A friend of mine gave me the new John Eldredge book, Walking With God. Because my “to-read” list is pretty long, it can take ages before I finally get to the newest book. For some reason, I decided to upset the natural order of things and skip other books I had promised to read first. So far, I like Walking With God very much. It’s actually a little spooky how close Eldredge’s teachings mirror the life my family has lived for the past fourteen years. It’s like the guy’s been reading my mail, or at least my book. John, if you're reading this, let’s hang out.
Last night, I read the section “Until God Becomes Our All”. I tried not to get visibly excited while sitting in a hip café as I read these words. “The first and greatest command is to love God with our whole being. Yet, it is rare to find someone who is completely given over to God. And so normal to be surrounded by people who are trying to make life work. We think of the few who are abandoned to God as being sort of odd. The rest of the world – the ones trying to make life work – seem perfectly normal to us.” So help me, I almost said aloud, “That’s me!” I’m not saying that I get it right all the time, but my mistakes happen in the middle of my effort to live for God by the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Abe once told me that one of the most neglected commands in the Bible is to have no other gods before God. I think I agree with him. Millions of good Christian people just snarled at me, I know. But think about it. People will follow God as long as it doesn’t look foolish, jeopardize their finances, or interfere with any other plans they may have. They worship at the alter of money, image, career, relationships, or whatever else started as a gift from God. But I’m not writing about idols today. I had a long night, you know? I want to write about something exciting.
This verse comes from Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible. Acts 9:31 “Then the Messianic community (the church) throughout Y’hudah (Judea), the Galil (Galilee) and Shomron (Samaria) enjoyed peace and was built up. They lived in the fear of the Lord, with the counsel of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit); and their numbers kept multiplying.” Two things ought to stick out from that verse. The believers feared God, meaning they lived for Him above everything else, and they sought the direction of the Holy Spirit. When the church lived in this way, they grew. People came to Jesus. It sounds pretty basic, right? Still, why do I look at the church in the western world and see so little life? How much are these churches growing because people are giving their lives to Jesus and how many churches are growing because of the Fan Club?
At church yesterday, the pastor taught on John 8. This is the awesome passage where Jesus says in verses 28, “So Yeshua (Jesus) said, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM [who I say I am], and that of myself I do nothing, but say only what the Father has taught me.’” Jesus lived this way. He served God first, and only moved with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He is our example, and all throughout the New Testament we are encouraged to live as Jesus lived. My pastor asked if anyone wanted prayer for that kind of relationship with God and a number of people responded. I prayed for one of my new church friends. He told me that he wanted a more dynamic, personal relationship with God. “I want that extraordinary life,” he said. Enough with that boring and normal and safe version of faith where we try to keep everything under our control. Let’s change the world.
This isn’t melodrama, people. I’m talking change. There is a reason the Gospel is called “Good News”. The world needs to hear this. And if people in the church are willing to sacrifice control of their lives (trying to make it “work”), giving all of themselves over to God, the world would take notice. The very thought of it touches my punk rock heart. Some people might say we need to take responsibility for our lives. I did that already, and I nearly ruined the whole thing. My responsible life didn’t mean much until I dedicated it to God in total surrender. Unless the church today begins to live as it did in Acts 9:31, it will become more inbred and ineffective. The church needs to move with the direct and personal guidance of the Holy Spirit. It’s like the Orchid song says, “when we move, it’s a movement.”