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July 23, 2010
The Doctrine of Occupation with Christ
The Lord has made available many provisions for living according to His plan and growing in Christ. These provisions are known variously as “divine operating assets”, “techniques for Christian living”, “problem solving devices”, and so forth.
These provisions are part of the great store of blessings which God has already made available to us in Christ.
Eph. 1:3, “And has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”
These provisions include:
· Confession of Sin
· The Filling of the Holy Spirit
· Faith-Rest (Trust leading to Peace)
· Orientation to Grace
· Personal Love for God
· Impersonal Love for Mankind
· Joy – the happiness of God which does not depend on people, circumstances, or things
· A personal destiny shared with all in God’s royal family
· Occupation with Jesus Christ
This article deals with the subject of Occupation with the Lord Jesus Christ, under the following headings:
What is Occupation with Christ
Why a Christian Needs to be Occupied with Christ
The Bible Commands Regarding Occupation with Christ
Mechanics – How to be Occupied with Christ
The Results of Occupation with Christ
What is Occupation with Christ
Occupation with Christ is a mental attitude by which a Christian believer views all things in life with the Lord Jesus Christ in mind.
Occupation with Christ is love for the Son, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, therefore it is the expression of love for God. The Bible commands us to love God, with all our heart, soul and mind. Being occupied with Christ is a great part of our love for God. Therefore, this concept is one of the most important spiritual functions in the Christian life.
Love for God, and Occupation with Christ, results from learning, digesting, and applying Bible truth. The Bible describes the lifestyle of wisdom and the path to spiritual maturity through the filling of the Holy Spirit and growth in Christ.
But the Lord Jesus Christ is invisible to us because He is in heaven, seated at the right hand of God. He will not become visible to us until we see Him in eternity. So, loving Christ requires a system of communications which is based on thought. The system is the Word of God, God’s thoughts and God’s words, guarded in the Scripture. There is no other accurate record of the mind of Christ, divine viewpoint, apart from what is contained in the Bible.
Therefore, we can only come to love Jesus Christ, to be occupied with Christ, through learning the Word of God and making His thoughts our thoughts.
1 Cor. 2:16, For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
This love for Jesus Christ can only come about through applied Bible truth.
Eph. 3:19, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.
1 Pet. 1:8, and though you have not seen Him, you love Him [occupation with Christ], and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
Joy and occupation with Christ always go together, you can’t have one without the other. The glory with which you are filled is Bible truth, and this emphasizes the fact that you have come to know Christ through perception and application of the Word of God.
Difference Between Indwelling of Christ and Occupation with Christ
The Indwelling of Christ is not an experience. Every Christian, whether a novice or advanced believer, is indwelt by Christ, has been since the point of salvation, and always will be. You find this teaching in John 14:20; Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27; and 1 John 2:24.
Christ indwells believers for a number of reasons: (1) as a sign that a Christian is a member of God’s royal family, (2) as a guarantee of the blessings which we have for time and eternity, (3) as a guarantee of eternal life and a life after death in the presence of God, (4) as a motivation for us to stay in the plan of God, especially when we experience suffering.
Occupation with Christ, though, is one of the processes leading to Christian maturity, and not all believers experience this. Occupation with Christ is the focus of all worship. When you worship God “in spirit and in truth” you are occupied with Christ.
Occupation with Christ is the main motivation in a Christian’s life. And it is the prime solution to all the problems of life. Only positive believers who choose to follow the plan of God are occupied with Christ.
The following are expressions of the process of being occupied with Christ. Notice in each case how the Christian is involved in a thought and decision process leading to occupation with Christ.
“Christ being formed in you…” (Gal. 4:19)
“Christ at home in your hearts…” (Eph. 3:17)
“Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1:20).
Occupation with Christ makes an issue out of knowledge of the Word of God, setting right priorities, being involved and active in the plan of God, and glorifying God during a Christian’s lifetime.
Characteristics of Occupation with Christ
1. Jesus Christ is God; so, occupation with Christ is the greatest expression of love toward God, the objective of all Christians.
