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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weekly Snippet: Living Room

Today (or rather, this evening) I'm spending time with family and friends in another town, but I thought I'd log on here long enough to write a quick post about something I was thinking about earlier today.

During the drive, I was listening to Mark Harris' album "Windows and Walls," an album that reminds us to live for Jesus in all aspects of our lives and at all times.  A frequent metaphor for our lives is the actual, physical home that we live in, and that turned my thoughts back to one thing I wrote about in my post earlier this week.  One such song on that album, "Living Room," invites Jesus to move in to our lives, metaphorically describing that act as someone moving in to a house, sweeping it clean, and throwing open the windows so light can enter.

Earlier this week, I spoke of my puzzlement as a child on the subject of how Jesus could actually live in my heart.  I tried picturing Jesus shrinking Himself down to the height of one of my child-sized fingers so He could fit in there.  Of course, being the overly-thoughtful child I was, I kept thinking that it would be rather dark in there, as well.  But, I digress.

It comes down to a real, pointed question that many people may be asking.  If God doesn't live in us in the sense of the Brahman/atman concept that the Hindus teach, how then are we supposed to imagine God living in us in the Christian sense of the teaching?

Well, in some ways, this is a deep spiritual concept that is difficult to understand aside from metaphors like houses, but it can be explained, and it is significantly different from the Hindu teaching.  The most important difference is that Christians do not teach that we become divine, or part of God, when we become followers of Christ.  At no point, when God is "living in us," do we become God or assume God's powers.  We never become gods in our own right.  Finally, we never become "as God" in the sense that Adam and Eve craved in Eden--we don't rise above judgment or the consequences of our sins.

Now, that is what Christian's don't mean when they speak of God "living in us."  Well, what do they mean, then?  They are speaking of a change in a person's life focus when that person becomes a follower of Christ, but something deeper than that, something more intimate and personal, brings about the change.

The Friend On the Couch

Imagine having a best friend, a close companion and roommate, who not only encourages you at work all day, but also sits on the couch with you in the evenings and teaches and encourages you in your living room.  If this friend is always offering wise counsel, and the two of you are together all the time, a transformation will occur.  Your friend's words will begin to take hold, and you will see a change in your life for the better as you take that good advice.

Even if such a great friend exists, he or she would still have a barrier that could not be crossed.  No friend, however close, can see your thoughts or look inside your heart (1 Samuel 16: 7).  As it says in Proverbs, "Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy" (Proverbs 14: 10 NIV 2010).  Well, no person on earth can share in those feelings, but God has no such limit.  He can see our thoughts and respond to them.  When He is present in our lives, there is nothing outside His view.

So, to relate this, finally, to the concept of God moving into our lives, the choice to follow God is like inviting God to be that friend and roommate.  When we choose to follow God, we open all aspects of our lives to His scrutiny--not that He couldn't see it all before--and let Him tell us what we need to change.  We literally let Him come in to our lives, as they were, and remodel our thinking and behavior into what His counsel suggests.  We know that God's counsel is wise, and leads us to His blessing, ultimately ending in eternal life.  But there is something different about having God as our roommate, because He moves in to our hearts and by His counsel, even our thinking is changed.  He is closer to us than that friend.  He's sitting on the couch in our hearts.  Understand?