We are aliens.
If you follow much of my teaching on this blog, there’s a pretty good chance you would be alien even to Petra, the band who recorded this song more than thirty years ago. They were fairly generic evangelical believers who burst on the scene during the height of the Hippie Jesus Freak Movement. Point your index finger in the air and shout, “One Way!” Few people today would recognize that expression. It’s not associated with anything they recognize. An even bigger struggle is when something we say is already associated with an awful lot of stuff that’s contrary to what we want to express. We can use some of the same language as mainstream Christians of whatever flavor, but it’s a sure bet we don’t have the same meaning behind those words.
More, we tend to avoid a significant measure of the behavior patterns associated with mainstream Christianity. Too much of it reflects the prevailing culture itself, not something particularly Christlike. While the mainstream churches claim to be different from the world around them, it’s not different enough. I have no doubt the Jesus Freaks of yesteryear made a good faith effort to put their fresh faith in new wine skins, but they were still suckers for a very cynical commercial exploitation. The difference between Petra and a bunch of other talented Christian musicians whose names never got printed on an album cover is that Petra felt there was no moral conflict in signing the contracts offered by the music industry. To this day we still have a vast wealth of very gifted musicians who were unwilling to go that route.
It’s not as if we could discuss the subtle nuances of how much compromise is too much. Nor would I want to paint myself as an absolutist in terms of legalism. Engaging such a debate is itself a moral compromise with the prevailing evil culture. It’s a distraction that avoids our fundamental rejection of sin in the first place. You might get the likes of major Contemporary Christian Music acts to go along with some of the verbiage I use on this blog, but I doubt many of them would understand my rejection of Western Civilization, or the use of your heart as a sensory organ. They have no problem with a cognitive religion and a side of emotional exuberance, but what we propose is more radical than radical.
If all we had was the verbal testimony such as is found on this blog, precious few would even hear any message at all. It would serve more to drive them away than to draw them. Further, the teaching itself says we don’t do it that way. It’s not that we try to sneak it in later, but that we have to gain a hearing first. We can’t presume to walk up on every porch in our neighborhood and expect folks to give us a fair hearing, as if they had some moral duty to listen. This treasure we bear in our earthen vessels has no value on the human plane. Something has to awaken that higher faculty in them before it matters.
It’s bluntly stated in the New Testament that no human can awaken that higher faculty, neither in themselves nor in others. It’s a flat-out miracle every time, a direct touch of Almighty God Himself, and Him alone. There is no useful distinction here between Spirit-born versus simply aware of the moral fabric of our human existence. You and I cannot tell the difference from here. But Scripture says our focus is on the latter, in the sense that we witness to the world more of moral awareness than of ineffable things of the Spirit Realm. And it should be obvious that mere words won’t get us there, wherever it is we are supposed to go.
Do you imagine that God intended all the world to read the Covenant of Moses? Not in the Hebrew inscription on stone tablets, I assure you. The world was supposed to read the Covenant in the life of Israel the Nation, a people who were committed to living as Israel the Mission. Notice that God was quite willing to accept a very poor level of compliance as the basis for granting His miraculous blessings. But when they did rise to just that minimal level of obedience, God was able to destroy whole armies assembled against Israel using just the Temple Choir by their singing as they marched (2 Chronicles 20).
Be ready to talk about your faith. If you can’t express yourself very well, feel free to steal everything I write. That tab at the top of this blog page marked “Radix Fidem” might be a good summary for some of you. However, this is not the starting place in the vast majority of contexts. Rather, it is our lives conducted by the outline found in those words that is our witness. The obedience itself is the power to change souls. God uses our contextual conduct as the means to opening blind eyes and melting frozen hearts. Even our failures call forth His power, if those failures come in the context of a desire to bless the Lord’s name.
Quite rare is the person who would hear our words first, because few in this world are seeking on that level. Even if your contextual conduct says nothing specific about your faith, it’s the glow of living from your heart that marks the fire of Heaven.