How Do You Navigate a Christ Awakening?
It’s Like Learning to Drive in London!
Using Zoom, I’m currently teaching a fully accredited graduate course on the person of God’s Son called CHRIST ALIVE. It is based on The Christ Institutes Video Series along with lively class discussions around our textbook, Christ Is NOW!
Having taught this course at a Pillar College master’s program a number of times (it is also being introduced this fall at a major US seminary), I’ve witnessed firsthand in my students what individual “Christ Awakenings” look like.
I’ve watched cohorts of graduates (some in mid-career ministry) become what I call “wholly alive to the whole vision of the whole Christ” (one definition of a Christ Awakening), with all that entails.
This transformation is truly revolutionary—not only touching their personal relationship to Jesus but also assuring similar blessings for those they will be serving in his name for years to come.
What I say to believers willing to
take on a Christ Awakening journey
In August, between two of the weekly sessions, I sent an email to the present class to encourage them a little bit about the journey they are on.
I wrote them because I know from past classes how “disruptive” and even “disorienting” the CHRIST ALIVE course can be—because each sincere Jesus follower is “reintroduced by God’s Spirit to God’s Son in the fullness of his supremacy today” (my original definition of a “Christ Awakening”). Such a reintroduction can significantly change many of the ways any believer sees Jesus and, therefore, change how they think about Christian discipleship and leadership!
That experience is almost like being born again—again. Such an upending of our walk with Jesus is sort of like a “reconversion” event, as we turn from old ways of regarding our Savior and enter into a brand-new outlook on him.
Or, as the front cover of my book Christ Is NOW! puts it, you can feel as if suddenly you “Meet Him Again for the First Time”—even if you have been a Christian for decades!
Someone recently suggested that this phenomenon might be likened to an American learning to drive in England—specifically in London itself. What a vivid image that is! I believe it perfectly captures the dynamics involved in a personal Christ Awakening. So, I passed along the insight to my class in an email.
Now, I want to forward that memo to you. I believe it could help anyone (even if you’re not in graduate school!) to better navigate the joys of gaining a larger vision of our Redeemer—with all the radical changes it brings.
An open letter to my
CHRIST ALIVE College Class
August 22, 2020
I hope you’re holding up well under all the reading and writing you have to tackle each week. I know how challenging it can be from my own journey through two seminaries.
Last week, a friend who knows the CHRIST ALIVE curriculum very well, wrote to me with this keen observation about what you are going through right now:
Christ Alive is like going to England and learning to drive on the other side of the road. Drifting back to the way you’ve driven for years is always the default. That’s why the wonderful Holy Spirit truths you are sharing with your class, David, need to be Holy Spirit revealed to each student if they are going to become more than momentary concepts. Plus, we must not forget that there’s also the work of the Enemy who seeks to blind our minds from fully comprehending the glory of Christ and thus pulling us back to our familiar “old ways” of thinking about Jesus—that is, to the wrong side of the road.
Class, this observation really makes sense to me. It illustrates what I’ve documented over the years with many individuals and groups and churches where a “Christ Awakening” begins to unfold.
Maybe this is happening with some of you already. If so, here are some suggestions to help you navigate the exciting road trip with Jesus going on in your life right now.
Are you ready to learn how
to drive on the streets of London?
I know the London metaphor is on target because I actually have tried to drive in places like England, South Africa, and India where cars move along the left side of the street—where the driver and steering wheel are positioned on the right side of the vehicle as the passenger rides on the left. To an American, it feels weird!
When in London, I know how hard it is to keep oneself from automatically—unconsciously—drifting from the left side of the road back into the righthand lane. It happens simply by force of habit. You have to constantly resist that urge every mile of the trip. As you do, it’s not a little harrowing. You feel disoriented, unsure of yourself, even a bit frightened.
Is it possible many of you—maybe all of you—are experiencing something very similar to learning to drive in London as we work our way through the CHRIST ALIVE course? What do I mean?
