Conformed to Christ’s Sufferings?

I am grateful that Jesus endured such suffering on my behalf, taking on Himself the penalty that is justly due to me.

Colossians 1:24

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in [literally “of”] Christ’s afflictions. NASB

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: KJV

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. NIV

https://biblehub.com/interlinear/colossians/1-24.htm

Me: Good morning Holy Spirit!

Holy Spirit: Good Morning Jon!

Me: When I read that passage in Colossians 1:24 in the NASB it sounds like Paul was saying there was something lacking in Christ’s afflictions that Paul had to finish filling up. I know there was (is) nothing lacking in Christ’s afflictions because He said “It is finished” from the cross (John 19:30). It gets better if one puts in the footnote version of “of Christs afflictions” instead of “in Christ’s afflictions”. It seems to me with the NASB, the literal thing that they put in the footnotes is usually better than the thing they put in the text instead. [I don’t know why they do that.] How could anyone who knows You at all think there could be anything lacking in You or in what You do?

Holy Spirit: It is true that there is nothing lacking in Christ’s suffering. He is the faultless Lamb of God, a perfect sacrifice. His offering is more than sufficient to atone for your every sin. Your sense of My nature not lacking in anything is correct. What did you find when you looked at the interlinear rendering on Bible Hub?

Me: It seems much clearer that Paul was talking about filling up in himself what was lacking in his identification with Jesus in His suffering (or passions) for the church. I got more of a sense that he wanted to be conformed to the Image of Christ in himself (Paul). I know there are other places that the scripture talks about being conformed to the suffering of Christ. I don’t yet have a good sense of how that should work in my life. I would say that compared to Your promises and grace that any suffering that I have had to endure has been negligible!

Holy Spirit: Consider what it says in Romans 8:

11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.

13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Me: I pray you will help me learn these things from the heart.

Holy Spirit: Jesus prayed that you and He would be one. From the heart. That is what these things mean; one in heart, seeking the same purpose, operating in the same love and power.

Me: Thank You Holy Spirit! I pray you will help me grow in this oneness! I love You!

Holy Spirit: You are welcome! I Am and I love you!

Prove

I am grateful for Your many hope-giving promises!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. – Ephesians 1:3-4

Me: Good afternoon Holy Spirit!

Holy Spirit: Good afternoon Jon!

Me: Every spiritual blessing seems pretty inclusive.

Holy Spirit: They include Me in you, as you are in Christ.

Me: That seems the zenith of all possible blessings, to be joined with You, Almighty, Omnipotent, and Holy, Holy, Holy!

Holy Spirit, I think of the many times I have heard teaching that God cannot look on sin. Some even explain that is why Jesus was said to ask why the Father had forsaken Him on the cross as He bore our transgressions and diseases (Matthew 27:46). This teaching that Jesus was expressing that He felt abandoned has always bothered me, but I can’t really mount a cogent argument against it, except that it seems so contrary to all of Jesus’ assertions of His unity with the Father. Plus, there are these passages that speak directly to Your nature on this matter:

The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8

… teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20

Holy Spirit: I would remind you that We came to the garden for a walk with Adam and Eve after they disobeyed the one direction that they were given. Do not think that We did not know of their sin (Isaiah 46:10). The scripture also records Our conversation with Cain after he murdered his brother. As for Jesus, He was not abandoned by the Father, nor did He think so. Accusing words with that meaning would never cross his lips for that was not in His heart that day any more than it has been on any other day.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

He was quoting the beginning of Psalm 22. The passage was well known to those around Him. He was reinforcing that He is the Messiah. Think of His disciples dismayed and dispirited, thinking this was the end of the promises He made and their relationship with Him. Read Psalm 22, and you will clearly see. Those too blind to see, misinterpreted His words at the time (Matthew 27:47). His words were directed to those not too blind, who would be drawn to understanding that this His crucifixion was the very fulfillment of the graphic prophecy written in the Psalm.

Finally, He was raised in power on the third day. Not what you would expect of one who had lost faith in the Father, even momentarily, at the end of breath.

Me: Thank You Holy Spirit! That helps a lot!

Jesus told the rich young ruler that there is none good, except God alone (Mark 10:18). The the verse in Ephesians says we ‘would be holy and blameless before Him’, when does ‘would be’ mean?

Holy Spirit: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2) Why do you suppose that verse includes the word ‘prove’?

Me: From Merriam-Webster: Prove (some aspect of every sense applies)

When I design a new electronic system, I have it subjected to a whole suite of tests to “prove” that it performs as required in all foreseeable circumstances and environments in which it is intended to be used. I watch its behavior under all the stresses to which it is subjected. Until all that testing is accomplished, there is a risk that I only think I have a robust design that will perform the functions it was designed for, when it is called upon.

Holy Spirit: In other words, you prove by testing that your work is not flawed and there is therefore a firm basis to place faith in it.

