Thursday, September 6, 2007

Rising Above the Big Divide

We’re told in church growth circles and books that we first need to realize that there’s not only a sin divide but a cultural divide. The cultural divide gets talked about as though it’s something new.

Paul, Peter, Timothy, all of those guys waded in dripping wet with culture; but then following their respective transformations, were nudged by God right back into the cultural pool. But what they came out of culture possessing, and what they returned newly containing, had to be subjected to Christ’s scrutiny and infused with the Spirit’s Power. Without that, when they begin to organize the Church into groups that did everything from waiting tables, to sewing clothes for the needy, to feeding the poor, and then training those who would teach others about Christ, the works could have become what I guess we mean by a social gospel. But they didn’t, and from that point forward the message of Jesus Christ literally infected the globe. The difference was the Big Invisible that infused the visible.

Without the Power of the Spirit steering and transforming me, I might naturally embrace helping the poor and lending grace because I sincerely leaned toward those things early on; but pursuing that work without God’s Spirit is shy of transformative power. I can’t transform a soul, especially my own. While helping the poor and the sick and the displaced with God’s Power on my life “ministers grace” through the delivery system of works, it’s the Spirit that causes a life to turn around and go a different direction. While the Spirit inscribes the good work, he also identifies me to others as genuinely His. People can sense/feel the Spirit’s presence (or whatever you want to call that identification with God that people detect in us) and that’s what draws them, that courting thing that God does that is personal and often unseen by us. But while the avenue of good works compels people, we still must consider motives and we can use those who were first drawn to Jesus as a model. Some came out of curiosity, some desperate but all gathered around Jesus waiting to see if he might perform a miracle. Humans may be drawn to our works out of a care for that work or a need for it; it could be that their interest is piqued by our good works and that’s not a bad thing. But we can easily take credit for good works. We can’t take the credit for God’s power and Spirit performing human transformation through the ridiculous conduit of bones and flesh.