Life in the New Dimension
If, then, I am as He is, how does it work out in practical life? It means a revolution in my outlook. Normally, I interpret all happenings of life in terms of their effect on myself. My physical condition, my home affairs, my business affairs, my social life–how do they affect me? What difference does this situation, this crisis, this tragedy or problem, this success, make to me? If I am a Christian, I may seek a Christian interpretation–this is for the testing of my faith, for the maturing of my walk with God: but still it is in terms of its effect on me. But we have already said that the way things affect God is the opposite: not their effect on Him, but on us. Jesus living our lives. So now with us.
The new outlook is: This has happened to me as some way by which I am to meet the need of others. As Paul says in that Second Letter to the Corinthians, in which he most fully shows what living other people’s lives means: “All things are for your sakes.”
The fact is, and the change which has taken place in us is that it is no longer a question of either my own life being for myself, or of God being for my convenience, or my salvation, or sustenance.
So I practice a changed outlook. My normal human reaction will always be: Why has this happened to me? But now I say: This is for others. I move over within from my outlook to God’s. I may not in the least see how it is for others. It may be merely that my going through a tough experience with God fits me to share and show the way to others going through the same without God. Paul said he was comforted in all kinds of afflictions, so that he could share the secret of that same comfort with others in like afflictions.
The point is the habit of always relating all things that happen to me to the meeting of some needs in others. It is the difference between frustration and opportunity. If I just see things as happening to me and I don’t know why, I am frustrated. I say, “If only things were different, if I hadn’t had that difficult past or this physical disability or family problem, I could be of some use,” then I am bogged down. But if I say, “God, you have sent this for some purpose, to minister somehow through me to some people in need,” then it is an opportunity. Life is then always an adventure of faith, never dull, never repetitious, always with some meaning round the corner. Let us get it in its total dimension–life’s only meaning is God and others.
It helps us also to get it clear that everything that comes to us comes from God–what we call evil as well as the good. God, of course, is not the cause of evil, but deliberately directs everything for good ends. The Bible uses strong terms of “God sending” the unpleasant as well as the pleasant, and sending is a positive word, not just a passive permission (for many talk of the “permissive will” of God).
Peter in his first speech after Pentecost said that they had taken and crucified Jesus “through the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” No mistaking that. God determined that wicked men should do what they purposed to do and it would really fulfil His purpose–which was to save the people doing it! Such is God!
Joseph said that by his brethren selling him into slavery, God “sent me before you to preserve life…you thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.” Whatever happens, we say, “All right, God, You sent this. It may tear me apart to say so, but I say so.” From there the next step is easier, “God, this has some purpose outside of me to meet the need of others. Just show me what.”The important fact to recognize is that God has only one aim in His present dealings with our world–to get all of us who will respond to Him off the wrong road on to the right. It was said of Jesus “that the world through him might be saved.” It is a matter of eternal seriousness, for it concerns eternal destiny. It has to be through man to man. A savior must be where the people are who need to be saved. To save a drowning man, you get in the water beside him. So God became man to be the Savior.
To bring the given salvation to all people, God still has men. They are the saved who then become saviors; not, of course, saviors in the sense of the one Savior Jesus Christ who completed our salvation, but in the sense in which the Spirit of God is still doing His saving work by Christ’s spiritual body, which is we, as He did by His physical. In that sense we are co-saviors, co-redeemers. Indeed, Moses was bold and said he was going up Mount Sinai to “make an atonement” before God for the people, which he did. That means, then, that every situation we are in, God puts us in, and it has some saving purpose in it.
Priest is the Bible title for this ultimate category of life, and intercession the work of the priest. We understand, of course, that, in Bible terms, priesthood is not some specialized “sanctified” office, but the inescapable ordained condition of every redeemed person. Redemption is at the same moment ordination into the priesthood. All members of the body of Christ, without distinction or discrimination, are, according to Peter the spokesman of the apostolate, not only a “chosen generation,” but a “royal priesthood.” Since the old Israel failed to rise to its privileged commission of being a “kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6), the new Israel has received the appointment. God’s priests are very ordinary people, and very secular people, for they are you and I.
We need, then, to be clear about what the office of priesthood involves, and the work of intercessors, since we are these. We have already stated it in the general terms of Hebrews 5:1. The priest has been “taken from among men” (redeemed); “ordained for men” (commissioned): “in things pertaining to God” (to bring men to Christ and build them up in Him).
Get that down to specifics in our daily lives, and we see it best if we understand what is meant by our being intercessors—the chief work of a priest.
In the Bible an intercessor is anyone, everyone, who sees a situation with God’s eyes and moves in on it. That is to say, the whole of our life, all our lives, are full of frustrating, yet challenging situations. God, it said, “wondered that there was no intercessor” and “looked for a man to stand in the gap and make up the hedge.”
Millions of gaps, millions of hedges, some in every one of our lives. But the point is to have eyes to see them, and we are exactly positioned, everyone of us, appointed from before the foundation of the world, to be just where we are and what we are—to fill some gap, make up some hedge.
So every life is nothing but a mass of opportunities, and we have been put there to seize them and grasp them. Intercessors, therefore, are not some peculiar people, any more than priests are, but are you and I, in the most ordinary business, workshop, domestic situations; put there because there is something, it may be in our own households, in our church, district, city, country, world, which we are meant to have eyes to see as intercessors, and to stand in that gap.
How do we see, then? First, by having scales of self removed. Being humans, and meant to be humans, as we have said before, we always start by disliking uncomfortable situations, and being hurt by them, resenting them, or being bored by them, questioning why such things should be in our lives; or maybe nominally accepting them as what we miscall the cross, and putting up with them: or, if they disturb our routine and challenge us to sacrificial action, finding some reason to leave others to handle them. This is not wrong. It is right. It means that we are humanly involved and thus livingly related to a situation, and can, therefore, be a vital factor in it. No involvement, not within range of response.
But while we remain hurt or resistant, we cannot see beyond our hurt selves. The way is blocked.
Look at Hannah, the mother of Samuel, hurt because God did not answer her prayer by giving her children, while the other wife Peninnah, though godless, had them. Taunted by Peninnah, which made the hurt worse, she had one refuge from her frustrated self: at least she was her husband’s favorite to whom he gave special gifts at the great event of the year, the visit to Shiloh. Year by year she lamented God’s unkindness to her and had what the record called “a fretting faith.” Better that, however, than no faith like Peninnah! Because when we are God’s, even the frustrating years are really a build up of pressure the moment of revelation.
But that moment has to start by a death to our self-outlook to make room for God’s; and God knows how to take us to our grave (when we are His and can “take it).” One year, Hannah’s hidey-hole for her self-comfort was gone! Her husband, Elkanah, turned on her. He was tired of her fretting, miserable praying and tears. “Hannah, why weepest thou? Why eatest thou not? Why is thy heart grieved? Am not I better to thee than ten sons?” A nice humble remark for any good husband to make!
Her last refuge was gone. She was out in the cold by herself, or she would have been if, like Peninnah, in her moment of crisis she had had only herself. That is where a crisis becomes a desperation without God. But Hannah knew God, and the moment had come when He could speak a hidden word to her, and she could take it. Did she not realize how selfish all her praying had been? She wanted sons just to prove that God was with her, and maybe to have an answer for Peninnah. Why not change the thing round and want a son for God’s purposes, not hers? She saw the point and struck a bargain of faith with Him. If He would give her a son, He should have him, even if she never saw him again.
We know the sequel: the birth of Samuel, one of the great men of history. Later she had four sons and four daughters of her own—perhaps more than she bargained for! But little had she known or seen till that crisis moment that this was putting a great purpose of God’s grace through a travailing intercessor.
An excellent illustration of how the most ordinary of domestic situations is a platform for a great exploit of faith. We see the point. Every situation always starts with a resistant human self. It must do, because that provides the necessary foundation of an involved self. Now the first step forward in being God’s intercessor is being taken. It is a step down, not up. It is a death experience. The hurt self has to be recognized for what it is, not wrong, but the first evidence that God is looking for His intercessor in a situation, and that we are that man, for we are involved in it.
But when frankly recognized, we accept our privilege as a privilege, not as an imposition on us, and we see glory in the cross. For this is what Paul called it in that great explanatory paragraph on intercession in 2 Cor. 4:7-13, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus” and “we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus sake.” This is not to be confused, as many do confuse it, with the once-for-all identification we have had with Christ crucified and risen, and we with Him, where it is said, we died, we were buried, we rose with Him. That is past and never repeated. That was His cross and resurrection we participated in for our own redemption.
What we are now talking about is not the cross for our redemption, but for the redemption of others. This is adulthood, not adolescence. This kind of cross is constantly repeated in our daily lives whenever we are in situations which our human selves would be rid of; but instead of remaining in hurt self, we recognize them to be part of some redemptive purpose of God through us in others. So, Paul says, we accept them as something we have been “delivered unto,” and our “dying” which is said to be the dying of the Lord Jesus in us is our heart acceptance of them, though that may not be lightly, or easily, any more than the Savior could accept His cross without a Gethsemane.
Here is a principle of constant “dyings,” daily maybe, affecting every kind of normal situation in life, not by any means in what we might call our religious activity. Anything which hurts, disturbs our status quo, or challenges, be it what we may call small in our personal lives, or big in some public affair, is a place of dying when we change from self’s resistance to acceptance as a step in God’s saving plans.
Without such dyings, Moses could never have seen that he was not to be a possible, ephemeral Pharaoh, but a savior of God’s chosen people: Gideon could never have changed from challenging God’s apparent indifference to accepting the challenge to be himself the deliverer. Abraham could never have exchanged his laughter at the idea of a couple of their age having a son for a productive faith. David could never have resisted the chance of killing Saul to wait in patience for God’s day of his coronation. So through every aspect of achieving or enduring faith in all history. Everyone had to start by a disturbed, resisting self which saw God in the tough situation and then died to his self-resistance.
Then comes the resurrection–which is the Spirit in us causing us to see things from His point of view. We can begin to be intercessors. We can see what God is after, and the first effect is a joy, release, sense of adventure, praise where there seems nothing to praise for, for we now see the redemptive purposes, something by us for others. Its immediate effect, as Paul says, is a quickening in our own selves: “the life of Jesus manifest in our mortal flesh”: burdens, fears, the sense of a hurtful, not joyful cross, is gone, and others watching can see a release and ease which is not what the world experiences in its tough spots. Resurrection life is manifested in our mortal bodies, and that by itself is God coming through us to others.