The Basics Of Our Faith
It doesn't hurt every now and then to give a second going-over to the foundations we stand on.
I was thinking as I was considering what I would say about this, how in my beginning days of faith years ago, I would simply tell someone what had happened to me -- "I came out of darkness into light!" -- in finding the Lord Jesus. It was all I knew -- my own story. Of course, at the same time in those beginning days the Scriptures were first opening up to me, and anybody I told my story to got the full benefit of my joy and exuberance and teeny knowledge of the Bible. But as I grew and learned I became much more "knowledgeable," and telling people about my faith became for a long time more an exercise in putting the facts in the right order and covering all the right bases conceptually, rather than just sharing what had happened to me.
Part of it is because after that initial new birth euphoria that happens to a lot of us wore off, living became less joyful than it had been before, and far more of a struggle than I had ever thought it to be as a legalistic zen student. But I didn't think about that for a long time, because it seemed the right way to go. Struggling hard for the prize, "pressing for the mark," "seeking God with all my heart," "my utmost for His highest," were my bywords, and if not who I was, then it was who I wanted to be. All that striving and sweating, self-effort though it certainly was, is really nothing other than the Spirit driving us into the desert to be tempted of the devil, and thus it is a holy time and purely God-driven and God-orchestrated. I would trade nothing for those days, though they are not mine to live again. (Something for us to remember when we see our struggling brothers and sisters who have not yet found their rest. It's God's holy time!)
But my story became almost rote and said from memory for a while, not as a "living experience" which was just spontaneously gushing out of me, as it had been in my earliest days.
Now what has happened in the succeeding years, has been a gradual merging of the objective "facts" of our faith with my real life, so that the gospel story as well as all the other stories told in the Scriptures, have become my own living experience. Said another way, the "Word became flesh," in me.
This is one way I can say I no longer know Christ "after the flesh." For a long time my Christ was "after the flesh." For one thing -- maybe the main thing -- He was always over there or up there and somehow I had to get his attention to get Him to do something, subconsciously believing what we all believe, that He will be impressed by my better behavior or at least by my good effort at it, and maybe He'll do a little something my way since I've put forth a good show or have tried to.
And then there was the matter of always wanting Him to do magic. Oh, certainly I wouldn't call it that. But I definitely wanted stuff done and for Him to do some molecule restructuring or whatever He did and give me some benefit from it. Whatever. "Make me holy," was one. Another was, "Pay my bills." Abracadabra, please and thank you. "Heal my body, fix my tire, get me a good house, keep my kids off drugs, fix my country, let the police radar not see me, etc., etc." I wanted stuff and He promised stuff, if ...
Oh yeah. Always an "if." "If" you believe. "If" you pray (and "if" you're not praying amiss to consume it on your own lusts). If you pray "effectually." And "if" you're not in sin. (A real show-stopper, that one.)
Pretty soon if you don't get the all stuff you want you got to figure something's wrong here. Some people conclude God isn't true, that He doesn't deliver on His promises, so they walk off. Others conclude God is true, but they haven't fulfilled all the "if's," so they keep on trying to figure out how to fulfill all the "if's" so they can get finally get stuff. (Think of fulfilling "ifs" as being quarters [25 cents], and God being a vending machine who dispenses our choice once we've put in enough quarters [fulfilled enough 'ifs."])
And all that is Christ after the flesh. It's being part of the mob that wants to make Jesus king because He fed their bellies. They want an earthly king who is going to fix everything, to make everything alright. Another King Saul. Someone who promises miracles -- and delivers!
But He offers the Living Bread from Heaven, the Water that quenches eternal thirst -- Himself -- which they can eat and know the same Life flowing in them. But they weren't ready to hear that, since their whole mind was set on the bread which perishes. And we are part of that mob until we come out and know Him as Who He is, and that He Himself is the Bread from Heaven in us, and we realize we can go nowhere else because we don't seek Him anymore in the miracles, in the mighty demonstrations of power. It doesn't matter whether they are there or not, because we say out of our utter loss, "Where else can we go? Thou hast the WORDS of eternal life."
Words? What have mere "words" mattered before? Who wants words when we crave a hamburger? A double-cheeseburger and super-size fries, if you please!
But this is more than the words of a catechism or a systematic theology. It's more than just memorized "promises" of God that we like the heathens think if we repeat enough they'll come true.
When the apostles realized and confessed that Jesus had the "words of eternal life, their confession was probably far beyond their understanding, but in our ears the confession means that they have discovered Him the center and source of all, and that everything that flows moment by moment into creation -- all creation itself and all the creatures -- is empowered, energized, made manifest, upheld, every individual creature and thing being His uttered living words.
But in order to discover that eternal wellspring of life, originating eternally from "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever," we come out of the mob that seeks loaves and fishes to find only Him.**
When we realize that the "words of eternal life" are manifest all around us in everything that is, then perhaps we begin to consciously know something that we have only before sensed within, but have maybe been too timid to express because of the enormity of it, because more than ever we see by the Spirit how He who is the chief cornerstone, the head of the corner, the foundation of the building, the One Who in the wilderness we saw up on a pole wrapped about with a serpent, and in looking to Him who was without and upward from us, we were healed, and now find ourselves unable to see Him anymore out there and up there, but only "in here," as hidden manna, eternally satiating sustenance, having left us in body and come back to us in Spirit joined with ours so that we are one spirit.
Paul said we preach nothing other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It (that "message") has now become living "words" in us. By that only do we give life. That's it. That's the basics.
I started to throw in a whole lot of other stuff but I figured that about covers it all.
**When you get "Him" you get the loaves and fishes & answers to prayer or fulfillments of your words of faith because you are He living. But the former (seeking the bread that perishes) is from the perspective of self-need, which is part of our training for a time, but being one person with Him we are now self-overflowing, so that it is not out of our own need but rather the proactive outflow of God from our own inner sufficiency in Him -- He as ourselves declaring what is and what will be.