..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Something Worse Than Losing Your Mind

I'm thinking that our biggest fear as Christians is not about thinking that God will ask us to become missionaries to some province of the globe that does not have a Dunkin Donuts on the corner of its Main and BungaBunga St. It is not the fear that I will have to die a martyr under the sharp scimitars of Islamic terrorists riding on horseback across the Great Plains yelling, "Allah Akbar."

As scary as these thoughts might be, what is really frightening many a Christian, is the idea that, if they surrender completely to God, they might go "off the deep end." You know, "crazy." Of course we do not say this, but this is what we think. So modern Christianity has created a filtration system that lets us follow Jesus quite a bit,well, quite a bit from our perspective, but doesn't expect us to to go all the way in our pursuit of the Lord.

Complete surrender, would, after all, be out of balance. God, heaven forbid, would never want us to be out of balance. Being a good Christian, after all, is kind of like being a good American: its about Balance and being good to ourselves and our families, helping people fix their flat tires, and giving to missions, not everything mind you, but just the right amount, which is determined after we look at our bank BALANCE. We can really start to worship this balance thing. Are you starting to see my point?

Please. I love balance. Every day I see people that are way out of balance in a bad way and it is not good. This is what I will call "small b" balance. At some point or in some way, we all struggle with this. We eat or shop or indulge too much, get addicted to soda or donuts or our cell phones,or go the other way and become overly scrupulous or judgmentally Pharisaical. Either way, when we are like this, and the nuances are myriad, we are not focused on the Lord but on issues of being good, or not being good. All of this is not as the Lord would have it, but these issues are mere branches of our big issue: fear of losing control.

"Large B" Balance issues are about not being able to sell all to Christ. They are about why Jesus confronted the rich young ruler. They are about being good, but not perfect (Matthew 19:21). They are about not taking the "kingdom of God by force" Matthew 11:12), or not investing in the Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:46). In the time of the prophet Daniel, King Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar's son, was "weighed in the balances and found wanting"(Daniel 5:27). You see, when God looks to see if we are balanced he looks for far different things then we usually do.

Belshazzar's father, Nebuchadnezzar knew that well. He ends up going mad from not surrendering completely to God and therein is the real lesson in the story. When Nebuchadnezzar was reduced to being a crazed man, when all his glory was taken from him, he was forced to rethink things, and turn to God where he found sanity and some semblance of a sound mind.(Daniel 4:33-37). God always want to restore our minds, not push them over some edge.

You see the devil has lied to us once again. He tells us that God will push us over the edge and the result will be insanity. The flaw in that thinking is that the seeds of insanity are already in us and if we don't surrender to Him they will grow up into something that cannot be fixed. Without God, we are already just about insane! Eve thought God was holding out on them in the garden. God, as always, was looking out for their best interests.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend about "selling all to Jesus." Dear God, what if Jesus asks me to sell everything and follow Him? Right there is where our lives can be impaled on the modern rework of what faith has come to be.

J.I Packer said, "Our business is to present the Christian faith clothed in modern terms, not to propagate modern thought clothed in Christian terms. Confusion here is fatal."

It is easy to rush in when someone is presented with this idea and say, "No, of course, Jesus wouldn't want you to sell everything. That wouldn't be balanced" (according to the modern unspoken way of understanding things). So we take the edge off the hard way that Jesus comes to each of us. Of course Jesus asks us to sell everything. Whose bible are you reading if you think not? For each of us do need to come to a place where we "sell everything." And God bless us when its gone! Apart from God, what is it that we have that is of any worth? Anything God is asking me to sell may seem like a lot to us, but to Him, it is only that which is holding Him and I apart. Usually that is called "sin."

What is the "everything" I must sell? All that means more to me then He does! All that has authority in my life apart from Him! This is always about inward attachments and ways of holding onto ourselves. The money in the bank account will be distributed righteously when I am righteous! It is the least of my worries if my heart is right. It is what I think about myself that I must divest myself of. There is so much that we value and must sell: wanting people to think that we are balanced, wanting to feel that we have a say in what God will require of us, even wanting to be a good testimony to others etc. all of which can lead to fear, and jealousy and greed, and....whoa....

Jesus said, "He that finds his life shall lose it, but he who loses his life for My sake shall find it" (Matthew 10:39). The fear of breaking out the mainstream is what will keep us imprisoned. When Thoreau said the mass of men "live lives of quiet desperation", wasn't he talking about people living half-lived lives? Of not stepping out into the grand adventure of following God without reserve? Being set apart completely to God is not mainstream. It never has been and it never will be! Sometimes we see that rare clear-eyed person that has sold out to God. They may have that wind-burned look of traveling "twice the speed of sound" but they are of sound mind, saner than sane, and pure and gentle of heart. And those traits separate the merely odd from the holy. Ah, to grow old as one of these kinds of souls!

If we believe the lie that entering into complete surrender to God is only one door down from entering the mental institution then we have believed what Packer warns us about: we have clothed modern thought, (and worldly thought at that) in Christian terms. Jesus never asked anyone to follow Him, "a little bit, a little way, for a few years, or until it cost something." It should cost everything from day one. And until we unload our fear of losing our minds into the arms of the Lord, we will only live tortured, fearful but perhaps "balanced" lives. There are worse things than going off the deep end. One of them is wading forever in the shallow end of the pool.

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