Monday, March 7, 2016

Conversion Factors

Conversion to what? Centigrade to Fahrenheit? Teaspoons to Tablespoons? Well, maybe sometimes, but not in this case. In this case, we are talking about Christian conversion. We are talking about the dramatic change in status which occurs when the non-believer becomes a believer in Christ.

But what is the real essence of conversion? What are the mechanics of this shift in our reality? We certainly need to answer those important questions – but, not for a minute or two. First, let’s talk about what conversion involves in terms of the everyday human reality.

For example, conversion means you don’t wake up alone anymore. It means that you will never have to face another day, depending only upon yourself, or forsaken to the dilemmas of your own weakness. 

To experience Christ is to experience the grand privilege of His enduring and empowering friendship, and with that, the confidence and synergy that comes from a life lived as two. It is an existence which is exponentially better than life lived as one.

In the everyday, conversion also means a thorough reprieve from our own inner darkness. Whether it’s a latent and unexplainable anger, some ugly appetite, or some unresolved guilt, etc., conversion means – “It’s all solvable.” The reality of life in Christ is that the path is ever upward. In simple terms, under his care, newness of heart and life flourish.

Conversion is also the means by which the living Jesus conveys to the believer’s heart, every day, a durable hope for that day, and for the days to come. He whispers confidence in words unspoken, and yet, clearly understood. 

And, by these confirming whispers of love and support, we discover the means to escape the previous patterns of our own stupidity.  We are set free from the devilish lies and silly delusions which have, before, led us astray. These things are all replace by new, and fulfilling, and entirely attainable dreams – dreams of substance, which do, indeed, eventually become a personal success story.

The simple reality, of which unbelievers are completely unaware, at least in the real terms of daily relationship, is that our Savior lives. And through His constant and invisible presence we are, every day, helped in a thousand ways – far beyond just the needs of our soul. 

The world needs a Savior of the soul; and Christ is certainly that. But, in the everyday, our Savior becomes our best friend, our confidante’, our advice giver, our direction provider, our forgiver, and our constant encourager.

It’s true; conversion has some mechanics to it. But most days, those mechanics are far less important than the daily result. To live in the light of God’s daily friendship and blessing is the “daily redemption.” It is the redemption, not so much of our soul, as of our life circumstance.

Nevertheless, understanding the mechanics of conversion does sometimes expedite this blessing that is – the divine friendship. So, again, what is the real essence of conversion? What are the mechanics of this shift in our reality? Well, to put it simply, it is ultimately just a matter of values.

It works like this. Each human being has a value system which is completely unique to them. And, this value system is composed of a group of deeply held and very basic beliefs, tenets, principles etc. 

These very primary "instincts" essentially form our guidance system in life. They are our perception mechanism. And thus, our values largely determine our actions and reactions. They form our likes and dislikes. Our values determine what is important and what is not important to us.

So, for example, the value system of one person may determine that slavery is horribly wrong. The value system of another may dismiss the moral implications of slavery, altogether. 

 And so it goes with all of the issues of life. It is our value system which determines how we feel and behave toward most everything. And it is the absolute uniqueness of our value system which makes us see and react to things differently.

So, before we encounter Christ, our value system is very small and subjective. That is, it creates a very me-centered view of life. And, if we do occasionally get briefly beyond this “me” perspective, it is with no small effort and no great consistency. 

 Always this subjective view of life exerts itself as a background pressure upon who we are and what we do. And it is this specific condition which Jesus begins to address at conversion.

The redemption which Christ offers is essentially about giving us a new value system which is based in God’s perspective, rather than our own. And, while we might not actually verbalize it in these terms, yet the reality is, at conversion, we are declaring our willingness to take on this new value system - God’s value system.

So, at conversion, the obverse decision is to entrust ourselves to the will of Christ, going forward. But, intrinsic to that decision is the underlying necessity of embracing His values, the same values revealed to us in the Bible.

