"Do we really allow ourselves to draw near to the consuming nature of the Divine Lordship [of Jesus].
Christopher Heurtz, from his book, Simple Spirituality
The essence of a practical faith is to truly experience God. Not to know about God, but to know God and be known by God. The gospels tell the story about a woman who had bleeding problems for over twelve years (Lk 8:42-48). In the midst of a huge crowd that is described as nearly crushing Jesus, this suffering woman dared to reach out and touch Jesus. The result of our bold and trusting move was a healing connection. Others were close to him, but few actually touched him. This is what can happen in our faith communities where we talk about Jesus, discuss Jesus things, see Jesus moving, but never develop intimacy. We instinctively know that healing and intimacy is possible, but render the practical experience as impossible.
I believe that we all struggle with this tendency to want to see Jesus work and act, but avoiding a real encounter. We want superman, who can swoop in and save the day without developing a true relationship. Relationships provoke accountability and responsibility.
Using concepts identified by Christian Activist Christopher Heuertz, I want to suggest five real hurdles from knowing and recognizing God in our lives.
1. Our Pride and Arrogance. The self-righteous rarely see God. They mostly see themselves and seek a god that is made in their image. Pride is based upon both ignorance (What you don't know) and arrogance (what you think you know). It inflates our self of worth and greatly limits our ability to experience God as God shuns pride. (Proverbs 16:5)
2. Our individuality and independence. Throughout Scripture, God is trying to develop communities where we experience him through one another. The suburbanization of the American lifestyle has led to an increasingly lonely and isolated life. We want to experience God on our own but God wants us to experience Him through our relationship with Him as well as recognizing His presence among others.
3. Greed and Excess: Materialism that defines us as consumers. This error forces us to see God as the provider of things for our comfort. Materialism is a horrific slavedriver and is never satisfied. Jesus knew this when he challenged his followers to chose between God or money/materials, because only one can be followed (Lk 16:13). This is why those who espouse a prosperity gospel miss the point.
4. Power and Control: This is the need to control the people and the events around me. It is the desire to manipulate that we often think comes from have money or positon or acclaim. Yet, God says that his strength is made perfect in our wekaness (II Cor 12:9). Surrender is the key to intimacy in most relationships, including the divine.
5. Triumphalism and Defiance: This is the mistaken belief that we are responsible for our own autonomy and that the paths we make are from our own effort and giftedness. We ignore the providential care of God, and therefore are unable to recognize his presence. We unconsciously attempt to co-opt the Glory of God (Is 48:11).
Perhaps you can see some of these obstacles in your own life. I am so excited that God provides grace (underserved gift) to us that allows us to overcome each of these areas so that we can experience him more fully and the joy that comes from His presence in our lives.
I will share those disciplines of grace in part two of this blog. Until then, take time to ask God to show you obstacles that are hindering your spiritual maturity and your relationship with him. Knowing is the first step in repenting and renouncing.
I pray that you experience the presence and power of God in a profound way today.
Pastor M Traylor