There are two ‘sides’ who will have opinions about this conversation. The side of ‘Going to church’, and the side of ‘Not going to church’. I am not on either side.
Mark I want to explain a couple of extremes. Two opposites. Some will like this discussion because it fits their point of view, and others won’t. Both ‘points of view’ are in danger of missing the real meaning of what I am about to say.
God I think you’re reminding me of that verse where Joshua asked if you were on his side or his enemy’s. Can I hear you saying that right now?
You can. Loud and clear.
"Joshua went to him and said “are you for us or for our adversaries?” “Neither”, he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." JOSH 5:14 NIV
The only agenda worth considering is mine. You are always in danger of becoming consumed with your own opinion. To avoid that you need to listen to mine.
This is getting confusing already and we’ve only just got started.
Listen hard. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted, this is important. I said I wanted to tell you about two opposites. Here they are, and remember don’t make hasty judgements about whose side I’m on.
Here are the two opposites. The first is when people organise their relationship with me. Eventually, without necessarily meaning to, they run the risk of organising me. Many say that you can’t organise God. Unfortunately they’re wrong. You can.
The down side of having a God who’s vulnerable to you, is that I will work with whatever level of relationship you give me. And if you insist on organising your relationship with me, then eventually, I’ll end up having to work with you at that level. And Mark EVERYONE is guilty of this. You included. All of you do it, so don’t, not any of you, try to pretend you’re not in that group.
Everyone who ever tried to walk with me has been guilty, at some stage, of trying to organise our relationship. Even those who swear they hate religion. You’re all guilty of it. So don’t go thinking you’re better than ‘those religious people’. People who don’t go to church are often just as religious as those who do.
So let me explain the two extremes. The first extreme is when you organise your relationship with me and our relationship becomes religious.
If the key parts of our relationship are organised, predictable, fitting with your opinions and feelings about the way things ‘should be done’, you’re beginning to open the door to religion.
So that’s one extreme. When your relationship with me is organised by you.
The other extreme is that instead of you organising the way you conduct your relationship with me, I organise you.
The first extreme is you organising our relationship, and eventually organising me. Boxing me. Making me fit with your ideas. And I’ve made it clear that I will fit if there’s no other choice.
And the second extreme is where I organise you, and eventually our relationship. Polar opposites. On one side you have man organising first the relationship, and eventually God. On the other side you have God organising first the man, and then eventually the relationship.
All I can see is that those in favour of church won’t like the sound of this, and those who don’t like church will love it.
Exactly. But both groups are in danger of misinterpreting what I’m saying here. I am not talking about either option. This is about much more than church. It’s about every situation where humans organise their relationship with me.
I’m finding this pretty confusing God. This is really you aye? I’m not making it up??
What do you think?
Unfortunately this sounds and feels just like you.
Well I can see it will make me unpopular with both groups – people who like church and people who don’t. And there are plenty of good Christians in both groups.
Welcome to the club Mark. Anyone who wants a conversation with me is sooner or later going to hear stuff that others don’t like. I need to do a lot of talking, I create that way, I hold the worlds together that way. I can say ‘let there be light’ and there is light, whether or not anyone hears it is irrelevant in that particular case. But there are other things I say that are only able to achieve their purpose if heard by people and acted on. It’s me involving you humans in the act of ‘ongoing creation’.
And what I need to say is not always what people want to hear. Sometimes it is, sometimes not. I get to decide. So welcome to the club.
God some people get a bit worried about the way these conversations take so long. Such a lot of words to get across just a few points. I’m worried this one’s going on.
Don’t worry Mark. I work with what I’m given to work with. You talk a lot. Which means when we talk, there is a lot of talking. But my meaning still gets through. That’s all fine by me. You’re not perfect. Far from it. But who is? So let’s just continue shall we?
Ok. I’m getting a bit lost.
That’s fine. I’m not. I want to explain the meaning of life. First and foremost, the meaning of life is NOT organised religion. Sorry to disappoint you.
I’m not disappointed though. I don’t like organised religion.
Actually you do. Possibly not as organised as some like it, but you certainly have a way of relating to me that makes you comfortable. You run our relationship.
Really? I didn’t think I did??
You certainly do. But Mark just listen. It’s ok. I’ll walk you through this. It will take time to change. But if you listen I’ll explain.
I can hear you saying something about ‘free-falling’, like when you jump out of a plane and just plummet before you pull the parachute release cord??
That’s what I’m saying. But I’m talking about free-falling WITHOUT a parachute. No cord to pull when it gets scary. It’s a good way to describe the meaning of life.
The meaning of life is a relationship with me that comes from me. You give over all control of how our relationship will be run. Not to others, but to me. I call the shots. I organise our relationship. Not you. Not anyone else.
