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 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.