Religion saps us of God’s life and substitutes what might have been Him with more of ourselves. Joe wanted more of God. He hungered to have more of Him in His life. But Sam who was praying with Joe that day would have none it. ‘More of God’ was not the issue for Sam. More of earning worthiness with God was where Sam was. Proving oneself worthy, making a contribution and earning some God-currency like self respect and proof of self-worth was Sam’s motivation and religious life.
So when it was his turn to pray, Sam corrected Joe and asked God to ‘Help Joe see the need to do more charitable works’ and less of the ‘More of God’ stuff. Not surprisingly Joe increased in spirit and life while Sam increased in confusion and abortive attempts at ‘god-work ’- a charitable form of ‘dead works’ that can bring relief in the moment but which has no bearing on the advance of the Kingdom of Heaven in our vicinity. Why? Because the flesh accomplished nothing for the Kingdom.
Try as Sam did his plans never came to anything and were never a channel of Christ’s spirit and life, even if they were the stage of Sam’s effort. Sam had been a Christian all his life. But had never been born again. This does not mean he was an immoral fellow. Just that Sam lived in a separation mentality striving to get what was already his – union with God.
Michael Kepler writes, ‘In spite of all the passages related to our completed sanctification in Jesus Christ, legalists love to scour the Bible for a single verse that appears to put the responsibility back on us again because it's good for the religious business. Here is an example from Hebrews 12:14 (NASB): "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord."
This passage about sanctification, observes Kapler, is not an endorsement of a try-harder performance mentality. It’s encouragement to press into who you are in your Christ-life. In this life you are one with Christ and He is one with you. In this state you overflow with spirit and life. Outside of this state of being – meaning living in the old covenant, we live in a mild state of death – the absence of spirit and life known as the flesh. Jesus warns that any action, no matter how well intended carried out in the flesh, has no effect on advancing the Kingdom of God. But it does advance religion.
‘The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you--they are full of the Spirit and life’ John 6.63 NIV. It’s a sad fact but many of those engaged in Christian outreach are not themselves alive with spirit and life.
Kepler notes that the entire book of Hebrews focuses on the supremacy of Christ over the law because the Christ who is in us is our spirit, our life, and our motivation. We are the uncomplicated and uncontrived expression of who Jesus is. This is life in the Spirit as per Romans 8 and Christ come in our flesh as in 1 John 4.2. It’s the difference between religion and Kingdom.
JOE THE SON/SAM THE WORKER
So why do ‘the Joe’s’ of this world want more of God? Because they can have as much of Him as they desire and more. Being the expression of Christ they do only what Father is doing and when they do it they are fountains of His spirit and life. ‘The Sam’s’ on the other hand are glued to their self-vindication and the need to show themselves worthy of Jesus’ cross and their eternal life. Sad. Because Jesus loves you because you are you. He lives in you so that you can be who you. He inhabits you and expresses Himself as you so that you only do those things He means for you to do. Filled with His spirit and life in the moment and the season, you play your part in bringing to life the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
Sam continued on his journey to find ways and opportunities for him to demonstrate his worth to Jesus and earn His love. He lived with little rest, in much confusion and small fruitfulness. Joe didn’t try hard at all. Christ was His life and Father was His companion. By being Himself and doing very little in a strenuous way, he multiplied spirit and life and advanced Christ’s Kingdom without fuss and with great fruitfulness.
‘Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop--a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown’ Matt 13.8 NIV. The seed is you and the good soil is the union with God and oneness with Father than is already yours. The fruit is the multiplication of the life of God flowing through you into other people and other situations.