If you want to jack up the excellence of your Christian experience and have a substantial faith that effectively works outside of the religious box, then close communion with God via the scripture and prayer is non-negotiable.
If the Christian truly follows the Christ of the Bible and wants to impact this planet positively, then he will spend significant and intentional time away from his church buddies and in the company of people who are fundamentally not of his stripe. Yes, if you follow the life of Jesus as lined out in the scripture, you'll quickly see that the majority of his ministry went down outside of formal religious buildings filled with proper religious people.
Jesus' faith was not afraid of the mean old nasty world. Y'know . I could be wrong, but I'm pretty certain about this: part of his whole reason for showing up 2000 years ago was to embrace, grace and change people whom most religious folks would spit on. Christ carried his work off road and away from the Lysol-disinfected "sacred" surroundings that all the religious indoor boys must have in order to subsist, and instead took his hearty convictions beyond the pavement and was . kinda . successful.
Imagine that! Jesus, minus funky religious hats, robes, wands, bumper stickers and a friendly environment, effectively revolutionized the planet via his robust out-of-the-orthodox-box faith. And guess what, Christian? You can too. It will not necessarily be that easy, but it is . necessary.
Look, if believers really want to change things which are detrimental both to the soul of man and the soul of our nation, then we must have a faith that can thrive outside of the religious biosphere we have concocted. I'm talking about a Christ-like rowdy belief that will not wilt when it is tested to the hilt and is completely comfortable being in "uncomfortable" surroundings.
In order to get to such a place of influence, the modern Christian must glance back for directions. Throughout church history, when the church was at the top of its game and not doing goofy stuff in the name of God, but instead bettering the planet, it was usually because they took onboard the following four vigorous disciplines, namely:
1. They incorporated what they believed into their daily grind.
2. They bumped up the quality of their spiritual experience.
3. They had a passion for effective action.
4. They labored for personal, ecclesiastical and national reform.
* These points were originally taken from J.I. Packer and then mangled by me.
Everywhere and every time these four principals were heartily embraced for a prolonged period of time, the church grew and the nation got better. And unless you're the anti-Christ, that should sound pretty good to you, eh?
Now . having covered the first point, "incorporate what you believe into your daily grind," in my last column, here's my non-steroid-enhanced swing at point two: Bump up the quality of your spiritual experience.
In this day of rabid terrorists, scrappy secularists, and undaunted demons, the believer must seriously have his spiritual act together or he will soon become religious road kill. Given the complications of our current culture, the quality of our Christian life must be ratcheted up a few notches. Unfortunately, for a lot of believers, slothfulness, stupidity, sentimentality, and slush remain the soup de jour. Yes, a lot of Christians are about as substantial as an empty Pez dispenser, and what makes it even worse is that they're not near as cute.
If, as a Christian, you want to have true influence upon culture, then you must deepen your soul's relationship with God and refuse to be simply denomination-centered, success-oriented, self-indulgent, and repellently corny. This type of me-monkey religion might be en vogue with an immediate aberrant version of the faith, but hear me loud and clear: such a "faith" is a farce and not the force Christ intends it to be. I know that's tight, but it's right. Yes, shallowness and sappiness keep you from impacting the real world, where the big boys live and play. And as far as I'm concerned, being a spiritual force and not a ridiculous farce is what having a robust faith is all about.
Believe it or not, no matter what you may have seen on Christian TV, the believer is a creature of thought, affection and will. God's primary way to up the robusticity of the human heart is via the human head, by the principal means of the scripture. Having a profound and extensive knowledge of the scripture, coupled with contemplation and application of the Word to one's person, will naturally cause one to move into substantially deeper waters.
Now, wouldn't it be great to see a Christian of significant spiritual substance brought back to the Church? One who worships rationally and resolutely with ardent devotion to Christ and is completely comfortable out of a stained glass environment? Imagine having a believer who is serious about the law without becoming a legalist and who enjoys his Christian liberty without becoming Ted Kennedy on St. Patrick's Day. I'm talkin' about a Christian who can live and thrive in the public square without looking like the public square. Imagine the impact such a body of believers would have upon this nation and the world. The only way to accomplish the above is to increase the quality of our spiritual understanding.
And by the way, historically speaking, this is not "Scotty's on fire" Christianity. This is normal Christianity which takes note of how dishonest, dumb and deceitful we quickly become outside of regular personal and corporate maintenance. In addition, this type of attitude has a reality-based approach that understands that if we're going to change the world, we can't afford to have unclear minds, uncontrolled affections, a loose gibbering monkey in our pants, and an unstable will controlled by the irrational and the emotional under the deceitful guise of super-spirituality.
Therefore, if you, the believer, want to jack up the excellence of your Christian experience and have a substantial faith that effectively works outside of the religious box, just like Jesus' did, then close communion with God via the scripture, prayer and meditation is a non-negotiable. There is no other way, José.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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