Just like any other counterfeit the enemy offers, the Christian “religion” can be an addictive drug. Like licking your lips on a windy day – which provides temporary relief but only makes the problem worse before long – participating in “religious” activities can give us a burst of euphoria. Problem is, this quick fix is no fix at all.
When we fall into this trap, we see our only course as doing more of the same. Drug addicts look to take more and more of their drug of choice. “Religion” addicts seek to sit closer to the front, sing louder, put more money in the plate, get involved in a “church” committee, etc.
I’ve known people who even went to seminary and/or into full time “ministry” for this very reason. Needless to say, they generally end up hitting a brick wall before long. Because no matter how much you pursue an addiction, you’ll never find what you’re looking for. As Solomon said, it’s like chasing the wind.
Those who are responsible for feeding others can take one of two general approaches. They can aim to truly edify (the Greek word for this means to build up or construct, as in a building) by serving a balanced, nutritional diet. Or they can seek to give their charges a sugar high – a quick burst of spiritual fervor that quickly fades to black. “Minsters” who do the latter – who are all, I’m sure, well intentioned, but trapped in tradition – are little more than drug pushers. They offer a counterfeit “religion” in place of a true, functional relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of “church” activities today are geared towards giving folks nothing more than sugar highs. Our entire churchianity system is built accordingly. “Religion” addiction is job security for “clergy,” because druggies need a pusher, and kids who are addicted to sugar need a candyman. Otherwise, if folks were to connect directly to The Source — operating, individually, under the Headship of Christ — then the whole basis for our ”church” buildings and institutions would crumble.
If you’re in ministry, you’re no doubt familiar with the yo-yo effect. Folks come to an event, “church service,” concert, rally, conference, camp, retreat, etc., and get full of “the Spirit” – and then soon after, they’re back where they began, if not worse off. This manifests itself in many ways, including folks repeatedly answering altar calls, or appearing as Sunday-only (or Easter and Christmas only) Christians, or in backdoor losses, or even in suicide attempts. They “get it” during the activity, and then quickly lose it when they walk out the door.
It is this phenomenon that made Billy Graham’s best “retention rate” no more than five percent. He could get crowds into a “spiritual” sugar high, and lure multitudes to raise their hand and walk to the front of the assembly, but when it all came down to it, fewer than five out of one hundred of them really got it. Makes for great fame and fundraising, but where’s the fruit?
I’ve dealt for decades with ministries and ministers, and am sad to say that way too many are unwitting facilitators of this phenomenon. The paradigm for most formal Christian activities these days is how people were “moved” by the event. So we play the music and dim the lights just right, bring a moving message, put on a multimedia show, stage skits, facilitate “deep” thought, load folks up on Bible trivia, “move in the Spirit,” etc., all to make an “impact.” But like giving crack to an addict or candy to a kid, it’s often all just a temporary high.
The alternative, of course, is true edification – The Way Christ and the early apostles modeled it. That is, building up each person, one at a time, through deep, personal, long-term relationship. Growing them over time through providing proper spiritual nutrition, from milk to red meat.
In The Way, we don’t seek to give folks a sugar high; instead, we introduce them to the Living Water and Bread of Life. In The Way, there aren’t quick bursts of “spiritual” euphoria that quickly fade to black; instead, there’s a constant connection to the Spirit that gives us true peace and contentment in every situation, every day, and that only grows deeper with time.
Folks who are used to sugar highs can think this Way boring. They’d rather go from high to high, and if you’re not providing it, they’ll go to the “church” down the road that puts on a better Sunday morning show. They’re chasing the wind.
“Ministers” who are trained pushers of the Christian “religion” can’t relate, either, as The Way doesn’t fit into our “church services,” or fill the plates, or pack the pews. You see, “ministers” who are raised in the sugar high culture need their own high, too – but for them, it’s become the “amens,” or raised hands at the end of the “service,” or growing membership, or bigger buildings, etc., that give them their fix. Like any addict, they believe they need more of these counterfeit “results” to keep going. They, too, are chasing the wind.
The Way builds on The Rock, it doesn’t chase the wind. The Way chooses edify over sugar high, every time.
No, The Way is not sexy. But it is the only way we can bring God’s Kingdom to earth as it is in Heaven.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Note: Several years ago I took a one-week personal sabbatical and retreated to a cabin in the remote South Texas countryside. I had no idea what God planned for me during that time, and was ready to do anything He asked of me — even nothing. I was hoping for some time to catch up on sleep, yet God had other plans.
Almost the very moment I walked in the door of the cabin, the words started coming. I pulled out my laptop and started writing. (Actually, it felt more like taking dictation!) By the end of the first day, I had typed nearly 50,000 words! At the end of the week, I had completed a manuscript, which I entitled Living God. (Funny, I felt more refreshed at the end of the week than if I’d slept the whole time.)
I showed the manuscript around to a handful of close friends, one of whom is a successful writer, and while everyone encouraged me to publish it, I never felt a release from God to do so. He just kept saying, “Somday, but not now.” As I went forward, it became clear I was supposed to first publish UPRISING. And so, Living God has remained on my hard driving, collecting proverbial dust.
Just recently, the Lord prompted me to pull it back up and start working on it again. I’ve learned much since that week in South Texas, which I must incorporate. Also, I didn’t put in any proper attribution or references as I wrote it. Taken as a whole, the revision/editing process has loomed as a daunting task. Then the idea dawned on me to pull it out, one chapter at a time, and serialize it here on this blog, chewing the elephant one bite at a time.
