Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Insufficiency of Christ - 6 Final

Suffering is the biggest problem/dilemma with God.  The argument goes: If God is all powerful and good then He doesn't care because if He did care, then He could and would fix the world and end my suffering and the suffering of everyone else.  Since there is suffering, then either there is no God, or He is not good, or He is not all powerful, or He set the world in motion and is letting it run by itself, or He created this but doesn't really care or arbitrarily cares what does or doesn't happen.  In short, if there is a God then He is insufficient to meet our needs or doesn't care.
Of course, all of these arguments turn on the perspective of us as the center.  In all of these scenarios, our story is what God should be about.  If you pick up a history of New Zealand from inception until today, you will not find my name mentioned.  I could contend, then, that New Zealand has no purpose in existing, may not even exist at all, actually.  They have nothing to do with my story.  If, on the other hand, the main story in the world is not about me but about New Zealand, then I am the one irrelevant.... unless I join their story.  AND even if I join their story and become relevant, my individual comfort and ease is not the objective of the story.  In fact, my suffering may be inconsequential or even necessary to the story.  New Zealand's story is bigger than me.
Jesus' story is the relevant one.  Jesus' story is the real story.  Jesus' story is bigger than me.  Jesus' story gives me relevance.  With this shift in perspective - from my pre-occupation with my story to a dedication to Jesus' - life in all its troubles and glories makes sense.  Jesus is sufficient for every need because the only need is to further His work and story.  Even martyrdom makes sense.  Even Paul's shipwreck makes sense.  Even a crucifixion makes sense.
For us all, for Jesus to make sense but also for our lives to make sense, we simply must reorient ourselves and have Christ as the center of our lives, His story as the story we are willing to do anything to forward, His agenda easily replacing our own, our goods and services at His complete discretion, our lives, in all its splendor and heartache, happily turned over to Him.  It is a glorious freedom to live this way.  Everything makes sense.  Christ IS sufficient to all our needs within His plot line.  "Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done."  "Ask anything in my name ["in my name" = within the context of my story] and the Father will give it to you."  Of course.  Hallelujah! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Insufficiency of Christ - 5

What IS the STORY then?  The story you have left Egypt for and must entered Canaan for is a history of God and His remarkable desire to reconcile people to Himself so He can enjoy us and we enjoy Him forever.
So first and foremost, our part in the story is that we are lovers with God.  Song of Solomon is not in the Bible by mistake.  God is passionate about a relationship with us.  Our primary purpose in life is to play before and with God.  This is worship.  This is the why of the Sabbath:  God didn't rest because He was pooped from making hippos.  He was saying, "I love you for who you are not what you do. I love just being in a relationship with you.  I long for you to spend time just being you with Me."
Our second activity is to somehow get others to connect with this passion of God.  Though we all worship poorly and need to engage in worship better, the second part of our purpose causes huge practical problems.  Our whole life, every activity, every work, every thought, every prayer, our job, our hunting outings, our family, our possessions, our money, our time, our meals, our empty-nest bedrooms, our spare change, our cars, our camping gear, the extra coat, the extra bicycle, the bothersome kid down the street....everything about us should be directed towards either 1) us playing with and being real before God or 2) joining in His desperation to get people to love Him.  A fun life is not God's goal for your life.  He does want you to enjoy life so you can play well and free but He also is unashamedly willing to use you to get others to come to Him.  He desires love from people so desperately that He is willing to sacrifice your temporary happiness to get others to to engage with Him.  He is willing even to sacrifice His own son/self.  If you are not in these two stories, God play and ambassadorship of reconciliation, then Christ is of no use to you and He will be only a frustrating, irritating cur in your effort to have a life of your own.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Insufficiency of Christ - 4

Leviticus 18:3 "You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan to which I am bringing you."
The first reason for the insufficiency of Christ is having a wrong identity - thinking that you are your own, that the story is about you.  The second is very related - engaging in the wrong story.  We have already mentioned this but even if you believe that Christ is Savior and Lord, even if you think your identity is "Christian", if you have bought into the wrong story then, again, Christ will end up being insufficient for you.  You may muddle through.  You may just ignore your disappointment in Christ and His church or repress it but there will be a seed of bitterness and sadness and even anger at God that makes a home in your heart and turns your yearning for Him into questions and wonderings and mistrustings and giving up-ings.
The STORY:  There are two movements in the Exodus story: leaving and entering.  God says that His people can no longer live the story of slaves in Egypt.  Most people, even non-Christians, get this.  Everyone wants to leave the past and embrace the freedom to be themselves.  But usually they are too afraid and if they try they typically make a mess of leaving.  Therapists are therefore making a fortune... on Bandaids.  The great tragedy in this is that some people actually do leave but are not able to complete the process by entering Canaan.  They end up back as slaves in Egypt with the added problem of now thinking that leaving doesn't work.  Back as slaves and mad at God for not coming through, not showing up, not being big enough, not making life work.  They chalk up Christianity as one more philosophy/religion that is really nice, makes sense of some things and provides some comfort while they make more bricks for Pharaoh.
Even if we believe that we belong to Christ, even if we serve Him in some way or another, our joy and peace and power and perseverance will be ever just out of reach if we are not in Canaan living His story.
Some would say that Jesus as Savior is enough but we are not free by being set free from Egypt, as essential as that is.  If we do not accept freedom, respond to freedom and follow God to the Promised Land, we may not be slaves to Pharaoh but we remain slaves to wandererings in the desert.  Of course, neither leaving nor entering is accomplished by our own hands.  God must part the Red Sea and the Jordan as well.  He saves us time and again but without our response to His Lordship in Canaan, His Saviorship at the Red Sea is a despised, unwrapped and useless gift.  The story is within Christ as Savior and Lord.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Insufficiency of Christ - 3

