I thought I would do fine without all the commercialized, over-done Christian atmosphere after we moved to Delhi because I “knew” I didn’t need any of it to bear fruit for the Lord. I “knew” I already had the Holy Spirit living inside of me, so it didn’t matter how dark a place was, once I showed up, I had the Light of the World shining through me.
But I haven’t been nearly so confident in my walk since we’ve lived here. And I’m not blaming how spiritually “dark” it is or chalking it up to demonic garbage. Regardless whether you live in suburban America or in a Hindu village somewhere in India, it’s completely up to you to own your own faith and be responsible for what your relationship with Jesus looks like. And true to that statement, I blame my own lack of intentionality and incorrect assumptions for the distance I’ve put between myself and The Lord.
But before I launch into some more of those thoughts, I want to explain that for a long time leading up to this Michael and I had been listening to a lot of teachings about the finished work of the cross. Here’s a loose summary of “New Covenant” or “Finished Work” teachings for those of you who are unfamiliar with it:
Jesus’ work on the cross was complete, absolute and universal. The wrath of God wad satisfied on the cross and there is now no condemnation for those who believe in Jesus. We are no longer bound under the Old Covenant (Old Testament) laws or judgements, but living inside the New Covenant that was secured in the blood of Jesus. Salvation is more than a “get-out-of-hell-free” card — it is the total death and resurrection of your physical, emotional and spiritual person in Christ. You have everything you need in Christ, and there is no greater anointing than the anointing of Christ. You have already been given your “calling” and it’s called “The Great Commission”, so you don’t need to wait for the audible voice of God or a “tingle” to heal the sick, cleanse the leper, and cast out demons. And I believe all this to be true because the Spirit and Word testify to it.
In other words… the basic message is that you don’t need to cry out after God day and night for revival. You are revival because He lives in you and has already filled you with His Spirit. You lack nothing because He is your everything.
I can tell you hearing that for the first time is liberating. But I don’t want to say and do all the right things, and live independently of Jesus and His Body only to get to heaven and for Him to tell me, “Ashley, It’s true you did a lot in my name, but I never knew you.”
Without meaning to, I distanced myself from Christ and from His Body after I discovered that I didn’t need to manipulate God with fasting or goto a church every Sunday to bring the Kingdom to the earth.
So I’ve started to ask how can I maintain a relationship with Jesus and His Body if I think I already know what His will is in all things at all times and I think that I don’t need anything else from Him? And how can I live in harmony with my brothers and sisters and be open to instruction if I believe that they have nothing to offer me because I’ve already been given everything I need in Christ?
Can you imagine marrying someone and assuming that you knew everything about them from just one encounter? Or can you imagine not spending time with your spouse because you figured since you’re already married you don’t need to work on your relationship with them? No, of course not. It takes time, self-sacrifice and remembering your covenant with this person to make a marriage work. You don’t always “feel” in love, but you intentionally make the choice to love them. You go out on dates, write letters, give hugs and do all sorts of other things to remain a solid unit.
It’s the same way with Jesus and His Body. Yes, it’s still true that two thousand years ago, Jesus already told us His will and gave us His authority to carry it out. And it’s also true that He is, as Watchman Nee puts it, the sum of all spiritual things, so there is nothing you can add to Him or the things He has already done. You don’t need to meet any standards, fast, pray or read your bible to heal someone in His name. But He is a living, breathing Person who desires an intimate relationship with us. And His Body is designed to work together as a whole, not separate parts who have no need of each other: “And now there are [certainly] many limbs and organs, but a single body. And the eye is not able to say to the hand, I have no need of you, nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. But instead, there is [absolute] necessity for the parts of the body that are considered the more weak.” (1 Cor 12:20-22)
So I’ll just confess it: I’m really good at doing religion, but I’m not so good at carrying on a relationship with the Lord or with my brothers and sisters. I’m inclined to do works in the name of Jesus without spending any time with Jesus. I can carry on a conversation about the Lord, read a book about the Holy Spirit, talk about the bible, give food to the poor, drop some “Christianese” here and there — but when it comes to knowing and experiencing Jesus first hand, I find my heart often asking: “Who are you Lord?”
I’ve had to do some deep, deep soul-searching. Do I want to continue eating from the the Tree of Knowledge and leaning on my own understanding as I have been, or do I want to eat from the Tree of Life? Do I want to continue being dependent on my own religious works to try and please a Holy God, or do I want to enter into the single most satisfying pleasure of knowing who my Lord is?
While Jesus was on earth he could have done anything he wanted and gone His own way because he was fully God and fully man. He already knew the entire will of the Father, but he chose to know and do nothing apart from what He saw the Father doing. As a Pharisee, Paul could have run circles around anyone in an argument, but he claimed to “know nothing but Christ and Him crucified”. They each had the freedom of knowledge, but they choose to be dependent on the Father’s abundant life.
Going back to the example of a marriage, Michael and I are each independent people capable of making our own decisions, but sometimes we choose to consult one another because being in harmony is a priority to us. Other times, one of us will make a decision on the other’s behalf because we know enough about one another to make an informed choice. I think that it’s the same way with Jesus. There are times when harmony with Him is the only thing needed. Then there are other times when action is needed and He has already given you the permission to make a decision on His behalf.
I appreciate those who have travelled the country and the world to teach about the finished work of Jesus. It’s something the Body needs to hear and will probably always need to hear. But in my case, I think I let the pendulum swing too far to one side. It might sound strange, but it’s like I exchanged my freedom in Christ for a freedom without Christ – which is really no freedom at all. I knew it didn’t matter whether I met with the Lord to heal someone, so I just stopped seeking Him out altogether.
It reminds me of the prodigal son who demanded his portion of his father’s inheritance but went off and squandered it. I feel like I have done the same thing with the truths and riches the Father has given me. I’ve handled them poorly and now I wonder why I ever thought I could do it on my own. Wouldn’t it have been better to stay in His house, enjoying Him than to leave on my own with his riches? (And by staying in His house, I mean keeping my heart in constant state of worship towards Jesus, not as in staying inside a physical building and singing songs and ignoring suffering outside).
I know as an ambassador of Christ, I carry all the authority of Christ with me wherever I go. But I don’t want acting on the authority and freedom of Christ to become a substitute for abiding in Christ and being in fellowship with His Body, the Church.
So I’m kind of writing this because I wanted to process some of my thoughts out-loud and also to hold me accountable. If living in India has taught me anything, it’s taught me that I’m weak, frail and lost without Him. But I also know that I will eventually come out from the wilderness, leaning on my Beloved.