Starting Over

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
(Psalms 63:1)

God has been turning me inside out lately. I want so badly to understand him; his character, his commands, and his requirements of me. The more I seek the more I find my view of him to be miserably worthless. The creator of the universe in all his glory will not be contained within my own imagination nor the collective understanding of all mankind! I feel sometimes like I’ll burn from the inside out if I can’t somehow express what he is showing me, and yet I fall inevitably short of expressing him at all. He is magnificent beyond the most eloquent expression, whether word, song, or picture, and so it seems I must resign to continue burning.

In this burning, however, I am compelled to seek him out further; to study his word and read the musings of other believers who have done the same. This searching invariably leads me to questions that taunt and plague me at every silent moment. Often the searching only uncovers harder questions!

Although satisfactory answers are sometimes perpetually beyond reach, I find the hunt itself brings a satisfaction of it’s own; searching the unsearchable to better know the unknowable.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
(Romans 11:33)

Relying on Pillars

But there is a difficult thing that happens with this searching; many “unshakeable” truths are suddenly shaken to their core. Ideas I’ve clung to my entire life are suddenly no longer there for my support. Often the pillars that were once integral to the structure of my faith are revealed instead as ill-placed obstacles in need of demolition. I’ll refrain for now from discussing these pillars, but suffice it to say that it is a terribly unsettling experience! Which portions of my structure can be trusted, and which are about to buckle?

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.
(Hebrews 12:25:27)

With all those once unshakeable pillars having come into question I’ve had to step back and reevaluate what truths I can still rely upon… and I’ve narrowed it down to just one: the Word of God. This excludes even my own understanding, my personal experiences, my feelings, and intuitions. This excludes the assertions of the seemingly mature and well studied.

Bottom line: if I can’t line something up with scripture, no matter how much I or anyone else may feel it’s true, I have no choice but to conclude that it’s in error.

And this has been exceedingly difficult… maddening in fact. Not because my belief system is being turned inside out (although this too comes with it’s own challenges), but because it so often puts me on a collision course with some very popular ideas, and regrettably the people that cling to them; people with whom I really just want to get along with.

Relying on People

So when I’m wrestling with a question and the answers I find don’t sit well with fellow believers, especially when I so deeply respect those believers and their counsel, how should I respond? How do I know whether or not my thoughts on a matter are in error?

I have always believed and even taught others that we should rely on the counsel of fellow believers to know whether or not we are hearing from the Lord. I’ve held that our fallibility makes us too error prone to seek God on our own without the confirmation of others in the faith to bring us correction. While to some extent I would still recommend this as a good baseline, lately I’ve had to wrestle with a serious dilemma posed by this notion: What do I do when I’ve done all I can to seek a matter out using God’s Word as my compass and although it seems to clearly say one thing, the idea proves unsettling among the people whose confirmation I’m seeking?

Comparing my thoughts with the thoughts of others whom I respect has always served as sort of a litmus test for whether or not I’m still “in line”, but more recently I’ve found myself quite out of line with some well established ideas and the people that hold them. By my own standards this would mean I’ve lost my way and am in need of a course correction. If, however, the ideas posited in the verses I read seem clearly perpendicular to popular opinion and just won’t leave me alone… then what should I do?

Relying on God’s Word Directly

It’s tempting to just rely on established ideas and the people around me, but what if the Bible is saying something else? For awhile I couldn’t shake the idea that this must have meant I was really missing something. Surely a proper understanding of the word would result in unity between me and those around me, right?

Well as nice as that sounds it’s quite opposite of what I read in the Bible:

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”
(Matthew 10:34-36)

“Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three…”
(Luke 12:51-52)

It seems that finding yourself in disagreement with others may actually be par for the course. In fact the Bible clearly affirms that the prophets, Christ’s disciples, and even Jesus himself were rejected by others… especially religious leaders. That means my litmus test for self-examination by the opinions of others is no good, regardless of who those people are. It might even be that reversing the test would make it more effective; perhaps our understanding of God’s word SHOULD be unsettling and even polarizing to the majority.

Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
(Luke 6:26)

We CANNOT judge our understanding of scripture by how many people agree with us. God reveals himself to us individually and directly by his Spirit and through his word. We don’t need an interpreter or a higher level of understanding or greater intellect, because it isn’t through any of those things that God reveals himself to us.

Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we are indeed his offspring.”
(Acts 17:27-28)

It’s an old cliché, but God has no grandchildren. He directly teaches each of us through the Holy Spirit. Each one of us are to abide in him directly, not through the understanding of intermediaries.

Starting Over

It would be far easier to just fit in with everyone, but that isn’t the course he calls us to. It seems unthinkable that simply seeking him out could sometimes result in separation from the people we love, and yet isn’t that exactly what scripture tells us will happen?

So I do my best to seek out his word and be obedient to what he reveals through it. I still seek a multitude of counsel (Proverbs 11:14), but there are clearly many times in scripture where the multitude was completely wrong. Actually it’s far more often the rule than the exception. And although it’s a terrifying thing to be in the minority and be so unsure of myself, I must be personally convinced of God’s word and the Holy Spirit through whom he reveals it rather than denying it for the opinions of men.

So to you too, Christian, I say: be diligent in seeking him and know that he can and WILL be found.

I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.
(Proverbs 8:17)

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Starting Over

  1. Well, Dan, you are definitely on the journey into the fulness of Christ and HE is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him!

    The writer of the Book of Hebrews was warning the Jewish Christians that they, too, could fail to enter into God’s rest as did their fathers in the wilderness by their own unbelief. It has occurred to me that these people did not lack a belief structure, but rather they were still clinging to one that God had called them out of unto faith in HIS SON alone. These people were clinging to their understanding of the Old Covenant text and missing Jesus who is the ONE Mediator between God and man in a NEW Covenant which replaced the old one (see Hebrews 8:13)! So in Hebrews chapter four we read,

    “For he that is entered into his rest, he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our weaknesses; but was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:10-16 KJ2000)

    He says a number of things here that rattles our belief structures if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. One is that if we are truly IN God’s rest, the seventh day in which HE abides, we will cease from OUR OWN labors to be righteous and trying to please Him! Why? Because we are already resting IN Him and not trying to function outside of Him, leaning on our own understanding as we acknowledge HIM with the very posture of our lives! This is true faith! If this is true then what are the works that we are called to do? Paul wrote about them saying, “And [God] has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:6-10 KJ2000). God has placed us IN Christ and made us to SIT, first and foremost IN Christ Jesus IN heavenly places! This is what faith does. It is only as we rest, or sit, that we can come to do the works that HE has foreordained for us to walk in as the very workmanship of God IN Christ Jesus. So much of what goes on in Christendom is NOT from this wonderful place of resting in Christ, but rather from doing church programs or even people reading the Bible and seeing how the early church “did church” and then running out to go make it happen with a new program by their own self-willed strength. Take this catchy phrase for instance, “What would Jesus do?” It seems like a good idea at face value, doesn’t it? But in the economy of the Father it is NOT about what Jesus would do as if we could duplicate it, but WHAT JESUS IS DOING NOW AS WE ABIDE IN HIM!!! Until we see ourselves siting in the presence of the Father IN Christ and resting in HIS completed works, we will never see what Jesus IS doing and fall into alignment with that.

    The second thing I would like to bring up is this phrase, “The Word of God.” Most Christians if asked what the Word of God is, they without hesitation will say, “The Word of God is the Bible!” But, does the New Covenant say that the Word of God is the scriptures? Take this passage in Hebrews chapter four which most quote to point to the power if the Bible in our lives, ” For the word of God is LIVING, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and IS A DISCERNER of the thoughts and intents of the heart. NEITHER IS THERE ANY CREATURE THAT IS NOT MANIFEST IN HIS SIGHT: BUT ALL THINGS ARE NAKED WITH WHOM WE HAVE TO DO. Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God…” What bothers me is how so many of us have put OUR understanding of the scriptures in the place of Christ HIMSELF and do not rely on the Spirit of Truth to open them unto us but rather lean on our own understanding or that of our church leaders. It is Jesus, the Word of God, that looks deep into our hearts and judges our motives, not the Bible. The Bible as valuable as it is, is an intimate object and unless the Spirit whom Jesus sent in His place uses it to lead us into all truth we will be as blind as the Jews were who killed Him thinking they were doing God a service! We NEED the abiding Holy Spirit in us to be our light. He is not an option to be added on later to our salvation when we get around to it (See Romans 8:9). In many church circles the Holy Spirit represents gifts to them, but He is so much more than that! Once we are obedient to the Spirit of Truth, all these other things take their proper place as HE wills (see 1 Cor. 12:11).