I pray it blesses you.
It’s all about the fruit
We are all made in the image of God. From the poet to the diesel mechanic, from the primitive jungle dweller to the president, from the truck driver to the symphony conductor, and everyone else – male and female, rich and poor, intellectual and ignorant – we are all bearers of His likeness. We hold this image in jars of clay, each one fragile, cracked and incomplete.
His majesty is greater than any one of us can contain; we can each only bear a miniscule fraction. Like a drop of water, which is indeed completely H2O and has all the properties thereof, the image of God we carry is fully God. But it is not God in full. God is like the ocean, we carry but a drop. Only Jesus Christ was, could be, and is all in all. He came and lived among us to make God manifest; to prove that a being who is fully human could fully carry the image of God.
Driving through the countryside in America’s Old South, one can’t help but notice the sprawling vine known as kudzu. It is a non-native plant that is taking over, covering literally everything in its path. Left unchecked, it will cover forests, trees, farms … anything. What is incredible to think is that, while kudzu is not from America, everything that constitutes that aggressive and ubiquitous plant really has been there all along, in the soil, water and sunlight of the South. Nothing is there that wasn’t already there. Not one cell, fiber or nutrient was imported into the state. Nothing, that is, but the DNA contained in one single seed. That seed, planted into rich the Southern soil, slowly but surely is re-organizing its environment into a living thing that is taking over the state.
Just like it took only one seed of kudzu to take over the South, it takes only one kernel to produce a full crop of corn. Plant it, and it will grow into hundreds. Plant those, and they will become tens of thousands. Plant them; millions. Plant them … and from one seed you can feed the world.
Jesus came as the seed of God. I believe that, just like one seed becomes many, we who believe are implanted with a piece of Him. We are the many who came from the One. Our hearts are soil carrying a seed of Christ. Yet the seed in each of us is but a small part of the whole of God. Yes, it is fully God, like the drop of water is fully water. But the seed in each of us is not the fullness of God; the fullness of God can only become manifest on earth through the Body of Christ. The first coming was a body of one. The second coming will be when He returns as the Head of a Body of many. He come again after the growth and knitting together of each individual believer into a unified whole. (See Ephesians 4:11-16)
The DNA in your fingertip is the same as the DNA in your eyelash. Exactly the same. Leave a fleck of skin off your finger or one eyelash at a crime scene, and they will know it came from you, because the DNA is fully you. But it is not the fullness of you. I marvel that even though the information in each cell of our body is identical, the fact is each cell is unique. Cut off the tip of your finger and a fingertip grows back; each cell just slightly different from the other so that the end of your finger completes itself. Lose an eyelash and an eyelash grows back, just slightly different in form and purpose than the eyelash next to it. How does each cell know where it belongs if the DNA is the same? Only by the design of God.
Just like this, the seed of God that is in us, the DNA of Christ, is implanted not so that each of us can grow into little autonomous Christs, but so each of us can grow into our own unique part of His Body, each with a purpose, each with a place, each a little bit different from the next, so that, when we all reach maturity and join in unity, the Body of Christ will be complete. And when the Body of Christ is complete, that will usher in His second coming. He came originally as God in full, in the form of one man. He will come again, as God in full, as the head of a body comprised of many men and women. And then His fullness will cover the earth.
Understanding it this way, our purpose in this life becomes clear: Our job as believers is first and foremost to cultivate the Christ in us, so that ultimately He’s the only thing people see when they look at us. Then second we are to help plant and cultivate that seed in others, so that He lives fully through them, too. And third, we are to knit each cell of His body together through Koinoneia, which is the deep, intimate, loving, Christ-centered fellowship of believers. That is our job, and it is in concept really quite simple. Of course, it is also the most difficult thing we can do; it is the grand fight and struggle of this age.
When a seed grows in good soil and with proper care, at maturity it becomes a plant that produces fruit. Fruit is nothing more than a seed or seeds surrounded by the nourishment it needs to begin its own new life. From this perspective, our job is to be fruitful: to grow ourselves into healthy maturity, so that through our existence, our species – in our case, Christ – expands and grows exponentially with each successive generation, in the same way that one acorn can over time become a forest of oaks.
Each one of us has been implanted with a seed of Christ. That seed is indeed fully the image of God, but it is not God in full; it’s just a piece of Him with a specific purpose and destiny. We are all called in general to be fruitful; more than called, we are required – the tree that does not produce fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire! But the fruit of each of us will not all be identical. Those of us who are fingertips will multiply similarly, for example. All good fruit will carry God’s likeness, but only a piece of His likeness. In this regards, the Kingdom of God is sort of like a fruit salad – we all produce fruit, and all fruit comes together as one. Or better yet, the Body of Christ is like a living garden containing all kinds of fruit bearing plants. (Sound familiar? That’s how Eden was described.)
Finding our calling specifically means knowing who we are. For me to know who I am is for me to know my specific purpose, what kind of fruit I am to produce, my purpose and my destiny. Your unique identity in Christ IS your calling.
Metaphorically, the Kingdom of God is like a kudzu plant. Starting with the DNA of Christ that was planted in the grave and grew into new life, drawing off of the nutrients that God placed in the earth and in our hearts, and re-organizing everything for His purposes, He will eventually take over all that is seen and known.
Analyzed in detail, He is in actually one vine with many branches, each one unique.
Looked at even closer, each branch produces and multiplies slightly different fruit, so that piece by piece we may comprise the fullness of Christ.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends.