We live in a world that has become obsessed with how a person identifies; be it race, gender, sexuality, politics or religion, even Christianity and church or denominational affiliation. We live in a world that encourages a person to choose this identifier based on their origins of birth, their beliefs, their feelings or what bends pleasurable to their particular background or nature.
Our union with Christ eradicates all earthly identifiers, leaving only a heavenly and living Christ as our identity (Galatians 3:28). We accept this new identity by faith; faith that our old creation or our human nature was crucified with Him on the cross; faith in our being raised with Him in newness of life – His life, His resurrected life (2 Corinthians 5:17). This identity is an indwelling reality by way of the Holy Spirit, with a progressive outward manifestation as we yield to His work within. It was a call of love when, to the weary and overwhelmed, Christ invited us to come to Him, making His yoke available to and for us, that we may take it upon ourselves, learning from Him Who is gentle and humble. This coming to Him, this taking His life as our own, He promised would result in our having heart-rest and life-peace (Matthew 11:28-30).
We starve spiritually and are vulnerable to the bearing down of the enemy when we do not know the truth concerning Christ. It is not human beings, however they may identify, whatever their actions or accusations, with whom the spiritual battle rages. The world is a stage for this on-going deception, and we as believers are too easily caught up in it if we are not careful. The battle is with the powers and principalities of darkness that hold this world in bondage. It is in that real fight where we are encouraged to put on the full armor of God (which God Himself supplies), and we must know more than just the words on the page; we may be able to recite them and yet not carry the power of them in our very beings. (Ephesians 6:11-17) It is imperative that we seek to know Christ above all else.
T. Austin-Sparks once shared: “The all-inclusive and comprehensive work and meaning of the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Christ. […] We need to get away from our man-crystallized systems of Christianity to a new Holy Spirit revealed apprehension of Christ.” This was shared prior to 1971, for that is when Sparks went home to the Lord. Nearly 50 years later it is even more so the case. On a grand and terrible scale Christianity has become what Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees for in Matthew 15. For the sake of your Christian tradition you have set aside the Word of God, depriving it of force and authority and making if of no effect. Jesus called them pretenders and hypocrites, using Isaiah’s prophecy to identify them: You draw near to Me with your mouth and honor Me with your lips, but your hearts are far from Me. The disciples went to Jesus informing Him what offense the Pharisees took with His words to them. Jesus told His disciples to leave them alone, to disregard them, for they are blind guides and teachers. It is possible that the Holy Spirit will guide us away from what we have known in Christendom. This will be scary. He can be trusted.
Now this Holy Spirit revealed apprehension of Christ does not puff up, for it cannot. There can be pride in theological knowledge or in one’s religious standing in a particular church or community. But there can be no pride in knowing Christ, for one is brought to an understanding of Him outside of all natural means of learning; outside of what the world accepts as education;outside of what the religious world views as acceptable learning. Those who learn Him by a revelation of the Holy Spirit experience a deep humbling through the process. It is in that revealing where our human nature we once depended on for so long comes to mean nothing. Paul stated it best when all earthly advantages and reasons for self pride he once had – family lineage, religious standing, adherence to the law, etc. – he considered as garbage compared to the priceless privilege of knowing Christ (Philippians 2:4-8).
The armor of God in this spiritual war is the only thing that can suffice. Our self-sufficiency, our self-strength, even our religious and earthly affiliations never could, never has, never will meet the battle. We may get through a lot of life in that fashion, and admittedly human strength can be unbelievably powerful. But we have an enemy we cannot come face-to-face to in that strength. It took the death of the Son of God, the shedding of His blood, coming toe-to-toe with the enemy on his playing field to conquer that enemy. Our identifying with a risen Christ in His victory is absolutely necessary for us as His return draws closer and the enemy pulls out all the stops to use against us in keeping us from the truth concerning Christ.
God’s armor of Christ in His resurrected life, having defeated all the destructive works of the enemy, enables us to resist evil’s temptations and stand our ground. In ancient Roman armor the belt was not a significant piece of protective gear in and of itself, but was necessary to hold weapons. The only weapon we are told to take up is the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; and when seen as the Living Word of God, or Christ, Who is Himself Truth, this changes things, for He is both our belt and our weapon. The breastplate of God’s righteousness in Christ and what that now makes us cannot be penetrated, pierced or entered into by the enemy. The shield of faith is necessary in quenching all the flaming arrows of the enemy, for it is by faith in Christ, in our being made the righteousness of God in Christ, where the enemy cannot prevail. The Passion translates Ephesians 6:17 as, embracing the power of salvation’s full deliverance, like a helmet to protect your thoughts from lies. Jesus called our enemy the father of lies (John 8:44). But the One with Whom we are urged to identify with is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). In Him there is no lie (1 Peter 2:22).
Beloved, He is faithful, He can be trusted. Let us hear His love call, and, disregarding blind guides and teachers, go outside the camp to Christ, seeking above all else the Holy Spirit’s life-saving revelation of Him (John 16:13).