Updated: May 15, 2019
The picture with this post pretty much sums up why the world is in the mess that we are. People are gazing up into the sky, thinking God is located up there somewhere, along with our salvation, power, guidance, freedom, and well-being.
Blame this on the false "Gospel" that many quarters of institutional Christianity has been preaching down through the ages.
“Sin,” “repent,” and “eternal life” are among the top words and phrases that have taken on a meaning in pop-Christianity that Jesus would have never endorsed or taught. It just underscores the power of groupthink – that if enough people believe something, they will reason that it must be correct.
Staking claim to your original goodness
What is our crime that separates us from God? As the pop-Christian theory goes, our crime is being human. We are told that we are born “sinners.” Insert the misinterpretation of the word “sin.” According to the theory, before we do anything… we are born as babies “in sin.” In other words, we don’t get a choice; by virtue of being born human, we are at the core, “sinners.” The theory further says that this state is disgusting and revolting to God, which is why God rejects and condemns us, has nothing to do with us, and sends us to Hell… we are separated from God.
I sometimes wonder if the people who preach this have even read the Bible. The third chapter of Genesis describes what many Christians refer to as "The Fall" of humankind. However, it is the THIRD chapter. In the FIRST chapter of Genesis we are given the picture of the way things fundamentally are - God, humankind and all creation together in harmony and one. In the FIRST chapter of Genesis, God declares that human beings are GOOD. This is the underlying, fundamental, inherent God-spoken truth of who we are - GOOD. Last time I checked, 1 comes before 3. Our original goodness was the first thing we learn about ourselves. Genesis chapter 3 is about the coming of spiritual ignorance into the world, but it does not surplant the fundamental truth of who we are - good and inspeparable from God. For 2,000 years the Christian church has been rubbing our noses in the false notion of our original badness, which has only served to prevent us from staking claim to our original goodness.
The word “sin” means to miss the mark or fall short. What mark? Fall short of what? Sin is falling short or missing the mark of realizing, accepting, being and giving expression to the complete and whole people God declared us to be. Of course God “hates sin” – there is a divine rejection of anything in our lives that prevents us from knowing and experiencing our true nature, which is an extension and expression of the image, likeness and being of God. There is a divine resistance to anything that prevents us from embracing the freedom, goodness, beauty, peace and freedom intended for all humankind. I love my daughter Jessica. I passionately desire her to know love, goodness, beauty, peace, freedom, wholeness and well-being. It’s heartbreaking to see any way she is not experiencing these, and I want to remove any obstacle in her life that would be preventing it.
Debunking the false notion of "repentance"
Next, pop-Christianity inserts a misinterpretation of the word, “repent.” In the religious context, “repent” usually means acknowledging and grieving your sinful condition, turning from your wicked ways, throwing yourself on the mercy of God, and pledging to do better… or else! “Repent” is one of those religious words that conjure up images of judgment, condemnation, and fear.
Jesus often said in the gospels, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” For years it troubled me that Jesus so often used this word because it represented everything that repelled me about religion. But then I learned its true meaning and significance. I discovered that the word “repent” (metanoia) actually means a change of mind or having a new mind. The word suggests a radical transformation of how we process reality.
Metanoia literally means “beyond the mind.” It’s the idea of stretching or pushing beyond the boundaries with which we normally think and feel. It often involves pressing beyond our religious conditioning about ourselves, God, others and life itself. When Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near,” he was saying that peace, freedom, fulfillment, and wholeness is present in every moment but it can’t be accessed or grasped through the religious mentality. “Repentance” as a way of life would mean acknowledging that what you most deeply want in life lies beyond what you already know or think you know. It involves approaching life from a place of “not knowing” and becoming more grounded in that inner voice that woos you toward what is truly good, beautiful, and liberating.
Misunderstanding what Jesus meant by “repent” is one of the most damaging errors of the Christian church, which has kept people looping around in empty religious concepts that prevent true life and freedom. The central message of Jesus is translated as: “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand.” However, the word Jesus used was not “repent.”
The word Jesus actually used was “metanoia.” “Meta” means beyond or outside, while “noia”, means understanding. Noia is derived from the Greek “nous,” which means our minds. So in practical terms metanoia means to “change the way we use our minds.” In other words, to think beyond the normal limits of the way we have been taught to reason. It implies that we haven’t been using our minds correctly. An example of this metanoia principle would be metaphysics. As mentioned, “meta” means outside or beyond, so metaphysics means outside the normal limits of physics.
