TWO CONTRARY DIMENSIONS
BY: JOHN R. GAVAZZONI
In the past 50 plus years since the Lord called me to Himself, nothing has challenged my understanding more, and nothing has drawn me into deep reflection and meditation more than the apparent contradiction between how God knows me and affirms me, and what I constantly am confronted with that, as it were, screams at me, “Don’t you dare lay claim to completeness in Christ; why, look at yourself, it’s obvious that, not only are you not complete in Him, your demonstrable incompleteness pales before your hideous and hypocritical perversity.” Yet, time after time, He calls me to Himself to lay my head on his chest and hear Him whisper, “It’s true, really true; don’t listen to the lie. I do not recognize, I do not know you other than the man you are in Christ. All that stands in contradiction to that, though it may lay claim to being you, is a lie incarnate.”
There is a religious approach that tries to answer this conundrum by asserting that all evil is an illusion; the beggars on the streets of Calcutta, crack babies, the mother and father desperately trying to go on with life after the loss of a precious child, the political prisoner enduring hideous torture at the hands of inhuman monsters, the paraplegic victim of war, all those suffering endless hours of physical or emotional pain for one reason or another, all this, supposedly, is an illusion, a bad dream from which we are exhorted to awake. In fact, it is claimed that even space and time and materiality are an illusion. There is only goodness and God.
I reject this “answer” of “Christian Science.” It is intellectually lazy and theologically unsubstantial. It is a religious and philosophical exercise in denial. But I do recognize that it has rushed in to fill a vacuum left by the institutional church’s failure to see and speak with authority from our real vantage point at the right hand of God. It is a failure to take the high ground of revelation and from there to explain what lies “under the sun.”
Rather than there being the contrast of truth and illusion, the actual contrast is between truth and delusion, between the truth which is in Christ, and the lie that opposes that truth. I will be making a clear distinction between the dimension of truth, which in biblical terms carries the idea of reality, and the dimension of actuality. There is truth (reality), and there is existential actuality. They are distinct dimensions. Our existential actuality was deliberately made vulnerable to becoming hostile to reality, and in fact, has done so. You see a thing can be contrary to the truth and still have existential actuality, that is, it exists, but its existence is composed of a lie. If you unzipper it and look inside, you’ll say, “Look, it’s all a lie, the whole thing is satan’s hot air.”
In our creation transition, when we, as those eternally begotten of God in Christ, entered the eons from eternity, and became materially formed, we were subjected to that which is alien to our true being. You see, we must not equate eonian fact with eternal truth. The truth is eternal, but the lie is transitory, it “appears for a while and then vanishes away.”
If our perspective is a biblical one, we realize that truth is much more sublime than fact. Scripture reserves the title, “Truth,” for Christ. All that stands in contradiction to who and what He is, and of whom and what He includes falls under the category of delusion, or the lie. The lie has existence, and in its obsession to counterfeit the economy of God, it births a counter incarnation. It is not a real birth, for only truth can genuinely give birth. It is a “birthing” by vain imagination. Christ is the Truth. In Him, incarnately, the fullness of Deity and the totality of humanity live in the eternal bliss of perfect oneness. In the lie, that which God is not, and that which is the false persona of man, walks about in bodily form, illegitimately laying claim to the members of our body which, in truth, are “instruments of righteousness.” It clings to our outer man so that we do not appear to be like Christ. But “when He shall appear”, when His brilliance shall shine through the veneer, “we shall be like Him for we shall see him as He is.” We shall see Him as He is, as being who we are, that is, as including in Himself our true self, thus we shall be as we really are. In this outshining, even the lying imposter shall be reconstituted by the glory of God.
All this is of God, who has designed that we become fully rooted in who we really are by having to deal with an actual, existential, but not Real, counterfeit of ourselves. This personified sin, this embodiment of missing the mark, must be faced and acknowledged, not denied. This is the message of the first chapter of John’s first epistle. Don’t deny it, confess its existence. You do “have” it, but it is not you. Under God, you have been given the responsibility to be rid of it, to gain the victory over this lie. Christ has and will conquer it in you. In confessing your sin, confess it as what it is, a fabrication of yourself. Left to yourself, you did succumb to it in your eonian existence, and it became manifest as to what we will do if left to ourselves.
That was necessary for us; a most important lesson to learn. But if you confess it as native to your God-generated being, you are confessing a lie, for it is alien to who you are.
Understand that we are not cleansed by denying that we have sinned. That was the gnostic error that John was addressing. We are cleansed by the precious blood of Christ that speaks better things than the blood of Abel.
Conventional evangelical theology tends to equate sin-nature with human nature. Sin nature is alien to human nature. The divine nature, given to us in Christ is native to our humanness. We must conquer sin and death, and conqueror them we will, because they have been conquered. Yes, that’s exactly what I said, we will conqueror them, because they already have been conquered by Christ.
We proceed from victory and go on to victory. We are not gaining a victory that is not yet, we are gaining a victory has been and now is. Sin and death have been defeated, so go forth to defeat them. That’s the logic of the kingdom of God, not the logic of the natural mind. We do not defeat Satan because he is not yet defeated, we defeat him because he already has been defeated at the cross. Hallelujah! Death has been abolished and life and immortality have been brought to light by the gospel.
If you bring sin and death to light, under the light they clearly are revealed as the lie that they are. Have you noticed that Jesus not only said that the devil was a liar, but that he was the father of lies. See, if you father lies, that makes you a lie. Get that: We father what we are.
