Monday, February 03, 2014

What is Real?

This past year, we started a leadership training program here at East Hills called the Timothy Institute. One dynamic of this commitment for the guys involved is intentional time in God’s Word. Previously, many of us had been involved in reading through the One-year Chronological Bible with others in the EHA community. So as the New Year rolled around, I asked the guys to make a commitment with me to a more meditational approach to the Bible, focusing on quality of time, and not quantity of verses read. Our shared plan is to spend at least 15 minutes each day meditating on the same passage of Scripture for an entire week. This is quite a change from the chronological reading, where a week might cover as many as 25 to 30 chapters! Now we are wrestling with just 15 to 20 verses for seven days.

Our assigned text for this week is Colossians 3:1-17. This has me reflecting on what is really “real.” Verse 3 says, “For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Recently, my girls, ages 9 and 6, have gotten into performing illusions. These illusions are typically found at the dollar store or on the bargain rack of your nearest department store. They consist of tricks like making a penny disappear, cutting a rope in half, or by flipping a dollar upside down without ever turning it over. I’m sure you’ve encountered the kind of entry-level magic I’m thinking about here. The girls love to practice and then show off to Daddy how they can do such impossible things.

Even these bargain-brand illusions are based on the universal idea that if you can get the eye to see something different than is really happening, you will appear to have done magic. Sleight of hand, hidden pockets, and secret compartments take care of the rest!

What’s interesting is how much of life can be this way. The world we live in tries to sell us on an agenda of what matters and how we should live our lives. Carefully crafted commercials and Hollywood specials lead us to believe that real life is all about fame, fortune and beauty. “Look over here!” they say, and direct our eyes to what looks appealing while behind the scenes the stark truth goes unnoticed; a truth that reveals no one really lives this way. The famous are wracked with loneliness. The fortunate are never satisfied. And the beautiful spend untold hours trying to maintain an all-but-impossible standard.

And if we are honest, many of us would admit that this sleight-of-hand “real life” has captured us. We have consciously, or subconsciously, come to believe that these propped up standards are the stuff of real life. But in this one jarring sentence, the Apostle Paul calls us to a whole new viewpoint. He exposes the
hidden pocket of this conjuring culture and says, “Not so! Real life isn’t found where everyone else is telling you it is found! Your real life is in Christ.”

What does it mean that my real life is in Christ? To me, this means that what matters most is always found in Christ. My plans for today? In Christ. How to raise my kids in a good way? In Christ. The key to overcoming addiction and living in true freedom? In Christ. Now I don’t mean to say that every problem can be solved by simply tagging the words “in Christ” to the end. I am suggesting, though, that real joy, real hope, and real progress are found when I pursue them through Jesus and the way He taught us to live. You see, one thing my experience has taught me is that unlike the world, there is no hidden pocket or secret  
compartment when it comes to pursuing my life in Christ. Any serious effort I have made to live my life more aligned with Jesus has always resulted in more life, not less. I cannot say the same thing about the pursuits of this world. Worldly pursuits have a way of leaving me, and you, feeling like we were misled. Deceived by an illusion. But no so with Jesus!

While not always immediately apparent, real life is found in Christ. And that’s no illusion.

Pastor Nick

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