Rev. Fr. Frances Afangide
Director, Cathechist Training Centre,
Okitipupa, Ondo Dioceses
“Set your mind on things that are above not on earthly things for you have died and your real life is hidden with Christ in God”. (Col 3:2-3).
There is hardly any discussion in the Christian world that has to do with either the message or its goal that would not direct one’s mind to one important concept “LIFE”. Often times, you hear statements like – ‘have you given your life to Jesus’? Life naturally resonates with every individual person out there. At the mention of such a word, people easily key into what is being said or meant. The word LIFE means different things to different persons. For a biologist, life simply means the physiological condition of existence. But for Christians, what does life mean? Answer and responses to such a question can only be truly found in the scripture. The word “LIFE” is categorically mentioned in the scripture more than 450 times. The concept is both used in connection with our physical existence-‘psyche’ Cf Gen. 1vs 30, 2 Kings 8 Vs 5 etc, and with our supernatural state of being and higher kind of existence ‘zoe’ cf Rom 5 Vs 17, 1 Jn. 2 Vs 25, Rev. 2 Vs 10 etc. A pointer to an existence not grounded in material experience, but on a spiritual reality. Our spiritual existence is what is referred to as the real life. This is the overall notion of life going by the words of Jesus in the New Testament. In truth we thank God, that whatever is called Life in the New Testament in the view of Don Arthur Carson, a Reformed Evangelical theologian is “Not just something part of human existence but a unique gift of God” – (Rom. 6 Vs 23). The life and person of Jesus gives us a clear idea of what real life is, in Jn 14 Vs 6 where he affirms authoritatively that He is the Way the Truth and the Life. We clearly know that whatever is true must also be real. Therefore, what does real life consist of?
What is real life? The real life is the spiritual life in us that is hidden, unseen, immeasurable, and unquantifiable, that cannot be put on a scale of balance of weight but that which is measurable only on balance scale of faith. St Paul describes his real life as that which is founded and built upon the risen Christ. “No longer I but Christ living in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me’’ cf Gal 2 Vs 20. Whatever made the Apostle Paul to affirm this must have been based upon a unique knowledge, awareness and ultimately a deeper spiritual experience in his daily journey with God. Consequently, a believer must discover his or her real life based on these 3 legged platforms of spiritual growth. Certainly, no one can discover his/her real life without proper knowledge of God, which comes by faith in Jesus and through hearing and prayerful study of the word of God. Rom. 10:17.
It is important to say that every Christian must make available to himself or herself this knowledge, which ultimately leads to a self- awareness of our current status in Christ, or whether there is no status at all. The word of God brings to your attention the current situation of things in your life with regard to sin which convicts in one breath, it also justifies and offers hope for pardon, forgiveness, healing, restoration and ultimately salvation. Through this encounter with Christ in the Word (Ps 119:130), and through faithful disposition to the healing sacraments of the church, the believer is prepared to set course on the road to self discovery of the hidden life with Christ in God. A life which is real and profound.
The journey on this road of discovery of the real life hidden in Christ- a type which one must be determined and well prepared to walk, could be in a sense be likened to the one Prophet Elijah walked tirelessly before encountering God at Mount Horeb.cf 1Kings19vs1-8.It is also tantamount to the self-emptying of Christ [kenosis] on the cross and his glorification.cf Philipp2vs6-11. The challenges that stand as obstacles on the road towards the experience of this hidden life in God in us is no doubt enormous – the spiritual vicissitudes of life- distractions, temptations, immoralities coupled with socio-economic problems as well as family-cum cultural problems all combined to deny countless number of believes this unique spiritual experience of true life in God. St John in his first letter captures the import of this truth clearly when he states that “and this is the testimony that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his son and whoever has the son has life and whoever does not have the son of God does not have life” (1 Jn 5 Vs 12).
St John goes on to warn every believer of the grave consequences of any futile attempt to substitute the real life with a worldly one. “Do not love the world neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the father, but is of the world” and the world is passing away and its lust thereof; but he who does the will of God abides forever”. (1 Jn 2:15-17).
Therefore, we can see that the Christian real life is one that is spiritually crucified and dead to this life, and its negative happenings, to one that is alive in Christ to the glory of God. Thus, we can safely say that our life can only be meaningful when it has a deep connection with Christ. Jn 5 Vs 24. David Brown a theologian reflecting on this concludes that ‘’Those who accept Jesus can possess life ‘here and now’ for they have passed from death to life”. With conviction, we can state categorically that:
- A real life hidden with Christ in God is safe and secure against the storms of life. The disciples’ experience on the sea reminds us of the presence of Christ who can calm every storm in our lives. cf Matt 8vs25. St Paul`s own unique experience of confidence and security in the midst of violent storms (Euroclydon) in his missionary voyage is a clear testimony to a real life hidden in God. (Acts 27:21-44).
- A real life with Christ in God, though hidden, produces more fruit because it is hidden in the rich soil of faith- the parable of the sower captures this truth poignantly. Cf Mark 4vs8.
- Another fact to note about the real life in Christ is that it bears testimony and harmony with the prophetic words of faith that those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount wings as Eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not be tired. What is the physical and weak is lost in what is spiritual and strong. Cf Isaiah 40:31.
- A real life hidden in God has broken away from the old life of sin and slavery to become a new life of freedom and grace totally committed to serving the word of God. 1 Peter 4:1-2.
- A real life hidden in Christ is in a sense an elevated and elongated life that has a beginning but not an end, for Jesus makes it so. He declares in Jn 14:19. Because I live, you will also live. Jesus was not talking about the “psyche” the Greek word for life of the flesh, the natural life which was about to be crucified, but “Zoe” the Greek word which pertains to spiritual life i.e. eternal life
- A real life in Christ is one that truly loves and one that overcomes evil and hatred with undying love. After all, anyone who does not love remains in death. cf 1 Jn. 3 Vs 14.
- A life hidden in Christ rises above envy, malice, prolonged anger, and is at peace with all. Eph4:26-32.
- A hidden life in Christ, inwardly and outwardly thirsts for God and holiness as the deer longs for running stream Psalm 42:1.
- A real life hidden in God is victorious life over the attacks and assault from the devil Isaiah54:17 Deut. 28:7.
- A real life hidden in Christ overcomes death, because it is a sanctified, resurrected and glorified life 1Cor. 15:54-58
In all, our life in Christ though subject to the vagaries of attacks both physical and spiritual cannot, and I recap cannot be subdued by forces acting as instruments of wickedness. Neither can it be terminated without qualms of conscience. The Lord reminds us that we are his sheep and no one can snatch the sheep (i.e. we believers) from his hands. He concludes by saying with regards to those whose real lives are hidden with him in God – “My father who has given them to me is greater than all and no one (not even the devil himself) is able to snatch out of the father’s hand’’ (Jn 10:28-29).
As you begin your spiritual journey in the second phase of the year 2015, you must as a Christian attempt to provide answers to these important questions:
- Do I possess a life in God?
- How real is my life in Christ?
- Can I sail through the vicissitudes and turbulence of life and still find my real life hidden with Christ in God at the end?
- If in the words of St Thomas Aquinas that ‘’God himself is the end and reward of all our labours ’’, then this can only be true for those whose real life is hidden with Christ in God.