Everyone of my kids is a Gavazzoni, because I’m a Gavazzoni. God fathers the truth because He is the Truth. Satan fathers lies because he is the lie.
Take a step back from all those things that claim to represent who you are, and calmly, under the blood of Christ and while aware of being the righteousness of God in Him, look at them, and say, “I know who you are, and I will no longer be intimidated by you.”
Walk in the light and those things will not be able to come near you, for you are born of the incorruptible Seed of God. We cannot enter into the habitual, continual practice of sin like the world, for we are not of the world, His Seed abides in us, and as He is, so are we in this world.
There is a perverse form of “taking responsibility for our sin” that demeans the cross of Christ, elevates the will of man above the sovereignty of God and subtly lays a foundation for taking some credit for being delivered from sin, for if I, and I alone, am responsible, through the exercise of my autonomous free will, for the sin in my life, then I, at least to some degree, must be responsible for my deliverance. Thus, when God delivers me, I can say that I responsibly did my part to bring about my deliverance.
How falsely noble the spirit of Anti-Christ presents itself. In this scenario, salvation is a mere potentiality. It grants that the potential for salvation is entirely of God, but as far as where the rubber meets the road, salvation just sits on the shelf unused and functionally helpless unless we choose to make it effective. What religious dribble! How this flies in the face of a statement by the Apostle Paul, repeated twice within a short context in Chapter seven of his epistle to the Romans.
As I have come to know Paul, through his letters, I’ve noticed that he is not the least bit reticent about repeating himself when he deems that the point to be made is of great importance. And when you find that he does repeat himself, you’d best take special notice or you’ll miss something quite fundamental to a true knowledge of God’s relationship to man. I can hear Paul saying, “Let good composition hang; this is important and I intend that you get it, even if I must appear to be clumsily redundant.”
So it is with his treatment of the ambiguity of the human condition that is the subject of Romans seven. Twice, in virtually identical words, Paul issues a very personal disclaimer regarding human responsibility for the existence of sin. I refer to verses seventeen and twenty: 17) “So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me,” 20) “But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” (NAS)
Wow, that would be enough to get Paul thrown out of most self-help groups. Talk about what most folk would call denial. I can hear the others gathered in a self-help circle saying, “Oh sure, Paul, the devil made you do it, huh? What a load of crap; be a man and take responsibility for your actions.” Yet there it is, right smack dab in the middle of Holy Writ.
Your average commentary on Romans will do some fancy hermeneutical foot work to avoid the full impact of this shocking confession. But it is so, so very Pauline. What do I mean? Well, it’s Paul all over; utterly logical and consistent.
Paul is consistent when it comes to comparing sin and righteousness. He fully refuses to take any credit for his life as we know from Gal. 2:20 where he writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (NAS)
The Concordant Literal version gives us much help in clarifying the faith phrase in that verse, translating it, “…I live by faith that is in the Son of God,” which is saying that it is the faith of Christ by which Paul lives. It is the faith that is in the Son of God, not the faith that is in Paul. In the same way that the apostle identifies Christ, rather than himself, as the dynamic Agent of his living, the true “liver.” as it were, so he identifies sin, not himself, as the dynamic agent of sinning. Christ is really the one doing the living, and sin is the “one” actually doing the sinning.
Yes, that’s what it says, “…I am no longer the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me.” Did you get it that, “…I AM NO LONGER THE ONE DOING IT…” I can hear the free will glorifiers stuttering about now, “but, but, but”, well butt out. Sit still, shut up and listen for a change to something other than the traditions of men handed down to you.
I quote also from Jonathan Mitchell’s excellent amplified translation of verse twenty: “Yet if that which I am not willing (intending), this I am constantly doing, I, myself, am no longer producing (working down and effecting) it, but rather, the Sin (the failure; the error; the miss) continuously housing herself (making its home; dwelling) within me.” Quite clear, I would say. It’s not Paul producing or effecting this deviant behavior it is Sin [personified] doing the sinning.
Isn’t that interesting? Sin doing the sinning. Sin (personal noun) doing the sinning (verb). Sin does its own sinning, it doesn’t need any help from us. In like manner, He who is life does the living without our contribution. Life lives, Sin sins, and death dies.
Paul writes in Rom. 6:10, “For the death He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.” Sin’s been doing the sinning, with the resulting death, but Jesus died the death, consummated it, brought all death to an end by fully dying death, once for all, and He, the life, lives eternally in us. Something/someone other than ourselves, is doin’ all this.
In the chapter in question, Paul makes it clear that the part he has in all this sinning sin is that of a slave. He does not, at all, present himself, in this anti-Paul, non-Paul, un-Paul scenario as having a choice in the matter. The Paul who is other than the Paul in Christ is simply a SLAVE to sin. The Paul, in whom Christ lives His life, is a slave to righteousness, a bond-slave to Christ, the King who shares His throne with those He has delivered from enmity slavery to love slavery. One is false, the other is true, but neither originates from out of the decision of man.
How did this un-man man come to exist? I think it was Karl Barth in his commentary on Romans who spoke of “the un-God”, or the “no-God.” Now we are faced with the un-man of Romans seven, the non-human human. In our previous article, we saw that he is a lie; an existential actuality, to be sure, and one that can be seen, heard and felt, but nevertheless, his existence is constituted by the big lie, yet I confess that I’ve left a lot of unanswered questions. So hang in there with me as we “worship the Lord with all our heart, soul, MIND and strength.”
TWO CONTRARY DIMENSIONS, Parts 1-2 [John R. Gavazzoni] 1