2. Deut. 6:5, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…”
3. Occupation with Christ becomes the means for making great decisions with an impact on history.
4. Heb. 11:27, “Moses gave up the crown of Egypt. He became strong under pressure, for he saw the invisible One.”
5. Occupation with Christ begins as the believer moves toward spiritual maturity, Col. 3:15-l7.
6. Occupation with Christ glories Him, Eph. 3:17-21
7. Occupation with Christ means that human beings are not raised on pedestals, Phil. 3:7,8.
8. The means of continuing to be occupied with Christ is the daily learning and application of Bible teaching while under the control of the Holy Spirit, Jer. 9:23,24.
9. Occupation with Christ is a pastor’s prime motivation to teach the Bible so that believers grow in Christ, Heb. 6:10.
10. Occupation with Christ is related to victory in spiritual warfare with Satan and his angels. With your mind in the right place, you are confident of victory, Col. 3:1,2.
The Need for Occupation with Christ
Psalm 118:9 tells us, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord that to trust in princes.” If you take refuge in the Lord, you stop expecting things from people. Your fellowship with God solves the problems that you have with people, and makes your relationships with people far better.
A person is seldom treated the way he wants to be treated, or loved the way he wants to be loved. Outside of God’s plan, this can cause frustration and instability.
This frustration becomes a major motivation in life and leads people on a frantic search for fellowship with people, instead of fellowship with God. Until a person becomes stabilized in his thinking, by occupying himself with Christ, he will be very unstable. People select their companions, their spouses, even their churches, based on the desire to be loved and treated properly.
Most of the time, people don’t find what they are looking for, so they become bitter, and indulge themselves in jealousy, envy, vindictiveness, hatred, and revenge, and are very disappointed in all categories of life.
Occupation with Christ brings about a change in priorities in a Christian’s life. Proper focus on Christ takes care of the problems of friendships, romance, marriage, business, or social life, and the problems that are caused by constant friction with people in all situations. Love for God and for Christ takes the place of frustration and bitterness with people.
Impersonal love, which is the professional attitude of a mature believer toward all people, provides a capacity for wonderful relationships with people in Christian fellowship, friendship, and marriage.
The Problems of Focusing on Self, People, Things
Jer. 17:5,6 Thus says the Lord, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush in the desert, and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant.
Three great problems develop through failure to be occupied with Christ. The first problem is to have a focus on self. This is arrogance, or an overestimation of one’s self. When you are indignant, or offended, or angered by the way you are treated, your eyes are on yourself. You are frustrated and bitter, and you become vengeful. You make bad decisions from a position of weakness.
The second problem of wrong focus is to have one’s eyes on people. We tend to put our trust in people in many different relationships. We think people are causing our problems, and we look to other people to solve our problems. We try to find people who are compatible, but are always be disappointed in them.
There is nothing wrong with having relationships with people. In fact, they are unavoidable. But we will always be disappointed by people until we have a personal love for God, occupation with Christ, and an impersonal love for all people. This spiritual outlook is the source of pure joy and the enjoyment of a personal sense of eternal accomplishment.
You can’t change other people, even your spouse. When you try, it only intensifies the problem. What you are doing is making an issue out of yourself instead of Christ’s teaching. The only person you can change is yourself; and you cannot do that by executing some sort of psychological program for your life. Personal change comes only through growth in Christ and using the assets that God has provided for solving the problems of life.
The third problem caused by failure to be occupied with Christ is a focus on things. Since you’re not being treated properly, you decide to sublimate in some way by buying something, going somewhere, seeking out recreation. If you can’t get away, or you can’t afford your dream package, you spend your life filled with fantasy or wanderlust.
Occupation with Christ provides a new focus on life, away from self, people, and things. When you have spiritual self-esteem, it doesn’t matter how you are treated, whether you are loved or not loved, or whether you get what you want. It is your fellowship with Christ that counts!
God is perfect and can only treat you within the scope of His perfection. Within God’s plan, you will be treated in a manner that is most beneficial to you, with the proper combination of pleasure and suffering, joy and sorrow, social life and solitude, a combination of blessing and testing to bring you to maturity.
