The Unheard Cry for Reality Itself
I have long suspected that the deepest issues that are at the root of strife and division in the Body of Christ are not at the level of doctrine. Doctrine is often employed as the subterfuge beneath which the real issues of fear, insecurity and mistrust are too often concealed.
Something of the same kind keeps many in the world from a believing unto salvation who are already persuaded of the truth of the faith, but are fearful to relinquish the familiar in order to cross over into the uncertainties (and requirements) of that other realm. Little wonder, then, that it is often desperation, tragedy, or fear of hell (as it was for my own Jewish mother) that precipitates the breakthrough. It ought to be the preached word in the power of the Spirit “that summons us out of ourselves.”* By such a word as that, “not only the sinner but the righteous man is brought to judgment and must cry for mercy.” True preaching, rare as it is, ought always to precipitate such a crisis-a threat which is at the same time a promise! Such preaching is nothing less than a revealing of the true reality of God. It is God seeking to break through so as to beckon us to inhabit His world, “which if God is valid in this fashion, then our world is not.”
How often do we, as God’s people, ‘filter out’ an aspect of a message that threatens the safety of our status quo while, at the same time, we nod our heads and ‘amen’ the speaker as if in total agreement with his preached word! Let us not fall into the category of moral cowards who forfeit the truth, which can only be received as the whole truth. The end result brings a hardening to the very area which God, by His Spirit, would have brought a breaking or a release. So our lives continue as fractured, carnal, shallow and unhappy. Our obese bodies (or its corollary) give testimony of consistent over-indulgence for which we are no longer even embarrassed, nor see it as a contradiction to discipleship! Others of us, equally undisciplined and indulgent in our lifestyles, are saved from its physical evidence by an unusual metabolism, but are equally lacking in self-control. A radical redemption is needed, a “disquietude…that inevitably arises from the word alongside of which that which we call dying [to self] is only a semblance, just play, not understanding at all the seriousness of dying.”
Little wonder then, that many ‘sincere’ Christians balk at having to consider another fearful, apocalyptic suffering ahead for Israel as the prelude to the fulfillment of her millennial destiny. Perhaps part of the reason can be found in the same as being loathe to consider a like necessity for themselves! So much then of our world-view is predicated upon our ‘comfort-zone’ rather than the uncompromising truth of God’s prophetic word. Our ‘theology’ is, in the last analysis, proximate to our distance from the Cross, for which, more than we know, many have never really made their peace!
“But who has already walked this way? Who does not need to walk this way again and again? Who can be said to have already passed the Cross and to be standing on the other side in the resurrection? Who does not take offence here? Who does not shake his head? Who dares leave it all to God…at the extremity, where you are and have nothing any more? There, God will glorify himself through you. There, resurrection and life are waiting.”
May the Lord add His blessing to this word.
*From the Translator’s preface to the sermons of Karl Barth in the book Come Holy Spirit, Wm.Eerdmans & Co., Grand Rapids, MI 1978. I am indebted to the book for the inspiration of this article from which also all other quotations here have been derived.