I had a conversation with a few friends the other day. Our conversation led to spiritually type talk, and we were all sharing our ideas, insight, and revelations. I was trying to explain my idea of what a Christian should look like — of what an all out Christian should be. I failed to verbally express what I thought. That concerned me. I had to take some time to think about it so that I could accurately describe what I was thinking. I don’t intend to be the type of person that just tosses around phrases that sound good. Because of this, I was reviewing my previous note, Absolute Meaningless. I had so many ideas running through my head on my last note that it was difficult to compound them all into an applicable and concise note. I thought about it, and I’d like to expound on a few of the concepts that I touched on.
I ended Absolute Meaningless with a call to take hold of your faith. This seems like a vague instruction. How do you honestly take hold of your faith? It is something we can spend time in prayer about, something that we can ask God to help us with, something that we can meditate on… but what actual steps can we take to achieve a goal like this? Here’s what I think, if you’ll follow:
Let me preface this with a simple idea. There are two aspects of our spiritual lives: mental and physical. Mentally, you should have a good understanding and foundation for your beliefs. Physically, you should act out your beliefs. This can be illustrated by Paul’s description of faith and works. Faith is dead without works, and works is dead without faith. Your actions should always reflect your beliefs and your beliefs should always line up with your actions. Regarding this concept, I’m going to answer two questions to demonstrate how to literally take hold of your faith: How is this Relevant? …and, Why is this necessary?
“How is this relevant?”
I’ve noticed within myself and the church community that there is a chasm between faith and actions. Now I won’t lie, the church has come a long way. It does a lot of things right. We spend a lot of time doing great things like coming to church, praising God, spending time in devotion, and being good samaritans. This is awesome. For the most part, our actions coincide with our beliefs. We achieve spiritual transparency and genuineness. But, there is still something missing.
In my journey as a Christian, I’ve noticed there is almost this 4-tier dimension of spirituality.
You come to know God as your personal savior. As a baby Christian you go to church more or less out of moral conviction. It is the right thing to do, after all. You aspire to have a relationship with God. You want to know Him better. You are focused on God more than anything else. This makes sense. It is important to have a good foundation for your spiritual life, and getting to know God is the quickest way to establish that foundation.
After a little while, you come to realize that there is a greater purpose to being a Christian than just maintaining your relationship with God and getting your ticket to heaven. You realize that the church isn’t just a religion or a building, it is a community. You begin reaching out to the people in your church: building relationships, encouraging each other, making each other better disciples, helping out on leadership teams, and leading small group devotions. This is all Biblical and is an appropriate second step in the Christian life. First: understand God; second: build relationships with His people. I feel that the modern church does a great job of fulfilling this community aspect of the Christian life.
After some more time, you realize the need for reaching out to the unsaved. We realize that we do not receive salvation just so that we can sit around absentmindedly awaiting the return of Christ. We receive it so that we can become empowered to go out and serve other people. We learn that love is the most important thing in this world. We seek to love those around us. We approach situations eager to demonstrate the love of Christ. We accept our social-moral-religious responsibility to this world. Once every few years we might take brief missions trips. Every now and then we’ll go to the homeless shelter downtown. We might even buy a random stranger his lunch. We take God’s salvation outward, towards the unsaved. But, even in doing everything up to this 3rd tier dimension of spirituality, I feel like there is still something missing. For most of us, there is still a gap between our actions and our beliefs…
To be honest, I couldn’t think of the perfect name for this fourth tier dimension. Oneness is the closest word that came to mind. It’s that x-factor. It’s what meshes every aspect of our lives together. It is total integration of every individual aspect of our life. When we are at work. When we are at school. When we are at the grocery store. When our car breaks down on the side of the road. When that cashier won’t give you your well deserved refund. When you’re on a missions trip. When you’re hanging out with some friends having meaningless fun. When you’re playing sports. When everyone is watching. When no one is watching.
This is important: We are the same, all-out, on fire for God Christian that we are at the most amazing church retreats as we are when we are at that boring desk job back at home. God permeates our thoughts. Christ’s love radiates through our tongues on a 24/7 basis. Any form of sin disgusts us. We are repulsed by foul language. We are sickened by immorality. We despise poor character. We are at total oneness with God. His thoughts, ours. His commands, our actions. There is no latency between when God asks us to do something and we do it. There is no question as to the direction we’re given by the Holy Spirit. Our hearts and minds are so immersed in the Kingdom of God that we see the world from a Kingdom perspective. We see the world through the lens of heaven. We see the world as God sees it. Every action has purpose to it. Every thought comes from above. God is in complete control of our lives. Anything is possible.
