4. Christ Versus Superman I
Christ is always and forever humbling Himself in weakness; God is always and forever exalting above all the Christ who humbles Himself in weakness. Both, all the time, and forever. We will never know Him in His power until we know Him IN OUR weakness. Those who despise their own personal weakness cannot know Him. The real Christ of God in power is the One who is always coming out of weakness. Those who reject their weakness know only an imaginative "Christ."
4. Christ Versus Superman I
After posting my letter, "Knowing God," on my website of a Sunday, I received an email response that arrived the following Tuesday morning. The email came from a brother who has sent me many email responses over time, the great majority of which have been sharply critical. In the majority of those emails there was no personal communication, no fellowship of Christ from one heart to another, just jab and poke.
Finally, nearly a year ago, he sent me one that was too overwhelming for me. It is my responsibility before God to stay free from controllers, and so I removed the brother's email from my list and erased all his subsequent emails without opening them. I hope to justify that decision through this letter.
However, the subject of this recent email said, "Hello Daniel." I am always a hopeful optimist, ready to believe the best, so I opened the email and read the short paragraph that was there.
I do not write these letters to be read, per se. Rather, I write them to know the Lord Jesus Christ more fully than I do. As I write, I hear Him singing. Yet to send out what I write is to open myself up to pain and sorrow. I bear that pain, though I don't want to, because of the love in my heart for those dear ones who also hear Him singing in their hearts when they read and because I know that a stopped spring soon grows stagnant.
I read the email twice, eyes blinking, knowing I had made a terrible mistake, but not wanting to read it wrong. I was already feeling weak, but I headed to my college classes in great pain and turmoil of mind and emotions, knowing from long experience that the pain and turmoil would not lift for at least 48 hours.
God orders my steps and all His ways concerning me are perfect. I give Him thanks with joy for all things.
On Thursday morning, as I awoke, the Lord spoke a verse into my heart:
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven . . . Matthew 5:10-11.
I realized that what I had thought was my own pain was really the Lord Jesus Christ, sharing His suffering with me for my glory. It was then that full peace finally returned to me.
However, from the time I read that email until now, the desire to speak against the issues raised in the email has not left my mind, issues that I have watched destroy so many dear people whom I love, along with the desire to shine the light upon the darkness until God's people can see most clearly the pitfalls that press so closely to the path of Christ. It is my hope that some, at least, will escape those pits of darkness because of what I write.
But I did not think I could actually write until the next Sunday morning for two reasons. One, the subject matter is too dark and too filled with human suffering to walk lightly into. And two, it is a delicate and difficult thing to separate between a brother and a string of emails which he has written. I do not judge the brother; I do not possess the wisdom to do so. He belongs to Jesus and is in very capable hands. However, I do judge the email and the things said in it. And I judge those things with all the ferocity that is in me.
My anger is right and just. Yet anger must always be carried inside of love.
This morning before I awoke, in my dream, I spoke over and over that God is all AND all. Both, 100%, always. God is always Love of persons and He is always Hatred of cruelty. Christ is always the victorious risen One exalted in power above the heavens and He is always the lowly weak One, bearing our sorrows, a friend of sinners. He is never one without being also, fully, the other.
As I awoke, I could see clearly and knew peace in my heart that the Lord did intend for me to write this letter.
There are two elements in this email sent to me that always seem to work together in the church. The first is a false image of Christ that is prevalent all through "deeper truth" circles. The second is the nature of the bully, setting up his psychological traps in order to control and to abuse. Sad to say, but it seems to me that more bullies, people without conscience, make their way into Christian "deeper truth" circles and ministry than are found anywhere else on this planet except in governments and militaries.
People longing to know the Lord more fully are prime food for bullies.
Now, I do not say that the brother who sent me this email is "a bully." I do say that the words in the email are classic bully words. Thus, I do not write this letter as an address to this brother, because, though I will judge his words and have every right to do so, I have no right to judge him.
Now, I have known bullies since I was nine; I know them very well. And I have known this false image of Christ since I was twenty. The brother writes to me as if he is introducing me to a concept that has worked strongly upon my life for 34 years. I suspect that I know it better than he.
