I get up in the morning, and put on a sermon while I get my son breakfast.
When my little boy goes down for his nap, I read my Bible and journal and sometimes read a Christian blog or book
I listen to sermons in the evenings or listen to Christian music while browsing the net.
I spend a lot of time thinking about and analyzing my walk with Jesus.
I do a lot of things right…
Yet, most of the time, I don’t feel like I experience Jesus – like – really experience him, the way we are supposed to. It’s more like a long distance relationship, rather than a close friend. I know truths about him because I read them in his Word, but not necessarily because I experience these truths – like, I know he is a comforter because I read it in the Bible, but not because I have necessarily experienced him comforting me. Do you know what I mean?
For most of my Christian life, I think I have mostly known about God rather than actually known him. I can talk the talk. I can sit with you and encourage you in your walk with Jesus, and say all the right things with confidence. I can “amen” a good sermon, and get “convicted” and explain some complicated theological issues. I can get passionate about the fact that we are saved by grace, through faith in Christ alone and that in Christ (and only in Christ) we are forgiven and have been given the power to put sin to death, and carry out the Great Commission. I can get so passionate about the idea of the Holy Spirit that literally lives inside of me. The fact that God is for me, so I don’t need to fear anything – even death – in fact, death is gain!
But guess what?
I lie awake at night worrying about the future.
I battle anxiety every day.
I still fear death.
I sometimes feel resentment, even hatred, toward certain people.
I think I am better than some people…
Can you identify? Do you feel like there is a disconnect between what you know in your head to be true, and where you are at in your heart? I’ve talked with others too, and it seems that many of us have a similar story. It seems to be a kind of, epidemic, amongst Christians.
We say God is our first priority, but we spend more time browsing Facebook than we do spending time with Jesus.
We say we believe that God works all things together for our good, yet we are so angry when things don’t go our way.
We say we are meant to love our neighbour as ourselves, yet we ignore the thousands of needy people in our world – in our neighbourhood.
We say our possessions belong to God, yet we cling to them like they are ours and we deserve them.
We say we believe that we are sinners saved by grace, yet we hold onto bitterness rather than forgive from the heart.
We say we hate sin, yet we watch television shows and listen to music that glorifies it.
We say we know Hell is a real place, but we are more worried about being liked than about peoples souls.
We say we believe God could do anything, but we have so little confidence when we pray.
We say we trust Jesus, yet we ignore huge portions of what he says.
We say we believe that the Bible is the living word of God, but we find it dull and boring.
We say we know our identity is in Christ, yet we worry about what others think about us.
For many of us, there is a huge gulf between what we know in our head, and where we are at in our hearts; a difference between what we say, and what we do. If we believe what we say we believe, shouldn’t our lives look a little different? A lot different? Yet, often we are indistinguishable from the rest of the world. We worry about and value the same things as the world. We say we don’t, but our lives reflect what is in our hearts.
When I first became a Christian, I became so hungry to learn about God, and I really did take off in my knowledge about God – I didn’t even do that well in my first year or two of university, because all I did was go to BIble studies and meet with people. I think this was so important for me, but eventually I started to feel like something was missing. I started noticing that even though the Bible said certain things, and I believed them in my head, things weren’t really changing. I was still dealing with many of the same issues, and still not feeling satisfied in my relationship with God.
I have realized that knowing about God, though extremely important, is not the same as knowing God. We can know SO MUCH about God, and yet have such a distant relationship with him (or maybe no relationship at all). Knowing lots, does not guarantee a close relationship. I have been deceived about the state of my own walk with Jesus for so long, and many people thought I was just fine because of how I talked.
Now I am in no way advocating that we throw the Bible away, and start listening for a voice in our head. The Bible, which is the clearest revelation of God that we have, is absolutely essential for intimacy with God – and every other kind of revelation is subject to it. In fact, without the Bible, we would have no clear way of knowing whether the voice in our head is God speaking, or simply indigestion. You can read more about what I have to say on this here. However, God does want us to know him experientially and this is so much more than head knowledge.
My mind is full of knowledge about God, but what I know in my head, does not always translate into a heart that actually believes it and acts on it in confidence. There is a huge gap between what I know in my head to be true, and what I actually believe in my heart, and this results in a kind of double life – saying I trust Jesus, yet not obeying everything he says. Saying God is my exceeding joy, yet not feeling satisfied unless I have a new duvet cover. No matter how hard I try to fill the gap, I can’t. Without realizing it, I was trying to fill it. No wonder I didn’t feel joy, and no wonder I found reading the Bible, and serving God a chore. I was just trying to act like I believed it – when in fact, my heart doubted. The scary thing is that I didn’t really know I was doing this. When you are blind, you don’t know it.
God has been patient with me. A few months ago, it’s like the Holy Spirit started waking me up to all of this – some of it I had not even admitted to myself. Then, a few weeks ago I saw how utterly helpless I am to change my own heart. I can try to conjure up belief if I want to , but it won’t work. I can’t produce joy in God, love for God, faith, or hope or any of the other things that I need in order to live this crazy Christian life. I always knew, in theory, that Jesus is supposed to be the answer to all my problems, but I don’t think I ever really knew what that meant. Fact is, I doubt that Jesus is really the answer – and part of the reason is that I haven’t experienced him the way I feel I am supposed to. This, I haven’t really dealt with.
Ultimately, the root of all of these issues: not finding joy in God, not finding him sufficient, fearing death, dealing with anxiety, unforgiveness etc, is unbelief, which is really rooted even deeper in pride (because all sin is). I used to think that because I can’t make myself believe, I have no part in the process of getting to the point where I do. I have realized that I was deceived in thinking that way. It just caused me to be unproductive, and unfulfilled in my walk with Jesus.
So, what do we do? If we feel unfulfilled and know that our hearts aren’t right, what can we do about it? There is a simple answer, but I think we need more than the simple answer. I am still growing in my understanding of all this. In fact, this post has taken me a month to write because God has been working on me so much in this area. But, next time I am going to share a little about what God has been teaching me. Now that I have admitted this issue, I feel like the ball is rolling.
More to come.