The concept of values, and more specifically, subjective values, explains a lot in our world. For example, when we view the conflict between good and evil, it is really simply a clash of values. 

When we look at the controversial social issues of our times: abortion, homosexuality, same sex marriage, legalization of recreational drugs, etc., the controversy is born from a clash of values. The same is true of racial and ethnic tensions, religious differences, as well as political ideologies. It is all about differing values.

So, it becomes obvious that, as people, we cannot really resolve our serious differences until we reconcile our values. And God understands that this same dilemma exists between Himself and mankind. 

 We will never have peace with God until we share a common value system with Him. Thus, the central, underlying issue of conversion is really our willingness to forsake our own flawed value system and embrace His.

And, that is exactly the opportunity which God offers to humanity through Christ. It is the opportunity to be reconciled to Him in this enduring way. He is offering us a profoundly peaceful relationship which is well anchored in our common values. So, Paul would write in the Book of Romans, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ...”

We actually discover this new and harmonious relationship with God in two stages. The first stage of discovery is, indeed, at conversion. As described, at that conversion moment, we are actually agreeing, in our conscious mind, to begin operating our lives in accordance with His value system.

But the conscious mind does not entirely decide the redemptive matter. Even after this conscious decision is made, there remain the issues of the subconscious mind. And those subconscious issues are very real. 

Paul paints a clear picture of the subconscious confrontation in Romans, chapter 7, where he writes, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But, I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

So, beyond the conscious mind, we must also take the decision to embrace God’s values to our subconscious mind. However, the subconscious mind is one over which we have virtually no control. So, what is to be done?

In fact, God has devised the perfect solution through the Living Christ. It is our spiritual baptism into His living essence. Through this literal merger of natures, our human nature with His divine nature, the embrace of His value system is effected in our subconscious mind. 

When this happens, the clash of values between God and the individual is finally and entirely settled. And what is left in the wake of this Christ arranged peace is a new and harmonious relationship with God, which reaches to the very core of the believer’s being.

Jesus once said, “A house divided against its self cannot stand.” When we share a common value system, whether with people or with God, there is peace and agreement of heart. When we do not, conflict, tension, and division are inescapable.

In Christ, God has devised a way to bring about a beautifully harmonious and enduring relationship with those who would be converted from darkness to His light. And ultimately – it is just a matter of Christ implanted values.

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..." - Jesus

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lovers Of Truth

In general, truth is a very desirable thing in life – but not to all, and not all the time. To some, truth is far less attractive than the “rose colored view,” which keeps them ever comfortable, or the “spin view” which provides some circumstantial advantage. 

Truth, to many, is less desirable than the lie which distorts it to their benefit. And to still others, truth is only as winsome to their heart as it is approving of their actions. But, when truth becomes their corrector, it falls instantly and entirely out of favor.

But, maybe we should first simply define truth. For some, that, in itself, becomes a formidable task. But, in fact, it’s not really that difficult – unless, of course, you need it to be. 

Nevertheless, a good working definition of truth is this: “Truth is a correct interpretation of reality.” So, if you are telling the truth, you are accurately describing reality. If you are telling a lie, you are distorting reality into something it is not. Simple, huh?

The final authority on truth, and thus, the ultimate Assessor of reality, is, of course, God. Sound a little authoritative? Well, He is God. And the divine authority is, absolutely, a part of our truth, that is, if you are into correctly assessing reality.

This is why Jesus could describe himself as, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” It is because He, as God, determines and decrees the correct view of reality - what is factual and what is false.

How we view truth – whether as very pliable or very concrete - says a lot about us. How we deal with truth, whether we embrace and value it or try to escape it, says even more about us. And our thoughts and actions regarding the truth are strong determining factors in how we relate to God, and how He relates to us.

This last idea becomes very obvious in 2nd Thessalonians, chapter 2. There, in verse 10, Paul, speaking of the characteristic followers of the antichrist, says that God rejects them because they do not “receive the love of the truth.” 

