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. - Christian Redemption: In A Very Informative Nutshell

The following Numbered Articles (100.0 - 118.0) are linked to a story, which is an allegory.  These articles form that story's allegorical interpretation.  The story is entitled, "Odyssey of the Rising." If you would like to read the story in correlation with these individual articles to gain that "story form" continuity and point of  view, here is a link to "The Odyssey of the Rising."

100.1 - Christian Redemption - A Process:  It seems there has always existed The Myth of a Magic Milestone in religious thought - some easy, momentary remedy which instantly and magically changes everything, forever.  But, God's Authentic Plan of Redemption is actually a serious, life-transforming process, not merely one "magic" moment or event.

Today, it is common, at the grassroots level of the Church, that the Conversion Event, involving only a momentary Statement of Faith in Jesus Christ, almost entirely defines the believer's concept of salvation. However, taken alone, that  Conversion Moment does not even come close to adequately defining the believer's required involvement in the redemptive work of Christ.

That conversion moment, the moment when we first truly embrace the Lordship of Christ, including His values, His truth, and His daily directions for our life, is, but one milestone in a long redemptive journey. In reality, as we shall see, the work of Christian redemption actually begins well before our conversion and continues far past it. 

And, that progressive personal transformation involves several general phases and other key events in its course. And, these facets are also equally indispensable to our here-and-now personal renewal and the ultimate success of our soul. (Ref. John 15: 1-8)

That is not to say that the conversion event is not a unique and important milestone. It most certainly is.  It is the wondrous moment when our soul becomes initially safe in Christ.  

But, this momentous time also has another equally identifying significance.  That conversion moment also marks the start of our personal daily participation and investment in a renewing friendship with Christ. And what follows is a simple overview of how that daily divine companionship commonly impacts the faithful believer's life.

100.1a There is a  Common Path in Christian Redemption:
Obviously, in the details of our lives there are great differences in the way we personally encounter God. But, there is also an Essential Redemptive Path which all faithful believers experience and cherish in common.

And, while mere religions and theologies may present humanity with different interpretive perspectives, still that Essential Authentic Path, remains The Path. And, our various preferences and perceptional variances do not reshape or alter its requirements, even one whit.

So, let's look at this precious redemptive experience which is common to all successful believers. Let's explore this basic and unchanging redemptive pathway from beginning to end.

100.1b The Simple Overview of Christian Redemption:  And, let's begin with a simple overview of Christian redemption. In the simplest terms, there are two basic needs that we have, regarding our personal redemption.

Those two basic needs are these. One, we need forgiveness, which, in turn, enables a personal reconciliation with God. And two, we need a personal renewal which insures that this new relationship with God is not once again defeated by our old nature and ways.

So, in Christ, God has provided two basic answers for these two basic needs. 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 resurrected life with the believer to empower our personal renewal.

Thus, through these two redemptive roles, Christ entirely meets those two most over-arching human needs.  So, it breaks out this way.  The Dying Christ on the Cross, furnishes three essential things to the believer. He or she is provided forgiveness, reconciliation to God, and an imputed (or an assigned) righteousness.

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

100.1c The Three Basic Phases of Christian Redemption: When we take the "long look" at the redemptive work, we notice that there are really three basic phases to the redemptive process.  Phase 1 of the redemptive process is the Reconciliation Phase. This is the earliest time of our encounter with God when the preeminent need is to be reconciled to Him, as mentioned earlier. Thus, the idea of forgiveness largely defines this earliest stage of the redemptive process.

Phase 1 then fades into Phase 2 of redemption, which is the Renewal Phase. In this phase, the believer is primarily involved with the Christ-empowered renewal of his or her character essence.

This renewal is accomplished by the divinely arranged and very literal merger of the believer's character essence (heart) with that of the Living Christ.   This mystical merger is what the Church calls, the "Baptism of the Spirit" or "Spiritual Baptism." 

It is through this literal integration with Christ's divine character essence, that He is able to then empower the believer's thorough  newness. And this sweeping newness comes, not only to the believer's core person. But, resulting from that inner character renewal, in turn, Christ is also able to then renew the believer's  broader life circumstance.

This newness actually results from the replacement of the believer's old, self-centered (sin based) value system with the new God-centered (faith based) value system of the living Christ. And, this value system exchange, is the very "epicenter" of the life-changing shift which occurs when we are enjoined to the character essence of the Living Christ through this Spiritual integration.

And, as a result of this seismic inner shift in our personal core government, instantly, the believer starts to experience a profound and very confirming peace with God. This peace is simply the natural outflow of a true heart-oneness with God based in the now shared divine value system of Christ. (Ref. John 3: 3)

And eventually, Phase 2 of redemption begins to gradually transition into Phase 3, the Fruitful Phase. This is the phase where the believer is primarily involved in cultivating a fuller expression of the renewed character that the Living Christ is now empowering within him or her.

In this phase, the general emphasis now expands beyond merely the conquest of that inner sin value and its outflows. Since this conquest has now been abundantly empowered through the Spiritual merger, now the focal point begins to also take in the idea of producing new, God-pleasing "Character Fruit," made possible by the believer's new, Christ-furnished value system. (Galatians 5: 19-25)

So, this is the large divisional overview of God's authentic redemptive design. Now let's look, at the experiential steps involved in these various phases of the redemptive work. This will be a more magnified, or detailed, view of those larger redemptive phases.

