Saturday, August 16, 2008

Authentic Abiding in Jesus, Part Three

If in reflection of any given church experience or just at the end of the day, a gnawing sense of desire for a palpable experience with the Creator lurks in one's soul, what is to be made of that?

Fear it: Fear is a part of your make up, and you should fear God. (Proverbs establishes this.)
Ignore it: Americans always want more. Selfish cravings infect one's spiritual aspirations. Don't be misguided by your sensual feelings. (Read the story of Saul in 1st Samuel or Sampson in Judges.)
Grin and bear it: Wanting union with God is written on our soul, but this will only be fulfilled by leaving this life for the next. (Listen to sermons.)
Follow it: God is at work to complete what He has started in you.

In this series, I report on my journey with Christ as a point of comparison. I do not intend these ideas to be instructive "doctrinally" as the term doctrine is generally used these days in formal Christian orthodoxy. My conclusions are nothing more than my own rationalizations. With that qualifier, here are my conclusions:

Charlie's wife of the previous post illustrates Everyman American Christian looking for direction from "correct" theology. I regard much denominational doctrine as a function of someone or some group seeking to establish truth from Scripture as connected to an identified move of God or as a reaction to an identified wrong position of a predecessor. Though the theology may be strongly developed and in tune with a tradition of the larger church across time, an adherent may experientially identify a missing element. Spiritually, the Christian may be quite strong in devotion but hungers for knowing God in a way that teaching does not fill. The image of the sermon read word for word is telling, as well, but I need to move on.

Evidence that something is awry in churches goes beyond the pulpit. A type of individual believer is illustrated by the "evangelist" teaching in Sunday school. Individuals may wrap themselves around some vital scriptural mandate as a personal cause, but the attitude or spirit conveyed by tone is full of unrighteous judgments against and/or open condemnation of others both within and without the local body. That these individuals enjoy esteem or even gain positions of authority is strong evidence of spiritual immaturity in that body or worse (another post maybe?). On the topic of abiding it begs a question: "Why do we not recognize that clearly mean-spirited, condemning attitudes regardless of their references to scripture are in direct violation of the Spirit of Jesus and His teachings?" The dilemma is a set of dramatic masks, one smiling, one frowning. On the one the hand the speaker smiles confident he/she is representing God, and the other is the frown of disapproval for others. Why is the smile received and the frown ignored among us?

Further evidence is the trial lawyer. Quite simply, we are confounded by Jesus' words about love and enemies. Rather than figure this one out, we make a choice to leave it discussed in Sunday school or Bible studies. How often does something hard in Jesus' words weigh on the conscience to some degree, but we settle for less than understanding to avoid accountability? (Believe me, I state this first about myself!) We deceive ourselves. See John 12:48

Sincere, dedicated Christians can miss the fullness of abiding in Christ. I offered my own life of Christian service that robbed my family of much needed time and love as an example. Understanding how to resist sin is part of abiding but only a defensive posture against temptation. What does abiding look like in a proactive stance moving into and influencing the worldly culture around us? What does abiding look like corporately? Do local bodies of Christians (formerly organized or ad hoc in homes is not the issue) substitute forms for spiritual life?

I submit that if in my opening choices of responses to reflection on a desire for God, you chose Follow It, then you are one who knows an experiential existence with the living God that moves beyond religion, and thereby are one who believes in a proactive "abiding in Christ."

So...desire more life in your life?

The paradigm shift I referenced in Part 2 is addressed in these words of Jesus in John 6:

So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 "For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 "This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever." 59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?" 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, "Does this cause you to stumble? 62 "What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.

Summary post in this series next up.


Craig V. said...

I have a couple of questions on this one. How does one follow "a gnawing sense of desire for a palpable experience with the Creator"? I'm not asking this in a combative way; I'm simply trying to imagine what this would look like. Also doesn't Jesus indicate that hunger (spiritual hunger?) is a good thing? I think there's a tension here that I don't fully understand. As Christians we are both full and empty.

ded said...

You always ask the salient questions. It is a blessing because it helps focus me! Again you demonstrate the need we have for the group against the individual experience. ;^)

I attempt to describe something that is difficult to describe. Yes a hunger for God, and it is certainly a good thing! In fact, it is among the handful of descriptors that Jesus uses in the Sermon on the Mount that help us recognize inner states which are part of His design.

There is a tension, Yes! But my hope and belief is that the satisfaction of the tension is available to us. We need not live experiencing the empty, but through the instruction of Scripture see and know the "full" state continually. Count it joy brethren when you face trial? Isn't joy in the face of extreme difficulties evidence of the "full" when we might expect the "empty?" Is God capricious allowing some to know such joy and others to waddle through on empty?

Jesus has taken the empty--"MY God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"--do we need to, as well?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst, for they shall be satisfied.

I am of the opinion that though the fullness and the wonder of the next life, a given, is a way to think of what Jesus teaches from the Sermon on the Mount, the sermon also describes our state in Him in this life.

I hope to post the next piece of thinking by tomorrow. School as always is a bit of a whirlwind here at the beginning.