Are you disillusioned with Christianity or the church, sensing there must be more than what you’ve learned and experienced so far?
If so, you are not alone.
More and more people are leaving the church because it is not offering the depth, relevance, and practicality that people want and need. For good reasons, many now see Christians as more a part of the problem than the solution.
Perhaps you struggle with how to apply and practice some of the foundational teachings of Jesus. Or maybe you wish you could find a spiritual path that is true to your roots and practical for helping you improve your daily life. Maybe you desire to experience inner depth and outer fulfillment in your life, but you’re not sure if Christianity can deliver.
We understand how frustrating this is. We’ve asked the same questions, faced the same struggles, and felt disgusted with the dissonances we’ve experienced in Christianity.
After much searching, we found a Way out of this confusion.
There are good reasons you feel disillusioned with traditional Christianity – it’s because we have LOST many aspects of what made CHRISTIANITY a transformational path for its earliest followers.
We call this LOST CHRISTIANITY, and we invite you to explore it with us.
The Lost Christian Path of Transformation is useful for busy people with jobs, families, bills, and the desire to be healthy and socially responsible. If you had more time for experimentation, you could probably be your own spiritual scientist and read the books, attend the retreats, and test out various teachings and practices to see what works and what doesn’t. But we understand you have little time to be a spiritual archaeologist and dig for the lost teachings and practices of Christian transformation, so that’s why we’ve done this initial work for you.
In order to move beyond your disillusionment with Christianity, we invite you to make one important shift in your thinking.
This shift is one that Jesus’ first disciples had to make, and it is one we have personally experienced. This shift has enabled us and those with whom we’ve worked to rediscover and practice the lost wisdom of Jesus.
We believe anyone can find deeper faith, inner freedom, and outer fulfillment in life by shifting:
External Transactional Christianity
Internal Transformational Christianity
Three ideas that are often associated with Christianity are “repent,” “believe,” and “the kingdom of heaven.” We are told that in order to be saved from hell and go to “heaven” we must “repent” of our sins and “believe” that Jesus can rescue us from eternal damnation because he is God in the flesh.
The problem with this transactional salvation scheme is that it does not accurately reflect Jesus’ own teaching. Jesus began his ministry with a call to “Wake up!” These are essentially the first words from his mouth as recorded in the Gospel of Mark. Here is a fresh, quite literal translation (from the original Greek) of Jesus’ opening proclamation:
“Now after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the Good Message of the Kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled! The kingdom of God is here! Change your mind and trust in the Good Message!” (Mark 1:15)
Jesus had just experienced his baptism and a period of trial in the desert. Then he heard that John the Baptizer had been imprisoned. With his Identity confirmed in solitude and tested in adversity, Jesus emerged with a Message for all. These are Jesus’ first public words, what scholars call his inaugural Message – and it is basically the same in Matthew, Mark and Luke. This is our first glimpse into Jesus’ big WHY – his core purpose.
As we seriously examine this initial proclamation of Jesus, we discover that the enlightening wisdom of Jesus and his two core practices for living an abundant life right Now have been LOST in translation!
“The Time is fulfilled! The Kingdom of God is here!”
At his baptism, Jesus saw a Vision of the heavens tearing apart to reveal the Kingdom of God, which in the Vision was the Spirit coming in the form of a dove. Then he hears the Voice – “You are my Son, the Beloved. In you I delight.” In his baptism experience, God confirms Jesus’ true Identity – he is the Beloved Child of God, anointed with Spirit, immersed in the Kingdom. With this deep knowing, he departed to face adversity and engage in ministry.
Just as Jesus had experienced the fullness of the Kingdom, he began to proclaim and demonstrate that it was also available for others . . . Today!
In his parables, Jesus often uses this kind of harvesting language to communicate this truth (for example Matthew 13:30 and 21:34). In these terms, the time is “ripe” and the kingdom “is here,” just like fruit might be ready for picking. But his disciples didn’t get it. They got into power struggles about who would be greater in a future kingdom. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day didn’t get it either. In Luke 17:20-21 they tried to test him about when the Kingdom would come, but Jesus replied: “The Kingdom of God does not come with external observation. Nor shall they say, ‘Behold, here!’ or ‘Behold, there!’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.” The disciples still didn’t get it even after the resurrection of Christ as recorded in Acts 1, still thinking it was some external kingdom that would be restored to Israel.
What if we don’t get it, either? What if we have lost the essential teaching of Jesus the Anointed One?
“Change your mind.”
