If you work in institutional religion you may find it a barren field of endeavour. Then again you may not. Some live in a religious coma that immunises them against joy, pain and fake spirituality posing as real life. Spirituality is real and alive when we are joined in person to God. Never when we are swimming in a warm pool of religion. In religion, we cannot know God or ourselves. Neither do we come by a positive view of life. So, we might get mad that we have inadvertently been sellers of snake oil, give God away altogether, keep trudging because we are too afraid of god to do anything else. Or turn naturally to bitterness which emerges as cynicism of heart if not of tongue.
Years ago, I asked our pastor what many of his colleagues were thinking about what they called ‘the work.’ He said, ‘They are just hanging out for retirement.’ How many that applies to, I do not know. Not a few are disillusioned and alienated at the lack of life promoted by a lifeless system. The truth is that a marrow growing from the root of the law cannot be anything but flavourless and lifeless. Such abstractions can grow abstractions but never spirit and life.
What is spirit and life? Simply the essence of God as you. What are you in relation to our Father? You are a son. You and Father are one. As such you are an apostolic person.
So, there has to be more to spirituality and the Kingdom of God than sustaining intuitionalism. And there is. There is a flow of life that eddies out of the person of Jesus into apostolic people. This is a flow of life that is the essence of God. It is not dependent on the institutional church or beholden to it in any way. Apostolic people may participate in it (as missionaries) but they are not of it any more than Jesus was part of the merchandising of religion in His day.
The people from whom spirit- life flows are beholden to life itself because Christ Himself is their life. They are new covenant people not wallowing in fear and the law. As themselves they are a manifestation of Jesus and they purvey His spirit and life simply by being themselves because CHRIST IS THEIR LIFE. This is the simplicity and the dynamic of Christ Himself being YOUR LIFE and the life of the church He builds without human hands.
Apostolic people are a beacon of light in an inert system. If they are not expelled from it, they are always a spring of living water to those not perceptive enough to see that that have been sold a lie – the lie that their church has something, special, something additional to Jesus, some manufactured additive to the gospel of the Kingdom, that supposedly sets it apart as a new bearer of truth; as the custodian of levers to pull in one of the subtlest ever distortions of the gospel of Jesus.
Apostolic people live out of Jesus and never from religion. In Jesus, whether they understand the theology or not, they are one with our Father. As with Jesus they are an extension of our Father as daughters and sons. As with Father’s Son they can get crucified for having too much life. They possess such an abundance of spirit and life that institutionalism looks cadaverous beside it. But what can we expect from a culture of the letter that kills?
‘He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’ 2 Cor 3.6 NIV.
The proposition that the law survives in the new testament with the help of Jesus is nonsense and demeaning to Christ. If as a pastor you know your Bible and Christian theology at all, you must know this is humbug. Turing Jesus into law is a presumption that comes close to blasphemy. Diluting Jesus into offices and structures is more innocent but equally debilitating. Both unite the people to the body of death that is the knowledge of good and evil and the law.
The efforts of apostolic people, although resented by institutional operatives are far more life-giving than the machinations and burocratic projects of the conference – most of which are without spirit and life. Nothing of the flesh is alive. Jesus is clear on this. He says the Spirit alone brings life. The flesh accomplishes nothing. Well it does fill up time and space but the spirit/life of God is not flowing in it and as extensive as ‘the system’ may appear it is without Kingdom life.
There is more to life than laying down error and taking up truth. Dichotomised truth and error of themselves are not alive. They are binaries in the knowledge of good and evil. Life, truth, liberty and love are found alone in God. Not near Him or in discussion of Him. Life is ours as sons of His Family. There is no hoop to be jumped through here. You are already in. The whole world already belongs. But we do need to agree with what He has done and say, ‘I step into your life.’
We need not be intellectuals or Christian ideologues to touch people with the life of God. Simple non-intellectual people like plumbers and builders who embrace Jesus as Himself and are filled with His Spirit touch people and things with the spirit/life of God.
Those for whom Christ Himself (as distinct from Christianity) is their life, benefit from the spirit of wisdom and revelation. They enjoy companionship with God. Many hear personally from Jesus – not usually as a ‘voice.’ Their ears hear Him in their spirit. The incarnate God rises in the souls of those who seek Him for Himself. Single mindedness towards Jesus opens our inner ears to become sensitive to His voice. Our inner eyes become spiritually perceptive. We begin to see as He sees. Joined to Jesus we are joined to our Father. Here we are positioned to receive the Spirit without limit in the manner of Jesus. The gifts of the Spirit are real and to be deployed today and every day.
The Kingdom of God is one of authority and power over the Enemy and circumstance. Sure we can do institutionalism – but we cannot meaningfully present the Kingdom of God without signs, miracles of healing, casting out of demons and raising the dead. Why? This indicates the sovereignty and authority of God. Let’s be honest. Most of institutionalism could be maintained even if God were not real. This is why many pastors eventually become atheists or subside into the lesser state of agnosticism.
I associate with people who heal the sick and cast out demons. I know a young woman and her pastor in India. In Jesus name this pastor raised this girl from the dead. She now has two children and is rejoicing with husband and family. In February my friend and colleague set a woman free of demons with a quite prayer of authoritative expectation.
These people do those things, not because they are pious or have a special endowment of belief. They do it because they believe in a God who believes in Himself! We have an inheritance as sons and daughters of God. Here’s the things: You might be convinced that God is real. But the unbeliever living in pluralism, secularism and fake facts needs to see signs of His presence that could only occur if God is real and active in present day experience. It causes them to say, ‘Your God is real!’ which in them calls for a response. Let’s be clear. We can live in religion as usual, we can live out a form of godliness without power and become tired and bitter. Or we can make Christ our life and begin to multiply what He began because we are one with God and the trinity have made us there dwelling.