Sometimes, I think we forget how much of an absolutely inexplicable paradox Jesus and His gospel really are — and I think we too often choose to stay on the boat with our safe and well-defined theological constructs, when Jesus is beckoning us come out and join Him in the dangerous, unpredictable waters of Spirit-led life, where only reliance on Him will keep us from drowning. But the safety of the boat is an illusion. Really, it’s a choice of either trusting Jesus in the here and now or going down with the boat later when self-generated works and will power and intellectual ability and ritual substitutes have all played out and been proven worthless.
I think it comes down to a matter of spiritual geography. “In Christ” and “In the Spirit” are a place we’ve been invited to live and stay, where there is no longer any condemnation or curse of the law. I might go so far as to say that being “in Christ” — believing in Him, trusting in Him, following Him, learning to hear His voice and know His heart and mind, and, in the process, being transformed more and more into His likeness — is the very definition of salvation. It’s what salvation is made of, if you will.
The problem is that while accepting Jesus’s invitation to come live in Him is relatively easy, staying in Him is another matter. The truth is that, in Christ or not, we’re still going to screw up from time to time (or every few seconds), and just like our physical parents, Adam and Eve, our natural inclination is to run and hide, rather than endure the presence of the one who sees into the very bottom of our hearts and minds. But, unlike our worldly parents, Jesus has given us His own blood as our covering — which, unlike the first covering of animal skins, is more than adequate to keep us in a reconciled relationship with Him. We no longer have to face exile from His saving presence because of sin. All we have to do is the opposite of hiding from His presence, which merely involves coming to Him, being real and honest with Him, and accepting His forgiveness. And, even when we do flee from His presence, He’s the kind of shepherd who goes out and pursues straying sheep.
I’m starting to think that much of what this religion we call Christianity has become amounts to substituting other things — be they theological constructs, religious traditions and rituals, or a strict program of good works — for the spiritual reality of being in Christ. And I think part of the reason for this is that we’re still running from that initial, deep-rooted fear and discomfort that all sinful beings experience in His presence — kind of like the way some people obstinately avoid going to the doctor when they’re sick or the dentist when they have a rotten tooth.
Truth be told, we’re probably more like addicts, who invent every kind of excuse why we don’t have a problem and why we don’t need to be changed at the very root of who we are. And we fool ourselves into believing that frequent doses of religion will cure our disease. In a way, we’re still building religious temples and expecting God to come occupy the works of our hands and intellects — all the while God is inviting us to come dwell in Him so that He can dwell in us.
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