The Point of No Return
Over the last few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to re-read a lot of books that I read several years ago that got me started down this path, as well as several new ones that have opened some new horizons. While discussing some of what we are learning about God’s passion for his Church and his love for the “least of these”…
-you know, a theology phase, then an apologetics phase, then a church history phase, and now this…a “love the least of these” phase – I suppose?
Although a question like this may have led me in years past to move into a “Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane Phase” you know, chopping off the guys ear, I actually thought it was a fair question.
Where else would I go?
A little over a decade ago, I recognized that the gospel was in fact true.
Not that I had thought it was false prior to that, but I had never acknowledged this reality or had to deal with its implications. Getting to this point didn’t come lightly for me. There was no profound sermon that led me to an alter, no life changing day that brought me to my knees. Just a slow and steady battle with God over the course of a couple of years to wrap my brain around the gospel, the bible, the so called contradictions I had been told existed between scientific truth and religion, and God himself.
In the end, I found myself willingly accepting the reality of the gospel as inescapable.
I “gave my life to Christ”. Or at least something like that. Looking back, I am tempted to say I gave my head to Christ, and He is just now actually getting my life….but that’s another story.
But the world still had its claws deeply embedded in my flesh. And for about a year after I became a believer, although I knew the gospel was true, I ached to return to the lusts and pleasures of this world (although they never seemed to provide much pleasure now that I think about it). And for a season I did.
Church on Sunday….bars on Friday….guilt in-between.
And then one day, I woke up with a realization. It was a realization that I only later found beautifully sketched by a man of similar folly who too had encountered his Lord, only two millennia before.
Jesus asks Peter if it’s “Just a Phase”
In the Gospel of John, after Jesus has amassed a sizable following, and had recently fed the 5000, he made the bold proclamation that he was the “bread of life”. He then proceeded to tell the large group of followers that they could only have life in them if they “eat his flesh and drink his blood” – not your typical church growth strategy…
On hearing this…many of the disciples grumble that his teachings were hard to accept, and he reminds them that it is only those who his Father enables that can come unto him. (Read the entire account in John 6)
Now get this:
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” John 6:66
Did you get that? They stopped following him! Just like that. He turns water into wine and a basket of food into enough for thousands of people to eat, but then tells them something they difficult to swallow…and they walk away. It was a phase for them!
So Jesus turns to the twelve disciples (his close posse) and asks them:
“You don’t want to leave too, do you?” John 6:67
And Peter (bless his heart) says the very words that had been ringing through my heart in the months that I began to realize that there was no escaping the reality of the gospel…He says:
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and KNOW that you are the Holy One of God” John 6:68-69
You see, like Peter, back in 2002, I realized that although I might be able to escape the reality of the Gospel for a night by going back to the life and lifestyle I once lived…that I had passed through a point of inescapable awakening to the fact that the gospel was true. However hard I tried to escape it, for a night, for a season…I would wake up the next morning subject to the same truth that I went to bed with the night before. God is still God, the world is still his, Jesus is still his son. And life is only available in Him. All else is a lie, and nothing else but following Him would bring satisfaction. My only possible response was to follow Him.
There was a time that I thought perhaps I could turn from this reality if I chose to (ignore it if you will) but that season had passed.
So my life took a turn 10 years ago when I realized that He was THE KING, and life was found only in Him.
A Second Awakening
But now, 10 years later…it appears that God has awakened me yet again.
Its difficult to explain, but if I tried my hardest I would say that the awakening I have gone through (to the scriptures, to the call of the gospel, and to the Person of Jesus and God himself) is as profound and “new” in me today as was the one I went through when I first understood the gospel.
Its like receiving a new set of eyes…(I know, this is weird – but I’m just saying it as it is)…and all of scripture has taken on a new light. Suddenly I cant escape the reality of God’s calling on His Bride to not just follow Him in mind and in doctrinal understanding but with every fiber of her being…and every penny in her wallet.
- Suddenly I realize that James 2 actually means that Gods church cannot claim to have real saving faith while wishing the poor well but not working to care for them. Its not a joke, or a hyperbole. If we aren’t stepping up to love and care for the physical needs of those who don’t have, then we don’t have a legit faith.
- All at once Matthew 25 – where Jesus divides his beloved from the cursed by the measuring rod of how they loved the least of these on earth – because they were in fact Him – becomes a blinding call to action.
- Suddenly I see that I John 3:16 is not just a gentle suggestion to consider loving those in need, but an actual mandate on anyone who considers themselves His follower.
Likewise, I can continue to go to church, give my tithe, and say my prayers. I can raise my kids to know the “gospel”, to not swear, and to wait to have sex until they are married. I can lead my bible study, do my “quiet times”, and vote republican….but tomorrow, when I wake up…God will still be the God who loves the least of these, the orphaned and widowed, the imprisoned and broken, the prostitutes and lepers and tax collectors. The hungry. The Hurting. Jesus will still be the King who serves by sacrificing of himself for those who by the worlds standard are not deemed worthy.