100.1d The Experiential Steps of Christian Redemption: So, here is a step-by-step breakdown of what occurs in those general phases of redemption. And, we begin with this.  

As mentioned earlier, technically, and traced to its uttermost reaches, the redemptive pathway actually begins well before the conversion moment.  It really begins at the judgment seat of God. There, before we embrace the Lordship of Christ, we find ourselves already under the condemnation of our Creator's disapproval.  (Ref. John 3:18)

We are not in this jeopardy before Him simply because of one act of disobedience or another. We are not in this position because of chronic moral indiscretions. In fact, our actions are not the prime issue at all.

It is our value system which is the real issue. And, more precisely, it is our Primary Governing Value which is really at the root of God's disapproval. We actually find our self in this dangerous place before Him only because we value and embrace, on the most primary governing level of our heart, the Essential Sin Value, which is the value of Self-determination. (Ref. Gen.3:4-7)

This is the dark value with which humanity was chronically infected in the Garden of Eden through Satan's treachery. It is defined by the idea that, "We, ourselves, and not God, are our own best hope for fulfillment in life." And, this errant perspective then causes us to feel self-sufficient and, thus, completely able to simply abandon God's loving and protective oversight of our life to become entirely self-determined (self-directed) in life. (Ref. Gen.3:4-7)

And, in turn, this rebellious attitude causes us to become estranged from God. It causes us, as we live out our lives, to carelessly ignore and transgress His wishes - in service to our own. But, again, those resulting transgressions are only the symptom of the real, the root problem - our love of self-determination. (Ref. Gen. 3: 7-8)

So, it is this inner driving desire for "personal sovereignty" which is the root cause of man's alienation from his Creator. And, it is this essential sin value which first draws God's disapproval and judgment - not the behavioral actions which this value eventually spawns. Thus, it is this ascendant dark value at which God's redemptive plan first takes aim.

And really, it's pretty simple when you think about it. It is actually so simple, that it becomes one of those "duh!" moments: Solve the inner value problem, and you solve the external behavior problem.

Thus, the magnificent heart of our Creator set about to entirely remedy that devastating sinful motive through Christ. Moved by His great love for His creature, the grace (naturally occurring goodness) of God has formulated a plan to entirely resolve this rift in His relationship with mankind through the redemptive work of both the Dying Christ of the Cross and the Living Christ of the Resurrection. And, it is a perfect plan, indeed. And here is how it all unfolds...

The Common Experiential Steps of the Authentic Path of Christian Redemption ...

Within the Forgiveness Phase:
Typically, our first meaningful awareness of what God is doing to restore our relationship with Him comes as we begin to experience the drawing of the Holy Spirit. This drawing expresses itself in varied 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 manipulation 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 various facets of our life properly align themselves under the direction of the Holy Spirit, 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, in that conversion moment, we are able to humbly embrace the Lordship of Christ. And again, what actually validates that moment is our assertion (intuitively, if not cognitively) of our true willingness to thoroughly embrace Christ's value system, His truth, and His daily direction of our lives, going forward.

Instantly, something truly wonderful happens.  It flows out of our true expression of repentance, that sweeping change of heart which denotes our willingness to entirely forsake the self-determined life-approach.  

And, it rises from our expression of truly redemptive faith, a profound humility before God - specifically expressed as that thorough embrace of the Lordship if Christ.  Out of these things, forgiveness and a wonderful personal reconciliation to God comes.

And, along with those things, something else happens.  We receive the gift of imputed righteousness - a righteousness, not based in our actual reality, but merely assigned to us.  It is simply furnished to us through Christ's death on the Cross

But, the redemptive process is, by no means, finished at this Conversion Moment.  Indeed, the Cross and our encounter with the Dying Christ is actually only the beginning point of our own voluntary participation in the redemptive process. Beyond this starting point, we will also, yet, experience the wonderful, here-and-now impacts of Christ's Resurrection.

So, from that beginning place of the Cross, the believer now begins to move forward, under the leadership of the Divine Spirit, toward the benefits which the Living Christ of the Resurrection provides to us in this present life. Thus, we move past those first needs of forgiveness and reconciliation, to become involved in the Christ-empowered business of heart (character essence) renewal.

So now, we enter that second, that Renewal Phase of redemption. As discussed earlier, and as the name indicates, this phase is, indeed, largely defined by the thorough and durable renewal of the believer's core person, his or her character essence, and in turn then, his or her larger life-circumstance.

Within the Renewal Phase:  The Renewal Phase of Redemption is a natural and logical progression since the redemptive work of Christ is not merely designed to remove the consequences assigned to that essential sin value of self-determination.  But, Christ's work is also designed to ultimately remove the essential sin value, itself, (and thus, by extension, its daily expressions in our life and behavior).

