With so many Christians in America giving up on their active pursuit of God, I believe we need to help them diagnose the reasons for their apathy. It seems as if they have the attitude of; “I did the church thing, got the t-shirt and I am over it”. “I don’t see the need or the payoff of seeking hard after God the way I used to”.
Some researchers estimate that tens of millions of evangelical believers have stopped active involvement in a community of believers. You may find the “12 Reasons” why some believers are actively “unchurching” informative as to why your friends or relatives are no longer part of the traditional church scene. My article “The Church In Transition” addresses why the institutional church may have a blind spot about how we “do” church and why it results in so many dropping out from boredom. In a nutshell, believers need exposure to not only pastoral ministry, but apostolic and prophetic graces to go onto maturity and find spiritual employment in the kingdom of God.
However on an individual level, some of this apparent lack of passion and zeal for God may be a maturity thing; a realignment of our kinetic, youthful activity to a more balanced and educated approach to God. Perhaps a more knowledgeable understanding of the Gospel of Grace and the finished work of Christ reduces the amount of striving in our lives. In other words we are no longer driven by the condemnation of the Law and the fear-based, performance trap that comes with it. For more about the Grace Movement you may want to see “In The Year 2023”.
Yet sadly most Americans haven’t found the sweet spot of a mature marathoner, running toward the prize of the upward call in Christ. They have become spectators who are no longer running the race with patience. Even the sporadic trip to church to appease their conscious is insufficient to dissuade their unconscious “knowing” that they have in reality quit the race altogether.
The following heart issues address some of the wrong thinking that hinder or hurt us on our own spiritual journey that we often are unaware of.
1. The Cain Syndrome – When our prideful, human efforts to serve God and fulfill His will fall short of God’s approval or validation it can leave us standing before a fork in the road of life. We can pause and ask the Lord; “What would you have me to do; what are you teaching me in this?” Or, we can respond like Cain; who felt rejected and ended up so angry he murdered his brother and spent the rest of his life aimlessly wandering. What Cain failed to understand is that God didn’t reject him, but his human, sacrificial efforts. If God rejects some human work on our part, it should free us to more fully discover what He really wants… not cause us to quit, hate our brother, criticize the Church and wander through life with no purpose.
This self-life or what some call the sin-nature we all wrestle with, consistently produces a misunderstanding or a miscalculation of God’s ways and leads us to dejection. Listen to how Oswald Chambers describes the danger of this spiritual self-pity.
Every fact that the disciples stated was right, but the conclusions they drew from those facts were wrong. Anything that has even a hint of dejection spiritually is always wrong. If I am depressed or burdened, I am to blame, not God or anyone else. Dejection stems from one of two sources— I have either satisfied a lust or I have not had it satisfied. In either case, dejection is the result. Lust means “I must have it at once.” Spiritual lust causes me to demand an answer from God, instead of seeking God Himself who gives the answer. What have I been hoping or trusting God would do? Is today “the third day” and He has still not done what I expected? Am I therefore justified in being dejected and in blaming God? Whenever we insist that God should give us an answer to prayer we are off track. The purpose of prayer is that we get a hold of God, not of the answer. Dejection spiritually is wrong, and we are always to blame for it. My Upmost For His Highest; February 7.
Entertaining thoughts of self-pity and feeling sorry for yourself hinders your spiritual journey.
2. The Saul Syndrome – I think it was Albert Einstein who said “Premature responsibility breeds superficiality.” In King Saul, Israel’s first king, we see an insecure individual coming to power without the necessary trials and testing that Joseph, Moses or David experienced to prepare them for the weight of leadership. Saul acted in a way that was harmful to his spiritual journey. He was in it more for the accolades and the approval of the crowds than the approval of the Lord. This “fear of man” caused him to react in impulsive ways, worried what the people would say. Saul’s impatience and impertinence to wait of the “pace of grace” led him to further frustration and rejection. When Saul tried to govern his own life and the kingdom without relating properly to the prophetic Word of the Lord, he got off track on his journey and lost everything.
The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. Proverbs 29:25
Worrying about what others think of you hinders your spiritual journey.
