Monday, July 26, 2021

Removing the Cover from your Christian Relationship

I want to challenge you to develop a more authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. As much as we talk about how it's about a personal relationship, do we really take it far enough?  Do we really spend real time with God everyday?  Do we really dive deep into the word?  Do you in your prayer time actively seek the face of God? 

That is my challenge to you today. Go deeper with your walk with God.  Take it further.  Spend more time with God.  I'm saying challenge yourself to really spend time with Him.  Set a goal of 45 minutes a day, or an hour a day, or more. Fast and pray regularly. 

Develop the relationship and make it a passionate love relationship.  Go further with it.  Go deeper in with God.  That's what I'm challenging myself to do.  

I don't want to be a luke-warm Christian.  I don't want to be a hypocrite who pretends to be in relationship, but barely puts any work into it.  I want to be so in love with Jesus Christ that it bursts forth out of my being. 

I want to take it so far that it begins to feel unthinkable to ever sin. 

I want to have a zeal for evangelism and actively sharing the gospel every day. 

I hope that's what you want too. 

When you pray, seek God's face. Soak in His glorious presence. Delight in the Lord. Seek His will and plan for your life.

Seeking God's face is a practical thing you can do in prayer. What I do is repeat the phrase, "Lord, I seek your face." What this does is helps you access God's presence during prayer, and then once you've accessed God's presence you begin to sense His will for your life and what He is calling you to do. Seek His face.  Soak in His presence. Soaking is a practice of repeating the phrase "Lord, I delight in you." And as you do, you'll begin to feel the joy of the Lord wash over you, usually after about 20 minutes.  It's an amazing experience of washing in His presence. Try it. It's amazing. 

Live out holiness. Challenge yourself to grow spiritually. Be a real, on fire Christian who passionately loves Jesus and lives actively serving Him.

What would it take to have a daily conscious contact with God? What would it take to practice the presence of God everyday just like Brother Lawrence? That's what I want. A daily walk with God, where I'm living in the 4th dimension of existence, and every moment is guided by my relationship with God.  

I hope you want that too. Fight for that. Fight for your walk with Jesus.  Stoke your fire. Keep it burning brightly.  That's my challenge to you today! 

Monday, July 19, 2021

The Water, The Wilderness, & The Wedding

The grand mystery of our universe could be the wonder at the complexity of the stars and planets and galaxies. It could be the cells of the human body, DNA, or the united function of the human body systems, or the brain, it could be human works of art, or the mystery of how an unborn baby forms in the mother’s womb. Though these things are mysterious and enchanting, though they are beautiful and complicated and even strange to us, they all pale in comparison to the grand mystery of the life of Jesus Christ, the God-man.

Sometimes we brush over this too easily. We repeat it in our creeds and doctrines, Jesus Christ was the God-man, fully god, fully man, born of a virgin, come to save sinners. Right? It is true. But slow down a bit. Jesus is actually God inhabiting a human body, coming into the world. We have it written down and reported by people like Matthew, who was there to witness Jesus life personally, same as John, or people who gathered information after, like Luke or Mark.

But to understand how we should live as human beings, we have to understand the God-man, the person who it is said in the scriptures, made the universe, the earth, the animals, and the human race. It was all done through Jesus. Jesus was with God in the beginning, the bible tells us. What does that mean? Many have wondered at this.

Who is Jesus? That is the greatest and most important question of life itself. You need to find that out. You need to investigate that and understand that.

Last week we talked about the birth of Jesus, the circumstances surrounding his birth, and how the Christ was predicted throughout the Jewish Old Testament scriptures.

We have only the records of Jesus birth, and his dedication at the temple 6 days later, and then one solitary incident when he was 12 years old, and visiting Jerusalem for a festival. But other than these moments, we don’t get any information of Jesus’ life from birth to thirty years old. So we’re now jumping forward in time to Jesus at age 30, when he begins his public ministry. You could say that before this Jesus was in hiding, carefully preparing for the moment when God would call him to begin his mission.