And obviously, this thorough renewal of the believer's entire life condition is necessary to insure the stability, the consistent and enduring fulfillment and meaning, of our now newly established relationship with God in Christ. So, indeed, we must logically come to this Renewal Phase of the redemptive process. (Ref. Rom. 8:1-5)

And, in this phase, as briefly touched on earlier, the believer is literally empowered to conquer that essential sin motive through the vitality of the Living Christ, via that mystical, Spiritual merger with His empowering character essence. And, through this very real integration with Christ, the believer's character and larger life condition are ultimately entirely renewed. (Ref. Ephesians 2:10 // 2 Corinthians 5:17)

And, the details of this renewal experience unfold like this... During the Forgiveness/ Conversion Phase of Redemption, we typically experience a period of great emotional relief and brightness. Yet, as we move into the Renewal Phase, the Divine Spirit leads us into a confrontation with our deeper self where there still remains a dark and powerful residual of the sin value on our subconscious level - even after we have truly embraced the Lordship of Christ on our conscious level.

Thus, we begin to confront this residual sin motive for self-determination which still haunts us on that lower level of our consciousness - even as a believer. We begin to do battle with this wayward thing that is still "under the skin," which continues to push us toward our old, self-determined ways, even though, on the conscious level of our mind, we are now fully faith-determined and devoted to pleasing God. (Ref. Romans 7:14-25)

So, resulting from the tension of these opposing inner forces (conscious vs. subconscious), we enter what might be described as an inner wilderness - not unlike that more tangible wilderness described in the book of Exodus in the Bible. And, 
just as in that Old Testament version, this time of personal upheaval essentially becomes a time of personal Separation to God (a time of intense divine scrutiny) and Humiliation (an honest confrontation of our personal frailties and deficiencies) 

But, it's through this extended and more thorough "humbling process" that we discover our God and ourselves at new levels. And certainly, this discovery process is, for a while, somewhat painful and disconcerting. But, it is also very effective.

If we faithfully follow the leadership of Christ through this trying wilderness time, this unique and purpose-filled experience will empty us of our residual subconscious arrogance and self-assurance. And, in doing so, it prepares us for the absolute Target Event of the New Testament - our personal character merger with the Living Christ, as mentioned earlier." (Ref. Acts 1: 8 // 2:38-39)

Thus, at the end of this very intense humbling process, when God determines that we are ready - it occurs.  We experience a personal Spiritual integration with the Living Christ.

Now, empowered by the more powerful character essence of Christ (which is essentially defined by His divine value system), a new Christ-based consistency starts to awaken within the believer. We start to experience the ability to make truly good and godly choices in our everyday life - and to "make them stick" through this new found sufficiency in Christ.  

And now, in the power of the Living Christ, the believer starts to rise beyond the mere assignment of righteousness.  Now he or she begins to taste the joy of a growing Reality-based Righteousness in his or her life. (Ref. Romans 8: 1-13)

This happens because, through our character merger with Christ, we become  literally connected to the strong faith value (consistent humility toward God the Father) and the wonderful grace (the naturally occurring goodness), which are present within the character essence of Christ.  

Thus now, we are no longer merely someone aspiring to righteousness.  Rather, we are now actually becoming a consistently righteous person.  And we are well sustained in that righteousness by the power of the Living Christ within. (Ref. Ephesians 2:8 // Galatians 2:16 // Philippians 3:9)

And, here is an even higher magnification of how and why this redemptive merger with Christ works in this believer empowering way. As a direct result of the Spiritual merger, a very significant thing happens.  The Spirit of Christ forcefully removes the essential sin value from ascendancy on the primary governing level of the believer's subconscious.  And, in its place, He establishes the now Christ-enriched faith value as the believer's subconscious ruling value.  

So now,  on the subconscious level, even as on the conscious level, the faith value governs the believer.  Now, it is the faith value, not the sin value, which is entirely ascendant both in the believer's conscious, and in his or her subconscious mind.  

Thus, now there is no more being torn between two governing factions - the conscious intent to be faith-expressive and the subconscious intent to remain self-determined. That frustrating disagreement between God's agenda and our subconsciously self-driven agenda, simply disappears. And finally, in strong league with the Living Christ, our entire person becomes singularly devoted to God.  (Ref. Romans 8: 1-13)

And, that singularity of heart is the textbook definition of "a holy heart." To be holy in heart, in God's eyes, is simply to be completely singular and undivided, in one's primary devotion

The idea is that, on that most primary governing level of the believer's core person, God enjoys our absolutely superseding devotion. Nothing is allow to compete with Him on that level for our love and allegiance.

Certainly, on more secondary levels of the believer's heart there remain other noble devotions. On those shallower levels, we are appropriately devoted to our family, our community, our country, our job etc. 
But, none of those things, nor any others, are allowed to compete with, or supersede, our devotion to God on that most primary governing level of a truly holy heart.  (Ref. Gen. 22:1-12)

And, beyond all of this, yet another wonderful thing also occurs through our Spiritual integration with Christ.   We are also able to share in His Grace (the naturally occurring goodness within His divine nature). And, as a result, this fully internalized, Christ-based, "instinctive" goodness begins to very comfortably guide our choices and our daily steps.

And this inner "Grace Guidance" becomes, for the believer, an exponentially more natural and effective way to guide and govern our daily lives in harmony with God's wishes. Indeed, this new means of heart government actually works wonderfully well.  

