NORMAL CHRISTIANITY

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“NORMAL”

This morning a phrase from a song wafted into my mind: “Now my faith in you is a mountain that can’t be shaken”, from a powerful worship song from Jesus Culture Music, originating out of the ongoing revival at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. I thought to myself, what an audacious thing for someone to say regarding their own faith! On the heels of that song, my mind was replaying a discussion from a group of believers recently where a question was put forth by a caring and wise pastor/teacher:  “When you come to church, do you expect the Lord to be Present [and presumably active) as Jesus promised in Matthew 16? Paraphrased it says, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I’ll be in your midst-I’ll show up!” Not wanting to come off as self aggrandizing I was actually a bit uncomfortable, but had to answer “yes, of course I do believe He’ll be there – and always!” But it totally seems NORMAL to me that we would all answer the same way.
So why do I fully expect Him to be with us? Because years ago I came to the conclusion that there had to be a reason Jesus went out of His way to make such a promise particularly attached to the gathering of the saints; after all, we already know He is with us, so why say such a thing if He didn’t need to? In addition, I’ve been in too many gatherings over the course of my life, large and small – where He has fulfilled that promise in amazing ways that were tangible and upbuilding for all present. Like the statement of this chorus mentioned above, my faith is unshaken, at least on this point: that I absolutely know that Jesus will show up in a unique way that is on His agenda whenever we meet. The only question is, are we OK with that? Expectation and faith are NORMAL for God’s children who have the Spirit of adoption.

Among his many weighty writings, Watchman Nee, the Chinese Church leader, ultimately martyred for his faith wrote what later became a Christian Classic, “The Normal Christian Life”; for the most part, an exposition of Romans Ch. 5 – 8. To sum it up, the fruit of the Spirit (which includes faith) is normal for a person who has been raised from spiritual death with Christ through the new birth.  Then, there is Paul the apostle’s potent and consistent teaching regarding our identity as an entirely new creation of beings, Jesus Christ being what he calls the “firstborn” of that new race. If He is the firstborn among those whom the book of Hebrews calls “His brethren” (every spirit-born believer) then we are the children that follow, born of the same Father, same Spirit, same inheritance, same characteristics — that is NORMAL.
Paul passionately, persistently sought to impart the reality to the first church that they had truly died with Christ (in baptism) and had been raised with him (by the Spirt) just as Christ had been. That NORMAL for us is what is normal for Christ: things like expectant childlike faith that not only believes with the mind, but feels deep in the soul (yes, I did say “feel”) that God is our daddy, that joy is present regardless of suffering, love that comes from a source beyond our own efforts but which empowers and motivates our good deeds, and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit of Adoption. We are beloved sons and daughters of Abba, and if the inner environment of the soul is not one where we are at home in Daddy’s heart, we need to check our spiritual condition. Now that can open a can of worms!
 
God really, really loves me, and while that love is not rooted in emotion, neither is is void of emotion; if it were, we would eliminate huge portions of scripture. “He restores my soul”( Ps 23) does not occur in an emotional vacuum. Holy Spirit comes to us among other things to make that love powerfully real and tangible to our hearts, why? To deliver us from the orphan spirit that we inherited as a result of Adam’s sin and our own. So, while we emphasize acts of love and all of the literal commands of Christ and the apostles in our pursuit to be like Him, let us examine our hearts. I call Jesus Lord, so am I experiencing the love He and his Abba have together? This is what He emphasized in his prayer of John 17. Am I connected to Him beyond my theology? Is my experience rooted in the wonder and joy that I am His by adoption? Or, am I basically grinding out efforts towards obedience to a God I really do not know?
What is the motivational mainspring of my life? We may discover that we are a not unlike the Ephesians who upon Paul’s arrival to them asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit after you believed?” They had repented according to John Baptist’s command, but had in some way (no doctrinal hair-splitting necessary here) been out of the loop regarding an immersive encounter with Holy Spirit that the first believers had experienced in the upper room and was repeated consistently thereafter as both Jews and Gentiles heard the Good News and responded.  It’s  not about the “have’s and have-nots” — then or now. The coming of Holy Spirit on the first church and the church today is not about denominational persuasions or practices. Precious, powerful Holy Spirt, “Very God of very God” as the creed goes, comes to make Jesus real to us: all He did and all He said, including bringing us into a father-son relationship with “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Paul’s terminology). This is the root of NORMAL Christianity, and it is His joy to pour out on all who are hungry! Come and drink! “Out of your inner most being, rivers of living water will flow”, and the expectancy of childlike faith will be your NORMAL!

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