I once thought that in order to experience the living Spirit of God, it’s a good idea to lay aside secondhand preconceived ideas about him. I no longer think that it’s just a good idea. I am now convinced that it’s a requirement. It simply won’t work the other way.
There are too many that rush into their calling without being personally equipped and commissioned by Jesus Christ, and the results speak for themselves. We don’t know how to hear God’s voice with clarity, we don’t know how to defeat the enemy with predictable results, we don’t know how to influence people on the heart level.
Apostle Paul went to a desert immediately after conversion, and didn’t come out till he met Jesus face to face. Our conventional wisdom today would have told him to become part of a local church right away. Paul did do that in a few years, but not until he experimentally connected with living Christ. Apparently, being in a desert with Jesus offered him more that being in Jerusalem with the other apostles.
What came out of that time alone with God defies explanation. Years later, he went back to Jerusalem, and set Peter, James, and John straight on the truths that they were blind to. And he also wrote 2/3 of the New Testament too, and even Peter later admitted in one of his epistles that he himself was having a hard time understanding Paul’s revelation. Not a bad investment of a few years of apparent downtime and inactivity for Paul.
Jesus spent 30 years in communion with the Father, and subsequently he changed the world in 3.5 years. Sometimes that’s what it takes to be prepared and equipped. Just make sure that you are spending time with the father, passionately pushing into the realm of heaven, and not just passively sitting and waiting for the blessing to drop out of the sky. Grace is free, but don’t let anyone tell you that it doesn’t take time, commitment, sacrifice (in a good healthy sense of this word), and dedication to take hold of it.
What happened in the desert is Paul emptying himself of all his religious baggage, and God filling him anew with himself. It can be a confusing and uncertain process, as we wean off the systems of this world and move over to the kingdom of God. We learn to see how he sees, hear how he hears, love like he loves, and minister love, life, healing, beauty, and abundance like he does. You can’t short-circuit this process. You have to stay the course.
On the strength of those 3 years with Jesus, Paul nearly single-handedly changed the course of human history in the ensuing couple of decades. You don’t hear about the other apostles after Acts 15. Most of the New Testament practices that you and I observe, including communion, came from a guy who talked with the spirit of Jesus as you and I would with a human in the flesh. You better hope that he wasn’t tripping on LSD or shrooms (some Christians today believe that stuff like that the only way to see in the spirit).
That level of relationship wasn’t just reserved for Paul. That’s normal Christianity. That’s something that really excites me. Along with healing the sick, raising the dead, and knowing the kinds of things that I I couldn’t have known apart from the supernatural revelation. And growing the kind of love that really changes this world, one heart at a time.
At some point, make-believe Christianity has to make room for the living spirit of God. Otherwise all we got is empty doctrine. And honestly, I really don’t think that mere mental assent has any power to save anyone. A parrot can be trained to recite the sinner’s prayer, but his heart won’t change.
When you graduate from this personal master-class with God, you will know with absolute clarity what your calling is. You won’t need any paperwork to ascertain your membership status. You won’t need anyone to lay their hands on you to commission and ordain you. If Jesus’ hand is not on you in a way that you know for sure, why waste your time gaining the approval and recognition of men anyway? That’s the path to wasted years and to lingering in the desert of one’s own making.
Being angry with religion is not the same as being of the same mind with Jesus. Religion is an impersonal system of control, part of the worldly matrix. It’s an illusion that seduces even the elect and keeps many captive through its empty promises. All you have to do to come out is to change your mindset. In the words of Morpheus – “free your mind”. As you take the red pill from the hand of Jesus, your eyes will open up, all the rest will simply follow out of that. You can’t stay angry at something that no longer has any power or control over you. That’s a process, but it has an end to it.
Once we are trained, equipped, and commissioned by Jesus, we won’t need to worry about the platform, finances, and being known and reached out to. Those things are the by-product of the new you. Think Curry Blake, Pete Cabrera, David Joseph (aka “praying medic”), Michael Van Vlymen, Todd White, Dan Mohler, and scores of others. They don’t seek out after people. People reach out to them.
Many of us don’t come into the fullness of the new creation, trying to short-circuit the development and maturing process, substituting it with various attendances, memberships, and other involvements, all of which are rooted in our old selves. If you are naturally strong person, you can run on that charge for years. But eventually even that fizzles out. Sure, good things can come out even of that. But more often that not, what we end up birthing turns out to be just another Ishmael for the most part, which ends up getting banished to the desert right around the time when we run out of steam.
That’s the missing aspect of stewardship of our God-given talents in so many churches – pastors getting burnt out and quitting, power struggles fragmenting groups of believers, churches splitting. It’s much better to structure our faith lives in such a way that what we produce is born of God, is shepherded and taken care by God from the get-go, it doesn’t drain our strength and keep us awake at night. It may take years to develop that level of God-character, but the payoff is worth it. You want to be strong, joyful, and ready to go 5, 10, and 20 years down the road. Think Brian Tome, Bill Hybels, and Andy Stanley.
My goal is to have a sustainable, deeply personal, tangibly reciprocal relationship with God. I strive to build relationships with like-minded people, so that we can encourage each other in our pursuits.
I am no longer excited being part of organizations where all you do is look at the head of the person next to you for an hour or more, and listen to the same person week after week tell everyone what they have presumably received from God. There’s maybe nothing wrong with that per se, it just doesn’t do it for me anymore. Being a small circle on someone’s orgchart no longer holds any appeal to me whatsoever.
That’s why I value being part of a family much more than I value being part of an organization. Usually with churches the two go hand-in-hand, but one of the two aspects usually prevails quite clearly. If you have to submit your relationship with God under someone’s purview, and if you lose your right of voice on an equal footing with everyone else, then this organizational membership can do more harm than good.
I believe in free sons and daughters of God coming alongside each other and fulfilling their calling, as they are called and led, without anyone pushing, prodding, goading, shaming, guilting, or a combination thereof. I don’t need anyone to make up my mind for me. That’s the role I am reserving for Jesus Christ.
Anyway, that’s how I view things at this point of my walk with God. Your walk with God, and your view may be different. But this is my story, and I’m sticking with it.