I believe the Lord himself is planning a major disruption to “everyday Church life”. If however we lack discernment we may reject the Spirit’s moving, or be led astray by other powers. This teaching starts with personal matters and moves to the deeper truths of Christ.
Readers may not be surprised to hear that I have friends who pray for me to smile more, and who pass comments like this, “I too am a bit wary of the serious face, and when you do smile the places you are in light up.” Whilst emotions themselves lack authority, when the Lord witnesses that my visible joy in him should be the sign of his resurrection life in me I must pay attention. Great things are at hand. We are at a pivotal point in the spiritual history of Western culture when addiction to omniscient electronic screens threatens the very ability of rising generations to see the image of God in Man. To play on words, only a real human Face can be the book upon which the Father displays his heart. The Lord is working to dramatically reveal himself in the midst of the spiritual crises of our culture, even as the Church casually proceeds with business as usual.
The Loss of Trust
Recent findings indicate that children as young as 18 months can tell the difference between authentic and put-on emotions in adults. This means that from a very early age we learn that even the image our parents present is not wholly trustworthy. The original story of mistrust began however in Eden when the devil presented himself as “an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14). Soon however Adam and Eve’s experiences of pain and death taught them the horror of false fatherhood. Since that tragic beginning we are all spiritually hard-wired to mistrust promises of eternal life (Gen 3:4-5). Australians particularly are specialists in suspicion; none of our glorious weather, political peace or economic prosperity inclines us to spiritual things. Whilst pagan polytheists affirmed Paul’s preaching, ““(God) did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”” (Acts 14:17), the basic trust of Australians in the Creator is shattered. The only thing that can save us from such deep dark scepticism is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). Such light however must come through to us in a very broken way.
The Light Broken For Us
The ancient creeds speak of Jesus’ eternal relationship with God the Father in terms of “Light from Light”. This means the whole character of the Father is radiated through the Son in an undiminished and undistorted form. As the Lord explained, ““Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”” (John 14:9). In the Face of Jesus God has no dark side, for “he (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God” (Heb 1:3). In the mutual relationship between Father and Son there is “no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). Given there is neither inconsistency nor hypocrisy in God why do we all find it so hard to trust him?
John climaxes his account of Jesus’ public ministry with a serious summing up, “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him” (John 12:37). Unlike many today Jesus was never seduced by a popularity based on miracles; he knew that only the light of the cross could dissolve the depths of human mistrust (John 2:23; 6:26). This brings us to God’s own time of darkness. “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And…Jesus cried with a loud voice… “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:33-34). The complete outer darkness of creation is a sign of the inner darkness that engulfed the shattered heart of Jesus as he bore the sin of the world (2 Cor 5:21; Eph 1:18). Throughout his life the light of Jesus’ good works always shone before men so that they glorified his Father in heaven (Matt 5:16; Luke 7:16).The crisis of the cross is that at this point of dereliction not even Jesus can see the light of life. Sonship itself has been plunged into a darkness that obscures all love. Yet death is not the end.
The resurrection is the final victory of the love of the Father in the Son (Rom 6:4). Because every element of darkness has been annihilated in the holy obedience of the cross, Jesus emerges from the tomb in a body perfectly transparent and full of light. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5). In contrast to ordinary human thinking the brightest points of the light of love in Christ are his scars (Luke 24:29-40; 1 Pet 2:24). The light which streams to us from the Face of Jesus is broken light, the visible radiance of someone who knows what it is like to be totally shattered-and-healed FOR US (Isa 53:5). When anyone sees this broken light they cannot mistrust the promise of eternal life which is Christ himself (John 1:9; Acts 22:6-7). These truths should shake the foundations of contemporary Church life.
Death to Method
The Spirit is working today to crucify the many methodologies. Paul’s’ missionary strategy was “weakness…fear and much trembling….lest the cross be emptied of its power….before your eyes…Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” (1 Cor 2:3; 1:17; Gal 3:1). This apostle preached “as a dying man to dying men never knowing whether he would preach again” (Baxter). When the catalyst for the Welsh revival was asked “concerning his methods” he replied “I have none. …He has led me as He will lead all those who, conscious of their human weakness, lean upon Him as children upon a father.” (Evan Roberts) Roberts was a man shattered again and again in the presence of God and others with a broken heart and many tears. Then the Spirit poured out pure and persuasive joy. Revivals of this intensity are always an embarrassment to the sophisticated strategies, confidences and assurances of those who know how to “do Church”. Such brothers and sisters fail to grasp the glory of the cross; that only the shining of Christ’s broken light through weakened men and women has the power to dissolve the mistrust which engulfs us.
Jesus exhorts us, ““be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright…”” (Luke 11:35-36). Because many shades of darkness radiate from my life I must harken to the challenge of a concerned friend, “I pray your countenance will always reflect our Father.” Do such words speak to you?
I see the coming of a great and shattered Light and the call of the Church in Perth to reflect this Light to thousands in utter darkness. In the broken compassionate weeping of the saints lost crowds will receive full assurance that God’s wrath has been fully taken away, such a broken light will issue in incredible inextinguishable resurrection joy (Ps 30:5). In the radiance of such things we need to pray, “Father give us SIGHT!!”