To the person who just picked this up...
As a business executive, I traveled over 200,000 miles per year and stayed in many different places during my career, but I probably don't know you, have probably never met you, and will probably never meet you, unless...
Unless you hunt me down sometime in the next million years or so because this little pamphlet helped you in some small way in that strange area of our lives we call 'spiritual.'
This 'spiritual area' is incredibly confusing for modern man. I am consistently amazed at the foggy notions of "God" and "Heaven" and "Salvation" that people have today, not to mention the 'weirdness' of the cults, religious fanatics, some TV preachers, "get-rich-through-religion" movements, etc.
You, like most people, probably have a sense that "there's probably something to all this stuff," but also probably don't have a clue as to how to cut through all the clutter, fog, denominations, bizarre terminology to get at "what's real". Not only this, but you probably know people who have been deeply enriched by it, and people who have negatively "mutated" due to it as well! Indeed, you, like me, may even have had bad experiences yourself, with religious militants or high-pressure religious 'salesmen' or early church rituals or obnoxious holier-than-thou associates. Coupled with the obvious time pressures placed on us by 20th century life, chances are good that you have never had the opportunity to consider this in a non-threatening, clear, 'net,' and balanced way.
Another obvious problem is that it's sometimes hard to tell the quacks from those who really have significant experience and wisdom in this area. And even when we do find a sincere and knowledgeable person in this area, often they are not able to explain what the real issues and options are in everyday terms. Instead they use terms like 'redemption' and 'Savior' and 'heaven' and 'Ask Jesus into your heart' and 'open the door of your life to God'...and expect us to know what they mean (and then to believe it).
Now don't get me wrong--many of these people are right on target--they have established a relationship with God, He is quietly at work in their lives, they generally have the right perspectives, they struggle with moral issues daily, and they really care deeply for others--but often they do not know how to communicate--to people like us--the 'what, why, and how' of their worldview /experience, as wonderful as it is.
In fact, I am one of these people (as if you hadn't already guessed that by now!) but I came into this 'too late.' I didn't discover this option and take advantage of the opportunity until a senior in college, over 25 years ago. I didn't have a religious background that used those terms, so I was confused for the first few years until I learned the new 'language.'
The result was that I had to work extra hard to understand what I began to experience in my daily life. And, fortunately or unfortunately, I just could not learn the lingo blindly; I was too 'intellectual' back in those days.
Again, don't get me wrong. I'm not any "dumber" now than I was then (although the older I get, the less prepared I often feel for life's complexity and challenges).
In all honesty, I've had to read and study and agonize (and even pray!) over questions of philosophy, history, science, archeology, world religions, etc.--to make sure I could trust (and enjoy) my God with a clear heart and conscience.
I discovered, soon after I set out on this quest for truth, that the God of truth was not afraid of my questions. (I often was afraid of the 'tough questions', and to make sure I faced up to those, "by coincidence" a steady stream of people over the years would pop into my life, ask me those questions, and then disappear--no escape for me!) I don't have all the answers, to be sure, but I have satisfying (intellectually and emotionally) answers to most of them. I get new ones every year (and many good ones from my kids and business associates) and maybe you will even send me a tough one!
I've run at the mouth (or keyboard) enough about my background and motives, I guess, so let me get on with it. What I would like to do for you, my friend, is to try to capsulize what I've learned--in ordinary terms--so you can evaluate its truth-claims and use that data in your search for significance and fulfillment. But let me warn you--as you probably know by now, with every opportunity comes a challenge. If you do come 'face-to-face' with a truth here, your challenge will be to deal with it honestly and in some cases, humbly. Truth and reality have a strange way of holding us accountable for how we deal with it...in our personal, professional, and social lives.
