Partakers of His Nature
One of the great spiritual promises of all time is the promise that we as mortal men can, through the impartation of Christ into our lives, become "partakers of the divine nature" (II Peter 1:4). To become partakers of the divine nature must certainly be counted among the greatest of the Christian's aspirations.
What can be more glorious, more rewarding or fulfilling in the Christian life than to know that our natures are being made over -- "reconstructed" if you will-- through the infusion of our Creator's nature into us? What else could assure us of the highest possible meaning to our existence?
As wonderful as this promise is, the weaving of the fullness of God's nature into our lives is also the most formidable to obtain. The nature of God is exceedingly vast while ours is so frail—so limited as to what it can comprehend, receive, and display of God's personality at any given time.
In its expansiveness, the divine nature embodies traits that are so diverse as to appear diametrically opposed to mortals. Such extreme characteristics displayed toward men as wrath, love, hate, compassion, justice, mercy, jealousy and indifference—all of them holy—dwell in perfect harmony together in the same God, our God.
The Divine Nature in Jesus Christ
We are able to appreciate, though not comprehend, this breadth of nature simply by observing the life of our Lord Jesus. Scriptures declare that in Christ "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 1:19), and that He is the "express image of God" (Heb. 1:3). In Jesus are perfectly held and displayed all the attributes of the divine nature. Even a brief examination of His ministry easily reveals the display of all these traits.
But such examination also exposes our deep human inadequacy in coping with the irrational clash between antithetical traits in this One whom we call our God, our divine model for all time.
Of all the traits we know God to possess, the one we associate foremost with our Lord Jesus is love. We know for an undisputable fact that Jesus' passion for the Father was the supreme motivator behind every other trait He displayed (Jn. 14:31). But past this, our perception fails when we try to make sense of the outworking of that love concerning mankind. We behold a blurred hodge-podge of contradictory attitudes and actions that make definition of the divine nature impossible to us.
The following set of contrasts from Jesus' life may seem unnecessary, and will almost certainly prove very offensive. We do our best to avoid these unseemly contrasts out of sheer human respect for our Lord in the face of our inability to justify them by what we believe we know of His nature. Nevertheless, we must for this discussion's sake peek at some of the unbearable contradictions that marked Jesus' ministry. Let us try to keep these to a minimum:
- On the mount of His famous sermon, Jesus taught love for enemies and at one occasion reprimanded two disciples for desiring to bring down God's fire on some. He also exhorted men to be peacemakers. However, at His first and last Passovers in Jerusalem, He physically assaulted His enemies in the temple with a whip which He personally constructed for that sole purpose, violently overthrowing their offensive tables of merchandise.
- In the same sermon, Jesus exhorted His people to guard their words concerning others, particularly warning of the dangers of God's judgment for labeling others as "fools." At the same time, He was known to openly, brazenly refer to Pharisees as "vipers," and once derogatorily labeled the local king as a "fox." Later, after His resurrection, He directly called two of His followers "fools."
- On one occasion, Jesus exhorted men to honor their parents with their life's substance and not use their giving to the Lord as an excuse for failing to provide for them. Elsewhere, though, He instructed men to hate their parents and showed indifference to parental concerns when calling others to follow Him. Contrary to His own exhortations to peacemaking, He said that He himself came to bring a sword of division to families.
- In many places we read of Christ's tender heart of compassion for the sick, the blind, and the needy. At Sidon, however, Jesus at first refused to heal a woman's daughter simply because she was not a Jew, and in effect called her a "dog." And this was in spite of the fact that He had earlier healed a Roman centurion's servant! (He finally healed the daughter.)
- Jesus clearly pronounced woes upon the rich, yet chose a rich publican to be one of his chosen disciples and later at Jericho was quick to embrace the wealthy Zaccheus.
- Jesus displayed many of these contradictory natures within weeks, days, even hours of each other. But on some occasions, they were evidenced in the very same conversation or address. Immediately after blessing Peter for His spiritual insight, He rebuked him and called him "Satan."
