Ministry of Identification
But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation. We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us. We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)
What is reconciliation? It is the exact same thing as true meaning of atonement actually. It is restoring two individuals to be in harmony and love at the heart level, resolving any differences that might separate them by exposing and eliminating every lie making them distrustful or afraid of each other. In our case with God, there has never been any lie that God believes about us to make Him love us any less. Therefore, all the change needs to take place in us in order to be reconciled, for it is impossible for God to love us any more since He is love already and loves us unconditionally and fully.
The method God uses to reconcile us to Him, to bring us into sympathy with His perspective and to trust His heart fully, is to address the idea that He doesn't really know how we feel deep inside. To solve this dilemma God climbs inside our darkness through Jesus to identify with our feelings. From this vantage point, He can then use the light of truth to expose our lies, diffuse them, discredit and debunk them by revealing to us the magnanimous love He has for us. If we do not resist but are willing to believe His love, He can come inside us by fully identifying with our feelings, by sympathizing with the effect that our lies have had on our psyche, yet while not affirming the lies themselves. By experiencing every temptation to distrust God's heart that we experience and by feeling all our hopeless despair, guilt, shame, sorrow and condemnation, He positioned Himself strategically to be as close as possible to our heart without violating our freedom. The only thing left to finish the reconciliation is now for us to be willing to identify with Him so that the transforming power of His love, graciousness and kindness can reverse the course of our thinking and feelings to open our heart up to allow Him to come in, remain in us and bring us into intimate relationship with His Father.
Living in intimacy with God's heart is the true definition of being righteous. God is righteous and God alone is truly good. The way we become righteous and good is not by working hard to become good enough to be accepted by God, but by being willing to receive His love so that our mirror naturally begins to reflect His glory. All the righteousness that is ever seen in anyone's life is reflected goodness, graciousness, kindness, compassion and love that originates with God. This is how we become righteous and holy, by allowing the Spirit of God to minister to our heart in behalf of Jesus who reveals the heart of the Father to us ever more clearly in order that our heart mirror may increasingly reflect His glory for the universe to admire and glorify God. This is how we let our light shine for all to see.
This glory, this power, this light of love is reflected from the mirror of our soul as we learn to identify specifically with events and circumstances and stories from the experience of Jesus where He identified with our feelings and experienced our pain. As we identify with His identification with us, a channel is opened through which the literal power of God can begin to flow. This power of love then has all the healing properties and abundant life within it that is needed to transform us from angry rebels into adoring children living in the love of our heavenly Father. By identifying with Jesus as our representative before the watching universe and believing in His version of our identity, our trust in His version of who we are acts to transform our condition to match the truth as it is in Jesus. Then our lives are filled with the power of the Spirit of truth and love that reconciles us to God.
One way in which we may identify with Jesus is to resonate with and soak in the words He spoke while here on earth. We can allow His Spirit to apply His words to our present experience in sometimes unexpected ways, yet that are consistent with what Scripture teaches us about God as revealed in all the teachings and actions of Jesus. For instance, consider these words of Jesus to His disciples and then see how we might apply them if we identified with them from our perspective.
Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:1-3 NAS95)
There are so many exciting things in this passage that it is hard to not plunge in to explore them all. But the one thing I want to emphasize to start with is the desire of Jesus expressed for us to be where He is with Him. This is actually the definition of joy, for we have learned that according to how our nervous system is designed, joy is the sensation we experience when we realize someone who cares deeply about us wants to be close to us no matter what is happening. So when Jesus says that He wants us to be where He is would be the same as Him saying that He wants us to live in joy, which is in fact reinforced by what He says about joy in the surrounding context.
Jesus says here that He promises to come again for the purpose of receiving us to Himself. That is reassuring if we believe that He truly loves us and that nothing can separate us from His love as Romans 8 emphasizes. Jesus wants us to be with Him, but in what way is He thinking when He speaks of wanting us with Him? Is He merely talking about physical location? We have long assumed that this is all He had in mind, but I have come to question that this is even the main point of what Jesus had in mind.
Being located in close physical proximity to someone in no way assures us that we will feel comfortable around them, much less joy, peace, acceptance or love. The very opposite is possible if we retain fears about the person who is trying to get close to us. If we have doubts about their motives towards us, we may actually feel increasing apprehension the closer we get to them. Simply imagining that being in the same location as Jesus will solve all our problems does not take into account our disposition about how we feel about God. For if we retain any notion that God feels differently about us than does Jesus at any point in time, then we may not be so excited about being where Jesus is since He is very close to the Father which would put us in that same location.
But what if Jesus is referring to relationship more than location? And what if the preparation that Jesus went to carry out has more to do with the kind of dwelling places that God wants to inhabit? What are the dwelling places that God prefers? Is it not human beings who are open and welcoming of His presence and not afraid of Him? The safe dwelling places for God are people who have been delivered from all the lies they have had about Him that previously made them afraid. Not much farther in this passage we find extensive discussion by Jesus about dwelling in us and us in Him and He in the Father and all these involved in one tight, intimate relationship of love in which we are invited to participate.
Scripture makes it rather clear that the preferred dwelling place of God is with us, but it implies that it is not just in close proximity to us but rather so close that it is actually inside of us. Thus the implications of this become enormous, exciting or possibly terrifying if we are not yet ready for God to get that close to us with His infinite power and holiness. How can we get ready for this?