So, how you are treated by people, or by life itself, is no longer an issue. You are living a life of love for Christ as your motivational solution. You have impersonal love for people as part of your functional integrity. The Lord gives you victory over hurt, anger, hatred, frustration, or antagonism toward people, even in the midst of some of the greatest expressions of frustration.
You have yourself been changed through the Word of God. You can pass all forms of testing without being destroyed. You are well positioned to conduct a powerful personal ministry for Christ, being free from the self-generated problems to which most people are subject.
The Bible Commands Us to be Occupied with Christ
Occupation with Christ is commanded by God; it is not an option. If you are going to live the Christian life according to God’s plan, you must come to the place where you are occupied with Christ.
Deut. 6:5 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
This verse shows that it is God’s will that we be absorbed with Him in our whole being: heart, soul, and might. This means the Word of God must be our top priority. To love God – to love the Lord Jesus Christ – we must know Him. We learn about Christ, the Living Word, through the Bible, the written Word. The written Word and the Living Word eventually become our main focus in life. A Christian cannot enter spiritual adulthood (maturity) without this dual priority in life.
Christians who are not occupied with Christ will always be novices, spiritual immature, and dabblers in the faith.
Heb. 12:2, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus Christ is the author and perfecter of our faith (our doctrine). Furthermore, the Bible is the “mind of Christ”, the actual thinking of Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 2:16)
The word “joy” in Heb. 12:2 refers to the happiness of the Lord Jesus as he endured the suffering of the Cross, when He was being judged for our sins. We don’t usually think of happiness associated with Christ’s suffering, but this was the pure joy, in Christ’s case, of his being 100% occupied with the Father and with His plan.
1 Pet. 3:15, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
This verse is a command to be occupied with Christ. The “heart” is the place in the soul where wisdom and applied Bible knowledge reside. We “sanctify” Christ in our hearts by having maximum understanding and application of Bible truth. By consistent learning of the Word, under conditions of spiritual fellowship (control of the Holy Spirit), a believer sanctifies Christ as Lord in the heart.
Mechanics – How To Be Occupied with Christ
You have probably already seen that occupation with Christ is accomplished through having regular interaction with the Word of God. The #1 priority is concentration on Bible truth, and organizing one’s life around that #1 priority. When you do that, you are concentrating on Christ, you are occupied with Christ.
To concentrate on the Word, you must receive consistent accurate teaching from a pastor-teacher. In Eph. 4:11-16, we see that the method God the Father has chosen to bring us to maturity as individuals, and to have a mature, productive church, is Bible teaching from men who are prepared to minister (preach) the Word of God.
You must listen and learn many things from the Bible. Some of them will seem to have no immediate application, but all Bible knowledge is important in God’s plan for your life. If you stay with it, the pieces will begin to fit together and it will all make sense.
If your top priority is Bible truth, your life will begin to change almost without your knowing it. You will learn doctrine every day, and you will begin to use the problem solving techniques that the Bible offers. Your mental attitude will be determined by the divine thinking that is coming into your soul.
When the Word of God is the main focus of your life, you come to the point of personal love for God the Father. You will have spiritual self-esteem. Once you begin to have love for God, and to be occupied with Christ, you will no longer feel threatened by things in life that once disturbed you. You have a relaxed mental attitude and spiritual joy, which is happiness supplied by God that you have regardless of circumstances, things, or the people in your life. This process is demonstrated in 1 Peter 1:6-8.
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,
that the proof (genuineness) of your faith (doctrine), being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
and though you have not seen Him (Jesus Christ), you love Him (occupation with Christ), and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
In other words, you begin to function by using the Word of God during times of testing, at the same time as you are occupied with Christ. You are actually sharing the happiness of God as you go through life.
The Results of Occupation with Christ
Occupation with Christ is the principal solution to all problems that occur in life. God the Father has provided us with everything necessary for us to have a capacity for joy and a prosperity that is independent of people or circumstances. These provisions are known as “all blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Note that the place of blessing is in Christ. All blessings, and all problem solutions begin with Occupation with Christ.
