If Jesus has raised your spirit from the dead by gaining your attention and signalling to you that you had been absorbing yourself in religion, but had very little real knowledge of Him, you would have come to understand that Jesus is all about life and not it’s negation. I mean the anti-life attitude that can pass itself off as spirituality in some circles. Neoplatonism is one version. Dualism is a variation.
You might find however that you will be opposed by many in the camp of religion – opposed because we can have a religious view of God rather than a Jesus vision of God. Even then there is a fair chance that our vision of Jesus may have been corrupted by our austerity bound imagination.
Years ago while reading an account of Manning Clark’s life by the historian himself I was struck by what he had noticed among certain of the religious: A life-denying attitude. The worst ever example of this was the crucifixion of the One who came to be our life. Yet even in this act of our depravity Jesus reached into it and undid it from within. Since by man came death. By the Son of Man comes resurrection and life.
I encountered a man once who took offence at Jesus fellowshipping with surfers. Over the years others have opposed vivid colours while other have sought a kind of ‘holiness’ by opposing modernity. Christians have opposed dancing for the same reason – but not it seems cheating the tax man or sustaining gerrymanders.
A friend once observed that it is better to be swimming in a pond of religion than in the anomie of unbelief. I didn’t agree at the time. Didn’t see eye to eye because religion can insulate us from the reality of a personal Jesus and leave us insulated from union with God. Spirituality is never what we are doing. It’s who we are part of who is part of us. Paul called it Christ in you.
Yet Jesus can use the barrenness of religion to awaken us to the possibility that there has to be more; that there must be a life without limit if there is a decent God. With Christ as our life, we will not get a religious life. We will get the life without limitation that comes in the form of spirit and life. In the externalities of the religion that spirit remains dead. With Jesus as us our spirit is alive and we connect with the Being who has already incarnated Himself in the creation. Even the irreligious can sense this presence. In Jesus we plug right into it and access this unmuffled spirit and life.
Jesus is life. When we dispense with substitutes for Him and abandon every kind of religious insulation and EAT HIM with our spirit we become life. He is incarnated in us and manifests as Ben and Jill. In Jesus is life and that life is the light of people. With Christ our life this us, you, and the church. We are living in the infinity of life that is God.
Religion is a ploy to overcome separation. There is no separation in Christ Jesus. With Christ as our life we and our Father are one. This is real spirituality – the burning bush and the transfiguration of Jesus is you. This is life in the Spirit.
Jeff Turner shares what many can identify with: The path from religion to life itself; the move from old covenant to new and the change from a life in Adam’s tree of death-dealing fruit to sucking the marrow out of life because we eat and drink Jesus Himself. He writes,
“I continued on in my religious desperation, praying an average of 5-12 hours a day, and often fasting (or at least attempting to fast) every other day or so. I exhausted myself and anyone with a 100 mile radius of me with my religious exercises and legalism. Everything and anything was banned in my house in the name of being “holy” and pleasing to the Lord. There was literally almost nothing that we could participate in in the way of entertainment and recreation, for such things were carnal and “displeasing to the Lord”, and when I inevitably did allow myself to enjoy the simple pleasures of life (for who can ever truly avoid such enjoyments?) I’d fall under crushing condemnation and go for days feeling as though I’d sinned away the favour of God.” (1)
Some can identify with this. Others with a religious routine with one or two iconic behaviours plus a belief system. Whatever the case there is both rest for the soul and infinite nourishment for the spirit in eating Jesus. Turner illustrates the fact that if we are sensitive, teachable and not given to erecting a fence of fictions each time we get a whiff of truth, the drought that is religion will lead us to the feast of the Lord’s Table – which is never more religion but is life itself. The pieties Turner records can lead us to reach out for the un-embellished source of life. Then again they can immunise us in a false life and set us up as dead men and women talking. It depends whether you think you have more to gain from your identity with your father and brother than you from an identity with an unembellished Jesus. Not everyone has a passion for life which is why the mystery of iniquity is both mysterious and degrading. It is mysterious because it is woven as the most subtle of lies into our soul. It is iniquitous because it is fundamentally malevolent - even if clothed in doctrine or as special revelation.
The unfortunate thing about the walking dead is that we don’t know that we are dead.
Should we home in on Jesus and target Him to the exclusion of all else we will know the truth that immerses us in His life and renders His life, our life. We will also discover the Jesus who is the Jesus of Himself – the I AM - unobscured by our own emotional disease and misguided religious teaching. We will know Jesus and Jesus will set us free from the many forms of death, blindness and inertia. We will discard the false self like a husk and you will become you: A son/daughter of God, not notionally but in spirit and in truth.
(1) Turner, Jeff. Saints in the Arms of a Happy God: Recovering the Image of God and Man (pp. 9-10). Jeff Turner. Kindle Edition.