John Gavazzoni
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He Never Left - Part Four
By John Gavazzoni

Though it is necessary at this stage of the forward movement of the Lord toward the goal of the glory-reconstitution of all things, to deal with correcting the mistranslation of the biblical text, and misinterpretation of the same, we do that as a sort of concession to the yet-in-part approach to pursuing the truth. The way we have been pursuing truth for centuries has been a way that is inferior to THE WAY.

Any way held forth as the way to the Way is deserving of serious skepticism. Traditional evangelicalism is particularly obsessive-compulsive about determining what "the Bible says," and though the Lord has sovereignly incorporated this into His working, it is a primary element within a contrarian complex of God's economy. God has given His go-ahead to this mode of pursuit, but if we've been given ears to hear, His go-ahead has a yes-but qualification.

Searching the Bible for answers re: any matter of spiritual concern, is somewhat akin to traditional western medicine dealing more with symptoms than root causes - it does keep 'em coming back, you know, and keeps the bucks flowing. So it is with our investigation of the pre-occupation with "the return of Christ."

As I reflected on writing this fourth installment of our series, I was stirred to look beyond the problems of mistranslation and agenda-energized exegesis, to get to the root cause of the obsessive projecting of the presence of the Lord into the future to the comparative neglect of how profound is His ontologically-based presence with us - ontological in that it is the nature of His being to not be separated from His creation.

What makes us so disposed to granting "prophecy teachers" any interest at all, given that they mostly incite believers to confusion while distracting them from presently beholding the glory of the Lord in the face of Jesus Christ in the Holy of Holies of their own humanness? These prognosticators leave their followers with a giddy feeling of certainty when they've actually been herded into a corral of confusion. It's today's Christian version of selling the Brooklyn Bridge and Florida swampland to hick-town suckers.

Do you think it might be worth noting that not one of the books of our New Testament is a commentary on a book of the Old Testament? Doesn't that set some kind of a noteworthy precedent for apostolic continuity? Certainly, in view of the Holy Writ-centeredness of the culture of that day, references were made by the writers to the established scriptures to support their message.

But normatively speaking, for one to claim to be preaching the gospel, but be found mostly engrossed in convincing folks that he knows "what the Bible says," (and of course, including when the One who never left is coming back) is akin to reading a book about the Grand Canyon, explaining it to others gathered around to make sure they understand it and especially drawing attention to the beautiful pictures in the book, while you're all standing at the canyon's edge.

While certainly acknowledging that it is God who has the masses of Christians where they're at in their confusion, this does not mean that we ought not investigate what is the nature of their abnormal disposition. Pausing at this very moment in my writing, this comparison comes to me: It's like the traditional concept of "going to heaven." Everyone wants to go there, but very few are in a hurry to make the transition from here to there - it's the dying part that we don't like.

Believers are convinced that they love the presence of the Lord, and they actually do, in some measure, try to consciously turn to His presence, but it's that level of the unconscious that makes us double-minded. We want the protecting, comforting, affirming Jesus, but the temple-cleansing Jesus kind of puts us off. The Jesus who confronted Peter repeatedly with "loveth thou Me," is disturbing. He confronts us with the fact that we are not really comfortable with the intimacy that He requires. So, let's go hear someone explain to us what the Bible says about Him instead.

There's a passion that Jesus is all about. Though He is the great Comforter, He ultimately allows no comfort-zone which is a retreat from intimacy with Him. The great Comforter, yes; the great Disturber, also, yes. Christ came to be our Way to share with Him the passion of the Father. There have been those times in all of our lives when we've felt that passion expressed in how fervently the Lord came to our aid in a time of great need, but we unconsciously draw back from walking on in the experience of that passion.

I have spoken, and written, about the slippery religious slope that leaves folks preferring to gather together as nice people, to sing nice songs, and listen to a nice man tell them how to be nicer. Color us baby pink. (I can't recall pink being a biblical color). We've been delivered from the hell-fire monster-god, only to reactively end up with the "I'm OK, you're OK god." Sure, I understand, you've been burned by religious peddlers of perverse passion, and you are determined not to go that route again. Believe me, I know about that.

That's how the early disciples felt. Their passion about Jesus seemed stupid as they saw Him led away in apparent defeat and humiliation by His enemies. What do you do when the best of your hope is dashed to pieces? We all, like Peter, in some way, retreat to the familiar. We all "go a-fishing."

Or we retreat from the passionate Presence by removing the immediacy of Him. The passion is still there, but we put Him, the object of our passion at a safe distance into the future. The ones who penned the following words, without a doubt felt a passion for the Lord's presence:

"Oh Lord Jesus, how long, how long, e’er we shout the glad song, Christ returneth, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Amen."

Or: "When He shall come resplendent in His glory; when white-robed angels pass before my sight. Oh to be worthy, then to stand before Him. And in that morn to walk with Him in light."

Or: "Over the sunset mountain, someday I'll softly go. Into the arms of Jesus, He who has loved me so."

Or: "Some golden daybreak, Jesus will come. Some golden daybreak battles all won. He'll shout the victory, break through the blue. Some golden daybreak, for me, for you."

See, the passion for the Lord, by the brethren who wrote such words is real, but the passion has been diluted, has lost its center. It's almost more about "when" than Him. He's a safer Jesus out there in the future. He's a safer Jesus to be read about in the Book. Let's keep Him in the future, in the Book, right? That way, we can feel good about ourselves since we're occupied with figuring out what the Book has to say ABOUT Him. Safer that way. No, that's the kind of safety the Savior came to save us from.

Go to this series: Part One, Part Two, Part Three or Part Four, Part Five

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