If our identity is a bit part in the world's play, then what we do may look OK for a while but the plot will fray as time goes on.  It's the wrong script for the stage God made.  Things get broken and we wonder why the life we have been dealt isn't fair, isn't what we expected.  Life doesn't work because it is the wrong life for this world.
Contrary-wise, if your identity really is in Christ's story, then... life still won't work but for an entirely different reason.  Your life as a Christian, "all such good works as Thou hast prepared for us to walk in", your part in the story, works for God's story but not in the world.  The whole world is trying to make a different story, their individual stories, take place on the same stage.  You, like John and Stephen and Mary and Lydia and Peter, gum up the works, finding yourself at odds with every non-Christian and their agendas.
The insufficiency of Christ for the world's story surfaces quickly because He is not interested in another play, a different plot line, someone else's story.  This is why the disciples were so frustrated with Jesus.  This is perhaps, as suggested in Jesus Christ Superstar, why Judas betrayed Jesus - trying to get Him to play His hand, trying to force a different story.  We are all Judas's in that regard.  We have been taught to "invite Jesus into our lives".  Very wrong message.  We must, rather, accept Jesus' invitation for us to join HIS life.  Otherwise, He must, in order to remain true to His agenda, remain insufficient for ours.
Our identity has to be found as a player in His story.  In order for Jesus to make any sense at all in our lives we really do have to die to ourselves and accept another, different, not our, view of who we are.  We are chosen before the foundations of  the world.  We have a different name.  We are God's handiwork with work to do for Him.
But everyone thinks they are someone else than God has intended them to be.  Third Day's "In time will I be what You're thinking of?  Rescue me."  We must change who we think we are.  Accept who God thinks we are...knows who we are.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Insufficiency of Christ - 2

Imagine you get a backstage pass to a Broadway theater tour.  During the tour you find yourself being hustled along in the midst of a crowd hurrying somewhere and you end up with a crowd on stage in a play you know nothing about.  Imagine further that the crowd turns into a mob and fighting breaks out all around you.  This is our experience, this is our reality in the world today.  We are dropped into the middle of a play that is in full swing.  Most people persist in trying to ignore the play and try to go peacefully about minding their business but nothing makes sense.  Life just doesn't work.  The suffering doesn't make sense.  The fighting doesn't make sense.  The relationships don't make sense.  The activities range from bizarrely amusing to frustrating and infuriating.  Your plans don't make sense and don't work.  Logic and reason are no longer logical or reasonable.  The rules of engagement and expectation and behavior don't seem to apply.  In fact, even your identity is all wrong.  You are not who you thought you are.  Not only does your life not work, everyone around you is frustrated too because your agenda's and efforts make a mess of their life.  It makes a mess of their life because they are in the same boat you are trying to mind their own business and get along and life isn't working for them either.
This metaphor has two threads:
One, there is Christ's story and being dropped in it, you are a part of it or messing it up.
Two, there is the world's story that is bizarre but one which everyone else wants to be in... and you, Christian or not, are messing it up.
Being dropped into Christ's story - the real story - and not realizing it, means you will never make it.  You will never live in the Kingdom of God having the security and rest and freedom you should.
On the other hand, as a Christian, if you are living in Christ's story - the real story and so living correctly - you are dropped onto the world's stage and its story so you will never fit in.  Your life as the world sees it will be anything from a quaint amusement to a radical departure from reality as they know it.  Your life is disruptive and inconvenient and ridiculous though all the while somehow intimately drawing, attractive because the true story resides and is playing out in every heart.  The greatest atheist or pantheist or animist or Hindu or Buddhist hears God's strange dialogue that has a familiar ring.  God's story is not far from any of us.  Our part in the story is not far from us.  But we may, and most do, choose to embrace a different identity from ours in God and remain confused and frustrated and wondering what in the world is going on.