I have met many people who share their beautiful conversion stories and I'm filled with delight at the initial passion they felt...the love they sensed...their immediate understanding of this gorgeous Jesus...people who collided with the love of God and were instantly awakened with this need...this thirst...this desire for His love...His peace...His passion...it's almost like once an authentic love encounter with Jesus Christ is in the mix...it's a forgone conclusion...you're a gonner...you're ruined for life - you'll never ever find anything as beautiful as His love...and somehow in that very moment you just know it.
It wasn't like that for me. I was introduced to Jesus as a 12 year old. I knew His peace and His righteousness. I knew the rules and rituals. But I didn't know His love. I knew He was holy but I didn't know He was Love. I left Christianity and chased after sin. For me Christianity was boring and sin was exciting. I thought I could sin and still find love. I didn't. I messed around for years and then recommitted my life to a righteous and Holy God from a place of fear. To avoid hell. I had fear because I didn't know God was Love. I started attended church and still I struggled desperately with the boredom, the rule keeping...the sin consciousness...and even then I didn't truly understand Gods love.
Yet over time, the more I got to know of God I found myself falling in love with glimpses of Him...where He would comfort me...excite me...delight me...but there were also parts of God that would definitely frustrate me...grieve me...scare me...it all depended on which side of God I was exposed to...and all this time I didn't really know Jesus. I knew God - but to be honest, when you just know God the Father it's simply not enough - Father God outside of the Trinity isn't the whole picture - you can't get the whole package. You don't see the full beauty. Soon after I got saved I began to worship ardently by myself and Jesus showed me that I had neglected Him - I repented and began to intentionally seek Jesus. Over the next 10 years I sought after Jesus with every inch of my being. I fell in love with Him. I came to understand that the Father freed me because of what His precious beautiful Son did for me.
I got sooooo delivered. So free. So in love. He became irresistible to me. How could anyone resist Jesus? He is simply the most beautiful person ever. He is wonderful in ALL of His ways. He is totally gorgeous from every single perspective...He is perfect...glorious to behold...Soooo soooo SO very good. From the moment I saw Jesus' beauty never did I waiver in my pursuit of God. Once I was in I was in...I was a keeper...yet I have pondered why despite my hunger and desperate pursuit of God did it take me soooo long to discover the love of Christ...why did it take so long for me to see His beauty. Though I was radically and instantly snatched out of sin why did it it take me such a long time to fall into grace?
Jesus certainly didn't change over time this I know...it's not like He BECAME delicious in the last ten years...or became more perfect...NO - ON THE CONTRARY - He was always irresistible...He was always beautiful from every single angle...yesterday today and forevermore He has always been perfect and gorgeous to behold. Yet why did I not see this from the onset? Some people do see it from their first encounter don't they? Like those that I mentioned at the beginning of the blog...or those that you hear about in Muslim nations that have a radical, heavenly visitations...but as is with most people I didn't have a supernatural encounter where Jesus came and shone a white light and dazzled me with His radiance...I didn't have a divine encounter where His liquid love enveloped me and I felt all gooey and floaty...on the contrary I had a raw...emotional...turbulent and looooong journey of discovering God's love and the beauty and worth of Jesus - His grace, patience and mercy unveiling His love and identity to me. I literally weep nonstop in gratitude for His persistence...His endurance...His long suffering - in faithfully showing me who He is...tenacious in His revealing, though it took me so long to see His beauty....yet He never waned in pursuing me so that one day in my pursuit of Him I would truly SEE Him.
As I come across those to have had a slightly easier, less volatile...dreamier journey into the Kingdom...though I don't regret a single inch of my beautiful, God breathed journey nevertheless I have pondered why so many struggle to see Christs beauty from day one of saying YES to God? And why when Jesus is SOOOOOO sooooo beautiful do more people not see His gorgeousness and want it?...
