Friday, May 8, 2009
Designed to be Defined
The following quotes are derived from Wayne Jacobson’s latest Body Life article. You can read it here.
Was Christianity Ever Meant to Be a Religion?
“I guess all of this begs the question, did Jesus intend to start a religion called Christianity, or did we do this to ourselves? I suspect the latter. I am wholeheartedly convinced that he came to end all religions, not by lashing out against them, but by filling up in the human spirit what religion promises to fill but never can. Religion seeks to manipulate human effort to earn God’s approval, when such approval can never be earned.”
Losing Your Religion
“What does this mean for us? Should we stop calling ourselves Christian or judge those who do? Should we come up with a new term to franchise so we could separate the ones who live it relationally from the ones who are caught up in religion? If we did, we’d only be making the same mistakes that have diminished our life in Jesus over the centuries. “
“The truth is that Christianity as a religion is a dangerous disfigurement of the God of the Bible. But not all who call themselves Christians live religiously. Given all the excesses and failures of Christianity, I am delightfully grateful that the Gospel of Jesus is still relatively intact inside its doctrine. Unfortunately it only lets new believers live free for so long before burdening them with religious obligations.”
“Ultimately the transformation from practicing religion to living inside a relationship with God is not an institutional battle; it is a personal one. We could tear apart all of our religious institutions today and nothing would change. I’ve been in many a house church filled with people who see the institutional church as the problem and are oblivious to the fact that they’ve just moved their religion into a home, where close fellowship only makes it more oppressive.”
Are we but dust in the wind, or were we thought of long before there was an ‘us’? I believe with all my heart that we were in fact designed in the heart and mind of the Father to be defined, and one example of that is in the following: “Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.”
There are no vacuums. Man was “created born” not birthed. He was born without a nature, (what we love to call “human nature”) and that’s what the two trees pointed to in the Garden - an opportunity to become complete by design, partaking from the Tree of Life. After all, they already had the necessary equipment - a personal spirit to contain the very Life of God. He that is joined to God is one spirit! In thinking they were already alive (and just for the record they were, inasmuch as they had a physical and soulish dimension to their being along with having a spirit), but that alone was not what fully defined them, at least not yet.
In eating, or taking into their being, that which was from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they instantly acquired a nature that reflected that of the father of lies. As well, Satan is the father of ALL religion. Religion was conceived at that decisive moment in the hearts of the very man and woman who had originally been purposed by God to be defined by His total unconditional love.
Like everything in our lives, if there is no absolute in defining who we are, then the following quotes from the movie “The Matrix” are applicable: “If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain."
“The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. What truth? That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind. I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.”
Being born in sin and shaped in iniquity (depravity) we became defined. Let’s look at how the Scriptures clearly illustrate it in brilliant clarity: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
In my opinion, much of what we call “Christianity” is cerebral, conceptual, three-dimensional, muddled thinking at best. Having a high IQ or virtually no IQ was insufficient from impeding us from responding to His amazing grace since “we have been saved by grace through faith, not by works lest anyone should boast.”
Without continued impartation from the life-quickening spirit of the Father, we are doing what we think we know best: trying to fit God into our box of insanity.
A sinner is not someone who does ‘bad’ things. ‘Sinner’ is a descriptive word defining an identity; likewise becoming a saint (not as the Catholic Church defines the term) isn’t about doing ‘good’ things, but is also a definitive word describing identity. But without the spirit of truth breathing upon, or into these very words they are perhaps good, sound doctrine but totally hollow as far as real Life is concerned.
So many have the “right doctrine” but are much like a mausoleum. Everything is very decent and orderly, but full of death!
As Wayne Jacobson alluded to in his article, was Jesus sent here (the Word becoming flesh) merely to establish a new and improved religion called Christianity? Or did he come that we being born still-born might have an abundant LIFE?
The bible says that perfect love drives out fear, because in fear there is torment. Fear is what we all know best, and it is this innate, inbred fear that keeps us alienated from the very life of the Father that wants to fully bring definition to our lives. Without a continued invasion of this life within our soul (mind, will and emotions) we will have but a form of godliness, with no power in our living!
What none of us see with any clarity is that in the fall of humankind, there was something added to man that was not resident within him before his defiant act. A metaphysical component was added to his being which is called the flesh. I see it being much like a timed release pill where over a 24 hour period the medicine is slowly released into the flow of the body.
We don’t know how much time elapsed before a greater observable display of this thing called the “flesh” became recognizable, but it is a certainty that it was immediate in this respect: God had to seek out Adam and Eve. Why? Because they heard His voice and were afraid. They were shamed by the sudden awareness of their naked bodies. Bottom line is, God said right from the beginning, “In the day you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall surely die.”
Long before there is ever an outer expression of a religion or its practices, there has been something conceived within the heart and mind of man – yes, especially those who have tasted of His life, but who have either refused to cling to the one who said he would build His church or who have been blinded by religion’s grasp from doing so.
I love the following illustration from Brennan Manning’s book, “Abba’s Child” because it so graphically points to what I see the Father has for each of those He has apprehended in his love:
“As John leans back on the breast of Jesus and listens to the heartbeat of the Great Rabbi, he comes to know Him in a way that surpasses mere cognitive knowledge.
What a world of difference lies between knowing about someone and knowing Him! We may know all about someone-name, habits, place of birth, family origin, educational background, habits, appearance-but all those vital statistics tell us nothing about the person who lives and loves and walks with God."
“In a flash of intuitive understanding, John experiences Jesus as the human face of God who is love. And in coming to know who the Great Rabbi is, John discovers who he is - the disciple Jesus loved. Years later, the evangelist would write, ‘In love there is no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love: because fear is to expect punishment, and anyone who is afraid is still imperfect in love."
“I sense this is what happened in the Upper Room. Not only did the beloved disciple come to know Jesus, but the meaning of all that Jesus had taught suddenly exploded like a starburst. ‘I first learned the Word of God when the Great Rabbi held me silently against his heart.’ For John the heart of Christianity was not an inherited doctrine but a message born of his own experience. And the message he declared was, “God is love."
“To read John 13:23-25 without faith is to read it without profit. To risk the passionate life, we must be “affected by” Jesus as John was; we must engage His experience with our lives rather than with our memories. Until I lay my head on Jesus’ breast, listen to His heartbeat, and personally appropriate the Christ-experience of John’s eye-witness, I have only a derivative spirituality. My cunning impostor will borrow John’s moment of intimacy and attempt to convey it as if it were my own.”
In conclusion, the perfection I see we are to enter into, is being perfected in and by His total unconditional love for us. It begins and ends there, so to speak. Yet according to Scripture, does it really end there? “What marvellous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we're called children of God! That's who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or takes us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he's up to. But friends, that's exactly who we are: children of God. And that's only the beginning. Who knows how we'll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we'll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus' life as a model for our own.”