In reply to Michael
Baptism is God's gift of unity with Jesus' death for the power to live the life of the resurrection through faith
"Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy."
To set your minds fully on the grace that will be brought to you in Jesus Christ; what a perspective! How our minds are drawn in every direction but the grace of God in Christ. How can we possibly keep this focus in the midst of all the good and necessary occupations and pursuits of life?
The power rests in the promise: "you shall be holy for I am holy." We are to be made like God. This is his work, he is in the business of making holy people.
We are reminded that we do not belong to oursleves; we have been bought with the price of Jesus' blood. We are hidden in God with Christ, to appear in glory only when Christ appears. This is true knowledge: to be sure of who God is, being revealed in Christ, and to be a partaker in the mystery, hidden for ages and generations past, that is Christ in you, and that is the hope of glory.
When the promise of making us holy is spoken into our lives, we are reminded of our true identity; it's not just about doing holy things, it's about being holy, being made a part of the holy relationship between the Father and the Son. Here lies the power to keep our thoughts focused: we are not what we do; we are what Jesus has done. What Jesus does is sacrifice himself to give us his life that he shares with the father. Now we have this life, though often we don't live it. But this is part of what wets our appetite for the hope to come; that Christ will be revealed, and in his revelation, grace will come. he is being revealed to us in his work of sanctification, and he will be revealed to us further all the way to ultimate consumation in eternity at the ressurection. This is a hope that was fulfilled at his ressurection, is being fulfilled in each and ever moment as his grace is seen in our lives, and will be revealed completely in the age to come.
As our own loneliness and helplessnes and failures cause us to depend on him all the more and seek him in his word, his promise is heard: "You will be holy for I am holy." Holiness assumes a cross, for the process of becoming set a part is a death to sin, and is painful.
As we experience his blessings, undeservedly and bountifully, when we are encouraged by the fellow members of the body of Christ, we rejoice at this foretaste of eternity, this dispensation of grace as he is revealed among us.
You see, preparing our minds for action is not a removal of our minds from the world, but a transformation of our perspective, brought about by the realization of our identity, to see that the happenings of this world are in fact the very process that is fufilling our hope of being holy as he is holy, and the very experience of his grace, the coming of Christ.
"Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance. The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy"
We don't like the word guilt. We avoid it like the plague. We are told that guilt is an attachment to the past and that we must 'let go and move on.' We sometimes succeed in this for a time, sometimes a long time, but it often has a way of creeping up again later in life when another situation or relationship reminds us that we are still sinners and still struggle with the same faults.
It is only the fool who would have us disregard this guilt, try to stifle it and put on the front of all-togetherness. Because the burden doesn't go away, it only restricts our freedom in other relationships.
But it is not only the guilt that the fool mocks, but even more so the offering. We like to feel on top of the situation, like we're in control. Even if we do recognize the guilt and get down to the messy and painful business of self-examination, our pride would tell us that it's up to us to fix the emotions, to get our self straightened out. But this is not God's way.
God is far more compassionate than we are. He knows our weakness and is more honest about it than we are. He knows that when we strive to work through our guilt and fix ourselves it is fact subtle pride that is holding on to the guilt and not allowing God to take it over. Jesus died to take away all guilt and shame of sin and fault. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death."
And what is this law of the Spirit that sets us free? It is this: that we are accepted. What cruel twist of the psyche is this that we do not want to hear that we are accepted? Why is it that we often want to hold on to the guilt, telling ourselves that we don't deserve acceptance, that we are not worthy of the gifts of God, namely, forgiveness of our own self, freedom from slavery to our sin and the enjoyment of relationships? "But the upright enjoy acceptance." This means that those who are in Christ, the "righteous one," are accepted, no matter what you've done, where you've been, who you've hurt, how far you've fallen short, how stubborn your faults.
But to allow this to be true in us, even though Christ has already taken the guilt and accepted us, we must be willing to make the offering; for only the fool mocks the offering. What is the offering? It is the open hands that say "God my father, I can't."
That's it, we can't, but our pride would have us stop there so that we remain enslaved to the "I can't." The offering is not complete until we move on to say "God, you can, and you did, and you will, in me." This is true offering, because it is acceptance. God knows that we are killing our self by our guilt, and that we are estranging our self from those close to us through that guilt. This is the offering that the Israelites were to bring to God. They were to offer a lamb from their own flock, signifying that what they have was only meant to be given up, and the forgiveness was promised when it was given up, for the lamb pointed to the Lamb Jesus, who takes away the sin of the world. The Israelite who offered the guilt offering was recognizing the guilt and his inability to solve it and giving up the guilt to the God who loves and takes it away.
This is why the Proverb says "but the upright enjoy acceptance;" for after recognizing and confessing the guilt they let God take it away so that their lives are not stunted from loving and living to the fullest in the relationships that God has given. Look at the sufferings of Jesus for our sake. He did all that to take the guilt away; would we withhold our guilt from him after all he has done for us? He desires to take it and make it his own, nailing it to the cross; he was the offering. His resurrection is given when we allow our guilt to be taken. This is the gospel: That we have failed, that we are inadequate and incapable, that we are guilty, but that Jesus takes it all on himself so that we might live freely for him loving one another, not according to the guilt that was ours and now his, but according to the forgiveness that is his in us to the glory of his father.
"The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy."
Some things must certainly be worked through alone. No one can tell you what your bitterness is; you know it all too keenly. Only Christ knows the bitterness that is in your heart, the sour grapes you have eaten, whether by your fault or the fault of another. These things are worked through in the heart but let it not be held onto by the heart. Sometimes we are so used to pain and guilt that it becomes our security, part of our identity and we don't even know how to be any different. That is why it must come back to the offering; we don't have to 'change our self,' rather, the heart knows its own bitterness, and Christ who dwells in you, knows it even better than yourself. He knows you and knew you before you were made, and his death was for you, that the guilt in your heart that he is intimately acquainted with might be his own, and you, the freed one.
Then is your joy full. This is not the joy of the world, the life of a party, but the well which springs up from the same heart who has known bitterness. This is God's marvelous creation; that the truest of joy is shared with only the most intimate of loves. "No stranger shares its joy," but within the body of Christ we are no strangers. Let the guilt offering be your acceptance, that the acceptance of God might be the joy of your heart.