By Ryan Shaw
The first century church possessed a clear concept of Jesus’ purpose being done through them, and more importantly, they possessed the means of seeing that vision accomplished.
They were a dwelling of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit. This meant God’s presence among them was more than mere doctrinal truth, but an experiential reality.
We receive His overcoming life within by faith, becoming activated to work toward an increasing measure of the kingdom of God actualized among universities, cities, peoples and nations who today are hostile to Jesus.
Like the early church, it is the same for us as the Holy Spirit beckons us to offer ourselves to Jesus, giving Him His rightful place of dwelling with us. It is the call of Romans 12:1-2:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
In this process of becoming a dwelling place of God a primary work of the Holy Spirit is ridding us of the self life . This is the highest offering we make to God. It is not what we do for him that counts.
The offering God accepts is our willingness to die in increasing measure to the invasive self life (Romans 6:11) and conversely grow in love for Him. The depth we are willing to die to ourselves is the height God will use us for His glory.
Cain and Abel’s offerings in Genesis 4:3-5 demonstrate this principle. God was pleased with Abel’s offering while He was not with Cain’s. Why?
Abel’s offering was according to God’s terms of accomplishing salvation, through the atoning blood of a sacrifice (Hebrews 12:24). While Cain’s offering sought to please God and gain His acceptance through the work of his own hands to produce something.
We find this dichotomy across the body of Christ. In our human nature we are naturally Cain’s yet God is seeking to transform us into Abel’s.
By default we try to produce goodness in ourselves, trying to make life work outside of intimate relationship with God, seeking to better ourselves through our plans, smarts and abilities.
Instead, God wants us empty of our goodness and capacities, allowing Him to fill us with Himself. He doesn’t need our sense of being able to get things done. He wants us dependent upon Himself.
Abel understood he could not please God in his own capacity, while Cain believed his own actions were good enough for God.
Christ’s atoning death is the only sacrifice necessary for our salvation. The correct response of gratitude chooses to become like Him through dying more and more to ourselves.
This is what Paul meant when he taught, “present your bodies a living sacrifice” as well as in 1 Corinthians 15:31 when he personally affirmed, “I die daily!” Through this process of “dying” God is able (by degrees) to fill us with more of His own life. In this way we become a dwelling place of God.
Our vision is clear. To be a people “who turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) by being a dwelling place of God. Through surrendering self, abiding with Jesus and receiving our inheritance of being filled with the divine life.