There are two ways only to respond to a bully, that is, if one wishes to remain in the Spirit of peace. First, if it is at all possible, you must ignore the bully (in his bullying) utterly. The second biggest mistake people make in reacting to a bully is to defend themselves against the bully. I respond to this brother by ignoring him. I refuse the false "co-dependency" spirit that argues it is my responsibility to try to relate to this brother. He is not my responsibility; he belongs to Jesus. (The biggest mistake people make is coming into submission in some soulish way to the bully. "Feeling responsible" is part of that false submission.)
Second, if the circumstances of life force you to walk together with a bully, then you must become a mirror, in all gentleness and lowliness of heart, so that the bully does not see you, but himself. This I have done, and I know how it works and that it works well. It is not possible to successfully help one who bullies except by this approach. To attempt any other response is to fall into the trap he has woven. If that happens, the only outcome you will know is the utter shattering of your psyche and a massive wedge driven between you and the Lord Jesus in your own mind and emotions.
I know. And I know what recovery takes, and how few victims find it.
Next, I must address this false image of Christ, this "deified idol," this "super-Christ," if you will. Before I do that, however, here is the email for you to read. I insert this email only at the last minute, just before I send the letter out. I will not look at it again myself. You may read it and think, "Oh, this sounds like wonderful truth!" It is not.
You may think, "Daniel is just foolishly overreacting to something completely innocuous."
Just the number of broken and shattered lives, friends, loved ones, family members, some who may never recover in this life, that I know personally are staggering. But I know of many hundreds more.
This is not a game. I speak of a dear man, of close connection to me, who, surrounded by the river of life and mighty miracles, cannot ever find a God of love because of the shattering that came into his tender boyhood years by a bully, a psychopath, dressed up as a minister of Christ and wielding this false image of Christ as a whip.
Do not speak to me of foolish overreaction; it is Christ who is angry in me.
Here is the email:
I decided to write this only because your desire for the fullness of Christ seems to great. I hope it really is. Your insistence to put a name Asperger's above the name above all names.
Some like the name cancer or autisms or one of many they parade around today and wear them like badges of courage to define who they are and how they over come in spite of their given name. Christ
Well I like the name of Christ and know that in Him I have been made new and in Him there is no Asperger's or cancer or poverty or any other thing of the fallen man. And our life has been made new in Him and by resisting all that would tell us other wise. I love you brother and believe you are on the right path but for some reason continue to believe that something beside Christ is your real life and who you are. Don’t need to respond I can hear it now an excuse for why you are the way you are instead of the truth that you have been made whole in Christ and that is the truth end of sentence.
In October of 1992 I spent one hour under the grip of the worst bully and the most concentrated and destructive bullying I have known in my life. Every word I raised in my defense became the next weapon with which he assaulted every part of my person, my manhood, my accomplishments. He mocked every part of me and he did so out from the "authority of Christ." I believed in that moment that he was speaking from the spiritual authority to which I had willingly and fully submitted my heart and my life. Circumstances had made me particularly vulnerable at that moment; he knew that and used it to his full advantage.
I went home in ruin and despair. As I lay in bed, I pulled the blanket of darkness over my heart somehow to escape the shame. I knew no other way out - the Christ as spoken of in this email had sided against me, after all. In just the way this brother says.
Through the next few weeks, I walked through the motions of life empty and hollow inside, without help. I was very weak.
In December of 1992, I caught the flu which very quickly turned into pneumonia. We were not opposed to going to the hospital, but it was not a quick decision. It was 20-30 below zero; we could not ventilate our little house for fresh air. I could not lie flat, so we constructed a ramp in the living room for me to sleep half sitting. My breathing was shallow; fluid filled my lungs.
In spite of the false image of a "Christ" I held in my theology as One too high for a worm like me to reach, the Lord Jesus lived in my heart, and all my life, in spite of my difficulty, was cast utterly upon Him.
My heart was at peace and I sang and gave thanks under the pressure of the pneumonia. Some dear sisters, none of them elders, came to pray for me. They blessed me and spoke encouragement to me. I was lifted up in faith and trust in Jesus, though the sickness continued. I was very sick.
That afternoon, five men elders came into our little house to "pray" for me. These are all brethren I know very well. I love and respect each one. They came in their worst form of pretending.
