Apr 20, 2011

God Who?

There once was a man who was always delighted to show off his very elegant home. It was, indeed, impressive. He had spent much time and energy decorating it according to the latest design trends. And it was beautifully and tastefully done throughout.

And the property surrounding his home was perfectly manicured. And beyond that, the latest in security features protected all.

It was very obvious that he was extremely proud of this beautiful and secure living circumstance. And given the level of his achievement, one could easily understand his pride - except for one thing.

It was difficult to ignore the fact that these beautiful and tastefully decorated environs were located on death row at a large prison facility. The reality was that the man had been there so long and had become so mentally and emotionally immersed in creating a tasteful environment in his cell that his mind had blocked out the fact that he lived on death row, and even that, but for a short time longer.

There are those in our world who say, "What need have I of God? I have a happy and fulfilling family life. I have a great job with a very nice income level. I am surrounded by many loyal and supportive and like minded friends. I live in a really good neighborhood. I have the important "toys" that I want. I have the security of various insurance coverage's, and large savings and investments accounts. I have my 'ducks in a row.' So, why do I need God?"

Here is the correct, if perhaps slightly too frank, answer to such a clueless question: "YOU ARE LIVING ON DEATH ROW, DUMMY! - and even that, but for a short time longer. It is not a brilliant move to ignore the only Being in the universe who can commute your sentence."

But isn't this the cosmic mistake of our time: Building a really great "house" in a really bad "location."

John 3:15 and following:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Foundational Moments

Among countless blessings in my life, I have experienced two, truly foundational moments. The first was the moment I encountered the Cross of Christ. From a deep personal valley of failure and discouragement, I looked up to see it, a beacon of true hope - a matchless opportunity to redeem, not only my soul, but also, my broken life.

Glimpsing the Cross from the low perspective of your own humble desperation is quite different than simply hearing of its worth from others. To know of the Savior intellectually, does not even come close to actually experiencing his brilliance within the dark emotional valley of your own despairing circumstance.

And, that truth brings us to the absolute requisite of the Redemptive Rebirth of the human soul.  A truly life changing encounter with Christ is simply never born of a casual engagement which leaves us still generally independent and still mostly in charge of our own life.  Rather, it is born out of the birth pains of our humble desperation, which finally enables us to thoroughly embrace God's values, His truth, and His daily directions for our life.  

Thus, to merely be gradually assimilated into the social fabric and busy work of Church life is no substitute for discovering Christ within the ash heap of our own brokenness.  And, godly families are great.  But, even the best religious heritage can do no more than set the stage for this indispensable redemptive requisite: the humbling impact of coming to the end of ourselves.  And it was, indeed, this kind of desperate circumstance which brought me to that first foundational moment where I was finally able to know the reality and the worth of the Dying Christ.

And this new awareness, then set the stage for the second foundational moment of my life.  As I awakened to my new reality of Christ's vibrant daily friendship, I discovered something about myself.  

In my new found desire to walk on the high plane of this daily friendship, I discovered that a great gulf existed between my desires and my ability.  That is, when it came to pleasing Him, in both my heart perspectives and my behavior, it became painfully obvious that I was experiencing much more failure than success.  And, while I was glad that my daily failures could be forgiven through Christ, at the same time, the pain and relational turmoil caused by those failures quickly became completely unacceptable. 

And, truthfully, I found very little comfort in the failure/ forgiveness - failure/ forgiveness cycle. I wanted a peaceful, and pleasurable, and consistently God pleasing relationship. And the reality was - it simply wasn't happening.

So, I started to hunger for some means, some source of sufficiency that would bring me that peace, and God's consistent approval. I thought it not too much to hope that I was not saved by an almighty God, only to be left, still consigned to the constant daily failures of the human frailty.

And, it turns out, my hope was not at all misplaced! After some brief time of soul searching, and the further humbling that these daily failures produced, something happened.  As, I continued to intensely pray for a remedy for my inconsistency - God gave me one. 

My remedy was Jesus. Oh, not the Dying Jesus of the Cross.  He had already done His work of providing me with the inestimable gift of forgiveness in His name.  But, the Jesus whom God's gave me as a remedy for my present dilemma was the Living Jesus of the Resurrection.

And, I discovered that, this Jesus, as a Living Savior, has the capability to symbiotically share His very character essence with me. And so, He did, through that mystical Spiritual merger which the Church has come to refer to as The Baptism of the Spirit. 

It happened on one wonderful day, some weeks after that first foundational moment when I embraced Christ as the Lord of my life.  On this day, I experienced this second and completing foundational moment of my life. 

And, in all honesty, at the time, and for some short time after, I really did not understand what had happened to me in this moment of my personal Spiritual merger with Christ.  But, I certainly understood the impacts.

Immediately, the relational peace, which I had so longed for, came to my heart.  And, as it turns out, just as Jesus said, it does, indeed, pretty much defy explanation.  But, with that peace also came a new level of God-awareness bringing a new level of daily intimacy with Him.  

And, best of all, the daily failures began to diminish. And consistency of thought and behavior began to rise. And maturity, began to show up in my walk.  

And eventually, the basic daily question changed entirely. It went from, "How can I rise above my daily sinful failures?" to "How can I be more polished in my character?"

The question changed because the issue changed.  I have since discovered that what happened was that the Living Jesus, through that Spiritual merger, literally, in real terms, " overwrote" my value system to match His own. 

To be sure, that overwrite came in primordial, or infant, form.  But, even in that earliest form, it began to supply me with a very effective and very natural form of empowerment over my more base self.

And, once this daily empowerment became an enlarging reality in my life, outmatching base and sinful impulses started to become much easier.  So, that process started to become a much more background issue. In the foreground was that now more relevant idea of character maturity in the power of the Living Christ, whose vitality I now shared in.    

And, once I was able to consistently faced down my own baseness by the power of the Living Christ, then this transformative character growth became my new daily legacy. And, through this Christ-empowered process, my daily pursuit has now become an ever more mature oneness of heart with the God who created.  And, it is entirely thanks to the Living Christ.

I have been blessed to experience many wonderful moments in my life.  For example, I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on my wife, Donna. And, I absolutely cherish the many wonderful times of our fifty year married life, since. 

Nor, will I ever forget the the precious memories of my children's lives. And I have been part of many other great relational and ministry moments, in my time. 

But, I am very aware that the quality and meaning of all of those cherished moments rest entirely on those two more foundational moments in my early life:  The moment I discovered the reality of the Dying Christ and the forgiveness of His Cross.  And, the moment I experienced the shared vitality of the Living Christ through my personal integration with His empowering Character Essence. 

 "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." - The Apostle Paul