And, it becomes all the more spectacular when compared to the governance of the Old Testament Law.  Indeed, the Law was good and holy, but its failing was that it was entirely external to the human heart (and thus, very awkward and unnatural to human nature).  So, it largely failed regarding actual behavioral impact.

But, through our Spiritual merger with Christ, the righteousness of the law (the divine values) actually become internalized within the human nature.  And so, in a very natural and comfortable way, we are now able to governing our lives in an easy and comfortable harmony with God's wishes.  This is true because His values have now become our values, through our integration with the Living Christ. 

So now, the redemptive process can take on the full volume of the renewal motive. We begin, with real vitality, the divine vitality of Christ within, to confront and expel those residual remnants of the sin value on all of the secondary levels of our core person, and thus, in every aspect of our life. 

Now, we are able to successfully confront all of those less primary remnants of the self-determination motive.  And, we find ourselves actually able to consistently expel them from our life - first as internal motives, and, in turn, as external behavioral actions.

And, as we grow more and more consistent at extricating ourselves from these sinful impacts in the power of the Living Christ, something else happens. The dominant emphasis of the redemptive process  expands itself.

Within the Fruitful Phase: Gradually our Spiritual growth in Christ starts to become much more about bearing more and better "character fruit" than merely expelling the remnants of the sin value. And this becomes the much more positive and very refining challenge which primarily occupies the latter and larger part of our spiritual maturity. (Ref. Galatians 5:21)

So, in the Fruitful Phase, we experience this shift in emphasis toward the greater fulfillment of Christ's character in us. Thus, we begin to actually realize the superlative New Testament promise of a thorough and profound newness of heart and life for the faithful believer. 

Day by day, under the enriching impact of the daily companionship of the Living Christ, our character essence is renewed.  And, as a result, we then realize a renewal in our larger life circumstance.
Thus, we begin to naturally reflect God in our values, views, and  behavior - experiencing a very tangible oneness - a mature and completing harmony of heart with God

And this Christ-sustained harmony becomes the durable matrix of the believer's very fulfilling daily friendship with God. And on and on this new and deeply fulfilling symbiotic companionship goes, transitioning eventually, even into eternity.

100.1e A True Redemption: Christian Redemption ultimately comes to be the great human success story which only Christ could write - first in His blood on the Cross, and then in the rich vitality of His shared character essence flowing out of the Resurrection.

And, the basic redemptive story always follows this essential, life-transforming pathway. And again, indeed, the details of the redemptive journey are as varied as the individual believers who are involved. But, the basic redemptive experience remains the same for all who faithfully embrace Christ. 

It never varies from what God designed it to be.  It is always and forever a beautiful, and graceful, and ever elevating journey in Christ which ultimately brings us fully back into the harmonious and eternal embrace of the God who created us.

So, Christian Redemption is not one magic milestone, after all.  Rather, it is, indeed, a truly magnificent process born of God's grace and truth-based love. And, it is a process that, from beginning to end, is based only in the absolute sufficiency of Christ as both the Dying and the Living Savior.

  Thus, we must never allow Christian Redemption to become, in our minds, merely the passing milestone of the conversion moment, marked only by a statement of faith, duly noted and reverenced,  just before we move on to other life-pursuits. We must always think of it as what it actually is:  a life-long, 
truly life-transforming process involving an intimate divine companionship which results in, "brand new!" for the believer. 

In any case, however, this is certain.  The Path remains the Path.  And it does not change to accommodate our druthers or our misinterpretations.  Thus, we must be very careful to accommodate its realities and requirements.

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

101.1 The Direction and Destination Of Faith:  
Truly Redemptive Faith is always moves in a single and constant direction toward "the light" - the light of Heart-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 is always toward this completing oneness of heart with God.

This goal entirely establishes the dynamic, the directional flow and purpose, of our salvation. This idea of a mature harmony, our heart in a consistent concert with the heart of God, is the ultimate prize toward which true 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 distinctly exist in this oneness.

Rather, this is a oneness based in shared values, share truth, and shared life perspective, leading to a beautiful relational harmony with God. 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 [mature or complete] in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. " [Brackets added]

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 a path does not take us ever toward the beautiful glow of a true "heart oneness" with God (the sharing of His values and truth), it is merely a path of misdirection. It is not the path of true redemption.

101.2 - There Is A Cost To Salvation:  
Christian Redemption always requires two things of the believer: Our Personal Sovereignty and a Daily Faithfulness.

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?"

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 are then choosing to be "self-determined," and remain the masters of our own destiny. But, the simple reality is that with this choice we estrange ourselves from God's friendship and condemn our soul to an eternal death.


Option 2: We can choose to humbly surrender our personal influence back to our Creator by embracing the Lordship of Christ.  Again, in real terms, this is our agreement to embrace His values, His truth, and His plan for our life.  Thus, again, in real terms, we are surrendering our personal sovereignty and and choosing to become God-directed instead of self-directed.

And therein lies the redemptive cost to us. The toll of our redemption is the full surrender of our personal sovereignty. We simply choose to give up our right of self-determination in order to travel the path of faith.