What I learned in the second twenty-five years of my life:
1. There is something 'beyond' the physical universe -- something that 'caused' this one.
The vast, vast majority of the human race has believed this since our beginnings. Since the day we began to write down our thoughts some six to eight millennia ago, we have shown that two things have dominated our thinking from Day One: God and money! Our earliest records of civilization document extensive economic systems and elaborate and well-developed religious beliefs. Long before religion was discovered by the power elite to be useful for social control, kings quailed before the gods and spirits of their lands and the lands of others. The concept of a god was not the invention of the powerful, to control the weak--it was somehow embedded in our thinking from our inception. Even what little data we have before the invention of writing shows depictions of 'supernatural' creatures and pre-historic burial practices evidence a belief in a 'life beyond this one' for our companions. The earliest records we have of religious systems show varied, robust, fanciful and often vain concepts of this 'beyond', but they uniformly point out that we have always believed in something powerful 'beyond' this physical universe.
The situation at the close of the twentieth century is not radically different. The vast majority of humans believe in some 'beyond' reality, which is somehow involved in the events or character of the physical universe. The vast majority of the western world is theistic or supernaturalistic, as are the basic majority of scientists and a sizable portion of philosophers (as shown by polls and membership in related professional organizations). The conceptions of this "beyond" vary widely, of course, but the fact of 'beyondness' is quite widely accepted.
And, I might add, the statistical trend toward belief in a 'beyond' is increasing. While some speculated fifty years ago that "science" would somehow remove all the 'gaps' and mysteries out of the universe (somehow assuming that belief in God's existence was somehow dependent on His/Her/Its/Their usefulness as a premise in a scientific theory!), the reverse has actually happened. Science has actually found some 'beyondness' right under our noses, some very real 'holes' in our physical universe! As I write this, the science of human consciousness has essentially called for a new paradigm of reality, to allow for the 'beyond' elements of consciousness; particle and quantum physicists have become convinced that a few types of elemental physical particles pop in and out of existence, from some virtual universe 'below the threshold of existence' (!), mathematicians and philosophers are talking about the non-physical "existence" of 'abstract entities' and 'ideals', and the astrophysicists of the Big Bang camp are staring "creation out of nothing" and "intelligent design" in the face and waxing mystical...
Now, I know that you don't normally arrive at truth by counting noses, and I can already hear in my head my mother, saying the familiar "Well, if everyone jumped off a cliff, Glenn..." Yet when faced with this almost uniform collective belief (of the entire human race) in a 'beyond', I also remember my dad offering the wisdom of "If you find yourself driving facing heavy traffic coming your way on both sides of your car--you are probably on a one-way street, headed the wrong direction!"
At a minimum, this argues that it would be very unwise to dismiss belief in some type of "beyond" out of hand. This is certainly enough data to make the reality of some "beyond" at least possible and maybe even probable.
But even my own simple experience supports the notion of some causal "beyond". As an executive, I know you don't make quality products out of nothing and without massive forethought, labor, and oversight. I know products don't create themselves and that manufacturing plants do not unfold smoothly by themselves from the basic laws of physics(!). Every tangible thing I have ever seen has been an 'effect' which was somehow distinct from, yet a result of, a 'cause'. Even these cause and effect relationships show the core meaning of "beyond" because a cause is somehow 'beyond' its effect, and the effect is somehow 'dependent' on its cause. "Beyondness" could simply be some kind of causal priority, causal 'distance', or even separateness. So, this notion seems reasonably intuitive to me.
And, as problematic as it might seem at first philosophically, the notion of a First Cause (to start the whole thing) that is itself "un-caused" seems much less problematic than some "infinite regress" chain of causes extending infinitely backward--but never having something to actually start it (entirely apart from the implications of Big Bang cosmology of an actual beginning of the universe).
As I write this at the keyboard, I may even be an analog of this notion. According to much current thinking in consciousness studies, my consciousness has elements in it that are 'beyond' the physical universe as we have historically considered it. And this 'beyond' agency is somehow influencing the physical nexus of my brain, and then my fingers, and then these keys, to produce this sentence. This seems reasonable enough and clear enough of a notion for me.