In order to experience the Kingdom of God, you must first “change your mind.” The Greek word used here is metanoia and it literally means to “change the mind” or “change one’s perspective,” but unfortunately, it has been translated through the centuries as “repent.” The original Aramaic term (Jesus’ native language) would have meant “to turn.” This is a clear example of how we have “lost Christianity.” We turned metanoia into simply feeling sorry for some behavior when it really describes the act of turning or reorienting one’s awareness. This requires a shift in attention.
Jesus even gives us several examples of this shift through parables recorded in Luke 15. The stories of a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son each illustrate the act of metanoia. In the stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin, Jesus explicitly says the parables are about metanoia, but in the last story about a lost son he illustrates it at the moment when he describes the young son “coming into himself.” Unfortunately, English translations lose the practical power when they instead translate it as “coming to his senses.” The passage opens up when we consider the translation that he came into himself, honestly observing his current state, and then shifted his attention to his father, to his true home. Only then did he “arise” and “return.”
So, metanoia is the beginning of a process whereby we awaken to ourselves and to our true Source and Home. And as we practice and experience metanoia, or inner awakening, God begins to transform us (what Paul called metamorphosis in Romans 12:1-2).
What if we have also lost something? What if we have lost the foundational practice of the Christ’s Way of Transformation – the practice of metanoia?
“Trust in this Good Message.”
In Jesus’ inaugural message, he connected metanoia with the Kingdom. The Gospel – literally in Greek the “Good Message” – is about the Kingdom of God. Jesus calls us to go beyond our current ways of thinking and realize the Truth that “the Kingdom of God is here!” Then, Jesus tells us to “trust in this Good Message of God’s realm.” He called people to first “wake up” and then to “put your trust in this Good Message.” Jesus called people to align their entire selves with the values of the Kingdom, to live by the “policies” of God’s realm, not to simply intellectually agree to certain beliefs about him.
Beliefs-based Christianity doesn’t go far enough because it cheapens our spiritual experience to a transaction. Jesus’ teaching has always gone beyond that – calling us instead to transformation.
Sharing the good news that “the Kingdom of God is here” is what “spreading the gospel” is all about. It is the Truth that the “Realm of God” is already here and available – for those who awaken and align themselves with it now. Jesus did not come to save our egos from Hell in the afterlife, he came to show us the way to liberation and transformation . . Today.
But what if we have lost access to the part of us that can even live such a teaching? What if we still need to “wake up”?
Jesus was fully awake to God and God’s vision for the world. We too must be awakened. Sometimes awakening is a pleasant experience, like a beloved spouse gently greeting you in the morning. Other times, it is unpleasant, like an annoying alarm clock. Whether pleasant or unpleasant, however, we open our eyes to the “real” world and leave behind a “dream” world.
Applied to the spiritual life, Jesus is calling out to us to awaken to who we really are, to who God really is, and to open our eyes to God’s yearning for the world. In short, Jesus presents us with a transforming vision of ourselves, of God, and of God’s realm.
A Christian is one who lives the teachings of Jesus and who exudes the “kingdom of God” values Jesus embodied, such as being poor in spirit, gentle, and pure of heart.
These dispositions are what allow us entrance into God’s realm right now, not in some realm after we physically die. A Christian is not simply a person who has used their intellectual brain to assent to a series of facts about God and Jesus!
Tucked away in the letter to the Ephesians is an ancient Christian saying that succinctly captures the Way of Christian Transformation. It also illustrates this shift from transactional to transformational Christianity, yet through the power of vivid imagery. This was the early Christian way of transmitting truth and wisdom – through metaphor and parable, in imitation of Jesus the Master of Wisdom.
Awaken, sleeper. Arise from the dead and the Anointed One will enlighten you. (Ephesians 5:14)
This verse describes four states: sleeping, awakening, arising, and enlightening. Imagine how you wake up in the morning. In what ways do your options increase through each phase?
- First you are asleep.
2. Then something awakens you (e.g., an alarm clock, the sun, a loved one) and you open your eyes to what is above you and around you.
3. Next, you stand up out of bed and can see even more of your surroundings.
4. Finally, you are able to move with the aid of light (the sun, a lamp) and can walk wherever you wish.
Now, imagine how this is similar to the movement from “spiritual sleep” to “enlightenment.” How do your options and freedom increase through each phase?
Knowing that God dwells within and among us in the present moment is a call to wake up and live life to the fullest.
When we think of, “Awaken, sleeper,” our minds naturally turn to the image of someone sleeping, perhaps on a bed or on the ground. In other words, they are horizontal and asleep to real life. Using the image of awakening from sleep, this verse exhorts us to awaken from our illusory dream world and open our eyes to Reality, or what Jesus called “the Kingdom of God.” In other words, we must leave the horizontal axis, open our eyes and awaken to the vertical, to Divine Light.
