When I first began going to Alcoholics Anonymous, I learned some profound truths about the human condition. In the book Alcoholics Anonymous, the author points out the most acute truth to addiction: alcoholism is not the disease; it is a symptom of a spiritual sickness…the alcoholism is simply the tell-tale sign of a sick and lonely spirit. I know that addiction is in some ways very much a physical, biological disease, but not the root of the problem. The root of the problem is selfishness and the pursuit of a person to “plug the hole in their heart”. All people, before they understand the real problem, seek to fulfill themselves by many different means: success, money, relationships, alcohol, drugs, love, acceptance, and even church! We try our best to satisfy a built-in craving for something more. The problem with sin is that it creates the desire for more…always more. We are selfish by nature and can’t do a damn thing about it. So we do our best in life and pretend that everything is OK. We live under the dark cloud of loss: the loss of loved ones, the loss of acceptance, the loss of physical beauty, the loss of happiness, and eventually the loss of life itself. It is a never ending quest to fulfill a longing for more. We tell ourselves: “If I only had this, this and this…then I would be happy”, “If I could marry this person, all will be well”, “If I could make this much money, then I can live in contentment”. Any person who is mature enough to understand the nature of life knows this is all a bunch of crap! We continue to live in the illusion, in the dream, in the never-ending quest for happiness. Some writers and artists glorify this condition as a tragic but heart-warming endeavor that should be empathized by all; for we all share this in common. From the alcoholic looking for their next drink, to the business man looking for the next deal, to the romantic looking for the next obsession, to the kings of this world looking for the next frontier to conquer. This is what the Scriptures calls sin.
To sin means to “trespass” or to “go beyond one’s boundaries” or to “miss the mark”. You see, if we move even one step toward filling our void inside with the things of this world, then the result is sin. At first it is only a spiritual death; but ultimately it becomes a death in a real bad way. We can soothe ourselves with the things of this world, but all of it is vanity, all of it is temporal, all of it is over when we die…and everyone dies. But what about a legacy? What about people who work hard and leave wealth or stability to their families, what about the great thinker that leaves behind the foundation to even more human achievement, what about the person who lays their life down for a cause? Unfortunately, it is simply a prolonging of the temporal, ultimately missing the mark. The emptiness of the human heart is that which longs for something greater than itself. Whether we recognize it or not, we will never be satisfied with what we can get or leave behind on this earth. Even if you go your whole life in the illusion, on your death bed you will quickly realize that all is not well.
The symptom of this sick, sinful heart expresses itself in so many different ways; it would take a massive book to cover all the different and creative ways we have come up with to run from the ultimate reality. Even believers in Christ can still be sick. We quickly take the good news of the gospel and begin to build ourselves earthly institutions to give meaning, to fill the void. Unfortunately, some of the sickest folk are those that are religious. They think that now they have found the answer to life and begin to build great mansions on sand. How tragic! But how can we fill this void and stop gorging ourselves on sin?
The answer is love. The good news of the gospel is just that simple: God loves us. But knowing this in your head and really understanding it in your heart is not quite that easy (if it were, then it would be quite noticeable!). Entering God’s rest is hard work. That seems ironic, doesn’t it? How can rest be work? How can we on one hand accept Christ’s sacrifice for us, and on the other hand have to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”? The core of this issue is spiritual in nature and requires that a person be “born again”, but most people don’t understand what being born again means! The responsibility of this tragedy squarely sits on the shoulders of our Christian leaders. They will tell you to say the “sinner’s prayer” and accept Christ into your heart…and all is good! This is plainly rubbish.
How many of you out there know of anything that is born instantly? What creature or life-form simply reproduces itself without the process of fertilization, gestation, and the pain and travail of birth? None that I can think of…why do you think Jesus used this term “born again”? He could have used a different analogy or model. Because these things are of a spiritual nature, we assume sometimes that it is a miraculous, big-bang theory of magic. Again, rubbish! There is necessarily a process.
Because I fear of making this post too long, I will skim the top of this Truth and address more at a later date. But let’s start with the actual framework for simplicity’s sake. It all begins with “fear of the Lord”…I know, I know…not a very sexy concept these days. We love to hear about all things wonderful, but hardly take the time to understand the ugly. Until you understand how absolutely horrid the human heart is, then you will by no means understand the gravity of grace. That is why it is so difficult for a rich person or a religious person to understand grace…they don’t think they are really that bad. People like me for instance know darn well that I’m a nasty critter! Light shines brightest in the darkest of places, but most don’t want to see themselves as God sees them…they are too busy comparing themselves to others or the standard that their puny mind has set up as a destination or a goal. Sad really…that is why it is so important to understand the truth here.