The level of precision of this concept of "beyondness" is somewhat lacking, but doesn't seem to be any worse that everyday concepts like "person", "volition", "cause", "despair", "logic", "wisdom", "good", "individual", "force", "field", "light" and so on. The fact that I cannot give really precise definitions for many, many of the basic elements of life, science, and experience in no way counts against their reality! And most 'important' words are almost impossible to define precisely without apparent contradictions (e.g. "light", "existence", "life") or circularity (e.g., "force" and "matter", "essence" and "attributes").
Accordingly, even before I get to any possible historical evidences
of this 'beyond' and the scores of philosophical arguments for the existence
of a "beyond"(and the endless debates about these!), it seems that a simple
belief in some kind of 'beyond' is quite reasonable. This belief seems
to be part of our thinking (evidenced by its trans-cultural ubiquity in
human history), one that is still growing in influence, and one with concepts
that find general illustration and practical support within our experience
(i.e., "beyondness", First Cause, causality, dependency).
2. This 'cause' has to be at-least-as-complex as this universe. The most complex unit that appears in this universe is the human personality. The 'cause' must therefore be at-least-as-personal as we are.
3. This 'person' [hereafter referred to as "Person" -- since this One is obviously superior to us in created power (and, to use a philosophical term, in "non-derivative existence"--see, aren't my word choices infinitely clearer than the religious guy?!!)] created a universe/reality that has an incredible amount of diversity and beauty in it. This Person could have made a world without color, without music, without the explosive variety of tastes, of flowers, of life forms, and of people (imagine New York City with only one type of face!).
4. This Person created us to have hopes, dreams, fears, and to constantly question "why am I here?", "what's the point of it all?", "how can I be happy?", "how can I make a difference?", etc.
5. Correspondingly, this Person made humanity with the ability to impact his world--for good or ill. So, we have the works of mankind in such far reaching extremes as Charlemagne, Albert Schweitzer, Adolf Hitler, Shakespeare, De Sade, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Michelangelo, Florence Nightengale, Lenin, Joan of Arc, Beethoven, Torquemada, Augustine, Genghis Khan, Booker T. Washington, Mao. Man has left his marks on the world-- both good and bad.
6. We have left these marks -- both good and bad -- on everything. We have left them on ourselves (we are able to grow and develop, but we never seem to reach our true potential), on our relationships (we are able to start, maintain, and enjoy personal relationships generally, but they never seem to reach their true potential -- and they take an incredible amount of work just to keep them healthy at all!), on our world (do we need to talk about pollution here?!), and on our relationship to this 'Person' (we often experience estrangement, indifference, or even hostility toward this One--we certainly don't naturally have an enjoyable and vibrant relation with Him, to say the least!).
7. The result of this 'mixed character' of our universe becomes apparent as soon as we try to find some "How Do I get Out of This Mess" data. All we can glean from it about this 'Person' is 1) that there 'is' One; 2) that this Person is complex and at-least-as-personal as we are; and 3) that we are somehow restless and wondering about our place in the universe and in history. It quickly becomes clear that we are not able to 'figure out' how to repair all the relationships, as well as our own characters, to an optimal state.
8. So we need one thing for sure, and one other thing, possibly. We definitely need reliable, clear, and sufficient information on 'what to do.' And...we may need assistance on 'doing it'--whatever 'it' is-- to complete the repair process.
9. Let's start with the information requirements--"reliable, clear, and sufficient." We cannot figure it out from the scant data by ourselves--either individually or in groups. We can form guesses, universities can form 'educated' guesses, and religious groups can come up with 'pious' guesses. The problem is that the opinions come in all sizes, flavors, persuasions, and conclusions! (The history of philosophy, by the way, has shown us repeatedly that starting with the finite, we never get to the infinite!).
10. We are therefore critically dependent on some communication/instruction from the "Person Outside." Socrates put this need quite clearly on his deathbed:
"All the wisdom of this world is but a tiny raft upon which we must set sail when we leave this earth. If only there was a firmer foundation upon which to sail, perhaps some divine word."Or more recently, Sigmund Freud...