- In one breath, Jesus said He would judge no one for anything while in the next declared that He would be judging the very ones to whom He spoke (Jn 8:15-16,26). In a single encounter, He showed His trademark healing compassion while chiding those He was healing for their unbelief. Numerous times, the God of all patience and longsuffering demonstrated exasperation with the pharisees, the multitudes, and even His own disciples.
"I Want to Become More Like Jesus"
Our inability to reconcile these conflicting attributes holds profound implications for us who aspire to obtain the divine nature. One of the more profound teachings of recent years has been the emphasis on our becoming conformed to the image of Christ as the goal of our salvation. This has been a most worthy and refreshing exhortation to the whole body, and has gone far to restore us to the true center of our faith. But, given our inability to harmonize all of Christ's incongruities, what is it we envision when imagining ourselves made over in His image?
Careful, honest searching will reveal that when we say we desire to be like Jesus, what we really mean is that we want to be conformed only to a certain part of His likeness. Further digging will uncover that the part of Christ to which we would be molded is the image we can explain, and the image we can explain is the image we are already able to grasp according to a limited experience of Him. But the traits of Christ which we have not personally tasted and cannot explain, these we have no desire to be shaped by, even though we see them in the Bible.
Why is our taste and view of the Lord so partial? The answer lies in the limitations built into what we receive of Christ's nature when we are born again. We know from scripture that God has sovereignly planted different spiritual giftings in His people. But what we have not apprehended is that this work of particular impartation also applies to the very nature by which we know the Lord.
On the same principle that we have received limited gifts and callings, the Holy Spirit has regenerated our very nature with only a selective infusion of Christ's "genetic code." Through this infusion, we personally relate to the Lord according to but one or a few primary attributes of His nature. Those attributes form for us the foundational partial image of Christ by which we identify with Him.
Engaging the Process of Spiritual Maturity
Since we do not have Christ's complete nature, nor realize that we do not, we are left to fend for ourselves in attempting to relate together all the contradictory displays of the Lord. The face value scriptural accounts of the words and actions of Jesus leave us confused and bewildered. What then do we do with these aspects of divinity that fail to line up with our limited vision of Him? Unable to recognize them as valid expressions of God's nature, we find we either ignore them or else seek to redefine them in terms of the image we already bear.
Those of us, for example, who have tasted primarily of Jesus' compassion toward men attempt to find a way to modify His every word and action marked by hostility toward others. We feel the need to redefine His exasperations, violence, and provocations in terms that can ultimately be traced to a universal love for all men. Conversely, those whose vision of the Lord is primarily attuned to His truth nature feel compelled to redefine every unfair, inconsistent, and "compromising" action of Jesus in terms of His justice and righteous enmity toward sin.
At first, this seems to work. For a while we meet with some success in re-explaining many of Christ's conflicting actions by the portion of His nature we have received. But eventually, it does not work. As through spiritual age more and more subtleties appear in the gospels that continue baffling our limited image, we find we cannot continue this game of "checkmate" with the scriptures.
It is here that the challenge of true spiritual maturity opens to us, and the secret to how we may become partakers of the full divine nature. In planting just a small portion of Christ's nature within us, the Father has purposely left the remainder as a hidden potential to be obtained. He has strategically established that, in order to obtain the full potential, we must reach out past our "native" nature and overcome the unknown of God by faith.
For this to happen, we must reach the point of futility in relating all of Christ's attributes to the primary one we possess. Then in humility, we must through a blind faith invite the Holy Spirit to submit us to the elements of His being that are humanly irreconcilable with what He has first planted in us.
The divine nature is so vast that we cannot trace all of God's thoughts and actions to just one of His elements and measure all else by that element. His attitudes toward man cannot be universally traced to either His love or his holiness, or any other single quality of His personality. "How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!" (Rom 11:33).
Real spiritual maturity begins at the point that we encounter the limits of our image of Christ and make that surrender to the traits that don't "fit." Only then can we truly say we are becoming conformed to His image. Progress in maturity is only measurable at the place that our lesser image is replaced with His greater image. This is how we obtain the promise of the divine nature.
