A PILGRIMAGE BACK TO JESUS
If you are beginning to realize that the spiritual edifice has completely crumbled and you are standing in the midst of spiritual ruin just what do you do and where do you start to rebuild a faith that honors God and follows Jesus? I would suggest you begin by laying once again the Chief Cornerstone and slowly shape each additional stone to fit with it. That Cornerstone should be easy to find. It’s the one that the modern ecclesiastical builders rejected.
With those few words I have humbly attempted to both describe the current spiritual situation in the western church structure as well as my own personal journey. I realize that the phrase “back to Jesus” seems like hyperbole and a clever wording for effect, but I suggest it clearly and unambiguously defines the journey before us. I submit this short exhortation from our Lord:
Matt.11: 28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
And I add this as well:
II Cor.11: 3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
A man puts up a Christmas tree. He puts strings of lights all around it. He hangs scores upon scores of ornaments. He hangs angels and nick-knacks and candy canes and pictures and some homemade ornaments. He wraps the tree with silver and gold garland. And he carefully hangs silver tinsel from top to bottom. He calls his neighbor and invites him to come over. As the neighbor walks into the living room he exclaims, “What a wonderful tree!” But the neighbor cannot even see the tree itself. What catches his eye and what he is calling wonderful are all the decorations that have been hung upon the tree.
And so it is with the faith which claims to have Jesus as its centerpiece. We have decorated it with so many activities and buildings and organizations and doctrines and slogans and celebrities and marketing and finances and political issues and patriotism and many other things that people can no longer see Jesus. They see an organization which stands for some issues and does some good things and has pretty buildings and even has some friendly people. But the world cannot see Jesus. But what if we truly desired to let people see Jesus? Then we must first remove all the man made ornaments from our lives and the accepted practices of the church. And when we once again stand without preconceived ideas and church traditions, well then we begin to learn of Him.
That seems so simple and odd since we have learned about Jesus for many years. I mean how much more can we learn? Some of us have been to Bible school and some of us have taught Sunday School classes and some of us have read books about Jesus and some of us have read wonderful sermons about Jesus. I mean we know Jesus, we have trusted in Jesus, and we are headed to be with Jesus forever. So what more is there? That question reveals just how spiritually unconscious we really are and how the church has been so influenced by the culture and benign doctrinal teachings that we as believers in Jesus have long ceased being followers of that same Jesus.
We embrace and follow a doctrinal Jesus which is Biblically accurate and doctrinally sound but who is a lifeless caricature that we use to play pin the doctrinal tail of the true Jesus. Imagine you are living in a house, your house. You have your bed and your desk and your television and your clothes. You are quite comfortable in your house and you enjoy your life in your house, which you embrace as your home. But one day a man walks into your room and to your amazement this man is not your father. After your shock you begin to find out that this man owns the house you embraced as yours, but he is not your father. You feel like you are dreaming but you are not. Even though you love your room and all the things in it and you have felt at home there, you set out to search for the house that your real father owns. You can no longer feel comfortable in a house that is not owned by your father.
But if that man had not walked into your room you would never have known that the house was not your home. You could have remained content and comfortable and embraced your life even while living in a house which did not belong to your father. And this is the scenario many of us have had to face. We were comfortable and content within this church structure and within the house of faith built for you by that same church structure. Everything seemed good and your faith felt like home to you. But one day you realized that your Father did not own the faith in which you were living. You had always assumed your Older Brother was living in the master bedroom, but upon further inspection you are aghast to find the master bedroom occupied by a collection of men. Some of them seemed to be good men and men who knew their way around this house, but still your Older Brother was not there.
And after many days and nights of inward turmoil and fear about leaving that which you have known and even loved for so long, you leave that house and set out to find the house where your Older Brother lives. And you quickly realize that the house for which you are searching is not next door. You are going to have to walk through some pretty thick jungle and a stretch of wilderness in order to arrive at the house which must be your home.
