Life in the Spirit I.

Encounter and Discipline.
Moments of intense spiritual experience are critical and pivotal moments for Jesus followers. Part of the reason for this is because we aren't meant to be people who ultimately submit to a book (although the book is quite good for testing experience), but to a person- a person who claims to be God, and a person who meets with people in the here and now. These God experiencing moments often occur in times of intense felt need- as a result of our pleading or God's pursuit- but always as an outpouring of God's love. Between these moments is the space in which our relationship with Him should thrive, yet, over time, this is the space where our relationship with Him often withers and dies. Thousands of tiny Yes's and No's either enliven or diminish that which occurred in what some would call a mountain top experience.

On account of the drifting, many choose to deny the experience altogether. We drift, and so we deny, and because we deny, we stop seeking. But maybe someone steps in the gap, or we hit what feels like rock bottom- and we begin to turn back. We begin to seek that which we once had, but as we get closer, we begin to wonder: What good is another experience if its just going to fade? Why seek another encounter with God if nothing is going to change? We remember all the tear filled moments in which we renounced the old man, yet we see the man we killed living in us again. We know that the Spirit of God can kick him out, we just aren't sure that he'll stay gone for good.

And so we drift. We drift and we deny. We deny our initial experience because we fail to validate that experience with our way of life. We then either deny our initial experience or we become experience junkies. In both cases we kick out the devil and shut the front door - but we leave the back door wide open! And in he creeps. We conclude that our encounter with God was a sham because we find ourselves back in the same mess we started in.

What we often fail to see, is that it is not God who lacks power but it is us who lack discipline. We see the forgiveness of sins as a spiritual transaction rather than as a moment of deep healing. We deny the experience of our healing because we deny the implications of our healing- and in our denial we loose sight of the reality.

But does a lame person who has been healed keep walking on crutches? No! He walks, runs, and jumps freely. He allows the implications of his healing to flow freely from the healing itself. The implication of his experience is that he is no longer fit to beg. He has a responsibility to complete what has been given freely. He is now capable of using his newly strengthened body to make a decent living for himself. 

But imagine that he one day decides that life is too hard as a healed man. He remembers sitting near the city gates and begging and thinks, I don't want to be healthy anymore. I want to go back. Life was better as a beggar. He disregards the hopelessness he once felt and recalls only the simplicity. 

What a fool this man would be!

Yet we are just like him. We are people who want to receive healing yet wish to remain beggars. We want freedom but we want nothing to do with discipline (Please don't confuse discipline with legalism- as the two are quite different). We must realize that while freedom comes freely to us, we must embrace a life of discipline so that our freedom is not stolen from us - or perhaps more accurately, we must embrace a life of discipline so that we don't sell ourselves back into slavery - lest we become like a man who is healed of blindness yet misses the darkness, and so closes his eyes and walks into a wall or off of a cliff.

Discipline is not the enemy of experience, rather it is the natural implication of it. When we encounter God, we can't help but be transformed by that experience. In it, we are opened up to a new reality- to a life in the Spirit. But if our life in the Spirit ends at our initial experience of Him, it is no life at all. Isolated experiences have little value unless they are part of an ongoing life in the Spirit - a life marked by encounter and discipline.

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