Idea Infatuation, Truth Versions, and the Preeminence of Jesus Christ

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Most Christians, including me, seem to get tripped by something that creates a downfall toward disunity and spiritual emptiness.  I've recently been reading a history of the Azusa Street Revival around the turn of the 20th century.  What's become evident is that this root problem we trip over in our journey with Jesus is one that we actually have the power to identify and uproot in our own lives and for those in our sphere and in our generation.  It's a root I'll call idea infatuation.

I blame this root for making me feel for years like I was being tossed on waves of truth versions.  My dad was a pastor who probably felt tossed on these same waves.  Many Christians are on these waves now.  Like me they will eventually become disoriented, not being able to see land and have any point of reference.  And others will become seasick from it all and perhaps even become shipwreck in their faith.

Infatuation is defined with nuance.  One definition implies it is short-lived.  Another says it is a deep lust.  Regardless, the common denominator is that infatuation is a passion for someone or something that often creates irrational behavior.
As a teenager, I thought I was in love with a girl.  In reality I was only infatuated.  What's the difference?  I couldn't think straight.  I didn't think straight.  In reality, I didn't really want to think much at all.  Honestly speaking, I just wanted to be with that girl.  Her presence provoked something inside of me that I would have done anything to experience again and again...even at the expense of my school grades and my relationship with other friends and family.

What's interesting in this particular problem and illustration is its relevance to Paul's own description in Ephesians 4:11-16.  He says that Jesus gave gifts to His body, the church.  Those gifts are people.  They are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.  Jesus gives these gifts to His body for one ultimate purpose:  "until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son, that we will become mature in the Lord..." 

What happens when we become mature in the Lord?

"Then we will no longer be immature like children  We won't be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching.  We will not be influence when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like truth  Instead we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church."

In short, church leaders aren't products of our own leadership development strategies, conferences, workshops, sermons, or books.  They are gifts of Jesus whom He gives to His family, to be equipped toward maturity and unity.  The ocean between that experience and where we may actually be today is filled with waves of truth versions:  a group of ideas and concepts that are lies, but mixed with just enough truth to make the whole package sound like it's from Jesus when it's really just a distraction.

Until we become mature and unified, we will find ourselves afloat.  That seems to have been my life story.  I can tell you from experience, looking back, that sometimes the waters will be calm, the sun will be out, and we'll feel a sense of peace.  But we won't realize that there's actually a current carrying us away from land, and is actually carrying us toward another storm.

When we find ourselves in that storm, we will experience life in its fullest measure - packed with punches of anxiety, raining sideways with terror and fear, and rogue waves of suffering - and suddenly truth versions provide zero hope of survival.  And those whom you thought were in the boat with you as comrades suddenly see you as a contagion and toss you overboard...in the name of Jesus.

Some people will experience this once in their lifetime.  Some will experience this more than once.  I believe it happens to us because we are not yet mature.  I believe we struggle with reaching maturity because of how we view church leadership.  We struggle with our view of church leadership because of idea infatuation:  a deep passion toward someone or something that uproots rationality.  It is often formed...
  • From a personality distinctive that inwardly compels us or makes us attracted to some particular concept, for one reason or another.
  • As a reaction to something we experienced before we were a Christian, or to something that deeply troubled us in the past.
  • Toward a leader or group whom we've unintentionally idolized, believing that the version of the truth they offer is the version we can finally rest our hopes in.
Idea infatuation occurs because we have taken our eyes off of Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1).  Paul tells us that the goal is to grow "in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church" (Ephesians 4:16).  Our life is about Jesus.  It's about Him alone.  But because He is the head of His body, the church, it's also about His body.  So our lives are to be aimed toward Jesus Christ and His family.  

As I reflect back on over thirty years of following Jesus, so much of it has been immaturity.  To be sure, I didn't know any better.  But isn't that the essence of immaturity?  The road to following Jesus Christ seems to be filled with so many exits, with bold, attention-grabbing signage.  And each sign is about this church, that theology, this distinctive, that vision, this mission, that book, this series, etc. What's worse is that the signs and exits themselves are all constructed in ways that they look like they were made by Jesus Himself!

Here's something I've discovered in the last couple of years.  Those exits are distractions.  Every single one of them.  The signs and exits were not made by Jesus Himself, but by human beings, often with good intentions.  And we know what road is paved with good intentions.

Don't misunderstand me.  I'm not at all saying that me and anyone else who gets off on these exits and spends much if not most of our lives there, are all going to hell.  I'm simply saying that those exits and accompanying signage are constructed by the one for whom hell was created.

Getting off at the exits and seeing the ecclesiastical sights and church theme parks always fills us with a feeling of excitement, belonging, pleasure, happiness, and just plain fun.  But it's all temporary.  And eventually...

because the DNA of that experience is about ideas or ideals and not about Jesus...

it all ends up unravelling inside of us as we grow exhausted from what becomes a religious obligation and we find ourselves in disunity...

along with a deep sense of unhappiness and unrest.

