Archive for May, 2014

Faith, Reason, Truth

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

The search for truth is the search for faithfulness.  Truth is faithfulness.  Reason is the search for truth.  Truth is the essential bedrock of faith.

Reason is the eyes search for what to see.  If there is nothing to see, then the search for sight is vain.

Man is subjected to vanity in hope.

Man has lost his sight.  Born blind, he looks for sight.  A man does not seek for what he already has, but searches for what is lost.  Man seeks truth.

Man pursues faithfulness, steadfastness.  His eyes alight on many things and, like a man searching for vision in a dim room, he examines each object he stumbles upon minutely, to ascertain its usefulness and purpose.

Man seeks what he needs.  Truth.  He has many setbacks and false answers, yet, still he seeks.

In his seeking he builds many triumphs, trophies of his seeking, like the treasures a tourist brings back from distant realms, and he marvels at his discoveries, and says he has made great progress.  Yet still he searches.

Reason is a search for truth, and truth is faithfulness.  Reason is the search for faithfulness.  Without faithfulness we would have nothing to seek.  Without faithfulness we would have nowhere to stand.  Man is searching for a rock to stand on.  A rock more faithful than he is himself.

A man seeks what he does not have, and what he lacks is faithfulness.  A man is faithless in all his ways.  He seeks a home, or at least a rock to build his home upon.

Only love is faithful.  A man is disappointed when what he loves proves unfaithful.  A man, by nature, sets his eyes upon what is faithless, for he himself loves that which is like him.  He is built for disappointment.

True love seeks true love and is never disappointed.  God is love.  He seeks His own.

The Difficulty in Writing about Jesus (part 2)

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

To begin to get to know Jesus you must enter into His life.  You cannot simply read about Him and believe that in this way you will know Him.  Similarly you cannot sit as a Church member, going to bible studies and participating in its social activities, and through this arrive at union with Christ and eternal life.  The life which Jesus gives is entirely in Him and to receive it and begin to live, we must enter into Him.  The beginning of this, in the time of Christ, was baptism in the Jordan.  John the Baptist came preaching a baptism of repentance in preparation for the coming of the Lord.  “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”  So into this preparation the disciples, and all who were being baptized, were awaiting this heralded person.  This command is still applicable for us today, for it is an appeal to God for life in Him.

When Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, as a dove, it was the seal, the anointing of God, the Messiah, the anointed one, had come.  Jesus was sanctified to His death and we were sanctified to Him.  Life had come, the promise and hope of Israel, and for the entire world, had been fulfilled.  Jesus walked steadfastly toward the day of His arrest and execution, knowing all had been given into His hand and that the fate of mankind rested with Him.  He walked with the steadfast assurance of love, the anointing of God, which drew men to Himself.  All of His acts from this time forward were to open men’s eyes to who He was and give them the opportunity to join with Him in this mission of salvation.  For the life that He came to give was nothing like the life we see all around us, in this world.  His life was hidden in God and in this hidden wealth of love He could live a life entirely focused on His crucifixion, for through this death He would be reunited forever with His Father, and draw all who joined with Him, to life together with Them.  “For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross.”

All who come to Him must enter with Him into the death to which He walked.  This death is death to every thing we have ever lived for, all the pride and pomp of life.  We have all been stumbling in darkness, making plans for ourselves that give no permanence or assurance or richness or real goodness, all of our glory is fading in the sands of time and Jesus is leading us through the ruins into eternity.  At least all who come to Him in truth.  He is the door to life and we must enter through Him, conformed to His death that we might live to His resurrection.  There is no way to know Him without entering into Him, and to enter into Him requires perfect obedience, for He is the entrance into perfection.

Jesus came into a world who did not know Him or understand Him or, to a large extent want Him, but whether they were prepared to admit it or not, all needed Him.  All the world walked in a kind of knowledge which suited it.  Jesus walked in a knowledge that did not conform to the way of this world and was hated for it.  It was not just a belief in God, for the Jews knew of God, and had there beginnings in the obedience of their father Abraham to the unseen voice of God, but it was instead the real living knowledge of the life of God itself which Jesus walked in.  The Jews knew of God, indeed their entire life was the Law by which they diligently tried to live, but in the presence of Jesus all their presumed knowledge of God and their belief that they were pleasing to Him was revealed to be a charade.  To these people whom God had raised up and kept and provided for and disciplined, for generations, Jesus came as the seal of promise, as the truth of God’s love and the inexpressible Glory of His ways toward men.  They did not know Him, even though He walked in their streets and performed signs and wonders.  But those who did receive, to them He gave the right to become children of God.