3. The “Little-Big” Blindness – When we are led by our carnal intellectual nature we almost always miss what God is doing and then wrongly conclude God is not working in our lives. It is our addiction to the strong impulses of our flesh that governs us most of the time and keeps us from being sensitive to God’s gentle spiritual impulses. It usually takes many more trials and tribulations to tenderize our hearts in order to hear and feel the subtle whispers and promptings of His Spirit. It’s amazing just how blind and deaf we can be to the Spirit of God. Ironically we have no problem daily using a radio or a cell phone that operates on invisible and inaudible radio waves and tiny bits of micro-electrical impulses. Yet we struggle tuning our human equipment into heaven’s broadcast. In my article “Be Encouraged, God Will Come Into Focus” you may find some perspective.
Failure to recognize God in the smallest acts or events in your life hinders your spiritual journey.
4. The Hitching Post Syndrome – Our intellectual pursuits can lead us to a dead-end. Nowhere is this clearer than watching our government leaders in action (or inaction) these days. Never have so many intelligent people logically and consistently come to the wrong conclusions. Proverbs 14:2 states; “There is a way that seems right to man, but the end thereof is death”. Head knowledge can be “dead knowledge” if it doesn’t become flesh and dwell among us by God’s Spirit. Holding on to the last thing the Lord revealed to us can cause us to die on the vine as well. The Scriptures teach us that heritage is good, landmarks are good, traditions are good, and liturgy is good, if they are used as tools that lead us to a vital, living, experiential God. One of the Ten Commandments states we are to have “No graven images”… even if they are only in our minds. We hurt our spiritual journey when we hold on to what God said at the expense of what God is saying. What should have been a “guide post” becomes a “hitching post” of dead religion and old wineskins. The Lord taught me to distinguish Expectation with Expectancy.
Clinging to what God did in the past in order to feel more in control hinders your spiritual journey.
5. The Judas Syndrome – We know Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver but the real story is how Judas betrayed himself by not seeing what was truly valuable in his life. He was his own worst enemy. He was riding the popular wave of Jesus Christ Ministries for reasons that were evidently not pure. In truth, some of us unknowingly do the same today. As the treasurer of the ministry perhaps he saw the potential of Jesus’ ministry and a position in His administration as the future king of Israel. He imagined himself moving up the corporate ladder only to find out Jesus’ ladder was leaning on the wrong building in his eyes. The final straw was the “wasteful” use of expensive perfume by Mary upon Jesus. Judas was infuriated at the financial mismanagement. And to make things worse Jesus didn’t rebuke her, but rather praised her while making some remarks about this being for his burial. Burial!? Regardless if Judas fully understood what Jesus’ burial reference meant, he may have gotten a glimpse of Jesus’ “kamikaze mission” and decided to cut and run. The next verse says “Then” Judas went to the High Priest to get the best severance package he could leverage under the circumstances. (Matthew 26-6-15)
There are many in America who stopped following after God simply because they were in it for the wrong reasons. They were trying to fill their financial, emotional or social status bank accounts in hopes it would give them “their idea” of a life of peace and security.
Failure to recognize why you should be following Jesus in the first place hinders your spiritual journey.
If you’ve become bored with God and whole church scene; if you stopped earnestly going after Him it simply means you have gotten your eyes off of the resurrected Jesus. Somehow you became focused on the box or the container He came in. If you are truly beholding Him, you will be captivated by the One who breathes galaxies into existence. This will keep you from being one of the Walking Dead.
What Does It Feel and Look Like When You Are Doing It Right?
Let me let you in on a secret. When your heart is right; when you have been tenderized by life instead of hardened by it because you kept your eyes on Him instead of the problem, you will gladly remain on your spiritual journey.
As you read His word you come with a spirit of expectation that something is always flowing from a limitless God; and it is priceless not matter how small it is. Even something as small as an atom can have an explosive impact in your life. You come with neutral buoyancy, with no agenda and you are willing to be led by Him. There is a childlike sense of wonder and awe at the slightest glimpse of Him and His world. There is a liberating fear because you fear the right things. When you properly fear or respect God, nothing else scares you. You experience a pride shattering awe and awareness because you are near such awesome, yet holy power. You are overwhelmed by an intellectual comprehension on the one hand, while receiving the essence of knowing something beyond knowledge on the other. Yes, we are full of God when we yield to the unique knowledge that surpasses human knowledge.
…to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19
You understand what the apostle Paul meant when he said we would see with the “eyes of our understanding”. This is where our Spirit is refreshed and our soul is fed with the living water and bread from heaven. Staying on our spiritual journey is a joy when you do it this way. Nothing in this world even comes close to the fulfillment of laying down your old life and following Jesus. Do I have a witness?