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Formation Through Participation: Identity and Movement

Formation Through Participation: Identity and Movement

Personalized by the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit, pp. 267-269

      “Christian sanctification takes place in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.  Those who have been encountered by the love of God and confronted by the Grace of Jesus Christ are given to live their lives according to a new way – the way of communion.  In chapter 3, we argued that the Spirit is continuously active in the incarnate Son, preserving his full and faithful humanity.  Likewise, we too require the continuous activity of the Spirit in order to actualize our full and proper humanity.

     In the New Testament, Jesus’s life of faithfulness and obedience is described less as the display of a Herculean feat of will power and more as communion – the manifestation of his Spirit-led love for the Father worked out in every aspect of his life.  From this standpoint, obedience is the flower of communion, not its root.  The nature and posture of this communion-driven relationship are given expression in the biblical language which contrasts slaves and hirelings to sons and friends.  The difference between these two human orientations is the Spirit, sent from the Son into our hearts.  The Spirit who preserved the humanity of Christ is given to us in such a way that our humanity is also preserved and enhanced, as we participate in Christ.  In contrast to the mind centered in ourselves and governed by our own autonomous reason in isolation from God, the Spirit teaches us the mind of Christ through which we learn to think, worship and serve in a God-centered way.  That is, through his Spirit, we are no able to have koinonia with Christ in which we truly “share with him his mind”  (Col 1:19-22; Phil 2:5, Rom 12:1-2), drawing near to the Father with no other oblation, prayer, faith or love and no other response other than that of Christ himself.  This reality locates human agency firmly within the category of participation.  That which we offer to the Father through the Son is a form of the life of Christ in us.  Through the Spirit, we live not so to God, as in and with God.  We live out of identities constituted by communion, for there is no true following of Christ that is not also fellowship with him.  That is the life of faith.

     Torrance solution to alienated minds is the gracious intervention of the personalizing Spirit. The picture Torrance paints of this fellowship or communion is one in which the inner circle of the self is not only broken into from without, but is also emancipated and recreated from within;  our sheer existence is undergirded by the substitutionary, vicarious movement of God in Christ.

    This is a movement Torrance also describes as theosis.  By coming into us, the Spirit opens us up for a “corresponding act” which entails the renunciation of ourselves, “that the divine love may have its way with [us] in a self-less objectivity.” (Theology in Reconstruction, Torrance, p. 238) Torrance offers a concrete and penetrating description of this self-renunciation.  It is:

   “A relentless objectivity in which you do not love your neighbor because love is a form of your self-fulfillment, in which you do not think out of your own self-centeredness but out of a center in the incarnate Word who summons you to leave all and follow Him, and in which you do not pray or worship God in your own name or in your own significance but only in the name and significance of Jesus Christ… in which you do not feed upon yourself but feed only upon the Body and Blood of the Lord.”

     To summarize Torrance in plainer language: we only become ourselves in him and the only way to be ‘in him’ is to be ‘out of ourselves.’  But we cannot get out of ourselves by ourselves; so God the Spirit comes into us to open us out for God, so that we might “find our life not in ourselves but out of ourselves objectively in him.”  God himself is the one who “creatively brings about within us… faith, hope, and love,” by opening us to acceptance of his self-impartation to us.

    Thus, while faith is not a human work, it does involve our creaturely “Amen!”  Faith is the obedience of reason to the nature and reality of God.  Accordingly, the decision of faith is more properly construed in the mode of acceptance and obedience than in the mode of achievement.  In faith we feed on what God has given, rather than strive for what we do not have.  Thus, a non-believer or a believer who doesn’t line in the communion –generated qualities of faith, hope and love is denying and resisting reality.  This constitutes rejection of their humanity by going against its grain and refusal of its benefits and its true end in a right relationship with God.  In this sense, sin is sin against one’s own self, and God opposes us when we are opposed to ourselves.  What is required is metanoai (repentance), in which we allow the Spirit to train us away from sin’s prison of guilt, fear, and anxiety, and into the humanizing and personalizing qualities of faith – hope and love.”

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2 Pet 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Eph 2: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Col 1:2 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

John 6:46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” 52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.

John 15: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. (NIV)

2 Cor 1: 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

2 Cor 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Matt 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

Luke 14: 25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Romans 6:1  What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

The heart cannot love what the mind does not know” – Jen Wilkin

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