Treasuring the Divine Life

Posted on December 15, 2010


Recieving a Burden

There is nothing like spending personal one-on-one time with Jesus. Nothing comes close. Bible reading, meeting with other believers, preaching the gospel, studying the Bible, all wonderful. Necessary, even. That being said, nothing compares to stopping, turning one’s heart, and just spending time with Jesus. These are the times that the Lord speaks.

Usually the speaking is private and has the footnote “for your ears only.” Sometimes, though, the Lord gives us a burden to speak. Here is my burden:

One of Two Natural Concepts

When a Christian comes to a commandment of God, he usually has one of two reactions to it. The first is like that of the children of Israel at Mount Sinai. They received God’s law and said “We will do it!” Then this Christian grits his teeth and tries with all his might to do what God said. I think many of us realize that this is the wrong way to react. Our natural energy, even to do good, can never please God. In fact, in my next post, I want to talk about this kind of reaction a little, because it can be a very strong impulse.

It is the second reaction that I want to address in this post. This person reads one of God’s laws, and instantaneously, he reacts like this:

  1. “That’s impossible. No one can do that.”
  2. “Besides, Christ fulfilled the law (Matt 5:17) by living a perfect human life.”
  3. “That qualified Him to die a substitutionary death on my behalf.”
  4. “Now I have His blood which cleanses me from every sin.”
  5. “God doesn’t expect me to do the impossible. Otherwise, why would he have died and shed His blood for me? Besides, God deals with us through grace, not the law.”
  6. “Therefore, I am free in Christ from following the law.”
  7. “Besides, one day, Christ will transform me and I’ll be perfect anyway.”

Sounds pretty logical, right? In fact, the more you know about the Bible, the more convincing you can make this argument. Honestly, this is usually the way I react when I hear one of God’s commandments to the New Testament believers.

Let me say right now: THIS IDEA IS NOT BIBLICAL! IT IS WRONG! Why? The explanation involves a proper understanding the resurrection work of Christ.

Doing the Impossible

Let’s look back at our argument. You hear one of God’s commandments and say to yourself:

  1. “That’s impossible.” – This is correct. Our natural life can not fulfill God’s commandments.
  2. “Christ lived a perfect human life.” – Also correct.
  3. “That qualified Him to die a substitutionary death on my behalf.” – Correct again.
  4. “Now I have His blood which cleanses me from every sin.” – Still correct.
  5. “God doesn’t expect me to do the impossible.” – Here is where things go sour.

If the story stopped there and Christ stayed in the tomb, that might be it. But when Christ died, He released the divine life (John 12:24), that same life by which He lived a perfect human life. Then, He resurrected and became the divine-life-giving Spirit (1 Cor 15:45b). In resurrection, Christ, as the divine-life-giving Spirit, gives this divine life to anyone who receives Him (John 1:12). When we were saved, we received this life (John 3:3). Now, believe it or not, we can live by this divine life instead of our natural, fleshly life! (all of Romans 8 )

Great news right? Yes. Awesome news, but there was no Greek word for “awesome news” so Jesus had to go with “good news,” a.k.a. the gospel.

Going back to the statement in step 5: “God doesn’t expect me to do the impossible.” It is true that you can not fulfill God’s law by your natural, fallen life. That is impossible, but that’s not what God expects you to do. What God expects you to do is to live by the divine life that you have received. It is very possible for you to live by this life, and when you do, you will automatically fulfill God’s law.

The Alternative to Living by the Divine Life

Now, here’s the catch: Not only are you able to live by this life, but you MUST live by this life. Here’s why I say that. Below is Matthew 5:19a and 20

“Whoever annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of the heavens… For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens.” Matthew 5:19a, 20, Recovery Version

This is word is spoken directly from Jesus to the New Testament believers. What does this mean? Your righteousness must surpass the scribes and the Pharisees. It must match the pattern presented in Matthew 5-7.

What is the alternative? “…you shall by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens.” There is a consequence to choosing to live by the natural live instead the divine life. You may lose the opportunity to enter into the manifestation of the kingdom of the heavens in the next age. During the millennium, which will begin at Christ’s second coming, some Christians will enter into the manifestation of the kingdom, and some will not just like the wise virgins entered into the wedding feast and the foolish virgins did not. Instead, they will experience a “dispensational punishment.” Matthew 25 describes this as “outer darkness” where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

There are many more verses in the New Testament that talk about the dispensational punishment of believers. Matthew 5:22 talks about believers being liable to “the judgment.” The judgment Jesus is referring to is the judgment seat of Christ (Rom 14:10, 2 Cor 5:10). Only believers are qualified to come before the judgment seat. Also in verse 22 is the “Gehenna of fire,” which is a warning to us. The Bible mentions Christians being burned with fire also in 1 Corinthians 3:15. “If anyone’s work is consumed, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” Additionally, Revelation 2:11 says that “He who overcomes shall by no means be hurt of the second death.”

Not Eternal Punishment

Now, someone could argue, “We can never loose our salvation. Once we’re saved, nothing we can do can cause us to be un-saved.” That is absolutely correct. To teach otherwise is heresy.

Here, I would like to insert a quote from Witness Lee’s Life-study of Matthew:

“According to Calvinism, once we are saved, we are saved forever, and there can be no further problem. In a sense, Calvinism is correct, for once we are saved, we are saved for eternity. However, we should not say that there can be no problems. There is the possibility of being burned in the fire…. The Bible reveals that we are saved for eternity, but that after we are saved, we need to overcome every sinful thing. If not, we shall be disciplined, punished. If you do not repent and confess your sin, but stay in adultery, in the next age you will be put into the fire and burned, not for eternal perdition, but as a dispensational punishment.”

Let me clarify again: I am not talking about Armenism, about losing one’s eternal salvation. I am talking about the temporary dispensational punishment of believers in the next age.

Treasuring the divine life and clinging to God

Here is my burden: If we see the seriousness of sin and the consequence of it, we will really treasure the divine life that we have received. We will stay close to God so that we live by this divine life. This life completely fulfills every requirement of the law spontaneously. We must desperately cling to God and live by the divine life within us.

For more about the ability of the divine life to fulfill the law in us, see Matthew 5:48, footnote 1 in the Recovery Version.