Friday, February 3, 2012

Outside In - Inside Out

As a child I always got the terms "outside in" and "inside out" mixed up.  I thought they meant two different things but in reality (something I discovered as I got older) they didn't.  At least, not when it comes to folding clothes.  

But there is a way in which these are opposites.  And that is in the realm of change or healing.  When that happens from the outside in, it's only surface.  It's putting on a mask, a new behavior, turning over a new leaf, trying a new diet, focusing on externals.  And although it may produce the change we are aiming for, the satisfaction from that healing or that change won't last long. 

But when it happens from the inside out - that's different.  Inside healing is crucial for us to be able to have sustained / permanent change.  Conversely, if the inside isn't healed or changed, the poison that is in there will pollute everything we say and do even if the initial result is positive.  

Jesus talked about that.  "Don't you know," He said, "that whatever goes into a person passes through the stomach and is eventually expelled?  But from within, out of the heart, proceed evil thoughts, ... murders ... deceit ... envy ... slander ... foolishness.  All these things come from within, and defile the person." (Mark 7:18-21) 

By contrast, Paul talked about the process of change from the inside out.  "...where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into that same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." (2 Cor. 3:17, 18)

And that's the ticket isn't it?  we all know it as believers, don't we?  we can't live this life on our own, and we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to empower us to live from the inside out?  yet - there is a vast difference between knowing what the Bible teaches on something (or in this case, Someone) and actually experiencing it (or more precisely, Him.) Deep down, perhaps we just give verbal assent to that idea but we really believe we've got it covered.  We'll go to God when we come up against something we can't handle but really - we pretty much got it licked.  Hmm.

I'm reading a book at the moment called The Forgotten God - it's by well-known pastor and author Francis Chan.  He talks in one spot in his book about imagining you have grown up on a desert island with nothing but the Bible to read.  Then suddenly you are rescued and taken to the civilized world and introduced to a typical North American church for the first time.  Wouldn't you be absolutely shocked that it is unlike anything you've read about? and not in a good way?  He explains that in the last few decades we have become more focused on attendance than on the movement of the Spirit - moving to what he calls an "entertainment model" of the church in the 1980s and 1990s, which (as do all external measures) worked for a while to get rid of people's boredom and temporarily make people interested in attending church again.  I'm not knocking the wonderful ministries that have sprung up or the contemporary Christian artists that have reached so many with their down-to-earth, "me and You" lyrics.  

But over time, we started focusing on the talents, not the Source, the gifts and not the Giver.  It became the accepted thing to focus more on the musicality or the speaking ability of the people in ministry and less on the presence of God.  Slowly, this mind-set turned church members into self-centered consumers, not into Christ-centered servants.  

Wonder why so many teens are leaving the church? I don't. They're SMART!! They can see through hypocrisy and mediocrity!  Fact is, at the risk of being branded a heretic, I would prefer that they NOT come to church at all, if all they're getting there is some sort of religious (outside-in) pablum, a de facto vaccine against the real deal: walking (inside-out) by the Spirit.  But I digress ... only slightly.  

The degree to which each of us is controlled by the Holy Spirit in the everyday, is the degree to which our churches will be. We've gotten it backward.  The church isn't where it's going to happen.  Religion isn't going to cut it.  We need individual relationship with God.  Performance isn't where it's at.  Personal passion for God is.  And we can't just conjure that up!!  We can't "work up" the Holy Spirit no matter where we are (alone or together), we can't play on people's emotions or give a good "performance" and expect Him to come waltzing in as if on command.  It doesn't work like that.  Relationship - passion - comes from a personal encounter with the living God: coming face to face with our own spiritual bankruptcy and relying totally on Him to make us alive inside.  Today.  Not in the historical sense (like, He touched me fifteen - or fifty - years ago) but right now.  This morning.  Five minutes ago.  Five seconds ago.  

These thoughts challenge me.  They inspire me to want to press in, to seek God's transforming presence in my life.  To let go of my own obsession with controlling everything in my life, and in the lives of those I care about.  To admit that I just can't do this living by faith thing.  To ask Him to do it in and through me because I've tried... I've tried all my life and I've learned that my best efforts are worthless.  I've had occasions where the Spirit takes over, and I've allowed Him to lead me.  When I do, the results are astounding to me - but then I grab the wheel again ... and life becomes "safe" again.  

I don't want just to let Him drive once in a while.  I want to sign over my ownership card to Him.  The question is - will I?

1 comment:


    Run, as from a hot flame. Instead cry out to God for Him only. No entertainment; no programs; no sermons; no do-do-do-do loops; no doing more to be more loved, more appreciated, more.....yuck.

    Instead, ask Him to be ALL in your life. Just Jesus.

    Get a mentor if you need one. And wait....a lot. Ask and keep asking. Do the next right thing while waiting. Live one day at a time.

    Search not for crowd explosions, Christian rock concerts, Holy spirit babbling, noisy church services and pumped up crowds, but THE still small voice instead.

    And God bless you....