"The meager satisfaction that man can extract from reality leaves him starving."11. What would this communication 'look like'? It would have to be in history (for us to have access to it at all), recorded (for us to have access to it regardless of our place in time), linguistic and translatable (for us to have access to it regardless of our language), and in 'everyday' language (for it to have 'more objectivity' than, say, art and for it to be able to talk about global issues--like death, despair, hope, faith, peace, alienation, lack of purpose, self-limitations, forgiveness--as opposed to more 'precise' languages like math or logic with their more restricted vocabularies). It would probably NOT be trusted to simple oral transmission but would be written down and archived as it was communicated. Since it would deal with the 'tough' issues like our moral failures or our post-death experiences, it would probably show up in those areas of life typically called 'religious.' Additionally, it would probably make some bizarre and incredible claims ("this writing is from the Person 'outside' the universe"--as opposed to the wisdom from some meditating monk or something) and would probably offer some evidence or data to support these unusual (to say the least!) claims. If it were motivated by a real concern to communicate important and/or 'urgent' information, it would probably bear an authoritative tone (perhaps even an exclusive one). Finally, a true 'message from this Person' might affect us strongly -- quotations from it may anger our pride, make us very uncomfortable and nervous, or calm our fears.
12. My studies and experiences over the past 25+ years have led me to the inescapable conclusion that just such a communication has occurred--and not just at one point in time but over a period of thousands of years. This Person interfaced into history at a number of points of time and in many varied ways. Much of this communication was written down and we have it in a 'religious' book called the Judeo- Christian Scriptures.
(By the way, it has always fascinated me how people 'evaluate' that Book. The vast majority of people have almost no first-hand knowledge of where it came from, how its transmission was protected, how its historical accuracy has been consistently verified, how alleged 'errors and contradictions' have evaporated over the last 6 decades of research, and what its basic teachings are. But...too many of these people do not consider it accurate, relevant, in-date, or of value to their search for meaning! It's the old "No, I've never evaluated it carefully or first-hand, but I know it cannot possibly be right!").
13. In rummaging through the many and varied religious "classics" that were candidates for being this communication, I have found this very strange book to differ from the others in numerous ways.
First, it claims hundreds and hundreds of times to be the "Word of God." It doesn't soft- pedal this bizarre claim at all. It never claims to be 'a consensus of humanity's most noble and sublime thoughts.' It never claims to be the 'insights' of a religiously privileged character or race. This book is either totally deceptive, totally deranged, or totally divine--there is no third option like 'a very good and insightful book'!14. Given that I have now found a source of data on the problem, what does this Communication say about the issues? (Get the Maalox/Dramamine ready - I'm going to have to cite some passages from this Book!)
Second, it strikes fear into most people's hearts! Quotations from the Bible abound in great literature, but taken into a religious conversation with a friend, makes us nervous! (Even later in this document, when I cite some data from it, chances are that you, the reader, will respond emotionally to it with either nervousness, nausea, or both--you watch.)
Third, it manifests and offers unique evidence for its 'Other-worldly' origin. This book has hundreds and hundreds of predictions of future events--some general in terms, but many very detailed with places and dates. To the best of scholarly knowledge today, not a single one of these has failed to happen. This is just not your basic human accuracy! It has survived the many major attempts to eradicate it, from the repressive attempts of Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) before the times of Jesus to the imperial decrees to burn all copies under Roman emperors. In spite of cultural, economic, and political pressures toward polytheism and syncretism during its writing and collection over centuries and centuries, it maintains a common theme of strict monotheism. It also has an almost confrontational character to it--what you might expect from a perfect 'Person.' It does not 'coddle' us--it calls us to accept responsibility for our personal failures. But it does not overwhelm us with them either. It communicates care and concern for our plight (without being overly melodramatic or compromising its ethical standards), and documents both its provisions for this plight and the steps necessary to 'repair' the situation.
