Yesterday, I was talking with our Sunday School class about the big picture Redemption Story that God has initiated and how, by His grace, we are called up into that. We were looking at the narratives in Genesis and how God was the main character and how Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph only gain significance because God called them to be a part of His story. Then we talked about how we often get that backwards. What I mean is, we say things like, "I invited Jesus into my life," and "I'm making God a part of MY life." I don't dispute that God is interested in our lives and that he knows how many hairs we have on our head and that the Holy Spirit comes to live within us and all that, but I really don't think that it is accurate to say that we invite Jesus into OUR life as though he becomes a part of our life, like he is a decoration that we hang on the wall or something. I know that people mean something biblical by what they are saying but it's like we're saying that we invited Jesus into our house and we ask him to sit over there in a special chair just for guests and we'll get him something to eat in a minute, but we kind of hope that he doesn't stay too long so that we can get back to watching our favorite TV show that he probably wouldn't like much anyway. I don't think it works that way and I'm not saying that we mean things exactly that way when we say that we invited Jesus into our life, but that is how it sounds, and how something sounds is more important than we like to think it is.
In reality, God has invited us into His life, which is a much better proposition, I think. We are partakers of the Divine Nature and we are adopted into His family. Yes, He comes to live within us, but I really don't think that He would be very much at home in my life as it is. My life tends to be a mess. If God moved into my life, He would start rearranging the furniture and telling me to put away my clothes and get more organized. Well, I guess that God does do that, but at whatever level that He does come into our life, He completely changes things. He doesn't just hang out and help us accomplish our own goals so that we have high self esteem. Rather, He completely takes over. Still, I think that it is better to look at it another way as though we are being brought into God's life so that there is no confusion as to who is in charge.
God is gracious enough to call me into His life and He sent His Son Jesus so that I might be reconciled to God. God is not reconciling Himself to me as I am. God isn't going to become like me. He has made a way for me to become like Him, which is much better by far. I'm not talking about the Incarnation here. Yes, Jesus put on flesh and became sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God, but Christ isn't dying for sins again and He certainly isn't becoming sin again so that He can enter into my life. He has already done all of that. Now, He brings me into His life. Colossians 3 tells us that Christ is my life and that my life is now hidden with Christ in God. I know that Colossians 1:27 says, "Christ in you," but I think that that means something a bit different than the effect of saying that I have invited Jesus into my life. Are we meaning that we invite Jesus into our life and we are completely transformed? If so, we are not far from the truth. But, if we see Jesus as an add-on to our lives or as a means to a happy life, then we have problems.
And, that really is the biggest problem I have with saying that I invited Jesus into my life (other than the fact that it isn't really a biblical concept – where do we see people "inviting Jesus into their life" in the Bible?). It is far better, I think, that we have been called to participate in God's life and that we have become characters in God's story than it is that He becomes a character in our story. It is better to be God-centered than me-centered and that is really what I am getting at. I don't know about you, but my story when I live in my own strength is not that interesting. It involves me being tired a lot, running around like crazy, being selfish, feeling pretty insecure most of the time, and wondering if I am making a difference in the world while I contemplate how to best procrastinate and waste time. But, when I see myself as a character in God's story and I follow God's direction, everything changes. I have purpose. I am not nearly as introspective. I live for God and for others. I spend more time praying about what God's will is than trying to get my own requests answered. My struggles and insecurities take their proper place and bow the knee to Jesus. I learn what it means to say that Jesus is Lord and I get to see what life looks like inside God's Kingdom. It is beautiful.
So, it really is silly for me to say that I am inviting Jesus into my life. Don't get me wrong. I am not denying the Christ lives within me. I am not denying that the Holy Spirit has taken up residency within me. But, at that point, it isn't really my life anymore, is it? I belong to Him. "I am crucificed with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me" Gal. 2:20. It is better for me to understand that He has extended great mercy to me by adopting me into His family and bringing me from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom I have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:13-14). I have significance because His story is much better than mine (He is God, after all), yet He calls me to participate in His story with Him. What mercy. What amazing grace.
At the end of the day, if I am the one in charge, then it is my life. If God is in charge, then it is God's life. I don't invite Jesus in to my kingdom, but instead, I enter into His kingdom by faith. That's the essence of what I am saying and even though it might appear to be semantics, I think that it is an important distinction to make, even if we are just trying to clarify things.