There is a religion that is deeply meaningful to a person, deeply touching, deeply emotional, but with absolutely no real result or healing. The Christian religion is not simply about a declaration of belief, outward signs devotion, or obeying a moral code. It is also not a distant fear of a God you do not know. It is not simply a fondness for who Jesus was. It is not simply a love for spiritual things or a love for the Bible. It is a relationship with God that is as real as a marriage relationship you have with a spouse. You talk, you love each other, you live together as one.
True Christianity is fire. It is passion. It is like a good marriage. It is surrender. It is sacrifice. It is a cutting away of our outward shell and a vulnerability of being known and seen by God, as if we are standing naked before Him. It is the death of yourself to become one with someone else. And what God has joined let no man separate. True Christianity is less about becoming “like Jesus” and much more about becoming one with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, and so connected to the will of the Father. When we simply make it our goal to be “like Jesus” the emphasis can move from being “with Him.” And that’s how hypocrites are born.
The yeast of the religious puffs up to be seen by others; to set a good example for others to emulate. Real, holy, submissive, loving relationship IS the example without even trying. Real love genuinely goes lower. It is not just the appearance of going lower (like covering oneself with sackcloth and ashes), it is humility lived out in the real work of whole-life service, even physical service, spiritual service of intercession and groaning for the lost and the real giving of our money to the poor, and real attention to the people that need it (the unreached (those with no vibrant gospel witness), orphans, uneducated, poor, unmarried mothers, addicts, demonized, widows, abandoned spouses, refugees, the unborn, immigrants, wounded ones). In it’s purest form it is not self-congratulating, not even self-aware, except when the Lord tells you He is pleased with you. All these things come out of a genuine desire for mercy and not sacrifice. Mercy absolves others of guilt, it looks over offenses, it pours out an undeserved favor to anyone who needs it. Sacrifice works in negotiation, judgment, and the demand of fairness, which is not our realm of service. Jesus is the sacrifice. He is the judge. He is our vindication. Now we get to live in the realm of mercy. We forgive recklessly. His blood speaks a better word than Abel’s. Instead of crying out for vengeance, we cry out in intercession “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”
Our being “like Jesus” can only grow from the place of being with Him in secret places of prayer and worship…in closets, behind closed doors, in fields and forests. Places we can cry out our hearts, places we can scream, places we can rest, places we can kneel. Places away from the world, where we can burn with this fire on our tongues, these prayers of the spirit. If you aren’t getting there to those secret places, you don’t know Him. You won’t be able to hear. Come away…come away. You hear it don’t you? Listen and obey.
You say, this is so far from where I am…so
How do we move from outward religion to this burning relationship of the heart?
We enter through the door of repentance. We rightly see the death of Jesus on the cross as our only hope, the ransom given by the Father that we would not pay for our sins, but He would. We come under His covering of righteousness. We are baptized and say PUBLICLY by this action and in daily prayers of remembrance, “Jesus, today I receive the gift of your blood that covers and cleans me from my sin, and now by faith I enter into relationship with the Living God, righteous by faith. Fill me with your Spirit.”
And in that place, we see Him as He is, full of love. Full of goodness, Full of mercy. Every negative view of Him is a lie. We return. That is repentance. We trust. We get quiet and stop complaining. We Rest. We let go of everything that was precious to us before- our ambition, our wisdom, our plans, our reputation, our security, our traditions, our expectations, our dreams. It is a repentance of life direction. We turn from a self-satisfying life, to a God-satisfying life, (and later we are surprised to be completely satisfied beyond what we ever would have hoped for). This life of relationship requires a COMPLETE shift of our attention from ourselves and onto the one we trust and love.
Father how do I become one with you:
- in purpose/vision
- in agenda/plan
- in trajectory/movement
- in spirit/core motivation
- in words and actions
Now, only now, do I start to sound and act like Jesus.
I only speak what the Father has told me to say.
I only do what I see my Father doing.
My food is to do the will of the one who sent me.
It is a mutual laying down of our lives. Jesus has laid His life down for me, and now what can I do but lay my life down for Him. It is a mutual closing off of other loyalties and partnerships and a grabbing on to one another in intimate monogamous partnership (God’s analogy, not mine) to do His work in the world, His plans for me, which are GOOD…so much better than I could have ever planned. And He makes them known to me, even if only step by small step. I do not walk in the dark, but in the light of life. I know what I am doing. I am making disciples of Jesus and building a kingdom of hearts in partnership with my King. That’s it. That the extent of my life goals.
And this is not a mindless obedience. It is a surrendered, mind-engaging, obedience that results in partnership for my glory and His. Because I glory in Him. And He loves it when I shine with love for Him, when I thrive in His care (even if it doesn’t look like thriving to the outsiders). Because we are one now. I am not God and He is not me, but we are somehow, beautifully and mysteriously, entwined, and I am not myself without Him anymore. And this was His good and perfect will.