Let me stretch our thinking just a bit further here. What if we identified with Jesus so as to apply these words to Him just as He applied them to us? If we did this, I don't believe it violates the sentiment of His desire for us to be with Him if we said the same thing to Him.
Jesus, I choose to receive you to into myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
Is this in harmony with what God wants for us? To receive the Spirit of Jesus into our heart is to receive everything that is in Him, all the love and goodness and power of the Godhead in Christ.
So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit."
(John 20:21-22 NAS95)
I have actually been experimenting with this for some time now and I find it thrilling to know that Jesus is excited to take me up on my offer for Him to be welcomed inside me so that He can be with me and identify with where I am to do whatever it takes to prepare my heart to be a dwelling place for God to move in to dwell in me without fear or inhibition or resistance to Him. By giving Jesus daily permission by receiving Him into myself without resistance, He comes in to clean house to prepare my dwelling place for God to inhabit. This a stunning proposition I believe God is eager to fulfill.
Is this idea not consistent with the rest of what Jesus talks spoke of here? I see it fitting perfectly with what Jesus just stated. Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. The reason our heart might be troubled over having God too close to us or getting too close to God is that we have not yet come to trust His heart or His motives. The myriads of lies we have grown up assuming about Him have led us to feel suspicious of God at best. The fact is that lies believed destroy the living circle of love and mutual trust and result in broken relationship. This is the core problem of sin: not broken rules that make an offended deity angry at us, but broken trust that makes us afraid of the very Source of love and life that we cannot live without. This is what makes our heart troubled, because we are afraid of really believing that God is as good as Jesus or that Jesus is exactly the same as God and that they both love us unconditionally, passionately, incessantly and irrepressibly.
One reason Jesus came into our world as a human to identify with us was to provide us a subdued revelation of God so we could come close enough to Him to learn that all our fears about Him are unfounded. The reason God warned Moses that He could not see His face and live was not because God might kill Moses if he sneaked a look at God's face. Rather it was because the intensity of the love that defines the face of God cannot be survived by anyone who retains the slightest doubt about His love for them. There is no fear in love John writes, for perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). Why? Because the cause of fear are lies that presume that God inflicts punishment on any who cross His will, and such beliefs resist the truth about the nature of God's love. Thus if there is fear in the heart of a person when they encounter the presence of God, that fear produces resistance to the love inherent in that presence and inhibits the person from being able to relate effectively with God. This is why every time a heavenly messenger shows up to humans they almost always have to warn us to not be afraid. For it is fear itself that is dangerous, not God's presence.
We learn from nature the principle of how resistance operates in that when power encounters resistance it results in heat caused by friction that can eventually result in self destruction. Resistance is the problem, not the power being resisted. In the same way it is fear itself that threatens to destroy us in the presence of love, not the passionate love itself that ever flows from the heart of God and is represented in Scripture as rivers of fire. So long as we cling to resistance against love, God has to mediate His love and 'dumb it down' to our level so as to protect us until we allow Him to synchronize in the ways of love. If we consent, God can finish His work of preparing our hearts to thrive in His love so that we can someday be able to stand unafraid in His unveiled presence of glory and thrive in that love without any fear that would torture us and destroy our intimacy with our Creator.
Those who are wise shall shine as the brightness of the expanse; and those who turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3)
The way we are prepared to be a dwelling place for Jesus and God and the Spirit is by receiving Them into ourselves and giving them full latitude to do whatever it takes to cleanse us of all unrighteousness – anything that resists the pure love of the Father of lights. As we cooperate with God's recreative work in us, we are transformed by the renewing of our mind by His very presence itself, for it is God who works in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
Jesus was sent by God to save us from our unbelief in His love that results in sins, malfunctions caused by our distrust of God's heart and lies we believe about ourself. He did this by entering into the depths of our fear so that we could identify with His feelings to see how He trusted His Father's love in every situation similar to ours. As we do this, the faith that Jesus ever maintained in His Father's love and care for Him becomes our trust in God's heart and we receive the very faith of Jesus. As Jesus is received into ourselves, His faith and trust in His Father's ever present love comes in as well as we rely on the faith of Jesus to be alive in us to produce obedience to all His commandments.
Here is the patience of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. (Revelation 14:12)
For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not give false testimony," "You shall not covet," and whatever other commandments there are, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love doesn't harm a neighbor. Love therefore is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:9-10)
So, how may we be restored to live in harmony with God's commandments which is simply a summary of what love looks like? By identifying with Jesus' identification with us and allowing Him full access to our heart so that God may work in us to both will and carry out His love from inside of us. The result will be that our life can then reflect the same glory of love that was witnessed in Jesus' life. His Spirit renews our mind and transforms our life to glow with the same reflection of passionate love that defines the very essence of the Godhead. It is through identification with Jesus' identification with us that we are reconciled to God's heart, not to change in any way how God feels about us but by allowing Jesus to change how we feel towards God as we let His love heal and save us. This is how we recover and are empowered to live out our true identity given us by God alone, by identifying with Christ as He has identified with us and letting His Spirit dwell in us just as He did in Jesus.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 NRSV)