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16.2 The Absence of Christ

16.2 The Absence of Christ
© 2016 Christ Revealed Bible Institute

The Absence of Christ
It is an astonishing thing to me to realize that the church did not actually turn away from Paul’s gospel or from John 14:20. The church never knew Paul’s gospel or that John 14:20 is even in the Bible, let alone our only Salvation.

Thus the church, from the beginning, constructed a Christianity that did contain Christ because Christ cannot be absent, but that contained no knowledge of “You in Me and I in You.” All that is codified and explained of Christianity in all that it appears or has been known exists entirely outside of and with no knowledge of John 14:20! And Ephesians 3:17 is basically irrelevant.

The Tree of Life
Let me define the tree of life from the New Testament. Christ lives in your hearts by faith (Ephesians 3:17). – Know that I (Jesus) am in the Father and you in Me and I in you (John 14:20). That’s it! – Everything that is of God and Christ and Salvation as they really ARE comes only out from living entirely inside of this tree of life.

Everything that is of Christianity as it has appeared in this world has been constructed separately from that tree of life. Notice that I said “as it has appeared.” The Lord Jesus is and has always been planted in this earth as His church and He does all things well.

Christ OR the Flesh
God has a great purpose – choosing the best means to the best ends – for 1900 years of Christians carried by Christ but ignorant of the tree of life. We are seeking to understand appearance in the present age, for death is by choosing to align one’s self with appearance, and we are determined to be saved from death.

If the Lord Jesus lives in our hearts, if we are IN Jesus IN the Father and if this Jesus is IN us, then we might honestly conclude that such a Salvation is a BIG deal. Thus we see Jesus alone, and we see the flesh as belonging entirely to Him. But if we see the flesh as a BIG deal, then Jesus vanishes from our immediate sight and our entire concern is over “what the flesh is doing.”

Simon Stylites
From the passing of John on, you will find no concern in the church regarding what Jesus is doing in us, but you will find, rather, great concern regarding what the flesh is doing in this present age, a concern growing to monstrous proportions.

Let’s begin with the strongest example of the exaltation of the flesh, coming just after Augustine, before looking at how this honor given to human flesh actually works. According to Wikipedia, Simon Stylites lived from AD 388 -459 in today’s Turkey/Syria. Even as a child, he gave himself utterly to austerity, so much so that the monks of an austere monastery asked him to leave. Austere means refusing to give your body what it desires.

The Desires of the Body
Let’s focus that. Paul said, “Put to death the deeds of the body.” Paul was always speaking Christ, thus we know that he meant place the deeds of your body entirely into the cross of Christ and live, now by the Spirit, by all the good speaking of Christ. But the church knew nothing of that. Rather, they took Paul’s words out of context, making the desires of the body to be the enemies of Christ.

The body has four primary desires. The desire to eat and drink, the desire to do energetic things, the desire to rest and feel comfortable, and the desire to engage in sex. Simon Stylites attacked all four in really bizarre ways.

The Flesh on a Pillar
The amazing thing is that everyone considered his anti-flesh antics to be “holy,” so they flocked to see him, that they also might receive a “miracle” from a far-away God. To get away from the crowds and to best deny his body, Simon Stylites found an ancient pillar, climbed to the top, built a platform, and spent the next 37 years on top of a pillar. His only sustenance was that little boys would climb up the pillar with just enough food and water to keep him alive. And all this, to acknowledge the primacy and greatness of the flesh. Oh me, oh my, the flesh is everything, we must bow in honor to the power of the flesh above Christ. And all this time he spent in “prayer,” often with raised arms.

All about the Flesh
John had said that Christ IS now come IN the flesh and that any denial of Christ in the flesh is the spirit of anti-Christ. But the church did not know “I in you and you in Me.” Thus the only thing left to those living in the tree of the knowledge of right and wrong is that either you are doing what the flesh wants or you are refusing to do what the flesh wants. Both ways, the flesh fills the sight of the human and rules as Lord.

Every act of subjugating the flesh is a declaration that the flesh is Lord; every act of indulging the flesh as if it is your own is a declaration that the flesh is Lord.

Getting “Close to” God
Life is found only in our flesh belonging utterly to Jesus, He responsible for it in every way.  Life works, you see, because Jesus IS real, and He really does live in us and He really is completely responsible for us in all of our stumbling and failure.

