It’s All About Experiencing God Today, Not About Obedience
The average Christian, or person who says they are a Christian, or someone who at least attends church on occasion but may not actually be a Christian, appears to be more interested in experiencing God than offering themselves as obedient individuals to the truth of His Word. If you’re not feeling giddy about God, then apparently, you’re not doing things correctly.
Obedience is not something that today’s average Christian or church-goer relates to in our progressive culture, but there’s plenty of chasing after feelings to go ’round.
In fact, the Bible is often questioned a great deal today, regarding its veracity, integrity, and truth. People are more likely to interpret the Bible against the political correctness of today’s culture than against the actual culture in which the Bible was originally penned. People are also far more apt to use the old one verse here, one verse there proof-text method to determine their own peculiar truth. The idea of studying all of God’s Word so that it can interpret itself is something that is rarely undertaken.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, holy men of old wrote God’s Word (2 Peter 1:21), and with finality, God spoke through God the Son, Jesus. The Bible contains God’s truth.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. – Hebrews 1:1-2
Yet, this is not enough for modern people, obviously far more intelligent and discerning than first century Christians. Today’s jet-setting, technologically oriented, renaissance person is adept at all the things our first century counterparts were apparently not. More’s the pity.
Today, it is common to claim that the Word of God (the Bible), is not the ultimate truth for all things pertaining to life and holiness. We’re not to say and certainly not believe, with the writer of Hebrews that “…the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). That is way too passé and outmoded. Today’s individual is better than that, right? We need to move beyond our antiquated beliefs that rest in some book written by “man” from generations ago. It is preferred for people to move into the constantly fluctuating arena of experience, which has replaced the authority of God’s written Word.
Recently, a multi-day conference called “Passion 2017” took place, in which roughly 50,000 young people (aged 18 to 25) participated. Apparently, the cost to enter was $209 per person at the door, but what a line-up of celebrity “professional” Christian leaders were on hand!
Christine Caine was there. For those who don’t know, she is an activist, an evangelist, and an international speaker from Australia and yes, she speaks before groups made up of men and women. Paul the apostle has nothing on her. There is a huge difference between evangelism and preaching and many women today don’t seem to appreciate that difference at all. Moreover, too many men go along with it and end up deferring to these women.
Caine is connected to Hillsong Church. Hillsong Church has its own set of questionable practices and poor theology, but we’ll take that up another time. In the meantime, Caine is just one of a large group of loosely knit women throughout the world who believe God has spoken to them and called them into specific ministries where they often speak or preach before groups of men and women. Is that biblical? If you’re a feminist, you’ll hate the answer, but if you’re curious, you can check out the series we’ve just started that answers this question and others related to gender-specific roles in God’s program in, “Did God Really Say?”
Other headliners of this conference included:
- Beth Moore
- Carl Lentz
- Louis Giglio
- Charles Stanley
- John Piper
- Levi Lesko
- Francis Chan
On their website, the folks who put Passion 2017 together have this to say about it.
To live in such a way that their journey on earth counts for what is most important in the end. For us at Passion, that’s the fame of the One who rescues and restores, and the privilege we have to amplify His name in everything we do.
While we host large gatherings, Passion is more than a conference. More than an event. More than a feeling. Passion is you and me saying goodbye to lesser things and saying yes to Jesus, the One whose name is above every name.
I’m sorry, but what? Judging by some of the individuals slated to speak before the large crowd of attendees, it could really mean anything.
A person doesn’t have to have passion to obey the Lord anymore than he/she has to have passion to obey parents or supervisors. He/she has to have faith that stems from a commitment made. While passion can help, people can also become way too dependent on it as a feeling. In the end, the Lord is looking for Christians who are obedient regardless of how they might feel about it, and that type of obedience often comes with a price. But in today’s day and age, people want emotional fulfillment, which is always fleeting and unstable.
Can you imagine being married to someone and expecting every day with them to be filled with unending bliss? If that was the expectation, divorce rates would be sky-high. Oh wait, they are sky-high due to those pesky “irreconcilable differences” that often occur when two people just don’t “feel” like they love each other anymore. It’s all because people have been relying on how they “feel” about another human being or how they perceive that other human being feels about them.
