Welcome, To The Real World…

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I am a nerd.

If I have not made that evident, this post will surely remove all doubt.

I love nerd things.  I love sci-fi, I love Start Wars, I love Comic Books and I have tried to keep up with the new story arcs throughout the years.  I squeal at every new Marvel Movie and GOTG (Guardians of the Galaxy, sorry non nerds I realized you wouldn’t know the acronym) was my favorite movie of 2014.  I love to read and read and read.  I love to read dystopian novels like 1984, Brave New World and One Second AfterThe Walking Dead is filmed in my back yard.  Well, not literally my back yard but not that far away over here in Atlanta, GA.  I can remember hearing radio announcements that would say, “if you hear gun fire or see zombies/walkers don’t freak out it is just the Walking Dead filming.”  I revel in the fact that you may be thinking to your self “The Walking Dead isn’t nerdy, I like it.”  That is awesome news to this nerd whenever nerdy things are more popular with the regular folks like you maybe.  But the point I am trying to get across is I probably easily fall into the nerd/fanboy category when it comes to my tastes in entertainment.  I like deep thought, I like deep books and movies and I love to talk about deep things especially theological stuff, like apologetics and junk.  I am a theology nerd which is a rare Captain Planet like combination of Geek, apologist, theologian, nerd.  When those powers are combined you get Captain Grace Nerd or something like that.

Therefore, I believe this illustration may not translate well to some, especially those who may roll their eyes at deep theological thinking and Sci-Fi as being a waste of their time or rubbish.  But for those who are wanting me to get on with this post to serve up some theonerd sauce, this post is for you.  Actually, it is for anyone who may not have figured out this grace thing out yet.  I was in your shoes not that long ago and I hope this helps.

There was a movie that came out in the late ‘90s that spawned a trilogy called “the Matrix.”  I absolutely ate this movie up.  If you had asked me at the time I would have said that it was my favorite movie of all time.  If you haven’t seen this movie you really need to go see it, unless of course you believe that seeing a rated R movie will send you to hell…wouldn’t want to send you into that dimension of guilt and personal unholiness.  I think it may come on AMC and or FX from time to time so wait and DVR that version; it should be on a more righteous setting for your taste.

Surely I am not the first one to create the parallel which I am about to serve up, it is just too good of a fit.

If you have not seen the movie THIS IS YOUR SPOILER ALERT DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER…

Personally…I’m the nerd who has that funny look and laugh whenever someone says that they have never seen Star Wars or the Matrix…”YOU’VE NEVER SEEN STAR WARS/THE MATRIX?”  YUK YUK YUK (nerd laugh)

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If you have seen the movie, you will remember the scene where the character Morpheus who has been to the real world and now operates freely and miraculously in the Matrix presents an offer to the other character in the movie, “Mr. Anderson” or his real world name “Neo.” No, my theological illustration is not comparing this to the Saul/Paul difference of before/after Christ identities, which is a neat one to make.  But what I am going to try to go after is something a little deeper I think. In this scene of serving up his offer to Neo, Morpheus presents this choice to him and says,

“This is your last chance.  After this, there is no turning back.  You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.  You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.  Remember: all I’m offering is the truth.  Nothing more.”

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Did this not have your theological connections spinning?  Haven’t we heard this before?  Remember Neo taking the red pill to realize that he is waking up from a prison cell; a cell that he has never been able to see before until now?

That is how I feel every day when I realize that Jesus has set me free from the bondage of the Law and Sin.  Grace has opened my eyes to see that I am now free from the bondage of my sin and my failure to fulfill the law.  The Spirit of life has set me free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).

In the rest of the movie, even though Neo now knows the truth, he still hasn’t fully realized what He is capable of in the Matrix.   It is not because he hasn’t trained to know, earn, or learn what he is capable of but it is about renewing his mind (yeah, renewing your mind, that connection can be made in the Bible too, Romans 12:9).  It wasn’t until Neo finally “got it” and realized who he was in the Matrix was he able to see the construct of the Matrix and how the enemy operated in it.  He was able to move freely, he was not bound by the law of the Matrix and was able to see through the Matrix because of something he always had with him but never knew how to tap into before, until coming to grips with his new identity.  Remember that part when Morpheus gets the question from Neo about what he will be able to do when he understands his new identity?

Neo: What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?
Morpheus: No, Neo. I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.

That is like what has happened to those of us who finally get what God’s grace has done to us.  By God’s unconditional gift of grace, our new identity is in Christ, not in who we were before; dead slaves in our Matrix, Ghost Buster goo pod.  We now have everlasting life, reconciled with God forever, Because of Who Jesus is and what He did. Our earthly shells may fail us but our identity in Christ never will.  What I am trying to tell you is not that you will be able to fulfill God’s law by growing in obedience, growing spiritually, mastering your sin, gaining righteousness and gradually getting better and living righter because of Grace.  

I am not telling you that you can dodge the Law.  No, Neo.  I’m trying to tell you that because of Who Jesus is and What he has done for you, you won’t have to.

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Jesus is the only person who ever can and ever will fulfill the law.  That is why our only hope is to rest in and have faith in Jesus.  That is why Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that no one can come to God, be reconciled with God without going through Him (John 14:6).

