Blog # 444 Stages in our Christian identity
The truth about a chocolate layer cake can come in three stages. First is the recipe. Stage one. If you follow the recipe you get the cake. Stage two. But there is more to come. The joy, the energy it gives, the birthday party, the love between husband and wife, neighbors and friends are all part of the possible truth about the cake. Stage three. You could stop at any stage with part of the truth, real, but partial and incomplete.
It is something like this with the Bible and the story of the life and teaching of Jesus. There are stages in experiencing the truth about Jesus.
First we are informed with facts about Him, when and where He lived, some of the things He said and did. That is stage one. Some people have never heard this. Some people have heard but no longer have an interest or believe in what Jesus said or did. Others continue to believe and continue to identify themselves as followers of Jesus, but it is a sort of part-time experience. Their experience of living by the commandments is more the experience of obedience than of love. That is stage two. Stage three remains.
No matter how much we have grown in our relationship with God, through our awareness and understanding of all creation as the expression of the Father's power, goodness, and wisdom, through our observance of the Commandments, or through prayer, there is still out in front of us an unimaginable amount of discovery experience and growth in our knowledge and love for God. Each of us has a personal unique story that continues to the instant of our death. Stage three is this final stage of our unique story on earth.
First of all we realize by faith and keep ourselves aware of the fact our salvation is already won for us in the life death and resurrection of Jesus. By way of an analogy this would be to say it is like the recipe of our birthday cake already written in the recipe book, or, put another way, like money we have inherited, already in the bank in our name. That was true of us before ever we were conceived. It is true of all who will come into existence in the future. In Jesus we are dealing with God's love for all, and it is wonderful.
Once having heard the Gospel message of salvation we must make it our own, believe it, follow it, live it out. As light casts out darkness and health casts out disease, so the message of salvation calls upon us to cast out sin and whatever is contrary to the presence and design of God's love in us. This entails choices on our part. Some of them are difficult. Who would find it easy to love an enemy if we did not have the command and support of Jesus? It is among the more difficult and specifically Christian choices to which we are called.
Then comes the third stage. Even if we do succeed in living out the Gospel commands to the extent of following them in our actions, there is still the reason or purpose of the commands, the very heart of salvation, you might say, that is a distinct stage beyond obedience. It consists in our relationship with God through faith and Baptism. 'Reborn' in Jesus, we are a "new creation" as Paul put it. Or : "I live, no, not I, but Christ lives in me." (Gal. 2:20; ; Rom. 8: 14ff; Jn. 3: 11f; 2 Cor.5: 17; Col. 3: 10, 13). Through faith and Baptism we are to be transformed into the image of Jesus. It is a process. Our goal is to live not merely in imitation of Christ, but "in Christ", sharing, being part of His love for ourselves and for those around us! That is stage three.
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A Lenten smile for you:
Pete: Hey Mac, there is a story here in the paper that says a man is run over by a car in the Streets of New York every 80 seconds. Mac: Wow! That's bad. Someone should tell him to stay on the sidewalk.
Pete: Hey, Mac. Do you know what is the leading cause for dry skin? Mac: Towels?