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The Grace Project

It is a Mystery

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In the apostle Paul's writings, the word “mystery” (mystêrion) appears twenty-one times.  Scholars have defined the word “mystery”, in modern speech, to mean a sublime or unclear truth which is marvelled at but only partly understood.  The Greek word “mystêrion”, however, describes any divine or heavenly reality which is regarded as hidden or secret and can only be known when revealed by the gods.
Hence Paul's seminal statement in Colossians: “I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints.  To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches and the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
~ Col. 1:25-27
The Apostle Paul asserts that the nature of this mystery has to do with a decisive action which has affected the Gentiles (those whom the religious world would perhaps consider outsiders ), i.e. they are indwelt by Christ.  Thus, he sees his commission in terms of proclaiming Jesus and bringing everyone to maturity – to the full measure and stature of Christ [Eph. 4:13].  With almost maddening economy, the Apostle Paul defines the mystery in three words – Christ in you.
The Apostle Paul’s revelation is the most profound truth imaginable.  Without it, life, Christian or otherwise, is unlivable and unbearable.  However, if recognised and entered into, it is the pathway to a life beyond our wildest imaginings.
Many titles have been used to express the Pauline mystery of “Christ in you”.  Some have called it “The Deeper Life”, others have used the term “The Higher Life”.  Still, others have used the term “Interior Life”.  Hudson Taylor’s son called it “The Exchanged Life”.  Still, others preferred “Oneness”.
All of these definitions are extremely helpful but I think, on balance, I prefer Norman Grubb’s definition of the mystery as being “Union Life”.  It is this definition which I have relied upon and sought to capture in my subject-title, “Man Utd”.
Jesus alludes to the believer’s Union with Himself in His great prayer recorded in the Apostle John’s mystery gospel when Jesus says –
"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.  The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are One, I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that
You sent Me and loved them even as You loved me." John 17:20-23
Conservative orthodoxy has prevented us from applying the orthodox rules of biblical interpretation in the case of John 17.  In truth, we dare not allow ourselves to take the text at face value for fear that we will fall over the edge of Protestant doctrine into pantheism but it says what it says and it means what it says!
Have you ever found yourself wondering, “Who is the real me?”  Most of us have.  Moreover, many Christians have to live with the added guilt which comes from a numbing sense that who we are is not who we should be.  
Consequently, we live our lives trapped in a cycle of performance, rotating between commitment, failure, condemnation, confession and re-dedication.  Evangelical homiletics (preaching) has left all but a few caught on the barbed wire of apparent contradiction between “image” and “identity”, i.e. “the person I appear to be” and “the person I actually am”.
Socrates said, “Greatness is to be in reality what we appear to be” and this laid-down gauntlet has been picked up by the unrighteous and the self-righteous alike.  However, to the Christ-righteous, this is the antithesis of Union.
Union is the freedom (which, in this paradigm, is also defined as “other-centred living”) to accept, as reality, that we are precisely who we appear not to be.  It is my personal experience that the apparent paradox of Union has been a great struggle to accept.  To become settled and live out of the reality that I am who God says I am (regardless of how I feel) is a matter beyond intellect.  It is, in the final analysis, a matter of revelation.
Before we can face the question, “Do we believe that we are who He says we are?”, perhaps we should first ask, “Who does He say we are?”  Before we answer that, let me just restate my simple conclusion – we cannot be anyone other than who God says we are.