MORE THAN CHURCH-GOING
A relationship with church may not be a relationship with God. Just a religious routine of faint apprehension of where God was or might be. It may not please Christian professionals to hear this, but the incarnation which is the reality of Christ in us and with us abolishes any notion of religious consumerism and clerical dependency. Sure, the Kingdom of God is community and family but it is not institutionalism. And it’s not dependent on a clerical class. Rather than scuttling about looking to re-invent the church Believers would do better to start with what they have – union with God in their own person and family and build outwards from that.
The beauty of the atonement is the weaving together of ourselves and God. This fact of being one with God shows how threadbare contractual/ legalistic notions of ‘godliness’ can be compared to a new covenant understanding of us in Christ and Christ in us.
In this revelation, Christ as our life is the Door to God in fullness. Here ‘children of God’ is more than a pretty notion. It is the reality in which we live as maturing sons and daughters of God, living in God’s mentoring and nurturing as sons in spirit and in truth.
God is not religious. God is alive and in all of life. No religious mannerisms or antics are required. Just agree with Jesus that He is your life and your life will be part of the family that is the trinity of God. The atonement is more than the remedy for sinning. It is our joining to the life that is God.
Kettler puts it this way.
“At its essence is the interplay of both our existence and God’s existence, our being and God’s being. This is the essence of atonement. Human existence must be involved in the atonement. As R. C. Moberly points out, atonement is not real unless it affects who I am. The “legal fiction” of a purely forensic acquittal of sins does not help one who has become severely crippled by the bitterness of the years.” (1) He’s saying that we need a real and being centred joining to God rather than a positional and theoretical relationship so that the life that is in the trinity will be the healing of our lives.
MAKE A START
When we start to relate to Jesus as a real person in our lives – when we emerge from the cocoon of religion into the light of reality we will begin to know the meaning of Godliness and a power and a regenerative force in our being.
Union with the Body of Christ is much more than a positional or definition statement as an effect of a law-based culture and epistemology. It is a state of being that is ours as a result of the at-one-ment that has already happened. Our place is to agree that this union is ours and live in communion instead of the illusion of separation. Immersion in the law has more consequences than a refusal to follow where Jesus has led. It results in the neutralising of the cross and all that follows as our inheritance.
The refuge of the law is a false haven and a disobedient one. The law was given in the age of separated Adam as a transitional artefact that would disappear with the coming of our Messiah, and the effect of the cross and the finished work of Christ (atonement). Should we cling to it we are clinging to the illusory strength of carnality and refusing to cast our ring into the fires of Mt Doom. The law cannot produce Godliness. Its effect is to make dead men walking and effete women talking. Healing, holiness, reconciliation and union with God in spirit and in truth is ours when Christ is our life.
“One of the enduring contributions of Barth’s early theology is his continual reminder that religion is the sinful person’s attempt to respond to God, but only on the sinful person’s terms. The tragic irony of the phenomenon of religion is that what appears to be an act of devotion is, quite the contrary, an act of supreme hubris. In fact, the very reality of God becoming human in order to offer a perfect, obedient response argues against our meagre attempts at responding, filled as they are with ulterior motives.” (2)
We do not belong to the Body of Christ because we say we do. We belong when we agree that He has made us one with Himself. It’s less about ‘receiving Christ’ and more about agreeing with and living in the reality that He has already received us into His life. What is that life. His relationship with God and His enjoyment of companionship with each member of the trinity.
Extreme hubris surfaces as misguided interpretations of scripture and fanciful attributions of merit to religious rites like Sabbath-keeping and behaviours held up as ‘keys’ to ‘another level.’ There is nothing that can surpass Christ come in our flesh in the simple fact of the incarnation and the ministry of Holy Spirit.
(1) Kettler, Christian D.. The Breadth and Depth of the Atonement: The Vicarious Humanity of Christ in the Church, the World, and the Self: Essays, 1990–2015 (p. 12). Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Ibid, Essays, 1990–2015 (p. 13). Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.