Friday, March 15, 2019

The Narrow Way of Jesus Christ: Leaving Churchianity for the Radical Way of Holiness

Is it possible that we’ve missed the fullness of the narrow way of Christ in our modern day ‘nominal’ Christianity? Could we have missed the standard and not even realized it? Many of us belong to churches that we find ourselves fitting well into, movements and practices that encompass perhaps an hour church service, and maybe a Bible study once a week, or a small group, and perhaps a bit of prayer. 

We go through the motions, and we do express worship, we listen intently to the sermon, but often times we have this nagging feeling deep in our hearts, that tells us something is wrong, something is off, despite all the puffy phrases from the pastor saying things like, “God loves you unconditionally” and “There is no way you can ever get away from his love.” And “Jesus loves you just the way you are.” And so on and so forth. Despite all of that, we sometimes sit and tremble, wondering and worrying that perhaps we have terribly fallen short of the radical new testament standard of total devotion to Christ. Have you ever felt that way?

In my own analysis, I’ve done several things in response to this feeling. First, I remind myself of the preachers soft words about how easy and free the Christian life is. Freedom in Christ, freedom, grace through faith, and I squash those lingering concerns in my mind as simple attacks by the enemy, attempting to try to make me “earn my salvation” or “trying to fill me with guilt and weigh me down in my past sins.” Or such pithy sayings. I squash the guilt and concern I have, because I cannot stand it. And it doesn’t fit with the message from the pulpit and the youth leaders, and most everyone in my church who does exactly the same thing.

But if I’m to be honest with myself, those attempts to quash the feeling of concern and dread I have seldom seem to suffice. The words seem empty, though true they may be, I look at them and say yes, these things are true, they are part of the scriptures, but there is much more in the scriptures that seems to be left out because it seems a trifle hard. There is something missing though, something missing from my Christian walk. I want more of God. I want more of the Christian way. I want to go deeper. Indeed, I despise the surfacy gospel, and I must go deeper. I must have more of it. I want it to truly transform me. I want all of God, all of Christ, and all of His Spirit.

Then there is the second option that I sometimes consider, and of a recent time, have begun to pursue, at first with a half-hearted measure, but now more and more seriously, and fully, with a fuller heart, though I would be lying if I said that I have given it my whole heart and mind and muchness to the expedition.

And it does appear to be quite an expedition. An expedition into a bright, shining forest of wonder, yet also inlayen with darkness, danger, and certain extreme difficulties. This way seems to me to be the road of humble holiness, the path of meek sanctification and the road to everlasting glory.

It is the terrifying and shocking realization that much of modern Christianity is so temporal and focused on this world and it’s concerns that we have largely missed the gospel’s radical narrow way of set-apartness and total life transformation, total allegiance and all out devotion to Christ.

Could it be my friends that we live in such an all-encompassing bubble of sleepy Christianity, of worldly Christianity that we don’t realize that we’ve become stuck on the journey of faith? We as pilgrim’s on our progress through this life were journeying through a dark and uncertain place, along a path long trodden by tens of millions throughout history, but could it be that while we were on that journey, we stopped at a village of cultural religion, a counterfeit half-measure of the true way, and gave up our journey to sit in the wells of a double-minded faith that triggers small delights of joy and peace, while missing the fullness of the Christian message? I think it could very well be so. And though I often look up to the preacher on the platform, preaching of grace, grace, and more grace, hyper grace, and no concern for sin or holiness, I am distracted, and I soon begin to stare out the window of the chapel, toward that opening in the woods that leads down the dangerous, difficult, radical path of holiness and intense intimacy with God our creator!

Now, having found this path, and desired to walk along it, though only a few of the thousands of church attenders will join me, now find myself having trodden for two years nearly down that jungle path, and I will now tell you a bit about it, and I will certainly urge you to break ranks and join me on this rugged road to true holy, Spirit filled, radical, intimate Christianity with a real, living Jesus Christ.

