Christian Life ...

Christian Life ...
Christian life is meant to be a life of bearing much fruit. What does that look like? How do we get there? This blog will record thoughts and meditations about living a life striving to be a fruitful branch.

Friday, June 3, 2016

This IS Eternal Life; The Ordinary Extraordinary Life

The reality of Christian faith is transcendent. It's not something that stands still. It's not simply following a routine of bible reading, following rules, making requests or reciting prayers. It's not simply a rhythmic mantra to center the body and mind. It's not simply religion. There is more than what we do, but what we do is still important. 

Faith, in a colloquial sense, can be defined by the near cliche of "being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot see." This is radical trust. I have faith that my family will be there for me when I have a hard time. I can't see the future. I can't predict any hardship, but I believe and trust that they will be there for me. I am also certain that they will continue to value my well being. I also have faith that the company I work for is, as they claim to be, working to provide equitable service for the populations they serve. I certainly hope for that, and I am certain that many of my co-workers are invested in shaking up the health care industry for the better.

This is interesting, because this definition of faith does not suggest any type of fuel except a personal conclusion. It's a person's decision whether to mix the trust and hope together and link them to one thing or group of people. I can evaluate past experiences and decide whether or not the thing that I am considering faith in is, in fact, faithful. There's no assurance or power from faith in the colloquial sense. There's no external source. Except for relationship.

That's what I consider to be the key to faith. Relationship is what makes the difference. No one puts faith in something of which they are not in relationship. Even long ago, the relationship of fear that ancient people felt while presenting sacrifices to sun gods and gods of the harvest. They were confident, that by making the effort to please these gods, they would give them the benefit of the doubt and decide not to wipe them off the face of the earth. Closer to home, I know my family, and I know they love and care about me. I know the people at my company, and I have seen the record of what they have done and continue to do. I have a faith in both of them. It's different, but real.

What does this say about Christian faith? What does Christian faith have different than colloquial faith? My 'ol pal Oswald Chambers has some ideas (from reading for May 27th):

The Life To Know Him

The Life To Know Him

The disciples had to tarry, staying in Jerusalem until the day of Pentecost, not only for their own preparation but because they had to wait until the Lord was actually glorified. And as soon as He was glorified, what happened? “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). The statement in John 7:39— “…for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified”— does not pertain to us. The Holy Spirit has been given; the Lord is glorified— our waiting is not dependent on the providence of God, but on our own spiritual fitness.

The Holy Spirit’s influence and power were at work before Pentecost, but He was not here. Once our Lord was glorified in His ascension, the Holy Spirit came into the world, and He has been here ever since. We have to receive the revealed truth that He is here. The attitude of receiving and welcoming the Holy Spirit into our lives is to be the continual attitude of a believer. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we receive reviving life from our ascended Lord.

It is not the baptism of the Holy Spirit that changes people, but the power of the ascended Christ coming into their lives through the Holy Spirit. We all too often separate things that the New Testament never separates. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an experience apart from Jesus Christ— it is the evidence of the ascended Christ. 

The baptism of the Holy Spirit does not make you think of time or eternity— it is one amazing glorious now. “This is eternal life, that they may know You…” (John 17:3). Begin to know Him now, and never finish.
This is resounding reality of the Christian faith. We, as believers in Christ, have access, and direct relationship with the given power of the spirit, which IS "the reviving life" of "our ascended Lord". The death of Christ paid the price of sin and the resurrection of Christ defeated the cost of sin. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). We have been given life and life eternal as a gift. This, can be a complex monetary metaphor. First, there's the idea of death as our wages. That we should be paid death due to the labor of sin. Then, there's the idea that Christ paid the price for our sin. In other words, Christ took on the death that was due to us, and cashed the check with more than enough of a deposit limit, so that what we never had to bank those destructive wages.

It's probably easier to say that Christ paid the debt we incurred from our sin, but there's something interesting about the idea of thinking of death as wages...

Nonetheless, because of Christ, there is no balance due. Christ is risen and in him so ARE we who believe in him. We have this resurrected life at our grasps, right within the reach by "our own spiritual fitness."

Now while Chambers is talking about baptism, don't think of that as the action of symbolic physical baptism, but more like Holy Spirit entering in. "The word baptize can mean to dunk, submerge, or immerse. It can be used to describe  part of the process of pickling a vegetable" (Sacrament: ... "Remember Me"). To me this feels like a marinade. It's not a one time thing. It's not, dunk, move on you're good. Like soaking a cucumber in a brine or marinading a steak, it takes some time to make all that much difference. The idea of baptism, is a symbolic submergence in the reality of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The act of physical baptism in one meaning symbolizes the joining in Christ's death and resurrection. Under the surface of the water with Christ in death, out of the surface again with Christ in new life. "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:4) . This is completely valid. But remember also that John the Baptist baptized before Christ's death and resurrection. This was a baptism of purification and repentance. This is not a one time idea but the idea of turning and going the other direction and still going that way.

The action of this is to symbolize a continual action, or reality to live in. Repentance is a u-turn, not a flipped switch. Spirit baptism is constant marinade. This is the point Os Chambers makes when he says "the receiving and welcoming the Holy Spirit into our lives is to be the continual attitude of a believer."

This is a relationship with the eternal-life giver. This is the access to the power that rose Jesus from the dead. This IS eternal life.

The ordinary extraordinary life of the Fruitful Christian is that the Kingdom may not be here but it is at hand. It is within reach. The power is in us and we can live in that reality. The ordinary extraordinary life is life in right relationship with God due to His coming down into our reality.

Faith in God is faith with relationship AND with real power promised. This is the mind-blowing gospel of Jesus Christ, that we we attach to the vine we are given the eternal life force of our creator. This is the transcendent element. Faith in Christ, continually seeking out that relationship, though the power of the resurrection and the given spirit, IS eternal life. "Begin to know Him now, and never finish." 

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