“God In Us!”
I’m sitting here writing the newsletter and listening to a newscast at the same time. What I’m hearing in the news reminds me of a “great weight” that all of us seem to have to carry a part of. Each day, because of the condition we find the world, it seems one more pound of worry can be added. What I’m hearing is truly discouraging and, at times, it would seem to be more than we can bear. The “terrible” news made me more aware of the great value of our Christian Faith in “this present darkness”. Feeling that “heaviness”, I began to think about the difference between our Faith and all the other religions in the world…all of them! Ours really has an odd suggestion when you stop and think about it. That difference is simplified in scripture to four words! “Receive ye the Spirit”. No other “belief system” offers such a suggestion. You can name all the religions the world over and you will get no hint of “God living in man” and you might even get thumbed on the head for even suggesting it in some places. That God would live in us was really a “new and living way” that religion had never even “dreamed of” before Christ. Even in our Old Testament, God came upon people but he never came inside people.
And then, just about the time they got the “spirit-filled” thing off the ground at Pentecost, here comes another hard pill to swallow: the idea of the Grace of God. And to make it even worse it’s declared by some guy that used to be called Saul, but for some reason changed his name to Paul. Then he starts bringing Gentiles into the group! Forget about it! That’s just too much for “good old religions” to bear! Mythic gods had never been portrayed as tightly knit with their followers and certainly never yielding to a “grace” relationship with them. And just to be more insulting, out in the middle of the desert in the Middle East comes Word that the Creator of all the earth has made personal contact with man and in that contact has offered “Good will toward all men”! I mean it’s just too much! After all, gods were to amuse themselves with the tragedies of people’s lives. I mean come on, they were to demand sacrifices, pentence, servitude, and don’t forget a god’s part-time work of creating great fear among his or her people. What good-god would declare a Peace and a Rest for his subjects? I mean give me a break here! Well, that’s exactly what we’re to believe if we believe in Elohim and Christ.
A Peace based on the Mercy and Grace of God was hard to accept for people that had used the Law of God for the agent of change in a person’s life. But now, Saul’s or Paul’s book of Romans was using a Greek word, charis, taken from the streets with at street meaning “unearned favor” and the scripture was using it to talk about the way God favored us. Then, like an Emeril cooking show, “bam” the Word of God kicked it up a notch by making the case for a favor that is not only unearned but undeserved as well! That was almost too much! After all, the Pharisees had perfected the deserved “rewards” of God as the order of the day. Why, how could those new Christians suggest such a thing?
Well that’s where we find ourselves. Actually, the manifestation of this favor of God is found in “the gift of the Spirit”. This Spirit is merged with Grace to be active in our lives. In just believing in Christ we find ourselves in fellowship of the Spirit. “He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, My God, in Him will I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2) The Spirit of God inside us, us inside Him. Our obligation is to “dwell” there, to reside and stay there. We need to stay at “home” in the good times and especially in the bad times. The daily news should not spook us like quail hidden in tall grass, startling us to a new place. Instead we should hold our ground. Staying under the shadow of the Most High, trusting Him. David continues in that Psalm to identify God as “my habitation”. He lives here; His Spirit stays and abides in you. He never leaves or forsakes! He doesn’t rent a place; He paid a very expensive price for this place to live in! We do not have to call out to Heaven for intervention; we simply need to access our hearts. That’s not a momentary, depends on His mood, type of living in us. He does not travel between Heaven and Earth visiting our lives occasionally! He is there at all times. The Spirit of God has “come” into us, as a believer, issue settled.
I remember a Bible teacher illustrating that “God inside us” one time with a story about playing tennis. If I wanted to learn to play tennis I could go to the store and purchase a tennis racket, I could get magazines about tennis. I might get books that explain tennis, books that give its rules and how to keep score. I could even memorize the positions for hitting the tennis ball correctly shown in pictures. I could get on the Internet and surely learn even more about the game. I could even buy a pair of white shorts, shirt and shoes especially designed to play tennis in. I might go to Wimbledon to watch the experts, could hire a coach. After doing all that I finally go to the court and actually try to play tennis and find out all that preparation was of no practical use because something “inside” me refuses to co-operate. My muscles don’t coordinate; I’m slow of foot and exhausted! However, what if that tennis coach could “step inside me”, inside my mind, nerves, muscles? Do you think that would make a difference in my “tennis-life”? My part would be to try and quit playing tennis and let him do it. Mine is to admit how helpless on the tennis court I am and just permit him to take over “my game”. That coach didn’t teach me how to play tennis; he is how I play tennis. That’s moving from the Law of Tennis method to the “inside me” method. I found myself doing all the right moves and following the rules but it was because the coach was doing the work. I was not playing tennis in my own ability, but by resting in the one who is inside me.
Well, that’s the “story” we’ve been given to believe in. God in us! We are not in just a moral or political war at the present, more importantly we are in a “Spiritual” war. We are in a real “separation” of good and evil, of light and dark, of kingdom versus Kingdom. We live in a time that takes our attention and our action for sure. We need to be aware and active in the challenges to our Christian Faith by the political and the radical. However, in that kind of world we can still find the shadow of the Most High. Matthew 11: 28-30 speaks of a way for the “weak and heavy-laden” to find a rest. That’s what it will require to take some of the weight off. That Greek “street-word” used for rest is most closely associated with our English word for vacation. As believers, we can take a vacation from those things that weigh us down and burden us daily. Oh! I know we sometimes don’t feel like that, don’t act like that and don’t always talk like that, but those weaknesses on our part don’t make it any less true on His. When I listen to the news and feel the weight I just remember my “helplessness” and more importantly the “Helper”. Ours is just to hold on. Don’t give up. I have no idea about what I’m going to do about tomorrow but I trust God to live it through me and live it accordingly to His ability to do so. I know it’s an odd thing that’s been suggested to us. No other religion will offer such a miracle and so much help, such a remedy. It’s kind of hard to “swallow” but it’s true just the same.