“I have called Christ the ‘first instance’ of the new man. But of course He is something much more than that. He is not merely a new man, one specimen of the species, but the new man. He is the origin and centre and life of all the new men. He came into the created universe, of His own will, bringing with Him the Zoe, the new life. (I mean new to us, of course: in its own place Zoe has existed forever and ever.) And He transmits it not by heredity but by what I have called ‘good infection.’ Everyone who gets it gets it by personal contact with Him. Other men become ‘new’ by being ‘in Him’.” C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I made a terrible mistake several years ago!
I decided to read the Gospels without the religious lenses I’d acquired from many years of involvement in institutional religion. It was an experiment. I asked God to help me see Jesus through the eyes of a newborn baby, without any opinions, ideals or preconceptions. Of course, I’m still on this journey. And yet, as he leads me on, all that was once complex and ugly is becoming increasingly simple and beautiful.
In the beginning, it was a struggle, but it’s getting easier. We don’t know how brainwashed we are until we jump off the cliff of what we think we understand.
When a veil is removed, it doesn’t create something that has never existed before but simply reveals what was always there. To see Jesus more and more clearly requires the removal of all the veils that stand between us and him. Yet, when they are withdrawn, they don’t create a new Jesus but simply reveal the one who was always there. Those who have the courage to see Jesus as he really is, to peak behind all the religious veils that have blinded us for so long, will see “new” things — things very few have ever seen — that aren’t new at all but will liberate them from the enslaving bonds of Egypt (the world system) and Babylon (religious confusion).
As we move closer and closer to knowing him as he knows us, we will mature beyond the elementary principles of Christ to the more advanced principles of Christ that belong to spiritual maturity and will change us, from the inside out, into who we really are and have always been in him (Heb 5:12-6:1).
Whatever questions you have about who you are or why you’re alive can be answered by seeing and being immersed in Jesus. To the degree that we see him, we are changed into his likeness, which then enables us to represent and reveal him to everyone around us. Therefore, our greatest need is to have a fuller, more accurate, more intimate knowledge of who Jesus really is, without all the distortions and bondages we’ve accumulated by being exposed to and conditioned by man-made religious systems, obligations, rules, activities and ideologies that leave us with external standards void of internal transformation.
Who Are We Following?
I’ve often wondered if Paul the apostle would be happy to know that the Body of Christ today has patterned itself more after him than Jesus. And what about Peter, James and John? What about every Christian leader in history? What would they think? Are we following Jesus or followers of Jesus? God’s ultimate purpose is to have all things – including everything within us, from the lowest to the highest points – completely reconciled to and summed up in Jesus Christ (Col 1:20; Eph 1:10; 4:10). He is to be our message and only by and through him are we able to…
“…Present every person mature (full-grown, fully initiated, complete, and perfect) in Christ (the Anointed One).” Col 1:28 AMP
When we say we’re a Christian, what are we talking about? How do we define what it means? When we think of Christianity, most mistakenly think of church buildings, doctrines, religious services, the Holy Bible, Christian television, door-to-door evangelism, etc., but Jesus was so much more than these things. And yet, after he ascended, an infection began to set-in as the light and glow of his way, truth and life began to fade. Religious zeal, “good ideas” and “good intentions,” along with the love of money and power, began to replace simple devotion to and love for Christ and the way of Life he had modeled the previous three and a half years. And throughout the next 2000 years, those who claimed to love him exchanged his Truth more and more for a lie. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and, by them, the glory of God was exchanged for man-made systems and humanly-devised traditions. So, since they abandoned Christ and did not consider him worth knowing and following, God gave them over to their vile affections, degrading passions and reprobate minds, until all that was left was what we have today in the West – a Christless Christianity. I call this dead religion: a form of piety that denies the power of Jesus’ real life. Of course, we’ve all been bitten and poisoned by this slippery snake. We’ve all believed the lies and perhaps still do. And now, by today’s standards, we’re all “good Christians” living the “good Christian life.” But thank God this is changing as more and more people are giving up their “good” Christian lives to follow Christ who alone defines true Christianity.
