Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Download or marinate?

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God (2 Cor. 2:14-17).

The fragrance of the knowledge of him! It is a fragrance we pick up from our closeness to him—not something we will have just by the asking. It comes from knowing him. Acquaintance comes in stages, in bits and pieces—by observation, interaction, intimate conversations, loyal friendship.

In Western Christianity, books and sermons abound with information about his salvation and various graces (faith, courage, protection). They expound on Christian lifestyle. They do not say as much about HIM. Even when we approach the Lord himself in prayer, we tend to talk to him rather than fellowship with him. We tend to ask for guidance and make requests—and then exit quickly because we don’t know what else to say to him, instead of lingering and becoming acquainted. We ask for qualities such as wisdom, patience, kindness, and purity of motives as if they are products we are downloading from him. But they are not products—they are part of his nature. The more we become acquainted with him the more these qualities will “rub off” on us.

It is minimally possible to acquire his traits as an impersonal download. To “participate in the divine nature” we must marinate in the “knowledge of him.”

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (2 Pet. 1:3-4, emphasis added).

We would do well to return to contemplation of the Lord, as practiced by the saints of Middle Ages. I am not saying that we should attain to a mystical state, nor am I fostering an escape from the world; I suggest that we imitate them in the sense of meditating more on the Lord's person and nature--not just focising our attention on his promises, his instructions, and his deeds. This is Scriptural:

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect [Footnote: or contemplate] the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18, footnote in NIV).

Do we need to be more like Christ? Do we desire to see his power at work in our world? Let’s not spend so much time asking the Lord to give us purity and power, let’s spend more time just being WITH HIM. As we look upon him on a regular basis through the pages of the Bible or by recalling all he has done for us personally, we are marinating in his love and holiness. Our hearts will lose their taste for worldliness and become increasingly captivated by his goodness. In his presence, we will have his concerns, and worldy ones with drop away. In his presence, we will become like him. And the fragrant beauty of who he is will linger on us as we interact with the world. Our neighbors will not just hear us speak about him; they will experience the very substance of his being emanating from us, for we will have “put on Christ.”

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