Many of us have grown up in a prison cell in church or by a church where we are told that there are certain rules that we cannot break if we want to remain in close fellowship with God.  We are told that if we do not obey the rules of the Law or the Matrix than we will surely die and surely be in a position where God must thrash us.

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Yet this kind of talk does not even belong in the conversation in regards to someone who is in Christ.  Romans 8:1 makes it clear that there is no thrashing available for us.  These threats from these “Matrix Churches” are empty and quite honestly, a lie, all out of ignorance, lack of seeing the truth of the gospel of grace; or worse, out of a demonic desire for control and power over the members of said church.  2 Corinthians 5:21 says “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  Jesus took your thrashing and God has offered you grace.

Grace in the realization that we are sinners and our only hope for mercy is Christ.  Knowing that God has given you grace by having faith in Christ changes everything.  It is like taking the red pill.  Does that mean life will now go perfect?  In the movie the Matrix that certainly was not the case, they still had their problems.  But as for Neo, he was no longer slowed down or enslaved by the Matrix.  The Grace of God frees us from being slowed down and enslaved by Sin.  Seeing this, growing into grace, lets you see the Matrix or better yet our world as it is.  Grace shows us how we can move through life unhindered by our sin and slack fulfillment of God’s Law because of Christ who is in us.

Christian, this is something that cannot be earned and cannot be learned.  It is something that has, is, and always will be present in you.  The only thing that is holding you back is that you are still stuck in the mode of waiting for something from Christ when you already have everything in Christ.

Christ alone, Christ in us changes everything. 

You might begin to notice opportunities to show grace to people who are spitting in your face or hurting others.  You will notice opportunities to serve and love other people.  You might even find a way to show grace to “Christians” who are still stuck in the Matrix of the gospel of works.  You will start to see the moves, steps and strategies of how God has divinely placed you in situations and conditions for His glory and for the gospel of His grace.  You will come to realize that there are no such things as coincidences and luck but were always God’s divine strategy, sovereignty and will; all done for the glory of His name.  You will laugh and feel joy/praise on those days when you do not feel like you are saved because of how you just jacked something up or thought BECAUSE you KNOW that God’s grace is STILL with you and that God will NEVER leave you and WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU (Romans 8:35-39).  The one distinction I might make that would be more in line with how we are woken up from our spiritually dead condition, is if the movie showed Morpheus hover over to Neo’s bubble bath prison pod, leaned down to his ear and said “Neo, WAKE UP.”

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This is how it is with us when God calls us to salvation.  Our condition was dead, yet God’s gift of grace said to our spiritual corpse “wake up” and we did.  Think how silly it would look if we said, “man I’m so glad I woke up when God told me to, thank goodness for that righteous work of mine.”  It was all God, y’all.  All God.

If God has given you the red pill of being saved by grace through faith in Christ…”there is no turning back…remember: all I’m offering is the Truth [Jesus].  Nothing more.”

Welcome.

To the real world.

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Feeling is Great but Knowing is Everlasting (Or Half the Battle…Yo Joe!)

That song with the Michael Jackson hook “I always feel like somebody’s watching me”…what if it was instead “I always KNOW that someone is watching me”…that heightens the intensity of the problem.  To feel that someone’s watching would make you paranoid, to KNOW would enter you into fight/flight mode.  (Thanks to the Marine Corps my toggle switch for this mode has been snapped off on “fight” yut yut yay yut…so don’t sneak up on me creeper!)

I remember a while back watching a sermon on YouTube from Alistair Begg and I thought that he nailed something that I had never really sank my teeth into before.  Feeling comes and goes but knowing is what is needed.  He would go on about how miserable of a day he was having and then it always would send him over the edge when someone at church would ask him how he was feeling.  His premise was something like, “don’t ask me how I am feeling, ask me what I know.  I feel like crap right now but I am thankful that my hope is not in how I feel but in what I know.”  He then used this as a spring board into teaching that it is not our feelings or experiences in our life as Christians that are sustainable but it is what we know as a Christian according to God’s word that sustains us.

That has helped me out on many occasions.  Especially in those moments when I don’t “feel” saved.  Surely I am not the only one who has experienced what I am talking about.

Everybody tracking?  Good to go.

Then why do I see so many social media quick thoughts, sermons, books,  from Celebrity Pastors, non-Celebrity Pastors, celebrities who may be Christians but I am not sure if they have ever said that they are, seem to be constantly commenting on the “feels” of a Christian or give calls for an invitation to Christ, to Church, to an event in order to feel this or that, or even worse, to come to Jesus to receive the constant flow of Snake Oil Christianity.

Yeah I’m reaching way back in the ole DeLorean with Doc Brown on that reference.  If I need to explain what I meant by Snake Oil ask me in the comments below.

Am I the only one who is picking up this constant dropping of the glorification of “feels” and “desires” as the ends and Jesus as the means of obtaining them?

