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Excerpts from "Your Christ is Too Small"
Posted: 2009-02-27 16:42:17 by: Frank Viola
Excerpts from “Your Christ is Too Small” by Frank Viola
The Lord dwells in all of us, and He is a speaking God. But (one of) the primary vehicles He uses as His mouthpiece is His Body. Therefore, you and I will not know Christ (as) deeply and intimately (as we should) unless we (have some connection or are in some community with other) believers where each member is free to open their mouths and speak. (In many churches every member is not free to speak, or at least they are not encouraged to share). We (more fully) learn Christ by being a member with other believers.
Through many years of church life I began to understand that my brothers and sisters in Christ were part of Christ (His Body), and I learned to listen to my Lord through them. (This includes what the Lord has said through others in the past).
Another lesson I have learned is how the Lord, when we first meet Him, makes Himself quite irresistible to us. He wins us over, He conquers our heart, He draws us near to Him. And we love Him. Then we may receive greater revelations of the Lord, ones that move us from shallow waters into the depths. It’s the peril of allowing our first seeing of Christ to shape the way we recognize Him for the rest of our lives! (But He wants us to learn more about Him and these lessons may not be easy to take).
If we are pressing on to know the Lord, He will eventually come to us in a way that (we may not like). Some Christian groups have felt that they have a corner on knowing the Lord (but the Lord cannot be put in these type of boxes for long).
In the beginning when He wooed us to Himself (we saw Him one way); but that season will eventually end. And just when you think you have laid hold of Him, He will bring us higher (and will seem to slip out of our grasp). He (may) appear to us as a stranger (like on the road to Emmaus, He was not recognized at first), but upon second glance, we’ll soon discover it is the Lord.
We all wish to cling to the Lord that we know now. But mark my words: He will come to us in a way that we do not expect…through people who we are prone to ignore and inclined to write off.
Perhaps they don’t talk our religious language. Perhaps they don’t use our vocabulary. Perhaps they don’t share our jargon or parrot our religious idioms. And so we cling fast to the Lord that we recognize…only receiving those who talk our language, use our jargon…and we end up turning the Lord away.
When we fail to receive Him when He comes to us in an unexpected way (He waits) and our revelation of Him ceases to grow. I’ve seen churches and movements stop dead-in-the-water, living off of a revelation of Christ that was delivered to them twenty or thirty years ago. And they never got beyond it.
This in fact is the very root of denominationalism and Christian movements. It works like this. A group of Christians see an important aspect of Christ. That insight usually comes from a servant of the Lord whom God has raised up to restore a certain spiritual truth to His Church. The group is captured by it. Even changed by it. And they stand on the earth to promote and express it. But then, subtly, they build a circle around it. And then a castle…and then a wall…and then enshrine it. And when someone else comes in contact with them with another aspect of Christ to share, they blow it off with monumental disinterest. Why? Because it’s different from the original sighting of the Lord that they have received.
In effect, the group refuses (or at least is not welcoming of these new people and their new ideas) to have fellowship with other Christians who are not like them.
To have fellowship means that I receive what the Lord has given you and you receive what the Lord has given me (or at least give it an open listen). And both of us will be enriched. That’s fellowship.
If I only fellowship with those whose beliefs were the same as mine and their understanding of the Lord the same as mine, then I couldn’t have fellowship with myself 10 years ago! Fifteen years ago I would have had to excommunicate myself from the
Jesus Christ is richer, larger, and more glorious than any of us could ever imagine (and greater than we know now).
When Peter, James and John saw the transfigured Lord on the holy mountain, Peter wanted to build a tabernacle for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. But God would not allow it (We must keep listening to the Lord!) There is something in our fallen nature that, like Peter, wishes to build a monument around a spiritual encounter with God and remain there. But the Lord will not have it. He will always break free from our frail attempt to pin Him down, box Him up, and hold Him in (one) place. And He does so by coming to us in new and unexpected ways. Many Christians fear diversity… and we tend toward uniformity. Diversity, however, is part of the nature of the Body of Christ (and who God is). It’s also woven into the universe. Look at creation. What do you find? Diversity with God’s harmony. Diversity is a sign of fullness. (We do not want to take away from unity but there is unity in God along with the richness of who God is).
(If we have a great truth revealed to us from the Lord and we want everyone else to embrace it or conform to it, we should not push it so hard that we cause a church split). If you feel that the Lord has given you a particular insight into an important truth all may not embrace it with the same zeal that you do, or they may even not want it (right away). Every believer is at liberty to embrace and share his or her understanding of Christ and (in time) the members of the Body may learn how to incorporate one another’s insights into their overall understanding of the Lord. (In the mean time, each individual is free to follow his own heart and understanding and wait patiently for others to see things from the Lord themselves. If they never do, it is between them and the Lord).
Until our Lord returns, we will continue to “see through a glass darkly.” Consequently, a church ought to learn the fine art of weaving together the varied experiences and insights each member brings to it. (as long as they don’t contradict the Gospel).
Sometimes these experiences and insights will constitute a paradox. That is, they will appear to stand in contradiction to one another. (Example: Should we fight what we think the devil is attacking us with or should we accept some things as coming from the Lord?)
Throughout the years I have come to see that the great bulk of Divine Truth is paradoxical. For that reason, I have learned (how) to live in the presence of (apparent) spiritual contradiction. So much so that I can take a nap in the face of it.
But there is something more. With every new seeing of the Lord, there is the temptation to become proud of that new seeing. There seems to be a subtle arrogance that seeks to seep into the human heart when one experiences a deeper experience or understanding of Christ. But there is nothing more opposite to the Spirit of Jesus Christ than the spirit of pride or arrogance.
We find Christ in only one issue-poverty. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” A spirit of poverty says, “I need to know Him more, I don’t have a corner on Him, I am a child in this business, I’m still in school, I’m still learning, I haven’t arrived, (there is much more).”
(Even if a church group does get some special blessings and sees many wonderful things from the Lord, beware of thinking that you are special, better than other Christians, and the real Church (with others outside your circle).
It is in times of great revelations that we need the humility of Christ the most. Recall Paul’s thorn in the flesh? (God put it in his life to keep him from being too elated over the numerous revelations he had received).
(No matter how many insights you have don’t stop pursuing Him. He will probably not let you go very far away from Him without pulling the rug out from under you, if you keep your eyes on Him and it will be all by His grace for all these things. Don’t get stuck or stop where you are no matter how much you have learned. Hold on to the good you have and keep seeking Him).
A sure mark of spiritual poverty is a wide heart. If you have a narrow heart, you will only recognize Christ through some of His people. And you will be blind to Him through others. Jesus Christ is a lot larger than what most of us have thought, and He works through a lot more people than we would expect. Is your Christ too small?