Sometimes we assume too much about how far we have traveled down the road of spiritual maturity. We assume that we have gone farther than we actually have. We talk with too much confidence about what we know; pretend at having more insight than we actually possess; greater wisdom than we have actually attained. I know that has been a part of my story. I have learned a few lessons along the way, but I try and remind myself that if I am not careful I can slip back into bad patterns of living.
The danger we all face on this journey toward God is overestimating our growth, trying to comfort ourselves in how much we have grown so we don’t have to think about how far we still have to go. I think we should rather rejoice in the transformation itself because we know that it was not in our own strength that it happened. The rejoicing we should do is not in our efforts to change, but in God’s gracious intervention in our lives to facilitate the change. If we remember where we have been we should not be too quick to forget what it was like to be there.
The longer I live the greater my awareness of how little I truly know–about life, about God, about myself. I would not call it ignorance. It is more like an ever-increasing awakening. I am awakened to my own limitations. Awakened to my own weaknesses. Awakened to how stubborn I truly am to embrace the gracious love of God. It could really be described as obstinance against the promptings of God’s word and Spirit. I know “best” what is going on in my life at any given moment. It’s almost as if those divine impressions are impositions rather than opportunities.
The reason for this tendency has to do with a problem in how we live our lives. For those who claim to believe in God, we do not fully embrace the biggest implication of this idea that God exists. That implication is that if God exists then we should live with a mindset to do as he desires. The scriptures provide us with a multitude of examples that he is not merely interested in a casual relationship with us.
The Gospel is not merely a Hallmark postcard message. It is the wondrous message of God to a fallen world. The Gospel is the story of love first penned in the mind of God and then declared across the cosmos by creation itself. God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to live, die, and be raised again so that we might be redeemed from the penalty of sin, which is death. And then God sealed us with his Holy Spirit so that we would know how much he loves and cares for us. Because of the presence of God’s Spirit within us we are constantly reminded of our adoption as the Spirit helps us and reminds us that we too can cry “Abba, Father” and mean it! And yet, in spite of these two glorious realities, we live our lives as if what God wants is not something we should take into account.
I will grant that the biggest reason for this is how many of us have been trained in or have experienced the church. We have learned after years, even decades, of church attendance that we have to do what we think is best and God will bless our efforts and choices. We have believed lies like “God helps those who help themselves.” The cumulative effect of this has been an inconsistent (at best) dependence on God to guide our lives. We simply do not know how to relate to God. We have become functional Deists. We say we live for God, obey God’s commands, and submit to his will, but in truth, we may have no idea what any of that is. So, we “fake it ’til we make it.”
This is not the way to live as Children of God.
I give thanks for the example of my parents and of a few good friend who have poured truth into my life. They have modeled what living in faith looks like and not just what it means. I have not only heard the truth but I have seen it lived out. As I continue to walk with God, I desire to lean on God more, not less. I recognize how my mind and temperament will do more harm than good.
The work of God within me has been truly miraculous. I see that. I acknowledge that. I can even give glory to God for it. What I must also do, is not become lazy. I must continue to seek after his will. I must continue to surrender to his way. I must continue to put into place the safeguards necessary to keep me focused against the distractions this world offers.
So, in order to stay on course, I have to remember that this is a fight. This is a war. Therefore, I must prepare myself accordingly. And so should you. If you believe that God exists, then you should strive to conform your life to that reality. Don’t talk about God being present in your life and then live as a functional deist. Doing so will only delay your growth. And I don’t know about you, but I hate being late to things!