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Disconnect

 

When James first became a follower of Jesus Christ he was very excited about his new found faith. He was eager to read his Bible. He loved to pray, sing praise songs to God, and he was enthusiastic to share his faith. He also loved being with other Christians because he wanted to talk about Jesus all of the time. He had so many questions and there was so much to learn. James was enjoying a wonderful adventure of discovering who Jesus was. During the very early days of his Christian life, his heart was continually filled with tremendous joy and spiritual bliss.

 After several months of this mountaintop experience in the Lord, James began his descent. For some reason, he was not on cloud nine anymore. He began to feel the pressures of life again. The stress of jobs, school, work, and relationships began to creep in. Times of experiencing good feelings in God began to become more infrequent. James really wasn’t sure what was going on. He tried to get excited about evangelism again, but it was shallow. The scriptures were not quite as life giving as they were before. Worshipping in song seemed not as full as it once did.

 James was not leaving God or turning away from his faith by any means. He was trying to read his Bible and pray, but James wondered why it was more difficult to experience the Lord’s life like he did before. Why did he not have that same pure and genuine joy he once had? ‘Am I doing something wrong?’’ He wondered.  James wasn’t real sure.

Perhaps what James experienced during the early days of his Christian faith was because of a shallow excitement from discovering something new. Maybe it was all emotions. Or maybe, it was something different. Perhaps God was taking James through something for a reason.

It’s a Common Story

Many Christians share a similar story. Although we enjoy times and seasons of inner joy and passion for the Lord, many times it is much like riding a roller coaster.

 Most of us would probably say something close to this about our Christian life: “Sometimes I’m doing well, but sometimes I’m pretty miserable”. At certain times we experience the presence of God and His peace, but we also experience times of frustration, depression, dryness, disappointment, and spiritual apathy – and we aren’t sure why.

 Is this normal and acceptable? Is it OK that times of misery, loneliness, and emptiness are part of the Christian’s life? For some Christians, it’s been years since they’ve had any real passion for the Lord. Perhaps we should try harder to live the Christian life by reading our Bibles more, praying more, or witnessing more.  Should we all just all go see a psychiatrist once a week?

 What’s Going On Here?

It is common for many to experience a “honey moon stage” early in their faith. This is when the new believer is on fire for God, eager to grow, and hungry to learn things about their Lord. Then after some time passes, after a few disappointments, and after going through many gyrations, the Christian comes to a dangerous crossroad: The dangers of passivity and apathy are lurking at the door. The fire that was once there seems long gone. After several attempts to gear up in order to reproduce a life of passion again, disappointment or disillusionment creeps in.

 Many Christians have settled into a life of meritocracy, spiritual powerlessness, and a certain degree of spiritual indifference. But they are living this way as if it’s OK and acceptable. After all, we are Christians and our beliefs are right. We are attending church meetings and doing what we are supposed to do.

But even though there is plenty of Bible information in our heads, all of it is not usually being put into practice. Some mistakenly call the place of apathy they‘ve arrived at as “resting” or “spiritual maturity”.  Although resting in God is Biblical if accompanied with spiritual fervor, the use of the word “resting” is many times an erroneous attempt to spiritualize and justify a passionless life of passivity and dryness of heart.

 Scores of Christians are left with no alternative than that of living under the drudgery of religious obligation. We often feel that the sum total of the abundant life God has called us to is merely attending the weekly church ritual and paying our tithes.  We think that as long as we are covering these two bases, we are fulfilling our obligations to God.

 Deep down, many Christians carry around an undercurrent of guilt from not reading their Bible more, praying more, witnessing more, or whatever their particular list of “supposed to’s” are. Often, the pastor they are paying adds to the pile of guilt every Sunday morning with even more messages of guilt.

We Know the Truth, But…

Most of us have been taught the many truths of Christianity. We are very familiar with principles such as: our sins are forgiven, we are children of God, we are saved by grace through faith, Jesus lives in us, it’s all about a relationship with Christ, and that we should love God and love one another.

 So why is it that these powerful and amazing Christian truths don’t totally transform our lives on an every day basis? Why is it that we find ourselves not always walking in, or experiencing these things in the grind of daily life? Why is it that many times we believe the truth, but observe ourselves living contrary to what we’ve believed? There are many examples of this.

