Over the years I have been guilty of impersonalizing the cross, the death of Christ. When I remember that Christ died for me, some small voice inside (probably not from me, if you know what I mean) points out that He didn't die JUST for me but for everyone. Thankfully, another small voice has started to speak up and say, “But if it had been just you, He still would have died for you.” I know that voice is not my own, either, and that’s the voice that is welcome.
At our wonderful new church (well, the Spirit flowing through it), we are doing a church-wide Bible study on revival: Seeking Him. Our inspired worship leader spoke one day about His reflection on the study to date. He said he was going to ask his small-group study mates when they felt closest to God. Evidently his wife made some unfiltered commentary about the question, and they agreed it was a silly question because they’ve never felt closer to God than during this study. Well, I have to argue that it’s not a silly question.
I’m sure I’m not alone. This may become the time in my life so far that I draw nearest to God, but it’s not that time yet. The truth is I’ve been pretty far from God of late. In fact, I’ve been asking myself over and over why I can’t seem to find that relationship I had before. Here’s a hint: I’ve been asking myself. I’ve been relying on myself, what I do, what I make time for. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and in the relationship between you and God, you will ALWAYS be the weakest link, so remove yourself from the equation. Give yourself entirely to God.
So when was I closest to God?
Most of you are not surprised to hear that time was Mikey’s first year of life. I wrote time and time again of the lessons God was teaching me about giving everything to Him, leaning not on my understanding and most definitely not relying on my own strength. What was different between then and now? I had no choice but to lean on God. Isn’t that when many of us realize what the cross was all about?
James MacDonald, from Walk in the Word, thinks so. He thinks we are sheep, and, in his words, sheep are “stubborn, stupid and selfish.” I know I am. Rarely is a person more stubborn, stupid and selfish than after they overcome a huge crisis and forget what (or Who) got them through. Yep, I actually patted myself on the back after getting through all that. Wow. That confession leads perfectly to my next point. God is busy in my heart and mind today.
Pride. Referring back to the study on revival, the first lesson is pride and its many innocent-looking forms. I don’t think anyone in our congregation has not been convicted of some form of pride they didn’t even realize was pride. I know I’m blind to pride because I see passion or information or something else valuable. More often than not, God uses those around me to intellectually or emotionally bludgeon me when I make this error. For a while, the lesson is learned. Then the bruises go away and I (stubbornly, stupidly, often selfishly) act blindly out of pride again. New bruises.
Only recently, with the power of God flowing through the Seeking Him study, have I put this all together. Have I stopped acting out of pride? No. I still lie to myself (or something else lies to me) and post or speak without checking with God first, even when I have reservations. Eh…we live, we learn. When we know better, we do better. I’m not perfect; I’m a sinner. I’m okay with that, as long as I continue to draw closer to God and act accordingly.
So what do we do about being sheep?
Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27 ESV) How do I know His voice if I don’t listen to it on a regular basis, take it in, commit it to memory? How can I follow Him if I don’t know His voice? How can I learn His voice?
Guess what? Nothing you haven’t heard before, even from me. You have to talk to God and spend ‘real’ time in the Word, taking it to heart. Actively committing a verse at a time to memory doesn’t hurt either (not that I take my own advice there…yet).
If this seems a little abrasive, know that I’m talking to myself and sharing that conversation with you. I believe that sharing some of the ways God convicts me can help others. God has certainly used others’ experiences to guide me. As I type, I pray that these words are authorized by – if not authored by – Him.
I took quite the journey in this post, covering a number of areas of opportunity in my heart. (Notice I say “opportunity” instead of “weakness.” That’s a trick I learned in my Human Resource Management studies. Doesn’t it change your emotional response? I feel positive and motivated to improve rather than beaten down and powerless.) My point was not to lecture anyone on those specific issues, though I always find it good practice to see if others’ opportunities might also be my own. I want to point out that we have tools always available to us to improve ourselves and identify sin before we step in it.
Remember that we are all sheep. We are all stubborn, stupid and selfish, but we have a Shepherd. His name is Jesus. If we learn His voice and listen for it (keep the lines of communication open and check in regularly), we will not be led astray.