In the last three posts I talked about some new ways to see “why the cross.” The cross was a necessary demonstration of God’s love so that mankind could learn to trust Him. The cross was an expression of God’s nature so mankind could believe in Him and know Him. The cross was God’s wrath against our fallen nature so we could be free from the delusion forever, no more angry God nightmares. Jesus was born into our flesh, our fallen Adamic nature, and wrestled that doubt and fear and shame and guilt and rebellion right to the cross and into the grave. On the cross Adam died since Adam was in Jesus. Our old man died with Jesus on that cross. Yes it is a great mystery, a mystical reality, an existential supernatural event, an intrinsic revelation of a greater truth…yeah all that and more.
For most Christians the cross is where we hang out. It is the place we hold central to our beliefs. Still the cross is not what saves us. Sorry if I step on toes but the cross does not “get you to heaven” or “keep you out of Hell.” The cross is a necessary supernatural event that makes salvation possible but it is not the thing that saves us. JESUS SAVES US. His salvation plan sets us free from the power of Sin (a new identity), the works of the Devil (no more lies about God and us) and death itself (we will be resurrected like Christ and have no reason to fear death ever). He saves us from our fallen way of thinking about God because now we are joined to Him and share His thoughts and emotions about His Father. He saves us from our hurts and hangups because He shares our emotions and experiences and gives us His peace and joy. He saves us from our messes because He is right there in the middle of our messes. He saves us from our rebellion because He understands our rebellion and reveals to us our misconceptions and delusions. He saves us from ourselves while He transforms ourselves from the inside out. He is actually working an inside job. Like the undercover agent, He has come into the far country (as Baxter Kruger says) and has rescued His children from their illusionary coma. So Jesus saves us by His union with us. He is doing it personally from an intimate relationship with us through the Holy Spirit. We participate in the triune circle dance of the divine other-centered Love relationship. We are seated in the heavenly places in Jesus sharing ourselves with Him as He shared the Father-Son with us. Yay!
One of the ways He is working the problem from the inside is to change the way we think about pretty much everything. The renewing of our minds changes our perspectives. This “re-wiring” can be painful and sometimes gut-wrenching because we hold onto thoughts and ideas and concepts with a death grip. Actually to be transformed we have to die or give ourselves as a living sacrifice or pick up our cross or become the least-last. You have probably heard all that before, just maybe haven’t put it in that context. We have to give up our “right” to be “right” and our “control” to be “in control.” Then Jesus can take us down a path that we may not have traveled or revealed a truth we may not have entertained. That is what Paul is saying in these verses:
Rom 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)
Those are some power-packed words but before I get all “Greek” on you, here is another translation:
Rom 12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (The Message)
And just so you know that you know…here are a few verses that guarantee you have all the “wiring” available as a new creation born from above:
2 Cor 5:15 Now if all were included in his death they were equally included in his resurrection. This unveiling of his love redefines human life! Whatever reference we could have of ourselves outside of our association with Christ is no longer relevant. 5:16 This is radical, and our most defining moment! No label that could possibly previously identify someone carries any further significance! Even our pet doctrines of Christ are redefined. Whatever we knew about him historically or sentimentally is challenged by this conclusion. (By discovering Christ from God’s point of view we discover ourselves and every other human life from God’s point of view! Paul sees by revelation that what Jesus redeemed in every person brings absolute closure and death to any other reasoning and judgment we may have had of ourselves or anyone else for that matter! This is our ‘metanoia’ moment! “From now on therefore, we no longer know anyone according to the flesh, even though we once knew Christ from a human and religious point of view.”) 5:17 Now, in the light of your co-inclusion in his death and resurrection, whoever you thought you were before, in Christ you are a brand new person! The old ways of seeing yourself and everyone else are over. Acquaint yourself with the new! (The Mirror Bible)
1 Peter 1:3 May God be blessed, God the father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah! His mercy is abundant, and so he has become our father in a second birth into a living hope through the resurrection from the dead of Jesus the Messiah. (N.T. Wright Translation)
Back to the ESV translation of Romans 12:2. See that word “good”? The Greek root word is “agathos.” Agathos means “good” but it is an intrinsic good. It is the good that comes from the inside out. It is the good that is the nature of God Himself. This goodness is what is bubbling up from our insides as the Holy Spirit reveals our relationship with Jesus and our Abba. This is the “good” that feels good. This is the good that makes you smile and laugh and feel at peace, filled with joy. This is the “good” of the presence of God and glory of God and person of God. Many may not see it but Jesus is working His inside job to reveal it and feed it and cultivate it and mature it. This is His seed in our soil making something amazing from dirt in union with God…just like we were intended to be. To be really human is to be like Jesus, welling up from the inside, pouring out from our innermost being wells of living water. This is His goodness from our person while we are in union with Him. We abide in Him and this Agathos is what happens.
Sometimes some thorns and thistles have to get pulled out to make room for an abundant crop. Sometimes our soil is a little rocky and hard and dry. Sometimes we need to be drowned in His river of Love to permeate our soil with His liquid fertilizer. Sometimes He needs to use a hoe or a pick or a shovel or a jack hammer…ouch…to break up our wrong thinking and wrong ideas and religious delusions. Yea, sometimes there is work involved as we surrender ourselves as a living sacrifice. Still He is working the inside job. We are just dying to being in charge.
There is another Greek word for “good” which is “Kalos.” This word is used here:
Gen 2:16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (ESV)
Over the next few posts I would like to dig a little deeper to discover some important contrasts between Kalos and Agathos. I think you will be surprised and elated to see that the inside job is God’s plan and Jesus mission and the Holy Spirit’s revelation. The Agathos in us is our coming alive to our new creation status. The Agathos welling up in us is our response to a born again condition. The Agathos in us is our expression of our adoption in Him. The Agathos welling up from deep in us is Jesus working the inside job.
Let me leave you with a thought to ponder…
This word Agathos, which means intrinsic good, looks a lot like another word you may know, Agape. God is Love. God is Agape. Agape is the unconditional love of God that is at the deepest point of His nature. There is nothing of God beneath His Love. Every expression of Him is born from Love. That Love is the fabric of the Trinity. That Love is what defines the stuff that makes God three in one and the stuff that He made us to share in. I can’t find a single commentary or Lexicon or any other Greek reference that says Agathos and Agape are related in any way…but…you tell me. Don’t they look like they come from the same root? Maybe it is just my imagination or some deep desire from within, but maybe it is God showing us something so powerful we gasp at the revelation. Jesus who is Agape is revealing Agathos in us while we are being transformed in our minds to the truth of what it means to be human. We are His kids and kids should be like their parents. It has been an inside job from the very beginning, don’t you think?