 Paul says in 1 Cor. 12. ‘‘the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you…” Because of scriptures like this, we all know and agree that we need each other in the body. Yet our tendency is to spend the majority of our time isolated and independent from one another. We all know and agree with the fact that our sins have been forgiven and paid for, yet because of bad choices we sometimes make, we often experience guilt and we feel as though we are separated from God. We know that the Lord is both in us and near us, yet we often find ourselves feeling distant from God as though He were far away, or that He is pre-occupied with other things. We know that Jesus loves us unconditionally, yet we still feel better about ourselves when we’ve been “doing it right”; and if we’ve been missing the mark, we tend to feel badly about ourselves. Jesus says in John Chapter 4, “whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never thirst again”, yet at times we are not satisfied with Christ and Christ alone. We search for other things to fill and satisfy our thirsty hearts.

 We could go on and on. You could probably give some examples too. How many Biblical truths have you personally learned that were so exciting when you first discovered them, yet now you don’t always experience them, don’t always walk in them, or you’re not sure exactly know exactly how to experience or walk in them? Perhaps we get glimpses at times, but for the most part we don’t usually walk in the abundant life we’ve all heard so much about.

Time to Check Our Pulse

Let’s face it. Many times our lives manifest a shallow, half-hearted, passive, and cranial Christianity. We are more focused on the outward than the inward. We are more familiar with the seen than we are familiar with the unseen. People’s love is often cold. Hospitality is rarely understood. True heartfelt Godly compassion escapes us. Scriptures such as “fervently love one another from the heart’’ (I Pet. 1:22), or “I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus’’ (Phil. 1:8), or “pray without ceasing’’ (1 Thes. 5:17), all seem beyond our grasp or foreign to some degree.

 It is extremely rare for brothers and sisters to stay current with one another on a deep heart level. We do a poor job keeping short accounts. To a large degree, the church today tends to show up to meetings once or twice a week and then leave each other alone during the rest of the week. This is an expression of weak Christianity, a far cry from the New Testament example, and another indicator of our spiritual health both individually and corporately.

 A pure desire to evangelize the lost, to help the widows and orphans, to visit the prisoners, and to lay our lives down for a dying world are all rare among us. We have enough to deal with in our own back yard, let alone help someone else. Our daily lives and schedules each day are really about making money, running errands, and spending the evenings hiding out in our homes from one another; so we can rest from our exhaustion.

 If some form of outreach is going on, many times it is coming from a heart attitude of “we should be doing this”. Feelings of “I have to” or “we ought to do this,” are common motivations, instead of reaching the world with a consistent, genuine, compassionate, holy love. Doing outreach just because we’ve geared up after hearing a recent message is very short lived. The latest push or campaign for outreach will only be temporary.  Campaigns don’t last long.

 The latest sermon we’ve heard usually only motivates us for a few days or a couple of weeks at best. The inspiration we’ve gained from the most recent book that is being passed around will soon wear off.

So much of our Christianity is made up of hearing the truth, agreeing with it, then tucking it away in our back pocket until it fades away. We now think we have the reality because we’ve heard it before. Someone begins to speak on a particular topic or read a scripture that we’ve already heard and inside our hearts we very quickly say “I’ve heard this before, I know this, and I’ve got this already”. We think we have the reality because we’ve agreed with the concept years ago. To a large degree we’ve become sermon tasters. In other words, the pinnacle of our spiritual walk is the Sunday meeting in which we hear an inspiring message, but then we simply go back home to our busy and fleshly lives. The definition of a good pastor has become someone who is talented enough with speaking abilities to keep us interested, entertained, and stimulated for 60 minutes a week.

Many are caught in a cycle of total and utter dependency on the “meeting high”. Desperate for validation and affirmation, the ungrounded believer travels from one meeting to the next in order to either “feel something” or just hear a “word” from the Lord for their lives. All the while they neglect and refuse to apply the words that He has already spoken to them in the scriptures. So many of the so called “words from the Lord” that are being delivered to people are simply the words of men and are full of empty promises. Larger gatherings are now showcasing powerful and overwhelming music, rousing feel good sermons, and have become the venues of a man centered gospel. An addiction to these things is a dangerous distraction. More and more, we have become ‘‘tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, and by the trickery of men’’ (Eph 4:14).

Other than a belief system we have in our heads and a set of “Christian rules” to govern our behavior, many times we are not much different from unbelievers.