And, this intentional choice to become God directed is, in fact, the precise and only expression of humility capable of saving the human soul.  Indeed, no masking expressions such as shallow homage, or mere lip service, or a self-limited terms of surrender can suffice for this divine requirement of a complete "sell-out."  So, in this sense, it is true, our personal redemption through Christ, does, indeed, cost us everything.

Thus, in truth, the path marked "Free way" is not the right way after all, though it is widely touted as such. Any path which does not require the complete and consistent surrender of our right of self-determination is not the true path of redemption.

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 [retain control over] his life will lose it, but whoever loses [surrenders control of] his life for My sake will save it."  So, there is, indeed, an initial and a daily cost to the believer who aspires to walk the true redemptive pathway.

101.3  The Redemptive Path: God's Intent vs. Human Frailty:   

Regarding the true redemptive pathway, if we start by seeing its direction as being set, and its possibilities as being limited by the human frailty, we will become very confused and often misdirected at the very beginning of the redemptive journey.   

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 which a limitless, Almighty God brings to the table. 

So, in seeking to understand the correct redemptive path, we should always look first to the divine intentions and resources, not to the human frailties. It's God's power which truly defines the scope of redemption, not human limitation.

And, 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 plans 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 capability.

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 transformation which God envisions for mankind through Christ - in spite of our frailties.

And certainly, there are challenges, 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 Path of 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 low and uninspiring to fulfill the believer or please God.

102. - Redemption Is A Serious Selection Process

102.0  Christian Redemption Is A Challenging Process: The great failing of the modern Church is Under-investment. Contrary to the pop-preaching of our time, the Redemptive Journey does require a high level of personal investment on the part of the believer. 

The Christian Redemptive Process does, indeed, involve two uncomplicated ingredients:  Determination (strong motive) and Stamina (sufficient vitality to finish the course).  But, it almost goes without saying, at this point, that neither of these elements exists within the nature of humanity in a measure sufficient to enable a successful completion.  But, that sufficiency, in both cases, does exist within the divine nature of the Living Christ.  

Thus, as previously discussed, through the believer's symbiotic relationship with the Living Christ, in His sufficiency, we are able to faithfully drive forward through the challenges of the authentic redemptive path (process) to actually experience the elevated life plane, a true and thorough newness of heart and life which is pleasing to God.  And, we are, indeed, required to do so.  

102.1 A Path of Serious Consequence

Nevertheless, obviously, not all who start, do actually succeed in completing the journey to a true and thorough personal newness in the Living Christ.  Some do, indeed, "lollygag." And, others choose to simply stop "growing" forward in Him and merely camp out somewhere along the redemptive pathway, in a kind of  apathetic stubbornness.  And, still others forsake the redemptive process altogether and return to their old self-directed lifestyle.

However, in the face of such temptations, it may help our resolve to remember that the redemptive process, at its core, also remains a very serious selection process.  In Matthew, chapter 22, Jesus tells a parable of a great King who prepared a wedding feast for His people which demonstrates this idea of selection. The end of the parable goes like this... 

"...Then he [the king]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. [Brackets Added]

" 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." 

The Concept of "Try Outs:"  

"...many are called, but few are chosen." - Jesus

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 a major league 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 involves a performance factor. So, while the invitation is open to all, the result is entirely decided by the player's performance.

The point is this. We easily embrace this concept of selection when it comes to sports, etc. But, it seems we are typically very reluctant to accept such an idea in regard to the Christian redemptive process. 

Nevertheless, it is this reality which 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 it is ultimately God who will be doing the choosing, not us. 

And, in fact, this time, this world, this physical dimension of life is but our "try out" opportunity.  It is intended to expose those of true devotion, the people who are willing to truly embrace the empowering Lordship of Christ in their lives - including His values, His truth, and His daily life-directions.  And, it is true, all who fail to embrace and employ the sufficiency of the Living Christ to  successfully come to a new, God-pleasing heart and life will, indeed, fail this  "try-out opportunity."

So, it actually is perilous to the human soul to ever move far from the awareness that we are, indeed, involved in a truly stringent  selection process.  And, to approach the redemptive process with casualness or indifference is to guarantee that we will fail that selection process.

The Path is the Path

The rigors involved in taking The Authentic Redemptive Path, 
this elevated and very elevating path, may fly in the face of modern pop-preaching and our more contemporary sense of what is desirable. But, that very ancient 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 New Testament age, it continues to involve a good-faith investment, and a very expectant divine scrutiny.  

And certainly, it is a loving scrutiny, always accompanied by the offer of divine empowerment in the Living Christ.  But, what God's love is not, and will never be, is dismissive of the requirement of a sincere investment in the divine friendship and the redemptive process upon which that friendship is based.  

And, that is why the statement remains true.  Indeed, "many are called, but few are chosen."  And, that is also why the process fits this description, which Jesus offered in the New Testament,  "...strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it."  

Truly, Christian redemption is a process.  And, it absolutely involves divine selection.  And that selection is stringently based in the divine expectation of a proficient renewal of the believer's heart and life flowing out of the sufficiency of the Living Christ  

103. - The Spiritual Awakening

103.0  The Spiritual Awakening:  Again, our first perception of God's redemptive effort, the place that it really begins to touch us, consciously, is the point at which we start to sense the drawing of the Holy Spirit. 

