Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Gray Phantasms

I recently read a wonderful novel, Ted Dekker's AD 30.  In fact, I devoured it in a single day-a delightful luxury. I liked the premise: a Bedouin princess, doubly shamed, herself illegitimate and the mother of an illegitimate son, goes to Herod's court on a mission from her father and encounters Jesus.  I loved the fact that I didn't even once want to gag over the sappiness or poor writing.  However what lingered with me wasn't the plot or the well-drawn characters or even the interesting look into the life of Jesus.  It was some things the author said in the introduction.

He seemed to be saying that there were hosts of people out there on their way to heaven but not following Jesus in their ordinary lives.  For example, 

"You're saved in the next life as a matter of sound doctrine, but do you often feel powerless and lost in this life?" (emphasis the author's)....very few find his Way.  It is said that nearly 70% of all Americans have accepted Jesus as savior at some point, but how many of us have found his Way for this life?"

I found the quotes disturbing.  So when I finished the book, I went back and reread the introduction and thought about the hard words of the "Yeshua" he introduced in the book.  (To the author's great credit he nearly  limits the Savior's words to quotes from the gospels.)  Decker and I agree that there are lots and lots of people out there who believe they are saved, but don't follow the Lord in their daily lives. 
There are people out there that would identify themselves as "Christians," Jesus as the Savior and the Bible as God's word.  Intellectually they believe but nothing in their lives reflects any change.

Perhaps worse are those who take it one step further. They not only believe the basics but they believe in "soundness."  In other words that by finding a set of crucial doctrines and sticking to them they will be saved. Although they would argue that personal holiness is important, they might define that quite narrowly to include some basic behaviors to be avoided (drunkenness, homosexuality, voting Democrat - that last bit was a joke). However they are plagued with sins of the heart - "secret judgments and grievances" Dekker calls them.  They may have never had the pleasure of walking in Spirit where holiness is a living fruit of kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control.

If you haven't met these gray phantasms, and you aren't yourself one, I would like to know where you found that little cabin so far off the grid!

Although the author and I agree on the phenomenon itself, on one crucial issue we part ways.   He seems to believe that these people are miserable but saved.  They are walking outside of the Lord's way, but the author doesn't seem to think it has any effect on their eternity - just their current lack of abundant life.  I, on the other hand, fear that such people may be lost. People who have "received" Jesus but haven't found his Way are lost not semi-saved.  If Jesus has once washed my sins away, I am walking in the light or lost in the darkness (1 John 1:6-10).  There's no gray land where Jesus has saved me but I am living in the shadows of death everyday.

Jesus violently rejects the lukewarm (Revelation 3:16 ).  He says that those who call on his name may yet not know him. (Matthew 7:21-23) He reserves the word "fool" for those hear his word but don't bother to obey it; they are waiting for their houses to collapse in the first storm (Matthew 7:24-29). John explains it this way in his gospel, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36)

Life in the Son, both eternal and the abundant temporal life he promised, are only available if we deny ourselves and follow him.  No simple intellectual assent will do the trick.  And a pinched obedience that never comes close to reaching the heart is nothing but pained self-deceit. 

I'm eagerly awaiting Dekker's sequel, "AD 33."  I'm sure I'll enjoy it as much as I did the first.  He hinted several times in the novel that he had only covered Jesus's early ministry and that there are dramatic differences between it and his later teachings (not contradictions but new understandings).  I'd love for you to go read Dekker's novel for the action, characterizations and the introduction to the teachings of Jesus's ministry.  And if you are walking around a grey phantasm I want to join Dekker in encouraging you to go back to the gospels and look, not for what you think it says, but what Jesus himself would like to say to you. 


No comments:

Post a Comment