“Who, through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” (Heb. 11:33-34)
Anyone who has ever been brought in as an outsider to reform a business company as a temporary consultant or as a long-term, in-house employee eventually discovers the discouraging reality that the people initiating the reforms often think the problem involves other people within the company, and not themselves. Company owners and managers pushback against the very reforms they initiate, at the critical transition point where fact-finding abruptly changes to actual implementation, because they resist recommended changes in the way they are doing things at the very top of the company, just like everyone else resists change throughout the organization.
The irony is that owners and top managers resist the changes that would improve the company structure and performance when these changes also include the way they themselves have been doing things. Beneficial change is then killed by half-hearted commitment and partial implementation because of the strong human tendency for continuing to do things our way, once we have developed patterns and practices that have been set within the inertia of usage over time.
The optimum best approach sometimes fails to gain acceptance because people do not want to change. It is considered okay to audit and scrutinize others, but we do not like other people entering into our “turf” to analytically criticize how we ourselves do things (Jn. 3:20). The baffling and inexplicably intense, hostile resistance to beneficial change that would clearly bring improved efficiency, mistake prevention, and cost-savings into a struggling company is a huge challenge to overcome for those people tasked to identify and implement change in the organization. This concept is central to understanding the hostile pushback the Christian gospel message of salvation receives out in the world.
The core feature of Christianity is change. The central tenet in Christianity is that Spirit-born believers become new creatures “in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17), going from darkness to light, from spiritual death to spiritual life. Jesus is the Consultant who has perfect understanding of every enterprise, system, and every person. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life…who has the solution to absolutely every problem, crisis, and shortcoming in business, family life, and in our personal characters. Jesus assuming His rightful place on the throne of our lives, as we step aside from our short-sighted, egocentric, and misdirected self-rulership, is the life-long Christian reformation process that begins with repentance, spiritual rebirth, and picking up our cross to follow Jesus into God-composed adventures of faith designed to produce beneficial change.
When a large company acquires a smaller company, often the larger company lays-off everyone in the smaller company except a few people who understand the bookkeeping system and the maintenance of the building structure. This radical strategy is designed to remove the possibility of critical naysayers bringing dissention into the larger company culture by comparing the new system with the old, and complaining about the differences. “Cleaning house” from top to bottom in the smaller company erases all of the old policies and practices that have been engrained in the smaller company organization, providing a fresh start for the new larger organization without the human resources problem of resistance and pushback to change.
As Abraham travels from the city of Haran to the region of Canaan, God displaces all of the old Haran-based plans and schemes of Abraham with an entirely new life-script plan so far above worldly conventional normalcy that Abraham could never have envisioned it. The higher ways of Gods were far above anything Abraham could have imagined. By changing the plan, God essentially terminates and fires the horizontally conventional, Haran-based worldly plans for culturally defined normalcy with an adventure of faith beyond human invention. Scripture says that Abraham believed God…went along with the radical change contained within his new calling…and this was accounted to Abraham for righteousness.
Jesus is the only person in all of human history qualified to expand upon the Ten Commandments to the level of moral perfection. No one before or after Jesus…philosophers, teachers, prophets, political leaders, even Moses himself…attempted to present the absolute standard of perfect moral thought and behavior from the divine perspective. What mere mortal would suggest that looking upon a woman to lust after her is equivalent to committing adultery with her (Mt. 5:28)? Who other than God could or would come up with the idea that harboring unjustified anger toward another person is the equivalent of committing murder (Mt. 5:22)?
Jesus is the only person in human history who can justifiably present a divinely perfect standard of thought and behavior, without any hint of condescension, hypocrisy, or cheekiness. Jesus can do this with uncompromising truth because He will soon carry His cross toward Calvary to enable people to live up to these self-same very high standards. Jesus delivering the Sermon on the Mount, with its high moral precepts above anything spoken before or after in all of history, is above human imagination or literary creative invention. Having “ears to hear” (Mt. 11:15) and implementing the words of Jesus into our lives as wise people (Mt. 7:24-27) through the Holy Spirit, is allowing the divine Consultant to beneficially change our lives on an eternally practical and applicable level.
Following Jesus requires continuing change above and beyond our initial repentance, salvation, spiritual rebirth, and becoming new creatures in Christ. Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ requires a life-long, new way of thinking. A journey of faith following Jesus displaces our conventional way of doing things according to worldly horizontal thinking. This is where picking up our cross and dying to self-sovereignty comes in. Our stubborn resistance to the changes God would implement in our lives must die on the cross alongside Jesus.
The Bible describes the Christian church as the bride of Christ, and Jesus Christ as the groom. But God is a spirit. The relationship is spiritual, not carnal. The current context for spiritual intercourse between God and His bride is found within the higher events and circumstances of a God-composed journey of faith. This is what we see in the journeys of faith recorded throughout the Bible, with individuals, with the nation of Israel, and with the early Christian church.
God wooed the nation of Israel as the love of His life, but she rejected Him. Israel rejected Jesus of Nazareth as the messiah because he was not worldly affluent. Jesus did not take up conventional arms against the foreign Roman occupier in the fashion of past prophet warriors to rid the nation of its current political and economic problems. The nation of Israel wanted change, but only according to her terms, conditions, and worldly horizontal expectations. Jesus was rejected as a suitor to Israel because His value and worth as Savior did not translate into worldly conventional wealth, prosperity, and political independence.
But Jesus was immeasurably affluent then and now. Jesus owns everything and His resources are limitless. Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, walked on water, calmed a storm at sea, and multiplied a few loaves of bread and fish to feed multitudes. The life contained within the words of Jesus the Word of God liberates people for all eternity (Jn. 8:34-36). The wealth of salvation purchased through the cross and resurrection potentially covers all of the sin ever committed by the fallen human race beyond reckoning, a salvation accessed and actualized free-of-charge through individual repentance and faith.
Jesus could have won over the entire nation of Israel in the first century by leading a conventional army against the Roman Empire. Military victory would be a sure thing. But this approach would have been way beneath and totally out-of-place for the Son of God. Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God could have captured the affection of Israel unfairly by defeating the Roman army like Joshua or David of old, but this affection would only be at the very lowest conventional level of shallow and short-lived gratitude. Affection purchased at this worldly conventional level alone would be permanently susceptible to the ever changing fortunes of the nation of Israel in every horizontally political, social, and economic area. Temporarily fixing our problems in this broken world is a never-ending enterprise as long as this effort remains in the worldly conventional realm.
The change that Jesus was offering then and now is a fundamental change in a person from the inside-out. This divinely crafted transformation from darkness into light produces fidelity and loyalty toward God that willingly climbs any mountain and crosses any sea, not counting the cost come-what-may. The dynamic change that God offers through redemption through Christ will produce an Abraham standing patiently on the promise of God for the birth of Isaac, Joseph sticking it out through enormously discouraging initial outward appearances to eventually become governor of Egypt, and Saul/Paul flipping 180 degrees to become the champion of the faith he previously persecuted.
Because the life-scripts of Abraham, Joseph, Paul, and many others in the Bible are above and outside of human invention, a journey of faith is not theoretical. The God of the Bible for Moses, David, Esther, Daniel, and Peter is not a projection of themselves unto an imaginary god. A biblical journey of faith does not produce a fictional version of a character we would like to be. A God-composed and guided journey of faith produces genuine character change at the center of truth and right-living, purchased through difficult lesson-plans spread out over the real events and circumstances of life.