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True, Real, and Active Christianity

I find myself between two generations. The older generation holds more to the remnants of Modernism and its pursuit of rational, consistent, truth. The younger generation, which I suppose I am technically a member of, is the Postmodern generation (or maybe even the "Posteverything" generation!), which is more concerned with what is experientially real, and less with what is true. While some people from both generations would vociferously (and rightly) deny that they fit the mold of their generation, it is still helpful to see these general trends.

"Do we need truth or do we need what's real?" That is the way we usually think of our options when we are young, either physically or spiritually. And often the options really are either THIS or THAT. But that is not the case with truth and reality, and with many other issues we tend to pit against each other. The apostle Paul warned against such simplistic either-or thinking. "'I am of Paul,' and 'I of Apollos,' and 'I of Cephas,' and 'I of Christ.' Has Christ been divided?" (1 Cor. 1: 12, 13). Likewise, we must not have some saying "I am of the truth of God" and others saying "I am of the reality of God". We need both the truth of God and the reality of God in our lives. We need Cephas, and Paul, and Apollos if we are to grow in the Lord and in love for each other.

We see in various denominations, particular churches, and even in our own lives the sad results of emphasizing one over the other. People and churches which value the truth of God's self-revelation in the Bible more than continually entering into felt fellowship with that God tend to be a bit cold, and lack the power against sin which comes through the give and take of relating intimately with God. One the other hand, those who don't care so much about pouring over the Scriptures to grow in knowledge, but even see it as a potential obstacle to relating warmly with God, tend to be, at times, superficial in their warmth towards God because they have a narrow or shallow understanding of Him. "Love over knowledge", like the contrary, short-circuits the power needed to attain victory over sin.

Who of us can't look at our own life and see a prejudice for truth versus reality? We come away from the Scriptures having learned a new facet of truth and think that we have done the most important thing. Yet the circle of knowledge is not complete until it includes a Spirit-impressed vision and joyful love of that truth, in God. Or who of us has not focused almost exclusively on a handful of verses from Scripture because they bring a comforting emotion- even from God- to us? Yet did God only intend those verses for our good?

We find a cure for these spiritual ills in Ephesians 3: 18, 19. His prayer is not for truth or reality but truth and reality. "...And that you... may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge..." We are to pray for, and pursue, a comprehension of the truth which is not shallow or narrow, but broad, long, high, and low. And at the center of this knowledge of the truth is the experience, the reality in our hearts, of the love of Christ, "which surpasses knowledge."

Let's face it- we all like to do what comes easiest to us, and the smallness of our Christian lives reflects that poor strategy. What is perhaps worse, we tend to look down upon our brothers and sisters in Christ if they are emphasizing a different aspect of Christianity than we are. "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7: 3)

Unless we are talking about the special circumstance of mental incapacitation (infancy, severe retardation, etc.) we can't really claim to have either the truth or reality of God in our lives without having both. Logs and specks must go, for knowledge of the Scriptures is false knowledge if it is devoid of a God-given love for the truth (James 2: 19), and love for the Scriptures is emaciated if we limit the heart's diet to a few verses and few truths (1 Cor. 3: 1- 2).

Now, to complete the above discussion, there is a third category of church, and a third category of person, which we tend to set against the "Truth-Seeking Christians" and the "Reality-Seeking Christians." The third category is "Action Christians." Some churches and people are always doing, which is fantastic, but not if- as in some cases- the works are done with blank minds and cold hearts. Such works are not considered "good works" by God. You see, people of any religion can do things which help others, but if they are not done with God stoking the fires of the love and knowledge of Him then, of course, they are sinful actions. For what is not from God is from the flesh, (John 3:6). "Christian" works which are of the flesh (that is, primarily out of guilt, self-righteousness, fear, and so forth) are essentially no different from the works found in the many false religions of the world.

Let our prayer be to know the whole Bible as well as we can, to experience the shining reality of our God in all that we know of Him, and for Him to fire our lives with active blessing for the world around us. With our hearts on fire and our minds ablaze, let us complete our joy by letting our lights shine through good works in the Spirit. Actions of kindness and justice are essential to true and real Christianity.

For a Christian, knowing, experiencing, and doing cannot be separated, for the Holy Spirit- the Spirit of Truth, Love, and Action- is one in the same Spirit. He may not be divided. May God bless you with a full-orbed Christianity.