Fourth, and most important of all, its message is radically different than all other literature (including most 'Christian' literature). It agrees, of course, with most other literature on basic tenets of good living (Ten Commandments and Golden Rule kind of stuff), but takes a unique position on the central problem -- our moral failures and their consequences. Other religious classics assert that the basic method of overcoming our moral failures and their consequences in our relationships (with ourselves, other people, the universe, and this 'Person') is by living better lives, doing good deeds, "walking the religious way", keeping some set of rules, doing your best, thinking positively etc. The main message of the Judeo-Christian Scripture is diametrically opposed to this solution (but not opposed to doing those good things, of course.)
[15. There is one other issue that comes up here - the old "you can interpret the Bible anyway you want to" issue. -- Sorry to drag you through so much stuff to get to the results, but as my mother would say "you'll thank me for this later." Without minimizing the difficulty of understanding every point, and every subtlety, and every reference in this very substantial book, the basic themes are really easy to access. (This, of course, would probably fit with the entire notion of why this Person would communicate with us -- it certainly wouldn't be communication if it couldn't be understood.) There are a few points to keep in mind on this issue.
FIRST, there are some passages that totally escape me, and there are some passages that are as clear as the nose on my face. There is a world of difference between trying to understand Ezekiel 1:6-10:16. What information can thus be obtained from the 'more obvious' passages dealing with our situation? (I will state the major point as a thesis and cite some of the more direct textual passages from the Bible. Some of the paraphrases and translations are mine.)Each of them had four faces and four wings. And their legs were straight and their feet were like a calf's hoof, and they gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides were human hands, As for the faces and wings of the four of them, their wings touched one another; their faces did not turn when they moved, each went straight forward. As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man, all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eaglecompared to John 10:10:I (Jesus) have come that people might have life, and have it to the fullest..Conclusion: It's a simple exercise in self-discipline to stay with the more obvious passages!
SECOND, there are almost always clues in the passage as to what each piece means (this is true for all great literature as well). Parables are explained later, references to earlier figures are amplified, principles are modeled.
THIRD, the science of interpretation of literature (hermeneutics) has a special area for sacred literature. One of the main principles is to note how the original audience responded. For example, if the people of his day wanted to kill Jesus because he claimed to be the "Son of God", that phrase could not just mean "good man" or "Prophet" or "creature of God" or something else -- it had to be 'blasphemous' by their standards, it had to mean something "more than man".
FOURTH, it has been my experience that some people try to 'hide behind' this issue to avoid confronting some important life-issues. This Work is not transparently clear (no serious world-class literature is), but it is much simpler in the basic areas than most people think.]
Thesis One: This Person has always desired fulfillment, significance, joy, and the real 'meaty' life for us. It is not a life without some pain or without some challenges, but one in which those occur in the context of growth, development, and achievement--leading to fulfillment. We only realize and enjoy these "benefits" when we are in proper relationships with this Person, with ourselves, and with other persons.
You have filled my heart with greater joy (Psalm 4.7) You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16.11) The Lord takes the upright into His confidence (Proverbs 3.32) I am the Lord your God. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it (Psalm 81.10) The fruit of doing and being right will be peace; and its effects will be quietness and confidence (Isaiah 32.17) I have loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)Thesis Two: Due to moral failures and shortcomings, all of us have separated ourselves from these relationships and their consequent benefits.
For all have done wrong and fall short of God's perfection (Romans 3:23) But your wrongdoing and moral failures have separated you from your God (Isaiah 59.2) For there is no one who does no evil (2 Chronicles 6.36) No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure (Psalm 101.5) Your eyes are too pure to accept evil (Habakkuk 1.13)Thesis Three: This separation is experienced now (e.g. broken relationships, hopelessness, disillusionment) and intensifies through time, before and after physical death. In fact, this separation is itself a kind of 'death.'
For the inevitable consequence of wrongdoing is death (Romans 6.23) They 'wasted away' in their failures to do right (Psalm 106.43) Evil results in death (Romans 6.16) The one who sows to his 'bad side' shall reap decay and disintegration (Galatians 6.8) Death spread to all men, because all men did wrong (Romans 5.12) The "Second Death" (the Book of Revelation) You have brought harm to yourselves (Jeremiah 24.7)Thesis Four: This separation has become part of who we are, and what we do. Any efforts of ours to 'repair' these relationships cannot succeed in restoring the original relationships. We are just not 'big enough' and 'good enough' to undo the damage.