My work is perfect. It includes my design of you – in My image – and like the things you design, the things I Am giving you to do.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

My image is like My design requirements for you. The difference in you and your electronic device, is that I have also given you free will because My will is unfettered by anything but My own choice. You therefore have the ability to embrace My design and provision (and Truth) or to ignore My guidance and go off in a way that seems right to you. If you do go your own way, it is the equivalent of your device being proved not to conform to the design requirements, and requiring correction to cause it to conform.

There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25)

“[I]n Christ” is key. Ephesians 1 verses three and four each say it once, as does Ephesians 2:10. Consider how often Jesus, as your example, stated His unity with the Father: John 10:30, 14:7, 14:9, 17:21 and 17:23. And, there is this verse in Colossians 3:14 explaining the power behind how this works:

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. I Am Here to help you. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16

Me: Thank You Holy Spirit! I love You!

Holy Spirit: You are welcome! I love you!

Heart Transplant

The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. – 1 John 4:15-16

Ever ask yourself, “Why did I ever do that”? Jeremiah 17:9 gets right at the heart of the matter; more deceitful than all else and desperately sick. The link above will take you to the biblehub.com entry for that verse, where you can discover that the phrase “desperately sick” could be rendered “incurable”. That diagnosis would seem to paint us into the proverbial corner, wouldn’t it? How is one going to make good on well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions if one’s “decider” is broken with an incurable spiritual ailment?

The good news is that we are offered a spiritual heart transplant. Really, give that new heart free reign, and it can permeate the entire being, transforming and renewing everything!

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

That sure sounds like good news to me! If you haven’t made that decision yet, I pray you will put it at the top of your list and not put it off any longer.

All Things

I have been having a conversation with the Holy Spirit the past couple of days. For you who think “conversation” has a narrow definition, the Spirit has been making certain impressions on my heart, which then leak into my mind when I am in a meditative mood (often). In turn, I prayerfully pose questions to the Spirit, asking for clarification. Often a pertinent verse of scripture will come to mind; a process that is only possible if one has taken the trouble to put verses of scripture into one’s mind in the first place. One of those, John 16:13, is relevant to the description that I am giving:

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.

In any event, the this conversation concerns several notable times in my life when my circumstance turned dramatically and more-or-less permanently for the better, as a direct result of someone close to me either making a decision which negatively impacted them long term, or in another case, absorbed some grievous abuse such that I did not become a target of the same. I think I will not share the details of these, since the persons I am thinking of are deceased now and unable to consent to my sharing.

However, as I meditated on these life-changing events, I was led to a couple of passages. The first is Romans 8:28:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

All things – even decisions made of those close to us – decisions which proved to be good for me as this passage in Romans 8 promises even while apparently detrimental to the person following the path they decided upon. As I contemplated these situations from my past, the Spirit showed me that I was, in a way, a beneficiary of Judas’ decision to betray Jesus. (You can read about the beginning of that in John chapter 13.) We all needed Jesus to go to the cross to bear our sin and the death-wage we earned though it. Judas played a part in that, and you can see that Jesus acknowledged that it was necessary. If you follow the story, you find out that it did not end well for Judas, at least in life. Jesus Himself then suffered in our stead on that cruel Roman cross that we might be restored to the position of having God as our Father. I find it humbling to consider that I may thrive as a result of the troubles of others. Did God “do bad things” to them that I might prosper? No, no, no. He is not like that. Their choices were their own. (And in Jesus’ case, it was the reason He came.) Yet mysteriously, His grace persists, causing even the most unlikely of “all things” to work out for my good.

Am I? Are You? #10

I Am… God’s Workmanship. Installment 10, working through the affirmations in Christy Mitropoulus’ artwork shown in the featured image.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Definition of workmanship

1 : something effected, made, or produced : WORK
2 : the art or skill of a workman
also : the quality imparted to a thing in the process of making

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/workmanship

His workmanship. His. He is the author of the universe and everything in it. As beautiful and majestic and mysterious as the creation is to us – though we have extremely limited understanding – and we have not personally seen it in its original unsullied “very good” Genesis 1:31 state. This lack of insight extends to us:

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 1 John 3:2

As His workmanship, we ought not lay claim to glory for good works as though they are of our own manufacture. The good works we are called to walk in are specially prepared for us. To do them is our purpose. We were uniquely crafted to be able to carry them out. If my relationship with Him is not one of open communication, of diligently seeking Him, and listening with rapt attention, how will I ever discern what I am made to do? If I come to my understanding without Him, I will flounder.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8

So King Rehoboam strengthened himself in Jerusalem and reigned…He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the Lord. 2 Chronicles 12:13-15

There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12

Yet when we align with Him, things are right.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

Though God is sovereign, He restrains Himself in this: He lets us choose which way we will go. Where there is no choice, there can be no love. He is love; the very definition of it. What this means is that outside of Him, there is no love. Perhaps there is that which we would call love, but which falls far short of His love for it lacks the power of the divine.

Love is not the total of His workmanship in us, but it first in the list. Also, the fact that He lets us choose implies we have the power to live up to the promise or to go another way.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:16-24

Christy Mitropoulos Signature