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