The Body of Christ and the Divine Nature
The body of Christ represents the sum of the divine nature. Each part fulfills a specific function according to divine plan as ordered by the head. In recent years, much good teaching has come forth concerning the diversity of the body of Christ. To date, the emphasis on the applications of that diversity have been limited to differences in messages, callings, and the ministry functions of particular groups and streams. But there is a deeper cause for the diversity.
We must see that the root of diversity in the body is traced to the diversity in the divine nature itself. The different messages and doctrinal distinctives, and to some extent differences in callings and ministry functions are ultimately attributable to the specific primary traits of the Lord's life with which a certain stream has been infused.
For every message, attitude, and function of Jesus we see in the Gospels, there has been a corresponding primary impartation of divine nature somewhere in the body of Christ in every generation of this age. There have been, for example, streams peculiarly branded with Christ's compassion, or His judgment, or His identification with lost sinners, or His separation from the religious systems of men, and so on. These underlying infusions have birthed the functions and messages by which each is recognized.
As He has dealt with us individually, likewise corporately the Spirit has purposely infused each group of Christ's body with a primary element of His nature. Because this is so, and because the elements of God's nature are so humanly antithetical, it is no wonder that genuine spiritual unity has proven to be such a stumblingblock throughout this age. Simply consider some of the more obvious age-long contentious sentiments between those of opposing natures:
Those streams whose primary love for the Lord is tuned to the frequency of His discipleship truth tend to view all those who make up the human compassionate streams as part of the false apostate "harlot" church surrendered to the world. Those whose primary love for the Lord is tuned to the frequency of His compassion tend to see all who comprise the prophetic judgment streams as part of self-righteous legalistic cults responsible for spreading the religious spirit of anti-christ into the church.
There is a certain amount of truth in each other's observations (- it is always easier to see the fault in those with a differing vision of the Lord). Nevertheless, our primary natures have proven to be stumblingblocks to us, precluding the possibility of unity with those of opposing nature.
To this time, our attempts at unity have failed because they have been superficial and shortsighted. Genuine unity is not ultimately a matter of reconciling doctrinal positions, callings, or functions of ministry. Manifest spiritual unity is a matter of reconciling the humanly contrary elements of the divine nature in us.
If we would see true unity in the body of Christ, we must accept the imposing challenge of receiving into our lives and our groups all the elements of the divine nature. Such unity depends on spiritual maturity.
Spiritual maturity in a stream of the church is marked by the degree to which it can recognize and embrace the nature of Christ in the elements that are specifically contrary to its native element. This can only be realized by submitting to relationship with those whose primary element is contrary to ours.
Divine Divergence versus Artificial Divisions
Why are there "streams" at all? Why should not every church and stream be marked by every feature of Christ's nature? It is because Christ can only be joined to one body, but yet has many facets of nature which He desires to express through that body. Hence there are streams. No stream can "have it all." If it did, Christ would have more than one complete body. But He only desires one body, and that one must always remain greater than the sum of the natures that comprise it.
Streams of particular nature exist to bear witness to a certain trait of the Lord. As such, they are for our personal foundational development in that trait. Each stream provides an initial home for the early development of those who have received the same nature of the Lord.
But the strategic diversity of streams also exists as the design by which God intends to perfect each stream. For it is in the leaving of our native stream and reaching out to explore all the streams that we become partakers of the complete divine nature. Not that we will lose our primary nature in Christ, but we must go on to perfect it.
All these things speak to the legitimate diversity God has planted into His people within the unifying oneness marked by our sole love for Him. Sadly however, because of the remaining fleshly veil over our limited vision, genuine diversity becomes corrupted. This veil converts our legitimate distinctives into artificial divisions marked by the sectarian spirit.
The flesh accomplishes this by de-centering us from our love of the Lord, and replacing it with love for our nature in the Lord. Led to now esteem our limited nature in the Lord, we are held prisoner to our nature as if behind a jail cell wall, cut off from those of different natures, prevented from receiving completeness through them. From behind our wall, we proceed to spin the divisive doctrines by which we reinterpret all of God's scriptures in terms of our impartation, and by which we wrongly judge the legitimacy of our opposite brethren.