During this time, you have two religious sects vying for spiritual authority over Israel, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. As you recall throughout the old testament Israel had struggled to obey God and the law of Moses. This led to great destruction and loss for Israel. Israel had split in two, then the north was conquered by Assyria, and the south was conquered by Babylon. But we know that 70 years later Israel returned from captivity in Babylon and rebuilt the country. So the latest attempt of Israel to stay right with God, is the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They have developed a sort of religious legalism. They’ve added all sorts of rules and regulations on top of the law of Moses, they call it the oral tradition. This is a desperate attempt, by a conquered people, to somehow get the people to honor God properly. But instead it’s turned into a legalism that is strangling the people of real relationship with God.

In this moment in history, a wild man named John the Baptist, is out in the wilderness calling people to repent of their sins. And he is baptizing them in the Jordan river.

One John is out there, preaching and baptizing, when Jesus of Nazareth appears, and steps down into the waters and speaks to John.

Matthew 3:13-17 says, “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

This is one of the first records we get of Jesus early life. He is baptized by John, perhaps as a first moment to declare, so it begins. Immediately after this we see the wilderness experience:

Luke 4:1-13 says, “Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,* 2 where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.

3 Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’* ”

5 Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. 7 I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”

8 Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say,‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’* ”

9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! 10 For the Scriptures say,

‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. 11 And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’* ”

12 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’* ” 13 When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.”

The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tested. Jesus really had to prove that he had conquered sin, and was pure and righteous. So he was tested by Satan. And I think all of us end up being tempted by Satan, and God uses these moments as a test, to see if we really love Him, or the sins of the world. But Jesus overcomes Satan. He refuses the 3 temptations, and has victory over the adversary.

The next event we see is the wedding that Jesus attends. From John 2:1-12 (ERV) 2 Two days later there was a wedding in the town of Cana in Galilee, and Jesus’ mother was there. 2 Jesus and his followers were also invited. 3 At the wedding there was not enough wine, so Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

4 Jesus answered, “Dear woman, why are you telling me this? It is not yet time for me to begin my work.”

5 His mother said to the servants, “Do what he tells you.”

6 There were six large stone waterpots there that were used by the Jews in their washing ceremonies. Each one held about 20 or 30 gallons.

7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them to the top.

8 Then he said to them, “Now dip out some water and take it to the man in charge of the feast.”

So they did what he said. 9 Then the man in charge tasted it, but the water had become wine. He did not know where the wine had come from, but the servants who brought the water knew. He called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “People always serve the best wine first. Later, when the guests are drunk, they serve the cheaper wine. But you have saved the best wine until now.”

11 This was the first of all the miraculous signs Jesus did. He did it in the town of Cana in Galilee. By this he showed his divine greatness, and his followers believed in him.

12 Then Jesus went to the town of Capernaum. His mother and brothers and his followers went with him. They all stayed there a few days.”

Jesus and his followers visit a wedding. Weddings in Jewish culture are very important. The celebration often lasts for days. It would involve feasting, wine, dancing, and singing. But the organizers run out of wine. And this is very embarrassing for the married couple. So Jesus mother Mary asks Jesus to help. But Jesus reminds his mother that he can’t reveal himself by performing miracles right now. Jesus knew he had to be very careful about the timing of the events of his ministry. But who can say no to mom? Not me. Nor did Jesus.

Jesus agreed to help, and saved the couple a great deal of embarrassment. It’s a great reminder that Jesus cares about the little things in our lives, not just the big things. He cares about fun and joyous times, and wants us to be happy. That is very comforting.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Messiah in the context of Jewish History

Normally when we talk about the arrival of the messiah we’re talking about it in the context of Christmas season and we end with a very colored picture, seeing Jesus in the context of Christmas trees, bells, candy canes, and lights. But today, I’d like to shift our perspective, and we shall try to see the coming of the messiah, in the context of the Old Testament history of Israel.

