Friday, September 11, 2015
Our Biggest Problem
For 10 years I've been telling people the biggest problem in the Church is that we don't understand the Gospel. Today I found a bigger one.
Yes, it’s a huge problem that Christians don’t understand the basic message of Jesus, and yes, it does affect the way you understand everything else about Jesus and the Christian life, but there is something even more foundational than that.
My little epiphany came yesterday as, once more, I had a surreal conversation with a Christian who maintained that we are incapable of being like Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had hundreds of conversations with people like this over the years. But maybe this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
With my recent change in office location, my drive home lately is about an hour long. That gave me plenty of time to think about this conversation, and soon enough I started to realize the real depth of this problem within modern American Christianity.
We don’t believe that Jesus is alive in us. Worse yet, Jesus probably isn’t actually living through the vast majority of us.
We have no concept or expectation that Christ is living within. Therefore, we repeat verses like “Christ in you, the hope of glory” and “Abide in me and I will abide in you” and dozens like this, but we have absolutely no experience that any of this is an actual reality.
Now, if you have a church full of Christians who never take their faith beyond the book, or the idea stage, just imagine how lifeless and empty that church – and those Christians – will be.
This is why we have Christians who are hateful, angry, distracted by nationalism, moved by politics, competitive, selfish, frazzled, anxious, depressed and bored with their church, their faith, and even with Jesus.
I’m not suggesting that Christians can’t be depressed, or angry, etc., but when someone says a prayer to escape hell and then attends a weekly meeting out of fear and obligation, there’s little reason to be surprised when that person isn’t experiencing the indwelling spirit of Christ or putting his unsearchable riches on display for people to marvel at.
Jesus came to give us life, and that more abundantly. He promised that if we would find ourselves in him, that he and the Father would come and make their home in us.[Jn 14:23] And once they do that, our transformation of character begins.
Not that we’re perfect. Not that we don’t blow it. Not that we don’t need to be reminded over and over again to seek first the Kingdom and to take up our cross daily. But there is the expectation that those who are in Christ have become new creatures with a new heart and the mind of Christ. There is the reality of the character of Christ being formed in us as we submit to Him and seek His face.
So, while the Christian church suffers for not knowing what the Gospel is all about, they suffer more by not experiencing the transformational power of the Gospel in their actual lives.
A Christian who is walking daily in the reality of the indwelling presence of Jesus won’t need any more information about the Gospel, because they are already immersed in the living actuality of Jesus.
Christians who are filled with the Spirit of God are marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, meekness and self-control. Those are the kinds of people you want to be around. They’re the sorts of people who inspire questions like, “Why do you have so much hope in your heart?” Our doctrines don’t inspire questions like that. Our theology doesn’t waft the aroma of Christ into the nostrils of the unbelieving around us.
As Madeleine L’Engle put it:
“We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”
I have spent many years studying apologetics. I know that stuff backwards and forwards. But once I realized that I had never once argued anyone into the arms of Jesus I quit. Instead, I found that there is no apologetic like a life that reflects the character of Christ.
I’ll be honest, I think it’s possible to know all of this in your head and still not get it in your heart – or practice it in your daily life. That’s the piece I am only beginning to explore right now.
But isn’t this the key element that’s missing in our own lives? (Not to mention in the church, or in our world).
The reality of the living Christ within is where our faith rises or falls. Either Jesus is alive inside of us right now, or our faith is dead.
The good news is that Jesus is waiting to meet you where you are. He is longing to awaken your heart – and mine – to the reality of his holy presence.
His promise is that He will never leave you, nor forsake you. His name is “Emmanuel” which means ‘God with us’.
How can we keep him at arm’s length? How can we reduce him to an image or a concept?
Read the Bible all you want. Until you have the living spirit of God within, you'll never know Christ and the power of his resurrection.
Knowing things about Jesus is not the same as knowing him.
Knowing theology is not how you draw nearer to Jesus.
Get on your knees. Ask him to reveal himself to you.
Wait on him. Listen for his voice.
He freely gives his Spirit to anyone who asks.
"The world does not need Christianity. The world needs Christ". - Kat Huff