The Church today feels that because it believes that Jesus is the Christ and that they stand in pulpits and preach messages from the Bible that they are His children, but the truth of this is far from that.  Just as God’s Chosen people did not recognize Him, the Church too, walks in total ignorance of the real Christ.  They have instead fabricated for themselves a story of what it means to be a Christian which is cherry picked from the Bible.  They have developed rituals of baptism and communion and made for themselves doctrines as to what these things mean and signify, but through this have shut themselves up from the true knowledge of God’s light.  While there have been times in the history of the Church where it would seem that the reality of God has dawned upon the hearts and lives of some, in the main, even the revivals that have littered Church history seem more in keeping with hysteria than the love of Christ.  Obviously I am saying that there is a profound lack in what it means to be a Christian in what the various Churches proclaim.

Unless you enter into His life and thus walk and live you cannot preach Christ.  If he came to give new life, then unless you live in this life, you cannot proclaim it.  For a man, who preaches what he does not live, goes by one name, and that is hypocrite.  As soon as anyone in the Church says that they cannot be perfect, or that none can be perfect in this life, then they cannot bear witness to Christ, for they do not know Him.  If the Spirit of Christ dwells in those who call on His name then we cannot say by His Spirit that it is impossible to keep from sinning.  The Spirit of Christ, which filled and strengthened Him, and by which He walked to certain death, is the same Spirit He gives to those who follow Him.  This Spirit transforms us, it opens our heart and understanding to the things of God, and enables us to be set apart entirely for Him.  We are called to walk in His image to offer to others the hope which He has presented to all who follow Him.  How can we reach out and offer life in the name of Christ unless we know His life filling us and leading us and guiding us in the power of His love?  What then is lacking?  First and foremost, love!

We hear a lot talked about faith but very little talked about love.  Faith was what the reformation was built upon.  Luther even added the word ‘alone’ to highlight what he found to be the essence of Christianity that we are “justified by faith ‘alone’”.  But Paul says, quite rightly, faith, hope, love and the greatest of these is love.  “For even if I give my body to be burnt, but have not love, I am nothing.” So what is this love and how do we attain it?  Here is the catch, to love Christ you first must know Him!  It is impossible to love someone you do not know.  All of the people mentioned in scripture who knew God did not come to this knowledge via a good argument or a process of deductive reasoning but by a meeting with God or His angels.  People believed in, put their trust in Jesus by meeting Him, it must be likewise for us.  So we must be born from above.  There must be some outreach by God toward us that enables us to have faith.  What the catalyst for that belief is varies according to the will of God, but it must be some manner of reality that confronts our precepts of life.  Something must shake the foundations of everything we feel to be true or real, which enables us to be open to God.  The extreme example is Paul who turned to Christ by a Spiritual act of power by Him.  It could be a sermon by a man who really knows God and speaks in a way that you know that he knows some reality that you don’t.  But it has to be a real encounter with another world, the heavenly realm.

I know I became a Christian because of an encounter with God.  He spoke to me.  I was brought up in a Catholic household.  From an infant I went to mass and at the age of seven I had my first communion, at ten I was confirmed and by fourteen I had had enough.  The teaching of the Church did not reveal Christ to me.  What it taught was the wrong kind of fear and that its witness was not of God, but of hardness and foolishness and the sense that God was nothing much more than an unseen policeman and judge.  Swallowing my fear of Judgement I went out into the world like the prodigal son to live my life and find my way through the tangled byways which are the paths of this worldly life and eventually I failed.  God subjects us to futility in hope, that in the day of our deepest need we might cry out for life.  But who do we cry out to if we know not where to cry?  I did not cry out to God, or to Jesus, for I did not know that they existed but I did cry out for truth.  “What are we here for, what is the purpose of existence?”  But it was not a simple question it was the ache of a heart that needed more than anything else, an answer.  I literally could not keep going without some answer to the pain that was eating out the entrails of my existence.  Into that pain God spoke, “I am the word of God!”  That was all He said but it shook my entire understanding of life for now I could no longer deny the existence of God, nor the fear that His speaking to me produced in me.  I was terrified that here was someone who had power and authority over me and I did not know Him.  It wasn’t exactly love I felt!  But without knowing it at the time it opened up to me the way to life.

