by: Rev. Ed Schneider
I am concerned at the immensely slow pace some of us professed Christians are growing toward “the ways of God” and away from “the ways of the world.” Beloved, we need to be honest with ourselves. Much of the world around us no longer believes the authenticity of our professed “spiritual” convictions. The unfortunate truth is we have greatly contributed to this belief. Quite literally, it is our own fault where we find ourselves. Much of Christianity’s current situation has been aided by a certain type of spiritual warfare against our very understanding of what it means to be connected to God.
Today, I want to take your hand as I gently, yet intentionally, walk you through a journey of transformational awakening either INTO or AWAY FROM the spiritual goal of becoming “Christ-like.”
In Matthew 18:9, it reads,
“If your eye causes you to sin, poke it out and get rid of it. You would be better off to go into life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fires of hell.“
Before I go too far into this and other scriptural references I need ask all the left-of-center folks to calm down. Yes, I did print the word “hell” and the sun didn’t fall from the sky. For those of you on the far right of theological/biblical interpretation, just relax for a few minutes because I will be speaking metaphorically and not literally for a handful of sentences.
Because of the limitations of space, let me just quickly define the word “eye.” It translates to a “decisive spiritual understanding” The word “hell” will equate to a “state of being or level of consciousness that leads a person into a sustained disconnect with the presence and purpose of God’s love.” One more phrase that will get some of you nervous is “the devil.” For the sake of this writing, “the devil” will simply mean anything that “influences our thoughts or actions away from an honest, clear, and loving connection to God.”
So, if we have our working definitions down, let us begin.
The question before us today involves those who claim the “Lordship of Jesus” and how some find themselves intensely refusing to honestly look at their own stagnation of spiritual growth and how it is severely hindering the work of Christ on earth.
The answer to this spiritual dilemma becomes clear when we take a closer look at the title of this offering.
First we have a “less than adequate” Halloween costume, followed by an “uncommitted participant” on a nudist beach, and finally an “only on my terms” new Amish community resident.
In the first two chapters of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (1:10 and 2:6) it says in part, that God desires to gather all things of any importance, both in heaven and on earth, in the NEW knowledge of Christ. God calls the believer to remember how far they have traveled from their old way of understanding and how they now “sit in heavenly places” INSIDE Christ Jesus. So the first thing I want you to imagine is how the maturing Christian is seated completely hidden and protected INSIDE the “actual” body of Christ.
In Ephesians 3:14-19, it reveals how the mature Christian is both sustained and infused with the spiritual presence of Jesus. The Bible clearly wants the believer to know that Christ will dwell within the most intimate parts of us, providing the believer the “fullness of God.” So, this time I DO NOT want you to imagine being seated inside Christ but rather how Christ is now seated comfortably INSIDE you — guiding your physical and irrational tendencies toward a newness of being.
Next I want you to notice Ephesians 4:17-24, where it reminds the growing disciple that they no longer walk primarily in practical experiences of the past but rather the new understanding of Christ. They are no longer bound by darkness, blinded with old eyes because they have had their minds reinvented. Imagine Christ now seated next to your rational mind redefining what is right and reasonable.
Lastly, let us be reminded of Ephesians 6:10-20, where it speaks of “putting on the whole armor of God.” If there is any hope of being able to experience even a remote hint of God’s love here on earth through our growing “Christlikeness” we must leave nothing of ourselves in the way of our coming to Christ; no pride and certainly no sustainable guilt.
It would be like putting on a Halloween costume that doesn’t go all the way to the ground. Even though most of you may be covered, there still remains plenty of you plainly visible. Imagine how silly you would appear with a “French maid’s costume” pulled over your head and there you standing in a brown pair of dress loafers and a pair of black ankle socks.
Imagine you were brazen enough to go to a nude beach where one of the main goals of liberating one’s self from the perceived restrictions of a societal taboo. You then show up with a bulky bathing suit and a sarong. You have defeated the whole purpose of the experience.
Here’s my favorite example….
You have told others how you want to “find your inner spiritual purpose.” To accomplish this stated goal you “commit” to joining an Amish community in central Pennsylvania. You rid yourself of your suits, car, and bad language. There you are on your first day, black hat firmly placed on your head, ready for a simple life devoted to God. The problem is you show up with your fancy cell phone in your britches.
In the 21st chapter of Revelation, the writer told about a new heaven and a new earth where, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes…for former things have passed away.”
I don’t care whether you are high-society or you have hit rock-bottom in the cultural order of things. Whether you are a remarkably gifted Ph.D. or a lump of undisciplined human flesh that just seems to take up space is irrelevant concerning your spiritual growth, or the lack thereof. When we become encumbered by “eyes” that are still blinded by the world’s standards of understanding we shall never come remotely close to the ways of God. When our Christian “experience” is limited or influenced in any degree through our “pre-Christ” conceptions of life we quite literally hinder the work of Christ within us and certainly within others.
A sincerely searching Christian must strive daily to leave EVERYTHING behind and come completely empty before the throne of God’s grace.
If you dare to bring what you understand as being the good parts of you, then you bring a large pile of pride along with you. If you bring a permanent sense of former guilt and unworthiness, you will never experience the freedom of God’s empowering awakening provided by the resurrection of Christ. Far too many of us are still carrying the old ways. We are trying to have one foot in the world and one foot in the Lord. It’s hurting us. It’s hurting our churches and it’s making the devil very pleased about the prospects of an ever expanding population in Hell.