Tuesday, February 7, 2012

108. - The Two Great Shaping Forces

108.0 An Old Testament Example: In the Old Testament book of Exodus, we are shown an historical picture of the Hebrew people as they became immersed in their Exodus journey.  In that reading we are actually given a great object lesson for New Testament believers.  That lesson has to do with the wilderness area which lay between Egypt, their departure point, and the Land of Promise, in Palestine, their ultimate destination. 

Here is how Moses, himself, assessed that wilderness journey in Deuteronomy, chapter 8. He says, "And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

"So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord."

108.1 The Two Shaping Forces of the Wilderness: There are two dimensions of that redemptive Jewish journey which stand out above all others. First, it was a time of Separation to God.   And second, it was a time of Humiliation before God.  These two shaping forces played a key role in transforming the Hebrew people into God's holy (thoroughly devoted) people.

And, we can also notice these same two shaping impacts operating within the New Testament redemptive journey - to that same end.  We typically find these molding influences, as was the case in that Jewish journey, working simultaneously to draw from the New Testament believer, a whole new perspective on life and a beautiful new level of responsiveness to God.

108.2 Sister Wind #1,  Separation - From & To: And notice, with regard to the idea of Separation, that this condition is a two sided coin.  Israel's movement into the wilderness simultaneously involved both a "from" and "to" facet. The withdrawal movement  from the Egyptian world was actually in lockstep with their movement toward God and the new and better world that He had planned for them.

And, that is also precisely how godly separation works in these New Testament times. We, as the Church of Jesus Christ, are called to, as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians, chapter 6, " 'Come out from among them and be separate,' says the Lord. 'Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,' says the Lord Almighty."

So, we are called upon to separate ourselves - in heart (in values) - from the "worldly" economy.  The "world," or the "worldly," are simply terms used in the Bible, and commonly used by the Church, to denote anything in the physical economy that refuses to recognize and/or respond to God. 

 But notice, while we are called upon to be separated from the world; at the same time, the ultimate purpose is to move closer to God. The idea, of course, is to simply create a condition which enables the believer to embrace God in a more personally intimate way and on a much more meaningful level. 

 So, there it is.  Always, along the authentic redemptive pathway there comes this from/ to decision and movement, intended to bring us to this place of personal seclusion with our Creator.  

108.3  The Residual Blessing:  And, we should note that this initial wilderness seclusion actually results in a life-long, residual blessing.  This happens because, even though the this wilderness experience, itself, will eventually pass into our rear-view mirror, the love of drawing aside to God in a very private and personal way never will.  This very fulfilling relational practice will remain, actually, forever.  

And, when we parse the reason, it's not "rocket science," really.  These times of seclusion with our Creator/ Savior remain precious to us because, once tasted, the joy, renewal, and meaning which these times yield, become addictive.  How could this tender, one-on-one closeness with God not become spontaneously ingrained as the most cherished aspect of our personal relationship with Him. 

108.4  The New Testament Definition:  But again, this very enhanced personal access springs first from that separation dynamic involved in our New Testament wilderness experience.  And, that experience is always defined by a true withdrawal of the heart from a God-ignoring world (withdrawal = a willful ejection of the world's ugly distractions and values).  

And, that movement then simultaneously results in the motion toward  a personal seclusion with God (to carefully focus on His ways and values). Thus, this New Testament Wilderness is much more about the trajectory of the heart than the traversing of geography.

Again, God's own loving directive from the pages of the New Testament is quite clear and succinct, 'Come out from among them and be separate,' says the Lord. 'Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,' says the Lord Almighty."  

108.5 Behold The Patriarchs:   This transformative wilderness time is easily identified in the biblical narrative. From Moses, to Abraham, to Jesus, to Paul, the Apostle, we can easily notice this prominent wilderness period occurring in the life of the godly. 

It is a time when they withdraw from their normal worldly fragmentation and give themselves to God in a more focused and deeply personal way. And, this period of personal seclusion became for them, as it does for the New Testament believer, a very defining, or perhaps better said, re-defining time.