That’s what we’ve been studying the past few months, all the way from Genesis to Malachi.

What have we learned from Genesis and the fall to Esther and Nehemiah, and everything we’ve seen of Israel’s failure to follow God: We’ve learned that humanity struggles to properly follow God. One generation follows God, the next generation begins to turn away. The next generation doesn’t even remember that God exists.

But God’s plan is proceeding forward. Israel was formed. It was to be a nation that would be holy, special, a nation of priests. And it seems like the original plan was for the messiah to come, and lead the holy nation of priests to win the entire world of Gentiles to Christ. Obviously, it didn’t go quite as planned, but never-the-less here we are today, gentiles worshipping Jesus. So either way, God makes sure his plan moves forward.

The entire history of the world itself, turns on this moment. The entire purpose of this temporary human journey on this fallen Earth planet is for humanity to be brought back into right relationship with God.

But our sin was the big problem none of us could solve: We lie, we cheat, we steal, we manipulate others, we are selfish, lazy, and mean to others. We gossip, we kill, we mistreat and we fail to help those in need. Our sin is the great problem.

Adam and Eve sinned against God. And it began there. Today 6000 years later, sin is the problem. But 2000 years ago, a certain individual came into the world, to deal with the sin problem once and for all.

The entire Old Testament foreshadows and predicts the coming of a mysterious messiah figure, who would make everything. A messiah, a savior, someone who could become our hero, our savior, our friend, and our God.

After the events of Nehemiah and Ezra, we see a period of 400 years of silence in the Bible, before God speaks again. This is similar to when Israel was enslaved in Egypt. 400 years of silence. 400 years. And during this time, Israel is conquered by the Roman empire. The Roman empire at this point in history controls much of present day Europe, all the way across northern Africa, and the middle east, including Israel. The romans impose heavy taxes. Augustus is emperor of Rome at this time. And he orders a census. Fairly common, it’s a good way to find out how to tax people even more. This requires everyone to return to their own home town to register with the census.

During this cultural backdrop, we see a very strange thing happen one night. There is a new star in the night. A woman named Mary was told 9 months earlier, that she would carry the son of God in her belly. She would give birth to the son of God. Mary and her husband Joseph however are caught in the journey to return to their home town, Bethlehem, for the census.

They live in Nazareth. But they’re caught on the road, in Bethlehem, when Mary goes into labor. How often do we find ourselves in similar circumstances?

I would probably feel pretty upset. God is requiring us to do this, yet the Romans are forcing us to travel to our home town. We’re stuck on the road, with a pregnant wife, the road is dangerous, thieves can come and attack. And so it’s late at night, probably, and they finally arrive at Bethlehem, but they can’t find anywhere to stay. The hotels are all full up, probably from people traveling to their home towns to register for the census. Lots of people traveling. So they’re going from house to house. No one is answering. They got no room. Finally one person says, hey, you can go in my barn. At least you’ll have some shelter there. And the son of God, the king of the Earth is born in a manger. Crazy, right?

Given that Jesus is the messiah, the son of God, shouldn’t he be in a giant palace, the richest, the wealthiest, the wisest, with all the great scholars and wise men and women of the world right? Nope. That’s not how God does things. This world tends to want to ignore God, reject God, and even laugh at God. Our society is quite similar. Do you see the most influential people of Owosso in this church today? Or the wealthiest? Nope. Maybe in the past in America the rich and wealthy went to church to keep up appearances. But not really anymore. They prefer to ignore God or pretend God doesn’t exist. They pursue wealth and power. That’s the way of the world.

God doesn’t work that way. When Jesus came, he didn’t gather together the most powerful romans, or philosophers from Greece, or holiest Jewish rabbis, no, God is very different than that. Jesus came to a fishermen, a tax collector, a prostitute, beggars, blind and deaf people, that who Jesus comes to.

