, everything brings forth after its own kind. Flesh begets flesh, religious or otherwise. Only Spirit can beget Spirit.
Under the best of circumstances there will be both natural and spiritual children produced through ministry. This is illustrated in Abraham, the father of faith. Of all his sons, only Isaac was a son of promise, recognized by God in a covenant relationship. Many followed Christ, at least for a time, who were never saved. (John 6)
Some of the "natural" sons, or "followers," are deliberately planted there by Satan as part of his scheme. His plan involves maneuvering people he controls into places of influence. He will also encourage even some true children whose zeal exceeds their knowledge and call to act outside of the will of God.
What kind of children do you suppose are produced as men minister outside of their calling and without the anointing? It's only a matter of time before talented, zealous, but lost men, skilled in the religious culture, begin to fill pulpits. What then?
And don't forget the religious demons are at work, doing everything in their power to keep men religiously busy, yet blind to the reality that Christ is no longer the active Head. "Orthodox" sermons are preached, programs are devised and carried out and churches are filled with lost people. Though there may be a remnant of true children among them, a spiritual tide carries them steadily away from where they need to be. The "system" prevails.
Although I grew up in the system, I thank God for giving me what was necessary in the way of life and knowledge to move me along in the direction He desired me to go. For one thing, my preacher father's primary loyalty was to the Lord and the Word. When asked what he believes, he is fond of saying, "I believe the Bible: I may not understand it all but if it's in there, I believe it!"
I wonder how many preachers can honestly say that! To any preacher who may
happen to read this I would say: are you free to preach what the Lord shows
you in the Word? Have you never read things that just didn't fit in with
your particular doctrinal scheme? What do you do about it? Do you just pass
it off, rationalizing that you can't help anyone if you lose your position?
Who are you serving? Do you in effect say, "Lord, that's interesting, but it
doesn't fit in with our doctrine?" Don't God's sheep need "all the counsel
of God?" (Acts 20:27) Doesn't the Lord know what His people need?
Anchored to Him!
"I am with you alway."
It's well there's One who's ever the same, and who's ever with us. It's well there's one stable rock amidst the billows of the sea of life. Let's not set our affections upon rusting, moth-eaten, decaying treasures, but let's set our heart upon Him who abides forever faithful to us. Let's not build our house upon the moving quicksands of a deceitful world, but let's found our hopes upon this rock, which, amid descending rain and roaring floods, shall stand immovably secure. Let's lay up our treasure in the only secure cabinet; store our jewels where we can't ever lose them. Let's put our all in Christ; set all our affections on His person, all our hope in His merit, all our trust in His efficacious blood, all our joy in His presence, and so we may be able to "laugh at loss", and defy destruction. Let's remember that all the flowers in the world's garden fade by turns, and the day will come when nothing will be left. Death's black extinguisher must soon put out our candle. Oh! how sweet to have sunlight when the candle's gone! The dark flood must soon roll between us and all we have; then let's wed our heart to Him who will never leave us; let's trust ourselves with Him who will go with us through the black and surging current of death's stream, and who will land us safely on the celestial shore, and make us sit with Him in heavenly places for ever. Go, sorrowing "son or daughter of affliction", tell thy secrets to the Friend who sticketh closer than a brother. Let's trust all our concerns with Him who never can be taken from us, who will never leave us, even "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever." "Lo, I am with you alway," is enough for our soul to live upon---let who will...forsake us.