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A Rumbling Within

 I’m writing this note on the flight back from San Francisco to Atlanta.  If our itinerary remains in schedule we‘ll be staying with Steve & Melanie McVey until Monday and then take the night flight home to London.   However, like all Europe bound air passengers we’ll be watching the news to see if the volcanic dust that has made Europe a no-fly zone has moved sufficiently to enable us to fly.  

Being one who’s always on the lookout for the silver lining in any cloud, it occurred to me that the eruption of the Icelandic volcano spoke to the very heart of something that I’d shared at this year’s “Radical” conference.  It was a thought – a radical thought—that Christ is the light of God within all men.  Not just some men. All men. 
Now in my defence we did warn you on the front-end that this year’s conference was going to live up to its billing –Radical – which by implication meant that what we were going to  present would represent a huge change, one that goes down to the roots: a cosmic rather than cosmetic change; had we meant cosmetic we’d have billed it the “Moderately Radical Conference”.     Seeing Christ as the light of God within all men is something that I’m pursuing and is not necessarily on Steve’s radar.    
Theology is not apple pie.  It’s a mystery.  It is not flat-packed-ready-to-assemble.   I think laterally not liberally.   However, whether these annual get-togethers are the most judicious forum for this kind of free-thinking is a moot point.  Anyway it is what it is and we are where we are – not only with something radical to ponder, but, crucially something “radically better” to reflect upon.   
Anyway, to the point -- Over the last few years I’ve undergone something of a paradigm shift in my theology it has moved (I like to think evolved) from being a pure doctrine of grace into an ever-expanding-all-embracing-all-inclusive applied theology of love.   I’ve moved from the comfort zone of the doctrine of grace to the danger zone of the mystery of love.
I’d been given fair warning I suppose when I was writing my book Safe & Sound.  It was then that the Lord spoke to me about what he called “The G.R.A.C.E. Commission” -- G.R.A.C.E. being an acrostic for God’s Ridiculous Agape Captivating Everyone.    
The late and much revered Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones always said that if you preached grace and people do not accuse you of preaching license then you're probably not preaching grace.   I had come to think that grace was a scandal of unassailable propositions that was until it dawned on me that grace was merely the fruit.  The root, that which gave birth to grace was something far more radical, far more outrageous, far more reckless and to put it bluntly far more dangerous.  The tap root of grace is love.  Grace is an expression of love and love is the definition of God. I say all that to say that it is my view that just as Martyn Lloyd Jones believed that if you preach grace you'll stand accused of preaching licence, I greatly suspect if you teach the radical unconditional love of God, you'll be almost certainly be labelled a universalist. 
Here’s where I am now -- “I’d rather stand before the Lord on Judgement Day and have to apologise for presenting God as being more loving than He really is than bearing the shame of making people believe that A God of love was capable of something less than love.
From that day to this I have soaked in two texts: 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul’s seminal love chapter and more recently John’s gospel. The fusing of these two letters has caused something to erupt in my mind.
Hitherto I had known whom and to some extent why I was in Christ, but after the eruption when the dust began to settle I began to realise who God really was and understand why He was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.   I saw in a moment, in the twinkling of a tearful eye that God was not reconciling Himself to humanity, He was reconciling humanity to Himself.  The dreadful consequence of sin and self-consciousness meant that humanity was plunged into a delusion of separation.   
When I first dared (I use the word advisedly) to think about the implications of Christ being the light of God within all men something that now seems to me at least to be a biblical axiom clearly spelt out in John’s gospel: “ In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” John 1:4 and again “The true light which enlightens EVERYONE was coming into the world” John 1:9 ) it was as if all the Kaleidoscopic pieces came together in my mind and formed a perfectly clear picture of God as love – doing the only thing that He knows to do and is hard-wired to do – Love!  And to love indiscriminately, irrationally, all men by grace regardless of race or creed. 
Now, here’s what I’m not saying  I thought it best to lay this out because as the saying goes that “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” 
- I’m not saying that all men are saved whether they like it or not.  
- I’m saying that Christ is in all men whether they know it or not. 
- I’m saying that Christ is their life whether they choose to acknowledge Him as their source or not.
-I’m saying that unbeknown to them in Him they live and breathe and have their being (Acts 17:28). 
-I’m saying that until they acknowledge Christ (by grace through faith) as their life they continue to have a life that they don’t live and live a life that they don’t have.   They live on the fumes of His life perpetually running on empty instead of in the fullness of His zoe life.   
-I’m saying that Christ is alive in all men but not all men are alive in Christ –in fact they are ‘dead’ to God and ‘alive’ to sin-and-self-consciousness.
If I’m right (decide for yourself) then it means that we do not receive Christ in the transactional sense. What happens at the new birth is an awakening.  A spiritual volcanic eruption if you will and the Christ that was ‘dormant’ inside of the unbeliever literally explodes within us and at that moment we are to coin a phrase “born again”.   The eruption occurs when the “Rock” inside the earthen vessel  becomes hot enough it melts. 
For many years as a Pentecostal I struggled with the idea of the second crisis experience.  The idea that the so-called Baptism of the Spirit signalled the importing of the Spirit of God (something that I previously didn’t have) seemed at odds to me with Paul’s teaching in Romans 8.  I was much more attracted to the Charismatic idea that the Spirit was “awakened” within.  
As I have continued to think about these things I have began to wonder if that “awakening” is a second work of grace.  I’m tentative on this point but I submit it to you anyway.   
Meditating upon John’s gospel has led me to the fluid conclusion that the salvation event so to speak is the awakening of God in man.  It is the rising to the surface of that which was ever within.  It is the becoming who we always were moment.   
What has emerged in silhouetted form in my mind is a sort of Sleeping Beauty theology.  The world pricked as she was by the spindle of sin fell into a deep sleep. There she stayed – sleep-walking through life until the Prince of Peace kissed her with the kiss of life and she came to her senses and regained her God-consciousness.
Now I get that many Christians will balk at the idea that Christ could be in all men.  I get it I really do.  But what I’d like to know is if God is not in them how do they live and breathe and have their being?  If God is not in all men why would Paul say: “in him all things hold together”? Col 1:17.  
To say that God is in all men is not the same as saying that all men are in Christ.  In his vanity, man has suppressed the knowledge of God.   Although men they have preferred the darkness to the light, the fact remains that the light shines nonetheless and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4)    Who knows what the fallout from this will be but one thing for sure, despite the “fall” we’re not all OUT – Far from it.
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