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 God aware.

And, this Spiritual pull unfolds in many varied forms including providential encounters along the way with godly people and/ or media forms of different sorts.  Or, it may be the inner rising of recrimination or guilt of some kind.  The divine drawing may sometimes involves insecurity, curiosity, desperation, or an awareness of need or inner emptiness. Again, there are many ways that this divine "tractor beam" defines itself.

Nevertheless, if all goes well, at some point, the "Conversion Chemistry" becomes right. Our mental, emotional, and real circumstances all align, under this "divine meddling"  in an effort to bring us to a time of perfect personal clarity.  

And this clarity affords us the "Conversion opportunity."   In this time of real, divinely-furnished truth, we find ourselves actually able to honestly respond to God's relational overtures - if we sincerely choose to do so.  

It is in this time that we are finally able to rise above the satanic delusions to clearly see an accurate comparison between the self-determined life-approach and the Christ-led life-approach.  And, in this moment of true clarity, we are finally, then, honestly free to choose as we will between those two life-approaches. 

103.1 - The Nature of the Conversion Moment:  
 If we do choose to embrace the Lordship of Christ, then that moment becomes our "Conversion Moment."  It is in this moment that we are "converted" from our own dark delusions of self-sufficiency to the authentic enlightenment of divine truth.   And this conversion moment involves two important elements.  
   It involves "Repentance," which is simply a sweeping change of heart.  And, it involves "Redemptive faith," which, in its final analysis, is really a specific kind of humility.  It is that humility which is expressly defined by surrender of control.  

In Christian Redemption, repentance is a complete philosophical turn around on the deepest governing level of our core person.   And, this profound change of heart is enabled, as described above, by the clarity afforded during the time of the  conversion opportunity.  It is during this divinely arranged time that one is able to actually see the true wrongness of "the Broad Way," that self-directed life-path, which most in the world choose to follow.

Redemptive faith, on the other hand, is the humble release of control over one's life to the Lordship of the Living Christ.  And again, it is the clarity of the conversion opportunity which also affords the believer this ability to see the true rightness of embracing the Christ-directed life-path to gain His always loving and beneficial oversight.

103.1a - The Conversion Motion:  
As a practical matter, repentance and faith might be very accurately thought of as two sides of the same coin. 

That is, these actions essentially occur simultaneously as two facets of the same "Conversion Motion."  So, it goes like this.  As we experience that reversal of our view regarding the self-guided life-approach, we turn away from that approach (repentance).  But, that same motion turns us humbly to the alternative approach, the Christ-controlled life (faith).  

Another way to express this life-changing pivot is that we give up our personal sovereignty as an act of repentance, even as we are giving over our personal sovereignty to Christ as a humble act of soul saving faith.  So, in practical terms, this "conversion dynamic" is, indeed, essentially, one soul saving motion with two facets.

103.1b - The Archetypal Conversion Example:  
We can see a perfect example of this "Repentance/ Faith Dynamic"  framed in the words of the apostle, Paul, in the New Testament. 

In the moment of Paul's conversion from his own darkened understanding to God's true enlightenment in Christ, Paul, asked, "Lord, what would you have me do?" (Ref. Acts 9:6)  This very simple question is truly fashioned from "redemptive bedrock."  It rises starkly from the pages of the New Testament as a shinning monument to the true conversion dynamic.  

This question clearly indicates to all, those two indispensable things which are so completely requisite to the authenticity of any and every conversion.  Paul's example, in these few brief words, leaves no doubt that the proper response to God's redemptive love is simply to lay aside our own life-agenda and humbly embrace that of Christ.

And, it is precisely when we truly do these things, that the salvation of our soul occurs - and not before. The divine pardon only happens when we truly turn from our self-determined course and humbly turn to a true embrace of Christ's authority over our life. 

It is only at this point that the benefits flowing out of the sacrifice which Christ made on the Cross are applied to one, personally.  It is only at this precise point that we are  pardoned from the consequences of our previous self-sufficient attitude and lifestyle and reconciled to God through the Dying Christ.

104. - The Nature Of Faith

104.0 - The Two Great Redemptive Issues: The first great element of redemption is, of course, Faith. The second imposing element is Sin. These are the "two great trees" which tower above the landscape of Christian Redemption.

104.1 The Nature Redemptive Faith: When the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith in Luke, chapter 17, he replied, "... So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'" The simple word for what Jesus describes here is "Humility."  Again, in Luke, chapter 14, Jesus said, "For whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

So, from these and other verses in the New Testament, we can easily understand that redemptive faith is essentially a profound humility of a very specific kind. It is a humility which specifically expresses itself as the willing surrender of one's entire influence, all that we are and do, to the Lordship of Christ.  

And, this surrender necessarily involves real terms.  To humbly embrace the Lordship of Christ is to embrace three essential elements:  His values, His truth, and His daily guidance for our life. This is the real nature of redemptive faith. 

104.2 - True Conversion: So, in a word, the faith which saves our soul is the willingness to give up our self-sovereignty, our personal control, over our own life.  It is the willingness to make our personal influence entirely subject to the influence of Christ by placing ourselves under His control. 