They prayed - at me, upon me, praying as if I was an unworthy sinner. They prayed out from this theology of a "deified" Christ; they prayed as if one who knew the Lord and walked with Him could not possibly ever be "sick." They prayed as if the pneumonia was a part of my "flesh" and that since I was sick, I was so obviously "in the flesh." They prayed in full agreement with the "Christ" expressed in this email. One of them pressed himself against my chest, commanding the so-obvious fleshy demons to come out of me. I could not breathe, but I was afraid that if I asked him to remove his hand, he would rebuke my words as coming from a demon. I asked anyway, lest I suffocate, and he graciously removed himself from me.
As these men walked out my cabin door, convinced they had "ministered Christ" to me, the only thought swirling through my confused mind was "Do they even think I am a Christian? Do they even think I love Jesus as they do?"
But the idolized Christ with whom they left me was now driven as a wedge of darkness between me and the Jesus who lives in my heart, who was with me IN my PNEUMONIA.
Early the next morning an older brother drove me over icy roads to the hospital in Fort St. John. The doctor immediately put me on IV's and strong antibiotics. I knew that I was low, though I continued to give thanks. I did not know that I was almost dead.
Later in the day, a brother came to see me, one of those brethren that I have talked about before who were such life and strength and encouragement to me over the years. He had been among those men elders who had "prayed" for me, a role I gladly forgive him for. Even the best can be turned momentarily by the psychosis of the group.
After this brother came to visit me in the hospital, he went back to his car and told his wife and little children how low I appeared. They stormed heaven together in their car; they prayed for me. I did not know of that until later, but I did know that 10-15 minutes after the brother left my room, the darkness lifted, just a bit, and from then on the antibiotics began to win.
Had I died, the diagnosis would have been death from pneumonia. Yet I know that part of the cause would have been the defeat wrought in my heart by the false Christ prayed at me by my brethren. That is a fact, not an accusation; the brothers who prayed for me were dear and sincere. Like so many, they did not know our precious union with Jesus.
I want to talk about Jesus.
The cross was the lowest point of horror and shame and ignominy that any human being could be subjected to in this life. During the first century of the church, no one would ever have considered the cross as a "symbol" of Christianity. Rather, the sign of Christ to the early Christians was the resurrection, the rolled away stone, the empty grave. But centuries later, during the fall into Roman darkness, the "cross" was deified and turned into an idol of Christianity. As a deified idol, the crucifix lost the original intent and purpose of God. Indeed, every part of God making Christ to be a man, the one who shares our sorrows and carries our grief, the one who is despised and rejected of men, every part of Him, the darkened mind of "Christianity" has deified and idolized and placed high, high, above us on a pedestal of human imagination called "knowledge."
And so we must turn from this idolized cross and find another picture of Jesus that shows us the true nature and being of our Father.
And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. Luke 11:27
Strong words, these, probably the strongest words Jesus ever spoke to those who want to know Him. How do we do them? How do we carry our cross?
How did the Christ of God, the Messiah, carry His cross? How did Jesus prove Himself when it came His turn to practice what He preached?
He is whipped and bloody and beaten. The crowds line the path, mocking Him, spitting upon Him. They despise this imposter. The Christ of God is powerful and victorious, striking down His enemies with thunderbolts, we all know that, certainly not this weak and wimpish man who never fights back.
The Roman soldiers grab a cross and hoist it upon Jesus' back. Now is His chance; now He can show the universe just exactly how the Christ carries His own cross when it is His turn to do so.
He tries, willingly enough. He stumbles forward under its weight for several feet up the path. He cannot do it. He stumbles and falls, pitching face forward into the dirt. The heavy cross tumbles across his back, leaving a dark bruise in his already shredded muscles. The heavy crossbeam presses His face into the mud and refuse of the street.
The Roman soldiers look down at Him in disbelief. What a joke! This man was supposed to be the "Son of God," yet there He is, lying face first in the mud, incapable, even, of carrying His own cross. A soldier grabs a man standing nearby, a Simon from the coast of North Africa. The others lift up the cross, pulling it off of Jesus. They place it on Simon's back ordering him to walk ahead carrying the cross that Christ could not carry. Pulling Jesus' face out of the mud, they push Him to stagger on after Simon.
Big words, Jesus, "Carry your cross." The disciples thought so. Yes, they scattered in fear for their own lives, but it was the shame of this incapable Jesus that broke their hearts.
. . . how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He . . . Luke 24:20-21
We had hoped that He was the Christ.
We had hoped.
No more sorrowful or shameful words have ever been spoken upon this planet. “We had hoped.”
Now, go back and picture Jesus with His faced pressed into the dirt of the street, into the off-sweepings of human refuse, with the cross weighing upon His back, pressing Him down. Picture the man, a weak and wimpish human. He had boasted to His disciples (I am writing this way to reveal God in Philippians 2) about His requirement to them that they carry their cross. Yet here He is, the supposed "Christ" of God, utterly unable to carry His own.
Freeze that picture in your mind. Hold it, and without letting it go, add these two more words.
Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.
He who has seen Me has seen the Father.
People do not understand God. They create an "image" of God, an idol that comes out of the self-exaltation of a fallen angel, and with darkened minds they try to pin that deified image onto the Father whom they do not know and upon His Christ who took upon Himself sinful flesh so that He might BE salvation IN the weakest and in the lowest.
In his email, the brother refers to Philippians 2, but he does what so many do, he takes the key verse entirely out of its context and thus divorces it from the reality of the nature and being of God.
. . . but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him . . .
God is eternal. That means that everything of God is all right now. Christ is always humbling Himself in weakness; God is always lifting that One who is always coming out of weakness above all.
Christ is always and forever humbling Himself in weakness; God is always and forever exalting above all the Christ who humbles Himself in weakness. Both, all the time, and forever.
We will never know Him in His power until we know Him IN OUR weakness. Those who despise their own personal weakness cannot know Him. The real Christ of God in power is the One who is always coming out of weakness. Those who reject their weakness know only an imaginative "Christ."
I want to show, now, that the "Christ" being offered to me in this email I received is exactly the same "Christ" offered to Adam by the serpent in the garden. Please bear with me, for I will not stop writing until I am satisfied that I have found all the Lord would speak to me.
God wants to reveal Himself as real and tangible to His creation. He chose to do that, I assume because He knows what He is doing, through other persons called man. In order for the person of God to show Himself real through the person of man, man could be created in only one way - as God did create him.
God created man weak. In order for God to be always flowing out of man, man always must be weak, yet filled with faith. But man was also created to contain all the fullness of God.
What a contradiction!
Adam found in himself an unbearable contradiction. On the one hand, his heart was filled with the capacity to know all the power of Almighty God. On the other hand, his frame was incapable of anything.
When Eve handed the fruit towards Adam, before he moved, Adam KNEW he had a BIG problem. The extent, the awfulness, the enormity of his BIG problem was fully known in Adam's mind. Adam was now pressed between the enormous necessity of the moment on one side, his own utter weakness and incapacity to DO anything on the second side, and on the third side, the reality that God, his life and power, though in Adam, was another Person from him.
Paul tells us exactly what took place at that moment in Adam's mind.
. . . although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." Romans 1:21 And then, ". . . having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them . . . Ephesians 4:18
In that moment of desperate need, Adam rejected weakness. The need stood large in his mind, immediate and pressing, and his weakness and inability were a hindrance. In one second's time, this other Person, God, was separated from Adam in his own mind.
In that moment two things happened inside of Adam. These two things constitute Adam's fall. It is these two things that are, for us, the way back in. We know that because John in his vision on Patmos saw that the gates of the holy city were pearls. Pearls are the only way back home.
In that moment, Adam hated his weakness. He wanted power, his own power, to stand at his own beck and call. His heart, after all, was filled with the desire for omnipotence. God had made him so.
Adam despised his weakness.
On the other hand, knowledge is power, is it not? Knowledge would give Adam his own power so that he, as an individual person, could satisfy the overwhelming desire for omnipotence that surged at all times through his God-created heart. God had created Adam for omnipotence, that is, Himself. But that Omnipotence would always be Another moving at all times in full union with Adam, and yet always Another.
Adam took knowledge, giving himself his own power, power that was now at his own command.
Is that true? Is knowledge power? Not even!
God, the God who always moves through weakness, is the only real power.
Knowledge is a charade, a façade, an imaginary fiction. Look at the first thing Adam did with his new-found power! He covered himself with fig leaves.
