This is the third installment of things overheard or beliefs commonly held about the Christian life that upon further reflection are not as true as they first seem. Feel free to leave your own thoughts!
Being a Christian is about obeying the Bible.When I was younger, a man older than me professed to know what God requires of his servants. He said Jesus’ true followers did what the Bible said to do. He proceeded to tell me what it taught and also that I must obey it as he instructed if I wished to be a true disciple of Jesus.His basic premise — that we as believers are to obey the Bible — sounded reasonable, even self-evident — so much that I felt compelled to radically change my life and do so. So from that day forward, I took it upon myself to obey theBible.
Throughout the years I have heard many believers say it is difficult to hear God. I understand that sentiment. In my own life, there have been times and seasons when He has seemed undoubtedly distant or much quieter than I would have liked.
Pastor Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, California, tells of a story of a woman who was suffering from a physical affliction. He asked her whether he could prayer for her to be healed. She answered, “No, God has given me this affliction to teach me character.” To which Bill Johnson aptly replied, “If I did that to my children, I would be arrested for child abuse.”
Like the woman in this story, we may believe God desires that we suffer, even physically. The truth is, however, this is a concept foreign to Scripture. In the Old Testament, sickness and disease are always associated to the consequence of sin, and in the New Testament, they are always an opportunity for God’s miraculous healing power to be demonstrated. It is very difficult from a casual reading of the Gospels to draw the conclusion that Jesus wants us to be afflicted.
In the last couple of posts, I have perhaps opened a small can of worms by suggesting God, as supreme author of life, is responsible for the bad things that befall us. The thought is reasonable, and — the more we contemplate God’s omnipotent and omniscient nature — inescapable.
But what is it about the idea that God has some part in the difficulties that befall us, that causes us pause? I believe the answer is: We fear this must mean that He is bad, no better than the devil. It would seem to suggest, at least on the surface, that He endorses the bad. That He intends for us to suffer.
But our misgivings go deeper than this. To allow the possibility that God is involved in the bad is, for many of us, to commit the mortal sin of questioning God’s goodness. Because faith is foundational to Christian doctrine, attributing God to the bad is seen as a failure of faith. We refuse to set foot in that direction.
The Christian life — and by this I mean the true one, not the outward one where time is spent engaged in church activity — consists of a connection with the Spirit. This connection can ebb and flow, and when it ebbs, the goal is to draw close again. My goal is to be in constant contact with Jesus. That is the whole point of the Christian life.
I pause here because it is easy to nod and say “Yes” to such a statement but walk away with an entirely different understanding of what it means to be in contact with Jesus. It is easy to think of following Jesus in a metaphorical sense alone. As if to follow Him means to do what we think He would want us to do, or what we think He would do Himself, or even do what others who speak for God say we should do. And we call that “following Jesus.”
But such efforts will only drive us to utter boredom, emptiness, and most likely, a good deal of anxiety. This is because we weren’t designed to have a metaphorical relationship with Jesus; we were designed to have an actual relationship with Jesus, through the presence and Person of the Holy Spirit.