Mystic

mys·ti·cal: spiritually allegorical or symbolic; transcending human understanding; inspiring a sense of spiritual mystery, awe, and fascination; of or relating to mystics or religious mysticism…

I rarely listen to the radio anymore. With Google Play, Pandora, YouTube, CDs, etc…, I just don’t have the need or desire. Anyway, while I rarely listen to the radio, I hardly EVER listen to “Christian Radio.” Today, I was reminded once again why I do not. Coming through the air-waves was some pastor,  somewhere, warning his congregation against “Christian Mysticism.” He exhorted them to beware of such things as “practicing God’s presence,” sitting quietly and waiting on God (meditating), getting yourself in a position to hear from God (he said something about brain-waves…), and pretty much anything along these lines.

Strangely enough, the one thing he DID do, was hold up the Bible  (and his denomination’s paradigms, by the way) as the only way to truly “hear” from God. I couldn’t help but see the irony: he encouraged his congregants to get truth from a book, a holy book that an invisible God uses to communicate his truths to mankind- sounds pretty mystical to me!

You know, I spent a lot of money and a lot of time in seminary getting my degree in Biblical Studies/Theology; I believe that what the Bible claims about itself is the absolute truth.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

But I want to say something very carefully: the Bible is not God. You can know the Bible, quote the Bible, teach the Bible, and pray prayers from the Bible, but still have no true knowledge or relationship with God whatsoever.

When Jesus was teaching, at one point he told his listeners, ” You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” With that one statement, he declared that true biblical knowledge, true theology, true revelation an life is relational. And how are we who are over 2,000 years removed from Jesus’ physical presence on earth supposed to have an abiding intimacy with him? How are we to be relational?  Well, it is through the Spirit who lives within us. Again, that sounds pretty mystical to me!

Consider the following:

Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal…

…so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

I could go on, but those are just a few verses that immediately come to mind. And again- it sounds pretty mystical to me!!

I think I do understand to some degree the motivation behind the warnings of many “Christian Leaders” regarding “Christian Mysticism,” but I’d like to offer a word of exhortation if I may:  Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds(Pastors), and Teachers are called to EQUIP the Church, not CONTROL the Church. And effective equipping involves understanding that each member of the Body of Christ is indwelt by the Spirit of God or as the Apostle John said, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” Care for the flock, feed the flock, Shepherd the flock, but understand that each of us have received the oil of God’s Spirit and are being led by that same Spirit of Truth. Do not let your desire for the well being of God’s people become that which quenches the Spirit.

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

(Sounds pretty mystical to me.)

 

 

 

 

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Fool’s Gold?

We here it all the time, from actors, musicians, athletes, politicians and nobodies like me, “I’d like to thank my Savior Jesus Christ for…” Christians will hear a performer, let’s say on a show like “American Idol,” utilize this “mantra” and be overjoyed that the person saying it must be a Christian because after all 1 John 4:2 says, ” By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” I think perhaps we should dig a little deeper as to what John is saying. Perhaps it’s more than just saying some words, for after all, Matthew recalls: “And, behold, they [demons] cried out, saying, ‘What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?’ “
The book of 1 John flies in the face of a culture that insists we can’t really “know” anything. Great day, over & over John says stuff like, “By this we know….” “I write this so that you may know…” It goes on. Please take the time to prayerfully read 1 John. You don’t have to be a preacher or a Bible scholar to understand it; you have the Holy Spirit! If you do want to dig deeper, there is so much available on line to keep you busy for a long time! You can KNOW!fools gold
I’ll leave you with this: “I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it…the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”

To Tell The Truth

For those of you who have pursued in depth Bible study, the term exegesis is one that you are familiar with. When applied to interpreting biblical text, exegesis is the means by which we “draw out of the text” what is contained within it, or, the way we are led through a text into an accurate understanding of its meaning. Exegetical interpretation involves seeking to understand the original intentions of the author and the meaning he attached to those things he has written. In short, exegesis is intended to get us to the truth.  Okay, now before I lose you and you “click” out of here; let me tell you something cool about this exegesis thing: Jesus is the only one who can give us an accurate exegesis of God. John tells us, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:18) Interestingly enough, the “has made him known” part is the Greek word ἐξηγήσατο or exēgēsato  Do you see it?