Oneness is living for one purpose: God. We often say that this is our one purpose, but do we ever live it? Some might say that living a life like this would require perfection, that it is impossible. But what would it actually look like if God was your one purpose in life…in everything you did? Imagine it.
That, is oneness.
“Why is this necessary?”
Now you may argue with me, “You’re deranged. You’ve spent too much time at that Christian school. You’ve spent too much time in your room. You’ve been reading too many books. You’re too much of an idealist. That’s too radical of an idea. That’s not even possible. God did not call us to be perfect. He knows that’s not possible. Why try for that when we know we can’t even achieve it. If we live like that we’ll be so disconnected from the world. We’ll have no way to relate to them. There’s no way we could save anyone else if we were that dedicated to God. Be real for once.”
And though I embellish a little, if this resembles your thoughts at all, I would urge you to keep reading.
Firstly, what’s the benefit in resisting this kind of oneness? What can you obtain by not striving for it? What can you lose by attempting this kind of oneness? Have you invested yourself so much in this world that you’ve forgotten it is only temporary? Are you truly kingdom focused first, or do you have other priorities? Is your agenda on this earth to get by doing the minimum, to be average, or to excel in your relationship with God and serve Him as best as you can with the time you have? If your answer is not the latter, maybe you don’t fully understand what Christianity actually is.
I’ve already emphasized this point so much, but God calls for hot or cold. He doesn’t call for warm, for kind of hot, or for almost hot. He calls for hot. He wants all. He wants everything. Where in the Bible does He acknowledge that we are sinners and that it is excusable that we fall short of His glory? Surely, He acknowledges that we fall short, but where does He pardon us from trying to abstain from all sin? Where does he exempt us from striving for perfection on the basis that He knows we can’t achieve it anyways? Where does He say that we might as well just live kind of hot, lives because that’s better than nothing?
I would argue that you cannot find even one semi-legitimate reason to not pursue God to the level of commitment that I’m talking about. So you ask: why is this necessary?
God asked this out of us.
He recognizes our weakness to sin and empowers us with His Holy Spirit to overcome that which we cannot by ourselves. He has given us every tool necessary to be the kind of Christians that He desires us to be.
I think of the term Christ follower. I think of literally following Christ everywhere He went. I think of following Him to the pits of hell on earth. I think of following His actions on earth. I think of following his speech. I think of following His devotion and discipline. I think of following Him in every way possible. We don’t just follow Him in this area and that area – the areas that look pleasant to us. We follow Him everywhere, without question – whether it looks good or not. I think we often forget that Christ was indeed fully man. Even though we are Christ followers, we often excuse ourselves of pursuing God hotly on the basis that Christ was fully God, and that’s the only reason why He was perfect. Maybe we don’t say it just like that, or even think it just like that. But, I feel that by our actions, it is implied that we believe this way. But Christ was fully man. He endured everything just as we do. We have the Holy Spirit guiding us just as He did. The only deity power that He used that the disciples did not possess was to sacrifice Himself as an offering and conquer the grave in an act to redeem our sinful nature. Healings and miracles… Peter and Paul were empowered by the Holy Spirit to do those. I think this is suggestive that Jesus did not use his powers of deity to obtain perfection on earth. He did that as man. Now, don’t take me for a blasphemer. I’m by no means saying that we can obtain perfection. But don’t you think that it would be better to live with exceedingly high aspirations, and missing them only by a few marks, than to live with low expectations that you achieve? I mean, is the point to do exactly what you say you’re going to do, even if you’re doing nothing, or to live to your maximum potential?
Maybe I am a bit radical. Maybe I am a bit of an idealist. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that living a life devoted to a ‘oneness’ mentality is the most rewarding life there is. Until I find myself at this level of commitment to God, I’ll be unsatisfied. I’ll feel there is a chasm between by beliefs and actions. There are no people that I would rather be friends with. There is no amount of money that I would rather have. I would give anything to be at such closeness with God that His thoughts become mine, even if it means giving my cultural sanity. Maybe I won’t achieve this in this life, but what can it hurt to try? It’ll bring me that much closer to God when I get to heaven.
So I conclude with this. How do you actually take hold of your faith? You challenge yourself daily to take your spirituality to the next level. There is always a next level. We are never perfect. Constantly improve your life to become a better tool for God. Be the same Christian in any environment that you are in. Don’t be influenced by the world around you. Live first for God in every stinking thing you do. Always be mindful of the Holy Spirit around you. Listen to God. Obey God. Praise God. Close the gap between your faith and actions in every area of your life.