Tuesday, March 25, 2014
“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
I remember one of the last major arguments I had - a major battle. I pulled out all the stops. I hit below the belt, I got nasty, I did everything in my power to win. I pleaded, threatened, manipulated, I laid it on thick. But I lost. Big time. By the way, if you’re wondering who my big blow out was with, my argument was with myself.
You see, I had spent about 30 years carefully developing my liberal identity and beliefs. I wouldn’t have called them that, “liberal” was too cheesy and political a word for me to associate myself with. What I was – what I believed – was so much more…organic than that. My identity was not some childish rebellion against my parent’s conservative religious upbringing. It wasn’t a reaction to anything or anyone, it was truly an identity that saw things the way they were supposed to be. Free. Equal. Inclusive.
You see, I truly believed in what I believed in. I was pro choice – I believed whole heartedly in a woman’s right to choose what she did with her body and I defended her reproductive rights vehemently. I believed that God had no preference in how people lived and loved, God was so above all the trivial human opinion on sexuality and marriage. In fact, I believed that if God broke his Buddha pose long enough to really have an opinion, it would most definitely not be what all these religious folk were speaking on his behalf.
He doesn’t care who you sleep with. He doesn’t care if you have sex outside of marriage – because marriage wasn’t his idea. If however, you think that it’s his idea, then he will bless you with a sacred relationship, he will bless you as you gather 200 of your friends and max out your credit cards to create a ceremony that says this is God’s idea. But it won’t be contradicted by the fact that you’ve been sleeping together for the last 6 years…because God doesn’t care.
He doesn’t care if you have an abortion. He only cares if you care. If you decide to have the baby, then suddenly God will make it sacred. A holy gift of motherhood. But only if we initiate that thought process. If, on the other hand, we decide to abort the baby, then God cares so little, he isn’t even involved in the whole process. But it was most definitely him who sent you that dog or cat you adopted. For sure. He sent you the dog, but not the baby. Unless of course, you think he did, then he did.
He doesn’t care what name you call him. God is too “big” to be contained by any one name. He is above that! There are many ways up the mountain…God is not confused abut his identity, but he is more than happy to let you be. He will reassure you that it’s not confusion, it’s actually spiritual growth – this idea that there are many paths to God. That is in fact godly. Spiritual. Open minded.
God doesn’t care if you mess up repeatedly, or get things wrong about him, because there are no consequences. He is not some petty bully who keeps score, in fact, sin and hell are things that don’t even enter into his mind, they are human constructs, designed to oppress and terrorize the people you happen to be trying to control at the time. God just wants you to do better, try harder and strive for grander, because you would have a much better time on this planet doing so!
But it’s not a choice between right and wrong…as right/wrong don’t exist – he certainly did not create them, it’s really about what do you consider right and wrong? What works and doesn’t work for you? Because at the end of the day…this life, this world, is all just an elaborate Star Trek holodeck – a simulated reality facility or program, a place to experiment, and work out our issues until we get it right. And then we will all wake up to a real reality.
And that is really at the heart of the matter, whether being an atheist or a religious new ager – we can all get along and have this wonderful unity…cough cough….assimilation – because at the end of the day, nothing is hanging in the balance. Nothing eternal anyway. Sure, the ozone’s hairline is receding….the earth is at jeopardy, human suffering is on the increase, tyranny and inequality seem resistant to any of our political antibiotics – but nothing eternal is hanging in the balance. When we die, there are a myriad of possibilities - do overs, oblivion, floating away into a dimension that will not remember the petty lessons of this life….but there will most definitely not be some kind of judgment!! No accounting for yourself. Ok, maybe your life will flash before you and at worst, God will allow you to “feel” the pain you caused…kind of like a final montage of what you could’ve done better and then poof…you’re off into the light.
But – and this where that argument I told you about started! It started with a “but”. But what if there are no do overs? What if there are real consequences to ignoring real truths that a real God has set down. What if he does care? What – if – you’re – wrong?
That was the question that started the war between me and myself. Listen, I’ve argued with a lot of people – but arguing with myself is on another level – there are no breaks and the silent treatment doesn’t work. I get so many letters and messages on a daily basis with people trying to argue with me and insult me and it’s almost like, it’s never occurred to them that I’ve already had this argument.
They think it’s sad that I’ve become this biblical ‘zealot’. They call me a bigot. A homophobe. Closed minded. They stomp their little cyber feet and click away on their keyboards ranting at my brainwashed beliefs.
