If you were applying for the position of “Ambassador of the Kingdom of God,” what would you put on your resume and what would you hide?
Now humor me: While looking at a tree in the distance, hold up your thumb, just a foot or two from your face. Say to yourself, “My thumb is me.” Now, focus on your thumb and count the trees. You see one “me” and two trees—correct? Now, focus on the tree and count the “me”s. You see one tree and two “me”s—correct?
I suspect that St. Paul sees what poets and artists often see, but theologians and Bible scholars often miss: In the garden, there’s one tree . . . which reveals two “me”s.
In Eden, there were two trees in one spot, or there was one tree with two names that did two things: produce death and give life.
In the same spot on the same mountain in a garden (according to John) stood a tree called the cross. It brings death and gives life. And on that tree, hanging there like fruit is the Judgment of God—The Good in flesh and the Life.
In the same spot, on the same mountain, you will see New Jerusalem coming down. And in it, you will see the Tree of Life, whose leaves are for the “healing of the nations.” Everyone there knows about evil but sings to the Good—a slaughtered lamb standing on a throne. To eat of the tree, dying they must have died, although now they live and never stop singing.
Perhaps the Judgment of God for me is to die with Christ and to rise with Christ.
Perhaps the Judgement of God is one and never ever changes.
Because each of us tends to think that we are one, we also think, “There is one ‘me’ and two trees” and so we think, “If I try hard enough, I could change the Judgment of God.”
Paul has revealed that the Judgment doesn’t change but we will change, and each of us has two “me”s: A false “me” and a true “me,” an old man and a new man, an old Adam and the new Adam, who is the presence of the Eschatos Adam, the Super Man, Jesus.
The Old Adam is an imprint (tupos) of the Ultimate Adam. He is the presence of the absence of the Good and the Life. He is comprised of those things I would like to hide, but even more, those things I would like to advertise.
The Old Adam is “Me”-sus (“me” is salvation); the Last Adam is Jesus (Yahweh is salvation).
The Old Adam is temporal and fading away; The New Adam is eternal and cannot be destroyed.
And you, somehow, are both—a mix of what is not, and who it is that I Am is.
So, what can I do, to get from the Old Me to the New Me? Try harder?
Wouldn’t that be faith in “Me”-sus, rather than the faith of Jesus?
“If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his,” writes Paul in Romans 6:5. In verse 17, he writes, “Thanks be to God that you were once slaves of the sin, but you have become obedient out of the heart to the ‘tupos’ of doctrine to which you were ‘paredothete’ [delivered up].” Perhaps you were “delivered up” with Jesus? Your life is literally His Life bled into the empty space that was your old man, your ”tupos.” The Life wells up within you like a fountain flowing from a throne and into the temple of your soul. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus” concludes Paul (Romans 6:23).
Death is what “I” can do: create a false me.
Eternal Life is what God does do; it’s who I truly am.
But what can I do with the “hot mess” in between—the neurotic mix, that is “me” right now?
“By the mercies of God present your bodies a living sacrifice,” writes Paul (Romans 12:1).
Worship is taking the resume, that I think is “me,” and nailing it to the tree.
I can’t judge me, without creating more false me, but by the mercies of God, I can surrender me, which kills the old me, liberates the new me, and sets me free.
The greatest relief for the neurotic sack of anxiety that I think is me is to come back to the tree, surrender “me,” watch “me” die with him, and feel him rising in me—the New Me.
I don’t have to judge me but just surrender me to the judgment of God.
I just have to remember there is one tree and two “me”s.
The New Me has been justified and cannot be condemned.
The Old Me cannot be justified, is already condemned, and never actually was.
But there is no “me” that needs to be justified, defended, hidden—no “me” about whom to worry.
So as soon as I worry about me, I can focus on the tree, even walk my “me”s to the tree, and it sets me free—the New Me is liberated from the Old Me in which I “imprisoned [him] in the chains of [my] own unrighteousness (Romans 1:18, Barth).” I’m free to be me—who it is that I am.
I don’t have to judge me or judge you; I just need to remember that there are two “you”s and one Judgment—and that judgment is Love.
Every person has an Old Man only because he or she is the imprint of the New Man.
I don’t have to condemn the Old Man, just know that he’s already been condemned.
In fact, Grace for the Old Man is how God destroys the Old Man and reveals the New Man.
“The Love of Christ controls us because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died… Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ.” (2nd Corinthians 5:14-20)
What qualifies you to be an ambassador is that you have concluded this: All you have done is dead and all he has done is rising in you.
You can do nothing, but you must conclude that you are something that is done.
“And how do I do that?” you ask.
You don’t; It’s done by a Word that I pray you’re hearing right now.
It brings you back to the tree and cuts you in two.
It destroys the Old and liberates the New.
It creates you in the image and likeness of God.
You are his Judgment . . . His perfect Judgment.