Permit me to storyboard the journey that this book is hoping to take. Having laid the foundations of the Christian life in part one of the series, Safe and Sound we now pick up our application of the Apostle John’s discussion on the three-phases of the Christian life (1 John 2:12-14) by considering the “young man’s journey”.
In the opening chapter He taketh away to establish we get to think about the spiritual development through the window of child development and we quickly discover that growing-up is painful but also inevitable and in fact some of things we are so proud of as children must be wrenched from us and when they are they are signs that we are growing up – moving forward, not moving backwards. As a result of reading and reflecting on that chapter you will realize that The lord takes away the first to replace it with something better.
With knowledge comes responsibility as a dear friend of mine once told me. In the chapter entitled You’ll be for it! I want to set us up to realize that as we grow-up into Him who is our life then we will assume certain duty of care for those whom Jesus cares for, which, is …all of us, not just some of us. Using one of a number of little parables from my own life I will aim to recast for you the profound nature of eternal security. The purpose of this chapter is both call you to adventure and to reinforce, in your mind, should any reinforcement be necessary, that your salvation (safety and well-being) is God’s business not your business.
The following chapter, When I was a child, is about the unconscious nature of growth. Have you ever had a friend come to visit and upon seeing your children, who they haven’t seen for a while, the first thing that they say is, ‘my how they’ve grown!’ we look at them puzzled, we’ve been so busying raising them we didn't realize that they’ve rise all by themselves. The point of the metaphor and the learning here is that we should expect to outgrow things – that includes our theology.
The Bar Mitzvah Boy is about being plunged into the world of the teenager. The principle thought here is about identity and identification and our journey to becoming a fully functioning person.
We recognise that there is a difference between intellectual understanding of our need for change and our emotional readiness and the courage to effect that change. In the chapter Do you want to get well? which is constructed around John’s sublime account of the healing of the man at the pool (John 5), we come face to face with the profoundest question of all – do we want wellness?
Adam where are you? is a poetical insight into the Fall. I wanted to find a way to place us back in the Garden and stand us next to Jesus to observe the turmoil and to also note the demonic strategy which works to such good effect with First Adam but come up short when it is employed against Jesus, The last Adam (or Adam at last) as we shall see in the following chapter, The Silencing of Satan.
Having accepted the invitation to appropriate our wholeness we are brought into the mystery of oneness with Christ and through the account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness we discover the principles of how we are to operate naturally in the supernatural. By recounting the story of how Jesus, as last Adam overpowers Satan we see that what needs to be known by us cannot be taught to us in any pedagogical sense, it must be ‘caught’ by us in the sense that it must be experienced. Once caught, as my dear mentor Norman Grubb put it, ‘no escape’; we don't have it, it has us.
Living in Sýn is one of the few technical chapters. I’ve tried to keep them to a minimum but chose for what I hope you will agree was good reason to depart from that genera rule in order to really ground the idea of what it means to be in Christ. From here we move to the business end of the book, which was signaled for us un the previous chapter but now spelt out in The Battle Ready Christian, here we look at the characteristics of the young man phase in detail. What does it mean to say that, He has overcome; He is strong; the word abides in him and that he has conquered the evil one?
As is ever the case with this book I try to anchor my stories in the retelling of stories from the Scripture. Grasshopper Syndrome is a good example of that it is the story of the children of Israel spying out the giant infested land. Here we reflect on the fact that our becoming (who we really are) fully functioning persons, i.e., people who experience for themselves and extend to others the ‘core conditions’, UPR (unconditionall positive regard), empathy and congruence are frustrated by our conditions or worth.
Indeed it is a solid and not a dotted line that is drawn between UPR and Conditions of Worth but it is a line that was washed away with the blood of Jesus and as we come to know who we are that line is gradually eroded until it finally disappears altogether.
For the passive, the first thought when confronted with trouble is flight; for the aggressive amongst us, the other end of the insecurity continuum, the instinct it to fight – it is only as we develop spiritual maturity that we discover that there is a third way - i.e. the way of the assertive – flow. In The Peter Principle we drop in on the apostle Peter and pick up his story to see the problem of petulance and the divine cure it.
No journey into functioning as a person would be complete without walking a few miles in the sandals of the Apostle Paul. In the chapter I did not go at once, we get a change to journey with him.
Convicted is the second of the two denser chapters but readers are asked to stick with it (after all you’ve come this far) and dear reader it is worth it. Here I will push the proverbial envelope on John 16 and see what Jesus had in mind for us, as he signaled his departure. The penultimate paragraph, Just do it, rather unapologetically does what it says on the tin – it is a call to arms – to adventure – to divine life. I end, as is my want with a very personal story about overcoming self, It ain’t over till you sing with the fat lady, is not a story I’m proud of, but hey what’s the point of growing pains if we don’t share what we learn from them with others.