They Are All

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

-Hebrews 10:14

I have always had a very difficult time reconciling between the promised perfection of the gospel and the apparent brokenness of the world around me, never mind my own troubled beliefs. What I have come to be at peace with is that the reality of the gospel and the incarnation wins out, because it is true, no matter how many perceptions I or anyone else may hold to discredit it.

At this point, if you haven’t been keeping up with my recent musings you may want to read the precursors to this blog, here and here. They are the backdrop which is my personal experience and story.

My understanding has evolved; I was eleven when I was baptised, and I did so because I feared that my supposed sexual deviation would keep me out of heaven. That is how salvation worked for me, after all; say a prayer, make a declaration, get dunked under water for half a second, and come up a different person.

I was disappointed when it didn’t make me an asexual.

I’ve recounted often of my trouble understanding the whisper of Holy Spirit to me regarding the irrelevance of my purity in regard to His; I could not comprehend at the first hearing how His purity could be greater than my impurity. I tried to convince myself that, after all, He is God: of course He is greater than me. But that is a difficult thing to believe when you believe you are the blot of black ink on what otherwise would have been a perfectly white garment.

The reality, as I began to unfold in my last blog, is that my assumed impurity was no more real than the possibility that being dunked in a lake could secure my passage to heaven–as if I hadn’t ever done that before on any other hot summer. And even where it remotely real, His truly is greater than mine, and my life is found in His.

It is a difficult–perhaps impossible–thought for the church at large to receive, taught as we have been for so long of the existence and prevalence of evil in the nature of humanity. In a discussion regarding those who have recently come into the church who may practice manipulating tactics and grabs for power and attention–the usual repertoire of sins such as substance and sexual uses and abuses not to be wholly forgotten–I found myself wondering whether the issue was not more about our being able to discern the needs of these people behind the acting out of their shadows. Had I been mentored by someone in my teen years able to perceive the legitimate and desperate needs of my sexuality, who could have helped me to understand that the struggle I was perceiving was not a contest between sin and righteousness but my own Self trying to be known by me, how much better could I now know and accept myself?

My surprise then was, how can you blindly call these things ‘sinful’ or ‘problematic’ and not have the discernment to see the genuine need of the person? 

Because I don’t see ‘sin’, or ‘sinful habits’, anymore. I see brokenness. I see the authenticity in people severed in so many ways and the hopeless attempts of the subconscious to counterbalance. I see the genuine need–and wound–behind attention-seeking, and grabbing for power and control. I see the genuine need–and wound–behind much addiction. I have interacted with many people who willingly harm their bodies to the point of serious danger in many, many ways because they have a wound within that they cannot find any way to reconcile. The very small amount I do perceive should break the heart of the church–it does mine.

I want to address something that I have wrestled with for quite some time: the letter of 1 John. 

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our[a] joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

-1 John 1

I believe the majority of the teaching and preaching I have heard which references 1st John carries this message: don’t fool yourself; You are hopelessly bad.

I have seen it used as definite proof against the idea that anyone could be sinless because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross–in effect, a defence against Universalism, the completed work of the cross and any suggestion that a christian doesn’t need to continue to repent for their sins.

The theme of the book is quite simple: John lays out, ‘this is the nature of God, therefore anything contrary to this is not Godly. This is what light is, this is what dark is. It is starkly black and white.

But direct your attention to the introduction, particularly, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our[a] joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

Is it too bold to wonder why John and his fellows would consider a condemning message joyful? But condemnation is not the reality here, the reality is that God is sovereign, and we share fellowship with Him. We ARE in the Light. This is what our lives look like because of that truth. John is writing black-and-white truth absolutely–the reality of the Risen Christ and a world bound to His fate. I understand why he is writing so that his joy may be full because it brings me the same joy to share with others the reality of who they are in Christ–light, love, righteousness, sinless…perfect. You are in Christ–and in Christ is no darkness at all; it is a declaration of exactly the reality of the Last Adam.

There is an image which is an underlying theme on my mind tonight; it is a theme in the movie The Last Samurai; after his capture Nathan Algren meets Katsumoto, the samurai leader responsible for his imprisonment. On approaching a cherry tree, Katsumoto tells Algren, “The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.” By the end of the movie Algren and Katsumoto are inseparable brothers, and Katsumoto, dying in the arms of Algren observes with his last breaths, “Perfect. They… are all… perfect…”

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I’m not asking for a redefinition of sin. I’m not asking to change the Bible–on the contrary, I am asking that the truth of the Bible be honoured as it is given. They are all perfect, by one sacrifice by the glorious plan of the Incarnation. They are all perfect, and they are all in the Great Dance of Father, Son, and Spirit–and me.