Seeing Through Jesus
“The Scriptures must be understood in favor of Christ, not against him. For that reason they must either refer to him or must not be held to be true Scriptures.” Martin Luther
There’s a massive chasm between Christianity as Jesus lived it and Christianity as it is today. Why do we allow anyone or anything to define his life for us? Why do we allow other “Christians” to define what it means to truly follow Jesus Christ? Why do we let mainstream Christianity — Christian television, Vacation Bible School, Christian literature, professional preachers, and even other Christians — define the kind of life Christ meant for us?
“Jesus is perfect theology.” Bill Johnson
Jesus is the only foundation worth building upon. He alone stands at the center of scripture. The Book of Acts and the epistles are not the foundation of the true Christian life and cannot withstand the glory of that which he is building upon that foundation. The apostolic writings of the New Testament (as well as the Old Testament) are to be measured by and understood through the life of Jesus as seen in the Gospels. His words and deeds communicate the greatest wisdom and the most powerful truths of all time. He is the mark for the prize of the High Calling (Phil 3:14). Only in Jesus Christ do all things consist (Col 1:17), for He is our chief Cornerstone (Eph 2:20). He is our infinite reference point. And anything we see, hear, or believe that does not agree with the essence of his life should be thoroughly reexamined.
“Anything you think you know about God that you can’t find in the person of Jesus, you have a reason to question.” Bill Johnson
Of course, there are many things about the Lord that we do not understand and that’s okay. What’s important is that we see Jesus, who is the image of God and who alone reveals our Father. So, let us follow the advice that Martin Luther gave his students…
“Let us flee the hidden God and run to Jesus Christ.”
And, as Fyodor Dostoevsky once said…
“If anyone proved to me that Christ was outside the truth… then I would prefer to remain with Christ than with the truth.”
Jesus is the only lens by which every doctrine, belief, or revelation should be understood as we come into “…really mature manhood (the completeness of personality which is nothing less than the standard height of Christ’s own perfection), the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ and the completeness found in Him.” (Eph 4:13 AMP) There is simply no other worthy example of what it means and looks like to be truly Christian. All Truth is in him, embodied and personified in him (Eph 4:21). And he is inviting us to hear him, to learn him from him, to love as he loved, to let his mind be in us and to “…grow up in every way and in all things into Him…” (Eph 4:15 AMP). As Paul the apostle said in Colossians 2:3, 6 and 19…
“In Him all the treasures of [divine] wisdom (comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God) and [all the riches of spiritual] knowledge and enlightenment are stored up and lie hidden… [so] walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him… holding fast to the Head, from Whom the entire body, supplied and knit together by means of its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” (AMP)
By the way, Jesus is also the lens through which we can truly understand the Old Testament. Remember when Jesus appear to Cleopas and his buddy and, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, explained to them “in all the Scriptures the things concerning and referring to Himself“? (Lk 24:13-27) Can you imagine hearing that teaching? Jesus used the entire Old Testament to reveal himself, as he really is and has always been. And now, for us today, we can see him throughout the Old Testament by reading and understanding it all through him and his life [Note: Those who see the God of the Old Testament through any other lens than Jesus Christ, do not and cannot see God clearly.]. While the religious leaders studied the Scriptures, supposing they could gain eternal life through them, they failed to see that it was, in fact, the Scriptures (the books of Moses and all the prophets) that testify of and reveal him! Yet, they refused to come to him to have Life. These guys knew the written Word better than anyone and yet when the Word made flesh showed up in their midst, they couldn’t recognize him. We can know the Scriptures but if they don’t lead us to a deeper, more intimate relationship with him, then we’ll never enjoy his Life because knowing him is eternal life (Jn 17:3). He is the key to unlocking every mystery and he is the mystery itself that liberates us and fills us with joy.
How is it that the church has, in Dorothy Sayers’ words, “very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah” and “certified Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies”?
We’ve all, in one way or another, reduced the Word of God to our level of experience, instead of raising our expectations — resurrecting them, per se — to the level of his Word. In other words, we’ve redefined Jesus’ idea of “normal” through the narrow lens of our religious and denominational preferences, leaving us with another Jesus and another Gospel (2 Cor 11:2-4; Gal 1:6-9).
If our faith is in him but our view of him is skewed, our faith will also be skewed. If we want to do the works of God, to do his will, then we have to believe in the one he sent, not the one we think we know (Jn 6:28-29).