108.6 The General Idea:  So, the path to heart-oneness with God always goes right through this "Wilderness Of Separation." Jesus, Himself, was called the Nazarene, meaning, "the separated one or the branch." And, the Spirit of Christ, operating upon the believer will certainly draw each of us to his or her own personal wilderness experience. Then, in that place of personal seclusion, will occur something else:  the mother of all reality checks.

108.7 Sister Wind # 2, Humiliation:  The wilderness time of the redemptive process also involves a much greater level of personal exposure.  This personal "outing" of all that we truly are, causes us to come to know both ourselves and God much better. The short name for this somewhat stressful exercise is simply, Humiliation - the second great shaping influence which God employs as part of the redemptive process. 

This "Humbling Process" is what Moses describes above when, again, he said about that Jewish Exodus journey, "So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know..."

108.8 The Driving Motive Behind the Humbling: And, the motive for this humbling is also revealed. Moses continues, "that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord."

The simple truth is that humanity is notorious for having a small awareness level when it comes to reality. Very often, we assume that we have a complete picture, when, in fact, we do not. 

So, for example, we go to a new job expecting to "make our mark" quickly. And, because we think we know exactly what needs to be done, we plunge right in to "work our magic." And, when the situation "goes South," we are forced to analyze what went wrong.

All too often, we come to the very problem that we are discussing as the cause. We discover that we simply did not have a good grasp of the larger reality, we did not see the whole picture. We thought we knew - but we didn't. 

So, the office politics, or the quirkiness of the boss, or the unwritten rules of the business, "ate our lunch." Those things were the part of the picture of which we were ignorant; even though, we thought we saw it all.

That same shortcoming also exists for humanity on the metaphysical plane. In fact, it is probably safe to say that it is at its worst there. When it comes to our relationship with God, especially in the beginning, we always think we "get it," but we never really do.

So, it is this very flawed awareness level, especially regarding who we really are in relationship to who God really is, that is Humanity's chronic and universal failing. Thus, the "The Humbling Process" becomes necessary.  

108.9  Humiliation's Essential Purpose, Place, and Benefit:  Though somewhat counter-intuitive, the actual elevating purpose of our wilderness humiliation is still what it always was. And, the personal process is for us, exactly what the corporate process was for the emerging Jewish nation in that original Exodus wilderness.  It is, as Moses indicated, to make us  "to know," to help us see the larger picture. So, the humbling process, even today, remains a somewhat painful reality check that introduces us to the true picture of our smallness as compared to God's bigness

In truth, this humiliation is not pleasant. It is not easy to endure. And, it is not negotiable. Thus, this humbling process is always a part of the redemptive wilderness experience which is always a part of the authentic redemptive pathway.

But, this expanded humbling is, at its conclusion, beneficial in the extreme. This often scary, troublesome, hang-on-for-dear-life experience not only enlightens us, but it brings us in close, it  facilitates a deep, and intimate, and accurate knowing of our God - and of ourselves, for that matter. Thus, this humbling process ultimately forges the strongest kind of relational bond - one based in truth.

108.10 The Nitty-Gritty Mechanics:  It works like this. As we are forced to see our own frailties and shortcomings, our arrogance begins to melt away. We start to see the part of reality that we were unaware of before - our own smallness, again, in comparison to the hugeness of God. Thus, our awareness of the actual reality becomes enlarged and more accurate, albeit, through a bit of personal discomfort.

In simple terms, the humbling process just makes us "little in our own sight." We were always small, but the problem was we simply couldn't see it. Through this time of divine humbling, we not only discover this reality, but we are also able to truly actualize it within ourselves.

108.11 The Wilderness Transformation: And, this true, and more pervasive and profound humility has the power to transform the human existence. So, as we experience it, we are positioned to become people of real gravity, import, and character.

And, indeed, it is only on the back side of this wilderness of our separation, having fully endured the humbling process, that we can experience that high plane of personal intimacy with our Creator/ Savior God.

So, there they are, the two great preparatory forces of our definition in Christ. Separation and Humiliation, these are "The Sister Winds," working in concert to push us forward in the redemptive process.  They empty us of our self, that we may ultimately be filled with Spiritual essence of the Living Christ and thereby know a true heart-oneness with God.