Wow! Brilliant! Should do the trick, shouldn't it? It's clear Adam "knew" what he was doing, now that he had the power in his own hand. (I speak facetiously.)
Adam seized power without weakness. That was the second thing he did. It wasn't real, this power Adam had seized; it was the power ONLY to pretend, to put on an outer performance, to make himself look good and spiritual and holy in the eyes of his adoring companion - at least, to convince her that his new outward appearance was "spiritual" and "holy."
But the first thing that Adam did, by far the worst thing he ever did, was also a negative. Adam failed to give thanks. Adam failed to give thanks FOR his weakness. The progression is clear in the two verses I quoted from Paul.
Adam knew God. In that moment of desperate need, Adam did not glorify the God he knew, that is, Adam did not cast himself IN his weakness into the God who was always flowing out of him - that's what glory means. Rejecting weakness IS unthankfulness. "God, you made me wrong; You screwed up." Instantly, Adam forgot the God who was always filling him full. That forgetfulness, in itself, was meaningless, a normal part of Adam's weakness. It was what Adam did in that forgetfulness that killed him.
Adam seized power without weakness. Adam became ignorant; he won stupidity.
There are four ways by which we seize power for ourselves: knowledge, money, violence, and pretending. These four ways all work together. People take their pick between knowledge or money or violence or just pretending, but although pretending can be utilized for power all by itself, it is always the key ingredient behind the use of knowledge, money, or violence for power.
I would like to win the lottery. Having 50 million dollars at my disposal would give me the power to do all the things that are in my heart to do - all of them holy and good. I could command workers, obtaining their services. I could do and do and do. I would no longer be limited by my weakness; I could circumvent it, get around it.
Is it wrong for my heart to desire power to accomplish all that is written there?
No: that is exactly how God made me for His glory. That is a heart of faith, a heart of boldness, the heart of God. The problem is that if I had the 50 million, I would not need the God of power doing His stuff through me.
Let's return to our picture of Jesus lying, face in the dirt, the cross He cannot carry pressing into His back.
I know exactly what was going on in His mind in that moment. I know, because I also have been there, so many times, with my face pressed into the dirt by the horrific circumstances of life going all wrong. I know, because it is there in those very thoughts that I live.
First, I will tell you what was not found in His mind. Jesus was not "pleading the blood," He was not "casting down powers," He was not "rebuking the evil one." More than that, Jesus was not pretending that He was not weak.
Now here's the thing. Jesus had command - right there in His mouth. God was with Him. Jesus had told His disciples, just a few hours earlier, "I could call on ten thousand angels at my disposal right now." Jesus was well able to demonstrate an outward show of POWER.
Now, let's pull back into our scenario the picture of Adam, at the very moment that Eve held the fruit out to him, before he made any movement in response. Adam knew he had a BIG problem.
Jesus was faced with the exact same PROBLEM - except with one significant difference. Adam had one human for whom he was responsible; Jesus had 15 billion humans in the same boat. The enormity of the problem that Jesus faced was the same problem that Adam faced, multiplied by 15 billion (a rough number of all who have lived on this earth from Adam).
And all Jesus was required to do to solve His problem was to carry His cross. Is that not what He had said? "If any man would follow Me, let him carry his cross"?
And there He was, face pressed into the dirt, incapable and weak, just the way God made His manifest image to be, unable to do the very thing He must do in order to save His woman.
I know exactly what was going through Jesus mind in that moment. He gave thanks. In that moment, Jesus was giving thanks FOR His weakness, giving thanks, giving thanks, giving thanks, with all exultation and confidence of joy. Giving thanks and nothing else.
Now, if you were to look with human eyes only, you might suppose that it was Simon the Cyrene who was carrying Jesus' cross for Him. But look again.
There was the Father Himself walking the remaining steps, bearing the cross that Jesus, the Son of His glory, could not carry. God Himself was in His very human Christ reconciling the world to Himself.
The entrance into Life is a pearl, that is, whatever it is you do with the very weakness God Himself has entrusted to you. No pretenders will ever enter that City. The gates bar the way as much as they offer safe passage.
It has always been my heart to give thanks in and for the difficult things through which God has always taken me, to justify Him. That nature has only grown in me over the last few years. I give thanks for every difficulty and limitation in which I find myself.
I give thanks.