There was nowhere for me to go but to Him, to say to Him unambiguously that I did not have a clue what He wanted of me, but whatever it was, that was what I wanted and from that path I have not deviated.  The last place I would have looked for help was the Church!  It has been over 30 years since my walk began and nothing has changed, I would still not look to the Church for help, nor encourage anyone to go there looking for Christ.  I know deep within me the difference between the futility of the life of the Church and the life which flows from walking with Christ.  In fear and trembling we come to Jesus knowing our shame and the vast distance there is between us, and also the agonising task of arriving at real peace with Him.  To arrive at peace with Him we must be absolutely freed from sin so that there no longer remains that gulf between us.  Any man who fixes his heart upon Jesus purifies himself as He is pure.  In the process we discover the overwhelming reality of His love and we are wounded in our deepest being at the blindness and the hardness we have walked in.  There is no quick and easy way to arrive at this purity but we work out our salvation in fear and trembling.  In the hunger to know Him and put our lives right with Him, we grow to know the depths and the wonder of His love, as He helps us and pours out upon us spiritual consolations that lead us to begin to know a life of wonder that we have never known before.  The deepest thing that drives us on is love.  Love of Him and thankfulness and joy unspeakable as we have the shackles of our past removed from us and begin to understand what manner of person our God is.  This is the love which dawned in the heart of Peter as he confessed his love of the Lord after the resurrection.  To serve Jesus we must serve Him in love, the love which can only come with intimate knowing.  A love which draws us ever deeper into His embrace and the knowledge in our hearts that to serve and love Him is the entire sum and purpose of our life.  As Jesus says the way is narrow which leads to life and few there are who find it.  The way is the cross, entering with Him into the purpose and the joy and the wonder of His life.  He said, “This is eternal life that you know the Father.”  So we too must be lifted up in Him to the depth of the joyous love He had for God.  After his resurrection He said to Mary who was clinging to Him, “go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”

The work of Jesus life is love.  He has no other motive, no other desire.  He has no desire for fame and fortune, as we understand it.  His desire is the simplicity of love.  Love to grant the blessing that He Himself is knowing and has always known, the Love that He had with the Father before the world was.  He has no interest in this world, only for the sorry state of its inhabitants.  He has come for no other purpose than to offer a way out of the dilemma we have all lived in, a separation from God caused by our breaking off the relationship, which was the sin from the beginning of our first parents.  King David cries out in alarm when he is pleading for forgiveness for his sins, “In sin my mother conceived me.”  He was not saying his mother was unmarried or that her marriage was not acceptable under Jewish Law, for it was, but rather that the separation and darkness from sin is so endemic that no one truthfully knows how distant they are from God and the power that is at work in the hearts and the lives of men even his own parents.  David’s is the pitiable cry of us all for mercy because we do not really understand the darkness of our ways until the fruit of our folly is so laid bare that we cannot help but be confronted by our shame.  All of us are in that position and it is from that error that Jesus has come to deliver us.

Without love, all of us are perishing, and all of us are in need of perfect love.  If we are not loved perfectly then there is no love at all.  If Jesus had not come none of us would have guilt or hope, we would be quite right to live in Godlessness and darkness.  As Paul essentially said, “If I do not speak the truth I am of all men to be pitied, If Christ is not raised ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!’”  So because Christ came, His heart an open fount of love, we are all without excuse.  The other aspect of love is that to know perfect love we ourselves must love perfectly.  These things together mean that in order to love perfectly, which is life, we must first receive that love and then return that love.  To know Christ is an absolute darkness to our soul because we cannot, from our own experience, conceive of the reality of such love, so to receive Him we must turn aside from all of our pursuits and literally die to ourselves.  To become like Him there can be nothing remaining of the old man, the man that I was born, the man that cries along with King David, “In sin my mother conceived me!”  I must be transformed to become like Paul, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

To begin our walk with Christ we first must meet Him and know the truth of our selves before Him.  This is impossible unless He is reaching out to us.  The disciples were not seeking Him when He called them, they were simply going about their business as fishermen.  Their response to Him was immediate, they felt no need to stay with their work, but instead abandoned their father’s business and their entire way of life and followed.  It is the response to love, even if you do not sense the love behind the call, which is of the essence.

The way that I had been taught the lives of the saints as a Catholic, sainthood seemed to be an unattainable life for some strange elite, nobody could be that holy!  This was because no one who instructed me in the Church knew the love of Christ and therefore Christianity was presented as some strange litany that had no particular reward except in the hereafter and that sainthood was only for the most boring of goody two shoes!  The Church, for me, held no appeal, for of what use was a God to me who judged me for my wrongdoing but gave me no sense of His love and power and help to offer me a way through life, this life, not the life to come?  So when I was confronted with the truth of God, and had committed my life to Him apart from any Church, it was a revelation to me that God was not particularly impressed with the Church either.  I was led to Him by Himself through His Spirit.  In my need, He reached out to me and drew me, step by step, to know the depth of my need for Him and the impossibility of life without Him.  Once I had cried out to Him He led me to a small group of people who had gathered together, set apart from any denomination.  They had all been members of different denominations but had grown disenchanted with what was on offer and decided to join together to be a body entirely set apart for God.  Saints!  Sanctified!  The heart of their pursuit was from the first book of the Thessalonians, “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit, soul and body be preserved complete at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Sainthood took on an entirely new meaning!

