Then all four looked and recognized something in their midst and each in turn said:
I see a tree sprung up from the ground. I see lifeless limbs bear the grief for those standing around. I see lightning split death’s silent sky at the ninth hour. I see on display the prize and ends of all wealth and power. The Man also, is bringing new life by dying. The Man is weak yet showing enormous strength The Man is finished, yet eternal in his impact The Man is powerful, yet makes himself nothing. This doesn’t make sense.
Then it went deep into the center of it all, and the four saw the transformation:
Can it be? It is as it was from the beginning Can it be? The poor are clothed in raiment of splendor Can it be? The dead are raised to life everlasting Can it be? The wealthy and powerful on earth are defeated See the Man also! He makes all things new. The Man in his weakness is made strong The Man has died once, now lives forever. The Man is worthy of all honor and power. We have seen enough.
Then the Man rose up to the One who was above them, and sat at His right hand and said:
Through translation and the molten nature of meaning in language, I have recaptured in my imagination something pleasantly sober the way even the hardest truths can be. No matter how hot the fire burns or how brutally it breaks down constructed things to irreducibly simple forms, it still brings warm life to the cold and reminds us of deep things intrinsic to human existence.
Consider the earth, with only the surface inhabitable, and yet beneath an entire world un-trodden by man’s body, where only his dreams and musings may go. Understanding goes deep with a person deeper than their body, but it also comes forth from within a person in ways that effect their tangible livelihood. There are lightnesses of understanding which men contemn, and there are depths to which some men go that many who go there seem stuck upside down with their bottom sticking up in the air: completely un-comprehensible to the surface mind. The lightness does the heart good, like the sea air does the deep-sea diver’s lungs good. But the Ordinary alone is not enough to maintain a profitable life. The ordinary life in which we live– that layer of reality in which we move around, make decisions, and react with decisions and chance far greater than our own control– is ruled by other layers of reality. And the deepest layers are the Highest layers. Let me lay out these layers as I see them.
-1. Humor. Humor is the level of understanding to which one person goes, to make another person exert greater understanding than himself. It makes the ordinary feel that he is indeed sane, and this fool who prates on and on makes him who is listening feel that he is sound. It is the humble gift God has given humanity to encourage and comfort the world with its ever-precarious, ever sobering, ever deepening conditions of decay and uncertainty and trouble. Well-crafted humor is the very fragrance of understanding rising up from the vents of that which is deeper than us. But, when used effectively, humor raises us to great heights, then either sets us down again, or plunges us into the deeper understandings into which we must dive. O the thrill of the hammer swung backward through the air, only to rush forward to drive the nail home once more! O the exuberant and silly breath we take to dive once more to the depth of understandings!
0. OrdinaryReality. The realm of the real and clear. Here far is far, and near is near, a spade is a spade, and a cigar is a cigar. Do not read between the lines. Words are sufficient. Listen to what is said. Read what is written. See what is shown. Many find this simple life good. It is. And yet the corruptions beneath the surface have far too often twisted the surface to that which is not simple. Look around you at the dishonesty of man’s hearts. A simple weight well-calibrated is true and good. It is the plethora of dishonest weights that make this level of understanding a dangerous ground. “Don’t believe everything you read” say the wise, and wizened. Solomon also said, “The simple believe every word, but the prudent consider their steps.” ~Prov 14:15.
1. Joy— Ah the pledge of good faith! There is truth beneath the surface! The Promise of a better surface life comes from digging a deep foundation and a roomy storehouse where the temperature is cool year round. Such cools calm the temperamental flares of heat which spring from a lack of reserve. The deep waters of life flow beneath the surface, and cool water is a nourishment to every soul seeking shade and sweetness in this broken desert of life. A man of understanding carries within him an oasis in any desert! He is the happiest of fellows to embrace the streams of truths that water all of the plants up on the surface. Indeed, for many this results in a nerdy withdrawal from all things surface and ordinary, and thereby leaving those without refreshment feeling abandoned, ignored, and deprecated. Nevertheless, these ordinary folk gain the hearty laugh of staring at people up-ended, bottoms in the air seeking some sort of treasures and refreshment that would otherwise be bought with a great cost underneath the hard sun.
