In the cross-hairs
There are a few moments in my life that are carved deeply into my psyche and will not be removed, one of those was a conversation with my little brother in the last few months of his life as he fought valiantly the cancer that raced through his body.
“How do I know I’m saved since the same faith I am using for my healing is the faith that is supposed to save me? What if I don’t get healed, the faith for salvation could not even get me well, how will it save me from hell?”
There was genuine fear in Johns voice as he asked me this…it was a holy moment…a glib answer or some religious platitude to a dying man is not simply wrong it is an insult to our core humanity…and more than this he was my little brother I loved him and could not allow fear to choke out his joy regardless of the outcome.
Jesus would talk about a “strong man”…and he paints a picture of a mighty warrior guarding his stuff, but he goes on to say that when a stronger man enters the house and binds (forbids) the first strong man, then he spoils all his goods…Colossians will pick up the theme but use a different word for “spoiled“…instead of “taking for oneself/spoiling” it says that Jesus “spoiled/stripped off a garment” principalities and powers…the difference is subtle but very powerful…
In the first instance the strong man is bound up and the stronger guy just takes all the stuff for his own…he robs him and keeps the booty…in the second use it describes someone putting something “off”…a simple metaphor would be the evil baron ties the beautiful girl to the train tracks but the hero “spoils” the plan by knocking the train “off” the tracks…he divests the bad barons plans, he spoils them…
So what is it that gets spoiled? I think it is fear.
One of my favorite verses is found in Hebrews it says: “Since the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part in the same; that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrew 2:14-15)
There’s a lot going on in this verse but one of the key phrases that gets over-looked is the part about being slaves because of fear.
Jesus spoils the strong mans house by taking his stuff, then he spoils the power behind all of it by knocking the power off of his own body on the cross…he takes them up, then strips them down.
Fear seems very real.
John Scotts fear at death was very real to him and something I could not ignore, and frankly honest people will admit to fear.
Every relationship that has gone sour has done so on the rails of fear.
Fear is a train-wreck headed to your heart and the powerful engine chugs towards your world with the coal of sin and failure feeding its momentum, blowing smoke stacks of doubt and confusion it has the power to fill your horizon with a rumble and black cloud and your emotions tremble at the sight…
I’m scared of swimming in the sea
Dark shapes moving under me
Every fear I swallow makes me small
Inconsequential things occur
Alarms are triggered
It’s not the way it has to be
I’m afraid of what I do not know
I hate being undermined
I’m afraid I can be devil man
And I’m scared to be divine
Don’t mess with me my fuse is short
Beneath this skin these fragments caught
When I allow it to be
There’s no control over me
I have my fears
But they do not have me
Mr. Gabriel captures the power of fear in the little things it spoils, our relationships, our friendships, our plans our hopes…fear is the great spoiler…and it is my opinion that fear is the major weapon the strong man of hell uses to keep us locked up in his house until the stronger man shows up and “forbids” or binds him…
We don’t like being undermined, we don’t want people making fun of us, we are on guard of the slightest rejection and poised to fend it off at the pass, we will reject them before they reject us, but what’s the issue, what are they going to do to us in the first place? What is it we really fear in others?
Fear is the very first emotion Adam confesses to God, “I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid”…
I heard you.
I heard…Your voice…I WAS afraid.
The Voice in the garden
While most of us avoid the level of transparency my brother showed, it does not negate the fact that we hear God coming and it frightens us.
I know people talk about fear of the unknown, but I don’t really think that is what we fear…we fear being known
In a thousand different ways we show we are afraid…when the lover gets to close to seeing the real us, we push them away and say “I have no feelings for you”…what we mean is “You are getting to close to seeing me and I am not ready to be seen I am naked, this makes me afraid go away“...or we begin to find fault with them before they find it in us, we nit-pick them to death or focus on some small trivial annoyance and say “I could never be with someone who______fill-in-the-blank”
Why not? Are you so perfect? Hell no.
