It seems crazy, but almost exactly a year ago I finished teaching through what is becoming my first Bible Study curriculum series, Walking in the Light! I taught somewhere around 13 sessions for that class which I had begun in October and finished in early June. There was a break in there for Christmas and for the relocation of me and my family into a new home. But before I could come close to being done unpacking our new home I was “back in the saddle” of intense research for the class (I totally blame my first grey hairs on that research process!). The class, which was going to be based on a simple concept and provide short devotional-style classes to my small group of friends, not only was nothing of the like, but by the completion of the course in June… well, we sat there after our last class session together stunned and utterly astounded by what God had chosen the class to become instead.
In truth, we did some of that week after week of the class. After we’d close down each class in prayer there was this recurring moment of sitting and staring at each other, wide eyed, mouths slightly opened, and shaking our heads with amazement at who God showed Himself (from the Scriptures) to be. There is really no explanation for all we learned other than that the Holy Spirit of God lead us to it all.
EXPERIENCE DOESN’T MEAN EXPERTISE
The crazy thing is, my little group of friends who met to study the scriptures together was a pretty seasoned group of people as far as Bible Study is concerned. We’d all been studying the scriptures individually and with others for years. We really thought we had a clear grasp on God… and especially on Christianity. Seasoned Bible Study participants, having sat under hundreds of sermons in our lifetimes, having memorized much Scripture between us all, having sought God for years…. we sat there at the end our our course beside ourselves, wondering who is this God we thought we knew? And who is His Christ He sent for us?! Perhaps one of the primary lessons we learned in that course was that Christianity is not what we thought it was. Or at least, it is far more than we ever understood it to be.
LAYING THE ONLY FOUNDATION
Without realizing it at the time, God was at work to lay the only foundation of Christianity that can be laid, lived from, built upon, and hoped for—Christ Jesus Himself… He was teaching us who He really is, what He really did, how He really functions in the organism which is His body on earth (the Church), and how He is our living Hope for the future.
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 3:11)
LOOSENING OUR GRIP
One of the most important principles I learned in seminary was how to hold my theology in open hands out to God as I studied the Scripture. I think that will forever be one of my favorite principles to pass on to others. I was taught not to hold it tight and let my theology decide what the Scriptures mean, but to hold my theology loosely, letting the Scriptures (God!!! who breathed them out) mold and inform my theology. I want to camp on this principle for just a moment: This means we trust God to be our safety rather than our church, denomination, camp of theology we identify with, traditions or rituals we love, pastors we favor, books we prefer, etc. This means we pick up our Bibles and read and study them slowly, methodically, carefully, prayerfully, Spirit-abidingly (1 Cor. 2:12-16), letting God Himself mold our theology. It’s not that we have no theology. May it never be! It’s that we unceasingly, relentlessly, fearlessly, hold it out to God to shape and refine. And we consciously choose to become fools, so we may become wise.
Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. (1 Cor. 3:18-19a).
The truth is, unless the Lord builds the house, they that labor labor in vain (Ps. 127:1). Holding our theology loosely out to God is the same as this concept of becoming foolish. We must learn in such a way that we allow God to reshape any and all of our understandings of Himself which He knows needs reshaping. We are not bound to a church, a denomination, a sect of theology, a teacher, a commentary—indeed the New Testament teaches no such ties.
For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 1 Cor. 3:4-7)
CHRISTIANITY IS CHRIST
We must bind ourselves to One alone, and all things from Him to Him and through Him. He—Jesus Christ—is Christianity.
For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you… do not cease… making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of [Jesus]. (Eph. 1:15-17)
So, when I state that Christ is what Christianity is, I want to clarify that I’m not saying Christ is what Christianity is about. This may seem like a parsing of words, but let me explain. What I mean is that Christians make up an organism not an organization. The Bible speaks of the union the human believer on earth has with the living, glorified, exulted, powerful, loving, gracious Christ currently seated in Heaven. This union is explained as a body, a living organism. Christ is the head, His Church (all who believe in Him on earth) is His body. As your toes have the same blood flowing through them that your head has, the various parts (people) of Christ’s body have the same Spirit flowing through them that Christ has in Him in heaven. So to be a Christian, according to the Bible, means being one with the living Christ. And it means being united with all believers. It means Christ Himself living in us all and through us all. It does not mean we simply learn about Him… it means we learn to live from Him. That is, Christ Himself living, speaking, thinking, and doing all things in His body and through His body on planet earth.
Have you learned a lot about Christ? Or have you learned Christ?
To help you answer these questions, let me ask you a series of a few more:
What does it mean that God is Light (1 John 1:5)?
What does it mean that Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12)?
What does it mean that believers are children of Light, and in Christ? (Eph. 5:8, 1 Thess 5:5)
What does it mean to walk in the Light? (John 11:9, 1 John 1:7)
I ask these questions with not an ounce of condescension in my mind or heart; only with encouragement to be brutally honest with yourself. You should know, these questions are exactly where my own journey of discovery began. I didn’t know the answer to these questions! They brought us all the way back to Genesis, and ended up bringing us all the way forward to Revelation. It was intense, and wonderful, and difficult, and beautiful, and brilliant, and illuminating, and wildly, profoundly life-altering! Jesus is indeed the Light of the world to this day, and He wants us to understand how He is the Light, and how we walk in the Light (Him). (Know this: it is not by osmosis.) If we have not learned these things, we have not yet learned Christ.
But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus… (Eph. 4:20-21)
AWAKEN TO CHRIST…
All of Christianity hinges on who the Person of Jesus Christ is, and who we are now in Him. I told you the story about the class I taught called Walking in the Light, because the reason we sat stunned and bug-eyed at the completion of the course is because for all these years we thought we understood Christianity, we thought we understood the Scriptures pertaining to Christianity, to Christ… but as we continually opened up our grip on our theology, holding it out to God to do with as He pleased (it was not nearly as scary as it sounds), as we sought to study and be lead and taught by the Holy Spirit as we did so… we were awakened to Christ Himself. And this changed everything.
Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” (Eph. 5:14, NKJV)
…BY BECOMING A FOOL
Friends, I challenge you today… allow yourselves to become fools, so that you may become wise. If you’ve been a believer for a long time (or even a short time), but struggle to fully answer the questions above, would you be willing to hold your theology in open hands reached out to Jesus, admitting you don’t know it all yet? Would you be willing to become a “fool”—regarding yourself as one who might have yet to learn Christ (not about Christ)? Are you willing to count yourself a fool to find the wisdom of God (not of this world, nor the rulers of this world [1 Cor. 2:6-8]) in Christ Jesus? Would you be willing to go back to your Bibles (resting in the Holy Spirit as you do) to seek God’s meaning of Christianity? So that you too may awaken to Christ… and see everything changed?
CHRIST IS EVERYTHING
I tell you, Christianity is so much more than we realize! Christ Jesus is so much more than we know Him to be! He is literally everything in Christianity! He is our very Life, our very Light! Learning Him (not simply about Him) changes absolutely everything. So dig in. Extend all things to God for shaping or refining… and find your Light!
“The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned.” (Matt. 4:16)
*Walking in the Light is still in process of being researched and written. But please stay tuned here on the blog, where portions of that study trickle into everything I write/produce, and where you can stay updated on progress of it and watch for it’s final release.