How do you look or feel when you are stuck on the horizontal axis of passing-time, feeling rushed, anxious or irritated? How do you physically react? Pay attention, because this is what the Way of Christian Transformation means by “sleep.”
After waking up, we are exhorted to “Arise from the dead.” Again, our minds naturally turn to the image of someone standing up after awakening from sleep. In fact, this is exactly what “arise” literally means – to “stand up.” This is the same root word used for “resurrection,” which means to “stand up again.” So here we are urged to awaken from spiritual sleep and to stand up out of those things that are “dead” or lead to “death.” We are to stand up, aligning ourselves with the Vertical Light of God.
How do you look or feel when you are awake and aligned with the Vertical axis of the Kingdom? How do you physically feel? Perhaps lighter, more expansive? Pay attention, because this is what the Way of Christian Transformation means by “awake.”
As we awaken to God and align ourselves with God’s realm, something happens – “the Anointed One will enlighten you.” This light imagery and references to the sun rising in the East or the Orient are common in many spiritual traditions worldwide (and particularly to Christianity). The geographical Orient/East serves as an external symbol of an inner reality, so as we orient our inner compass to the spiritual Orient, the internal East, something happens through us – the Anointed One enlightens us. In other words, when we align with God’s realm we become an epiphany or manifestation of God. The word “enlighten” in this verse can be translated “manifest,” and it is related to our word for “epiphany.”
God yearns for you to manifest the Anointed One, to manifest Light in this world, to be an epiphany . . . Today.
But we can’t truly “manifest” or be an “epiphany” when we are stuck on the horizontal, timebased axis, constantly fretting over the past or worrying about the future.
When you wake up and stand up, aligned with the Vertical, it is a whole New World. From this Higher Space, you have more options, more freedom, just like a person who gets out of bed and can start walking around the bedroom with the light of dawn.
It’s important to realize that Ephesians 5:14 was directed to individuals and communities that already believed they were “Christian.” Nevertheless, the writer of this letter to the Ephesians felt it necessary to address them as those who might be “asleep.” There were many ways they were not living up to their calling, to be children of Light, to be epiphanies in their day. What does this mean for us?
It is possible to think one is already a “Christian” but to in fact be “asleep.” Believing is not enough.
We would be so bold to say that most “Christians” and churches are seeking to live their faith from the state of “sleep” – which is a state of being stuck in reactivity, dualisms, and ego.
Yet it is possible to seek to be a Christian from an entirely different level of being and consciousness.
It is to this level of being and state of consciousness that Jesus calls us to, if only we can awaken out of our sleep and align with this “Good Message of God’s Kingdom” that is here and now.
What if your disillusionment is actually a sign that you are being awakened…that you are awakening out of an illusory, dream world?
What if disillusionment as actually part of the Christian Path of Transformation? What if the Divine is seeking to awaken you – by means of your disillusionment – to who you really are? To who God really is? And to your real vocation in the world?
What if your disillusionment is a sign that God is calling you to truly become a Christian – a wakeful, resurrected, enlightened “anointed” one?
What if your frustrations with Christianity and your own faith is a sign that there is an exciting journey ahead of you, one that begins with awakening from the dream that you already are a “Christian” to actually becoming a Christian – an anointed one – who can live the teachings of Jesus and align with the values of the Kingdom.
Disillusionment is part of the transformation process – becoming dissatisfied in order to transcend and be transformed.
What if the time is ripe again to awaken to this Good Message of the Kingdom, especially in this age of political, economic, and environmental upheavals and chaos?
Maybe transactional Christianity was sufficient for past ages, while the lost teaching of Christian Transformation flowed underground. But we believe the time is ripe again, and that it is urgent that the essential teachings and practices of the Christ be made available again more broadly.
Like the acorn that must go into the ground and die in order to become a tree, we too must let go of transactional Christianity and the egoic self that seeks to live a transactional faith. This letting go is the path that will lead us to discover and practice the Lost Christian Way of Transformation and become what we are meant to be – like the oak tree, a place of shelter, refuge and blessing.
The fully Wakeful, Resurrected, Enlightened Jesus is our Teacher and Model in the Way of Christian Transformation. He intends for us to live by the “kingdom of God” values by which he lived his own life. And his mission – the ways he sought to reveal God’s kingdom – can also become our mission.
But how do you embark on the Way of Christian Transformation? What tools are available for the journey?
Contemplative Interbeing is a community of learning and transforming through experiential education and practice.