What is interesting is that God’s rejection is not said to be based in their mistreatment of the truth, itself, – but in the fact that they do not possess a love of the truth. The idea is that they are void of an appreciation for the worth of God’s interpretation of reality.

So, it is true. Some much prefer distortion to the divine version of reality. And human beings are free to do that – to a point. We can mentally ignore, and rationalize, and justify away the undesirables in our existence. 

We can wrap ourselves in comfortable lies and preferable reinterpretations of the facts. But ultimately, loving and living by God’s truth, His interpretation of reality, is the difference between Heaven and Hell. Simple, huh? 

                 Unless, of course, you don’t want it to be.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

100. - Redemption In A Nutshell

100.0 - Redemption Is A Process: God's Plan of Redemption is better understood as a process than one critical event. Today it is common that the Conversion Event almost entirely defines the believer's concept of salvation. However, taken alone, this event does not even come close to adequately defining the redemptive work.

The conversion event, that actual moment in time when we truly embrace Christ's values and directions for our life, is but one milestone in a long journey.   Technically, redemption really begins long before that place and continues far past it,. And, it involves several key events and general phases in its course. And each of these is every bit as important to our final success as the event of Conversion. (Ref. John 15: 1-8)

However, that "conversion moment," that moment when we do embrace the Lordship of Christ  certainly is an important  "crossroads event" in the redemptive process which does, indeed, initiate a life changing journey of every day steps.   So, what follows is a simple summary of that redemptive journey.

100.1 The Common Path: Obviously, in the details of our lives there are great differences in the way we encounter God. But, there is also an essential redemptive path that we, as believers, hold in common.

And, while we may have different perspectives, still The Path, is The Path. It remains the same and operates very nicely in the heart and life of every genuine disciple, without regard for denominational perspective etc. Our various perception differences simply do not reshape or alter spiritual realities.

So, let's look at this precious common experience which believers treasure together. Let's go over this basic redemptive path from beginning to end.

An Overview: Let's begin with a simple overview. The two basic needs that we face regarding redemption are these:  1. The need for forgiveness, which, in turn, enables a personal reconciliation with God.  And, 2. we need a personal renewal which insures that this new relationship is not once again defeated by our old nature and ways.  

God has provided two basic answers for these needs in Christ.  First, He has given us the Dying Christ of the Cross to secure our forgiveness and reconciliation to Himself.  And secondly, He has given us the Living Christ of the Resurrection, who is capable of sharing the vitality of His life with the believer to empower our personal renewal.

So, through the atoning work of Christ on the Cross, three things are furnished to the believer. He or she is provided forgiveness, reconciliation to God, and imputed (assigned) righteousness in God's eyes.

And, through the Resurrection, the Living Christ provides a thorough personal renewal, and through that renewal, a reality based righteousness - thus insuring an enduring and consistently meaningful relationship with our Holy Creator. 

The Basic Phases:  When we look at the redemptive work in very general terms, we notice that there are really three basic phases to the redemptive process. The first is the Forgiveness Phase where the preeminent need to be reconciled to God, as mentioned, largely defines this stage of the process.

The second phase is the Renewal Phase. In this phase of our redemption, the believer is primarily involved with the conquest of the sin instinct or motive, and with the "re-creation" process which brings harmony of heart with God. (Ref. John 3: 3)

Then, in phase three, the Fruitful Phase, the believer is primarily involved in further cultivating and giving empowered expression to the renewed character that the Living Christ is cultivating within him or her. (Galatians 5: 19-25)

So, that's the overview. Now let's look in particular at the experiential steps involved in the redemptive work.

The Experiential Steps: As mentioned earlier, technically, and traced to its uttermost reaches, the redemptive path actually begins at the judgment seat of God. There, before we embrace Christ, we find ourselves already under the condemnation of God's disapproval for rebelling against the authority of our Creator.  