The trouble he causes recoils upon himself (Proverbs 7.16) Neither can you perform perfectly pure acts, you who are accustomed to doing wrong or omitting to do right (Jeremiah 13.23) The arrogance of your heart has deceived you (Jeremiah 49.16) Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God (Hosea 5.4)Thesis Five: If these relationships, especially the foundational one with the Person, is to be 'repaired/restored' it must be done by Him. There are no other options.
No man can buy back from death the life of another or give to God a ransom for him--the ransom of a life is costly, no payment is ever enough (Psalm 49.7) When we were completely powerless due to our moral failures... (Ephesians 2.5) Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by men! (Isaiah 29.13) It is the gift from God (Ephesians 2.9)Thesis Six: He doesn't have to intervene at all, but choses to (this reveals something of His character in the process, by the way).
He gave us life, to show the splendor of His gentle kindness (Ephesians 2.5,7) But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us (Ephesians 2.4) We are not consumed, because of His compassion (Lamentations 3.22) For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son...(John 3.16)Thesis Seven: This 'bridging' between God and Man must do just that--it must join together in significant relationship two complete parties: God and man. In other words, the integrity of three things must be maintained in the transaction (who God is, who man is, what the separation is).
Thesis Eight: His 'solution' to this is take the 'separation' onto Himself, and graft us into another pre-existing 'relationship.'
Thesis Nine: The way this worked out in history is a bit strange (logical, but strange).
A. God the Father has an eternal son, outside of space and time, who shares His nature.Thesis Ten: The last piece of the puzzle is us. We must enter this relationship as persons, with the first personal act of any positive relationship -- trust. He may get the information to us through literature like this, 'harass' us by sending others of His followers, or drive us to Himself through emptiness or pain, but we must make a personal choice to trust him. We must affirm Who-He-was (the God who took on human flesh) and What-He-did (bore the full consequences of our moral failures in our place).Father, honor me in Your presence with the honor I had with you before the world began (John 17.5) Jesus answered "Before Abraham was, I am." (John 8.58)B. This Son has an eternal relationship with the Father that cannot be severed (due to the shared nature).In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...and the Word became flesh and lived among us (John 1.1,14) I and the Father are one (John 10.30) The Father is in me, and I am in the Father (John 10.38; 14.10)C. This Son volunteers (and the Father allows it) to enter the universe and take on the nature and form of a human (in addition to his Other nature) and took the name Jesus, in order to re-unite us with 'life'.I have come that they may have life, and they may have it to the fullest (John 10.10) The Son came to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20.28) Christ existed in the form of God, took on the nature of a servant, and was made into the likeness of man (Philippians 2.5-8) The Son came to find and reclaim that which was lost (Luke 19.10)D. This Son demonstrates a 'strangeness' similar to that of the Bible. He made exorbitant claims (the natives tried to kill him on numerous occasions), echoed the perspectives of the Communication, showed compassion but did not excuse wrongdoing, and demonstrated a life well 'beyond Man.' (For example, his closest friends lived with Him day and night for 3 years, yet testified that He lived a morally perfect life in every detail!--Imagine what our friends would say about us.) Like the Scripture, we do not have the option of labeling him simply a Prophet or 'good man' or a 'great teacher.' He was either Liar, Lunatic, or Lord!For this reason, therefore, the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath [by healing people!], but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God (John 5.18)E. This Son-on-earth takes upon Himself our 'separation' (in a public execution known as crucifixion).God made Christ, who lived a morally perfect life, to 'be' evil for us, so that we might 'be' moral 'right-ness' in Him (2 Corinthians 5.21) And He himself bore our wrongdoings in His body on the Cross... (I Peter 2.24) For Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us back to God (I Peter 3.18) This is really love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the sacrifice for our wrongdoing (I John 4.10)F. He did not stay dead (His eternal relationship with the Father produced a resurrection) and He opened up the possibility of 'grafting' us into His eternal relationship with the Father.God raised Him from the dead, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him (Acts 2.24) You killed the Author of life, but God raised him from the dead (Acts 3.15)G. This allows the Father to not compromise His integrity concerning the separation, and delivers the full consequences of the separation in history (on His Son).He did it [separated Himself from His Son on the Cross] to demonstrate his justice , so as to be just even when announcing that those who have a trust relationship with His Son are now morally correct before Him (Romans 3.26) My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? (Mark 15.34)[By the way, all of this was promised and described in detail over a 3,000-4,000 year period, just so we wouldn't miss it! There were between 100-200 predictions about the entrance of the Son into History--His birthplace, time, circumstances, early residences, characteristics, death, purpose, etc.]
Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul shall live (Isaiah 55.3) Through faith in Him [Jesus] we may approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3.12) To everyone who welcomed Him by trusting in who He was and what He did, he granted the right to relate to God as intimate children [and not just creatures or citizens or whatever] (John 1.12) For God loved this world so much that He gave His unique Son, that whoever trusted in that Son would not experience the final consummation of death in all its forms and degrees, but rather have that life which is characterized by stability, fulness, and eternity (John 3.16)Thesis Eleven: Once we have understood this and made a conscious choice to depend upon His work to 'bridge the gap,' He then fulfills His commitment by grafting us into His relation with the Father, and beginning the 'benefit stream' to us.
Taste and see that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34.8) For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love to those who honor and relate to Him as God (Psalm 103.11) You will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in Me will not be disappointed (Isaiah 49.23) He who has the Son has real life and he who doesn't have the Son doesn't have real life (I John 5.12) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation--the old is gone, the new is here! (II Corinthians 5.17)(It is critically important to understand that this is a personal relationship of trust that we enter into. We trust a Person, because of who He is and what He did. We do not trust an "im-person"--we do not trust our 'trust' or our 'church involvement' or our 'good deeds' or 'good intentions' or volunteer work or donations or 'prayers' or 'positive thinking' or anything less than the God-who-did-His-work-on-earth.' Remember, it is not our 'trust' that grafts us into a new relationship, but the Son.)
Thesis Twelve: You must stop reading this, and make your decision now! (Get nervous now-- I'm going for the close!) If this makes sense to you, it should make even more sense for you to overcome all natural hesitancies and reluctance and uncertainties (they will always be around) and DO IT NOW! It's pitifully simple to do. Simply tell God in your own words that you choose to trust in His Son and in His work to repair the relationship. Don't worry about 'feeling sincere enough' -- we never do. (That's part of our separation from ourselves.) Just tell Him something like this:
"God, I am not sure of what all I am doing, but I do choose to trust your Son Jesus to heal our relationship. I believe that He was God who took on flesh like mine, and that He took my guilt and its consequence upon Himself, so I would not have to in the future. Thanks for making it so simple and easy."(Go ahead, do it now, I'll wait for you...Dum, dum, dum, de dum...Finished? No? Trust me, do it now, I'll wait a little longer--look back at the prayer...Dum, dum, dum, de dum...)
If you did that just then, remember again it's not a prayer or these remarks that graft, it's the Person to whom the remarks are made.
If you have taken this 'step' and made this movement toward God, starting a relationship with Him based upon His efforts, then His favorable attention is upon you as you read this. Consider I John 5.13:
These things I have written to you that have put your confidence in the Person and Work of the Son of God, in order that you may have full assurance that you have begun a new life that will grow and deepen for all eternity.So, relax...that issue is now settled--the relationship is created, is eternal, based on that simple act of personal trust (simple, wasn't it?). You have just changed the universe somewhat. The issue now is how to develop this relationship, in order to reach the full potential of your life.