104.3 - Intellect vs Will: This is what it means to trust in Christ in a soul saving way.  Thus, redemptive faith is far more impactful than simply to believe that Jesus exists, or that He is the one true Savior of the world. The Bible indicates that Satan  knows those things beyond the shadow of a doubt.  
But, in fact, redemptive faith is never so much about what we know of God intellectually, as it is our willingness to humbly act on what we know. 

104.4 - The Duel Nature of Faith: But notice also, the "Dual Nature" of redemptive faith. It exists first in the heart (the character essence) of the believer as an inner heart-value, of humility toward God. And, that inner faith motive then expresses itself in reality in very tangible ways.  

In other words redemptive faith begins as simply a value within the heart. But ultimately, our humility expresses itself in the very real terms of both positive character growth and good works in humble obedience to Christ's daily directions.

104.5 - A Christ Empowered Faith:  Finally, notice also that the New Testament believer is able to consistently express his or her faith in those real terms, not merely by his or her own puny faith, but based in the empowering faith of Christ.  The faith of Christ actually enriches the faith of the believer.  And, this becomes the believer's new daily reality as he or she is merged with the character essence of Christ through the Spiritual Baptism which typically occurs sometime shortly after the believer's conversion . 

The Lord said this about this wonderful new dimension of power, which is available to the believer through his or her Spiritual merger with Christ.  "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

God spoke of this mysterious, Christ-based, New Testament empowerment even through the Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel, when he said, "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."

104.6 The Opposition of Sin and Faith:  Note then, that Faith is the direct opposite of Sin.  Like faith, sin, has two dimensions.  So, like faith, sin is first a value or motive in the heart.  It is the motive of self-determination.  The idea is that this sin heart-value drives us to be primarily self-directed in life.  

And, this arrogant sin value of self-determination, ultimately then, expresses itself in the real terms of our real life actions - causing us to think and act mostly indifferently toward God.  So, where the faith value causes us to happily and humbly embrace God in a vital daily relationship, the sin motive causes us to live independently and essentially estranged from Him - giving little or no thought to His values, His truth, or His directions for our life.  

So, the sin value of self-determination (even before it ever expresses itself in our actions) condemns us before God.  However, the faith value, a true influential humility toward God, commends us to God as it enable us to embrace His values, truth, and daily directions for our life, through the Living Christ.  So, that redeeming faith value then becomes the perfect remedy and deliverance from that soul killing sin value of self-determination. 

True redemptive faith is always profoundly life changing in these most essential ways.  It was, absolutely designed by God's love and grace to be so.

105. - The Nature of Sin

105.0  The Nature of Sin, The "Death Tree" Obviously Sin, as the counterpoint to Faith, is also a very primary issue in Christian Redemption.  If faith can be accurately characterized as being, essentially, a profound "humility" before God, then Sin can be characterized, equally well, as being "arrogance" before God.   So, let's now consider the precise nature of this deadly arrogance. And, perhaps the best way to start, is with an associated idea - the idea of Influence. 

In the simplest terms, our personal influence is primarily the power to bend reality to our wishes.  That influence may come in many varied forms such as money, political or social clout, or military might.  But, in essence, our personal influence is simply the sum total of our ability to effect change in accord with our wishes.

From the beginning of mankind's existence, we have been an independent influence in the Universe.  God gives each of us the ability to make independent decisions and take independent actions which truly affect our personal, and the larger reality.  

When we understanding the nature and significance of personal influence, we are well positioned to grasp the true nature of the essential sin which leads to the condemnation of one's soul.  And, when we gain that very basic understanding, many, many other things in our spiritual life simply become self-evident.

105.1 - The Telling Question: 
So, in considering the issue of influence, the telling redemptive question becomes, "What will I do with my personal influence?"  And that question actually entails our self-sovereignty, or said another way, our "right" to personally and independently govern our own lives.   

And, this revealing question of what we should do with our personal influence really involves only two choices. One, we can elect to humbly return our influence to Christ by embracing His Lordship.  Or two, we can prefer to retain our personal sovereignty over our life and simply wield our influence as we, alone, see fit.

A preference for the latter, causing us to reject God's love, authority and guidance in favor of our own willful intentions is the perfect idea of Essential Sin.  Sin, then, in its most elemental form, is simply this deeply instinctive heart-value of self-sovereignty.  

And, it is this arrogant motive, which exists on the deepest governing level of our core person, that causes us, then, to see ourselves as self-sufficient.  And, ultimately, it is this value which drives us to simply do as we please, without any significant reference to our Creator's wishes. 

Thus, it is this life-governing heart value of self-determination  which first estranges us from our Creator and endangers our soul, and this occurs before there is any observable expression of this motive as a real behavioral action.  Those behavioral deeds are only the product of this more essential governing value.  

So, it is this deep and driving motive within our core person which is really the "invisible inner essence" of the more visible expressions of sin in our actual behavior.  Thus, it is the value, itself, not its resulting actions, which is the more primary and enduring wedge between God and mankind.  

And, it is this most essential form of sin, the sin value, at which the redemptive work of Christ first takes aim. Obviously, the sin value is the foundation from which all else springs. So, the idea in the redemptive work of Christ is really a simple one:  Destroy the foundation, destroy the elevations which stand upon it.

