There are many events in a person’s life that sway his/her choices, mainly those that revolve around his/her walk with God. For me, Green Letters by Miles Stanford was a major push that has motivated me to strive to strengthen my walk with God. As with some people at a point in time after they have accepted Christ, I grew into a deep state of stagnation with my walk with the idea that I was content in where I was in life. I lost my hunger for the Lord, and fell into a spiritual routine that others warn us to stray from. I grew concerned about this change, and how I was slowly fading from Christ, but I felt stuck as I did not know how to motivate myself to pursue the only sensible way of life. This led to a state of mild depression and haunted me when I had time to myself, but being swept up in the world and all its distractions prevented me from facing this internal struggle, and so it was set aside as I tried to catch up with everything else going on in my life. Thank God for Greg pushing me to read Green Letters, as it has rekindled a fire I feared was soon to be extinguished.
The central focus that Stanford consistently harps on in this book is simple: “Not I, but Christ”. This simple yet profound statement holds many implications, but the significance behind this point is that if we hope to find any significance or fulfillment in life, then it will be found in our identity in Christ. A biblical perspective of this idea is found in Galatians 2, where Paul states clearly: “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The life I once lived in the flesh I now live by faith in the Son of God, who so loved me he gave himself up for me.” Being those who have accepted Christ, we should understand at this point that Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection is the very pinnacle of history. In that everything before his crucifixion was paving the way for it to happen, and everything after his resurrection is the fruit of his love for all mankind. Jesus’s sacrifice opened the door for all men and women to grab at the chance to have a relationship with God the father, and this relationship we now have access to is Stanford’s entire focus in Green Letters.
This book is mostly connected to Romans 5-8, as Paul walks his audience through an understanding of our identity in Christ, and in relation Green Letters breaks down each step even further. In both writings, the authors initially stress our need to understand the truth behind our identity with Christ, like as Paul says in Romans 6:4-5 “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Once they reach a settled position on the truth, both authors move to stress the idea that it is crucial that we must put to death our old self to make way for the new life Christ offers. As Stanford mentions: “crucifixion comes before [commitment]. Uncrucified self refuses to be [committed].” And to stress this further, he adds in a later chapter: “some believe they are very weak. But what does that imply? That they have some strength. But when a man is dead he has no strength.” We too must reach that point of acceptance, because we cannot hope to live in accordance with Christ if we refuse to put to death the old self and all of its rebellion toward God. Of course it does not make sense for ourselves to put to death our selfish nature, but this can only happen when we hand it over to the cross alongside with Christ’s death. Only then are we able to experience abundant life through Christ’s resurrection.
Now that both authors have covered how we put to death our old nature, they move on to discuss how to live in our new identity with God. Paul understands the Christian’s desire to pursue God (and Stanford follows Paul’s points), and first addresses methods that fail to feed a spiritual growth. Paul exemplifies the internal struggle that still rebels against God in Romans 7, and in particular how the Law is the driving force behind this conflict. Stanford addresses this legalistic mindset by touching on different modern day methods. They both follow a similar train of thought that leads to the only logical conclusion, which can be best described in Galatians 3:3 “Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” It only makes sense that we cannot grow with God by our own means, but only by going to Him and allowing Him to lead the way. This conclusion transitions into the authors’ next major point, which is that we can only grow with God by being with him. Paul lays this out in Romans 8 as he says: “Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives within you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” We have this Spirit, and so to ignore it or belittle its power through arrogance only distances us from Him.
In conclusion, Green Letters motivated me to rekindle my hunger for Christ by helping me understand and focus on where my identity is with God. Not only did God save us from death, he gave us life in abundant measure! Not only did he show us what to run away from (i.e. flee from self, flee from evil), but he shows us what to run to (i.e. life in Christ, pursue righteousness)! I am overjoyed to understand the simplicity behind what a desirable relationship with Christ looks like: spending time with Him! This passage through Romans and this book has given me a strong burden to pursue God, to push for Him and to make Him the central focus of my life. He has given me the inheritance to His kingdom, and He calls me His son. I am a son of God, a brother in Christ to everyone who has also accepted Him! I was depressed and alone, but He has given me joy and more people in my life than I thought possible! Where I stand with God is not in shame, it has never been in shame, because He does not shame me. His grace pushes the pain out of my life; His love comforts me in any situation; His promise of eternal life with Him and those I call brother and sister is motivating to serve His will to bring even more into His kingdom. My death with Christ has allowed me to truly live. Simply put, “Not I, but Christ.”