If only I had known this when I was a boy! That Christ was life and religion was not! I disliked my religion and did not think all that well of God. I saw Him more as One who was out to catch you out or return at the second-coming to announce the bad news that you did not make it.
Nevertheless, in God’s scheme everything has its purpose and all works for good. Even sin. God is not dismayed by sin or stifled by religion. He lives to draw us into His life and company and set us free from all that is not life. This brings to mind that there are translations of the Bible that are more in line with God’s life than others. ‘The rightly divided word of truth’ is the word seen not only through the Jesus lens but through the Jesus of the new covenant lens.
In my thirties I was an elder at my church. I had quite a lot to say about God - much of which was misguided because we lived in a law-based, fundamentalist culture that was in many ways was fundamentally life-denying and Father distorting. I later learned that this life-denying quality was not peculiar to my denomination but could be found across many sectors of the Body. It could manifest as the idea that it was virtuous and pleasing to god to be somehow less than alive and more restrained, inhibited and conformist.
God spoke to me one grey day on Mt Wellington in Hobart Tasmania. I had taken my cross country skis, walked to the summit and began skiing through the gums and between the rocks in freshly fallen snow. It was magic and I had an acute sense of the presence of God in the beauty of His creation as seen on Hobarts mount. I received what was to be a continuing revelation that God in Jesus was indeed the essence of life to the full - not life abridged, restrained or dulled by the law or performance criteria but life in extravagance that was represented by Jesus Himself.
There is merit in conformity when we are conformed to Christ who is our life. Conformed now and in the full extravagance of existence in Him. Descartes said, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ I say I am in Christ, therefore I am alive!’
We are encouraged to be hidden in Christ which is good because there we are revealed as ourselves in the glory of our design and positioned to fulfill our mission as expressing Christ in the earth through simply being ourselves. But we also attune ourselves to the spirit of life in nature and society. To be immersed in Jesus is to be marinated in life itself and to become increasingly sensitive to aliveness in all its forms. Unfortunately religious people can be very dull and even spirit-filled religious people (yes there is such a thing) can be somewhat immune to the difference between life and death.
God is not boring but people often are. As boy I kicked against un-life and rebelled against the boredom of church, its endless meetings, irrelevance and fear-mongering in the name of God. I have always had a passion for life to the full and easily angered by those who would deny it through injustice, religion and false doctrine. Don’t imagine that you have much in common with Jesus and life to the full if you are consistently willing to accommodate yourself and others to falsehoods and substitutes. I mean religious substitutes for Jesus that insulate the innocent and naïve from the fullness that is theirs in a purely Jesus life. Fullness that you deny yourself and others on account of your lazy or adulterous fixation on your religion, perspective and false identity that is a corruption of His gospel of unlimited life. Don’t crucify the Son of God by accommodation to lies and promote death in the name of life.
As I got to know Jesus personally I realized that I felt a passion for life because all of us were meant for life. We were born from the womb of ultimate life (the trinity) to be passionate about life and seek it for itself and others.
In my thirties I encountered a man in my church who was an evangelist for anything dull, anything inhibited and everything bound in the name of religion. When you spoke of life he would oppose it as if he were supporting god. I wondered where he had absorbed the notion that restraint, dullness and religion represent god. He got it from religion and religion got it from the Father of Lies. Sadly his son died unexpectedly. Yet he absorbed this into himself stoically as if a life in god is all about numbness to reality and spiritless endurance. Ours is not to live life in a coma. The Spirit of God in man calls us to rail against the night!
Another pastor, of whom I am profoundly grateful, spoke revelation when he shared of his day out on a catamaran on the bay with His son. There was a stiff see breeze. They were up on one keel. As they surfed through the water his son shouted, ‘Hey Dad. Jesus would have loved this!’ Of course He would have. Jesus is life, loves life, created us to suck the marrow out of life and live as life-giving spirits. But most of what comes to us as religion is not about this. And many hobble about in the illusion that life is church. But Paul declared that Christ is our life.
Jesus came as life, represented life and announced that His gift to all was life without limit. He assured us that it was the Thief who killed, destroyed, dulled and inhibited life. But in Himself He would be our life to the full.
I found this in a book I am reading by Bonface Odhiambo, entitled ‘In the Eyes of Grace.’ We find
‘What a joy that eternity has become our destiny. God is neither ashamed nor apologetic to invite us to share in His life, the life He lives. This life does not begin in heaven but begins here on earth. Eternal life is not subject to keeping rules and statutes but the expression of the inner life we have become.
Fruits are effortless spontaneous manifestation of the character of a tree. It effortlessly brings forth fruit after its own kind. And we too like trees effortlessly are supposed to manifest the fruit of the Spirit who lives in us. Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, gentleness, faith, meekness and temperance. Against such there is no law’ (Gal 5:22-23). Sure there is no law. But there is a surfeit of liberty and life without limit!