Saturday, April 23, 2011

Emptying/Filling, Part 1 of 2

This weekend, many will gather to formally celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As any avid reader of this blog will quickly tell you, I’m no big proponent of Christianity’s traditions and “church-y” practices that generally coincide with (and often corrupt) the recognition and honoring of biblical events. I’d like to assure you that that’s not what this article is about whatsoever so you can rest easy and proceed.

As many an altar call will be given across this nation this weekend, primarily geared towards the “visitors” who only attend services on holidays, the challenge to “come to the cross” will likely be repeated in record number. “All that you need is at the cross.” “Lay your sin at the foot of the cross.” “Come and meet Jesus at the cross.” Without any question, this a vital and necessary step of one’s salvation experience, but the question that I want to focus on is what then? What happens next? There is surely more to this new journey than simply joining oneself with a denomination and attending their services right? Perhaps signing up for discipleship classes will somehow do the trick? No. What about buying study books and teaching dvd’s? No, that alone won’t do it either. Are we supposed to go to the cross, surrender our very lives and then get up and just hope for the best? Absolutely not! This is why I’ll say, not flippantly whatsoever and with great care, the cross is not enough. Yes you read that correctly. Laying your life at the foot of the cross alone is not enough. Please allow me to explain.

Let me start out where we go from here with another question. Why is it that countless Believers seem to be in the exact same place spiritually today that they were ten, twenty or even thirty years ago when they were “saved”? They’ve matured in the workplace, hobbies, earthly wisdom, parenting, actions and achievements yet they have seen little, if any change in their spiritual growth. Let me ask this as well - what is present in the average life of a Believer that would challenge them to truly mature spiritually on a daily basis? What causes us to mature in the eternal, Kingdom elements of this life? It will obviously not happen by accident nor by simply attending cyclical services a couple of hours a week that require little, if anything from its attendees.

I would venture to say, from personal experience of myself and others that I’ve met throughout the years, that far too many were led to the cross, surrendered their lives the best that they knew how and then just stayed there, forever reveling and reflecting on the functions of the cross. While on the surface this may sound beneficial, I believe it’s an awful place to set up a tent and reside, spiritually speaking.

Is Jesus presently seated at the foot of the cross? If not, where is He? What is He doing? Who am I as a regenerated Kingdom Son, born from above by the Spirit of the Living God? I believe that it’s imperative for Believers to know what the Scriptures say about these questions and grasp that they were never intended to remain at the cross upon salvation.

The cross is a place of death, a place of emptying oneself and embarking on the journey of being conformed to the image of Christ. It is arguably the single most incredible action God ever initiated on our behalf but it is meant to be approached, responded to and used as a launching pad if you will, for the rest of one’s days. Please hear me clearly. The cross was an integral part of what the Trinity was unfolding. Yes, a part.

As I write this I’m reminded of the life-giving breath of God. In Genesis we see this breath impart life into the First Adam and created humankind as we know it. (Please take hold of this word, “impart”.) We see this mirrored in Jesus, the Second Adam as the Spirit of God freed Him after He “descended into the lower parts of the earth”, post- crucifixion (Rom 8:11). This breath of God (also synonymous with the Holy Spirit) injected life into Christ who burst out of sheol/hades in victory as He then ascended to return to His heavenly dwelling (Eph 4:8-10). When one is born from above, there are, as I see it, two primary parts to the process, for it to be headed towards completion. Number one, as we’ve seen, one must come to the cross in submission and surrender, laying their absolute livelihood in the hands of Christ, exchanging their identity and purpose for His. Number two, and this is where I want us to stay for a while, one must stand up, turn (true biblical repentance) and walk a life led by the Spirit who empowers them to be conformed into the image of Christ. This is the great downfall of the Body of Christ right here friends – missing this part of the plan. This is what has been lacking and kept The Church stagnant and infantile spiritually.

Just as the cross is a place of emptying, there must be a constant filling that follows, for the rest of the Believers days. Emptying is not enough. The cross removes, the Spirit imparts.

The exchange one makes at the cross, as I said earlier, is only the beginning and far too many teach it as the end all of Christianity. It is simply the enabling factor for you to become all that you were destined to be in God. It makes it possible for you to hunger and thirst for righteousness. As is the case even in the natural, when something is emptied, it will immediately desire to be re-filled. In the case of salvation, after one empties themselves, an exchange will absolutely follow. Sadly, many, after surrendering their sinful ways will refill their lives with religious laws, duties and rituals. I don’t fault people for this so much anymore because this is simply what they’re taught to believe. What they do not realize however is that’s exactly what Jesus came to this earth to abolish.

Jesus came down and entered this fallen world in the image of man in order to reconcile the relational life that the First Adam possessed, prior to the fall. He re-opened the door to intimacy that the sin of Adam had closed and a new age had come.

What most Christians fail to realize is that the regeneration of salvation is really only an enabler. The regenerated spirit of a man gives us the ability, for the first time, to reciprocate the love of God and to long for Him. The regenerated man is given a heart of flesh that feels and is moved by the Spirit of God. He’s been given eyes to see. But what one does with this is still a choice of the will. Even Jesus, without sin and mere moments from the cross had to surrender His will of flesh as He stated, “Not My will but Thine”. This is why it’s imperative that we be filled, as Jesus taught the disciples, with the life-giving body and blood of Christ. We must eat of it, spiritually and walk according to the Spirit. Only then will we mature spiritually into Father-pleasing sons and daughters of God.

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