True “metanoia” is referencing our higher mind – the Spirit. It is a Spirit awareness that is beyond the normal reasoning of the mind.
The original “metanoia” meaning was lost (changed to “repent” and “repentance”) when the early Bible manuscripts were translated into Latin and became the standard Biblical language for many centuries. That word “repentance” comes to English from the old French word “repentir” meaning “to feel regret for sins and crimes.” “Repentir” came from the Latin words “penitire” to regret, and “poenitire” to make sorry. It is the root source for our words penitentiary, penitent and penance and related to our word for “pain.”
Using this “repent” definition perverted the true “Gospel” (good news), and made Jesus’ central message to be something like: “Feel sorrow and regret and pain because the authority of heaven is at hand!” Seriously??? Does that sound like “good news” to you???
Capturing what Jesus meant by the word “metanoia,” his central message was: “The dimension and reality of God’s Kingdom is here now, but it’s going to require you to shift from the way you typically use your mind to the awareness of the Spirit inside you.”
Eternal life is here and now
The pop-Christian gospel is then capped off with the promise of “eternal life,” which is normally associated with life after death or Heaven. This, despite the fact that Jesus described “eternal life” as the life of God that is continuously and unconditionally available to us, in us, for us, as us, and through us… in every present moment.
Jesus said, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” You’re missing it if you think that Jesus is saying something about how he is divine and you are just human. That’s not it. Time and time again, Jesus points out that there are two different dimensions to operate in. One dimension keeps us tied down to the mindset, understanding and reasoning of the world. Religion falls into this category. It’s the heady/mental religious/worldly dimension. It’s a dimension characterized by dualism, and we have created a false God to rule over it. What Jesus was about has nothing to do with any of that mess. There is also a “heavenly” dimension. We have access to that dimension in and through the life-giving Spirit within us. You do not access this dimension in your head or through religious thinking. Instead, you access it very naturally through your deepest feelings. In involves turning toward what is real inside you. It rises up from a place deeper than your everyday thoughts and emotions.
The primary message of Jesus was, “The kingdom of Heaven is here.” Thinking of the Genesis story, Jesus could have easily said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is STILL here.” It is not necessary to be raptured or die and go to heaven to experience the Kingdom of Heaven
Jesus said the kingdom of God is here. HERE! NOW! In other words, there is no Kingdom of God to be found outside of HERE and NOW. Why? Because the Kingdom of God is within you. In other words, the Kingdom of God is the underlying, unchanging and fundamental nature of all things! It’s the reality before Adam and Eve plunged into the world they created out of their spiritual ignorance.
If the Kingdom of God is here and now, you will not find it somewhere else and later. Rather than waiting around for death or rapture, Jesus wants us to learn to see and walk in the present reality of his Kingdom here and now.
If you don’t have to depart the world in order to walk in the present reality of God’s kingdom, what are you supposed to do? That’s what Jesus is all about – showing us that exact thing! Jesus spoke of being IN the world but not OF the world. He spoke of a peace “not as this world gives.” He unmasked the underlying lie of the “knowledge of good and evil” – that God and humankind are separated. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” How is Jesus the truth? God and humankind, not as opposites or pairs, but as one.
The salvation of our world is not going to fall down out of the sky. Heaven is not a location with streets of gold above the clouds. The salvation we are waiting for and the heaven we imagine is not somewhere over the rainbow but is inside each of us! Jesus bore witness to and demonstrated this 2,000 years ago, and then we proceeded to hijack his message and called it “Christianity.” Let the narratives of this world, including the religious mindset, die off in you. Turn within yourself to the Spirit of the depths, and find your Heaven there.
These ideas of sin, repentance and eternal life became the modern “gospel,” along with a host of other doctrines. They were conveniently labeled “orthodoxy,” implying that you could not even be a “Christian” unless you signed off on this doctrinal litmus test, which Jesus himself would not have supported. Just a cursory reading of church history raises some suspicion of how this popular Christian “orthodoxy” came into existence.
One of the biggest mistaken notions I carried around for years was that somehow Jesus Christ and Christianity were more or less the same thing or interchangeable. It makes sense; the Christian religion bears his name. It just seemed to go without saying – Jesus was in support of Christianity, and Christianity was in support of Jesus. It wasn’t until much later that I learned that Jesus and Christianity can be two totally different and irreconcilable things. I take on this subject head-on in the book Inner Anarchy and offer an alternative understanding of the life, message and truth of Jesus from what has been taught by institutional Christianity.