I am personally intrigued by the life of the apostle Paul. His life is one that exemplifies the difference in living a life that abides in Christ, in grace, after living a life abiding in religious law. After his meeting Christ in the desert he became changed not only in his name from Saul to Paul, but he changed from aggressively chasing others because of a religious standard not being met to chasing others in a posture of love, toward others in grace.
Under religious law, Saul was willing to kill.
Under grace, Paul was willing to die.
There is an immense distinction between these two personas of Saul/Paul. Saul is selfish, Paul selfless. Saul took lives, Paul gave life. Saul was a know-it-all, Paul only desired to know Christ. Saul hurt people, Paul healed. Saul abided in religion and the law, Paul abided in Christ.
Abide: to remain; continue; stay; to submit to or agree to
I recently got my first tattoo. It is the word, Abide, in script with leaves. It is based on John 15. I chose this word after years of carrying around the design idea and learning, knowing and becoming the abiding that I have with Christ. It is a visual token of the consciousness the Lord has given me of who I am in Him and He is in me. The word abide has been a calling upon my soul in all seasons I have experienced with Christ. It is the reminder that despite any circumstance or choice I and He remain one…we continue as one…He stays and never leaves me nor I Him…I submit my life to Him as He submitted his life for me.
So it is for each of us. It is of our choosing what we choose to abide in. Will we choose salvation but still abide more in religion, living obliviously to true grace in every area of our lives? Are we living as Sauls or Pauls?
The answer is found in how we treat those who oppose the counter-culture of true Christ abiding.
True Christ abiding believers love even those who abide in religion, theology or human effort. Those abiding in religious law either create the illusion of some meeting and some failing to meet a standard, or live from a sinners saved by grace reality. The first are cynical in their search for failures; often they ridicule or scorn those whose beliefs are different from theirs in the name of preservation of the Gospel. The second retain the identity of being a sinner; acknowledging eternal salvation by grace but are equal opportunity condemners, condemning others as well as themselves in light of Rom 3:23. This is mostly because of a misunderstanding of the new man they have become in Christ. (Romans 6) This kind of abiding in religious law is self-made, self-centered, and self-sustained. It does not last, nor does it allow for the fullness of Jesus’ joy, grace, and freedom to be glorified in our lives. Love cannot flow from condemnation.
Those who abide in Jesus rather than religion, theology or human effort are willing to be wronged for it. They love even those who oppose them. This love is not a gushy, touchy-feely love, but rather a love that nourishes, encourages, and comes from overflow of the love they have received from abiding in Christ and His love for them. It requires minimal effort, if any, and in actuality is unnoticed by the giver as an actual act being done. When we abide in Jesus we know Christ as our defender, victor, our life. Like Paul, we can live in confidence and freedom because, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) Opposition becomes a leading to surrender rather than reason for charging into a fight.Those abiding in Jesus have no need to defend themselves, because this class of abiding is Christ-made, Christ-centered, and Christ-sustained. Like a tattoo it is permanent and lasting.
Once experienced, a noticeable difference can be distinguished between the two different abidings. Expectation, standards, and law is replaced by submission, love and grace.
Saul becomes Paul.