Have you ever noticed that the Christian Church spends lots of time worshiping a Jesus Christ that is external to it? What I mean is that the Christ, who is the Saviour of the world, is kept outside of the church’s walls, and even outside of the people’s hearts. He is appealed to in public prayer and He is allowed to be involved in the life of the church to an extent but not wholly and completely.
This is probably the case because the churches are full of lukewarm and tepid believers. Such religious types tend to be far more consumed with themselves than the Lord and so their commitment to the Father, through Jesus the Son, and by the Holy Spirit is half-baked and partial at best. And this must be the case because so many Christians do not want Jesus Christ to indwell their souls. They don’t want Him in because they do not pay the price of having Him as the ruler and governor of their lives. For most older people, this is probably caused by fear. For the young, it would seem to be driven by a complete indifference and insouciance towards all things spiritual.
This shouldn’t come to us as much of a surprise. We live at the end of a long history of sinful rebellion against God and the unfolding of its consequences. The transaction with God that accompanied man’s creation was the original intention for man’s pursuit and possession of excellence. This transaction was offered to man at the dawn of creation. Then Adam was invited to discover truth, beauty, and goodness through a complete reliance upon God’s Word, Logos, or Wisdom. Adam was told that if he obeyed the Logos, and in so doing would come to understand the difference between himself the creature and God the creator, he would not have suffered any resistance to his pursuit of happiness and joy. Knowledge and love were waiting to be discovered by Adam. Adam could discover them only if he relied wholly upon God’s goodness.
Unfortunately for all of us, Adam fell out of the spiritual transaction with God. As a result, the Word, Logos, or Wisdom that longed to be made flesh in him was experienced in competition with its absence. Man chose to experience not goodness alone but goodness and its absence –evil. Therefore, man would be forever torn between a present and an absent God. One might say that Adam expelled God’s Word from his soul and that the Word, Logos, or Wisdom of God would henceforth be experienced as a reality that was external to the soul. Man’s willed determination to be his own god ensured that the Word would not be made flesh again for a good long time.
Of course, we Christians believe that God responded to man’s sinful choosing by sending His Son –the Word, Logos, or Wisdom of God, to become flesh and recapitulate and redeem human nature from its sin. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. In Christ, the Logos of God has reconciled Man to God once again. In Christ we find the new Adam. In Christ, we can be right with God and can journey home to the Father’s Heaven once again.
But here is where we might run into trouble. From a traditional Christian standpoint, the price that we must pay to have the Saviour of the World indwelling us is nothing less than everything. Should we invite Him to dwell in us, He expects us to dwell in Him. He desires to give Himself to us completely and thus we must give ourselves to Him completely. The transaction is the recapitulation of the original exchange between Adam and God. It has always been understood as a spiritual exchange. Christ the Logos of God will live in us, rule and govern us, only if we give ourselves to Him to be lived in, ruled and governed. For man to be redeemed and reconciled to God, God’s Word, Logos, or Wisdom must indwell him. It is the Word of God made flesh that must now be made flesh in us if we are to be saved.
But it is the habitual tendency of fallen man to refuse the full and complete demands of this relationship. Again, here is where so many Christians and churches run into trouble. Some churches have embraced a redeﬁned and reimaged Jesus. Or they have welcomed only parts of His true nature. He is now outfitted for post-modernity. As such His love has been divorced from His knowledge. The human desire for a mercy that trumps justice has been dogmatized. God’s love in Christ is cast now in the costume of being all-embracing, all-afﬁrming, and even all-loving. He is said to accept everyone without any conditions. The call to spiritual maturity and adulthood has been abandoned. Mercy and charity have been collapsed into a mode of acceptance that does not love another with the hope for salvation. The if you love me, then keep my commandments has been excised from Scripture. The go and sin no more has likewise been removed. In sum, any kind of relationship with Him that is an offer for unity with God based on the real conversion of the heart and a turning of the will away from sin to righteousness has been abandoned. God came down from heaven, on this account, to tell us all that He loves us just the way we are. —In which case He saves us from nothing... and, on this account, might just as well have stayed home in Heaven! Evidently, the new-fangled Christ had no need to die for us since we are already good.
Notice how Christ has been expelled to the external dimension once again. Christ is not welcomed into the soul. Christ has no rule or sway over the will. Christ’s death has no meaning for the conversion of the sinner. Christ need not enter in because there is nothing in need of changing. The nature of sin has been abolished. Man is good. God is dead.
Now I don’t know about you, but if this is Christianity, then count me out. Aside from ignoring the major questions of discovering God’s true nature and then how man is alienated from Him, this form of religion is really rather insulting to human nature. It ignores completely revelation where we learn that God has built into human nature a potential for moral and intellectual greatness because man is made in the image and likeness of God. It completely denies the notion that God expects us to pursue this excellence and greatness. And it makes a mockery of the understanding that this can be pursued, found, and perfected only because Jesus Christ has died and risen from the dead to reconcile all men to God.
For Christ to live in us, we must surrender all rights to ourselves. We must open our hearts and souls to that indwelling that will bring death to us and then new life. Christ desires to live within us. Christ desires to indwell our hearts and souls and from the ground of our being to bring death to our sins and new life to His righteousness. What price must we pay to have Christ come alive in our souls? Eliot says it will cost not less than everything. (Four Quartets: Little Gidding V) It might be a high price to pay. But if we don’t pay it, we will return to nothingness…with the added benefit of knowing what have been saved from nothing and must live forever with the knowledge of love abandoned and all hope forsaken.
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons: