Cindi and I sold our house just before Christmas, so there were no decorations and we had no major plans for the holidays other than getting packed and moved. We plan on renting an apartment in January, as soon as we get back from vacation. So this week we are crashing in St. Augustine with our dog while our belongings stay put in my sister-in-law’s garage. We have no sightseeing plans in particular, although we will be celebrating the New Year with friends at the end of the week. We are reading, doing a little necessary shopping, and sleeping later than usual.
But we did not miss Christmas. Yes, we missed the worldly trappings of Christmas, the things that pass away. But Christmas, as Christ intended it, is eternal and transcendent. It is about being saved from sin and receiving the promise of an eternal life that begins now, not when we die. Christmas, as most of the world celebrates it, is just another check mark on the calendar, and a gift that gets opened and then put away to be re-gifted next year. Then it’s off to Times Square to watch the ball drop a week later.
Three years ago we went into the full time ministry, where we woke up every day wondering how we were going to advance the Kingdom of God. We aren’t in that ministry as a vocation anymore, but those years showed us there was a different way to live than running in the American Dream Hamster Wheel. Maybe that’s why we were primed for the Bible study we just finished: The Forgotten Way, by Ted Dekker. It’s a study about how Jesus’ teachings and mission are fleshed out in our day to day lives. I have found that for me it has helped me break the plane between the letter and the spirit when I read the scriptures every day.
The New Testament tells us we are risen in Christ. Is there real power in this? Or is it just a legal position before the courts of Heaven? Is Christ really in us? Yes, and this should make us different and give us power that the world would recognize. Jesus prayed, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me,” (John 17:20-21). The reality of Christ in us should make us one in a way that is so compelling it convinces the world that Jesus was sent by God. But is this evident? I have only seen glimpses of it.
I recently saw The Matrix for the first time. I have been told many times how great this movie is and that it has a spiritual message consistent with the Bible. I was skeptical. After watching it, I am pretty sure the people who wrote and produced it were not trying to work the Gospel into it. But sometimes people inadvertently say and do things that reveal a spiritual truth. In the movie, people live in a world system that is controlled by malevolent forces. There is an underground resistance group that uses computers and advanced technologies to fight the evil robots that police the system. A man named Morpheus is the leader of this group, and they are able to program themselves to be as formidable fighters as the evil robots. But they can never really beat them. A man named Neo joins them, and Morpheus believes Neo is some sort of Messiah. One of the resistance fighters sells out the group, and the evil robots kill Neo. But Neo comes back to life, and when he does, he has the power to destroy the evil robot leader, and the rest of the robots flee from him. It sounds like a Messiah-resurrection story, right? But something huge jumped out at me that reminded me of The Forgotten Way.
Morpheus and his band was like the modern church: seeking to apply God’s promises to their mortal lives to make them as good as they can be in the flesh. Today we have an endless parade of authors and teachers telling us how to fix our finances, fix our marriages, fix our kids, fix our daytimers, and how to have our best life NOW. But Neo prevailed with supernatural power that defied explanation. At least the movie couldn’t explain it. Morpheus’ weapons were of this world. He was focused on making the flesh as powerful as it could be. This seems to be what the church tries to do today. But the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly. They are mighty through God.
Instead of living lives of the spirit, where we access the mystical power and presence of God, we are focused on the things below, not the things above. Our flesh, and everything our flesh craves, calls us every minute of every day. The spiritual is a periodic interruption of our worldly pursuits. That’s why the power of God is a seasonal event instead of a way of life.
This can be changed, but the way that leads to eternal life is a narrow way that few find. Jesus taught this way, but it has been largely forgotten. Changing this must be intentional, and it not something you can wait for the rest of your friends to get excited about.
We just gave away our copy of The Forgotten Way and the study guide, but we’ve ordered another. We are going to do it again, because we must keep insisting on remembering the way. I urge you to get these books, too, and follow along. I am supplying the link below.