Divine Insights to Boost Your Inner Christian

Keith KettenringChristian Living, The Uncommon Journey

Being “Christian” hardly makes sense anymore. Not that it doesn’t have a significant place in this world or doesn’t personally affect lives. Being Christian has been made meaningless by its adherents who love the label but are confused by the diversity of incessant “truth” voices pounding in their heads and by their own inability to actually live as Christ commands.
Christians are practically useless as change agents since they’ve deliberately become what they claim to oppose. Church has become another social club, non-profit service or advocacy organization, collective therapy group, and information center. Gone are the days when being Christian meant genuine hardship and struggle, authentic transformation, and actual sacrifice (except in countries where being Christian costs everything).
The reality of denying ourselves, taking up the cross, and dying as followers of Jesus has been redefined to include comfort, prosperity, and a premium “quality of life.”
Ultimately, we don’t really know who we are meant to BE.
However, we need not despair. In union with Christ (and only in Him), we can become what we were designed to become. First, a story…
Mark Divine, retired commander of U.S. Navy SEALs, entrepreneur, and trainer tells his near-death story providing a springboard for our thoughts:
In the pitch black, the sound of the helicopter’s rotor blades was deafening. The jumpmaster gave us the thumbs-up as the light turned green I leaped out into the dark. The static line did its job and pulled my main chute from its rig. I counted one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three and looked up to check the canopy. Whew. Everything looks A-OK.
Ahead in the darkness, I could see the vague outline of my teammate Chris’s canopy. Something was wrong. I took a closer look–yep, he was coming toward me. Standard operating procedure for potential midair collisions is for both jumpers to pull their right toggles, thereby moving away from each other. I turned right. Chris turned left and collided with me.
My canopy collapsed into a wobbly sheet. I began plummeting to the earth, picking up speed. I had about eight seconds remaining in my 26-year-old life.
My mind slowed. My breathing slowed. Even time slowed. Each second seemed like a minute as I moved through the malfunction checklist: Pull the riser to try to reinflate canopy (nothing). Pull on reserve chute cord, punch the bag and rip the reserve out, and throw it as hard possible into the wind (no good–the reserve shot up and waffled a bit around the main.) I’m screwed. I took another deep breath and shook the risers of the canopy again. I said my goodbyes and prayed I’d lived a good enough life that the next few moments would come with white light instead of fire.
Suddenly the chute caught some air, and then I hit the ground like a ton of bricks. The canopy had only partially inflated but it was enough to slow me down for a survivable landing. I waited a moment and took a deep breath to confirm I was still alive. I scanned my body for broken bones. Amazingly unscathed, I got up, dusted myself off, and marched off to find Chris so I could deck him.
What stuck with me most from this experience was how my training kicked in, allowing me to perform under extremely stressful conditions. Things felt almost mystical as my mind slowed down and allowed a larger intelligence and calmness to flow through me. I know I would’ve died if I’d tried to think my way out. My front-sight focus, combined with unconscious competence developed by relentless and realistic training, had saved my life.
Taken from: The Way of the SEAL, pp 30-31 (I find it delightfully priceless that Mark’s last name is Divine!?!)
Let’s highlight some applicable “spiritual” lessons from Mark Divine’s experience.
“I know I would have died if I’d tried to think my way out.”
One of the problems of modern Christian living is that Christians rely far too greatly on “thinking.” We’ve been taught and have convinced ourselves that we can “think our way out” of our human brokenness and into a vibrant relationship with God. If we have the right information, (i.e. doctrine, theology, Bible facts) and enough of it, we “think” we have the goods to grow spiritually. If we have the correct “world view,” proper Christian convictions, or conceptual system, we can make sense of God and how He operates. We enjoy a spirited debate between scholars who grapple with minute aspects of Bible interpretation.
But, for Mark Divine and others heading into life-threatening circumstances – which is all of life, right! – our thoughts cannot save us. In most situations, they take too long to develop. Thoughts waver when emotionally charged. Panic paralyzes them. Which thought at the moment is the right one? Will this thinking work in this particular situation? Thinking about our thinking…thud! We’re toast.
Jesus exposes the limitations of “thinking” when he says: “You search the Scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5.39-40). Like the Jews of Jesus’ day, we might think we gain eternal life by studying the Bible, thinking our way into life with God. It’s spiritually deadening to always be seeking for more information. Information alone, even good Bible information, will not give the life we need and desire. Jesus presents himself as the only way to have life and true being.