    Keep on listening to Him, my brother, and share on here as He leads. You are a blessing!
    Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Dan for sharing your heart with us. God’s word is life changing, as it should be.

    *All Scripture, whether the book of Genesis or Matthew or Revelation, comes from the same source—the mouth of God. (Isaiah 55:11) The Bible was not devised by man—it is “God-breathed”!

    I like this verse too, “When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what is really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” (I Thessalonians 2:13)

    *Kay Arthur, How to Study the Bible

    Love you…you are a blessing. Mary West

    Like

  3. Hi Dan. I loved Michael’s comments above and there is much merit to them. Michael and I disagree very little though once again I think the manner he and I view the Bible is considerably different. Jesus never diminished the value of scripture and neither should we. I’m not saying Michael is doing this, he quotes and relies upon scripture often in his writings, but ultimately to demean or diminish scripture by anyone is to trust in one’s own heart which Jesus calls wicked and deceitful. In almost every case I have known where an individual diminishes scripture or misuses the verses in 1 Corinthians which refer to the Old Covenant and not the Bible per say, those people end up either deceived into universalism or get caught up into mysticism which stems from the occult. These are very real dangers to which we must remain alert.

    The Bible is not condensed down to four words, WALK BY THE SPIRIT, but an assortment of specific commands to be obeyed. Those include commands of personal responsibility as well as the manner of corporate worship and fellowship. I agree with Michael that simply doing the so-called “right” actions does not suffice, nor does that bring us closer to God personally or even please Him for that matter. The Spirit of God must be revealing the truth, orchestrating the events of our lives and ultimately leading us to obey His will for our lives. Most of what we have previously thought was God’s will really wasn’t because it stemmed from our own thoughts, mind, strength and motives- you get it, from us! That’s not a good thing despite what it looks like.

    I loved your questions Dan and over time I have been taught some of those answers. I have also learned that in most cases it is better for you to discover them for yourself- provided you’re on the right side of the cross- meaning on it. A dead man has no agenda- even his convictions are wrought in what his Lord desires for his or her life.

    In my personal opinion, anyone who in any way diminishes or discounts the Bible in any way does the body of Christ and extreme disservice. To do so is to disconnect God’s spoken words from God Himself- an impossibility. As God has clearly spoken, both He and His Words will last forever! (the origin of His words whether spoken or written is irrelevant)
    We only need to look over history to see the innumerable attempts to rid the world of this book we call the Bible, attempts to pervert it galore and the many false professors who twist it to their own destruction. Yet just like the Jewish people, His Words just won’t go away! Is this a coincidence!

    Just because so many have become obsessed with an intellectual pursuit of religion does not warrant a neglect nor diminishing of God’s written words. What is needed is men who can properly interpret scriptures true original meaning in context and teach that to others less mature in the faith. In a roundabout way, that is what our sites and blogs actually help us to do.

    There are a thousand reasons to hold tight and dear the scriptures and bring to remembrance these things often one to another. Peter spoke of this, and David gives us another 176 reasons in Psalm 119.

    A last reason for not diminishing nor neglecting the scriptures is this: Today’s false streams of religion, one of which is what has been called The Emergent Church has done this very thing and exchanged a reliance upon scripture and the certainty of knowing truth (by scripture) with doubt and mystery. In their eyes, this allows for a subjective understanding of truth outside of the written word which equates to personal revelations and judgments from and about God. That is not just where religion is heading in this world, that’s where we already are! Do you really want to advance this agenda in any way whatsoever. I don’t.

    The more mature may not need to be reliant upon the Bible as they once were. I’m not here to judge those who think so. But the immature do not know how to walk by the Spirit, they need to be taught to sit at the feet of Jesus. They do that in one very specific manner, by placing themselves in environments where growth can occur. Whether that is reading His words, praying with others or having fellowship, it is these avenues which manifest Jesus unto us. We aren’t necessarily attempting to do anything, especially for Him…..”But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

    Like

  4. For someone who is starting over, I believe you have a pretty good grasp upon what our Father is calling you to Dan- Himself! Unlike religion, the cost of which is your life, love and liberty, Jesus restores all of these things in Himself and enables you to fly as never before. Many will attempt to draw you back to what was, but to those once imprisoned who now taste freedom- that cost is minimal compared to sharing in His marvelous glory and grace.
    Did I mention “you have a way with words” Dan. Ever written any songs?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s