Romans 12:2 - Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.
It has been a tad over a year that the general idea of this post evolved in my mind. But for the life of me I could never put it into words. So please bear with me as I do my best to explain a concept that may strike you as foreign. Any person alive was born into the exposure of a "culture". A "pattern" if you will. So much of who we are is developed at ages so young we do not even remember having those foundations laid. As we grow up and experience life, love, tragedy, and spirituality - new "layers" are added onto our early foundational "culture". At some point we derive our own version of our personal belief system. I cannot speak for everyone, but my beliefs were largely based off those taught to me by other people. And because of my experience and trust with that mentor, church, or orginization; I accepted what was passed to me. With very little scrutiny. Looking back, I would say that most of that information was accurate. But intellectual knowledge and personal life experience drawn from deep conviction are two different things. Head knowledge is great for some things, but a life experience is life changing. I won't get into this subject in this post, but I believe our western culture values intellect and rationalism far over spiritualism. I feel like that imbalance in our culture has limited our spiritual senses in a lot of ways. And has allowed us to become content in head knowledge alone, versus a Christ/Kingdom lifestyle. But worse, I believe it has left us with an incomplete picture of who God really is.
What exactly do I mean?
If I were to ask you if you believed the Bible was really the living, active, inspired word of God - and the entirety of it's contents were true; I imagine the majority answer would be yes. This is another subject I cannot get into here without going far off topic. But if indeed you answered "yes" to the question above, I would ask you to go read Genesis chapter 6, verses 2 through 7. If you don't have a Bible or your phone nearby, it basically describes the world as it were in Noah's day. It says that "sons of God" (angelic type beings) saw that the daughters of men were beautiful. So they took (human) women, had sex with them and their offspring were "men of renown". Or what we would consider Marvel Superheroes. This is just one of many ludicrous sounding (mythological) type statements made in the Bible. But I could believe in the Red Sea parting, or even fire coming down from the sky and killing a bunch of people. Long before I bought into the idea of angels sleeping with women to create superheroes. Yet, it's right there in the Bible. I could elaborate more on all of this also, but let me move on to my point.
So assuming that we still hold the belief that the Bible is indefinitely true, let's move on to something more important like the life and teachings of Jesus. At the end of the day, that's what this is all about anyway. A little over a year ago when this concept was birthed in my mind, I had this one statement that has stuck with me ever since.
"Eddie you have to unlearn what you think you have learned."
It's the principle of not pouring new wine into old wineskins. Because my "theology" had limited room for God's power. Left lots of questions I was never brave enough to ask and confront. And at times left me wondering why God seemed so "bipolar". As a result I largely live a powerless Christian life. So now, nearly two years later and tons of intellectual "renewing" - I have prepared a new foundation for a lifestyle to be built on. Not just great sounding, or positive ideas derived from the Bible. This is where the war between the person of Christ versus religion begins. I believe we can consume as much "information" as we could ever desire, and never live a life that resembles the commission of Christ. And for so many who know the Bible backwards and forwards, the absence of such a life is "alright". It was for me too! Because I never had the sense to question the crazy things that the Bible presents. Even if we reduced the Bible just to the teachings of Jesus (which in my opinion are the most important anyway) we would still have more than enough to work on in our short life span. I understand why Jesus said that "many are called, but few are chosen". Pushing past intellectual knowledge and rationalism, that is based upon our ability to determine what is real by our five senses is difficult. When that is what we have been taught (for Jewish people, it was "the law" that was the hurdle). If we were born and raised into a culture that embraced the supernatural as "just as real as our natural", we would think it were strange to not experience those things. Yet this is one example of a lifestyle that Jesus commissioned us to live. Because of the purpose that lifestyle serve's in representing the heart of The Father, who He is, and what His Kingdom is like. We have a hard time dealing with ideas or experiences we cannot explain. And we frown upon "miracle" talk because somehow it distracts from Jesus (I guess?). When, and if, we took away all the power and miracles from the life of Jesus. And stripped down the story to a man born of a virgin, who grew up and was martyred for "radical" Sunday school teaching - what effect does that Jesus have on our lives now?
The purpose is my point. As it was with Jesus. For He said "I only say what The Father tells me to say, and I only do what my Father does" (my paraphrase). Purpose is the point of the Jesus filled life. It's fishermen to disciples. And disciples to Apostles. It's Jesus born into a broken and lost world to show the world who The Father is. And to grant us eternal access and a dwelling place by His side. For me, most all of the churches I have ever attended indicate that the cross is "it". Now I want to be clear on how I say this: the cross is just the beginning, it is not the end. What do I mean? If I could have somehow kept track of all the salvation messages and altar calls preached in my lifetime, versus the amount of time spent helping "new believers" understand the purpose beyond the cross - the numbers would be astronomically different. I am going to say something that is going to sound blasphemous to some of you. The cross is not the finished work! It is just the beginning! Jesus did not "just" die so we could go to Heaven. If that were the case then why did He even need to have a ministry. Why did He have to do any miracles. He could have been born into the world, lived a normal human life, and been crucified as a perfect "sacrifice". And the result would have been the same. Why did He teach the disciples to do the work of "The Kingdom". Why did He send us the Holy Spirit? Just so we can be convicted of sin? Then what about people who don't believe in God who have enough conviction to know right from wrong? I don't know about you, but when I read my Bible and then look at the world around me (my own life included) I see a very stark/contrasting difference. And why as believers is this ok? And this is where someone would argue God's sovereignty. But it's hard to argue with direct commands given by God himself (see Mark 16: 15-18) And if you consider yourself a cessationist, then my question is "How can God be unchanging in nature, but rob every other generation after his resurrection of seeing His power?" We could debate many such topics all day.