Unfortunately, most don’t understand that love is frequently a verb when used in Scripture and is evidenced by our actions toward God and others (1 John 4:7-8). If we wait for the feeling of love to come along, we’ll probably be waiting awhile. Actions should often precede feelings and are, sometimes, the results of our actions. However, conferences like Passion 2017 attempt to put the cart before the horse by getting people pumped up. That never works, because it lacks real staying power.
Passion 2017 simply supports the incorrect notion that our feelings are the best barometer of our love for God in Christ and that our lives should be guided by emotion. If we don’t feel like we are ecstatically in love with Jesus all the time, then we tend to think we are not doing things correctly. This is not what Scripture teaches. The Christian life is lived through faith, not through feeling.
Recall when you were a kid and your parents wanted you to do some chores. You may have put them off for as long as you could. Eventually, you did them but maybe under duress, or you did not do them and punishment came your way. But did this mean that you didn’t love your parents? You probably felt like you didn’t love them or they loved you (they were so mean!), but in reality you were simply being selfish due to immaturity. Now looking back, you know the chores given to you were not due to your parents not loving you. You simply hadn’t matured enough to know that they loved you and expected you to obey because while you were a kid, they knew what was best for you. They were also trying to mature you by giving you responsibilities.
As you grew in maturity you became more responsible (hopefully). You still probably didn’t have a great deal of passion for chores. But you came to realize that by doing those chores, you were being mature and exhibiting love toward your parents (obedience), regardless of how you felt about the chores themselves. You realized that obedience resulted in an increased maturity that didn’t normally include ecstatic feelings about the chores.
When I do things around the house to help my wife, I’m normally not skipping and whistling Dixie. I don’t usually have a great deal of passion about it, but I don’t pout about it either. I do chores with purpose because there is this sense within that I want to help. If I see dishes in the sink, I’ll wash them or put them in the dishwasher. If the laundry needs doing, I’m not above sorting it and starting a load.
As I say, I don’t do these things with high-flying energy. I simply do them because it’s not fair to expect my wife to do them all by herself. That would be selfish. My helping around the home shows my love whether I feel euphoric over it or not. I also realized that this was important for our son to see as he grew up. He needed to see me doing chores for the sake of his growth so that hopefully, one day he would take up the same attitude when he married. Children learn what they see lived.
I also don’t need to attend conferences that create passion about doing chores around the home (if those conferences actually existed). I want my wife to know I care about her so rather than just using words, my actions prove it (hopefully) to her. I look around and see what needs to be done. I “study” the landscape of the home and notice things. In this way, I’m also being obedient to the commands of Scripture that husbands should love their wives (Ephesians 5:28). I don’t wait for waves of mania to catapult me into doing these tasks at home. There is a need, and if and when I can, I take care of that need. It’s often perfunctory, but it’s done to be obedient to the Lord. I do them without complaint.
It’s that simple really and it is how our Christian lives should be lived. God will certainly empower us whether we feel it or not. Our motivation should come from our biblical knowledge of His Word. We shouldn’t need to be “pumped up” with lively music and one speaker after another shouting rah, rah, rah, sis, boom bah, to do what God expects us to do. It should come from our time spent with the Lord in prayer and study of His Word. We should simply “do it” because He says so.
Our relationship with Jesus is based (or should be based) on how we act (think, speak, and live = love), because of what we know from His Word. Because we are grateful and because we love Him for what He accomplished on our behalf (not to mention the fact that we love Him only because He first loved us; 1 John 4:19), we should certainly want to live the way that pleases Him, whether we feel like it all the time or not. None of this depends on how we feel about our relationship with Him. The relationship exists (if we are truly saved), whether we feel it or not and we should not need to wait until we feel something before we are obedient. I’m married, whether I feel it or not so I act accordingly and it is based on my commitment to my wife. The same applies to our relationship with the Lord.
I watched a video yesterday that featured evangelist and preacher Beth Moore relating how she said God directed her to go a particular bus stop with some money and He would show her who to give the money to once there. She gleefully stated how much she loved Him as she jumped around the stage. Moore has become quite the entertainer and stand-up comedienne these days.