2. Weight— The pledge is sweet, and the collection of waters tastes good, but there is too much water to carry around with a person. A man’s canteen, strength, stomach, and mind can only handle so much. Eventually, the immovable and inescapable nature of what is understood leads many to shy away from the responsibility which is thrust upon those who have understood it. Not only are there many who are in need of the life here in encased, but the one who knows of it comes to see the real predicament at the surface. The pressure and weight of all the understanding comes to sober the one once drunk with the pleasure and raucous laughter of understanding, and he comes to see his own face in the water, and in that face recognize his own makeup of water, and his resemblance to the owner and supplier of all the water in the world. These are those who are stuffy and self-absorbed and feel impregnated with the grand self-importance of that which they hold, lest they give way to the deeper levels of understanding which require greater courage.
3. Sorrow–Fingernails grind on a chalkboard, and a bone fallen out of joint is a deep pang of something wrong in the world. Understanding brings grief, that depth of the weight of all the world crashing down on broken supports. Seeing people in reality slip off the edge into oblivion unnecessarily just because the scales are tipped out of favor of real justice. It is heartbreaking to know not only the problems for so many, but the connection of the problems to other problems both cause and effect, and to see this web of impossibility, like the web created by a mirror shattered and fragmented from some point of impact. Understanding in people who face the deep underbelly of the world have one of two directions they can go now. It is too thick to explore here, you cannot go left and right. You can return to the surface with your sorrow you have learned, and boast over your understanding as deep as you went. You laugh at those who revel in new discoveries, because you have forgotten the pledge of good faith, and have seen heartbreak the more understanding you have grown. You can return jaded. Or you can go down deeper.
4. Surrender— The point of impact, where the real world we live in was shattered like that mirror is the brokenness of humanity which must be acknowledged and dealt with at the source of the problem: me. G.K. Chesterton understood this when asked in a Newspaper, what is the problem with the world.” He responded with these two words, “I am.” This is the moment to which Understanding leads a person: will you seek to preserve your life, or will you lose it? Here again, the man who has understood– who has “stood under” the reality of life and seen it’s fractured-ness and fractals and fractions–has two choices. He can lose self in annihilation or an inglorious manner that utterly rejects the goodness of understanding he learned at the beginning. Or He can entrust himself to the wise One who led him down this far on his journey of understanding, and commit the unpardonable sin against self: surrender to someone greater than yourself who requires your all with no caveats, no reservations, and no exit strategy. This is the “Lose yourself” that Jesus spoke of when he said, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel will find it.” It is a risk. It is very much like death. It’s like giving up, except it’s more like “Okay God, you win. I won’t keep fighting you anymore. I will actually submit to you, and accept that You are the Savior and not me.” This is the decision to which your journey deeper into understanding has been leading. There is Reality, Joy, Responsibility, Sorrow, and ultimately Surrender of self to the One who has proved how worthy He is through his impeccable track record.
This is the end. Of the old life. Of the New life This is the beginning.
“There are depths of love that I cannot know, til I cross the narrow sea. There are heights of love that I may not reach, til I rest in peace with Thee.” ~Fanny Crosby
Understanding brings a person to the core of all that is, and he discovers the need to surrender, and once there is surrender, suddenly, from the very core of a person’s existence to which Understanding has led, a life is born anew. A life that is never-ending because it is begun by the One who is Never-ending. A life that is not your own, but belongs to the One who truly owns all things. A life that is set not on a broken platform, but the deepest possible foundation: to the core of reality itself: The Maker, the Word, and the Resurrection. This is where Understanding can bring a person, but only with humility, love, grace, and courage–honesty with self and God. He is there at the center of the layers of reality. And in His presence is the FULLNESS of the joy the understanding of which one found hints at the beginning of his journey. He is there, eagerly awaiting those who will take up their cross, and lay down their lives for His World-saving cause.
These are the Depths of Understanding as I have seen it. And I hope that God gives you the heart to go to this depth with Him. Remember: “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” ~Hebrews 11:6.” If you find yourself at any point of this journey and you have stopped short of the Self-Loss Surrender that leads to life, go back to the last point you found yourself, and seek God. After all, “He who seeks God understands all things.” (Prov 28:5)
– – There is plenty of mystery for me surrounding this stage, but I believe Paul: “If we are united with him in the likeness of his death, surely we will be united in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Rom 6:5) A Christian who has gone on past these stages and has remained faithful to the end has passed from the Kingdomstage to the Victorystage. Even in victory and a new resurrected life, however, I think the book of Revelation and Genesis shows that there is still peril.