So guess what? If you’re here today, and you really believe in Jesus and really follow Jesus and love Jesus, you’ve found something more valuable than all the money in the world.

Because guess what? When Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, or Elon Musk, owner of tesla, or Bill Gates, owner of Microsoft pass away, none of their money will go with them. And they will probably go to hell, because as far as I know, none of them claim to be Christians. That 212.4 billion dollars that belongs to Jeff Bezos, it will all be gone. None of it will matter.

You’ve found Jesus, you have more than all of those rich billionaires combined. Isn’t that amazing? And every good deed you do in life is material to build your mansion in heaven. So make sure you’re rich in good deeds in Christ, because you’ll have a beautiful ornate home in heaven.

A star in the night sky, Joseph and Mary hiding out in a barn, it’s a pretty humble moment isn’t it? But do you know about what happened when Mary first found out she was pregnant? Mary and Joseph were just dating at the time. It says from Matthew Chapter 2, 18-25 “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[d]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”

Isn’t that pretty interesting? Joseph finds out she’s pregnant and say alright, I’m gonna divorce her. She obviously cheated on me. It’s not until he hears from God, that he changes his mind and decides he is still going to marry her. Sounds historical to me. Because it’s kind of embarrassing. It doesn’t sound legendary. It sounds like history.

So we bounce back to the moment of Jesus’ birth. Mary is giving birth, and there is a star hanging over the barn where shes doing so. And it says in Luke 2:8-20 “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

So you’ve got shepherds, shepherds was like a job that people didn’t really think very highly of. Like, maybe garbage truck drivers, not to say that’s a bad profession, it’s a fine thing to do, it’s just not like, considered prestigious.

God works in mysterious ways that we can’t quite predict. He doesn’t get born in a palace, but a manger. But we know that in the next life Jesus will sit on a throne in a massive palace displaying the glory of God. But in this world, this sinful world controlled by the devil, God is born in a manger, as Jesus Christ, the son of God.

Jesus comes, God comes in human form, to become our new king, our new president, our new leader. He takes over where Adam left off. Adam messed things up. Adam and Eve fell into sin. They disobeyed God and tried to play god for themselves. They stole from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And humanity has been lost ever since. We try to play god. We try to run our own lives. And it just doesn’t work. We need God to run our lives.

Jesus comes to save us from our sins. He comes to deliver us from our sins. To wash away our sins. Jesus makes us new people. People fit for a new world. That’s the whole plan, leave this world, become part of a new world, the new universe, the new planet Earth, the new city of God. Paradise.

But we must be cautious to remember, what happened to Israel? In the Old Testament? Remember the repeating loop of sin? For a while they follow God, then they would fall away, begin following false gods, begin falling into sin, and they lost their way. The generation, that saw the escape from Egypt, saw the red sea parted, was the generation that fell away, and died in the wilderness, because they disobeyed God over and over.

We see that same cycle of sin repeating in our world today. It’s the same thing in the United States, in the past many followed Jesus, today most seem to reject Jesus, they don’t remember the miracles God has done in the past. They think they are wealthy because of their own ideas and because of their American hard work. But it isn’t true. God provided all this wealth and abundance around us in America. I was recently in Cancun, Mexico. We stayed in a beautiful part of Cancun, in the hotel district. This area is strictly protected, because it is very dangerous for visitors to come other parts of the area, where they could be stolen from, kidnapped, or swindled. We’re very lucky for the safety and abundance we have. Don’t take it for granted. Give God the glory.

Don’t fall back into sin. Continue to follow Jesus. Live a pure holy life, and we can escape the repeating cycle of sin that has destroyed so many in Israel’s past, and even in our own time.

Jesus changes everything. His coming changes everything for Israel, and for the world. We’ve finally made it to the new testament. And you’ll see just how everything is changed by the coming of this mysterious messiah.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

How to Overcome the Matrix: What is the Matrix? How do we Escape the Matrix?

Do you want to know what it is? The matrix? It seems like you do. Something brought you here. Something within you that longs for something more. 