Now I could be totally wrong and of course I believe there are untold spiritual factors at work for why people don't see the beauty of Christ...but I do sense that one of the reasons is because of how He has been reflected and represented by the church as a whole...and I guess more locally too. Although my personal times with God were quickly becoming rich and intoxicating even as a new believer, I only came to truly understand the love, grace and goodness of God when I came to Commonwealth Christian Fellowship. It's here that I found permission to dream. It's here that I truly discovered a body of people who radiated Christ...who modelled...taught...pursued and demonstrated Christ...who made me want to know Christ with every inch of my being...and in whom I saw Christ as clear as day. For the first time ever I believe I discovered a truly healthy church...one that is wholly centred upon Christ and walking in such beautiful freedom. Although yay, thankfully in London we have several wonderfully, healthy churches!
But without wanting to be judgemental in the slightest or wanting to condemn anyone, just as my Pastor has shared with us before, there are simply not enough truly healthy churches...because unfortunately some veer on legalism...some on sloppy grace...some on hardcore discipline and sin consciousness...the list goes on...and sadly there just aren't enough churches that have a balanced, heavenly authentic, divinely accurately understanding of God...therefore cannot offer this to others...even with the very best intentions. And that I believe is part of Satan's strategy for Christians...he basically thinks "hey okay fine so what if they start attending church? No big deal - just because they're in church, that doesn't mean they'll actually meet God right? They can come to church but let's keep them from walking in wholeness and love - we'll just get hurting people to hurt people in church...we'll get wounded people to wound people in church....unforgiving people to unforgive...condemned people to condemn...self righteous people to judge...lost people to lead...and we'll just do it while in church...job done!"
You see because if we don't have an accurate enough understanding of God's Love then even with the best intentions we can't help people get free...because we ourselves are not free. So we can't share the joy of Christ...we can't give and love unconditionally because somewhere along the line we aren't walking in complete spirit and in truth...we haven't quite tapped into who God is and so we don't completely know who we are. Without an accurate and experiantial understanding of God's love, through Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit the church is leading people to The Lord and faithfully doing kingdom business - but there's much resistance and struggles and deception and conditions and heartache and bondage because it's being done without the understanding of who Jesus truly is and how deep...and wide...and high...and long...God's love is...
If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such [a]as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers ([b]the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody). Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or [c]in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (Amp)
That's why I believe we can become a Christian in a mediocre church and so it can take us years to have the true identity of Jesus unveiled despite our insatiable hunger and pursuit of God, or on the flip side you can be planted in an authentic vibrant, healthy house and get saved, signed...sealed and delivered in weeks...be radically changed and have a network of free, joyful...strong, steadfast brothers and sisters around you supporting you and making Jesus famous...making Jesus soooo attractive to everyone around them and just living the abundant life. I believe as the body we need to strive for the latter - to be healthy, Christlike Christians...little anointed ones...it's just not worth it to hang around in a place of compromise...a place of weight or sin...or mediocrity...or lukewarmness. We have lost people around us who desperately need to meet the irresistible beauty and love of Jesus...we could well be their only divinely ordained, perfect labourer for this season and they are perhaps destined to meet LOVE through us but if we are not healthy, free, powerful, love drenched Christians...our vibrant, victorious lives signposting to Jesus - then they just won't see Him in us...they won't detect His light and love. We'll just be another ordinary person...who happens to spend their Sundays at a church. They won't see that we have something they need. They won't see that we are so free that we can direct them towards true freedom...we can help carry their load when they are going through tough times and lead them to the Prince of Peace. But you see if we have so much of our own baggage how can we help carry anyone else's load when they need support?
Imagine - how could Jesus have carried away the worlds inequity and disease? Because His hands were free - He didn't have a single iota of His own baggage - sooooo free of baggage was He that He was able carry the past...current and future universe's entire baggage...the pain...the sickness...the disease...the cancer of sin...for ALL time. Although Jesus has completed everything at Calvary and His work is a finished work we are called to help carry other peoples burdens just like Jesus did. But if we are busy dealing with our own burdens...our own stuff - then how are we ever going to help anyone else? We are meant to give all our burdens to Jesus daily...we are to be strengthened by his joy and in all things give praise...we are called to live by faith...seated in heavenly places...