Unfortunately, most of us—and I include myself with Christians everywhere—have spent years steeped in a vision of Jesus that has been, for the most part and at best, sub-biblical. Tragically, as we seek to be faithful Jesus followers—and desire to serve him by how we minister to others for his sake—we find ourselves often crippled by significantly diminished concepts of who the Lord Jesus Christ really is today based on what Scripture teaches about him.
Our view of God’s Son can frequently fall far short of what the Bible teaches about him—as he is foreshadowed in the Old Testament and fully revealed in the New Testament through thousands of verses. As the global evangelical leader Dr. John Stott put it: “Today we have a pigmy Christianity because we’ve created a pigmy Jesus.”
In one sense, this is not our fault. It results from the church climate in which we’ve been growing in Christ.
To return to the London metaphor, we might say that from the first day we started “driving” (when we were born again and began our new life in Christ), we were taught to drive on the “right side” of the street. Now, doing so feels basically natural to us. This “lesser Jesus” is the one we’ve come to know and trust. Everything inside of us insists on leaning toward and driving in that lane—following what in truth is a “shrunken Savior,” sticking to that more familiar version of our Master.
In addition to that, as we have grown as disciples, we’ve been given a certain kind of “vocabulary” for talking about spiritual things—specifically for talking about and responding to this partially diluted perspective on the glory and greatness of God’s Son. Over time, we have become familiar and comfortable with words and concepts that easily accommodate the teachings we’ve received that have left us with a “pigmy Jesus.” Unwittingly, however, our evangelical “language” often ends up reinforcing the tragic shortfall in how many view and value Jesus in light of his true supremacy.
This tragic approach to following Jesus is like someone spending their whole life driving on the right side of the road. That’s all they know. They’ve never driven any other way. And that means we’re now faced with . . .
Our struggle to switch
to the opposite lane and stay there
Suddenly, something like a CHRIST ALIVE experience comes along! In that case specifically, through a 600-page textbook, hours of video lectures, and days of class discussions, students begin to enter into a personal awakening to the majesty and wonders of Jesus, such as they have never known before. Eventually, the course becomes more than an academic fascination; it becomes a profound spiritual revolution.
As a result, many of us start to feel hesitant. Disoriented. Uneasy. Uncertain of where things now stand in our relationship to Christ—and what to do with it next. We may even become anxious about the new directions this growing vision may force us to take for Jesus’ sake and unclear on what this may cost us.
Such an “upheaval of the soul” should not surprise us, however. It makes plenty of sense when you think of it in terms of driving in London.
We’re being asked to “switch lanes”—to come over onto the “left side of the road” where we’ve never traveled before. Our revised journey engages us with our Savior in whole new ways. We find ourselves traveling with him in a brand-new world, shaped by his magnificent, risen, ascended, reigning person, presence, and power.
As Colossians 3 declares:
Since now you are “alive from the dead with Christ, set your affections on things above where Christ sits at God’s right hand . . . for you are dead and your life is hidden with Christ in God . . . Christ is your life.”
Unfortunately, for many believers today, the deeper implications of these words comprise foreign territory.
Navigating new rules of the road
plus acquiring a new language,
both at the same time
In fact, to take this comparison one step further, we might say a Christ Awakening is more like learning to drive in New Delhi, India—which requires more than driving!
Trust me—I’ve tried it! In this case, you are not only required to drive on the left side of streets, but you also need to make a stab at the basics of a brand new language—Hindi, which is nothing like English!—in order to read the signs along the way or stop to ask directions.
Week after week, as we uncover more about who Jesus is today, CHRIST ALIVE is encouraging you—in fact, it is leading you—to embrace an encounter with our supreme Savior that requires new rules of the road in how you pursue him. At the same time, you must acquire a different kind of vocabulary in the ways you talk about him.
