Many years ago a good and perceptive man, the writer of Discipleship, David Watson, spoke of churches as ‘clubs of conformity.’ Conformity to what? Conformity to clubs of conformity I guess. He was referring to what Paul might have described as ‘forms of godliness without power.’
Watson writes of the need to be true disciples of Jesus – not consumers of religion. But this is not an easy task if our christ is a creature of religion and we are insulated from His presence by religious usages and soulish assumptions. We need to know Jesus as He is; to be confident in the fact that He is for us, knows us, likes us; to rejoice in the realisation of an excellent life – of flourishing as who we are. In order to be joyful disciples of His, we discover ourselves when He Himself is our life. There is no spirit and life in generic Christianity.
The paraphernalia of Christianity is not His life. Jesus is His life and He is your life. Jesus manifest as you and us is the church Jesus builds without human hands. Without human artifice because he manifests as you and as us. This is incarnation. Christ come in Bill and Jill. Jesus declared,
‘On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you’ John 14,20. The day we realise this is the day we leave off generating religion and start being engines of the new creation.
Paul spoke of ‘my gospel’ that was Christ’s gospel. Jesus spoke of ‘my church’ which is in whom He manifests. Jesus assured us that those who build His church build on the rock of total absorption in Him as the Christ. If those who eat Jesus live because of Him, then those who have eaten Him will impart His life. If Jesus is our life we will never be a hawker of religion.
It is more than possible and in fact probable, that those who are of Christ may do not belong to institutionalised clubs of conformity but they will belong to networks of fellow travellers. The result is that they are more potent disciples than those who may exist in an opiate of religious conformity. Never living from shadows they live in the reality that is Christ. They are drawing their life from Jesus and Jesus is their life. In Him they are one with our Father and they are indwelt by the trinity. If they are so enlightened they will be living from Jesus and not from the knowledge of good and evil. They will be in the happy state of being disciples by BEING THEMSELVES. ‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it’ Matt 16.18 NIV. The implication is that religious clones are a push-over for the Enemy. Yet the new creation you in Jesus will demolish the strongholds of the Enemy.
A CHURCH OF INDIVIDUALS WHO ACT AS ONE
In Christ we act in Trinitarian individuality and unity. The Kingdom of sons is about identity. With Christ as our life we are always who we are: Our real selves designed from the foundation of the world and called into our destiny by the risen Jesus. As an expression of Jesus we never produce something and nothing but are always the vehicle of what Jesus is doing now. Because we and Jesus are one.
The most consistent and powerful witness is the manifestation of Christ in you. He has already come into your being and has drawn you into fellowship with God. So this is not a work. It is agreeing and a positive stepping in – stepping in to what already is – what He has done by positioning you in the fellowship of the Holy Family and where you are right now in your life.
Once we ask Jesus to be our life He, Father and Holy Spirit take up residence in our being and they reveal themselves to us so that we know God as He is. This is how veils are removed and the glory of God is revealed to our hearts. The satisfying part of this for each of us is that this process of nurturance in sonship in Father reveals our glory. We do have ‘glory’ and this is not pride. Like the glory of God, it is the revelation of who we really are. You will be yourself in Christ and from this position of well-being, will be a son/daughter and a disciple of Jesus.
Here we become who we were meant to be and we serve Jesus in this capacity – not as clones of other people or as ciphers of institutionalism. But this always involves starting again. Unlearning old assumptions and taking on new understandings of who God is and who we are. We call this BEING BORN AGAIN AND GROWING TO MATURITY IN CHRIST. Don’t expect to become mature in Christ or attain the true glory of yourself if you are a ‘club-conformist,’ bound in legalism or insulated from intimacy with Jesus by religion. The pure in heart see God because they will not let distractions, false christs and extraneous identities rob them of their place of union with God. To grow we must spend time as a Beginner – at various stages of our life.
“Jesus said that the rich man or woman will find it hard to understand what he is talking about. The rich can satisfy their loneliness and longing in false ways, in quick fixes that avoid the necessary learning. In terms of soul work, we dare not get rid of the pain before we have learned what it has to teach us. That’s why the poor have a head start. They can’t resort to an instant fix to any problem: aspirin, a trip, or some entertainment. They remain empty whether they want to or not. To resist the instant fix and acknowledge oneself as a beginner is to be open to transformation.” (1)
We can think we are rich because we have a pseudo identity that is no identity at all. This is the kind of identity to which Paul was referring when he wrote, ‘which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.’ Transformation is painful because it involves coming to terms with perverted gospels and comforting delusions, abandoning them and starting again. This is the new birth. The bonus is that it is the start of our life in the Kingdom of God.
(1) Rohr, Richard. Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (pp. 43-44). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.