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.