21 April 2012

Misconceptions About Being Close to God: Part 1

There is a clamoring in our hearts to sense the presence of God. We want to be awake to God’s company, His voice, His leading. Rooted in us is a longing to “be close to God.”  But what is supposed to stir up this awareness?  There seems to be an array of answers to this question.  Here are the typical answers delivered in the most widely digested Christian books and sermons:

  • Spiritual Disciplines: “Hiding God’s word in your heart” (scripture memorization), “On-fire prayer life” (longer, desperate, expectant, dependent), “Get into the Word” (regularly studying, feasting on deeper theology).            
  • Connect to the Spirit “Let the Holy Spirit guide you” (deciphering between your own internal voice and God’s voice), “See God’s activity” (learn to notice personal messages and circumstances where God is speaking to you)
  • Identity in Christ “Rehearse your identity in God” (I’m loved, I’m God’s treasure, I’m his beloved, I’m not condemned) “Know your True Self” (walk through your emotional wounds, experience therapeutic prayer and counsel)
  • Serve God“Find you gift” (Use your gift to serve the church), “Find your passion” (youth, men’s issues, woman’s issues, social justice, worship etc)
  • Surrender Everything“Be Sold Out for God” (An intense effort to give God glory by becoming more committed through every decision you make)

    I'm convinced all these prescriptions are partial remedies for closeness with God.  In part, these prescriptions have a greater impact on increasing spiritual narcissism then they do closeness with Jesus. They create a spiritual trajectory of individualism.  In some sense they funnel us toward a corner of spiritual self-actualization and going deeper into ourselves.  Yes, most of the common answers here have an element of truth and a portion of effectualness in connecting us to God.  You can find verses to support each one.  But when slices are taken out of the narrative of scripture and blown up as the whole they end up sabotaging genuine transformation.  Subscribing to the pursuit of spinning all these plates simultaneously hollows us out slowly.  I’ve suspected that in response to this reality people either 1. Give up out of disillusionment,  2. Try to convince themselves psychologically they are feeling something with God against their questions and best instincts,  3. They have to continually tell themselves to remember faithfulness and obedience is what counts not feelings.

    I don’t have the attention span right now to unpack in what I think should be put in place, I will in my next post.  But here is a clue: I think the answer can be found in the life of Jesus but more specifically in Luke 15:1-24.  I believe that Jesus addresses the whole drama of scripture, the misconceptions about how closeness with God functions and what direction we should head in.  In Luke 15 Jesus asks us to rethink the primary ways we relate with God..  He illustrates for us the larger story, the whole story of what it means to "be close to God."

    Check back for part 2.

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