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65 - Church Frog In A Separation Pot

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. It was a dream of reconciliation and freedom. It wasn’t just for racial reconciliation, or freedom for one group of people. It was the belief that every person had the God-given right to live in peace.

In 1963, in his August 28th speech at the Lincoln Memorial, MLK talked about that dream. In the beginning of that speech, he pointed to the man responsible for the instigating act meant to free black slaves; Lincoln, who stood enshrined in the monument behind him. But he quickly pointed out that, though Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had declared freedom for black people, one hundred years later, that promise had still not been fulfilled (En.2). To MLK, the black population had been freed from one kind of slavery, only to be oppressed by another. That other form of slavery was segregation.

After Lincoln’s emancipating act, no one could forcibly, and physically enslave a black person. But those resistant to that freedom found other ways to enforce a new form of slavery. It was a more subtle, quiet kind of slavery. It was so subtle, most people didn’t see it, or agree that it was wrong. Because of that MLK had an uphill battle convincing people to see the problem, and join him to help fix it.

Today, the Church is in much the same state. It is under a form of slavery it cannot see. Two thousand years ago, Jesus instigated an emancipating act to free all humanity from that slavery, but our enemy found another way to enforce a new kind of slavery. What is that slavery? It is a form of religion that lacks true freedom of Christ. Is it possible that most Christians, churches, denominations, and traditions have unknowingly participated with this more subtle form of slavery?

If you asked the average Christian today, “what is sin,” what would they say. Most Christians would say something like; “sin is breaking God’s moral law.” God has rules. God wants us to keep those rules. Sin is breaking God’s rules.

This isn’t wrong, but it doesn’t reach to the fullest depth of what sin is. Most of what we think of as sin is actually the effect, not the cause. God does have rules. God does want us to keep His rules. But He knows we can’t. The reason we can’t speaks to the fullest depth of what sin is. Sin is any attempt to achieve a righteousness apart from Christ (Romans 3:21-28).

The cause and the remedy of sin is something we often miss, even as Christians well steeped in good truth and tradition. The cause of sin is our inability to do what God says. But there’s a deeper root to that problem. What lies beneath that inability is our separation from the source of all that we need to be able to live a good, holy, and righteous life.

Jesus didn’t come to the earth to give a more complete picture of God’s rules. Jesus didn’t come to correct or add to God’s Holy Law. Jesus came to show us a different way to keep it. That different way was Jesus Himself. Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and “No one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). He also told the Jews, “you examine the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is those very scriptures that testify about me; and yet you are unwilling to come to me so that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). Jesus placed Himself at the center of what we need in order to fulfill God’s Holy Law. To fulfill God’s righteous requirements, we need Jesus.

We need Jesus to save us (Acts 2:21).

We need to make Jesus our Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9, 1 John 4:14).

We need to take up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23).

We need to be baptized into Him, and through Him into the Spirit and the Father (Matthew 28:18-20).

That’s why Jesus makes baptism the central act of Christianity.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus made this important distinction about our connection to the Father through Him. Jesus said, “all that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you” (John 16:15). There is this important interplay between the Trinity that Jesus draws attention to. All that Jesus has comes from the Father, and comes through the Spirit. Jesus is the connecting point between the Father and the Spirit. What we need are not better rules, but a better way to keep them. That better way is a better connection to God through Jesus. The essence of sin isn’t just our inability to keep God’s rules, but our attempt to keep them apart from God.

Jesus came to reconnect us back to the Father. It is through this reconnection that we are able to do all God desires, and requires. God Himself does the work for us, in us (Philippians 2:13). The only thing we need to do is accept, step into, and grow in our connection to God. God does all the rest.

It is the function of the Spirit to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement (John 16:8). When we try to deal with sin, righteousness, and judgement on our own, we do so apart from God. It’s not that God doesn’t want us to have an understanding of particular sins and how to avoid them. It’s not that God doesn’t want us to understand His righteous requirements and how to better keep them. It's that He knows we can’t do that apart from Him. That’s why Jesus’ main mission was giving the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ death on the cross was auxiliary to being baptized in Him. Jesus’ death paved the way for His baptism, by dealing with the penalty of sin that stood in the way of our reconnection to God. To remove the penalty of sin, but not it’s continuing effects on our lives, is only half of Jesus’ work. God’s rescue mission deals with our sins, and their effect. To do that, God must first deal with the one sin that leads to the many.

Sometimes, the Church is good at helping us in our attempt to deal with our sins, but not in teaching us how to let God deal with our sin. That one sin is separation from God. From that one sin, come all the others. When we begin to let God deal with that one sin, it begins to resolve all the auxiliary sins that stem from it. Life apart from God leads naturally to all kinds of negative consequences. Trying to deal with all those consequences, without dealing with the root, leaves us exhausted in a futile effort to establish our own righteousness apart from God.

This is often where the Church finds itself. This is by design. This is the design of our enemy, to trap us in a form of religion that has no real power to deliver us from sin or sins.

If our enemy wanted to enslave us to a new form of the same sin Jesus came to free us from, he would have to convince us that the resolution of sin is anything but a reconnection back to God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

For a Church steeped in the Holy Spirit, that would be hard. If our enemy wanted to re-enslave us to a form of religion lacking a true reconnection to God, he would have to enact a long-term Plan to slowly squelch the Spirit over hundreds of years in a way that most Christians wouldn’t recognize. Move to fast, or too quick, and those acclimated to life in the Holy Spirit would notice, call it out, and the whole Plan would fail.

The Plan wouldn’t be to squelch the Spirit directly. The Plan would be to introduce a series of good ideas that seemed compatible to the mission of Jesus, that could slowly grow to eclipse our need for the Spirit over a long period of time, until the active role of the Holy Spirit in the Church was lost or greatly diminished. This Plan would be like boiling a frog in a pot of water.

Throw a frog into a boiling pot of water, and it will jump out and escape. Throw a frog into even a mildly hot pot of water, and it will still jump out and escape. You have to first get the frog into a comfortable pot of water, then slowly turn up the heat until the frog boils to death without even noticing. In this Plan, the frog is the Church, and the pot is separation from God.

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