This condition flows out of our insistence on the right of self-determination.  The idea is that we see ourselves, and not God, as our own best hope for fulfillment in life.  So, this perspective is simply lived out as an attitude of self-sufficiency.

Thus, we are not in this position of jeopardy before our Creator simply because of one act of disobedience or another. We are not in this position because of some moral indiscretion, etc. In fact, our actions are not the primary issue at all.

We are actually in this position only because we refuse to accept God's guiding authority over our life. It is only because of this intense attitude of self-determination which, in fact, is the essential sin attitude

So, it is this independent attitude which is the root cause of our alienation from God and draws His disapproval and judgment - not the actions which this attitude eventually spawns.  The key issue in redemption is the attitude, itself.

But, the magnificent heart of God is, of course, not willing to let this circumstance go unaddressed. So, moved by His great love for His creature, the graceful heart of the Creator has formulated a plan to resolve this rift in our relationship with Him through Christ.

Typically, our first meaningful indication of what God is doing to restore our relationship with Him comes as we begin to feel the drawing of the Holy Spirit in our heart. This drawing expresses itself in various ways from emotional upheaval, to intellectual questioning, to disturbing impacts upon our everyday circumstance. (Ref. Acts 9:1-6)

But, however it unfolds, this divine orchestration of events is always designed to get our attention. And, as it does so, it begins to heighten our sensitivity to God.

Then, if all goes well, as the mix of our life conditions properly align themselves under God's direction, the "conversion chemistry" becomes correct. And, in this God-orchestrated moment of personal clarity, we are able to see and acknowledge the wrongness of our self-determined approach to life and embrace the Lordship of Christ.  In that embrace, what we are really agreeing to do (intuitively, if not cognitively) is embrace the values and directions of Christ for our life, going forward.

Instantly, flowing out of this decisions of repentance and faith (two sides of the same coin) comes forgiveness and reconciliation to God. And, with that forgiveness and reconciliation comes the assignment of that imputed (assigned) righteousness which was mentioned earlier. But, the redemptive process is not finished here. In fact, it has only barely begun.

Now, we start to move past the need for forgiveness and reconciliation, to the business of renewal, to the renewing of the believer. This is a natural progression because the redemptive work of Christ not only involves the removal of the consequences of sin, but ultimately, the sin motive, itself, from the life of the believer to insure the safety, certainty, and enduring meaning of our new relationship with God. So, this becomes the next important phase of the redemptive process. (Ref. Rom. 8:1-5)

Now, in this renewal phase, we are literally empowered over the sin instinct. This empowerment is achieved through an actual mystical merger between the human nature of the believer and the divine nature of the Living Christ.  It is through this unique and distinct integration that Christ actually energizes the believer's thorough character renewal. (Ref. Ephesians 2:10 // 2 Corinthians 5:17)

In the main, it goes like this. We usually experience a period of great relief and brightness after our conversion. Yet, almost immediately, if all goes correctly, we move into a confrontation with all that we are naturally. 

We begin to confront the residual, subconscious sin attitude that still exists within us, even as a believer, on that lower level of our mind. We begin to do battle with this wayward thing that is still "under the skin," which still pushes us toward the old ways, even though consciously, we are now determined to please God. (Ref. Romans 7:14-25)

So, in these inner struggles, we enter what might be described as a personal wilderness - not unlike that described in the book of Exodus in the Bible.  And this time of personal upheaval essentially becomes a time of separation and humiliation

But, it's in this "personal humbling process" that we discover our God and ourselves at new levels. This discovery process is, for a while, often painful and disconcerting. But, it is also effective. 

If we remain faithful to follow the leadership of Christ through this trying time, this personal wilderness experience will empty us of our subconscious arrogance and our residual self-assurance. And, in doing so, it prepares us for The Target Event of the New Testament - our personal merger with Christ, what the Church calls The Spiritual Baptism. (Ref. Acts 1: 8 // 2:38-39)

So, at the end of this very intense humbling process, when God thinks it's time, it occurs - a merger between the human nature of the believer and the Divine Nature of Christ. At that point, the character essence of the Living Christ, through the conduit of the Holy Spirit, is literally merged with the character essence of the believer. 