Christians by the thousands flocked to see Simon Stylites on his pillar, convinced that God would touch them if they could just get near this guy – the exaltation of the flesh! The idea that Jesus, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, might be in them in all fullness, Jesus, personally, was totally absent from Christian thought, as it is today. How very, very sad.
The Desire for Sex
The biggest area of contortion for Christians with the flesh is, of course, sex.

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). We can draw only one conclusion from this line as well as from all the realms of life in all creation. God loves sex. “God blessed them by telling them to have lots of sex” is a valid paraphrase of Genesis 1:28.

It is not sex, however, that is most important to God, but people. Thus God placed sex into marriage both for the joy of husband and wife and for the sake of the children to be born.

The Worst Kind of Theft
There is no question that sex apart from marriage cheapens and mocks God’s generous gift. But more than that, sex apart from marriage is an incredible crime of long-lasting cruelty committed against the children who will be born. Sex outside of marriage is the worst kind of theft, in more ways than one. It is utterly cruel.

But God made the sex drive to be a big deal, and Christians are certainly not immune to being driven to satisfy that drive outside of the holy marriage-bed. And sex outside of marriage just messes up all sorts of relationships. Paul dealt much with this problem in his letters. It is and remains a devastating concern.

Paul’s Bizarre Comments
But the church did something really bizarre regarding God’s gift of sex, beginning in the second century of the church. Christians determined that the “temptation” in Eden was the temptation come upon Adam to have sex with his wife.

Now, there are things Paul seems to have said that I ignore completely. That is my right. The verses from Paul that I emphasize above all are ignored completely by other Christians, so they cannot fault me. But Paul had some really bizarre things to say about sex and the relations between men and women in the church. Those statements were completely separate from his gospel of Christ our life; some are even out of Aristotle!

The Elevation of “Saints” and Clergy
Thus, there grew in the church, from Paul’s bizarre and peripheral statements, a belief that sex in marriage was okay, but to really be holy, to really be “close to God,” then total abstinence from sex was the trick. Thus from early on, the clergy and the “saints” were elevated above the common mass of Christians as being “closer to God” entirely on the basis of sex/no sex, entirely on the basis of the flesh.

Augustine’s Confessions, the most read book through Christian history, interlaces a clear and deep love for Jesus together with a profound loathing of himself because of his desire for sex. “God, I hate the way You made me.”
Controlling the Flesh
And so there came this conviction rooted under all Christian theology, the belief that God and the devil, working together, use sex to tempt the Christian, to see what he or she will do.

Not having sex is as sinful as having sex with anyone and everyone. Not having sex exalts the flesh just as much. You see, in all this contention, Jesus Himself, our Savior and our Salvation, present now with us, in whom alone we live, who alone is all that we are, is completely absent.

Yet there is nothing that causes Christians to despise the flesh, to hate the way God made us, more than the out-of-control sex drive. Thus, controlling the flesh becomes the focus of the Church.

Swirling Sand
Flesh controlling flesh. Self dying to self. The old man putting off the old man. Build a sand castle as the waves sweep across the sand and what do you build? Everywhere you put the sand, the next wave just swirls it around back to where it was. Flesh controlling flesh, self putting self to death is building one’s house entirely on the sand. It does not work; Christians KNOW it does not work, but they cannot break from it. “I have a responsibility of my own.” And the only conclusion there can be is that if Christ is totally ineffective so long as we are in these bodies of flesh, then all that is Christ MUST BE only when we are dead.

A Gospel of Self and Death
“I have a responsibility of my own” is an in-your-face declaration to God that Jesus is not sufficient for me. It is the desire of self to maintain self; it is the desire to boast in the flesh before God, to have a righteousness of one’s own.

“What did you do?” – “I put the Lord Jesus Christ upon all that I am, spirit, soul, and body, entirely by faith because You say and not by what I saw.” – “Hey, I know you, and you already know how welcome you are here inside of Jesus.”

“What did you do?” – “I did pretty good; I did my best. You can’t ask more of me than that.” – “I don’t know anything about that. Next.”

And so the church chose a gospel of self and of death.

Next Lesson: 16.3 The Rule of Flesh