Monday, April 14, 2014

After "Yes"

      After one says "Yes" to Jesus and you are in the boat, what happens next?  In James, Scripture says that no one who is double minded can expect anything from God.  Another Lowcountry way to say this is that you can't be double boated and expect to go anywhere.  If you have a foot in the boat of the world and a foot in Jesus' boat, you are not going anywhere.  Jesus can't help you and the world won't help you.  Can't be double-boated.  So we are assuming from last week that both of your feet are in Jesus' boat.
      Interestingly, this is where most of the divisions between Christians takes place.  All denominations believe that to be a Christian someone has to make a decision to follow Christ.  The "now what" hinges on how much of our growth rests on us and how much is pure grace or gift.  To fine tune the argument a tad more, almost every denomination believes that the recipient of grace has to perform a work to get into heaven.  (The strict predestination-ists believe that a few people are created for heaven and the rest are created for hell. This is unpalatable for most people and we can deal with that later if someone comments on it.  For now we will ignore this group.)  So...everyone has to do a work to get into heaven.  The work can be set on a scale from the work being simply saying, "Yes" [Eph 1:4] all the way to the work being cooperating with the Holy Spirit one's entire life [Rom 2:6,7].  An image that may be helpful is communion.  In the Catholic church, one is handed the cup and one must grasp the cup and take a drink - obviously indicating that you are responsible for accepting and actively engaging in the grace that is offered you.  On the other hand, in that same tradition, the bread is placed on one's tongue, obviously indicating you have very little to do with God's grace getting into you - opening your mouth is the extent of your work and the "grace" is put in you.  This is done the opposite way in the Anglican church where one does not hold the cup but the server holds the cup to you, you open your mouth and the server pours the wine into your mouth indicating that you have nothing to do with the grace poured into you - except to open your mouth.  On the other hand, in that tradition one is handed the bread and one must put it into one's own mouth indicating that you must act on the grace place within your grasp.   In most protestant congregations, there is a table set up and you have to do all the "work" yourself of getting to the table and helping yourself which doesn't work as a metaphor of their theology of grace only but that is another discussion. 
       To bring this back into perspective, we all have to somehow act on the grace that is offered to us.  There is no action possible if the bread and the wine of grace do not exist.  God does not bring us into relationship with Him without our consent and even simple consent is a work.
      So now, back to our topic, what next, whether we work a lot or a little?
      Paul in his letter to the Romans tells us that we are a new creation.  Many Christians want that to mean that Walt becomes a better Walt.  The best Walt that he can be, the "perfect" Walt, as it were.  What that means is that I am going to participate with the Holy Spirit in re-tooling myself.  I am going to "study myself to be approved" and obey because the result of my cooperation and obedience will change who I am.  As I spend time in prayer and the simple disciplines of contemplation and recollection and simplicity, the desires of the flesh will fall away and I will gradually move toward holiness.
      The problem with this is that what I am doing is being a caterpillar who is becoming a better and better caterpillar.  What needs to happen is for me to become, not a different species of animal - still a monarch, if you will - but a completely new creation than the caterpillar.  This is the word used by Christ in His transformation on Mt Carmel and Paul's call for us to not be conformed to the world but transformed - to be "metamorphized".  So how in the world do we do THAT?
 ~After "Yes" II~

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