I once had friends who were all about “the exchanged life.”
The exchanged life is one of many approaches which address discipleship and spiritual transformation. In the exchanged life, one exchanges his or her life for the life of Christ. In their minds, this invalidated the will, so the believer did not need to do anything for Jesus.
If I said, “I need to be faithful to the Bible,” they would respond, “You don’t need to do anything.”
I would say, “I understand that from salvation’s viewpoint. Jesus has done it all.”
They would say, “But you are crucified with Christ. You can’t do anything. Jesus will do it all through you.”
I chaffed from this viewpoint those many years ago. I could not see how Jesus would do everything for me when I read so many of Jesus’ commands calling for my volitional response. Now I understand that conversation so much better. I know that to grow, Jesus lets us make decisions. Otherwise, how would we ever grow in Christlikeness and experience Christ’s transformation?
Yet, that conversation from so long ago still challenges me with receiving some things from Christ without any effort on my part.
Recently in my quiet time, I read across Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV): “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” That old conversation came back to mind yet again.
I see in Matthew 11:28-30 two principles. The first I would call the Principle of Receiving. In the Principle of Receiving, I am passive; simply receiving from Christ. Here, we receive rest from Christ if we come to Him. The description here is how I have felt many times: weary and burdened with a great burden. Jesus offers me rest. I think this first principle may relate to one’s conversion when one has worked to earn salvation. Trying to earn salvation is a wearisome and heavy burden because no matter how hard we work for God’s salvation we cannot earn it.
Yet, I see another rest in these verses. It is a rest I can seek for and can find. I think this forms another principle, the Principle of Pursuing. This principle encourages us to put forth effort, not to earn salvation or anything other blessing but to obtain an aspect of spiritual development, to eagerly desire more of Christ’s life to be replicated in our lives, even to the point that I work at it.
I mortify sin. I keep asking in prayer, keep seeking in prayer, and keep knocking in prayer. I deny myself and take up His cross daily. It is not all the Principle of Receiving but it is also not all the Principle of Pursuing either.
Somehow a cooperative relationship develops between me and Christ where Christ supplies my needs as I receive from Him, and where I hear His call for more faithfulness. He gives me rest but He also encourages me to find rest for my soul. Maybe, is this some of what Paul encourages in us to do in Philippians 2:12 (ESV), “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Maybe there is a liberating balance between receiving from Jesus and pursuing Jesus.
I think a key to the Christian life is developing a balance between what Jesus desires to give us and the things Jesus wants us to pursue.
What elements of forgiveness, salvation, grace, conversion, and sanctification have you simply received from Jesus? What elements of discipleship are you pursuing in sanctification, growth, learning, and serving? Where is the balance from you?