The Supreme Imperative
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love.”
Human life begins and ends with one imperative: “Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me.”
The present lack of true revolutionary and spiritual power of far too many churches today stems from our resistance to the radical and total call of Jesus: “Deny yourself and follow me.” Make no mistake about it: The Gospel first begins with the imperative call of Jesus to drop what you are doing and follow Him.
For this reason, you must first build your Christian life on the Gospels and then the rest of the New Testament. This same pattern must remain all the way through until your journey ends into the likeness of God.
First is the Gospel of Jesus, and His call to follow Him. True spiritual life in Christ is a lifelong journey into a new direction. Even more, true spiritual life in Christ, is a constant turning around. Repentance is not one moment in time, but a process of journeying into the likeness of Christ, who is the true image of true humanity.
You can only receive the transformative and indicative nature of true Christian life, by turning to Christ. Yet there are always “new days” when Jesus will come to you in a new way. When this new day dawns and the morning star shines on you, that is a day when Jesus will call out to you, so that again you might turn to Him. But when we turn our hearts to Him on such a day, He then graces us with power to live out new “imperatives” which He reveals to us— new imperatives that characterise His likeness in us.
The imperative of His calling comes then not once but all through life. It comes again and again, on new days that the Lord creates and schedules throughout and into the history of our life. What He says is this, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart. ”
Such a new day is a day when we see the bush that Moses saw in the desert, which burned but fire does not consumed the bush. It is a new day whereby the Lord says, “Seek me and you will find me.” It is a day that we are to approach Him and present our self to Him.
When that morning comes and He awakens us to this new day, the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.” That is a day when God again calls out to you and asks you to turn around and face Him.
This is why Paul reminds the church in Ephesus, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” He calls us to approach Him. He calls us to approach Him so that, “he may strengthen” us again with “power through His Spirit.”
The Scripture is not speaking here of realities that were once revealed to us and are forever true; therefore you need only by faith believe in and accept these realities, and now live your Christian life. No, the “indicative’ of the Scripture is rather that God is constantly re-creating the reality of a new day in Christ.
He is always creating a divine moment whereby we will again approach Him. When God orchestrates a new day and the Holy Spirit says, “Today,” then in that moment, Jesus is again calling us to Himself.
On that day when the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear His voice,” He will come again to you so that He “out of his glorious riches, may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” That is a day when Jesus passes by and the power of the Lord is present to heal.
On that day when we approach Him, we again find our self “being rooted and established in love.” It is a revelation by the Spirit of the Living Christ. That is why the apostle prays that we may approach Him, so that we “may have power . . . to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”
What the Scripture is illustrating here is an ongoing dialogue between the Lord and us. This dialogue never ends within the present life. It is an “active dialogue.” This is not a one-time dialogue, such as when we first turned to the Lord. It is a dialogue that is renewed in every new turning to the Lord.
It is a dialogue that is renewed whenever we again hear the Spirit say, “Today, if you hear His voice . . . ” If you Hear Him, you will have to drop whatever is in your hands and come to Him. You will have to turn around. You will have to let go. You will have to deny yourself. You will need to turn around and look for the fire in the bush that is not consumed by the fire. You will have to go to an altar, and this the altar that is called the altar of sacrifice. That is the place where God says, “Present yourself to me, a living sacrifice.”
It is then during that moment of turning to the Lord, that the Scripture says, “I urge you then, to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
If Christ is in us, the life we live is lived by faith in Christ; that is why the Scripture says, “it is no longer I but Christ who lives in me.” Yet this truth is not the topic of this verse, “live a life worth of the calling you have received.” Rather this verse says that if the Lord has met you and spoke to you on the day when he says “today, if you hear his voice,” then on that day also, the Scripture says, “I urge you then, to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
On that day, the Lord will again reveal to you the footsteps of Jesus. You again look for those footsteps, and take the first step. You take the first step and you will find the life of Jesus transforming you.
For on the day the Lord comes to you and says present yourself to me, He will then ask you on that day to “put off” something. All through life, there is a stripping down. The act of “putting off” never ends. For all the so-called imperatives in Ephesians chapters 4 to 6 are really not so much “commands” or “imperatives” but are truly examples of many other possible behaviours the Lord will ask us to “put off,” as well as behaviours that on that day, He will ask us to “put on.”
The Christian who lives in the hand of God is truly as an onion that needs to be peeled. The peeling is not without tears. That is why in the midst of so many examples of things that must be “put off,” the Scriptures gives us this most important imperative: “Be filled with the Spirit.” To be filled with the Spirit is not a state of being. It is not an indicative experience. Such erroneous teachings are unfortunately encouraging people that they have no need to stop what they are doing and go to the well to drink from Jesus the baptizer in the Holy Spirit.
Being filled with the Spirit does not mean resting in the Lord, or enjoying the Lord or living right before the Lord. To be filled with the Spirit involves a definitive act of turning to the Lord. What it means is that we are to go to the Lord and ask Him to fill us with the Spirit of God all over again.
Jesus died and rose again that we may drink from the Spirit. He is exalted at the right hand of God for this purpose: to pour forth the Spirit of God upon whomever would call upon Him. He is the Baptiser in the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus comes to us as the Baptiser in the Holy Spirit, we are again filled with the love of God, and it burns like fire. Why is this so? It is so, because God is above all else— love. No other attribute defines the whole essence of God. Love is who God is. When Jesus baptises us afresh in the Holy Spirit, we are baptized afresh in the love of God.
Now when the Lord says to you, “live a life worthy of the calling you received, He also says, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love.” Imitate God and live a life of love.
On that day, the Lord will reveal to you the footsteps of Jesus. You look for those footsteps, and take the first step. You take the first step into the footprint of Jesus. Then you will know it is Jesus who is working in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.