Jun. 11, 2019

Religion and the Crossroad of Reality

It’s always very troubling to hear someone with letters and authority in a church telling those who look to them for guidance that we cannot know God. This idea needs to be addressed with what Scripture has to say about it. This takes some willingness to give the subject prayer and time. This is by no means an exhaustive treatment of this subject, but is only a small dive into this deep pool by this writer.

According to Scripture, we can know Him first of all through His Son, Who said, “‘If you had known Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.’ Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus replied, ‘Philip, I have been with you all this time, and still you do not know Me? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, Show us the Father?’” Jn 14:7-9.

John makes it clear in Jn 1:18, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is at the Father’s side, has made Him known. Christ Jesus’ prayer reveals how important this is with Jn 17:2-4, as the primary component of eternal life: “For You granted Him authority over all humanity, so that He may give eternal life to all those You have given Him. Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only TRUE God,  and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. I have glorified You on earth by accomplishing the work You gave Me to do.”

Knowing God cannot be compared to a superficial Facebook friendship through “connecting” with someone who may live halfway around the world, or even a kinship with people in one’s physical proximity, sometimes for the sake of name dropping. Knowing God means to be one with Him spiritually through His dwelling in us and we in Him by the Holy Spirit, and then it implies that we are the “extension” of Him - as His heart, hands, feet, mind, and life in this world.

If we miss this component of “being church”, we’re missing everything. Where is this understanding found today? Institutional churches for the most part have not emphasized anything like this - the idea that we are our brother’s keeper in the manner that Jesus was, as He heard the Father’s voice inwardly motivating Him, doing only what He heard from the Father, being led and directed of the Holy Spirit in other words.

Jesus taught us by word and example that whoever will deny the world-defined and-identified self and life will find his or her true life. But whoever seeks to preserve the world-defined-and-identified self and life will indeed lose it. 

Who really grapples with this understanding in many a religious institution? For the most part the basic emphasis is on saving oneself via an extremely personal subjective message of salvation consisting of “fire insurance.” Even when that message definition is justification, sanctification, theosis, mystical union, etc, it seems to boil down to a preoccupation with saving the individual self. Could such a pursuit become self centered? If so, where is that kind of “saving” to lead?

That being the case, if we are honest, in practical terms, it begs the question: Is the way we comprehend the “Gospel” really any different than the goal of Hindu or Buddhist or Yoga practitioners, to become personally better through “union” with some god or gods? We need to be honest about this, since our perception of the Gospel can become a matter of pious self-absorption!

The Way of Jesus Christ offers a different perspective than the self preservation philosophies of the world’s religions. The question is, have we missed this and become confused in the entanglements of culture? Scripture is clear as to what the love of Christ looks like, as evidenced by the Mind of Christ we are to put on. The  beloved Apostle John says, 1 Jn 3:17, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him.” (Other references. Heb 13:16; 1 Jn 4:20; Lk 3:11; Dt 15:7-11; Is 58; Pr 19:17; James 2:14-17; 2 Cor 9:6-9; 2 Cor 8:9; Pr 28:9; 1 Tim 6:17,18; Pr 28:27; Lk 6:38; Mt 25:40; Pr 11:24,25; Pr 14:31. There are more.)

Jesus is clear about what the love of God looks like, both by His supreme example of condescending to mankind and His self sacrifice - especially that of His death for us on the cross. The question is, do His people make clear by embodying Christ what the love of God looks like? And on a personal note, Do I look like that? This is where the rubber must meet the Crossroad. We may have theological imagery in our heads about being created in the image and likeness of God, but do we in practical terms bear any resemblance at all to the Christ? Or do we more resemble the world in a self serving, self saving way? Do we find that we have plenty of rationales whereby we avoid a whole hearted surrender to Him in these things?

“Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life will preserve it.” Lk 17:33. (Must read parallels / cross references - Jn 12:25; Mt 10:39 [remember that old pop phrase “finding yourself” - a governing meme of the New Age?]; Lk 9:24,25; Mt 16:25.)

Children seek to be comforted by the Father. Adult sons seek to be about the Father’s business - of being the extension of His comfort in the world - the comfort with which we have been comforted. 2 Cor 1:14. When the world sees, hears, comprehends us, do they see Jesus, and thus also the Father?

This is worth pondering to see where it will take us! This means being called out of, and willing to say yes to leaving behind, our own comfort zones, to embrace a world fallen under the dominion of darkness, to be the “icons” of our Father in Heaven, who are in Jesus Christ our Lord, presenting ourself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-3), as we participate in “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father… to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27.

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation.” Ps 68:5. If we claim to dwell in Him and He in us (con-temple-ing, God within His holy habitation, the temples not made with hands), can the same be said of us? Or do we simply occupy and entertain ourself with religious information and/or phenomena, ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the Truth?

These are serious matters with eternal ramifications begging much soul searching and repentance, individually and collectively, as we come into the awareness that being a Christian is not entirely about a set of beliefs, but it is about being the extension of Him in our life in this world. It may mean in that context an obscure life unseen by many and having meaning to few. Or it may be a very public one. In either case it needs to be directed by the Holy Spirit - the way Jesus lived and moved through life. At some point the rubber of religion must meet the reality of the Crossroad or it is worthless in the eyes of God.

Ask, seek, knock. Continually. See Lk 11:1-13.