True man is he who doesn’t want to live long in this world. He wants to give his testimony and return as soon as possible, return home to Christ. He isn’t concerned about living a long life; he only wants to live on earth as long as his Lord wants him to live. Why? Because he is already living with Christ in His kingdom. He knows it with perfect certainty. He is redeemed, delivered from every desire and ambition that snares men and chains them to this world, and he is impatient to be free of this body of death, because he no longer lets it use him to sin. He is already living in heaven with Christ; all he wants is to be living there completely. If he must continue living in this world, he knows it’s only to do here what Christ wants him to do, to do what he sees Jesus doing in this world. He wants only to follow Jesus who, though living visibly in heaven, is alive invisibly on earth. And so, true man lives invisibly in heaven while he is living visibly on earth, following Jesus.
True man lives in the Word of God, and that Word is everything to him, and it makes him a child of the Kingdom, it makes him a disciple of Jesus. And Jesus and the Father come and live with him there, making him one of them by giving him the Spirit to live inside him. The Word of God is everything to him, it is his home, his food, his covering, his companion, his teacher, his protection, his inheritance. He is never without it, whether the Book is in his hand or not. The Word of God becomes his words, becomes his thoughts, becomes his actions. It is his strength, it guards his purity, it is his defense against all the lures and snares of the enemy. The Word of God proves His unalterable faithfulness to him and in him, and makes him faithful to God. The Word of God never leaves him, never leaves him alone, becomes a hedge around him, and makes him a hedge around the Kingdom in which he lives with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
True man is the implacable foe of the evil one, and doesn’t yield for a moment even an inch of territory, because the Word of God lives in him, and he lives in the Word. That is his world, and that world is the Kingdom. His citizenship is there while in the body he lives here. He is an unregistered alien in this world, which either shuns him as it goes along with its trifling affairs, pretending not to see him, or when it can’t help but see him, he is seen as a threat, he is seen as dangerous, and he is opposed with every injustice that can be brought against him in the name of the world’s justice. Because he obeys another Law, fulfills another commandment, that of His Lord, he falls under the condemnation of the laws of men and suffers with His Lord, who is put to death every day by the world. This too is an earthly evidence of his heavenly citizenship. He has nowhere to lay his head, no place in this world where he is comfortable, seeing that everywhere is under the dominion of the evil one, and with Jesus he is turned away at every inn, turned away because he is a God-bearer.
True man is too strong for the men who seek their home and their security on earth, and so he finds no friends among them. His strength is not from himself. He seems to wear his strength effortlessly, while others who claim to be strong or who try to be, make excuses for their weakness. But his strength is not from himself, it is from Christ who lives with him and who supplies him from His armory. His eye looks stern and unfriendly to men who have eyes only for the world, because his eye is single, and it looks always upon heaven, and from heaven where he already is living with Christ. His strength is from his Lord, and it shows in his walk and in his stance, in his speech and in his silence, in what he does and in what he does not do. All of this is a threat to other men who seek their strength only in things of this world, in things man-made, in what will not endure.
True man is in the world, but not of it. Why? Because he lives already in the Kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He lives there and he knows it. He has his proof of citizenship in the Word that never leaves him. He has his passport ready and can come and go through a door that to him is never shut between worlds, a door which, if he chooses to shut it, no one can open, and if he chooses to open, no one can close. He has been given this kind of authority because he can be trusted. Why can he be trusted? Because he has proven himself faithful to his charge, because he renews his faithfulness every day in the presence of his Father, by following the Son of God, by doing only what he sees Him doing. He has already been given the crown of life, because he is willing to lay down his life in this world, because of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
Brothers, this is our call in Jesus Christ. This is the guarantee of our salvation. This is the life that has no end. This is the treasure hidden in the field that a man finds and then sells all that he has to purchase the field. This is the true man that has been recreated in the image of the Holy Triad who said, “Let us make man in Our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters…”
Brothers, this is true man.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
‘Cover the earth’ evangelism. I imagine that many Christians still believe that it is their duty to convert others, their near neighbors, and those far away, to Christianity. I used to feel this way too, once. But long ago I noticed that ‘conversion’ to Christianity often meant exactly that—joining a religious society, church, mission, or whatever. Somehow, despite the prayers and pious rhetoric, conversion to Christ was glossed over, almost as if those who gained the converts did not even have an idea of what conversion really means. This happens in every form of Christianity. It bothers me the most when it happens in my own community, the Orthodox Church. Why? Because we've been around the longest. We should know better. The fearful part is when I come upon Christ's indictment of the Pharisees in His own culture, ‘You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.’
‘Wholesale evangelists’ may reach the masses, but what really is happening? Yes, Jesus spoke to crowds, and what did those crowds do? Where were they when He was crucified? And even later, where were these crowds when at most, a hundred twenty people were gathered in the upper room on the day of Pentecost? The three thousand who accepted Christ on that day came from the preaching of the apostles filled with the Holy Spirit, and it was not at a revival—revivals are tent meetings to re-evangelize and revive Christian life in people who already know that there is a Jesus. No one in scripture, no one in the history of the Church, ever went ‘door to door’ evangelizing. That's man's plan based on man's expectations. The plan that God has for the evangelization and salvation of the world is much simpler than that. It is just ‘go, and make disciples,’ a naked commandment followed by only a brief instruction. It's all found in Matthew's gospel. So, where does that leave us?
All Christians are, simply put, witnesses. We can testify only to that which we know. This is not about which church does it better, or which is more valid than another. These are not the kind of questions that interest Jesus, and they shouldn't interest us either. What this is about, is realising that the human constructs are unworthy of us: only Christ is worthy. The nets we fashion to catch the fish must not become ends in themselves, for the fish were not made for the nets, but the nets for the fish. And when caught, fish will only spoil and rot if they stay in the nets. This is about not settling for anything less than Jesus. The Orthodox have a saying, ‘We know where the Church is, but we don't necessarily know where she is not.’ I have a saying of my own, that mirrors it, sort of its flip-side, ‘We know where Jesus is, but we don't necessarily know where He is not.’
Why can both these sayings be true?
And if they are true, who or what is being excluded, and by whom?
We will never know where Jesus is walking, until we follow Him.