I’m sitting here writing the newsletter and listening to our newscast at the same time. What I’m hearing reminds me of a “great weight” that all of us seem to have to carry. What I’m hearing is certainly discouraging and, at times, it would seem to be more than we can bear. I began to think about the difference between our Faith and all the religions in the world. Our faith really has an odd suggestion when you stop and think about it. Its difference is simplified in one word: Emmanuel, or God with us (and I might add, if He is, then it obligates us to be with or present with Him). No other belief system offers such a suggestion. The Creator stepping down, mingling with His creation was so revolutionary it had never been dreamed of. Even in our Old Testament, God came upon people only to leave again, and never to anyone except prophet, priest or king. But He never, ever dwelt inside people. Now, with Christ things have changed.
And just as radical, we’re to believe that out in the middle of the desert the Creator of the whole cosmos made personal contact with a man (Abraham) and in that contact He has offered “His Righteousness as a free gift”! And then, just about the time the early church got the “Spirit-filled” thing off the ground at Pentecost, here comes another hard pill to swallow: the idea of an inclusive Grace of God. And to make it even worse, this Grace is declared by some guy that used to be called Saul, but for some reason changed his name to Paul. And He starts bringing Gentiles into the group! In Saul’s clique of friends it’s simply, ‘Forget about it’! That’s just too much for “good old religious folks” to bear! After all, mythic gods and even the Jewish God had never, ever been portrayed as tightly knit with their followers and certainly never yielding to a grace fellowship with them. Greek gods were to amuse themselves with the tragedies of people’s lives. They were to demand sacrifices, penance, servitude, be worshiped– and don’t forget a god’s part-time work of creating great fear among his or her people just to keep them in line. In the Old Testament there was always separation implied, a God that arrived, did His Thing and moved on. That this good-God would declare Peace and a Rest for his subjects, those lousy bums? I mean give me a break here! But, that’s exactly what we’re to believe if we believe in the work of Christ.
A Peace based on the Mercy and the Grace of God was hard for a people to accept, people that had used the Law of God as their agent of change in a person’s life. But now, Paul’s book of Romans was using a Greek word, charis, street language, meaning “unearned favor” and this man of God 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 favor that’s not only unearned but undeserved as well! That was too much! After all, the Pharisees had perfected the deserved “rewards” of God as the order of the day. How could those new Christians suggest such a thing as a merciful God, a God that we could literally call to intimately as Father? A God we could pray to and He would hear us of all things? Well that’s where we find ourselves. By believing in Christ we move into fellowship with the Spirit. This is the one-line Gospel: ‘in that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I in you.’ (John 14:20)
The daily news should not spook us like quail hidden in tall grass. Instead we should hold our ground, trusting in both what Jesus did for us and also to us. We are His people, not a suggestion but a fact. David identifies God as “my habitation.” He is “my Shepherd,” not just corporately, but individually. He never leaves or forsakes! He doesn’t rent a place temporarily and do ‘temp-work’ here; He paid a very expensive price to live with us! We don’t have to call out to Heaven for intervention; we simply need to access our hearts. It’s not a ‘depends on His mood’ type of living in us. He does not travel between Heaven and Earth visiting our lives occasionally! He is here. And as hard as that is to wrap our heads around, the Scriptures of God declare it as fact, proclaim it as Truth. It does not become true because we believe it; it’s True because He’s said it’s True, said that Jesus was the Truth.
I remember a Bible teacher illustrating “God inside us” 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, get magazines about tennis. I might get books that explain tennis. I could get on the Internet and YouTube and see tennis. I could even buy a pair of white shorts, shirt and shoes especially designed to play tennis. I might go to Wimbledon to watch the experts play, could go so far as to hire a coach. After doing all that, I’d finally go to the court and try to play tennis only then to 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 my tennis coach could “step inside me”, inside my mind, nerves, muscles? Do you think that would make a difference in my game? My part would be to quit playing tennis and let coach do it. That coach didn’t teach me how to play tennis; he is how I play tennis. I would not be playing tennis in my own ability, but by resting in the one who is inside me, he plays tennis through me. God in us does that for us if we permit through our trust.
Well, that’s the “story” we’ve been given to believe in. God in us, with us. Amazingly He wants to be right there! When I listen to the news, look around at my world, and feel the weight I remember my “helplessness,” but much more importantly, I remember the “Helper.” I have no idea what I’m going to do about tomorrow but I trust God to live through me and anticipate living according to the ability He brings. No other religion will offer such a miracle, offer such a remedy. Imagine a God that desires to be with us so much that He searched us out while we were still a mess, determined to do that before you and I existed, before anything existed. Hoped for and provided a solution for our alienated minds by providing Jesus to make us able to have fellowship and relationship with God. A God that made a mystery that must not be solved by trying to get to Him, but a God whose mystery is that He has come to us. A God whose nature was to breathe Life into Adam and in His very next act literally ‘spoke’ to the creature. A God who, rather than running the other way when His creation (Adam) blew it, ran toward us and promised not to leave us that way. Colossians (1: 20-22): …having made Peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, whether they be things on earth or things in heaven. And you, who were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you Holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight. It’s kind of hard to “swallow” but that Saul/Paul fella seemed pretty convinced. Maybe we should be as well.