Feb 27, 2011

The Ultimate Encounter

Jesus said this. "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 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."

The most fulfilling thing in life is to encounter the Savior in the way He intended. Sadly, most of the world in every generation will live and die and never have a serious encounter with Jesus Christ. Many will never even hear of Him. And of those who do, relatively few of us will experience the ultimate encounter that He offers.

Oh, we may be impressed by His utter selflessness. We may be grateful for His death on the Cross and all that it means. We may even be moved to embrace Christ as our Savior, the Benefactor of our forgiveness. But relatively few will actually venture beyond the realm of forgiveness, to discover Jesus on the higher plane of relationship.

But there truly is a higher plane than that which is born out of feckless gratitude. It is higher, too, than a mere orientation around our works - what we do. Our behavior is important, but our behavior is not the most primary basis for the ultimate encounter with Christ.

The ultimate relationship with Christ is based, not in what we do, but in who we are. It is the quality of our character that is at the center of God’s ultimate redemptive purpose. The pinnacle to which our faith is suppose to bring us is a true personal newness in Christ. To become new in heart, to experience a rewrite of our value system, to be changed at the very core of our being into a new and truly godly person - that is the ultimate import of our faith.

But again, sadly, most just hang around near the entrance of that experience - waiting, somehow hesitant - grateful, but hesitant. But, even while we linger - we know. We hear, if only vaguely, that divine purpose calling to us. Yet we don’t respond; because we understand instinctively that to pursue that calling would require a great deal of us.

And so, something inside often forbids us even to acknowledge the challenge, much less, to actually believe in its possibilities and risk ourselves to them. Thus, we are left loitering around the "beginning place," compensating for our refusal to go forward with the expressions of our unenergized gratitude.

But, the truth is - we are not called to shallow gratitude. We are not called to religious loitering. We are not called to rhetorical compensations. We are called to newness in Jesus Christ.

The point of the Resurrection is to provide us with a Living Savior. The point of having a Living Savior is so that we can personally merge with Him through the Baptism of the Spirit. The point of that merger is to allow us to borrow from the vitality of His life. The point of that borrowing is so that, in the power of His energy, we can truly be transformed in heart. And the point of our transformation is so that we can enjoy a relationship with God that is based in a renewed likeness to Him.

In our silly and shallow culture, we hear a lot of deluded talk about the "richness" which flows from our diversity and differences. In truth though, richness only ever really occurs in a relationship if our differences are essentially insignificant, and if the things we cherish in common, far out weigh those minor differences.

The reality is, if our differences are significant, they always, always, always tend to drive us apart. Think about it. Important differences are the very things we fight about. So, to believe that significant differences somehow make relationships better is, indeed, delusional thinking. They absolutely do not.

On the other hand, whether between partners in a marriage, the citizens of a nation, the members of a family, or between the creature and the Creator, always the foundation for fulfilling relationship is the mass of our sameness, our shared values, our deep agreement about the significant things. It is the volume of our agreement that is the real basis for "richness" and strength in our relationships.

And that is the gift that our transforming Savior gives to us through the Spiritual merger. By integrating His character with our own, Jesus changes who we are. He brings us to a profound newness at our core by implanting within us His godly values, which, in turn, bring us into a beautiful harmony with God. And from that compatibility, flows the kindred relational embrace that we were always meant to know and enjoy with our Creator.

And behold! As Jesus changes who we are, that also becomes the enduring correction of what we do. Because, what we do always flows from who we are. Thus, it is this transforming encounter that truly redeems.

The Ultimate Encounter with Christ is to know Him as the source and power and reality of a profound newness of heart - A newness that brings an easy and natural compatibility with our Creator - and a beautiful and godly consistency to our behavior.

It was Paul,when he spoke to the followers of Christ at Ephesus, who asked the telling question for all believers . He asked, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" The answer to that question, for each one of us, decides the quality and completeness of our encounter with Christ.