105.1a  How the Sin Value Presents Itself: We should also note, however, that this arrogant instinct for self-determination does not always present itself as an ugly, shake-your-fist-in-God's-face kind of expression. It may actually occur as simply a quiet, self assured independence in our daily life-pursuit.

And, this much more attractive, 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 real terms of everyday life-governance, we continue to rely on our own values, life-interpretations, and self-assured direction - as morally attractive and socially responsible as all of that may be - yet, we remain in peril of soul.  This is so because the value of self-determination is still present as the unaddressed essential sin, even though it is beautifully veneered in moral and responsible behavior.

Here in lies a great treachery.  Redemption is never about good works before it is about God-driven works.  Again, it is important to remember that the first matter is always who is truly in charge of your influence, not how responsibly you wield it.

105.2 - A Final Clarification: 
We have already noted that there are, indeed, two distinct dimensions of sin. There is the inner impulse, the sin value.  And, there is the more concrete expression of that impulse - the act of sin.

It is only as we make this clear distinction between the two dimensions of sin, the motive and the act, that we can begin to understand why that inner sin value is God's primary target in redemption. It is simply because what we do, is always based in who we are. 

Thus, the work of Christ is first aimed at changing who we are in our core person; because, that ultimately takes care of what we do, behaviorally. So, God's priority in redemption is to thoroughly remove that self-determination motive  from deepest governing level of our core person.  It is that value which is the real source of the rift in our relationship with Him, as well as, our behavioral problems.

Behold, "The Great Death Tree of Sin."  That dark behavioral structure is certainly a blight on the landscape of our life. But we cannot rid our life of that blight by simply cleaning up the above-ground view.  We must also kill the root of that hideous thing to be truly rid of it.  And, while we, as mere human beings, can't really do that, the Living Christ absolutely can - as we shall see.

106. - A Geography Refresher

106.0 The Long Look: As noted earlier, in Section 100.0, when we take a general overview, we can notice that the redemptive pathway does traverse different kinds of "life-terrain" including some which can be accurately characterized as, "wilderness."

As noted earlier, that redemptive journey actually has three essential phases. Let's now do a quick and somewhat expanded review of those three phases.

106.1 The Reconciliation Phase:  The first, of course, as mentioned in that earlier section, is the Reconciliation Phase. This is certainly the most easily identified phase. Before anything else can occur, we just need to experience God's forgiveness through the Cross of Christ.  And that dramatic occurrence is easily distinctive.

106.2 The Renewal Phase: The second phase of the redemptive process is the Renewal Phase. This is, in very real terms, the truly restorative phase of redemption. 

This is where we start to get our messed up emotional, intellectual, psychological, and spiritual "wiring" really straightened out. And, it is in this phase ,that the Living Christ decisively deals with that  Subconscious Sin Value which continues to plague every believer, even after their sincere, conscious decision to embrace the Lordship of Christ.

And, this phase can bring the believer to some very challenging "change issues."  And, the growth pain connected to these changes can be very disconcerting and lead to what feels very much like an "emotional wilderness."   

106.3 The Fruitful Phase:  As noted earlier in Section 100, if all goes correctly to this point, and resulting from the believer's completion through the Spiritual merger, he or she does move through this humbling emotional wilderness time.  And, in doing so, we come to the final phase of the redemptive process - the Fruitful Phase.  This phase is so labeled for the personal growth which occurs during this time.  It's here that we begin to experience a truly thorough newness of heart and life.
What happens in this final phase of Christian redemption is that the believer simply becomes more mature, and thus stronger, in the Living Christ.  And, as we become so, we are enabled, not only to manage to defeat the sin-motive on those secondary levels of heart and life, but also, in the strength of the indwelling Christ, we are able to add more and more God-pleasing character traits (character fruit) to our character essence.

The apostle, Paul, mentions some of those character traits in the Book of Galatians, chapter 5.  There he says, "But the fruit of the Spirit [of the Living Christ] is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control."  [Brackets Added]   So, this third phase becomes a time of true "character polishing" in the strength of Christ.  

106.4 There Is Some Issue Overlap:  We should note, however, that while the defining characteristic of each redemptive phase is easily distinguished as we take this less detailed, "long look."  Yet, when we take a more detailed look at each phase, we can also easily notice that within these phases there also occurs some "issue mixing and overlap."

For example, while the conquest of the sin-motive on the secondary levels is certainly at issue in all three redemptive phases, yet, we can also notice in the Fruitful Phase, that the emphasis eventually shifts more toward character building.  This can and does happen safely, as it should, because the believer, in this more mature phase of his or her growth in Christ, has grown strong in Him, and is perfectly capable of simultaneously allocating energy to both issues at the appropriate level. 

106.5 In Conclusion:  So, the redemptive path in one view can be described as simple.  Yet, in the more detailed view, it is actually quite sophisticated, taking us through various situational complexities and all kinds of "life-terrain."  Nevertheless, this wonderful divine process does eventually, also bring us truly home to a real heart-oneness with God.  We have but to faithfully lean on our "Strong Guide"- the Living Christ.