I get it! I am so down with the people..lol! Really. And I don’t mean this in any condescending or trivial way. I really do get it. I saw things their way. For a long time. I even pursued Christ with that mindset. And there were many teachings floating around out there that neatly suited this mindset.
This world can offer you a Christ sterilized of the Bible. This world can offer you a morality and a spirituality custom made to neatly evade all concepts of Sin, punishment, hell, sacrifice, repentance, salvation and all the things that turn your stomach. This world can offer you a Bible free of the guilt and judgments on your sexuality. You can Google and attend a church tonight that will preach to you about Christ accepting your homosexuality as something not to be repented of and struggled against. This world and the power that runs it can offer you any custom made theology and belief system that will neatly fit into your life as if you thought it all up yourself and live it based on your “experience”. There is no limit to a man’s vanity.
I pursued this. I lived it. I believed it. In the midst of this, something in me and around me haunted and pursued me with this single idea, a question actually: “What – if – you’re – wrong?” That may not bother a lot of people – but it bothered me. I wasn’t satisfied being right “for me”. It wasn’t enough to have “my own truth”. I wasn’t convinced anymore that there is no such thing as absolute truth - because if I really believed that, I would not have been so haunted by the idea of being wrong. Most of the people who have such a passionate problem with me see it as just my need to be absolutely right. Some perverse power hungry desire to be God, but the truth is, I became haunted by the simple question of “Is there such a thing as ‘truth’?” Can something be definitively true or false?
Ya ya…we all have a right to believe what we want to, but is it true? God doesn’t care what we do – but is that true? There is no such thing as Sin and hell – but is that true? At the time that I was asking these questions, arguing with myself, hoping that I could just sort this stuff out and just move on - getting busy being busy – I did something insanely dangerous - in the midst of my self-argument, against my better judgment, I took the advice of a friend and began praying for this “God” to reveal to me the truth – if there was such a thing. Unfortunately for me, I could not settle on anything temporarily resolved just to quiet the nag in my spirit. I read the Bible, I watched endless podcasts that either validated my beliefs, challenged me or enraged me. I researched. I prayed. I talked with many different pastors, I heard the Gospel, again and again. It wasn’t repetition or self induced hypnosis that did anything for me. I had become immune to brainwashing tactics.
What happened was so ridiculously simple and yet impossible without God’s supernatural divine intervention. It was grace that created the conflict in me to begin with. Grace that allowed me to see that perhaps I was blind. There is absolutely nothing and no one in this world that can show you or convince you that in fact you are completely wrong in almost 100% of what you believe, see and know, without God’s grace.
One day as I was walking down the street, the Holy spirit told me in my spirit that I in fact knew I was wrong – and in the distance and time it took to take another step on the street – I knew. And I cannot un-know. The fight was over, not by being strong armed into some theology or because I got tired of thinking my thoughts, the fight was over because I could clearly see what I had been unable to.
Not one pastor, podcast or blog post can create an opening in you that is sealed shut by the spiritual deadness that you exist in.
Without the Holy Spirit everything that you read in the Bible or study in your spiritual community will produce nothing more than a ritualistic religiosity, or it will produce more ammo in your atheistic worldview. Without the Holy Spirit there can be no life changing, soul saving truth applied.
AND yet- any experience with the Holy Spirit that does not lead you to the word of God, to faith in Jesus, to an inner conflict and conviction of sin and a desire and power to conform to God’s ways – is not an experience with the Holy Spirit.
I heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I heard the call to repentance, I was given an understanding of Sin and Salvation, and nothing happened. I didn’t believe. And then one day, I heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I heard the call to repentance, I was given an understanding of Sin and Salvation and I believed. I heard it and I believed it.
Against all odds, prejudices and resistance – I heard the Gospel and it had the power to save me. I was saved by hearing and believing. Through faith in Christ alone.
The message was not changed, or compromised or pumped up and sugar coated. Changing the Gospel to “win” anyone over is demonic. You will not be winning them over to Christ. As only the Holy Spirit can do that. What you can do is persevere to the end by holding to the truth, the undiluted, uncorrupted Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is foolishness and archaic ridiculousness to those who are headed for destruction, but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God.
I am happy to be the fool I thought believers were. That is one argument I have been incredibly happy to lose. I lost the argument and gained eternal life.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” 1Corinthihans 1:18-25
“But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for
“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”
But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”
Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” Romans 10:8-21