The most guarded and treasured possession to humans…our autonomous, self-directed will-and-way…the control over our lives…in a journey of faith is crucified alongside Jesus to create the space for God to insert a new life-script (Gal. 2:20). The one and only life we possess is placed on the line in a journey of faith. Everything is at stake, in play, and at risk in a biblical-quality, God-scripted adventure of faith.
Jesus entreats us to lose our lives for His sake, and in doing so we will find our lives (Mt. 10:39). Because of the magnitude of the last days, for end-times Christians this has to become more than mere words. Losing our lives for His sake within a God-composed adventure of faith must actualize in our lives. Again, this can entail risks of enormous proportions and require decisions that are momentous in their long-range impact upon ourselves and others…keeping in mind the morally correct disclaimer in the second-to-the-last paragraph.
God cannot let us off easy in this regard and still have our best interests at heart. If Paul is to write his powerful and insightful New Testament letters to the early churches with the quality of divine inspiration, he must walk through all of his difficult, lesson-plan challenges.
This is something we sometimes partially miss in Christendom. For Paul to be able to correctly write the inspired truth, his course must go straight through adversity, tribulation, and struggles that divide out the subtleties and nuances of the issues. The “narrow way” always has a guided trajectory towards a premeditated goal. Divinely guided trials proactively scripted through timeless foresight…not random chance events inadequately resolved in the reactive mode…form the basis of the challenge of the Christian life in the danger zone.
Even Paul’s Spirit-filled Christian friends and companions entreat him not to go up to Jerusalem for that last final visit for fear of personal injury (Acts 21:12). But Paul has to experience all of the chaotic turmoil of his evangelistic ministry for God to clarify for him the subtle nuances of the knowledge of good and evil.
If we do not have Paul’s fully informed and inspired New Testament letters to all Christians then and now, then we are all diminished greatly in our own journeys of faith. Paul’s willingness to get out in front, to pay the price to discover “all truth” through God’s narrowly crafted way in an heroic adventure of faith is the hallmark of a person taking up their cross to lose their lives for the sake of Jesus and the gospel (Mk. 8:35).
An easy to identify Old Testament example of this basic truth can be found in the Psalms of David. David cannot write in his world-famous 23rd Psalm about walking safely through the valley of the shadow of death…with God by his side for protection…unless David in fact and in truth had walked through several danger-filled valleys in real life…darkened by the shadows of death.
Jesus said in John 16:33…“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Tribulation separates us from autonomous self-sovereignty…of sitting atop the thrones of our hearts as unqualified and uninformed kings of the realm of our lives.
This concept of having “tribulation in the world” partially undermines two of the four or five current, major end-times interpretations of biblical prophecy. Postmillennialism says that the transforming power of the last-days Christian church will…by the attractive virtue of its winning ways and message…usher in by positive incremental steps the era of the thousand year…”millennial”…reign of Christ on earth. The pretribulation rapture interpretation says just the opposite…that the believing Christian church will be raptured off the earth before all of the challenging and horrifying action of the Great Tribulation begins.
Both of these biblical end-times prophetic interpretations do not appear to square with the universal, generally applicable biblical concept “that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
“In the world ye shall have tribulation” is not consistent with an end-times world slowly and gradually being converted to an elevated level of godliness consonant with the dawn of a new millennium of blissful peace, truth, and justice.
The challenges, trials-of-faith, and radically life-changing epiphanies of truth that result from “much tribulation”…as a result of a surgical separation from autonomous self-sovereignty through God-composed journeys of faith…is not consistent with a full removal of the Christian church pretribulation before “all the shooting starts.”
The Christian life in the danger zone is just that…a zone of danger. There is real spiritual opposition of darkness in high places (Eph. 6:12) that would like this upside-down world of skeptical indifference to God to continue just as it is.
According to Joel 2:28-32, God intends to pour out of His Spirit upon the entire planet at the time of the end…the latter rain…with a piercing truth like the sharp, two-edged sword it is, setting people free from the blindness of skeptical unbelief.
This can mean nothing less than a critical zone of danger every bit as perilous as the early Christians faced proclaiming boldly after Pentecost that Jesus of Nazareth is the messiah risen from the dead for our salvation. This can mean nothing less than a similar experience of persecution and tribulation encountered by Paul…that will separate out the subtleties and nuances of a final understanding of the knowledge of good and evil in the closing chapter of human redemptive history.
A genuine God-composed journey of faith life-script sets up a foreordained crash and a collision between the two opposing “business models” in our approach to life. An entirely new model of complex, well-ordered, pre-planned, and premeditated information is needed for a larger enterprise, before the “scope of work” grows.
Joshua did not think up the military strategy to bring down the walls of Jericho. Gideon would never have dreamed up the battle plan God devised to defeat the invading Midianites. The life-script of waiting patiently for the birth of Isaac was far outside of the initial contemplation of both Abraham and Sarah. Peter could not anticipate all of the upcoming events that would revolutionize his life in the simply call of Jesus: “Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men” (Mk. 1:17).
Like Paul (1 Tim. 1:15), when I became a Christian at age 18, many years ago, at that time I now, looking back in hindsight, would place myself at the bottom 5 to 10 percent of average people out in the world in terms of basic good character. Sometimes God calls the worst people to follow Him, people at the time of their conversion who are totally lost, misguided, and falling far short of our created potential. God does this, because after He places divinely motivating faith in our future potential that at the time we cannot initially see, on our subsequent journey-of-faith road to the recovery of our true selves and our destinies, we have so much “make-up” ground to recover that in catching up there is a great deal of “all truth” basics to learn along the way (Lk. 5:8).
If I were able to go back and rewrite the course of my life doing everything right according to an alternate reality of worldly conventional normalcy…like Saul/Paul going back to Jerusalem to live an exemplary life according to the highest values of worldly conventional thinking…then I simply could not write this book.
It is a Christian life lived in the unconventional danger zone reality of a God-composed journey of faith life-script having challenges and difficulties that informs my recognition of the danger zone central to every journey of faith recorded in the Bible. It is a Christian life lived in the danger zone that raises the interesting and compelling questions I seek answers to that motivates my drive to follow Jesus up into the heights of jagged mountain peaks and down into the depths of the lowest valleys, where the highs and lows of a “knowledge of good and evil” reside and can be found.
But I am very much like the disciples in the first century who say to Jesus: “Declare unto us this parable” (Mt. 15:5; Mk. 4:10, 4:34). I need the Holy Spirit to divide out for me truth from error in the middle of life experience. I need a journey of faith with divinely premeditated events and circumstances precisely sequenced to lead me step-by-step into the world of “all truth.” Otherwise the issues are too subtle and too finely hidden for me to intellectually separate and identify, even with the gift of an analytical mind.
The small business owner’s mindset of: “I can do everything because I am doing everything” simply does not hold true when the stakes get higher in a God-composed journey of faith. If the “scope of work” volume of our lives expands through our adventure of faith, then spiritually we become stretched beyond self-reliance. When we arrive at the fullness of our life’s mission, the program of godliness is much bigger and much grander than we can manage on our own.
The information-rich danger zone of God’s higher ways is where Paul received his mission, his motivation, and his inspired message (Gal. 2:20). The danger zone is where and how the Holy Spirit leads Spirit-born Christians into all truth yesterday, today, and in the rapidly approaching end-times.