Jesus is “…the exact likeness of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible]…” (Col 1:15 AMP) “He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God’s] nature…” (Heb 1:3 AMP) But we really don’t know him. And since nature loathes a vacuum, we’ve filled the void by sewing all our religious concepts together to produce a patchwork, “Designer Jesus.” He created us in his image and we’ve been returning the favor ever since. And now, you have your Jesus and I have mine and it doesn’t matter if they’re nothing like him. In fact, if anyone dares to confront the difference, they’re avoided and ultimately shunned.
What would Jesus think if he appeared on this planet today in human form and saw what we’ve turned him into? If he came face to face with our version of him, would he approve? Would we like his assessment of all our “good work” done in his name? And, in the end, would our “new and improved” Jesus not say more about us than him?
When we read the Gospels, we don’t read them as they actually are but as we are, interpreting them through our religious conditioning. We have all our own maps, models, rulers, and scales, and he doesn’t fit any of them. And so often, because we dislike (fear) anything different, we unwittingly abandon or dilute him to feel better about what we don’t know or can’t explain. Then we follow him as far as we understand, subjecting him to our mainstream “Gospel Truth.”
It’s time to start from scratch, from the ground up. It’s time to renew our minds. Many of our traditional views of Jesus make us old wineskins that cannot be filled by him until our minds are renewed. What we believe about Jesus — how we see him and what we think about him — will influence the way we think, talk and live as Christians in our daily lives. Our understanding about him will also affect how we relate to him and the Godhead, how we worship, how we interact with one another and the Kingdom, how we see ourselves, and will ultimately determine our potential in life, both in this world and the world to come.
“If I want to know what the human race will be like on the basis of Redemption, I shall find it mirrored in Jesus Christ, a perfect oneness between God and man, with no gap.” Oswald Chambers
Jesus is not some distant, historical, glow-in-the-dark bronze figure that we cannot relate to. If you’ve truly given yourself to him, then you are one with him now (1 Cor 6:17; Heb 2:11-13). If you are reborn in Christ then God is your Papa and Jesus is your older brother (Jn 1:12-13; Acts 17:28-29; Heb 2:10). These aren’t just words. It’s all true. This is who you are. And as the offspring of God your identity in Him is more real than who you see when you look in the mirror. You are a new creation, a new species, a new breed. So, when I say that God is your Papa, I’m referring to a paternal relationship with Him that is much broader and deeper than any child has ever experienced with their natural parents or any parental figures they’ve ever had. And when I say that Jesus is your brother — since he is the firstborn son who brought many sons into glory (Heb 1:6; 2:10-11) — I am talking about a connection far beyond what you may have with any natural sibling. This is your heritage, your birthright, despite what you think or feel. Who you are in him is who you really are and your relationship to him and with him is what really defines you. So, it isn’t hard to understand that it is his life in us that invites us into a deeper expression of his life through us each day, doing what he did and so much more (Jn 14:12).
For years, I’ve been kneading the life of Jesus like dough, folding him over and over in my fingers, handling him until I’ve been hypnotized by the peace and warmth that comes by being enfolded and lost in his beauty and goodness. He’s changed me and is changing me still. Every time I see him, I somehow know and see my true self – who I really am in him – more and more clearly. As someone once said, “A search for Jesus is invariably one’s own search.” This is so true. Everything I see and hear is filtered through this ever-expanding awareness and revelation (revealing) of who he is and who I am because of him. And it is this awareness that drives me beyond the limitations of my predecessors to experience what has been considered impossible by my contemporaries. He’s blazing new trails in me, leveling mountains and filling in the valleys. It’s all a process, leading to greater peace and simplicity in him alone. So, when someone comes to me with some “new” religious bunny-trail or doctrinal fad, I’m unmoved – they’re all so silly and trite compared to the glory of Jesus.
No wonder Paul considered everything in life as dung “…compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]…” (Phil 3:8 AMP) Paul wasn’t talking about being saved so he could “go to heaven.” He was talking about much more. As he said, “…[…my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly]…” (Phil 3:10 AMP)
Paul understood that his whole meaning, purpose and life could only be found by being utterly swallowed up and consumed in the Person of Jesus, who alone fills us to overflowing with everything we need according to his riches in glory.
Prayer: Jesus, please remove the fog from my eyes and show me who you are, through your eyes, not mine, outside all I’ve ever been taught about you. Reduce me to pure and simple love for you and take full possession of my life, through and through. Amen (so be it).