What do we end up doing in response?  We get out and get on with life.  Then we begin to heal, but with a limp.  The rest of our life accommodates around the wound giving the semblance of recovery.  And with a false sense of peace we attempt to start over again...

by finding a new idea or ideal...

someone we feel we can get behind...

something - a vision or mission - that starts to capture and enrapture our souls...

and we are distracted by another exit sign...

and the cycle starts all over again.

Some people never get out.  Others are in the cycle and don't know it.  Perhaps there are many who end up recognizing they are in it but don't know why.  Some eventually manage to get out.  Of those, some get out and stay out.  The others get out and figure out what was going wrong.  They know a recalibration is necessary to see things properly.  I'd like to think I'm in that latter group. 

I'm starting to see that my life, more often than not, seems to have been more about an idea or ideal than it has been about Jesus.  It's been a progression of mixed religious experiences and viewpoints about...

a particular theological viewpoint or persuasion...

Dispensational...then Reformed...then Charismatic...

a particular view of family and marriage...

complimentarian...methodology parenting...christian school...no, wait...homeschool...no, wait...public School...

a particular view of church government...

Congregational...elder-led...apostolic-led...pastor-led

a particular view of preaching and teaching...

Topical preaching...evangelistic preaching...expository preaching...

a particular view of leadership....

a particular version of the Bible...

a particular style of music and singing...

a particular Christian publisher or speaker...

and so on and so forth.

In essence, I may very well have pigeonholed myself for years...with ideas and ideals.  What's worse, I've made the mistake of thinking that this bird motel of pigeonholes is the real church, the genuine ekklesia, the community of Jesus.   To be sure, it's like the ekklesia of Corinth, where believers were divided from each other about the very same categories of issues like those I listed above.  But it is not like the ekklesia Jesus wants, not the one He died for, not the one He prayed for in John 17.

Jesus prays for a community, a family loves one another.  He prays for a family who is as unified as the Trinity itself!  Jesus says that this kind of unity is the only way that the world will come to know that HE is the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

But my version of church today was filled with various theological flavors and persuasions...

all of which influenced me toward one self-defeating conclusion...

that if I could just find others who agreed with my flavor and persuasion...

then I could be a part of building something great for God and win the world for Jesus!

Yet in so doing, I was only deepening my infatuation with truth versions, which only served to keep me distracted from Jesus Himself, and divided and separated my brothers and sisters in Jesus' family.  I did this for years while convincing myself and others in my group that we were all seeking first Jesus' kingdom and righteousness.

In reality we were pursuing an idea or ideology about one or two things that were associated with Jesus, without the fullness of Jesus.  And all the while we keep at arms length everyone else who didn't do, see, or believe things the same way we did.  

There's a word for that.

It's called denominationalism.

And for churches that are non-denominational, it's called a movement.

But it's all the same really, isn't it?

It's a fence constructed around human beings...

by human beings...

built out of a truth version that's about Jesus but often without Jesus.

And everyone congregating and actively involved inside these fences unavoidably see the kingdom of God with tunnel vision, thinking that their perception of the kingdom is the way things really are.  This begs my question:  Where's is my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God in the midst of all this?  Where is...

The author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1)?

The captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10)?

The light of the world (John 8:12)?

The door (John 10:7, 9)?

The water of life (John 4:14)?

The bread of life (John 6:35, 48, 51)?

The good shepherd (John 10:11, 14)?

The resurrection and the life (John 11:25)?

The way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)?

The true vine (John 15:1, 5)?

Paul fought hard, as an apostle and church planter, to guard and guide believers into this one essential truth:  Christ is everything.  The book of Colossians (see 1:15-20), in particular, is all about this very subject, offering Jesus Christ as the preeminent pinnacle of life as we know it and want to know it.  And Jesus is the remedy for a people distracted by ideas, ideals, and ideologies (2:2, 4, 6-10).

I want more Jesus these days.  I want less distractions.  I fear how much of my life was lived like the Ephesian church whom Jesus rebuked in Revelation 2.  "But I have this complaint against you. You don't love me or each other as you did at first!  Look how far you have fallen!" (vv. 4, 5).

 I'm ready to fall out of infatuation with what I have discovered is a very worldly version of Jesus and his ekklesia.  I'm ready to fall back in love with Jesus Christ Himself.  Not just a few truths about Him.  Not the spiritual gifts He gave me.  Not some books about Him.  Not leaders who mean well and try to help me follow Him.  Not denominations or church planting movements that cast a vision for Jesus.  I want to fall back in love with Jesus Christ.  Him.  Him alone.

And I want to experience Him with you...with my brothers and sisters whom Jesus died for and fills with love and joy and wisdom.  I want to fall back in love with these people.  Not with ministries that say they are about serving other people but only end up leaving me exhausted.  Not with programs that are designed in good faith to help me follow Jesus but only end up distracting me.  Not with ideologies about money that bankrupt me while depriving those I love of practical needs.  I want to fall back in love with you, with the family of Jesus.

#DieToDistraction #LiveInJesus

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