If purpose is my point, then what is the purpose? The cross opened the door for us to receive a "sonship". An inheritance from God (this is The Lord's words not mine). The intention of Jesus was to show the world who The Father is. Jesus commission to us is to show the world who The Father is. With a renewed mind that "yes" the Bible is 100% true. And the heart of The Father is to show the world His love, His heart, His goodness. The lens through which you see the "Christian" life becomes drastically different. The lens through which you understand the point of "miracles" and Jesus teachings, becomes drastically different. The way you experience life will be drastically different. Because The Father is no longer a distant God. Miracles are no longer "rare" events. Hearing God's voice and having moments of experiencing unexplainable encounters with Him are not once or twice in a lifetime experiences. With a renewed mind that understands the heart of The Father, you realize that He has always desired to make Himself real and known to us. Not just in an intellectual way. Before I realized this for myself, I was on the roller coaster of life and my experience with God versus the Bible depicted version of God, made God out to be bipolar at best! There will always be a "cookie cutter" answer or quote available for someone who is living in hopelessness and despair. There will always be tons of great Bible verses to cite to the person dying of cancer. I don't know about you, but I am done with the cliche "Sunday seat warming" methods of trying to explain the absence of a God who loves me, when I needed Him there yesterday! And "No" - don't tell me He is "always" with me. Because that won't work for me or the pastor whose pregnant wife was shot and killed in a home invasion. Or the pastor who hung himself moments before he was to step onto the platform to preach. Or my cousin who blew his brains out earlier this year in front of traffic.
When your wife needs you to hug her and tell her you love her, saying "I love you" alone won't do. If God is a loving Father (which He is) then I won't be given a snake or a scorpion when I needed fish or bread. And yes, I know that people die anyway and bad things happen (I have experienced both) - and yes I know that God can work all things together for the good. But knowing who The Father is, is knowing He isn't ok with death! He isn't ok with cancer! He isn't ok with broken families, aborted or abandoned children. He isn't ok when you are suffering in the worst storm of your life, is a much different experience when it's real - than when it's words. And God is big enough to prove Himself and His love in any situation. But an intellectually based idea that He "might" versus experience through a lifestyle that He will are two different things. That's how you go from disciples who abandon Jesus and run away in fear. To Apostles who all became martyr's except one.
The pattern of this world would have you believe in a bipolar God. A "random-acts-of-kindness" God who allows for the rare miraculous event when we rallied with others and begged Him for it (if we even got it then). What is truth? What is really the real deal? Are you ok with reading one thing in your Bible and not seeing that reality in existence in your life? My friends:
Jesus is perfect theology
I will leave you with this. I'm sure most of you have seen the movie The Matrix. The movie is all about how humanity lost it's control of Earth to machines it created (with the exception of those who were disconnected from the Matrix). And how a supernaturally gifted person would come forth to destroy the Matrix and end the reign of the machines. Neo is that person. In the first movie, Neo senses that there is something not quite right with his "reality". So he seeks out Morpheus for answers. Which leads to the ever famous scene where Neo has to decide to take the red or blue pill. But there is no going back. He can fully embrace the answer and "unveiling" of the truth that is "The Matrix". Or he can go back living in the "false" reality as if nothing ever happened. By the end of the movie you discover that the Matrix is a computer program that stimulates a "dream" like world that is so real, people accept it as such. Neo is shot and killed toward the end of the movie, but he comes back to life with new power and abilities. And ultimately embraces his true identity and purpose (which he questions the whole film). Which is - he is "the one". By the end of the third film, he has dismantled the Matrix and stopped the machines.
This is the same principle I leave in closing. What is a renewed mind? It's a revelation, it's a conviction even! Intellectual knowledge and rationalism can't touch it, because you experience it. My hope and prayer for you is that you will begin to ask hard questions. Find out what you really believe to be true. Jesus said if we seek we will find. And in James, it says if we lack wisdom to ask. Jesus said we would see and do greater things! Is your awakening like Neo limited to the fact that you have been pre-programmed by society, church, and culture. Instead of the Holy Spirit? There is a difference. And please understand I am not condemning knowledge or insight. But a powerless religion, a powerless God, a book of ludicrous stories, at war against the realities of the experiences of life... Who wants that? What good is that? What makes this any different than any other positive thinking or New Age idea?
To my fellow Burning Ones: be emboldened for the heart of The Father and the love of Jesus. Never settle for less than the manifestation of the spoken words of Christ Himself. If He said it, it's good, relevant, real, and true. Not for just today, but for eternity.
Much more to come as this is not a quick and easy subject to discuss.