I had become increasingly centered on orthodoxy, or what one might call the doctrinal truths of the faith.  I found myself examining the scriptures extensively and also concerning myself with the various apologetics that circle around the scriptures, in areas like the sciences, histories, and philosophies that show evidence for the faith.  This is a good thing to do, and a great blessing to my walk.

But I believe I was lacking in the orthopathy, the practice of the deep emotional and relational aspect of the faith.  I was not fully allowing the supernatural nature of the scriptures and the living God to transform my interaction with reality.  Oh what a blessing it has been and continues to be! These may not be accurately relayed as orthopathy, but something else probably, a willingness to interact with the supernatural aspects of the Christian faith.

Why was this difficult?  Because at once it became increasingly dangerous to a person of orthodoxy.  What does one so focused on doctirnal truth and apologetics do with things like dreams, visions, hours in prayer, fasting, or even miraculous healings, and prophetic words, and deeper spiritual disciplines!  They can at first appear risky or concerning to one centered on doctrinal truth.  

And at times for good reason, as these concerns of the faith are often open to abuse, because they leave the door open for charletons to peddle their wears, or spooky spiritualist types to play their games and garner attention for themselves.  

Then again, if I were to say I were so focused on doctrinal truth in it's entirety, and then neglect the portions of scripture that clearly detail these aspects of the faith simply because they appear dangerous, I would be a hypocrite speaking out of both sides of my mouth.  

But it was God who called me toward this deeper experience of my faith, to a more radical, one might say 'whacky' Spirit filled experience of my faith.  And that need not impede on doctrinal/scriptural truth at all.  The scriptures leave ample room for it.  They truly, truly do.  Though sometimes we say that, and then quietly avoid those topics no matter the cost.  I refuse to do that, and I'm glad I did refuse.

Because to experience God in orthpathy, in emotional connection, in prayer, in fasting, in longer prayer, in longer fasting, in spiritual disciplines, in believing for miracles, and stepping into risky proclamation and spiritual warfare one finds beautiful extensions of the faith.  

I find a greater connection to God.  Not because I've found some special knowledge or hidden way, but simply because God has revealed Himself more and more.  He does it for all us.  Sometimes we refuse to make the time though, and our walk is hindered. We must carve out time, large, large swaths of time.  

In this day and age we condemn those who attempt certain set times of the day for prayer, and mouth platitudes about ones whole life needing to be prayerful, but then we neglect prayer entirely, but feel quite superior, and self-righteous having rebuked that 'legalistic spirit' of 'scheduled prayer.'  Sadly, with a few words we've removed prayer.  We pray for 30 seconds, or 10 minutes, when we should be in prayer for hours.  That phrase will upset some, but I don't care.  I'm tired of the platitudes and excuses about 'legalism' that cause us to neglect prayer and feel self-righteous about it.  We've learned to neglect prayer, fasting, the study of scripture, spiritual disciplines, and a true living daily relationship with God, and it shows.  It really really shows.  And when someone dare encourages us to set a pattern, to live out a method in our lives, we call them a legalist.  How sad, how sad indeed. 

I think it was desire in me to live out what I saw happening in other parts of the world.  I heard reports of the power of the Spirit moving in Iraq, in the middle east, and greatly across much of Africa, and of course China.  These believers are on fire, they are Spirit filled, and they spread the gospels.  Their worship is alive, passionate, and filled with power.  They have learned to expect miraculous occurrences, and then they see them happen!  They've learned to discipline themselves, fasting for weeks, praying for days on end, and when someone here in the west suggests we pray for an entire hour, they are hounded out of the room as a 'legalist."  We in the west, and our expression of religion has become in some ways quite drab.  Our dedication is minimal.  We run about greatly, but we get very little done.  Maybe it's because we've neglected these things.

So I decided, over much time of praying about this, and seeing these things happening on other continents, and I decided I wanted to partake in this.  I want to try to do what they do, to really connect with God on a deeper level.  I decided I wanted to try to be as sold out for Christ as they are.Sofar I've just begun to scratch the surface.  But I hope you'll join me on this journey and come out of churchianity and into the true, total, transformational way of radical dedication to Christ in all of life's times and in all fullness of Spiritual power.