But I was wondering why she said she loved Him so much? Was it because of the ecstatic experience she was involved in where she believed she had been ethereally directed by God to a bus station with money to wait for further instructions like something out of a Mission Impossible scenario? She even admitted that she had doubted herself and wondered if she had made the whole thing up in her mind. Maybe God hadn’t really spoken to her in the first place. She then said that even if she had made it up, God wouldn’t be angry with her for it and for doing something she thought she had been directed to do by Him. Okay, Ms. Moore, if you say so though there is her claim that God told her…
The truth seems to be that people are so enamored with their emotions today and that seems to be the mark of the average individual within today’s seeker-sensitive culture. Society in general has become emotionally dependent on emotions and it has certainly filtered into the church.
My wife and I have personally left churches that tried to use of high-energy rock music and the desperate pleas of the worship leader to jump and dance in the aisle as a means of “true” worship. Anyone can get caught up in music, clapping, and the energy of the situation, but that does not normally carry over to the more pedestrian and routine aspects of our lives. It’s an emotional high that cannot be sustained.
What we are seeing today used to be confined to the Charismatic Movement in the 1960’s and 70’s, where the emphasis was on the sign gifts and how they made people feel toward God. Today, it’s still Charismatic mania, but it’s simply not called that and the emphasis has moved from speaking in tongues, to trying to hear God’s voice. The same subjectivity rules both situations.
Leaders and teachers today are telling us that God speaks to us if we will simply listen to Him. We have to learn to tune into His voice (while filtering out all the others), and after a while, our relationship will become just as real to us as our other relationships. God will speak and we’ll be so excited, we’ll just do whatever that inner “voice” tells us (and with giddiness!), and the Bible takes a back seat. This is exactly what Satan wants because once we begin to lean and depend on our emotions for guidance, we have absolutely no need for His written Word any longer.
The truth though is that God does not normally guide with His “voice” these days, but with His Word and through circumstances (opening or closing doors). Why did God have to allegedly tell Beth Moore to bring money and go to a bus station way out of her way? There was no one closer to that woman? Did she not attend church? Did she have no Christian friends? It took Beth Moore to do it? Something’s fishy here. I’d like to hear from that woman. I wonder where she is and what she’d say…if she actually exists?
I’m fearful for this generation of people, both young and old. There is little to no discernment because people are not willing to spend time with God in His Word. That is how we get to know God, through His Word. It is to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” (2 Timothy 2:15). It’s studying, not seeking a voice. The type of study God is speaking about here through Paul to Timothy is the result of spending time with the Bible, reading it, studying it, and searching its pages. God will direct us through the Holy Spirit as He illuminates the Word. He will also insist that we obey what we learn from His Word. If we are not willing to obey what the written Word tells us plainly, why should we think that God will speak to us apart from His Word as a “voice”?
Conferences like Passion 2017 are geared to create highs for people; to pump people up emotionally, and unfortunately, to enrich certain people (50,000 times $209 = $10,450,000). Folks attending get caught up in the energy of the situation. When the conference ends, so too, do the emotional highs, bringing people back to the mundane. When emotions fade, people start believing they don’t love God anymore or worse, He doesn’t love them. They lose their “connection” and must attend more conferences to get it back. They don’t open the Word. Instead, they seek more conferences because they have itching ears. It’s no different from the Charismatic Renewal and the many conferences of several decades ago that I was part of then, but have long since rejected.
Satan uses tried and true methods that have worked from one generation to the next. He doesn’t really have to change much about them except the name and style of the movement (Toronto Blessing, Holy Laughter, etc.). Everything else generally remains the same; the style of music, the “words of knowledge,” the attending “prophets and apostles” who speak for God to the rest of us, and though it is stated that God is allegedly always doing “something new,” there is never any lasting value to any of it. No permanent changes occur in people who attend and no real change happens in any of the communities in which these conferences or movements occur.
It’s one big exciting event to be sure, that fades soon after it ends. That tells us whether or not God is in these events in the first place. It’s not how much energy is associated with the events. It’s the type of permanent change that occurs to individuals because of the events.
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