I have to ask myself–because I do not see with eyes not my own–if I have discovered the holiness and righteousness and authenticity of something I once deemed sinful and abominable, why should I not expect the same experience to be possible in others? Why would I ever need to resort to assuming sin in a person when the sin I presumed in myself was a false perception? It is not so hard any more to reconcile what goes on in the world in light of the reality of the gospel when I now understand much more of the wrong I did myself in believing I was anything less than perfect. The question changes from ‘who can I save,’ to ‘who will share my joy with me?’

 

Meeting Jesus [John 1]

When Jesus met Peter he didn’t need an introduction.

This one’s for my peers. For the twenty-somethings, the teens, the church-grown pew-lings who grew up in his fan club but haven’t actually gotten to meet Jesus. They taught you Jesus-theory but failed to show you Jesus life. My heart breaks for you.

My heart breaks for you because I am you.

I grew up on Christian theory and equations for being good and doing the right thing. I know about feeling guilty because I know my parents want me to go to church but it just isn’t working for me. I know what it’s like to come to that point where you know you have to make your own decisions about Jesus, Christianity and church instead of just doing what your parents do.

But let me introduce you to Jesus.

There was this preacher guy named John, and people listened to what he said. One day he saw Jesus walking by and he said to two of his fisherman-punk-followers, “Look, there goes the Lamb of God,” and they left John and they followed after Jesus. Jesus was like, “Hey guys…what are you looking for?” and they just kind of had a social fart and blurted out, “Where do you live, teacher?”

Jesus just smiled and said, “Come and see.”

One of these young fisherman punks was Andrew, and when he knew where Jesus was staying he went off and told his brother Simon that he had found the Messiah, so Simon came back with Andrew to meet Jesus.

“You are Simon the son of Jona, but you will be called ‘A Stone’ (Cephas, Peter)–”

–As soon as He “beheld him”.

Jesus saw Simon coming toward him and he said, “Hey, I know who you are, and this is who you will be.”

I know you probably don’t get it yet. But meeting Jesus–really meeting Jesus–is more like being reintroduced to yourself. It’s like nothing you’ve learned in church because when Jesus meets you it isn’t theory anymore, it’s him, and he knows you.

I want to say the real question is “Will you let him in–let him speak,” like you have any say over him. But that’s not it. He didn’t ask Simon’s permission or even wait to be introduced (how did he even know Simon’s name?) The truth isn’t those formulas you’ve heard. The truth is, Jesus is going to meet you and he’s going to speak the truth of who you are and who you will be. The truth is he’s speaking it now–right now, here, in this moment, where you are right now. The truth is if you listen now you can hear the Creator breathing your heartbeat, and only you can hear it. It doesn’t take a good speaker or an emotional worship leader, all it takes is for you to stop and listen for the voice that you know deep down can’t really be just your head talking back, and believe him.

A few days after Peter met Jesus, Nathanael came along. It went like this; Jesus found Philip who lived in the same town as Andrew and Peter, and Philip ran off to find Nathanael. So Philip tells Nathanael that they’ve found the prophesied Messiah and Nathanael incredulously comes along to see. As soon as Jesus sees Nathanael coming he says to the others, “Look at this guy, he’s a true Israelite, there’s nothing fake about him.” Nathanael maybe still sounds a little incredulous as he says, “Dude, how do you even know me?” We’ve never met before. Jesus says, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip even called you.”

Boom. Nathanael proclaims Jesus Messiah, Son of God and King of Israel just like that.

Jesus grins, “You believe in me because I told you I saw you under the fig tree?! You’re going to see things way better than that; soon you’ll see heaven and earth collide.”

There’s so much I want to tell you that I don’t know how to yet. But one of the most important things is Jesus is a person! He’s real and actual! You can hear him if you listen; you can feel him if you reach out your hands. And soon, maybe tonight, maybe later on, maybe in the middle of the biggest storm you’ve ever faced, you’ll hear him. He’ll say “Child…I know you, I’ve seen you when you think no one is looking; here is who you are going to be.” And Jesus won’t be the same to you again.

Because when it comes to Jesus, you can’t just go on what someone else says; John pointed Jesus out to his disciples as the Messiah he had been heralding, but their lives only changed when they left John to meet Jesus personally and individually. You just have to meet and experience him for yourself and I promise you this: ‘He is not a tame Lion, but he is good;’ and you won’t walk away the same.