Or try this one on…We have doubts about our ability to lead so we need to remain in control, we need to make sure no one asks the wrong questions, which shows up as “if you cannot submit to me and this system then you are a rebel who is an orphan with a wound so it’s probably better for all of us if you simply go away” (I knew it all along) and we reject them with a label, be it Jezebel, Orphan spirit, or independent…after all there are the verses about staying submitted under a covering (? where pray tell) and since I am responsible for you don’t question me…and we find help in scripture with verses that say “They are not of us for the went out from us”…
Really? Do you actually think God who is love is going to put the eternal destiny of one of His kids in your sin stained hands? Give me a break. Even the devil can find a verse for his purposes.
See if you can relate…“If people knew how little I read my bible, or how little I actually prayed, or saw that my prayers were almost always about me and not the nations or the President, if people saw how little I really cared or loved others…they would have no choice but to ignore me completely…because I do not matter.”
And so we continue to maintain the systems that make us feel like we matter a little…be it:
- submission to an abusive church/or system
- a mean husband/wife
- a lover/friend that uses us
- A substance/fantasy that feeds our pleasure centers or identity
- Maybe just boredom or the fear its slightly pointless
- Patriotism/Our rights/Imagined persecution
We squeeze out a little of “I matter here” and do our best to keep the image alive in our families, our clubs and our work, our churches, we trade our insecurity for lots of sacrifice, lots of posturing, lots and lots of lingo.
We covers up how much we really like sex, how much we truly enjoy drink, or how much we like to just veg out and do nothing at all, we’re afraid to admit to others that we like chocolate and orgasms and all the pleasures that God created so we ignore the person we never admit is real…but the real us is actually quite numb with hunger for pleasures that God created…and here’s the stunner:
God knows how much you like that stuff. He already knows. You’re not fooling Him, so you might as well stop hiding…that fig leaf is rather transparent to the God who designed your taste buds, your hormones and knows your thoughts from afar.
Again, any system that does not allow for transparency and questions is running on the fumes of fear somewhere.
Any relationship that does not let you be completely yourself, but instead requires you to maintain codes, conduct and control any relationship that has a trading floor of requirements is suspect.
Covenant, as I discussed in my last post is the goal of God, and covenant is a place where the real you gets to know the real me in intimacy, or “Into me, you see” as Danny Silk will describe.
Covenant in its simplest description is a place that keeps intimacy safe by allowing each party to be completely vulnerable and real…really known.
The goal of covenant is achieved with the exchange of the real me with the real you…life flows where we are known for real.
That’s why Abraham slept through his part of the covenant, God was making a point long before the cross, the real you is asleep and God knows it, that is why the covenant is between them, we just watch unable to do anything at all.
But who is the real you, the real me?
The Princess fears the King
Recently Courtney and I had a conversation where she confessed her fear of being deceived and not really knowing the truth, and God is so Glorious it was to heavy for her…so I asked her:
“Do you think any of us really knows the truth that God knows?”
We are all deceived and He must enter our deception to have any kind of relationship with us.
You may disagree with this statement but it is still true, there is not one person who has ever lived that had a perfect and un-tainted view of what is really real except for Jesus, we all have our reality that we believe is real and with that there are blind-spots that by definition we cannot see…but God see’s everything, even what we can’t, and He knows that to have a relationship with us He must accommodate our perception be it real or not.
Never once in the bible does anything suggest that Jesus was ever afraid.
Not on the cross and certainly not in his ministry season…he never flinched or showed fear…
My brother was not some new convert, he had been a youth pastor for years, a preachers kid like me, raised in an orthodox Methodist tradition, he had struggled with sin and won, and believed in the gifts of the Spirit, a tongue-talking faith and hope…he had seen God heal him of Crones Disease and determined he would fight in faith for the sake of his daughter and wife, but John was also very real…he knew he would eventually have to tell me the truth anyway since I loved him enough to get to the heart of the matter.
