Christianity is not much fun when it is nothing more than a muzzle on a whining dog who can’t bite but he wants to. So many of us Christians are holy whiners, letting on how hard it is to be holy. We reduce the wonderful Holy Spirit to the role of restraining us from temptation. Since temptation can be there all the time, the Christian life becomes nothing more than resisting and resisting. As Mohammad Ali said, “I can resist anything except temptation,” which becomes a full time job.
Maybe we shackle the Holy Spirit when we see Him just a referee blowing a gigantic whistle when we sin. We can’t even run a play because the whistle blows again and again. But the Spirit has come to lead us, not restrain us. Yes He will convict us not to do something against our great purpose and calling. I appreciate the heads up. But I have come to realize He has come to guide, counsel, empower, help and tell me God’s best secrets about my life. He is here to ignite life-giving passions. As the great Scottish preacher, Thomas Chalmers, snagged this truth in his sermon title, The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. He writes, “May we die unto the present world and live to the lovelier world.” The Spirit has come open our eyes to this lovelier world that is coming and is here.
The Spirit was moving over the face of the waters in Genesis when the colors exploded- rivers, fruit trees, dragonflies, parrots, wild carrots, coral fish and blue seas. The same Spirit moved on the Jews who carved palm trees and pomegranates inside the holy of holies where only one person, once a year, would see it. Why was so much artistic effort wasted for just one man once a year? But beauty has been wasted on us, too. We have seen sunsets and wind storms in the mountains with nobody around. Once I was snorkeling over a reef and I wondered why there was so much silent glory squandered on me. Thousands of bright colored fish and I glided in the pull and push of the waves, the pull and push of beauty.
The same Spirit of beauty stirred the church in art, architecture and music. Handel alone in a cottage was pulled and pummeled by glory and wrote the Messiah. Rembrandt painted his broken heart as the prodigal son. Rafael soaked the canvas with blues more blue than the sky.
Sadly, the church had a falling out with creativity around the 15th century. Look at most church art today and you wonder what happened. Most Christian movies, books, paintings and music are weak. The Lord loves a joyful noise but He loves beauty, too.
In the Greek, the word for beauty is kalen which means to call. Beauty calls us to believe that this world was once even more beautiful, and one day, will be beautiful again. G.K. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man wrote,
The natural mystic knows that there is something there behind the clouds and trees; and he believes that beauty is the way to find it; that the imagination is a sort of incantation that can call it up.”
Somehow the church forgot that beauty was the great evangelist. I once woke up in a friend’s farmhouse hungover from drugs and booze. Depression slammed me like a squall. I felt so alone and life seemed so defragmented that suicide seemed attractive. My friend had left for class, so I rifled though his albums and found Judy Collins. Her voice was like the bright bow of a boat piercing the waves- so comfortable rising and falling. As I drank coffee and listened to Judy, I had a simple thought: “Beauty exists. Ergo, there might be a God who is beautiful, too.” A little light came into my world.
Years later I started going to some churches but the Jesus they presented seemed to be stark, not like the exciting Jesus in the Bible. Still, the reality of His resurrection conquered my resistance. Only later did I find out that He was beautiful, too. Only later did I discover the Holy Spirit came to ignite the imagination, or rather, to recapture the kidnapped imagination.
When we have fantasies for fame, revenge, prostitutes, self-adulation, pornography or meanness, we are touching the deepest part of the fall. We have told God that He cannot satisfy us deeply. In the midst of all the goodness of the garden, how did the forbidden fruit look so good to eat? Darkness seemed more interesting than light. Sin seems more exciting than holiness, but when you see a bar in the daylight with the sticky floor and the cigarettes in the urinals, it loses its glow. Jesus has come to redeem our dreaming and to transform our fantasizing with a new affection. Goodness is more exciting than sin. We will never get to the bottom of His goodness and we will never fly above His mercy.
I don’t think a man has really begun his life in Christ until he dares to say, “Lord Jesus, I invite You to walk in the garden of my secret world of fantasies and dreams.” You trust Christ not to kill your secret magic. You trust Him to pull and push you in the beauty of holiness.
In 1994, the McMillan family traveled to the kidnapping, murder, and drug capital of the western hemisphere to plant a church and a foundation. God thought Medellin, Colombia a good place to raise a family. And turns out He was right (as He usually is). It became a very large family: The church, Comunidad (Community), is now the largest church in Medellin with over 8,000 members, the Foundation, Viento Fresco, cares for over 150 high-risk children, and a non-profit coffee shop, New Hearts Cafe, serves cups of caffeine and the love of Jesus to thousands of college students.
God is doing so much in Medellin, and we write about here on the Teammcmillan.org blog!
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