What is today called denominationalism is the fleshly counterpart to the genuine divergences of divine nature planted in us by God. The contrast of divinely ordained spiritual streams with their sectarian counterparts is pictured by true Israel and Babylon.
Israel was composed of twelve tribes, each with a portion of Jacob's nature, but all speaking the same language. Babylon however was comprised of a jumbled conglomerate of some 120 provinces, peppered with different languages. The tribes of Israel were born by family relationship from within. The provinces of Babylon were conquered and ruled by force from without.
The Emergence of the Complete Church out of Babylon's Chaos
As the true church emerges out of her babylonian rival, and comes into mature inter-networked alignment, the fallen garb of denominationalism will be replaced by the multi-colored robe of Joseph. The church will no longer be ruled by oppressors who erect images of themselves, but will be led by "shepherd kings" who have lived out the process of coming into conformity with all of Christ's nature and whose sole motivation is love for the Father.
The spirit of sectarianism will be overthrown, but the genuine primary distinctives of the divine nature will remain with the varied purified streams for ongoing mutual perfection of all the saints. The confusion of many languages that has prevailed will be supplanted with the one language based in love for the Lord, though it will retain its various dialects based on specific natures. We will all know the one language, but our ongoing maturity will require our continuing education and growing fluency in the various dialects.
How then can we assure ourselves of our rightful place of inheritance among Israel's tribes? How can we be part of this glorified body of the Lord and contribute to her purity? There are some key principles we can follow that will help insure we become partakers of all the divine nature:
- Understanding Our Nature
First, we must have a right understanding and attitude toward the primary nature of Christ planted in us. We must have God's grace to discern between our genuine primary nature and our flesh's tracking of it. Our flesh mimics our spiritual nature to glorify itself.
If we have the primary nature of compassion, our flesh will pride itself on its compassion and quickly judge those who do not share that nature. If we have been infused with the primary nature of discipleship truth, our flesh will pride itself on its obedience to the truth and judge others for their failures in discernment of truth.
Let us always remember that, no matter what our primary nature from the Lord, it is our flesh that makes our nature into a stumblingblock for those who do not share it.
Not only must we reject our own flesh, but we must fail to yield to the fleshly oppositions from those outside us who do not share our nature. Being quick to forgive the misunderstanding of others, we must not yield to the condemnations that would accuse us over the obvious weaknesses that attend our primary quality in Christ. We must remain true to the Father over the nature His Spirit has planted in us.
- Apprehending the Opposing Natures of Others
We must also develop a right appreciation and attitude toward opposing predominant natures that appear in other streams. We must have the grace of God to discern the validity of divine impartation in others contrary to ours. We must find the grace to reach out and receive from them in spite of whatever stumblingblocks on their part may keep us from wanting that nature of the Lord.
A key to this is to refuse the constant temptation to reinterpret everything we hear from others by the trait most developed in us. Succumbing to this is what leads us to the false discernments about the validity of other natures and cuts us off from the possibility of receiving their infusion.
As we seek a right appreciation for and reach out to other natures, we must also refuse the temptation of compromising the validity of our nature to appease others and manufacture unity. While it is necessary to bite our tongue in order to hear out what others are saying, it never works to try to develop spiritual relationship by suppressing our true nature in Christ. We can only temporarily hide our true qualities in the Lord and if we attempt premature unity by this means, our relationship will shortly break apart through misunderstanding.
We must remember it is the Lord that builds His house, not us. The Lord will work out our proper joining to others. We must not try to fit ourselves. Sometimes this means we have to silently stand on the outside looking in on all else going on about us in different bodies of believers. It is better to wait in the desert of patience.
Ultimately, we must be fundamentally committed to love for the Father as our sole motive in everything. No matter our maturity level, supreme love for the Father will prevent our flesh from corrupting our nature into a demon-inhabited jail cell. A heart centered in the Father's love spells the difference between diversity and denominationalism, between true Israel and Babylon.
If we would be assured we have "fled Babylon," we must be secure in our non-negotiable love for the Father. For spiritual Babylon only exists where love for our nature in Christ replaces our love for Christ.
written from Merrimack, New Hampshire
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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Page created June 19, 2016