So what exactly is the matrix? The matrix is the grid of thoughts, ideas, beliefs, customs, philosophies, and unspoken codes that manipulate us into following a road that leads nowhere.

The goal of the system around us is to successfully lead us to our own enslavement.  

It functions from birth to condition us toward a certain secular modernist mindset. It functions in the entertainment realm. It functions in the public school system. It functions in the norms shared and developed by our friends and neighbors. It guides us k-12 toward a certain set of beliefs about the world around us. The process continues into college and/or the business world. It solidifies in the drive to attain wealth, status, power, possessions, and influence in society.  

Yet we can all sense that something fundamental is missing in our lives. There is a fundamental emptiness in each of us that can't quite be contained.  It can't quite be filled by any experience or substance. It can be temporarily drowned out. But it is never quite satisfied. It is a gaping maw within each of us that can't be filled. It is a bottomless pit that is never filled.

This bottomless pit urges many, many of us to ask the question: "What is the matrix?" 

It urges us after the busy day of work and play to ponder and walk into empty places trying to understand what the emptiness within us means. 

This is the beginning of the journey in which we escape the matrix. I call it the process of the night train. We begin to walk into empty places, leaving behind the busy world, at least mentally, and we begin to sonder into another world.  We walk into emptiness. Why? I'm not exactly sure. Maybe because emptiness is quiet. And beautiful. 

We can spend weeks, months, and even years in the emptiness, pondering, yearning, and dreaming.  But eventually something magnificent happens.  In the night, a train appears, and we board the train, and it takes us away.

Of course I don't mean a literal train appears, and takes us away. Instead, it is a metaphorical train. This is the moment when in the emptiness, the truth finds us. And the truth will find us.  Of course there are other ways to come to know the truth and escape the matrix.  Many, many routes lead out of the matrix.  But for me, I went by way of the night train.  I'm sure some of you have done so as well.

The night train is what some might call prevenient grace. It's the guiding force that leads us toward the truth.  And in a very real way it "takes us." We would otherwise wander in emptiness forever and never come to any knowledge of the truth. Without the train we would be lost.  And we don't really deserve the train either.

And boarding the train I don't think we even know what it is. But we can feel what it is.  It's something very sacred.  So we board the train and we realize we have a ticket in our pocket with great surprise. We've been invited. The darkness and emptiness was the train station. But if you never wander, you'll never find the train.  But as I said, there are other routes out of the matrix. This is just the one I experienced.

The train takes us away into the night, chugging along through dark valleys, and mysterious meadows, through mountains and across rivers, through the night. Eventually the train brings us to our destination. An underground cavern.  And we climb into the underground cavern and in the cavern we find the truth.

The truth is in some ways like a pair of glasses we put on. Like that movie "They Live" we begin to understand what the matrix is. We see that entertainment conditions us. We see the propaganda of the public school system. We see the extremism of the university system. We see the corruption of the political and business realms. We begin to see the spiritual battle that is being waged all around us. 

You've been thoroughly indoctrinated to believe that the material universe is all that exists. This is false. There is a spiritual realm that exists all around us, and in this spiritual realm is where the battle for our souls is fought. 

That is the real, fundamental truth of reality: You have a choice to make.  The choice is hidden from you by the system, as much as possible. The goal of the system is to build a false reality around you that is so complete and seamless that you make the wrong choice without even realizing there is another option.

You have a choice to make. That is the key function of this universe. Your choice, and what preceeds from your choice. And it's repeated each day, until you die. Choice, choice, choice... free will. And how you will use it as a free agent.

You are being graded based on your decisions. Which means the fundamental reality of the universe is moral and ethical in nature.

The choice is wide-ranging, expressing itself in infinite ways. But each choice can be broken down to two choices. There are two basic choices we can make. Choice 1, rebellion. This is the state the system around you guides you toward. Through ignorance, through deception, an argument, philosophy, through ideology, through the appeal of pleasure, whatever the scheme is, it's all designed to deceive or manipulate you into embracing rebellion. Rebellion against God. Rebellion against the moral nature of the universe. Rebellion to that which is actual. Rebellion through redefining reality to suite our own desires.

