Sunday, October 25, 2009

Intimacy vs. Intimidation – Part Three (Conclusion)

What did we see Jesus primarily do in the Scriptures? How did He draw others to Himself? What was His main focus and motivation? I believe that time and time again we see that He desired all too willingly lay down their lives and follow Him. I don't see what He did ever motivated by using coercion or fear. Time and time again we see in Scripture Jesus often saying, "Do not fear, only believe" and "why are you so afraid?". Unhealthy fear (what is aside from the Hebrew "yir'ah") is of the flesh - belief is much deeper. Fear sees the sin, belief sees the Saviour. The immeasurable love of the Father exposes my flaws and sin, but I am compelled to see my need by seeing His great love and compassion. Let's go back even further to the very beginning and look at Adam and Eve. Did God say, "Don't eat of this tree or else you'll go to hell and suffer eternally?" Of course not - it was all about losing interaction with Him immediately. Losing fellowship with God is what mattered then and I believe it is what should matter today. A vibrant, interactive relationship is what should fuel us to move toward Him and this will be a spiritual roadmap for others as well.

The reality of His great love for me that I have found should compel me to share with others, not how wretched and hell-bound they are! Just like it's always been, we get all worked up over things and Jesus is calmly resting in the midst of all the hoopla (see Mark 4:35-41 if you don't understand). I think just like back then, today He is saying "why is everyone so fearful and full of such dread?" Perhaps our ability to love others and capably speak of God's great love with them can be measured by our level of personally experiencing God's love. In short, perhaps we can only speak of what we've tasted and seen. This is, in my opinion, why fear, anger, wrath and judgment abound within the Body of Christ. Few have experienced the height and depth of God's unconditional love. My life has been wrecked by the love of God. He continues to change me and mold me – allowing me to incrementally understand His abounding love. My mind can simply not fathom its abundance. I am not worthy in myself, yet He graciously poured out His love for me. Romans 5:5 states that "hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." A friend recently pointed out to me a simple truth within this passage – His great love is not being poured out, it has been poured out. It is already poured out. My task, my purpose, my goal is to be a catcher of the love He has poured out. I want my life to be a reservoir of God's love. Not to store it up and horde it for myself but in order to pour it out into others so that they too might see and know my LORD intimately.

Aside from the redemption of Christ, I am no different than what we would deem as the worst of the worst. No one, apart from Christ, is any more deserving of eternal damnation and separation than I.

God's mercy, God's grace, God's love and patience have won me over. His sacrificial gift has drawn me to Him. His incomparable love continues to keep me. No decision or fear of hell ever moved me to intimacy with Him. This may differ for some, but for me, I didn't truly experience new life until I chose to fix my gaze upon His face. When I began to grasp His great love, no fear of hell or decision to be made could hold a candle to this new life! To summarize, I just want to urge us to be purveyors of God's awe and wonder - His great love, first and foremost. Yes, there is a place of eternal separation from God. Yes, the only way to spend eternity in the presence of the LORD is Jesus Christ. But what is our motivation when we speak to or about others? Does Christianity wield a sword of hell and damnation to manipulate "the lost" in order to win them over? How long will the religious organizations rally to increase salvation counts, baptisms and memberships in order to be deemed successful? (Imagine a VBS where only one child accepted Christ! Oh the horror! The pastor would surely demand a recount!) I think perhaps the biggest underlying issue is that we seemingly don't trust the LORD enough to draw people to Himself. A "He won't do it, or they just won't go willingly, so we'll scare them to Him" Christianity is a dreadful beast to embrace. I rest in the fact that He is pouring out His Spirit and that He will continue to use others who know Him intimately to draw others to Himself. We can yell, scream, give the most scary account of hell that we can muster, blast the greatest altar call of all time…it is all in vain unless the LORD is the One doing the drawing. I say we just all take a deep breath and see what God would desire us to say on the matter. Until we hear and heed, perhaps we should all just shut our mouths – I'll go first.

So, I guess if corralling 50 youth into a 95 degree, pitch black room, complete with a soundtrack of people screaming in pain as a church deacon dressed up like the devil holds a flashlight under his pointy chin is your way of explaining the love of Christ, so be it. If standing on a corner and holding signs about how God hates homosexuals and how they'll burn forever is your way of telling others how Christ has changed your life with His overwhelming, unconditional love, OK. If hellfire and brimstone messages every… single… Sunday… morning is producing biblically-defined, maturing followers of Christ, you go right ahead. But I just don't see it – the fruit of these approaches are all around. I have to wonder, just what if we really did simply start with explaining the awesome majesty of the LORD and how He has changed our entire lives? What if we wept uncontrollably when we spoke of His mercy and grace that has been poured out upon us? Not because it's part of the rehearsed outreach shenanigans but because I am generally moved when I think of His mercy! What if the simple reality of the awesomeness of God in our own personal lives could win others over? What if there was so much Christ exuding out of my life that people just had to know what it is that makes me radiate? Could that be enough? Is there enough of a radical salvation evident in my life that His living in me is sufficient evidence to "convince" others to see He is real?

I choose to keep my gaze fixed upon Him. I will speak of His marvelous acts! I will keep my mind set on things above. I will continue to see the innumerable facets of my salvation that has come from Him. I will see all others as no different than I, for apart from Christ we are all the same. I will trust and expect Him to draw others to Himself. I choose to believe that His overwhelming love will continue to win people over until He returns to set it all straight… just like it did me. Jesus Christ and Him crucified is enough.


Anonymous said...

Welp,again I say "yes and amen!" The end you mentioned MERCY, I am explorying this and wondering if I really even get this MERCY thing that He poured out for us. I think in my mind, "thank you God for your mercy" but I think it goes much deeper then I am really getting. We take steps to be seated with him on the mercy seat...or do I dare to say we are already there on HIs mercy seat. His mercy has no limits, it is continual and does not end. I think when you said "do you lay down and weep over his mercy" it makes me sad that I don't yet get the depth of this. I know His mercy is huge. Oh well, I know this post is not even about his mercy...or maybe it is, maybe if we grasped it we would not be like you were mentioning in the beginning, People would not have the fear provoked salvation. Thanks again Joel.

Grace said...

All the days of my life i attended church but i never knew him...They used every tool in the book! Fire, hell and damnation! But it was him..HIM..and his love that awakened me! I could never stop loving him if i wanted to...We are one! We must each have our lown personal encounter with him and our own "awakening" Once we've tasted of his wine, we want no other!

Joel Spencer said...

Anonymous: We all have much to learn about the depth and width of God's love and mercy that is showered upon us all.

Grace: I hear ya - the hell and damnation stuff always seemed to be more geared toward keeping church pews filled than seeing lives changed. Without a personal encounter, as you say, "converts" will have no leg to stand on, spiritually speaking. We must know what we believe and why. It has got to be experiential and not second-hand.