October 25, 2009
Governing ourselves, seems to be our biggest challenge, whether on a personal scale or a larger one. How do we do it? How can we ever be successful at it? Perhaps if we make more rules? Maybe if we make the punishment for wrongdoing more harsh? Perhaps if we were ruled by a king, or a despot, or better yet, a benevolent emperor? Perhaps if we divide the power among the people in a democracy? Perhaps if we establish a republic and govern ourselves by the rule of law? Perhaps if we hire more police officers? Or maybe if we work harder on personal discipline or if we were better educated?
Oh wait. Actually, I think we've pretty much tried all of that. And yet, still, humanity struggles to control itself on every stage. We simply cannot consistently and perpetually do the right thing. Corruption and misbehavior seem always to creep into what ever we do if we do it long enough. In fact, every attempt at human government, whether personal or corporate, has only amplified the existence of the fatal flaw that plagues us all: chronic waywardness. We are indeed stained with the indelible stain of incorrigibility, even in the face of our own best intentions
So we find ourselves cheating on our diet, or our taxes, or our spouse. We find ourselves breaking the laws that we enact to protect ourselves. We engage in the dangerous and the self destructive, even though we know better. We cross the personal "lines" that we mentally establish for our own good. We renege on our most well intentioned promises. We transgress even our own conscience. And all of these things, we have done across the entirety of the human existence and across the entire spectrum of humanity. There simply is no denying it - left to ourselves, we lack the power to be consistently good and to always do the right thing.
The Apostle Paul makes this point very well in Romans, chapter 7, where he says, "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do."
So, where is the human hope. Real hope necessarily anticipates enduring goodness, not the lack of it. And that truth did not escape the gaze of a loving and graceful God when He was formulating His redemptive plan. In fact, it seems He drew up the redemptive plan with that need in the foreground of His mind. His whole uncomplicated intention is to bring consistent goodness to the human heart. And His single "instrument" for doing so is the living Christ.
At last, in the power of the resurrected Savior, there really is the possibility of a durable goodness within the human being. Paul speaks, in Colossians, chapter 1, of this divine mystery being revealed in these New Testament times. He says, "...the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
In recent times we have tended to make redemption mostly about forgiveness. It is not. It is only first about forgiveness. But ultimately, God's redemption is about, well, redemption. It is about newness in the believer - the single most dramatic aspect of which is the creation of a "good-heart" government that really works. And this change to the human condition, effected only through the Pentecostal merger with Christ, changes everything.
But to experience this change personally, we must get beyond the mind set that reduces God's redemptive work to only a moment of forgiveness in an alter. There is a much larger design to be understood. Beyond that first moment of forgiveness lies a beautiful Pentecostal moment when the believer, for the first time, experiences the literal touch of the living Savior.
It is this Pentecostal moment that is the real target event of the New Testament. In the conversion moment, we are forgiven, but we are still immersed in our own brokenness. Our heart may now be more humble before God, but it is also still wayward. And so we move, according to His divine plan, from the conversion moment toward the Pentecostal moment, when the believer is given access to the divine essence. He or she is literally merged with the resurrected Christ; and their heart is instantly and profoundly changed by his divine energies.
And from that point forward, the vitality of Christ continues to effect an enlarging degree of change in the believer's heart and thus in his or her real circumstance. Real newness in Christ is not a function of trying harder or working to "cleaning up our act." It is the result of literally being spiritually immersed in Christ. Our hope lies not in better religion, but in the living Savior living expressively in us.
If we would know God intimately, we must experience this Pentecostal renewal. If we would be always governed by a good heart, our single hope is the Pentecostal merger that God has prescribed for every believer in His redemptive blue print.
As a minister in these modern times, I have come to understand, regarding the Church, that the greater challenge these days is to elevate the view of the Church beyond the conversion moment to the true pinnacle of the Christian experience - the baptism of the Spirit which brings us literally into the vitality of Christ. While the idea of a personal Pentecost may remain in our theology books, yet in the modern Church we are increasingly losing our experiential grip on that reality. We are missing this ultimate point of the New Testament - an actual integration with the living Christ.
Indeed, modern, and I'm sure, well intentioned (though not well balanced) preaching etc. has largely reduced the Gospel to simply the Cross. But it is not just the Cross. It is the Cross and the Resurrection. It is not just about the Dying Christ and forgiveness. It is ultimately about the Living Christ and His shared vitality with the believer. This is the final means by which the profound redemptive changes that God requires are effected within the believer. That is why Christ would say in John, chapter 15, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."
That first moment when we feel the "cleanness" of God's forgiveness wash over us is a wonderful thing. But there is another moment after that on which everything depends. It is that Pentecostal moment when we literally touch the living Christ and He touches us with the essence of the divine nature. That moment too is indispensable to our redemption and to our newness.
Do not stop at the Cross, Church. Chase after the living Christ until you have touched of His essence and are touched by it. In that touch resides the fullness of your renewal and your ultimate hope.