Saturday, March 19, 2011

Authentic Manifestation

In order for a sinner to be saved the Holy Spirit must illuminate his heart to things that seem so foolish and unsophisticated. That fallen heart which embraces all that is fallen and remains hardened to spiritual truths, must be cracked and opened and by a miracle of the Invisible Spirit as He deposits the truth about Jesus. At that moment the free will of man comes face to face with the everlasting gospel and the Everlasting Savior. There may be a time of assessment and contemplation as was my case, or there may be an instant embrace of the Risen Christ. But if that sinner waits too long and becomes adept at living with the spiritual tension, the power of that truth will begin to erode and eventually that sinner will consider his spiritual encounter as nothing more than a passing thought.
But if and when that sinner meditates upon the gospel, and if his heart is chased by the relentless Spirit of Truth, then he may come to a saving faith in one glorious moment. His eternal destiny has been changed and he now belongs to God. But the exhilaration of that new birth is not automatically sustained. Just as the children of Israel could not depend upon the Red Sea experience, so the new born child of God cannot receive life from the memory of his salvation experience. The complete and panoramic landscape of all things eternal does not naturally capture a believer’s heart.
The things of this present world are louder, more aggressive, more natural, and much more visible than the things of the Spirit. The believer is inundated constantly with things that malign Christ and with things that imprison the mind and even the heart. To walk in the Spirit is a labor of love, but make no mistake it is a labor nonetheless. The way of Jesus, which is the way of the cross, is no simple task and certainly not a course which can be audited. Living with the brightness if Jesus in this evil world must have at its core a determined and sacrificial heart that will pay any price to have the fellowship of His presence.
And so there must come a time, or perhaps several times, in a believer’s life where he asks himself once again, “Do I actually believe these things with all my heart?” And I do not mean some rhetorical question that is answered with the carelessness of a quiz show question, but I speak of a deep examination within one’s own heart to see with uncomfortable vulnerability just how much stark evidence there is to substantiate an affirmative answer. In other words, what observable criteria in my life separate me from those moral beings who do not believe? Do I have a statement of faith, or do I have a life of faith?
And before we answer those questions we must revisit what we say we believe in all its severity and colossal implications. As believers we have grown accustomed to regurgitate our beliefs with little passion and with the sincerity of a homework assignment. It has become all too familiar and unremarkable. We believe that God came down to Earth in the flesh and in the likeness of a man. That statement in and of itself is enough to ponder for all eternity, and yet we are much more prone to defend it as truth rather than allow it to transform our entire being. If you could see and talk with the Incarnate Jesus would it change your life? That implies that we believe in Jesus much more if we could see Him, and our belief in Him now is lacking the depth and power that would revolutionize our way of living.
Upon further investigation we say we believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world, and that He resurrected from the dead. That, my friends, is either powerfully true or it is the fairy tale of the ages. But it cannot be just some doctrinal point about which some attack and some defend. If Jesus resurrected from the dead, then the life we now lead must be nothing less than a showcase for the Risen Christ which is used up for His glory. We must come to as place where we exit this fallen world and open our hearts once again to hear the voice of the Spirit. Do we believe and live the Resurrected Savior or do we just believe? Is my life so dramatically different than my neighbors that even those who do not believe have no doubt that I do?
We say that the Jesus who resurrected and who was God the Son actually lives inside of us. It is almost impossible to imagine all the implications of that assertion. Even the cults attempt to construct distinctive and observable differences from ordinary people even if they do it through the flesh and through legalism. We cannot be satisfied with the way the church has morphed into an organization which exists neatly fitted into the cultural landscape. The effect of the western church is little more than some benign talisman passed down from generation to generation.
But let us cut to the chase. We say that we believe that every soul lives forever either in a place we call “heaven” or in a place we call “hell”. The former a place of eternal bliss and the latter a place of unspeakable horror. And with a straight face we profess to believe that scenario while enjoying the pleasures of this world and literally denying ourselves nothing but sin, and even enjoying some of that as well. And given the passive and even vacuous nature of our so called witness, the validity of our profession is extremely suspect. And if our prayer lives were uncovered, most of the church would blush with embarrassment.
We seem so satisfied by using heretics as scapegoats for our own grevious shortcomings, and as we beat the dead horses of the usual suspects we have become blind and deaf to our own comfortable lives. If we are consumed with the false teachings of others we become indifferent to the false manifestations of our own discipleship. While we indict others we stand indicted ourselves.
The disproportionate nature of what we say we believe and the way our lives are lived must be addressed. It is time to look deeply into the mirror of God’s Word and with the eyes of the Spirit come to an understanding. Do we really believe these things. If we say we do, what are we willing to do to authenticate that profession? If we continue on this present path we will be known as one of the great religions of the world on Wikipedia, and we will have earned that debased moniker.

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