Spiritual Paradox in the Christian Life

CHRISTIANITY IS A LIFE FILLED WITH PARADOX

paradox is defined as a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement that is actually true. It is a statement that contradicts itself.

In the Bible spiritual paradoxes abound and confound the secular unsaved mind. In fact the wise of this world consider believers to be fools for Christ's sake.

Paul writes that "Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Co 1:25)

Brethren, we are veritable living spiritual paradoxes in this spiritually dead world, a world paradoxically we are IN but not OF "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ Who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself." (Php 3:20-21-note)

The wise of this world scoff and laugh at God's answers to questions like…

Do you want to live?

You must die!

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. (Gal 2:20-note; cf 2 Co 4: 10, 11-note)

You must lose your life!

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it." (Mark 8:34-35)

Do you want to be strong?

You must boast about your weaknesses!

"Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me… for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Co 12:9, 10-note)

Do you want to be rich?

You must become poor in spirit.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:3-note)

Do you want to be first?

You must be willing to be last.

And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all." (Mk 9:35, cp Mt 19:30, 20:8, 16, Mk 10:31, Lk 13:30)

You must be willing to be a slave of all. 

Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave (doulos - bondservant) of all. (Mk 10:44)

Do you want to be exalted?

You must be willing to be brought low!

Humble (aorist imperative) yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time (1 Pe 5:6-note). (cf Jas 4:6-note, Jas 4:10- note Mt. 23:12)

Do you wish to be great?

You must be willing to become a servant.

“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant." (Mk 10:43, cf Mt 23:11)

You must be willing to humble yourself as a little child

“Whoever then humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 18:4NET)

You must be willing to be least.

"Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is LEAST among all of you, this is the one who is GREAT.” (Lk 9:48)

Do you want to rule?

You must be willing to serve.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mk 10:45, cp Mk 9:35)

 

Do you want to be fruitful?

You must die.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (Jn 12:24).

A FEW MORE SPIRITUAL PARADOXES

  • We become rich thru Christ's poverty (2 Cor 8:9)
  • We see the unseen (2 Co 4:18-note, Heb 11:27-note)
  • We conquer by yielding (Ro 6:16, 17, 18-note)
  • We find rest by taking His yoke (Mt. 11:28, 29, 30-note)
  • We reign by serving (Mk 10:42, 43, 44)
  • We are made great by becoming little (Lk 9:48)
  • We become wise by being fools for Christ's sake (1 Co 1:20, 21)
  • We find victory by glorying in our infirmities (2 Co 12:5)

Before we became followers of Christ, we were DEAD IN our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1-note) but after salvation, we are ALIVE with Christ (Eph. 2:5-note), and DEAD TO SIN (Ro 6:11-note).

We were once slaves to sin but now are free from sin, "For when you were SLAVES OF SIN, you were free in regard to righteousness. But now having been FREED FROM SIN and ENSLAVED to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life." (Ro 6:20, 22-note) True Freedom is not the right to do as we please, but the power to do as we should, a freedom and power paradoxically found only in enslavement to Christ! Indeed, we are most FREE, when we are most BOUND!

We also see this paradox in our daily growth in Christ-likeness (progressive sanctification). In Phil 2:12-note Paul charges us to "WORK OUT our salvation in fear and trembling" and then he explains how this is even possible, writing that "it is God (the indwelling Spirit of Christ continually) WORKING in us, giving us the DESIRE (left to ourselves the desire of our fallen flesh is not to please God) and the (supernatural) POWER to do what pleases God." (Phil 2:13NLT-note) Are you learning to depend daily on the Spirit of Jesus Who Alone can enable you to live the supernatural, abundant life (Jn 10:10)? As Tony Evans says you need to come to the place where you say to God, “I can’t do this on my own,” (Then) you are ready to say, “But through Your provision (the enabling power of the indwelling Spirit) of that which I lack, I can go out and tear down the strongholds that are defeating me. In Your strength, I can fulfill Your expectations for me.” You have now invited God to do for you what you can’t do for yourself!" (from "The Battle is the Lord's")

We see a similar paradoxical dynamic in Paul's summary of His entire ministry where he says "by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I LABORED even more than all of them, yet NOT I, but God Who was WORKING through me by His grace." (1 Cor 15:10-note paraphrase)

Kent Hughes explains "Unless there is death, the vast possibilities inside us will not be released. We will shrivel and remain alone. We must die. (Ed: compare the similar spiritual principle in Mk 8:34, 35, 36, 37, Mt 10:38, 39, Lk 9:23, 24, 25) Those who are beginning the Christian life or are awakening to their spiritual potential must learn that we live by dying. This has been true in my own life." (John: That You May Believe. Preaching the Word)

The ultimate paradox is...

To live is Christ, to die is gain. (Php 1:21-note)

MY LORD JESUS CHRIST....

You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all.

Play Chris Tomlin's version of All in All

chapter
12
verse
9