On the blog we’ve been exploring how to seek after God so we find Him in truth and know Him in experience. Today, I want to talk about something pretty near and dear to my heart concerning our quest for God. And that is this:
AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE QUEST TO KNOW GOD IS BEING WILLING TO FEARLESSLY EXPLORE WHO HE IS—AGAIN.
Oftentimes, especially if we’ve been in the faith for a while, its easy to feel like we understand this Christianity thing. Like we understand God, His purpose in creating the world, in creating us, what went wrong in the beginning, what His solution was and is, and how this translates into every day life.
While this can be a wonderful thing, it can easily become a handicapping thing. I strongly believe that…
GOD DOESN’T CHANGE, BUT OUR KNOWLEDGE OF HIM SHOULD CONSTANTLY BE MATURING.
The thing is… have you ever looked at a paper Bible? It’s massive, right? It’s deep. There are so many stories. So much poetry. So much prophecy. So much symbolism. So much allegory.
On the one hand, it can seem completely intimidating. But on the other hand, it can feel like we understand it… at least generally. And maybe because it also can seem intimidating, its easy to settle with our general understandings of it, and call it good.
But the deeper I get into studying this brilliant book, the more I’m realizing how much I haven’t understood. Or how my pre-understandings of it aren’t complete. I have understood somethings, and have even thought I had deep knowledge of things because of my time in Bible studies and seminary… but when I come back to the Book itself… just me, the Holy Spirit, and the Book (and let’s be honest, a Hebrew/Greek dictionary), I have realized how many gaps in my understanding there were and are.
But this is exactly what we need to do in our quest for God: constantly search for gaps in our understanding. Why? Because this propels us onward in our quest for Him! We ask questions and this drives us to search for answers. And as we find answers, our knowledge of God—both head knowledge and relational knowledge—matures.
And therefore, wisdom tells us…
AS OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD MATURES, OUR “SYSTEM” NEEDS TO ADJUST TOO.
May we NEVER sell out to a system. Never ever. God forbid it!
By system, I mean one or more of the following: church denomination, branch of theology, or simply, tradition. This could also include labels: conservative, liberal, arminian, calvinist, dispensationalist, reformed, catholic, lutheran, protestant, baptist, evangelical, charismatic, pentecostal, and many more. It could also mean selling out to which select teachers/authors/preachers/speakers we listen to, learn from, and/or read.
May our pursuit of God NOT include finding out which system or category or label or author we fit with, but may it be all about finding out who the triune God is. The end.
Finding out where we fit among mankind has no place in our quest for God.
Because that’s the thing: the labels, the systems, the traditions, the denominations, the categories… it’s all man-made. The Scriptures speak NOTHING of any such things. Only that the Church is ONE body, has ONE Spirit, ONE hope, ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of all. (Phil 4:4).
So how do we not “sell out” to a system? How do we avoid “arriving”, which is often the same as “settling”? What this looks like is simply this: open hands. Holding our labels, our denominations, our theology, our pre-understandings in open hands extended toward heaven… indefinitely. Friends, this is actually Bible Interpretation 101. (It’s one of the very first things I learned in said seminary course.) As we seek for answers to the questions in our “gaps” of understanding, we surrender all our pre-understanding to God to shape and reshape and change and recreate as He knows best… and as often as He knows best.
Keep in mind that when He adjusts one thing in our theological-system, there will need to be a reshuffling of everything. As you find answers to your questions (from your Bible, preferably, and not your system), then you need to figure out what else in your system no longer fits or needs adjustment. There is always another pre-understanding connected to your new area of understanding that needs adjusting too. And adjust we must. And on we go in the great adventure of seeking God!
If this idea of letting go of a “system” scares you, you may be more interested in protecting your system (and by extension, yourself) than you are of passionately seeking God at this point. If you suspect this is going on in your heart, be honest about it, pray about it, and seek God’s strength to open your grip on these things to Him. Keep in mind, He’s far more trustworthy than your system. He’s God. And God is love. And He loves you passionately and perfectly. Following Him is the safest place you’ll ever ever be!
To bring this to a close, lets briefly discuss…
A FEW DANGERS OF SELLING OUT TO A “SYSTEM” INSTEAD OF SELLING OUT TO EXPLORING GOD ENDLESSLY.
The truth is, we can know God. Really know Him. Both relationally and theologically. But the Bible tells us that this side of eternity, we only know Him in part (1 Cor. 13:9). When we believe we’ve arrived at THE right system or tradition, we risk…
… missing knowing God at higher heights and deeper depths
… worshipping the system instead of God Himself
… living in fear of our system dying, instead of living by faith in the eternal Savior
… becoming arrogant, because we have a sense we’ve arrived (and others haven’t)
… becoming self-preserving, because we’re afraid our system (and therefore ourselves) won’t check out
… becoming divisive, which is a result of self-preserving
… becoming judgmental, which is a result of feeling we’ve arrived
… becoming bitter, because everyone won’t get on board with us
… becoming hard-hearted, because we feel betrayed by those who won’t join or live up to our system
… becoming hard-hearted, because God doesn’t live up to our system
… limiting God’s work in our lives, because we cap Him off wherever our theology caps off
… missing our purpose(s) on earth, because we settle for quick interpretations of the Scriptures
… missing greater peace and joy, because we miss out on so much relationship with God
… missing out on having Heaven’s high perspective, because we haven’t gone deeper than what’s accepted in our man-made system/tradition
… missing out on sweet friendships, because we push others away in fear or judgement
As you can see, settling into a system not only affects our relationship with God (the highest loss of all), but it affects our relationship with other people and life on planet earth. True maturing knowledge of God never results in these things. On the contrary, we love humanity increasingly, we judge humanity decreasingly, we are enraptured by the love of God for us, we love God more than we ever thought we could, our hearts grow significantly more humble, and God in us is irresistible to those around us.
Oh how God wants to be known! Do not mistake this post to be saying we cannot know God in truth or that “anything goes” is good theology. May it never be! No, I just believe that we can know God much MUCH higher and deeper than many of us—at least in the Western world—have ever imagined or realized we could! We’ve made the trinity into the Father, Son, and the Holy Scriptures (the ones that “support” our system), or the Father, Son, and the Holy System, and we’ve so often sold ourselves short in our pursuit of the infinite God of love, who so passionately pursues us.
Today, would you be willing to fearlessly explore who God is and what His plan means—again? You will never regret opening your mind and heart up to more of Him!