In a culture that is all inclusive and proclaims that all religions are the same, leading to the same God, and so forth; John’s assertion that Jesus is the only means by which we can gain the correct “interpretation” of who God is stands in complete contrast. Now we may not agree with what John states in the prologue of his gospel, but there is no doubt as to his meaning: Jesus alone reveals who God is. Like a Bible student “exegeting” a biblical text, Jesus is the one who explains God and leads us to the proper understanding of who God is.

The common euphemisms of, “Well, if that’s the way you see it, it’s true for you.” and “There are all kinds of truth, great that you have found yours.” are the battle cries of both subjectivism and contemporary existentialism. According to these mindsets, one does not  have to remain fixed upon any reality or even his own personal reality. “One must be willing to declare himself against his previous opinions”, as Nietzsche has stated. Or, as Kierkegaard said, “The thing is to understand myself… to find a truth that works for me… the highest truth attainable for an Existing individual [is simply] an objective uncertainty held fast in the most passionate personal experience.” Well, this may sound attractive and truly liberating, but how do these mindsets stand up against John’s claim that only Jesus reveals God?

It is also popular today, in our postmodern society, to claim that we do not even have the capacity to comprehend truth, reality or much less God himself. Before a person can be made to accept  John’s claim that Jesus is the only one who reveals God, he must first be convinced that the truth about God and reality (including morality and religion) can be known and that reality itself is not subject to one’s own personal perception. C.S. Lewis said, “The consequences of subjectivism and relativism of truth are destructive… to intellectual honesty and to life. For if truth is objective, if we live in a world we did not create and cannot change by merely thinking, if the world is not really a dream of our own, then the most destructive belief we could possibly believe would be the denial of this primary fact.”

Beginning in grade school, facts and figures are communicated through teachers that are, for the most part, accepted without question as truth. In their book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be An Atheist, Norm Geisler and Fran Turek insist, “We also expect to be told the truth when we pick up a reference book, read an article, or watch a news story; we want the truth from advertisers and politicians; we assume road signs, medicine bottles, and food labels reveal the truth.” It seems that in every area of life, truth and reality are looked for and expected. We accept as truth that one plus one equals two, Columbus discovered America, and so on; however, when it comes to God, truth is defined as relative or even unknowable. Why this contradiction?    If a consistent paradigm is to be maintained one would have to acknowledge that just as the reality of mathematical equations and historical facts are knowable, the broader scope of reality, religion, morals, and even God can also be truly comprehended. Perhaps Augustine was right when he said that we love the truth when it enlightens us, but we hate it when it convicts us.

The gospel of John claims that Jesus is the only way to truly know who God is and come into relationship with him. As I previously said, we may not agree with John’s assertions, but it is indeed what he says. John’s statements are either true or false. There is no middle ground. So, what do we do about it? Come to Jesus, receive him, believe on his name, and you will know the truth about who God is. I like how the Apostle Paul put it, “See to it that no one takes you captive by means of philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells in bodily form…”

The Fellowship Of The King

 

“God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (I Corinthians 1:9)

The word fellowship denotes intimacy, communion, reciprocation, community, relationship, etc… How wonderful it is that we have been called into fellowship with Jesus. For too many who profess faith, Jesus is simply a historical character in a book. They know about him, but don’t really know him. So many are trying their best to be good, stop sinning, and live like a good Christian. All the while they are frustrated, close to despair, and on the verge of giving up. All too often we have opted for a set of rules and empty religious rituals instead of fellowship with Jesus. Being good gets old, and if you’re like me; you’ll break the rules. Thank God, we can have true intimacy with a real, living Savior. We are called to fellowship!!

We are called to hear his voice. We can know his touch. We can be transformed by his Spirit. We can KNOW HIM!! We’ve all heard the old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Well, in this case, it’s absolutely true.  And the cool thing is, he wants us to know him!! He has removed everything that would separate us from himself by the blood of his cross. Why has he done this? He wants us to have a real relationship with him. This brings him glory.