So we are on a journey back to Jesus. It is not an easy journey and the path is only clear for a few feet at a time. We are considered fanatics and self righteous judges by our former ecclesiastical brethren, and we must always battle any hint of superiority. But this journey carries great hope of a reward that can only be found in Him. The further we walk away from our former church existence the more we see just how manmade it was. But we must constantly be reminded that our walk of faith and our journey must never be fueled by what is wrong with the structure we have left. Our journey is Christ; our walk is Christ; our mind is Christ; our heart is Christ; and our very life is Christ.
We are attacked by discouragement which tells us we will fail and just how much time we have wasted. We see people very happy in what we have left, and they enjoy pleasant fellowship which once was ours. But the Word of God sustains us with new and deep and enlightening truths which the Spirit brands upon our hearts. We are understanding things about our wonderful Savior which sometimes makes it seem as if we are meeting Him for the very first time. There is so much more to unlearn and so very much more to learn. It is quite a journey.
But this path is not filled with great crowds who encourage one another. Sometimes it is very lonely and without God’s Spirit we would despair. But we cannot turn back and we must press on. There is nothing about which to return and there is everything about which to gain. Think about learning of Jesus. Not just learning about Him, but actually hearing what He has said, fellowshipping with Him, and following Him in the here and now. Think about surrendering everything you own, everything you think, everything you desire, everything you know, everything you are, and everything you will ever be to Him and to Him alone - surrendering everything, dramatically and without exception and without compromise. You come before Him stripped of all your well worn pretentions and religious mindsets and you surrender it all. And you learn of Him. You seek Him. You eat Him. You drink Him. You live Him. And He takes your life and lives His.
Bondage? Oh no, freedom without limits. You no longer have wants or desires apart from the desire to know Him more fully. Walking with Him without the stifling influence and bondage of the western church construct you are now His disciple who is being made into the image of your Master Teacher. The world has always seen servanthood to Jesus as a conundrum. They see bondage and we testify of freedom. They see meekness and we see boldness. They see the last but we see the first. They see death but we see life. And today the Spirit is calling out one saint at a time from the bondage of the western church and setting souls free into His marvelous light! Should we judge our brethren yet in bondage? No, never! We love and pray for them and let our lights shine without any self serving bellicose concerning how great we are. No, we serve and live at our King’s pleasure.
Instead of the gold of the knowledge of Christ we have been sold many pieces of Pyrite. And with this substance of fools we have built great organizations and edifices and dialogues and activities and seminars and celebrities and books and CDs and memberships and relationships and an aura of spirituality. And we can stand back with great pride and see what our hands and heads have accomplished. It is a colossal religious and cultural work in which we have found much solace, much affirmation, and much human community. But we have not found Jesus.
Our journey now is filled with giants and yet sustained by the grapes of Eschol and the wine of the Spirit. Do we feel a sense of superiority or a sense of arrival? Oh no, my dear brethren, we feel a tangible sense of brokenness and humility. In fact we often fight depression as it comes to offer its shoulder. No, with each day of this journey we see more and more journey ahead of us. But we have been loosed from the grave clothes which once were our friends. We are free but we walk with Jacob’s limp after being touched by God’s Spirit. We are sinful cripples who are whole in Him. We mimic the Greek Jews at the Feast of Passover who said, “Sirs, we would see Jesus”.
We have seen it all, but now we desire to see Jesus. We have seen enough shows, enough church services, enough great sermons, enough pageants, enough ribbon cuttings, enough marketing, and we have seen enough religion to last a lifetime. Now, we want to see Jesus. That is most certainly a metaphor but so much more than just a metaphor. If you wish to use your retinas and corneas than all you will see is what you have already seen. But if you dare to open the door of your heart and allow the Spirit to direct and refocus the eyes of the Spirit, then you will not only see Him who is above all there is, but you will be changed forever. And then as He is so will you be in this world.
And not only will you see Jesus...
but so will those who see you.