What are we left with?
(post 10 of 10 in The "S" Word series)
Thanks for following along with me these last 10 weeks. I’ve really enjoyed the journey and I appreciate the feedback and dialogue along the way.
I thought I would end this series with a question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:
“If we can’t hear from God and there is no power to our faith, what are we left with?”
If we can’t have an interactive relationship with God… the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and there is no supernatural component of power that is evidenced in our lives to those around us (power to bring transformation, power to love, power to heal)... then what are we left with?
Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
We are left with Doctrine/Theology: Because of the scriptures, we can know a lot about God. Doctrine and theology are crucial and foundational to our faith. With the scriptures, we have truth, and as we know, the truth will set us free. The ironic thing that I’m beginning to see more clearly, is that the scriptures show us a God communicating with his people throughout the entire narrative. John Eldredge says it well in his book Moving Mountains,
“I realize that many dear followers of Christ have been taught that God only speaks to his sons and daughters through the Bible. The irony of that theology is this: that’s not what the Bible teaches! The Scriptures are filled with stories of God speaking to his people—intimately, personally. Adam and Eve spoke with God. As did Abraham, Moses, and Elijah. So did Noah, Gideon, Aaron, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ananias, and the apostle Paul. On and on the examples go.”
Not only do we see numerous examples of God speaking and interacting with humanity, but God’s power is also evident in the scriptures, especially in the life of Jesus, the disciples, the early church, the life and ministry of Paul, and in the vision that Jesus gave us for how to live.
We are left with Morality: Like theology, morality is important, vital, and good. In many ways, morality is built on our theology and the truth laid out in the scriptures. Whether there is a right and wrong is something that is fiercely debated in our culture right now, but within the church I would say that morality is something we all value as followers of Jesus. Of course there is debate about what things are right and wrong, but on the whole, morality is important.
We are left with Religious Activity: Going to church, Bible study, small group, etc. All of these are good things. All of these things can become “religious” when we are just going through the motions, but disciplines and rhythms are transformative and being a part of a community is vital.
That’s the best I could come up with so far. Am I missing anything?
Those three are all good things. They aren’t bad. But here is the question: if that’s all we have- doctrine, morality, and religious activity… is that enough? Is that what we want to be known for and what we have to offer the world?
Another way to look at this is that the three things above should naturally lead to interactive relationship with God and a life marked by power. Why? Well the Eldredge quote from above is a huge reason, because the Bible (Doctrine & Theology) tells us so. If we believe the scriptures, the scriptures tell us that God communicates with his people. They also tell us that Jesus promises an empowered life when he sends the Holy Spirit. Paul also talks a great deal about living a life marked by power. With morality, we recognize our need for God because of our moral failure. From there, the scriptures again guide us in understanding God’s moral transformation project. We gain a vision of how interactive relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God’s power, along with our intentional effort to pursue intimacy with God and create space for God’s Spirit, all lead to transformation. Finally, we have an inherent need for community and relationships that is backed up in the scriptures so we don’t live life or walk the journey of faith alone. Because of this we put community rhythms in place (Religious Activities) and through those we experience the power and mystery of the body of Christ.
Let me ask you a few questions:
Is interactive relationship with the Trinity a common experience in your faith community? Do you hear those around you talking about how they hear from God?
Do you experience God’s transformational power in your own life and do you see it evident in the lives of your close friends? Do your best friends that follow Jesus live with an expectation that because the Holy Spirit lives inside of them and because they are sons and daughters of the King, that they have full access to the power and resources of the Kingdom of God? Do you discuss the power you have in Jesus through the Holy Spirit?
If your answers to most of the questions above are “No”, please don’t feel bad about that. There are many good reasons to explain why: Fear. Abuse. Didn’t know that it was possible. Lack of experience. Certain theological paradigms.
For me, like I’ve shared many times throughout this series, my answers were “No” for two reasons:
I didn’t know that it was possible
I didn’t have any experience
I didn’t know it was possible to hear from God until six years ago. I was never given a vision for it, nobody modeled it for me, and nobody showed me how.
And power wasn’t even on my radar until a few years ago. I’m sure I’m forgetting something along the way, but when I look back on the years since I made a decision to follow Jesus, in 16 years of church, Christian conferences and Christian College, I don’t remember any teaching regarding the reality of the power of God and I know for certain I didn’t have any experiences of it.
As we conclude this series, would you allow me to step up onto my Soapbox for a moment? :)
My friends, the reality is that we were created for interactive relationship with our Creator. The Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that descended on Jesus and came to the disciples in the upper room, that same Spirit, indwells us. Jesus proclaimed repeatedly that the Kingdom is at hand and available. Paul reminds us that we are sons and daughters of the King and co-heirs with Jesus. Because of this new identity, this means we have access to the King and the resources of the Kingdom.
We’ve got the Doctrine, Morality, and Religious Activity stuff down. We are so good at those three things, and those three things are good. We should continue to pursue them. But there is more.
I think the thing that is most dangerous about those three good things, is that we can actually do them in our own power. Because of that, the result is lives that are natural, not supernatural.
When Jesus told Nicodemus, a wise and respected religious leader that he needed to be born again, and that being born again would allow him to see and enter the Kingdom of God, a natural life is not what Jesus had in mind. “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to Spirit.” Jesus is referring to a supernatural life.
A naturally supernatural life is possible, my friends.
Let’s go live one, what do you say?