Now, empowered by the character essence of Christ, we are able to consistently make truly good and godly choices in our everyday life.  And, beyond that, we are now able to "make them stick." (Ref. Romans 8: 1-13)

This is true because, through is pivotal merger we are now very literally connected to the strong faith (consistent humility) and the all sufficient grace (naturally occurring goodness) of Christ. Thus, we are able to live consistently in His empowering faith.  And, we are able experience the easy and very natural guidence of His grace to take us through life's circumstances.

And, as a result of this Christ-provided empowerment, the sin motive of self-determination is subdued, even on the subconscious level. Thus, our heart is no longer torn and divided by that subconscious motive. So, that sub-level disagreement between God's agenda and our own disappears. Now our heart is singularly devoted to God's will in both our conscious and subconscious person. (Ref. Romans 8: 1-13)

And finally, now, there is the natural heart government of grace! The naturally occurring goodness (grace) of Christ begins to express itself in us to naturally guide our daily steps from within. And this naturalized inner heart-government is shown to be far easier and vastly more effective than an external list of Do's and Don'ts.

Also, this transforming merger with the nature of Christ, through the baptism of the Spirit, actually marks our entrance into the mature stage of spiritual life. In essence, it is the "bar mitzvah" of the New Testament.  It is our right of passage to character maturity.  
 This experience marks us as spiritual adults.  Young spiritual adults with a minimal experience level and a lot of room for growth, to be sure, but spiritual adults, nevertheless.

Now, the redemptive process takes on the full force of the renewal process. We begin, with real vitality, Christ's vitality, to confront and expel the residual remnants of sin at all levels of our heart, and in every aspect of our life.   Now, we are able to confront those sin remnants successfully, whether we find them in the form of an inner motive or the more material expression as an action

Thus, we grow more and more consistent. We begin to actually show signs of true personal renewal and character maturity. And somewhere along the way, still something else happens.  The emphasis changes. 

Somewhere along the path of this Christ empowered redemptive walk, as we become more consistent at living above the outflows and impacts of the sin motive, the focus starts to shift. It comes to be more about bearing more "fruit" in our character than just living above the impact of the sin motive. And this becomes the much more positive challenge that primarily occupies the later stages of our spiritual maturity.

So, in other words, we gradually experience a shift in the primary focus from the more negative emphasis of the sin conquest to the more positive emphasis of becoming ever more polished in the character essence of the Living Christ as His character impacts ours.  Thus, with the Living Christ as our energy source, we are, day-by-day, thoroughly transformed in to new people with an entirely renewed character - which in turn transforms our life circumstance.

So, the believer begins to naturally reflect God in character, in views, in heart, in mind, in actions. The believer moves toward a tangible oneness, a mature and completing harmony, with the heart of his or her Creator. And that harmony of hearts, based in the sufficiency of Christ, become the strong matrix which insures the deep meaning and durable endurance of the relationship.  And on and on this new and deeply fulfilling relationship goes, transitioning eventually, even into eternity.

A True Redemption:  This is the great human success story that only Christ could write - first in His blood on the Cross, and then in the rich vitality of His shared life essence. This is the common path, the common plot line of the redemptive work.  This is the true God Agenda.

Again, certainly, the details of the drama are as varied as the individual believers involved. But, the basic redemptive experience remains the same for all who embrace Christ. We travel a beautiful, and graceful, and ever elevating path in Him, which brings us fully back into the harmonious and eternal embrace of the God who created us.

Thus, redemption is, indeed, a magnificent process of God's truth-based love.  And it is a process that, from beginning to end, is based in the sufficiency of Christ as both the Dying and the Living Savior.