Occupation with Christ glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph. 3:19-21)
Occupation with Christ is required in order to have complete fellowship with God the Father. I John 1:6. Walking “in darkness” is the opposite of occupation with Christ.
In 2 Cor. 13:14, the “practice of truth” is fellowship with God the Father; and fellowship with God always leads to love for God.
I Cor. 1:9 indicates that fellowship with Christ is concurrent with, and necessary for, fellowship with God. Since you were “called into fellowship with His Son,” this should be your main priority in life. But this means that you have to make the Word of God your main interest in life.
Fellowship with God the Holy Spirit is also closely tied in with occupation with Christ. Phil. 2:1,2 “Therefore, if there be any encouragement in Christ, if there is any comfort of love, if there is any fellowship with the Spirit, if there is any affection mercies, complete my happiness by thinking the same things.”
God’s happiness is completed as we have fellowship with Him, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Then we can have true fellowship with people, without putting people before God. 2 Cor. 13:14 “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love for God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” But without occupation with Christ, interaction with other people is often bad.
Occupation with Christ, therefore, eliminates the superficiality of human hero worship. Phil. 3:7,8 “…I count all things but loss except for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord…”
As you become occupied with Christ, you have a stronger motivation to have a relationship with the Lord, and you change gradually from dependence on people to dependence on the Lord. You cannot change people; it is God who causes people to change, to grow up. And no one is fully grown up who is not making use of occupation with Christ. The key to God’s plan is that we no longer live for ourselves but for Christ.
2 Cor. 5:14-17 For the love of Christ continues to motivate us, in that One died for all; therefore, all have died. And He died as a substitute for all, in order that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and was resurrected…
Occupation with Christ brings spiritual self-esteem and self-confidence. You have self-esteem when you stop competing with people and undermining them. You stop slandering, gossiping, maligning, and judging other people. You have impersonal (professional) love for other people, because you are occupied with Christ. You live in grace, and you are a conduit of grace to other people, because Christ has become formed in your thinking and you love Him above everything else. The result is 2 Cor. 5:14 “The Lord for Christ motivates…”
Occupation with Christ is the Basis for Production and Blessing
· It is the means by which mature believers contribute to national blessing (blessing by association). Deut. 30:15-20.
· It produces courage and victory in battle, Jer. 23:10,11.
· It is the basis for strength during testing, Psalm 31:23,24.
· It results in great blessings, Psalm 37:4,5.
· It provides strength under pressure, Heb. 11:27.
· It helps the Christian avoid fatigue in the soul, Heb. 12:3.
1. Occupation with Christ is the ultimate function and outlook of the Christian way of life. It is the only answer to unrealistic expectations in life, which include not being treated the way you think you should be treated, and not being loved the way you think you should be loved.
2. Occupation with Christ is the main problem solving feature of Christian living, and it is the key to all other solutions which God’s plan provides.
3. Occupation with Christ proceeds through three phases as the Christian grows in Christ.
4. First, “Christ is formed in you”, Gal. 4:19. As a result, “the love for Christ motivates us.” 2 Cor. 5:14
5. Second, occupation with Christ is characterized as “Christ at home in your hearts”, Eph. 3:17, resulting in “setting apart the Lord Christ in your hearts”, 1 Pet. 3:15.
6. Third, in spiritual maturity, “Christ is exalted in my body, whether by life or by death,” Phil. 1:20. The result “for me, living is Christ and dying is profit,” Phil. 1:21.
7. Phil. 3:7-10, “Whatever things were gain to me, I have concluded them loss for the sake of Christ, I conclude all things to be loss because of the surpassing greatness of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, my Lord, because I have suffered the loss of all things, and I now consider then dung in order that I may gain Christ. And that I may be demonstrated in Him, not having my own righteousness from the law, but that righteousness which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God by faith in Christ. That I may know Him, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Christ in the fellowship of His death.”