For the institutionally religious, the road to grace is the toughest journey they’ll ever face.
For me, this certainly has been the case. And although the road to grace has been a wonderful journey, there have been many bumps and detours along the way. But slowly, I’m finally starting to find my way forward.
It’s Jesus in me and Jesus through me, so that it becomes possible to have Jesus in us and Jesus through us.
So much of my life over the last five years has been about the Lord reducing me to that simple truth.
Jesus in me and Jesus through me . . .
Isn’t this the whole message of the Gospel?
. . . So that it becomes possible to have Jesus in us and Jesus through us.
Isn’t that a fundamental foundation of the Church?
This is true grace, and it has begun to fundamentally change my outlook and perspective.
I’m finally learning to throw off all of the religious distractions, expectations and ways of doing things that did little more than provide knowledge of, and vicarious experiences about, Jesus.
Just like sitting in a theater to vicariously experience an epic script (with some occasional clapping and cheering), for most of my life I went to church to engage in vicarious hero worship. I’d vicariously thrill over God’s amazingness and find affirmation in His triumphs. Ra Ra God!
For too long, church was where I went to feel good about Jesus and to learn about Jesus and to sing about Jesus and to be motivated to emulate Jesus and to take comfort from His victory over sin and evil. And the cost of admission was so low: All I had to do was pray some magic prayer to “accept Jesus” as my savior, then drop some money in the weekly collection plate, and faithfully attend the Sunday morning God Show so I could go home feeling good about the Lord and myself.
May God forgive me, but as I mastered that system, I eventually became one of the leaders who foisted it on others. I like to think I helped some along the way, and did better then most in teaching them about Jesus. But still, I didn’t understand how to bring folks to the reality of Jesus in them and Jesus through them – in large part because I wasn’t there myself.
I’m not saying those were bad experiences! Far from it. I enjoyed my vicarious faith and my weekly vicarious experience of Jesus! I felt honored to be able to inspire people as I taught and ministered from the front. “Church” was fun and exciting, and I felt secure and affirmed. It seemed natural, because it was all I knew. And Jesus, in His mercy, even met me – and others – there on occasions.
But then something dangerous happened.
- Jesus loved me so much, He brought me to the end of myself and I started learning how to confess and expose to Him those places in my life where my beliefs, motives and perspective were still all about me and my fallenness.
- I started learning how to forgive and be forgiven, and to truly repent, so that His transforming life started to well up in me and to become my reality.
- As Jesus in me slowly started being expressed through me, I found it increasingly difficult to identify with “church” meetings that were more about vicariously experiencing Jesus – through inspirational teachings and awe-inspiring worship performances.
- I desired to find others who likewise wanted to express Jesus together – in us and through us, one to another, as we learned to become His wonderful, diverse and participatory Body.
So at a certain point in my journey, I had to face a difficult question: Whether to vicariously experience Jesus in directed meetings, or vibrantly express Jesus in us and Jesus through us – one to another – together in participatory gatherings?
On my road to grace, this did not become an issue until I started learning what it really meant to let Jesus live in me and to let Jesus live through me. But when I finally, tentatively started to “get” Jesus, I couldn’t help but pull away from “church” as a religious institution.
I’m a new pilgrim in this journey, nearly fifty years after having “accepted” Jesus in the context of a religious system that I’ve now begun to leave behind.
I’m finally starting to understand what it means to be born again: Jesus in me and Jesus through me! How simple a foundation for personal redemption and transformation!
And as a result, I’m learning to express with others Jesus in us and Jesus through us: The foundation for true church – the Body of Christ shown to the world!
~ Jim Wright
Thank You for posting that – Jim
I am just beginning to discover that people make the Christian life complicated – what you have written makes perfect sense.
I’m receiving wisdom about all of this from Richard Rohr and Fr Thomas Keating – and experiencing so much gratitude for the relief of these deeper understandings.
Welcome Jim, to the real church that is, the body of Christ, made of God, by God; not of man, not of religion, not adhered to an institution, nor the traditions of men, nor after the commandments of men: welcome!!!