Obviously, it is a great disservice to Christ's thoroughly redemptive work to down-grade it from a life-long path of renewal and make it into only the passing milestone of the conversion moment.  In truth, authentic redemption is exponentially more than a point in time, momentarily noted and reverenced, before we moved on to other things.

101. - The Destination, The Cost, & Where It All Starts

101.0 The Ultimate Destination Of Faith - Oneness With God: In John, chapter 17, Jesus said, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word; that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us..."

While the redemptive path might meander from one life lesson to another; while it may move through various phases; nevertheless, as surely as a river flows toward the depths, the redemptive flow always maintains a constant direction. It always and intentionally moves toward its ultimate end: Oneness with God.

This goal entirely establishes the directional purpose of our salvation. This ideal of concerted hearts, a mature harmony with God, is the ultimate prize toward which believers are always moving.

This is not, of course, as some world religions hold, oneness in the sense of actual identity. We do not become God. Neither does our own identity or personality cease to exist.

Rather, this is an intellectual oneness, an emotional oneness, a spiritual oneness. A similar harmony is easily seen in couples who have continued to grow together over a long period of marriage. Eventually, these wonderfully special relationships reach a point where the couples live in a beautiful and consistent harmony, and thus, can easily anticipate each other, because they have become so merged in heart.

Consider the larger passage in John, where Jesus says, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. "

There are many paths in life. And, some lead to the most pleasant places of comfort, gratification, and joy, at least in the short term. But, if you do not experience the glow, the light of "heart oneness" with God, reject that path. It is not the true path.

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101.1 - There Is A Cost To Salvation: The Bible says in Genesis 1, (KJV) "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

From that very moment, man became an influence in the universe, capable of independent and self determined thoughts and actions. As such, mankind came face to face with the first and most primary question of his existence - "What will I do with my influence?" 

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There are essentially only two options. Option 1: We can choose to maintain our independence, our personal sovereignty, limited though it may be, and simply express and exert our influence however we see fit. In essence, we choose to be "self-determined," and remain the masters of our own destiny.


Option 2: We can choose to surrender our personal influence back to our Creator. So, rather than our own, we embrace His plan, His destiny for us through Christ. Thus, we become God directed instead of self directed.

And therein lies the redemptive cost to us. The toll of our redemption is the surrender of our personal soverignty. We must give up (pay in) our right of self determination in order to travel the path of faith.

To become God directed is, in fact, an expression of profound personal humility before God. And that is, indeed, the only faith expression that saves our soul. And, in the sense that we have discussed, it is the contribution we make to our salvation.

So, to experience the Redemptive Path, we must pay this toll. We must surrender our life plan, and become a "pursuer" of God's plan, rather than our own. Thus, in fact, the path marked "totally free" is not the right way after all, though it is widely touted as such. The so called "free way," which does not involve the surrender of our right of self-determination, will always only take us to the lower regions, never to the higher.

Jesus put it this way in Luke, chapter 9, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it."

101.2 - Salvation Starts With God's Intentions: Sometimes, we allow our awareness of human frailties and inabilities to limit the redemptive possibilities in our mind. This constriction usually starts out something like this, "Well, after all, we are only human." The problem with defining where God can take us in this way is that it does not take into account the resources and intentions that a limitless, Almighty God brings to the table. So, we should first factor in the Godly intentions and resources. These are what truly define our possibilities as believers, not our human limitations.

The scope of God's aspirations for his people actually fills the Bible. So, let's just begin to get the idea by looking at Ezekiel, chapter 33. Few places in Scripture would afford us a more inspiring picture of God's absolute intention to raise His people to an elevated life plane.

God, speaking through the prophet, reveals His intentions this way, "...For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them."

Notice, there is no mention of human limitations in the passage above, and for good reason. Human limitations, though they are a reality, do not alter the larger and more forceful reality of God's capabilities.

Now, let's move briefly to the New Testament. Consider Romans, chapter 8, where Paul writes, "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (KJV)

Again, God reveals His wonderful intention for renewal. In short, he plans to empower His people to fulfill the "righteousness of the law" through the power of His Spirit. That is the certain outcome of his redemptive work. Human limitation will not defeat that expectancy.

And so it goes. When we start with God's intentions, we "cut to the chase" so to speak. In doing so, we are able to see more accurately the sweeping scope of God's redemptive work instead of getting caught up in the obstacles.

Certainly, there are obstacles, but the God declared outcome is all that ultimately matters. We may be weak, but God is strong - a simple statement, but so profoundly true.

So, to experience The Rising, you cannot follow the small trails defined by human frailty and excuses. They are always too short, too narrow, and the vistas are just too small and uninspiring.

102. - Redemption Is A Serious Selection Process

In Matthew, chapter 22, Jesus tells a parable of a great King who prepared a wedding feast for His people. The end of the parable goes like this, "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.'
" So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.

"So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And, he was speechless.

"Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen."

102.0 - The Concept of "Try Outs:"  In major league baseball, there is something called, "try outs." These try outs are generally open to the public; and, anyone wishing to go out for the team is allowed to do so. 

However, "going out for the team" is not the same as making the team. To be selected for the team requires a superior performance. So, while the invitation is open to all, the result is entirely decided by our Christ empowered performance.

The point is this. We easily get this concept of selection when it comes to sports, etc. But, it seems we sometimes struggle to accept it in regard to the salvation of our soul. 

Nevertheless, it is this concept that drives the statement in the preceding parable that "many are called, but few are chosen." The indication here, and in many places in the New Testament, is that we are engaged in a serious selection process.

And, the idea exposed here is that it is ultimately God who is doing the choosing, not us. He is about the business of populating His Heaven with those who are truly faith expressive. 

And, in fact, this time, this world, this physical economy is but the "try out" to discover those people of true devotion, the people who actually embrace the daily Lordship of Christ in their lives. All others will fail the attempt.

So, it is perilous to the human soul to ever move far from the awareness that we are involved in a stringent selection process. Thus, to approach our  "try out" casually, to make it, in practical terms, a kind of secondary pursuit is to guarantee that we will fail the selection process.

The rigors of the true path to eternal life may be a little offensive to our modern sense of what is desirable. But, that very ancient and authentic path takes no note whatsoever of our modern druthers.  

It does not change because we judge it to be too demanding. It is The PathAnd, even in this modern age, it still involves a demanding scrutiny.  

And, that is why the statement remains true.  Indeed, "many are called, but few are chosen."  And, as Jesus said in another place, "...strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it."

103. - The Spiritual Awakening

Our first perception of God's redemptive effort, the place that it really begins to touch us, personally, is the point at which we start to sense the Holy Spirit drawing us. Jesus said in John, chapter 6, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him..." As the Holy Spirit draws us to Christ, we start to become more aware of our own need and the worth of what Christ offers.

So, this drawing, this heart awakening process, is how God initiates contact. It unfolds in many varied forms including providential encounters with godly people (or books). Or, it may be a personal epiphany or recrimination or guilt. The drawing sometimes involves insecurity, curiosity, desperation, or an awareness of need or emptiness, etc. There are many ways that this divine "pull" expresses itself.

Nevertheless, if all goes well, at some point, the "chemistry" becomes right. The Holy Spirit's overtures, of whatever sort, align perfectly with our mental, emotional, and/or circumstantial condition. It all becomes a powerful concert of divine arrangements. So eventually, as a result of this Heavenly alignment, we find ourselves able to respond to God, if we choose to do so, with a profound humility in true repentance.

103.0 - Releasing Control: Repentance is simply a decision for change. In the redemptive case, it is a decision for change on a very profound level. It is a conscious decision. The material outcome of this decision is that we choose to stop setting our own life agenda and allow God to do that.

103.1 - The Same Coin: Repentance and faith might be thought of as two sides of the same coin. That is, they occur as two facets of the same decision. As we turn from self determination (repentance), we move toward spiritual humility (faith).

So, we give up sovereignty over our life as an act of repentance, and we give over the sovereignty of our life to God as an act of saving faith. Essentially though, it is one movement, one decision.

103.2 - A Good Example: We can see a perfect example of repentance and faith framed in the words of the apostle, Paul. At the time of his own conversion, he said in Acts, chapter 6, "Lord, what would you have me do?" Clearly, he was now willing to lay aside his agenda and embrace God's.

It is precisely at this point that the salvation of the soul occurs. The divine pardon happens when we truly turn from our self determined course and humbly embrace God's authority over our life. At that point, the sacrifice of Christ is applied to us, personally; and, we are entirely pardoned.

104. - The Nature of Sin

104.0 - Sin, A Primary Concept: Sin is a very primary concept in the redemptive work, obviously. So, let's consider it here. And, perhaps the best way to do that is to continue with the idea of influence and the question of who will have charge over our influence.  

When we begin with this question, we are well positioned to understand the nature of the essential sin which leads to the condemnation of the soul.  And, when we understand this, many, many other things in our spiritual life simply become obvious.

104.1 - The Answer To The Question: Again, the question of who to trust with our personal influence involves two choices. One, we can pursue a friendship with our Creator by electing to return the government of our lives to Him. Or two, we can choose to retain control for ourselves, and just chart our own course in life.

The choice to do the latter, to reject God's love and authority in favor of our own willful intent is the perfect idea of the Essential Sin.  Sin, in its essential form, is just a deep rooted, instinctive motive to be free of outside restraint or interference from God. And it is this motive which endangers the soul, long before any evil deeds are done.  Those deeds are only the product of this motive.  So, it is this deep and driving instinct that is the primary issue in redemption. 

We usually conceive of sin as some ugly and evil action.   But, the reality is that sinful acts are a secondary issue.  In fact, it is the Sin Motive that is the primary issue.  And it is the presence of this motive in our heart for which we will ultimately be judged - not the works which it spawns.

And, in fact, this instinct for self-determination does not always show itself as an ugly, shake-your-fist-in-God's-face kind of expression, at all. It may actually occur as simply a quiet, self assured independence in our daily decision making.

And this more acceptable looking, but still self-guided, course can, indeed, be very moral and socially sensitive. It can be one that practices religion, and quickly acknowledges the goodness of God. But if, in the practical terms of the everyday, we are instinctively driven by the sin motive to just quietly do our own thing - then, we remain in peril of soul, in spite of our seeming "goodness."

104.2 - Sin Has Two Dimensions: We should also emphasize what we have already noticed:  there are, indeed, two distinct dimensions of sin.  We have already described the first, the inner impulse for self-direction.

But, the other dimension of sin is, of course, the more concrete expression - the act of sin which springs from this inner motive.  So, we have this invisible but very real and pervasive sin instinct. Then, springing from this basic motive is the visible sin, the action.

It is important to understand this dual nature of sin. It is only as we make a distinction between the two dimensions of sin, the motive and the act, that we can begin to understand why the sin motive is God's primary concern in redemption. It is because what we do, is always based in who we are. Thus, the work of Christ is aimed at changing who we are in our heart; because, that ultimately takes care of what we do.

 So, God's first priority in redemption is to remove the sin motive, the real source of our behavioral problems.

Behold, "The Great Dead Tree" of sin. The visible, sinful acts are certainly a blight on the landscape of our life. But, to merely cut down the visible tree does not remove the problem.  It has, in its roots, an invisible essence, a living motive which will simply regrow its ugly presence.

Obviously then, destroying the visible tree, the expression of sin, is not really the solution. Getting at the invisible essence of the tree, the sin instinct or motive, is the real answer. And, while we can't really do that, Christ can, as we shall see.