The Bible gives a different example what a Christian is like. The New Testament gives an account of a people whose lives were totally transformed. These people were sold out, radical, supernatural, and full of power. They shared life together because they wanted to (Acts 2:1, 42, 46). They gave up all their possessions for one another (Acts 2:45). There were frequent miracles among them and many being added to their number (Acts 19:11, 2:47, 16:5). They traveled over land and sea just to have fellowship (1 Cor. 16:6, Rom 15:23, Acts 10:32). They were intent on maintaining unity. They loved the truth and spent extensive amounts of time working through difficulties (Acts 15, 1 Cor 1:10, Acts 13:42-44, 17:32). There was fervent love and affection for one another, and a tenacious, passionate love for God (2 Cor. 6:11, 1Pet 4:8, Acts 13:52). In short, their lives shook the world.

So what happened to us? Did we lose something? Did we forget something? Did something change? Why are we so different today?

If you examine the current state of Christianity from a worldwide perspective, we are not extremely different today as we were before as a whole. If you look at the practice of Christianity from a global perspective, many of the characteristics of the early Christians are still holding true. But in the Western and more modernized societies, we are not much like the early Biblical Christians. In the more civilized and developed countries such as the United States, our hearts tend to be more “shut down”. We tend to be stifled on the inside. We are emotionally held back, domesticated, cranial, tremendously distracted, and led by our wives. We are extremely rich, high minded, and highly educated. We are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”. (2 Tim. 3:7). We know our Bibles more than we know Christ (John 5:39, 40). We love going to church more than we love our brother (1 Cor. 11:17).

 In this present culture, there is rampant and widespread malfunction in God‘s people. This is largely due to the fact that we are mostly unskilled in the spiritual disciplines of the inner man, the inner workings of the heart, and seeing and walking accurately in the unseen realms.

 In our modern western society, we tend to have a cranial Christianity. The disaster is that we think cranial belief is good enough. We often think that just because we agree with the concepts that we now believe. This is not always so. Romans 10:10 tells us that “it is with the heart that man believes”. Yet I hear people say often, “What do you mean exactly by my heart?” Or people will say, “I believe it in concept, but that’s about as far as it goes…”

The scripture says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life”. (Proverbs 4:23). Due to our general lack in understanding of the spiritual mechanisms and inner workings of the heart, this is foreign territory for many, therefore creating major problems.

It‘s Time to Hit Reset

We need to start asking ourselves some important questions: How satisfied are we in the prayer closet? How filled with the Spirit and filled with the power of God are we from just a simple alone time with God? We must begin to face the fact that the daily battle of life is won in the quiet, unadorned, muddy trench of time alone with God. When we are still, when we are empty, when there is no outside stimulation, when the busyness has stopped, when the distractions have ceased, when the show is over, and when the pain of loneliness surrounds us, this is when we truly get to see what we really have with God. How much do we really know Christ Himself?

 So much of our Christian activity has become a replacement. It has become a replacement for the reality. We have chosen other activities to become a substitute for a contented heart that is satisfied with a rich inner life and simple devotion to Christ. We have a variety of addictions other than an addiction to Christ.

 None of this is meant to condemn us, dishearten us, or cause us to give up. But facing the truth is the first step in growing. It is absolutely critical that we have good quality Kingdom fruit – true fruit that remains. And we all may have less fruit than we think. This is all a reality that we cannot escape. When the Lord returns, He wants to reap abundantly from what He has sown in us.

 There is still hope. While there is still time, we can begin to cultivate a rich inner life of depth and real experience of Christ that leads to lasting and consistent fruit in our lives.

 We’ve been given such a wonderful salvation, we have been totally set free, we are completely clean by the blood of Jesus, we are complete in Him, and we have been given above all that we could ever ask or think. We are not locked into a prison of living only as mere men (I Cor. 3:3).

 The inner life of the Christian is critical. Everything we do outwardly comes from the inside. Jesus said that “a tree is known by its fruit”. (Matt 12:33). The quality and amount of fruit that a tree bears, is a result of the quality of the inner life of the tree. People are the same. The fruit we bear for God is a result of the life we have within. The things we say or don’t say, the way we respond to life’s situations, and the way we treat other people all come from the inner life.

 How do we practice knowing the depths of Jesus Christ? What does it actually mean to believe and how do we actually do it? How do we trust? How do we gain the reality of Christian truth so that our lives are filled with power instead of only concepts?

 The purpose of this book is to explain, hopefully with simplicity, these foundations within the Christian experience. And more importantly, to help the reader develop a skill set to be able to experience and walk in the spiritual realities of the Kingdom of God. This work is intended to be a practical guide for the spiritual, the unseen, and for the subjective. Let us go forward into the incredible journey of God, so that we may run and finish our race well.

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