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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Close, but no cigar!

The Real Thing - Coca-Cola Company coined this phrase in 1969 to describe the original flavor of the soft drink, first sold in 1866 at soda fountains.  The soda industry has copied the original for years - each bottler assuming a little bit of the "cola" image and taste, but none quite like the original.  This is how it is when we try to copy the original - we come close, but not quite close enough.  Apart from the "original recipe", we cannot produce the exact same product as the "original".  In our daily lives, we go about trying to reproduce the "original" in many ways such as trying to reproduce the hairstyle of someone we admire, or wearing the name brand outfits modeled by Hollywood's stars.  Across America, outlets and discount clothiers have sprung up to sell these outfits we admire and want so badly.  Beauty and barber stylists train to learn these trendy new cuts.  We want to emulate the original, but does it surprise you how "far" from the original we actually are even when we get that new hairdo or wardrobe?  My hair just doesn't "do" what it is supposed to do!  My body shape doesn't look as flattering in the style as the other person did!  We want the "real thing", but we come to the conclusion it is harder to achieve than we might have first imagined.  The spiritual truth in all this: as long as we are trying to achieve, we will fall seriously short of the original - for the "original" cannot be achieved, it can only be "received".

The Life-Light was the real thing: Every person entering Life he brings into Light. He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him. But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves. These are the God-begotten, not blood-begotten, not flesh-begotten, not sex-begotten.  (John 1:9-13 MSG)

We "enter into" life - we don't birth it within ourselves!  We are "brought into" life - we don't find it by some multi-step program!  If Mr. Pemberton, the original patent-holder for Coca-Cola had willed his invention to us, we would have the recipe for the "original", but in truth, he did all the work in "creating" the original.  We did nothing more than receive it.  The same thing is true in our spiritual lives - we do nothing to "achieve" this gift - we just "receive" it.

- We are "brought into" light and life.  In the past several years, Mom walks slower, is able to go shorter distances, and just plain cannot do what she once was able to on her own.  In order to help her still be engaged with us in our daily activities, we often bring her along in a wheelchair.  What we do is "bring her into" our activities by the use of the chair.  The chair is the means of her "coming into" our activity, but even the chair is not all that is provided. Someone has to push the chair for her to be part of our activity.  In a similar manner, Christ "brings us into" life and light - by the means of the cross.  The cross is the "way in", but his life's work is the continual "effort" to keep us "in" the place of light and life.  He is the one "pushing" our chair, so to speak.  He brings us in (cross) and keeps us there!

- The condition of receiving is "wanting".  Now, most parents deal with this tendency in children to "want" everything they see in the toy store, on advertisements, and just because the kid next door has one.  We go through a lot of effort to teach our kids that every "want" will not be met - simply because we either cannot afford it, or because the child already has enough Legos anyway!  In a spiritual sense, the condition for receiving is not the effort we work in "achieving" our salvation, but rather this intensity of heart which "desires" this relationship.  Jesus responds to our desire - not our performance.

- Two things we "do" in receiving this gift of salvation:  Believe Jesus is who he said he was and that he will do all he said he would do.  So, we do have some "part" in this salvation experience - it is to believe (come to a full assurance and reliance upon the statements of truth we are given in the Word of God).  Yet, should it surprise you that even our ability to believe is based on a gift of God?  That is right - for we even lack the ability on our own to come to a place of belief - we have to be brought in!

- The result of this "receiving" action on our part is to be brought into a place of becoming our "true selves".  In today's culture of always trying to be like the next guy, this may seem a little hard to conceptualize because we have no idea who our true selves really are!  In Christ, we come to this place of realizing our true identity.  Apart from him, we are working to achieve some identity, but it may not be our true identity.  In fact, we rarely know what we are designed to be until we come into this loving relationship with Jesus. 

We are made in the image of God - brought into this world with a "void" only he can fill.  The only way to "fill the void" is with the "real thing" for which the void was intended - God's Spirit.  It is his place within our lives - attempting to produce anything apart from the "real thing" in that place only comes close to the original!  Just sayin!