I call it Snake Oil Christianity because in a quick glance it is nothing more than throwing out a sales pitch; hoping that it touches the soon to be church member’s eye.  “Are you poor and wish you were rich?  Are you sick and wish you were well?  Are you weak and wish you were powerful?  Need a job, need a wife, need a life?  Well I have to cure all for you!  It is right here in these hand crafted bottles of mine.  Just one swig of Gimmieemystuffhallaluyarglawry Tonic and all of your problems will be washed away.  That’s right this ri cheer is the cure for what ails ya.  That’ll be $$$$$$ and buy the Gimmieemystuffhalluyarglawry Tonic companion gift set with my book “How Jesus’ Gimmiemystuffhallaljuarglawry Tonic Gave Me My wildest Dreams RAT NOW.”

Should I not be concerned (is it even my place to be concerned) that the constant theme that I am seeing in so many areas of what are Christian circles and preaching is nothing more than instant blessing; just add the Trinity to your will and stir in order to receive whatever it is you are looking for?

I used to fall into this trap.  I used to buy into Jesus is a means to an end way of thinking.  “I want this….where is Jesus at?  I need Him to make this happen.”

Just reading the Beatitudes over and over again, I am not sure how we can get the idea that Jesus said God wants you to be rich, mighty and powerful.  He might indeed!  I am not saying that He doesn’t!  I am confident that if He does it is not for your glory but for God’s and good grief peeppell…our leader was a man who suffered physically and was broke like no joke.  He even told us that the world would hate us and that we would be persecuted because of Him.  His original 12…I think one died of old age but that was in exile (John on the Isle of Patmos I think).  The rest surely didn’t get “Their Best Life Now” according to the standards of the world but got their worst way to die right now…beheadings, impaling’s, stoning’s, upside down crucifixions you know the good stuff.  Let us not forget the early Christians who were sport in the Roman Coliseum either…

But if you were to ask them…because they KNEW that they had been given the grace of God…they would more than likely say that they had their best life now because they know that the life that they have is the life of Jesus.

Yes, we are to make our requests to God.  Yes, even when we do treat God like a genie in a bottle more than we do our Heavenly Father, He still loves us and still wants us around and His grace is still on us. Man that is good news….this grace stuff…I can’t get enough!

My goal is not to make you feel guilty.  My goal is to help you realize that as a child of God, the odds are…what you are really longing for (comfort, peace, love, joy, identity, purpose, etc.) you already have in Christ.

My 3 year old son often treats me the way I often treat God and it makes me smile because I realize that he doesn’t think that I know what game he is playing.  He gets very sweet, shows some affection and hits me with the hook, “can I pweese watch Wallykazam daddy?” while I am watching the Atlanta Hawks game.

I smile and hook him up with Wally because I love him and he said the magic word, so I am sure God feels the same some times.

BUT if I knew that there was something better to give him than Wallykazam…why would I let him settle for the cheap stuff?  Yeah, he might throw a fit “I WANT WALLAKAZAHHHM” but I may be planning something better for him…like hanging out with daddy.  Which is what happened last night and he loved it.  He wanted a mustache like daddy (don’t laugh it is still in the early stage!) So we spent time looking for something to make him a mustache with (pipe cleaners from my wife’s craft station stash…I’m sure she won’t mind).  At that point he had forgotten all about Wallykazam…and then I put it on without him asking…much to his joy.

If I knew that by giving Him something different or using his time in a different way would bring him more joy (even if meant temporary hardship) would I not want to hook him up with that instead?

God is God.  He is sovereign and there is nothing outside of his ability.  If there was anything that could bind God or halt God from accomplishing His will, then He would no longer be God.  His love for me is displayed through the grace that he gave to me in His Son Jesus.  After letting that sink in, knowing what God has done for me, changed everything.  What stuff…oh yeah that cheap stuff I was praying for yesterday…

The inspiration for this blog or rant is nothing more than I want everyone to experience the awe and the wonder of God’s grace for sinners.  It has conquered me, defeated me and raised me from the dead.  It has changed everything in my life.  God’s grace through faith in Christ has been the lone defining point in me.  It is No Longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.  All because of God’s love and His grace for loser, sinner me. Knowing this has caused me to have side eyes at Gimmieemystuffhallaluyarglawry Tonic and

I just don’t understand how I ever got over the truth of God’s grace to ever want to move on to talk about anything else.

And that is why I definitely have my eye on Snake Oil Christianity.

Verses that I love to Read When I need to remember what I KNOW.  Notice how a lot of these verses are telling us something that God is doing has done or will do.  Not suggestions or conditional hopes…but something that is happening will happen or has happened.  I love the “will’s, is’s and are’s”:

Galatians 2:19-21

Ephesians 2:8-9

Ok so really Ephesians 2:1-22

Hebrews 13:5-6

Philippians 4:6-7

Romans 6:1-4

Romans 8:28…ok all of Romans 8

Romans 8:38-39

Romans 8:1

2 Corinthians 5:21

Romans 5:8

1 Peter 5:7

John 11:25-26

Matthew 11:29-30

John 3:16

Matthew 28:20

2 Corinthians 12:9

Romans 6:14

Romans 11:6

James 4:6

Hebrews 4:16

John 1:16

Romans 3:20-24

2 Timothy 1:9

John 1:14