What can the world profit thee without Jesus? To be without Jesus is the nethermost hell, and to be with Jesus is sweet paradise. If Jesus were with thee no enemy could hurt thee. He who findeth Jesus findeth a good treasure, yea, good above all good; and he who loseth Jesus loseth exceeding much, yea, more than the whole world. Most poor is he who liveth without Jesus, and most rich is he who is much with Jesus.
~Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Book 2, Chapter VIII.
As is often the case in the world, things are not really as they seem. Having adopted an anthropocentric world-view (that is one in which we temporal “dust-people” are the center attraction and our little fictions pretended long-term dynasties) instead of the Kingdom of God – which is eternal and in which Christ is the true and Living Center (being the only One to actually have been permanently raised from the dead in glory) we have little or no ability to see things with their proper gravitas.
So it goes with Jesus – who the Church itself has muddied our vision of by selling him like a commemorative stamp, or presenting Him as a fine example (although if He ever showed up in their church on Sunday He would be politely escorted out the side door with the other Homeless folk and given a few bucks.)
Further confusion is this idea of “making a decision for Christ” for we all know that we sit in such a seat – able to judge whether He is worthy of saving us and bringing us everlasting joy out of our absolute lostness and misery.
But there is some truth to this, for at the end of ourselves – and when He comes to rescue us from US, we still have to decide to get into the boat and get off the sinking ship. As obvious as the answer may have been, He still asked the paralyzed man, “Do you wish to be well?”
For some people really don’t want to get better; don’t want rescue. Some people want their Hell. God doesn’t seem into violating our freewill – or not often (He does on occasion – like Saul had little choice in becoming Paul or not).
We really hate change – espcially not on our terms. We are prideful – and for no damned good reason.
The world calls people who love Jesus “Jesus Freaks” sometimes – and often these folk oblige (though no one has ever called me that – quite the reverse. I have been accused by people of people “too smart for my own good” – “too rational” etc… Hey, tough scabula) with odd antics.
I think that is just California to be quite honest.
I think West Coast Christians are way too afraid to say they love Jesus the Messiah – and why. I can assure you – one and all – the possible opposing questions and arguments you may (possibly never) get are pretty simple, often earnest, and not really threatening at all.
Most people’s complaints simply have to do with religious people who have done bad things in the name of Jesus – and we can simply agree with them.
I do. 10 out of 10 times.
But this sidesteps A Kempis’ words which are so deeply true. This world is a sinking ship..and Jesus, in His love has come (His name literally means “Yahweh to the Rescue”) to bring true rescue. He has come with ships to save all who will come to a True Country.
Most of His parables are about the True Country – and how to desire it. You can read them yourselves (Matthew 13 has a great collection).
All that Thomas A Kempis says through the book is pretty much my exact experience near 700 years later.
But it is not just rescue from; it is rescue to. And the taste of that is our fellowship with Jesus now via His Holy Spirit.
There is, of course, no way to describe this to anyone who has not yet experienced it. C.S. Lewis likens it to trying to explain sex to a boy whose highest enjoyment to that point is chocolate. He would want to know, of course, where and when the chocolate was involved because it is the highest thing he knows.
Now granted, chocolate may indeed be involved (I don’t think Lewis brings this up, but I am) but it is really not the main point now is it? But you really can only give parabolic explanations until that person experiences sexual union – and then hopefully in the fullest expression – with someone dearly known and loved in a trusted covenant where there is true freedom – and not some guilt-laden and awkward situation with a stranger with worries about STDs or some form of payment.
So I can only tell people of my regular experiences with Jesus – the Living One – and that what Thomas A Kempis wrote so clearly and eloquently about in the early 15th Century (and this book is second only to the Bible in its popularity as a spiritual classic and the number of languages it has been translated into) is spot on. Now having experiences life with and in Christ, to be without Him would be Hell for me.
I have had my heart broken by not a few women – and recovered. I would never recover from His withdrawal. And that is because He is my “First Love.”
All that Thomas A Kempis says through the book is pretty much my exact experience near 700 years later. In fact, if we had a good translator, I have no doubt the two of us would have a fine conversation if we met here and now in some remote (non-modern) locale to discuss his book, or say some passages of scripture.
A Kempis was a lover of God and humanity. He was humble and kind – but bold too.
If Jesus is just an idea – then, well that is helpful – but not a real big deal – not really. It is the fact He is risen (and not just on Easter) and with us alive now.
We dust-people think we are eternal, but we are so fragile and if not for Him would just die and disintegrate into the soil – forgotten. But because He lives, life has meaning and we shall “get up” incorruptible. Rescue has come and we have already started life with Him. I live it today with Him. I’m not a dust-person anymore. ..and neither are you.