Toward the end of the Bible, the last threads of the knot of Satan’s twisting are being untied. As deception ruined the good world God made, even when the people were not themselves sinners, it could be that a person who claimed allegiance to God through all the previous stages might falter into the Evil one’s clutches.
It is tempting to think of Jesus’ death as the end of the story, since that’s where the natural mind ends. However, the story of the Bible goes through death to Resurrection! Jesus who endured to the end, was raised up by
The Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11)
God the Father (Romans 10:9)
The Glory of the Father (Romans 6:4)
And his resurrected body was
Flesh and Bone (Luke 24:39)
Able to eat food (Luke 24:42-43)
First-fruits of those who are raised (1 Corinthians 15:20)
He walked among us as a fully alive and restored human though he still carried the nail marks.
I believe I can confidently assert that as was Christ at his resurrection, so will the believer be. Consider 1 Corinthians 15:42-44,
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body;it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
A Personal Difficulty
For a long time I thought that Christians would be only disembodied spirits, or having some kind of quasi-physical body when we die, but I believe the resurrection of Jesus’ body was evidence that the Believer’s resurrected body will be just like Jesus’: still distinctly human. Perhaps Gnostic influences have led me to seek some sort of abolition of the physical body. But since the end of the story is new Heaven and Earth, I still believe God’s plan is to redeem the whole believer, even their bodies.
The danger I see in this stage is the same danger that Adam and Eve faced in the Garden of Eden: Deception. Matthew 24:24 speaks of some time in the future from Jesus’ day when false prophets would arise to deceive, even if possible God’s chosen ones. I see that this is a possibility as humanity will have the choice to heed the deception the Evil One even at the end of time during Christ’s reign of 1,000 years. (Revelation 20:8) It is the sin into which the first human fell, and it is also a sin into which the new human can fall, so he must take heed to obey God’s Word, or he too may be swept away in the Evil one’s last ditch effort to sway the nations against God.
Walk with God. The Evil One can only deceive a believer as he is wandered away from His blessed presence. Stay before His face, and keep Him before your face so that you will never be shaken.
Listen to His Word–When God speaks, do not harden your hearts, but humbly receive the gift of God’s goodness to you.
Obey Him. “His commandments are His enablements” said a woman to a Pastor in Portland, Oregon named J. Carl Laney. When God gives a command, it is to be obeyed. To cause disobedience is the evil one’s aim, and his greatest method is to deceive. Until he is cast into the lake of fire, you must resist him, and remain faithful to obey God, or you too will fall with him.
Represent God on earth. The restored image of humanity has the privilege of representing Him on earth. As He is, so are we in the world. Now all of Creation is set up as the Temple of the Goodness of God, and the resurrected human is the one built to image God in His delightful creation.
Hard to believe that there may be one more stage to cover. After all, the Evil One is defeated, death is defeated, what could possibly be left? Think with me. What was the last thing we have recorded of Jesus’ time on earth?
Reflections on Theology of the Cross by Gerharde O. Forde
The Cross means I must die
The Resurrection means I will live again by God’s kindness if I have faith.
The world is either heading toward the cross
Or it has already been crucified
All who are found to be on the side going toward the cross
Will not be resurrected
But all who embrace the cross
Will be resurrected
He who seeks to save his life by ignoring the cross
Will lose his life
But who loses his life for Jesus sake by dying to self
Will find that his life is saved
Why? Because our sinfulness, our pride, insubordination, and rebellion must die.
We must die since our sin means destruction of ourselves and all that is good.
But God made a doorway for the life He wanted to save.
Only those who die in submission and subordination to God will live.
God will make a new creation, but He won’t resurrect the old creation.
If you wish to be saved
Identify yourself as a rebel, a sinner, unworthy of God’s kindness
Lose your life of serving yourself
When you ignored the message of the cross: That you cannot save yourself
Like the child who knows he has done wrong, confesses and accepts punishment
Who thus shows his humility of heart to his parent’s jurisdiction
So submit your life to God, which to the detriment of all, falls short of holiness
And the God who is good, welcomes you to be resurrected into His New Creation
This is the Offensive Gospel.
This is the Narrow Gate.
Narrow as the beams of the cross itself.