Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Clearing Out the Cobwebs

Phew! It's not like I don't have some half-finished posts that I probably should have published, but it's been a rough go over the past few months. I won't mince words about that. I had a very poignant experience on Easter, as I previously wrote. I felt God's presence so intensely that I was brought to tears. Believe me, at this point in my life, it's a struggle for me to show emotion in front of people, including friends and family--let alone strangers. But I did. In a way, it was a silent but visible profession. I thought for certain that I couldn't stray after that, but I'd had a rebellious heart for a time.

Lately, I've been on fire again. I don't know what it was, whether I distorted some things in my mind, but I was searching for something that I just wouldn't find. Some of you might remember my post about losing our personalities at the resurrection. My friend Devan was a great (and always appreciated) friend in pointing out that my observation simply wasn't in the text. It seems that the crux of all my disillusionment was the fact that I was asking some of those mystery questions, some of the things we just aren't meant to know as humans. At this point, I might argue that some of God's greatest servants only achieved a state of obedience because of their willingness to simply trust Him. It says in many passages that Abraham was considered righteous, not because of his acts but because of his faith in God. Tonight, as I was reading through Philippians, I noticed something that eluded me before. With one seemingly negligible word, Paul spells it out: we just aren't going to understand the way this existence works. All we can do is place our faith and trust and destiny in God. For someone like me, it's hard to believe that something so simple could be all-encompassing. But it is. Pay close attention here:

Philippians 3:10-11
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Did you catch it? Here it is again:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, SOMEHOW, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Let's scroll up just a little bit to Philippians 2. Consider what Paul says about Christ's humility: "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped..." The first time I read the New Testament, I noticed something really strange about Christ's description of Himself. I won't retrieve the verses this instant, but He often spoke of how He could forgive anyone who wronged Him, but He just couldn't pardon anyone who hates God or the Spirit. I'm not certain we're supposed to take this as a finality, but the gist I walk away with is this: Christ came here to serve. That was part of God's ultimate sacrifice. That He lived a fully man/fully God existence without sinning is the only reason He was a sufficient offering to hold back God's wrath. It also required Him to lower Himself to the extent that He did. It also means, pay attention again, that even He didn't know how God raised Him. (Doesn't that explain how He doesn't know the hour of His return?)

But! (Again, this is crucial.) Christ may not have known how God raises people from the dead, but He knew to the very core of His being that God would absolutely, without fail, raise those who believe in Him. To grasp equality with God is to understand all these things. In human form, it wasn't even one of His pursuits. Instead, He lived solely to bring people to God through faith in Him, as He knew He would be raised on the third day. It required Him to humble Himself, a perfect being, before the rest of us, filthy sinners. Paul knew this. He didn't obsess over discovering these hidden truths. Instead, he strove to serve the Lord in accordance with His will, being satisfied that this service was worth more than omniscience itself. Christ knew many things, and He shared so much of it. But, if it's not overreaching, let's use a little bit of deduction here: if Christ had known how to raise people from the dead, if it wasn't just "somehow," wouldn't He have done it?

But you might argue that He raised Lazarus. It would be more consistent with His teaching, however, to note that He did so by God's Name, i.e. the power God placed in Him to do it. Christ was the one in whom God was "well pleased." At no point did He consider Himself equal to God, just as Paul so adeptly notes. Paul also says in other verses that we die with Christ and are raised with Him. We share in His suffering and His inheritance. That we are heirs along with Him. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our spirits yearn and pine for Christ because they knew, unlike our conscious minds, that they were created to be with Him.

Here's the rub, people. Salvation is available to everyone. We all approach God with different issues and baggage and identities and ways of perceiving the world. Heck, my interpretation of the above passages could be way off. But here's what I know: no matter how good you are, your best is never enough. But if you are capable of doing good, do it! Sin only drives a wedge between you and the Lord. God has so many blessings to hand down to those who would simply accept them and live in obedience. Even though our best isn't good enough, it would still bring us closer to God. And that, my brothers and sisters, is the only way to improve on our best efforts. We can never reach the summit, but woe to those who aren't found in faith when the Lord returns. As the prophets have said, He's going to return like a thief in the night.

Philippians 3:15-16
All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Perhaps what I'm saying has no meaning anymore. Perhaps it was meant to be taken in the context of Christ's life on earth. In other words, now that He's been raised, and now that everything has been placed under His feet, maybe the wording needs to change. Maybe He prayed to God down here and prays to God no more. Maybe this is one of those questions I alluded to above, i.e. we can never know. I'm willing to note all these possibilities. But I do know Christ intercedes for us. I know He speaks to God--what else is prayer but time in God's presence? The thing is, He seemed pretty blunt when He explained the pecking order: God above all. God, in turn, had His say: everything but God goes beneath the Christ.

Whether or not God makes it clear to me, I know I want to serve Him. If only my heart could convince my mind that the rest will sort itself out.