The second choice, the more difficult choice is loving the truth. Faithful trust in the moral imperative of the universe. Embracing reality as it truly is. Obedience to the truth. Faith in the truth. Allowing the intelligent designer of the universe to reshape you into a new being, declared morally perfect, guided toward moral perfection, remade to be what humanity was originally meant to be, perfect, beautiful, creative agents in a flawless, sublime universe.

We have our lives to make the choice. And the default mode of each human is toward rebellion. That is the natural reaction of our minds, our emotions, and all that we are. We prefer rebellion, in various forms. It even seems heroic to us. It seems right to us. 

But we only have our lives to make the choice. Eventually time runs out. And the choice we make in this life, whether it's rebellion or the truth, is stamped for eternity, beyond the veil of this life. 

If rebellion is chosen, hell is the result. Destruction is the result. Quarantine, away from paradise, for eternity. Why? I don't know. That's above my pay grade. It's real though. 100% real. 

If the truth is chosen, paradise is the result. Rapture is the result. Joy is the result. Perfection is the result.  And this paradise seems to be without end, just as much as the other option is without end. Apparently each human soul is fundamentally eternal in nature, it can't simply be discarded or destroyed at the completion of life on this present Earth. 

That is the choice before every human right now at this moment in history. And we all make the choice every day. We either choose truth or we choose lies. We either slide closer to God, or slide further from God.  Each day it repeats. And we make our choices. 

Even as a Christian myself, I must admit that many days, more than I'd like, I don't live out what I believe to the fullest extent that I could. Given how much is at stake, why would I do that?

The Christian lives in a tension. A tension between the new nature in Christ and the old fallen nature that still clings to the soul until death do us part. If we choose God, the old nature will eventually be removed completely and the new self can get on with a whole new adventure in the next life.  What that adventure looks like exactly is once again beyond my pay grade, though I wouldn't even hazard the slightest guess, I can only imagine it will be an incredible adventure beyond what we could comprehend now. If we choose death, then the fallen nature becomes our permanent reality. The new man fades away, and we embrace the fallenness for all time in a place called "hell" "hades" "outer darkness" and so on.  Some Christians will no doubt through continual sin or apostasy (recanting trust in Christ) will attend to hell for all time.  All non-believers will attend to hell. Those of other religions will also attend to hell. It's quite shocking when we fully realize the stakes that exist right now.  I'm shocked by it.  But there it is.  

The tension is why we often don't fully live out who we are in Christ.  That's one side of it.  Our fallen nature. The other side of it is the matrix.  Even as Christians, we can be continue to be deceived by the matrix. Particularly in our present day babylon, the United States, we are constantly bombarded with propaganda straight from the pit of hell. 

It is increasingly complete, from birth to death, it is everywhere, more so than ever in history I imagine.  Television, internet, news media slant, social media censorship, commercials, billboards, Hollywood, celebrity culture, public education, universities, late night talk shows, government agencies, businesses, consumerism, luxury, entertainment, pleasure, on and on the list goes.  It's a stifling all encompassing Vanity fair that calls us day and night to compromise what we believe in Christ.  It's a political agenda that urges us toward darkness. It's a constant cry to live for self-pleasure instead of for God. It's a constant drum beat of lies, half-truths, deceptions, social pressures, agendas, and scientisms that all attempt to drive away from faith in Christ.  We all know so many Christians that live compromised lives, and seem to have more in common with popular culture and talk show rhetoric than they do with the Bible and Jesus Christ. 

