There’s a world of difference between imitation fruit and living fruit on a vine or tree. And there’s also a world of difference between what you think you should do for Christ and having Him live His life through you. One is imitation, the other is incarnation.
So, my question is, which of these describes your Christian walk?
The reason I ask is that I hear well-meaning Christians talk about how we should love others because Christ showed His love to us. Well, it depends on what you mean by that.
If you’re saying that we should go out and try to love people because we’re supposed to, almost like a “pay it forward” thing, that’s the flesh. That’s like saying, “What would Jesus do” in a given situation and trying to copy that behavior.
But what did Jesus actually do? He said that He and His Father were one (John 10:30); that if you’ve seen Him you’ve seen the Father (John 14:9). This didn’t make Jesus the Father; it meant that He lived from the Father.
Remember, He emptied Himself (Phil.2:5-8).
Then He told us to do the same, to abide in His love as He abides in the Father’s love (John 15:10). This is not intimation; this is incarnation.
Here’s the problem. Imitation Christianity tells us what we ought to do, and not do, because of what we read in the Bible. But incarnation Christianity says, “This is what it looks like when Christ is living through you.”
Do you understand the difference? Because they are actually the opposite of one another. One is flesh, the other is walking in the Spirit.
No matter how real the fruit in the picture above looks, it’s actually plastic. It’s not real, it has no life and it’s not good to eat! The same is true with our imitation Christianity.
Let me give you a case in point. Jesus told us to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength; then love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).
My question is, can you honestly say that you’ve ever actually done that? All? Really? Because the truth is, we can’t even follow this one single commandment on our best day! We hit and miss, we hold back, we keep our distance from God and others. Our love is conditional, preferential and portioned out.
You see, Jesus told us these things to bury us in our own self-righteousness.
But religious, self-righteous people actually think they can and should do it. And because they think they are doing it, they feel obligated to judge anyone who isn’t.
In this imitation world, we still haven’t actually come to Christ. We still need the unyielding, stainless steel, perfectionist called the Law to bring us to the end of our subjective rule-keeping (Gal.3:24-25).
I’m not even saying that we’re not saved. That happens by grace through faith alone. You can be a royal son of the King and still act like a homeless orphan. What I’m saying is that we still haven’t found the life Christ paid for.
Imitation Christianity preaches 1 Cor.13:4-8 and tells us we should stop being impatient, rude and proud. You might say, what’s wrong with that?
What’s wrong is that it’s the flesh’s way of trying to make it happen. It actually hinders and opposes the life of Christ.
It strengthens our flesh and hardens our self-righteous veneer.
But when we finally see our utter inability to even follow one command sufficiently, we understand what Paul is talking about–that this is what love looks like when you’re abiding on the vine…in Christ.
Therefore, this New Covenant, led by the Spirit, turns Jesus’ commands into promises.
So, while religion can be imitated, the life of Christ must be incarnated. Here’s what Jesus said in this regard…
“Most assuredly, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink His blood,
you have no life in you.” (John 6:53 NKJV)
He wasn’t being cannibalistic, He was telling us that the life is in Him, not in our rules, our religious rituals or trying to be good like Him.
It’s only found in His life living in our life.
Jesus’ teachings actually made obeying the Law quite impossible…and, if you can receive it, irrelevant.
We are to live from Christ’s life. Period.
What don’t we get about “apart from Me you can do nothing“? (John 15:5)
Beloved, our life is literally found by receiving Him. And this results in His Spirit changing us, transforming our heart, to where it now becomes like His heart. He behaves through us.
We don’t view Jesus from the outside anymore, trying to imitate what He did. Rather, we encounter His love when we receive it into our hearts by faith.
Then we stay there (“abide”), and out of the overflow of our transformed heart, extend the same love to others.
That’s His love, not our imitation.
For Christ is now incarnated in us and we are hidden in Him (see John 17:21; Rom.6:2-6; Gal.2:20; Col.1:27; 3:3). For our real life is found in this Divine union, not in our religious imitation.
So what do you think about this? Does what I’m saying make sense to you?