Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Indelible Ink

The Christian life is not easy. We are expected to walk in such a way so as to be noticed. I am not talking about an arrogant strut; or a cocky demeanor. I am talking about walking in a way worthy of Christ; of God. In a manner such as Paul speaks of in First Thessalonians 2:12 “we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” The way we walk is to point others to Christ. I am not talking about this false notion of living the Gospel. The perspective that we can live the Gospel is fallacious; and it is impossible for us to live out what only Christ could do. What I am referring to is living out the reality of Christ in us; our hope of glory.

                That was what Paul was indicating in the First Thessalonians reference I gave above. If we really understand what it means to have been called by God into His kingdom, and the even more staggering thought, that we are called into His glory, it will forever change the way we live; how we conduct ourselves. We are called out of something far worse than being “somewhat badish”. We are not called out of being basically good people into the kingdom of God and His glory. We are called out of spiritual death and utter wickedness. We are called out of a natural state where everything we do is done through the lens of sin. Not one thing that we do prior to being regenerated by God is good, right or decent. Even those things we do, that by the world’s standards are good, right and decent, are utterly wicked and unpleasing to God. Yet, despite of this, He calls us from that state of being, into His glorious light; into His kingdom and glory.
This is the catalyst for how we are changed; how we are conformed into the image of Christ. Look at this passage from Romans 8:

For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.

When we consider what is being taught to us in Romans 8:29-30 we can understand that the reality that He called us; that He chose us, is supposed to weigh on us with a joyous weight. We respond in gratitude to Him for what it is He has done. We respond in joy and even in repentance and humility for the divine work of justification; and the divine work of shaping us into the image of Son. And we are to actively pursue godliness and Christ-likeness because it is the good and proper and honorable thing to do in light of what it is He has wrought in us.

                So what does this reality have to do with indelible ink? Where am I taking us? Go back to my opening lines. “The Christian life is not easy. We are expected to walk in such a way so as to be noticed.” We are, to coin a phrase, tattooed with indelible ink. This idea hit me as I was chatting with Tony, another contributor to “Earnestly Contending”, a month or so ago. It was a typo that started my mind wandering down this path, and I haven’t been able to shake it since.

People, many of them genuine believers in Christ, are enamored with tattoos today. They are constantly looking at designs. They are often looking forward to the next piece of art they will have engraved into their body. Some of these designs are intricate. Some are deeply personal and have profound meaning. Some are only relevant to the particular societal background of the individual. Some are large and encompass the entire body, while others are tiny and hidden away. Yet one thing remains, by all accounts, tattoos are painful and permanent, at least in the way anything that mankind does can be permanent.  

                That should be the reality for us. Our lives should be marked with the indelible ink of Christ. This isn’t some simple act of having permanent marker drawn all over us. This isn’t the act of writing a note on the back of your hand with a ballpoint pen. We are putting on the Lord Jesus Christ and not making any provisions for the flesh as we are instructed to do in Romans 13. Yet make no mistake, this is not the simple act of slipping on a shirt and a pair of pants only to remove them at a later time. The Lord Jesus Christ does not come off once He is put on. He isn’t cast aside or discarded when we are through with Him. He is an indelible part of who we are. The definition of the word indelible is this; something that cannot be removed, washed away or erased. So, unlike  tattoos that can be removed through laser surgery, or through the very painful cutting away of flesh, Christ is driven down deep into us and with an ink that never fades or can be cut away.

                Look around you sometime as you are in public. Look at the people who have tattoos. Notice that in many cases they proudly display the artwork that covers their bodies, this trend is becoming all the more common as tattoos are becoming more socially acceptable. They have gone to great lengths and great financial cost to have this work done. Some of this work is truly beautiful, and if it had been done on a canvas it could easily hang in an art gallery. Some of it is truly dark and terrifying with the images that are depicted. I have seen beautiful works of art with scripture quoted in great detail. I have seen evil and demonic depictions that would terrify children. I have seen sexually explicit pictures and I have often seen tattoos dedicated to advancing the message of hate by those who believe in dividing the varying ethnicities of our world.

                What I want us to think about is the great cost of being counted among those who called are into His kingdom and glory. Not only the great personal cost to God the Father and God the Son, but what it costs each of us as individuals. We are commanded to pick up our crosses daily and to crucify ourselves daily. This is painful imagery and it implies; no it requires great sacrifice. It leaves no room for equivocation. When we pick up our crosses and die as we crucify ourselves we are actively putting on Christ. We are being tattooed with His image and the needle driving that ink into our flesh is a nail; the same kind of nails that pierced the hands and feet of our Savior. The ink is the blood of Christ and it never washes off; it never comes out. As that needle goes in it delivers the life changing and sin removing ink of Christ’s blood deep into who we are; deep into our hearts. We are covered by Christ and as time goes on we become unrecognizable for what has been done to us.

                Like those who so proudly and in vain walk around displaying their flesh with their investment of ink we should also proudly display what it is that we have become; only this is not in vain.

     This is us, boasting in Christ and showing off His glory.

This is us, walking around with a desire for others to see His light radiating off of us and giving Him glory.

This is us, walking around with a desire for others to see Christ and what it is He has done in saving us from death and damnation.

This is us, the ones who had formerly exchanged what was imperishable for what was perishable now putting on what is imperishable.

                We are marked, tattooed with the indelible, imperishable ink of Jesus Christ. We should be gladly showing this to others. We should be gladly receiving in ourselves daily the continuing transformative work of God. We should be constantly looking to Him, to be changed into His image, so much so that we become unrecognizable to those who knew us before. 

Yes this will come at great costs.
Yes it will be painful and agonizing at times.
Yes it will be worth it.

But make no mistake, if there is no change in us, if there is no transforming of our image into the image of Christ, we can have no assurance that we are His. We can have no assurance that we have been called into His kingdom and glory. The ink that fades away or washes off is not indelible…

Soli Deo Gloria

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