“So what are you afraid of John?” it was a surgical question I reluctantly had to ask…
“I’m afraid I don’t have enough faith” he said…”Well you don’t, if you did we would not be having this conversation, but whats that got to do with anything?”…
My response caught both of us off guard…him because it was blunt, me because I had no idea what to say and it was one of those moments when you just toss it up into the Holy Spirit and hope you don’t mess it up…it was prophecy without knowing what you are going to say next…
And in the next few moments I watched as Jesus gently dismantled the time bomb of fear inside his heart…cut the wrong wire and we all get blown up…the numbers on the display counting down the seconds before detonation…
“Your faith has absolutely nothing to do with your salvation, its His faith that saves you, do you think He doubts for one instance that He can save you?
“You’re not afraid of your faith, your afraid of your unbelief, and that is perfectly legitimate and ok, remember the guy who said…” …he cut me short “I believe help mine unbelief”…”yep”…
I went on to explain that any faith he had was already a gift in the first place, the whole thing is a gift, there is not one part of it that we do that starts with us…so really all he needed to do was be thankful for the gift, express a little gratitude and his perspective would adjust…
Anytime we are afraid we have just poured our faith into the wrong thing, that’s why Jesus was never ever afraid, He always placed his faith in the right person…the Father and His love.
All fear in relationships, all fear in church, all fear in society can be traced to faith in something dark and destructive, it is our natural faith giving power to something sinister and as we feed the dark our hearts become weak and tired.
Fear is not a lack of faith, it is the opposite, fear in its rawest definition is simply faith in the the wrong outcome.
Johns faith for his healing was simply a path on his journey, it was not the end of it all, even though from earths perspective it ended all when he died, the Biblical view is that death is simply a sleep we wake up from into reality…we are all dreaming now, not then.
Jesus gently unplugged Johns faith in failure, in loss, and hopelessness, and plugged it into trusting a Father who loved him and had already worked it out.
Danger is real, disease is real, death is real, but fear is not, fear is simply a kingdom of dust we run from until the Father shows us what it is made of.
A the crossroads/In the crosshairs
The cross is where the Fathers nature and the Sons behavior intersect in perfect harmony, it is the place we now aim our fear, and when you look through the scope and see the target of God smiling, your fear gets unplugged and your faith ignited.
The Son gathers up all the horizontal relationships, spoiling the treasury of darkness, then the Father pours out the vertical relationship of heavens Pleasure and this symphony intersects in the “cross” its pure poetry of action captured by the Eternal Spirit.
Fear cannot survive in the Presence of the Father, because perfect love casts out ALL fear…
You cannot have faith in someone you fear.
(Fearing God is a completely different metric than we have been taught and another post some time)
It is impossible to have faith in a God you believe will punish you…impossible.
Faith, real faith requires an absolute trust, an abandoning of oneself to the object of faith and if you think for one minute that God is going to punish you then your faith begins to have fractures in it that will eventually become fissures, that turn into chasms…the only thing punished in the cross is hell and death itself.
Postcards from a scenic tour through death
A few weeks later I had another completely different conversation with John, this time he was full of excitement, although I could hear he was physically tired, he had to call me to tell me what he had shared in his Adult Sunday School class that week.
He had been reading Psalm 23 and the Lord showed him he only went through the valley of the shadow if death, he didn’t actually stop there…
He laughed and told me he was going to check out the ruins of death maybe take a picture for me or send me a postcard, finally he was going to experience something BEFORE I did…but it was a guided tour through death by Jesus, it was simply a moment on the journey, and it was clear he was no longer afraid…
This image, of Jesus personally taking us through the ruined out shell of death and showing us His victory, this is THE biblical perspective, death has no more sting, it is a dusty old ghost town made vacant by a stronger man, we get to stop and gaze for a minute until the guide says “Ok nothing to see here, lets get on to the Fathers place shall we?”
Some of us will get the full tour like my brother, others will simply sleep through the covenant like Abraham…but all of us will wake up in the covenant of love where we are fully known…and we will eventually know even as we are already known.
Here is one of the major foundations of Gods purpose in the cross and the whole point here:
God was making a covenant where the real you gets to be with the real God, that would require spoiling the power of fear and that means God is never ever going to punish you. This is His covenant promise to you.
All things are yours…All things are lawful…so how can you possibly be punished?
Good news isn’t it?