But if we are still trying to get free or still trying to work out our identity or Gods identity...all the point 101 stuff, then literally how are people going to ever have an authentic encounter with Christ through our lives life if our lives still need soooo much fixing...hey good news...we have already been fixed in Jesus...we can give all our stuff to Him and be free of it...holding on to our "stuff" is not going to help anyone...on the contrary the "healthiness' of our walk with The Lord has the potential to totally accelerate or delay the spiritual walks of untold people around us...if we are a healthy Christian and a healthy, Jesus centred church then those that we disciple will be healthy...and centred on Christ and God's goodness.
I'm sincerely not trying to condemn anyone or downplay anyone's trials or painful circumstances - they are valid and God can and will use them for our good...but even in our trials and valley experiences we can be healthy Christians - we can be jars of clay. It's when we stay in our stuff and for whatever reason aren't walking in our blood bought freedom that we can become unhealthy Christians...ineffective...powerless. Satan wants to keep the church in deception so it doesn't shine God's light. I say it's a sheer tragedy when people are kept from seeing the true beauty of Christ...just like I was when I first became a Christian. Because I didn't see it, I wasn't able to reflect it. It's the same for loads of others right?
SO what's the solution?
God can and will bring beauty out of our broken churches. When Constantine, the emporer of Rome converted to Christianity and led the Roman Empire to faith, he called for an end to the persecution of Christians. As Christianity became cultural and more common it was unfortunately watered down. There was complacency and compromise. In contrast it was when the church was persecuted that the church grew authentically. I'm definitely not saying we must be persecuted in order to grow as the body but we must be willing to die to our flesh - we must be willing to lay down the complacency and let go of the stuff that we think is harmless. Little foxes spoil the vine. Let's strip away anything that isn't Jesus.
Anything that doesn't line up with His Word, His character, His desire, His love towards us - let's just be willing to knock it on the head - because our freedom in Christ isn't just about us - if we are weighed down by off key doctrine, or condemnation or an eskewed perception of who God is, then the influence we have upon others is also diluted or violated...because I say it again - it's not just about us...the harvest is ripe...people are coming into the body seeking an authentic relationship with Christ - a life that Christ promised and we've got to be healthy ministers of reconciliation, not wounded, stagnant, complacent, mediocre, deceived Christians...as the lost come into the family of God we've got to be walking in sonship not wading in an orphan spirit.
That's the thing - satan will accept us being in the family of God as long as we remain an orphan - it's when we understand our position as sons and daughters that he kaks himself because that's when we become a unit...a family...true brethren in The Lord...representing Christ's love to all the earth...revealing the Father's heart...making God famous for who He really is....He is irresistible...delightful to be around...faithful beyond belief and altogether lovely - whose thoughts towards us are altogether good and eternally drenched in love...always merciful...always kind...perfect in all His ways...come one now...who wouldn't want this in their lives?
So we must let go of the stuff that stands in the way of Gods character being revealed through us and prevents us from being being abundantly, effective in our lives. We must rise up and grow up in Christ..we must seek Him...truly seek Him in spirit and in truth...because there is a specific ordained sphere of influence, spiritual children...people in our care that need to see a true reflection of who Christ is...and it's maybe only through our lives that they will see this...but we cannot show them something we aren't seeing ourselves. I believe its crucial to be planted in a vibrant, healthy, presence pursuing church that is in love with Jesus, in Spirit and in Truth...a place where you can grow and flourish...a place that helps you to walk in authencity, freedom, power and love...a place that truly reflects Christ and is able to nurture the lost into freedom effectively - and authentically be that sign post pointing towards Jesus...the beautiful King...the Saviour of the world...the irresistible One...who truly is the answer to every single thing. HE is the ONE that this world is looking for...but they will meet Him through us...let's strive to be the healthiest ministers of reconciliation ever.