I noticed the title of an article in a Christian magazine entitled, ‘Going to Seminary Does not Make you a Good Christian.’ Neither it does. The paradox of godliness is that doing good things does not make us Godly. We might imagine that is does and many of us have been taught that it does. But we have found in our own lives, if we are in any way sensitive, that these things provided a framework for living but that despite what we do, we remain our ungodly or only partially godly selves.
I was raised in a fundamentalist religion. We did not smoke, drink or dance. We adhered to ‘doctrinal verities’ followed the practice of prayer and Bible study and attempted to guard our bodies, if not our minds against the pleasures of premarital sex. Some of these observances have utility. But they are rightly named ‘externalities.’ They may be adopted as a framework without them having any real effect on the state of our heart and the nature of our being. I have learned that in spite of any successes, faltering or otherwise, I still did things I was ashamed of and could observe things about myself that were horrid and ugly. There are people who as noted above live a life if routine religious observances who do not see this. But they see very little at all. Still, they can position themselves as blind leaders of the blind.
FIRST PART OF LIFE
Richard Rohr tells us that the first part of life is made up of this kind of experiences that spell failure but that this realisation positions us for re-birth. We are beginning to see. When we have lived externalities and acknowledged the success so living does not deliver, we are well positioned to enter the DEEPER LIFE – the life in which our being is in God and He is in us. We begin to live in this union to take on the character and demeanour of Jesus, the Son of Man.
My friend told me of an amusing vision someone had. They were talking to Jesus and he said quite candidly and without condemnation, ‘The trouble with many of you is that there are some improvements in your living that you thought were your doing. But it was not you. It was me in you. You need to live in me and more. Embrace me as your life and I will live my life in you. We can enjoy each other and you will have more fun being a more victorious self.’
We can choose this life. It takes what has been called a ‘leap of faith.’ It’s walking on water compared to a life in the law and being a human doing. But the great advantage is that Christ has come in our flesh. We do not become just a better ‘do gooder.’ We are marinated in the Spirit of sonship flowing into us from the son of God. We become more, our real selves and live towards and from our design, touching lives with the life of God.
Then again we can ignore this door. We can sideline this opportunity on religious grounds and because we have an identity in our beliefs and our community that we value more than an identity in Christ. And so we continue to walk in the illusive mirage of externality, ignoring the only reality that is Kingdom fruitfulness – Christ come in our flesh.
But in so choosing we are agreeing with a lie – the lie that in separation we can ‘be as gods,’ that we can be godly in try-harder mindsets. As a result our spiritual eyes become so dull that we may not be able to see that we have sided with a lie. William Paul Young writes,
“Lies are a little fortress; inside them you can feel safe and powerful. Through your little fortress of lies you try to run your life and manipulate others. But the fortress needs walls, so you build some. These are the justifications for your lies. You know, like you are doing this to protect someone you love, to keep them from feeling pain. Whatever works, just so you feel okay about the lies.” Sure, we feel ok about them but we never get to see the elephant in the room or live as Kingdom people filled with spirit and life. We just walk round and round like tame lions at the Melbourne zoo looking for another key to open what we already possess.