Just a quick overview of the main sessions in our course outline hints at how sweeping and far-reaching this new adventure into a “high Christology” really is—as it should be for all believers:
SESSION 1: Who Christ is TO us—that is, his personhood, his deity, his intimacy with the Trinity, the claims of his names, and as our identity and destiny
SESSION 2: Who Christ is FOR us—summed up in his four-fold, irreversible revolution: the invasion of his incarnation, the mission of his crucifixion, the re-creation of his resurrection, and the coronation of his ascension
SESSION 3: Who Christ is OVER us—as he reigns over creation, world history, global rulers, earth’s peoples, the dark powers, and the building of the Church
SESSION 4: Who Christ is BEFORE us—as right now, he goes ahead of us in four ways simultaneously: into the future, into the heavens, into God’s promises, and into the world
SESSION 5: Who Christ is WITHIN us—as he lives out his risen, ascended life in us, both individually, and even more so, corporately
SESSION 6: Who Christ is THROUGH us—as he extends his reign and ministry from here to the ends of the earth, reaching out through us individually and, even more so, corporately
SESSION 7: Who Christ is UPON us—as he comes upon his people now to revive, intensify, deepen, and accelerate all we already are experiencing of him, and then in the day when he comes upon the entire cosmos in his glorious, victorious, and visible return
As we keep to these new rules and words, we must remain on guard, however. Despite the thrill of a life-giving Christ Awakening, it is easy by force of habit for any of us to drift back over to the “other side,” so to speak—that is, easy to return to the familiar outlooks and responses where much of the Church has been dwelling for such a long time in its view of Jesus.
This persistent temptation to revert to our old patterns of thinking about Jesus is a clear manifestation of how much the crisis of Christology had gripped us already.
You’ll recall that we began to unpack this crisis in video 1 of The Christ Institutes as well as in the opening chapters of Christ Is NOW! It’s the same crisis explored in depth in the two-hour documentary recently released on Netflix titled American Gospel: Christ Alone. The film calls this failure of vision in our churches a “Christless Christianity.”
Having “driven” for so long on that side of the highway, we can so easily settle for old, anemic concepts of God’s Son and, therefore, relapse into using our old approaches in seeing him and speaking about him. We must not let that happen!
Let’s take a drive
down the “King’s Highway”!
For each of you—and really for Christians all across America—the time has come for us to start “learning how to drive in London” (or India!)—which means learning how to navigate God’s kingdom, where the only road you travel is Jesus himself.
Let’s call him the “King’s Highway”! With him, there’s no left side or right side of the road. There’s only one side—the whole journey is contained within the fullness of who he IS as “the way, the truth, the life.”
From personal experience, I know what a battle this will be—striving to stay true to Christ for all he is today—refusing to go back to where you once were in your relationship with him.
Please don’t become discouraged or give up. Press on. Fight hard to stay the course on the highway we’re traveling together. Refuse to fall back into the old rules of the road—or into the diminishing descriptions of him we use when talking about him. Resist daily the form of the Christian life that may feel more familiar and more comfortable, but where sadly, your walk with the King of glory will remain shallow at best, as a result.
Also, remember that whether it begins through a course like CHRIST ALIVE or some other way (such as the free resources at ChristNow.com), a Christ Awakening is always about others too.
We who have been “awakened” by God’s Spirit to the larger wonders of God’s Son are called to foster and serve Christ Awakening movements among other Jesus followers.
A Christ Awakening involves our being recommissioned as “Christ proclaimers” to the people of God. It’s about our helping more and more believers join us in pursuing the riches of Christ as we travel “the King’s Highway”—the one that stretches from here to eternity.
It is WE who must become instigators of spiritual uprisings for King Jesus, right where we live. It is WE who must lift Jesus higher for the sake of a nation currently aflame in the midst of an unprecedented spiritual battle. It is WE who must seek the glory of the living Redeemer, whose saving reign is the only way to gain the victory over the forces of darkness arrayed against us.
If we don’t, who will?
Do you recall the subtitle of our course? It is “The Foundation and Focus of Christian Discipleship and Ministry Leadership.”
That’s who Jesus must be, not just for the members of our class but for every Christian. Hebrews 12 challenges us to see our Master as nothing less:
Let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back…
Let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.
Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and victor…
who sits in the place of honor at the throne of God.
Professor for CHRIST ALIVE, Fall 2020
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com. Enjoy his regular CHRIST TODAY podcast.
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