It has been said that the reason we exist is to glorify God, and enjoy him. How do we glorify him? How do we enjoy him? It is by the fellowship we have with Jesus. Didn’t Jesus say that we are to abide in him like branches in a vine? Didn’t he say that this fellowship would produce fruit that glorified the Father?  You can read all about someone, you can know their bio inside and out, but until you spend time with them; you don’t really know them. You are called by God to have intimate communion with Jesus. Let me put it this way, fellowship with Jesus is eternal life.

Examine Yourselves (part 4)

Can we know that we have eternal life? If so, how do we know? We have begun a series in order to explore what the Bible has to say about these very questions. (I encourage you to check out parts 1-3 of Examine Yourselves if   you’ve not done so.)

We are continuing our study into how we can know that we have eternal life. We stated in part one of  Examine Yourselves that sometimes the way to help discover the reality of what something is, is to first consider what it is not. Previously, we have discussed the fact that salvation is not simply a self-help tool designed to make me the best me I can be. We’ve discovered that salvation isn’t merely keeping a list of do’s & don’ts. We’ve examined the fact that the presence of the miraculous is not proof- positive of communion with Christ. In part four we will see that mere mental assent to the facts concerning Jesus does not mean one is in communion with Christ.

Later, as we get further into our study, we will discover how Jesus taught us that a true relationship with him is a right now, on going, present tense reality. One can be aware of and acknowledge the reality of certain facts and not be impacted in any real way. Think for a moment of all the things you know to be true. How many of these truths are impacting the right now of your life?

Let me try to illustrate what I’m talking about by using an example out of the Old Testament  story of Saul & David (I Samuel 23-26). Remember David had fled for his life, fleeing from a tormented, jealous king who had every intention of killing him. You will find in reading this story that twice David spared Saul’s life. Saul’s response to David’s mercy went something like this, “David, David, is that you? Is that your voice. You are a better man than me in that you have spared my life. I have sinned, played the fool and committed serious error.” See, Saul knew he was wrong. He knew he had sinned, but; if you read the story in its entirety you find that he never changed his behavior. Simply knowing and acknowledging the facts did not impact his life in any authentic lasting way.

Looking in the New Testament we find another example of someone who knew the truth in the person of Herod. John 6:20 says this, “for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.” (NLT)  Herod knew the truth, but it had no real impact on his life. He was not changed by what he knew. Herod went so far as to protect John for a while, he even seemed to enjoy the effect John’s preaching had upon him, but; he remained the same old Herod. I’m sure you remember how this whole thing ended up with John’s head on a platter.

In John 3  we find the story of Nicodemus, a Pharisee who came inquiring of Jesus by night. He says to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do the signs you do unless God is with him.” I love Jesus’ response, ” I’m telling you the absolute truth, unless you are born again you can’t see the kingdom of God.” Here  we find a very learned and religious man saying what he thought he knew about Jesus, and Jesus goes on to tell him that one must born again and totally turned into a new creation to truly know and see the Kingdom. Unless we are born again, unless we are totally and completely impacted by Jesus, we don’t even know what we think we know. (On a side note, there is so much talk about the Kingdom today, but; unless we are born again, we don’t even know what we’re talking about.)

The point of all this is if we truly know, if we truly believe, our lives will show it. Once, while preaching a sermon, I wanted to illustrate the fact that authentic knowledge and belief is always accompanied by corresponding action, so; I put it like this (In hind- sight I could’ve picked a better illustration): “If you folks believed, if somehow you knew that I was going to take out a shotgun and just start blasting away (for just a millisecond I saw questioning uncertainty and a little, ‘Has he finally gone crazy’ look in their eyes); you would all run!” True, perhaps in the society we live in that’s not the best example I could have used, but; you get my point. If you really know something, if you really believe something; your life will show it.

So, we see that salvation is not merely knowing the facts and acknowledging them as being true. One can know the truth about many things and yet have no serious interaction with it. One can know the truth about Jesus and yet have no true communion with him.

We said back in part two of this series that we would approach these sections on what salvation is not in a Myth Buster kind of way, and; the next section may indeed be the biggest Myth Buster of them all.

To be continued…