“My front-end focus…”
Thankfully, we are not helpless in our time of need. Before us (and in us) is our Salvation, Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself acquaints us with this reality in the passage above (John 5.39-40). He is to be our focus. Life is only found in Him. It’s in focusing our entire being on Jesus Christ that we experience life in fullness. What we read and study is critical for our spiritual well-being (salvation) but not to the exclusion of life intently centered on Jesus Christ. It is too easy to become preoccupied with lesser realities such as worship styles, denominational loyalties, or moral perplexities. Though Jesus is believed to be our way of salvation, we struggle to see Him as THE exclusive Source and Goal of our being. No one else. Nothing else.
The challenge lies in the daily task of bringing Jesus Christ into our “front-end focus.” How is this done practically and effectively? Stay tuned.
“…combined with unconscious competence…”
Divine already knew what to do to save his life. He didn’t need to think about it. Each move was natural and easy due to regular and consistent “programming.” He even says there was a calm, “slowing down,”  “time-standing-still”-type experience in the crisis. He possessed a competency instilled in his “being” such that he was able to act with capable skill. A cat, by nature, knows how to stalk and catch vermin. A person can become a “pianist” knowing how to perform the demanding (click here) Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto #1 (without music, even! It seems humanly impossible. But, how stunningly beautiful!). Yet, you can become a kind, gentle, non-judgmental, wise and humble person who loves others as Christ loves. You can become more “competent” in Christlikeness. You can progress to BE who you are in Christ. However…
“…how my training kicked in…” “developed by relentless and realistic training…”
Becoming this kind of person will entail effort, lots of it! Consistency, sustainability, and effectiveness are the name of the game. You do not become like Christ automatically when you initially trust Him. It involves a lifetime of joyful, rigorous struggle. Additionally, training that fosters deep levels of change must be appropriate for the change needed. Spending hours shooting free throws will not make you a better gymnast. Sitting in church every week will not make you less angry or less judgmental (in fact, it might do the opposite). However, tenacious and sensible training will. The key is to engage in the kind of training that effectively affects a particular area, transforming it by God’s grace.
“…saved my life.”
Literally, what Divine describes saved his life. He not only believed in the saving process, but he also engaged it and ultimately found it to be true. It wasn’t enough to say, “Yes, I believe this to be true because the instructor said so” or “I’m sure this will save me because I’m good at it.” To be saved, he had to believe in the work, prepare himself (in faith) and actually participate in the work when called upon to do so.
In fact, he had so participated in the process of Navy SEAL training that he actually became a Navy SEAL. Not in title only nor in mere action. He embodied SEAL life, the real deal.
Through his focus and training, Mark Divine became a different person. In his case, he progressed from an average Navy officer to becoming a Navy SEAL. He didn’t simply act or think as if he was a SEAL. No! Over time and with the right training and a receptive heart, he came to embody what a U.S. Navy SEAL is by its very nature.
Philosophers might classify what happened to Mark Divine in “ontological” terms. Don’t be put off by this term. It’s a label referring to the nature of “being,” becoming, reality or existence. In this context, we’d examine if Mark Divine fit the reality of what it means to be a Navy SEAL. Does he and did he exist as a Navy SEAL? Of course, one would need to define the nature of the Navy SEAL and then compare Mark to that definition. But, from this experience and many more demonstrated in his book, it’s obvious that Mark is a Navy SEAL.
The point of this post centers on “BEING Christian.” The emphasis is much different than you might expect. Being is so much more than doing Christian practices or thinking Christian ideas, though as we discover, doing and thinking are essential to “being” Christian.
What complicates things is that the concept of “Christian” has shifted over the centuries. What was considered Christian by the Apostles, let’s say, is miles apart from what “Christian” looks like today. There seems very little resemblance between entering the Kingdom violently through the narrow way or as a child, dying and denying oneself, or suffering as marks of being Christian compared to the modern, Western “Christian” marked by comfort, therapy, and prosperity.  Modern Christians use the label but what is the ontological reality? Are we, in our very being, Christian?
The only answer to this dilemma is Jesus Christ. He is our standard of what “being” a Christian is. Even St. Paul acknowledged this when he invited others to imitate him “as I follow Christ”  (1 Corinthians 11.1). Being united with Christ, participating in the life of the Trinity is what a Christian IS. Anything less is much less and not the real deal.
I’m ending this post here though there is much more to be written. I’ll continue in my next post by focusing on perhaps the least understood contributor to our “being Christian.”
Are you interested? What do you glean from Divine’s story? Leave your comments below. I love hearing from you. 
Dr. K/Keith