It’s frightening. Like free-falling. You can’t feel secure in all the little habits and customs and patterns you’ve organised into our relationship. Instead you’ll find yourself involved in a real time, ‘what’s happening today God?’ kind of friendship with me. No little religious patterns to rely on. I’m not in your religious patterns Mark, I’m in the pure, unadulterated voice of God, that anyone can hear if they listen.
I had to trust my father when I died. I had to trust that he would look after my spirit, that he would remember that I was his one true son. As I hung there dying I commended my spirit to him and figuratively speaking, I leapt out into space and started free falling. No parachute. Only God to pick me up and usher me into his kingdom.
My whole life was a story of giving over all control to him and listening to his voice, running the risk of looking like a madman. I didn’t fit with the religion of my parents, the accepted way of the day. Instead I let his voice, in real time, be my whole existence.
‘I am able to do nothing from myself//as the voice comes to me, so I give a decision.’ JOHN 5:30 AMP
He told me that I needed to die, so I died. He told me that he would raise me again, so I believed him. Trusted him to do it. Gave him the power to renege on his promise, but trusted him not to. Free falling.
God I just hope that Bible scholars don’t read this because I have no idea if this lines up with what they are taught. No idea at all. And you know there are already some who think that these conversations don’t line up with scripture.
Stick with me Mark. We’re almost done. The meaning of life is simple. I created the world, all of life, to be a platform, an environment in which humans and I could be in friendship. Not an organised relationship, not religion, but a conversation like people have with their friends.
That’s a bit offensive God. It suggests that you’re not my real friend.
Mark neither you, nor anyone you have ever met, has made a very good job of friendship with me. Some are very pious. Others have managed to abstain from much of their sin. Still others have devoted their lives to helping others, studying the bible etc. But few of you strike up a true friendship with me. No condemnation, but that’s just a simple fact.
Everything you see was created as an environment within which you and I could have a friendship. That’s it. That’s what life’s about. A friendship. I mean a proper talking back and forward friendship with the Creator of the Universe. Giving yourself over to that. No more organising of our relationship, but asking me for every step. It’s dangerous, you don’t know what’s coming next. You’re giving up control, giving up the right to call the shots. Free falling. It’s going to tip your life upside down. It’s not normal Christianity. It’s different from the Christianity you spent 37 years pursuing.
The good news is that my organising is much less onerous and controlling than your own. For instance a big part of my organising is already done. Creation. Look outside your door. An incredibly organised super-structure of nature. Me. I did that. Thought it all up. Held it all together. All organised. You’re here for a friendship. Whatever I want to talk about today, every ‘today’. You and me conversing our way through your life. That’s the meaning of life.
Explain the ‘free-falling’ thing a bit more?
When you’re actually listening to me you have no idea of what’s coming next. When what I say is no longer controlled by the precepts, habits and opinions you’ve borrowed from others or thought up yourself and organised into our relationship. No more of your little religious habits – in church, out of church, in the morning, in the evening, so many ways of doing things in our relationship. A song here, a quiet time there. Habits that make you feel safe. Give all that up and listen to me. That’s scary. That’s free falling.
The Pharisees knew that’s what I was saying. They heard it first from John and then from me, and then from the disciples. And they hated it. No rules, save listen to me. They thought it threatened their precious scriptures. They were so blind they couldn’t see it confirmed and strengthened everything in the scriptures. And so it is today. Mark you’re often no better than them. Admit it, you’ve got a routine and you like it.
Yes I do.
Good. When your routine begins to control the way we relate, then you control me. If you insist on sticking with that then I WILL work with it. But it’s not the way I want it.
What do you think is the biggest danger in what I’m saying?
Well if I don’t hear correctly I’ll do some very silly stuff. Whereas an organised relationship with you might be a bit stale, but it’s safe.
Exactly. Safe. Is ‘safe’ a good description of how Peter, Paul, David and Elijah lived?
I guess not.
I rest my case Mark. You’re here for a relationship, not to exchange your ‘worldly ways’ for safe ‘organised Christianity’. Can you see how pre-organising our relationship into patterns is so limiting on what you could have? I’m the Creator, not a Boys Brigade leader. A friendship with me is not going to look organised. It’s not going to fit easily with any pre-organised patterns. Whether that pattern is going to church, or not going to church is irrelevant.
Organised activities are nice. They can be helpful. Don’t get me wrong. It’s good to get together with those of similar beliefs. BUT THAT IS NOT THE MEANING OF LIFE. It’s not free falling. Not a friendship with the one who always was and always will be.
“You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.” JOHN 3:8 MSG
If you’re born of the spirit people won’t know where you came from, or where you’re going. Does that sound like your life?
Instead of arguing with the scripture, let the scripture argue with you.
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