What can you expect now? Like beginning most other personal relationships, you will probably not feel a rush of ecstasy or an emotional "high." God is very quiet in His dealings with man but He is very thorough...He will pursue your good in every area of your life. You will also probably experience a chaos of feelings, thoughts, impressions, doubts, etc. The Scripture uses that peculiar phrase 'new birth' to describe the change that occurred in your life a moment ago. As a 'new life' is generally unfocused, inarticulate, and confused (like infants) so it will take a little while for 'it all to make sense' or for the patterns to become recognizable. And the obvious next step is not even a step at all--it's simply slow growth, as the benefits of this new relationship begin to show up in various areas of your life. You will see some new influences, perspectives, feelings and thoughts in some areas almost immediately--others may take years or even decades.
But, as in all new relationships, you will need two things: information and interaction. You can get a tremendous amount of information about Him from His Communication, obviously, but there are other sources of data that are important as well. This 'other data' basically comes from interaction with Him and with His 'social circle.'
You will want to make a habit of talking about everything to Him. (It will seem very strange at first, but will become the richest personal experience of your life later!) Ask about this, complain about that, thank Him for these, admit ignorance about whatever, beg Him for that, cry to Him about the pain, pour out your frustrations, open up your fears--everything and anything makes sense in that relationship. As God (in all that this name really means), He knows you so much better than you could ever know yourself--and He knows what will fill your life with richness and fulness and joy and contentment.
Also, please, please, please...remember, relationships require investments of time. (This one takes less, due to the simple fact that He never, ever misunderstands you--He is always patient, firm, wise, kind, gentle, smiling, accepting, and 'on your side' -- but it is impossible to manipulate Him!)
Just as you need to discuss your interests, ambitions, concerns, etc. with Him, you should begin to ask Him about His: what does He care about most in the Universe, what is His view on this event or movement or person? I probably don't need to tell you to not expect an audible reply to such questions, but believe me, He is more that competent enough to make His answers known in your life and experience.
You can also learn alot about Him from His 'social circles.' Others that have had this relationship for longer than you can function as 'older brothers or sisters' in sharing what they know. Leverage this! (Make sure you get the right crowd, though. You want people who are into 'the relationship', not into 'religion.' Christianity, not Church-anity. If you need a name in your area, write me at the address below.]
The next 72 hours will probably be seriously strange! You may feel very silly, very stupid, wonder where your sanity went while you read this booklet(!). You may have negative emotional, personal, or professional experiences that you will be tempted to 'blame' on your decision!
The basic reason for this is our mixed character and how 'both sides' are responding to this decision. What I recommend is to take your feelings with a 'grain of salt' for 72 hours, while reading certain Scripture (not religious literature) as much as possible. I suggest you borrow or buy a modern translation Bible (New International Version or New American Standard) and read the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, and Titus. (You can find the page numbers in the Table of Contents -- all Bibles have one.) Read them over and over until the 'strangeness' wears off. (Again, if you cannot find one, write me and I will send you a paperback one.)
You might also check the article entitled "What's Next?" at www.Christianthinktank.com/whatnext.html for suggestions on growing this relationship toward depth, significance, wellness, insight, and positive personal transformation.
I know it must seem a bit bizarre for me to assert that your life is beginning to change even as you read this. You will start to see new influences, see old things in a new light, have a heightened sense of moral struggle, notice things you never noticed before, find new strength and vision in your life. Friend, it goes on forever like this--forever growing, getting better, stronger, kinder, gentler, firmer, wiser--more like Him with each new experience (even failures will now play their part in sculpting our characters and destiny--previous failures may have served only to open us up to considering this relationship with God).
I know it sounds terribly trite, but it is the most subtle of wild adventures you can imagine. Write me, if you will, so I can mark the date down...and I'll call you in ten years and you tell me if I wasn't right!
Also, if you do have any questions or need to know of special resources, please feel free to write me and I will respond, by post or phone. There will be a lifetime of questions ahead, many of which are discussed at www.Christianthinktank.com. And after the 72 hours are up, make a copy of this little paper and give it to a friend...and maybe change the universe again.
Glenn (written September 1999)
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