Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Call and the Vision

How do we reconcile a vision of being radicals on the streets with a vision of engaging our culture intellectually and philosophically? How do we keep from becoming ivory tower intellectuals or marginalized hippies? How do we mesh together the utter simplicity of a life truly following Christ with the philosophically rigorous worldview He brought us?

In short, how do we both live and communicate the gospel to people in every station in this world - from the heights of affluence to the depths of crushing poverty? I believe it must begin with a call to holiness - true, personal holiness: not a set of legalistic rules, but a hunger for transformation into the image of Christ and a desire to live as He lived.

And from whence comes that desire for holiness? What causes it to spring up in us, driving us forward toward the excellencies of Christ, forcing us to forsake all this world offers as mer rubbish? I believe it is encountering God as He is (not as we wish him to be): being confronted by His glory (the fullness of who He is). Love. Mercy. Justice. Righteousness. Anger. Wrath. Compassion. Creator. Lamb. Lion. Suffering Servant. Victorious Warrior. King of kings. Lord of lords. Almighty. Omniscient. Omnipotent. Omnipresent. Prince of Peace. Lord of Hosts. On and on the list goes - unending and infinite as He is.

Where - and when - do we find ourselves confronted with such a vision? Everywhere. All the time. But we must open our eyes. For His glory is in the radiance of a sunrise, the brilliance of a smile, the warmth of a close embrace. It is in the loneliness of the rich and the hunger of the poor and the uncomfortable comfort of the middle class: all reflecting His glory in their brokenness, calling out, "This is not what ought to be! Where is our hope, our deliverance?"

And the answer is a naked man on two pieces of wood, who spent most of his life as a carpenter in a backwards village in the back end of a corrupt empire - and the remainder of it as a homeless preacher who alternated between astonishing popularity and abysmal unpopularity. The answer is simple, and oh-so-hard: "Pick up your cross daily." He calls us to die. To stop thinking like the world. Do things God's way. It doesn't make any sense, because the ways of God are foolish to men.

People keep telling me, "Yes, but it's a process." I absolutely agree; none of us are there yet or anywhere close - but I think we need to be careful not to let that become our excuse for why we're not striving to be. Many of us are not living as Christ-followers, content instead in our cultural Christianity. We can all-too-easily abort the process. Especially here in America, where there are so many voices (and so many things) calling us back to the way of the world - including parts of many churches, which are more focused on material prosperity than pure and undefiled religion.

We could feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, help the dying pass with dignity, mourn with the grieving, rejoice with those who rejoice. We could live as Christ called us to.

So why don't we? Selfishness. Love of comfort. Fear. Lack of vision. Especially lack of vision. Most of us don't even think about the disparity between our lifestyles and Christ's calling on a regular basis. I don't spend nearly enough time seeking to bring my life in line with the Sermon on the Mount, much less on everything else Christ taught.

I don't know what the outworking of all of this looks like. I just know that, by and large, it isn't what we're going. I catch glimpses of the vision here and there - and I'm hungry for more.

If we need revival (and I believe we do), then that gives us two crucial pieces of information: (1) we're dead, and (2) there is such a thing as life. What we're "living" day to day is a pale shadow of what could be, a cheap fake we've been told is the real thing for so long that we've come to believe it. But there is another way! Dead people can live again; indeed, that is the very promise of God in Christ on the cross.

So let us start the process. Let us walk down this road, not looking to the right or the left, looking back only to see how far the Spirit has brought us, focusing always on the power and glory of Christ.

God, give us vision, give us courage, give us passion, give us discipline. Let us see You as You really are and be remade in your image, conformed to the likeness of Christ, sharing in Your sufferings and participating in the fellowship of Your death. Let us walk in new life, not the death of the world. Let us see that Your ways are so much higher than our ways, and then be not content to stay where we are, but to press on after You! Glorify Yourself in Your Church, in Your Body!

- Chris

1 comment:

  1. Very well put. You are indeed hearing what the Spirit of the Lord is speaking to us, the church, in these days.

    I believe God is calling us, indeed, challenging us to rise up. To arise from our slumber, to put our hands to the plow and begin to do the work that He has called us to.
    Not that we are to work in our own strength or our own power, but to function in the power of His Spirit living in us. This can only be done if we LET His Spirit LIVE in us and not stifle Him.

    -- Preach on!


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