To know Jesus we must be sanctified, set apart entirely for God, as He was.  There is no other way.  There is no provision in Jesus for positional sanctification or the separation of clergy and laity.  In Christ there is neither male nor female, nor reverends nor popes nor cardinals.  We are to be a nation of priests.  If we are all priests then we are all set apart and acting as mediators between God and man.  That is why it is impossible to know Christ without entering into Him.  To be a follower of Christ is to enter into the work of salvation, that which Jesus lived and died for.  We must become as He was in this world.  Jesus said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”  To not enter into His work is not to know Jesus.  To know Him, one begins to feel the same desire as He felt, and to respond to what we see as He responded.  He laid aside everything to come to our aid, how can we respond in any other way?  Paul says to the Philippians, “God is my witness, how I long for you all with the bowels of Christ.”  There is an inference in Paul’s statement that we cease to be an observer of Christ but become an active participant in His life.

In Jesus life He chose the twelve and sent them out two by two into Israel.  He gave them authority over unclean spirits and to heal every disease and every kind of sickness, to go out and proclaim the “Kingdom of heaven is at hand”.  It was a training run, but it also was a deepening of their understanding of Jesus.  We too must go forth with any spiritual gifts we have been given, into the highways and byways, to proclaim what we have received of the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus alluded to this in His parable of the talents, where He says, “A man goes on a journey and calls his slaves and entrusts his possessions to them.”  He gives various talents of silver to them, and the ones who worked with these talents and added to them received a reward, and the one who felt his master to be a hard taskmaster and hid his talent by burying it, was cast out into the outer darkness where men weep and gnash their teeth.  It is only by our going out, in this way, using the talents which He has supplied, that we come to know the poverty and hardness that there is in this world and the resistance to truth that lurks in the hearts of men, particularly among those who call themselves Christians.   It is only when we go out into the world, armed with the power Jesus has provided to us, in our lives, that we begin to know how little people know or want to know Him.

This entering into His life, seeking the lost, speaking to those in the various Churches, is how we begin to grow, to be equipped for service.  We do not learn to understand the poverty of the Church until we learn that what we have come to know of Christ’s love and power is rejected by them.  We begin to see that those who have gone to a Bible College or to a Seminary have come out equipped for nothing but to regurgitate that which they have learnt.  We learn that doctrines are not salvation, and that the Church lies in a stupor, a spiritual blindness, a smug false assurance, and that there are no true and faithful witnesses of Christ among them.  The Church fills itself with false piety and deference, Cardinals and Archbishops dress up in gorgeous robes to disguise that they have not done what has been commanded, “To put on Christ.”  Love reaches out, but reality hits back.  Who wants to face the fact that their life is a lie and that they are not what they think they are – either righteous or saved?  It is here that we learn something of Jesus experience, how He held out His arms to a stubborn and rebellious generation and how they would not listen.  It is in going out to share our faith that we learn love and wisdom and the power of God, for He goes out with us and teaches us what to say and do.  This is an essential part of the process of growth, for it is not just in the quiet of our inner rooms that we meet God, but it is in the dealing with others that we face what is lacking in our faith, in comparison with His, and has us cry out to Him for help to enable us to grow to be able to walk like Him.

It is impossible to serve Him if you are not like Him and that means being concerned with the same things that He was.  “Zeal for His Father’s house consumed Him.”  He also said, “I have food to eat that you do not know of.”  This too must be our waking and sleeping, our living and dying, to not just speak words, but reveal through our lives, His living and reigning.  If Jesus had appeared in our midst walking in the manner of one of our Church leaders there would not have been any converts in His day.  When Jesus said to, “Go out into the highways and along the hedges and compel them to come in”, He was not talking about the Spanish Inquisition, or even a Billy Graham crusade, or for that matter a Papal extravaganza, but He was talking about living in a manner and power that gave people an overwhelming reason to follow.  If we do not live as He lived, while yet proclaiming Him, then we are hypocrites, play actors, encouraging people to live as we do, emptily feigning obedience while lacking the power to live and walk as He did.

If we really wish to know Him then first we have to really meet Him, not our imaginary understanding of Him, or a spiritual imitation of Him, an angel of light deceiving if possible even the elect.  The Church is full of phony gifts, false tongues, phony preachers, phony doctrine, because obviously they have not really met Him.  What is the proof that you know Him and love Him – you are like Him!  Once we have met Him and know His Spirit we will be confirming His word, “My sheep know my voice and another voice they will not follow.”

Beyond that there is not much more that you can say or do.  The difficulty in writing about Jesus is that He cannot be explained, only known.  As John said, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written.”  And even if they were, reading them would not enable you to know Him.