The matrix has always existed to a certain extent in every culture and society in the world. It has existed since the moment of the fall when the kingdom of darkness gained control of the world we live on. It's always been here to some extent.  Abram faced it outside of Sodom and Gomorrah. Moses faced it when he led the people out of slavery in Egypt. Joshua faced it in his battles to take the promised land. Solomon faced it in his marriage to many foreign wives.  Daniel faced it in exile in Babylon. The Jews faced it under the oppression of the Romans. Perpetua faced it when her father insisted she give up the faith and evade the arena. The early church faced it time and again in the persecutions. Martin Luther faced it in his battle against the sale of indulgences. John Wesley faced it as he fought to rally the dead churches of his day to revival. William Booth faced it in his campaigns against the evils of darkest England.  Mother Teresa faced it in Calcutta, gathering the abandoned children to safety. Richard Wurmbrand faced it in Romania when the communists took over the church and imprisoned him. Today Christianity is the number one most persecuted religion in the world.  But no one seems to care too much.  It doesn't fit the news media's narrative of colonial imperialist oppression by Christians.  

It’s important to remember that we reside in enemy territory. There is a great tension between us and the world.

The battle we face in the west is not yet at the stage of dying for Christ. It is a battle of social pressure. It's a battle of political ideologies. It's a battle of Christians being lost to deception and worldliness. The battle is within ourselves though.  Someday soon it will be against forces outside ourselves that want us dead. Today it's a battle within.  The battle between rebellion and truth. I fight it everyday. We're all our own worst enemy. He who can conquer himself is greater than he who can conquer a city. Remember that. 

How do we escape the matrix? The escape is found in Jesus Christ of Nazareth. No one wants to hear that, but it's the truth.  It was the last option I wanted. But here we are. And I've accepted the truth.  We are our own worst enemy.  I needed Jesus to come within and change me from the inside. Because the truth is I can't do much of anything at all without Christ inside me guiding me on the right path.  That is where the night train leads. It leads to Jesus. No one said we would like where the train takes us. But I've found it's quite more beautiful than I had thought. 

I realized I had propagandized not only about everything else in the world, but about Jesus and Christianity as well. I had been plastered with false ideas about these things, no doubt to keep me away from exploring them. Such a clever enemy we face. The lies of the matrix try to paper over Christianity with lies, darkness, evil, and sin. It tries to drag Jesus down into the muck, at least from our perspective, so we see it as just another dead end. But when we toss out the old false ideas projected by the matrix, what we realize, what I came to realize was, Jesus is really the truth.  When everything else fades away, Jesus is really real. 

That is the only escape from the matrix. That's how we board the hovership and begin our battle against the darkness, and begin winning minds to Christ.  But there is a second escape to be made. We can be brainwashed as Christians, turned into cancer cells to the body of Christ, I see this all the time, progressive Christians, Christians living in sin, lukewarm Christians, they turn and attack the body, instead of fighting to win souls and defeat the darkness, they turn and attack their own, they are brainwashed cancer cell Christians, who actually fight against their own brethren in Christ, because they've been successfully propagandized by the world. The second escape is effected by the Holy Spirit. Christ has delivered us from the matrix's total control of our internal world.  The Holy Spirit delivers us from the external stimuli that would threaten to shipwreck our walk with Christ. The Holy Spirit reveals the truth about the world to us, and helps us to have our final victory over the matrix. The final victory over the matrix is when we overcome the world, when we overcome the darkness, and when we overcome ourselves.  It is the victory talked about in Revelation, the final victory over ourselves, evil, and the world.  That is the final victory over the matrix, when we look like Neo did, and we see the code, instead of the lies. We see the code itself, how people are propagandized, how people are deceived, the schemes of the forces of Satan as they manipulate the masses to do their bidding. That is the moment when we become deadly, dangerous Christians who pose a serious threat to the kingdom of darkness. That is what you must become. You must become a follower of Jesus yes, but you must overcome the world, the darkness, and yourself. Only then will you have victory over the matrix and escape the matrix forever. 

To go more in depth along these lines consider taking a look at the book: Escaping the Matrix by Larson & Boyd