Jesus said that they worshiped what they knew not, and so to the church in the wilderness we all left to worship God in spirit and truth.
The reason you look at the “church,” or the institution of the religious, and question what is has become; the reason we can’t understand it, is because it never was. The more you come away from her, and become obedient to all the Lord is revealing to you; the more He will show the truth of these things. There is only one way we can walk; the path is narrow, but filled with great rewards in the coming reign of Christ on earth.
Recall the admonition of the revelation of John, “I know thy works, and thy poverty, and thy tribulation; and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not, but which are the synagogue of satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer; be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. Let no man steal thy crown!
I’ve been reading your posts for awhile now, and the Lord would never let me comment. I see His work in you and it is beautiful. The fulfillment of the gospel, a heart after God, Christ in us. But now, we must follow God as God leads, and we must follow Him in truth, which means the clearing away of all the baggage you once knew as the “Church.”
Christ in you; the hope of God! I’m sure you haven’t been met with a lot of people who understand what you are saying, but be assured that you are on the right path. We don’t have it all planned out, but we are following God as we are lead, and worshiping Him in the truth that He reveals to us.
God bless Jim; keep your path!
Jim, very well expressed. You have found what I am just now beginning to feel. I am still struggling to “get Jesus”. How embarrassing after being a Christian for 25 years. But some go through life and never reach this point. Have thine own way, Lord! Let it be less about me and more about you!
Mike, I know what you mean. Ouch. For me, it wasn’t 25 years but more like 45 years and its only been the last several that I’ve slowly been realizing how I missed the mark. This is all very new to me, as I’m still learning how to let it be Jesus and not me. But it has resulted in an entire paradigm shift. I still feel like such a babe, and that I’m so lacking, but then I look around and see how much this is totally foreign to other believers. But there are those who are also on the journey, and we are finding each other as God brings us together where I live and fellowship emerges.
45 years for me too! ……….. (Confession is sooooooo good for the soul, lol!)
I simply did not have the maturity or life experience at 15 to understand that much apart from my childhood acceptance of Christ as my Saviour………. which of course, is not a static state 🙂
Grace for salvation and grace to live the Christian life each day. Yet the traditional church responds to Galatians 3:3 (Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?) with a resounding YES! We will work harder than anyone to show we are worthy of Christ’s sacrifice (and to earn a few crowns on the side).
How sad. Yet I encounter web posts in which people chuck both the church AND Christ somewhat like the dwarves in CS Lewis’ The Last Battle! Also sad.
I think there’s more to grace than in/through represents. The grace journey I am traveling adds this idea:
There is nothing I can do to increase God’s bias towards me, and…
There is nothing I can do to decrease God’s bias towards me.
In other words, He thinks extra-special highly of me (and you!). There is no way He could think more highly of me. Nothing I can do will ever diminish that, either.
What freedom! What GOOD NEWS! I can be who I am, make mistakes, try hard and fail, fail, fail, and succeed all without the overhang of doubt and wonder about what God thinks of what I am doing or not doing. Finally free!
A big part of this was a participatory experience with Men at the Cross (http://menatthecross.com/) that amplified what the Father had been showing me. I am so grateful and still working on integrating it into my life…
Blessings to you!
“I think there’s more to grace than in/through represents”
HURRAY FOR YOU! HURRAY FOR ME! WE HAVE MUCH IN COMMON – EXCEPT FOR THE PILOT/ATTORNEY/TEACHER/EX PASTOR/ETC. STUFF.
: ) HAPPY TO FOLLOW YOUR BLOG.
Why do several Grace-oriented sites seem to end up advocating leaving churches? Reading the horror stories of some of your replies makes it clear that there are churches where you leave in a run, not a walk, but that does not characterize them all. You must be in mega-, control-oriented church country.
Fellowship can be much more personal while still including different stages of growth. The lesson I have been having to learn recently is to sit quietly when things are going on that are not clearly wrong but do not line up with my preference. My flesh wants to “contend for the faith” in a loud voice much like I wanted to do in the old days when I was sure I had all the truth!