The only way to fill the vast space in our hearts is to know our God. To know God is to love God. And to believe in Jesus is to truly embrace love. What does this mean? Oh, we can wax philosophical about the matter or we can “cut to the chase”. For simplicity, let me state this fact: Jesus came to earth to reconcile us to God. Period…there are no “but’s”! That is it people; Jesus paid the price we could not for one reason and one reason only: to re-united God and man…the rest is gravy, so to speak! Jesus is the physical, real, and tangible expression of God’s love for us, but we cannot understand it in our soul until it becomes a tangible reality in our lives. It is like someone giving you a wonderful present, but you never open the present. Like getting a new Ferrari, but never driving it; like having the most beautiful spouse on the planet but never consummating the relationship. We stand in awe of the profoundness of the gift, but many (if not most) of us still don’t get it! Because being born again is a process, why do we stop at conception? Don’t you see the Truth in this? So when the Bible talks about salvation, the sacrifice of Christ is simply (and unbelievably beautiful) the door to walk through on a path to reconciliation; the Scriptures are but a map to the final destination: a relationship with God. Remember, the whole point is to reconcile us back to God…but why? Because He loves us.
The greatest lie ever told is that we cannot truly know God. How can I say this gently: “Wake the heck up!” Is that gently enough? As believers we walk around and complain about how hard it is to walk as a Christian, how difficult it is to love others, how impossible it is to love our enemies. The reason we do this is quite simply the fact that we haven’t gotten to know our God. We accept the present or gift of Christ Jesus like a receipt from the dry cleaners…a promise to go to heaven and live in eternity. What if I told you that forever starts now? What if I told you that eternal life begins this very instant? Would you believe me? Most would shake their head and say that it is “too good to be true”. But I tell you this out of love and not to confuse: God wants a relationship with you NOW…not later, not when you die, not in some far off destination. But how do we cross over to this relationship? We open the present!
Over and over again in the Scriptures it is said to “seek God’s face” and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him! Do you think that because of Christ that the seeking is over? God can’t and won’t lie to you…it is not in His nature. But how can we make this a reality? You see, many of us knock on the door in belief and think God will open the door and toss us faith in salvation and tell us to have a nice life…see you later, after you die…OK…bye, bye now…good luck. Can I say this again?…rubbish! To enter God’s rest or love, we have to pursue Him with all we have. The work is in the discovery. If anything on this earth is worth pursuing it is this. All the problems with the Christian life boil down to one thing: we try with our own efforts to make ourselves presentable and acceptable to God when He has already given us the way! To say that you love God is stupidity until you seek Him with all that you have. It is a free gift, in that Christ is appropriated for our sins, but then we want to leave it at that. It becomes less than a gift and more like another form of slavery when we do this! Again, we must work to find rest. We must discover God and His love for us by doing what we do naturally when we love someone: we spend time with them, get to know them, cry when they cry, laugh when they laugh, sing when they sing, and rejoice with them when they rejoice. This is the nature of a relationship. So we can say we love God, and we can proclaim the name of Jesus, and still be totally lost! What a shame…
Sin is a sickness: the wages of sin is death. Love is a sickness: the wages of love is life, peace, joy, hope, faith, and more love. The natural state of the carnal man is sin; the natural state of the spiritual man is love! When you seek God with all your energy and all that you have, the reward is His love in a real and tangible way. The result of clinging to a sinful nature is fear, doubt, judgment, and much pain. The result of clinging to God’s love is a filling, what Jesus calls the “living waters”, the food that satisfies, the impetus to change you into the creature God envisioned. Jesus lays His life down so that you and I can enjoy a spiritual life…that is part of the answer of being born again…being born of the spirit…God is spirit. How do you learn more of this spiritual nature? How do you keep the “ball rolling” or keep the process of development moving forward? How do we give birth to this “new creature”, to this “new man”, to this “all things become new” notion? By tapping into the greatest power known to man: The Holy Spirit. That’s right, the Holy Spirit: God Himself. You can find Him teaching you in the Scriptures, you can find Him in prayer, you can find Him within yourself, but you must know Him as a reality! How much more plain does it need to be? Jesus Himself prayed the Father, and the Father appropriated the Holy Spirit to help us grow (the gestation period). The new man is not given to us…the new man is the birth of a spiritual creature. So many miss this point! It is definitely the most “hidden in plain sight” reality on the earth. Why do we think we must do this alone? Christ said, “I will not leave you orphans”. And, He also said, “You will seek Me and not find Me”…but why? Because even Christ Himself knew that no one would be able to understand the spiritual realm without the Spirit. The Spirit teaches, comforts, empowers, and most of all loves. There are many out there who have tasted the Holy Spirit at conversion and then lay out in the cold as newborns and suffer the elements not understanding that He is not done with you! Oh God! How many of us are walking around as infants with no clue as to how to grow…
All believers that read this need to understand the present and profound truth of the matter: we don’t even know how to love God or where to even start. If you bank your faith on Christ and Christ alone, then the Bible has some insight for you: distance makes the heart grow sick. But God is not distant! He is right here, right now, in the form of the Holy Spirit! The Spirit tells you of Christ, manifests Christ to you, causes Christ to live in your heart, loves you with what can only be described as a fire inside. Oh, that Christians would heed my words! That God would open your longing eyes! That God would heal your yearning heart!
Once you begin to taste the love of God, it fills you, it is more than you ever imagined it to be, and the result is the fulfillment of the commandment to love! You see, sin begets sin; and love begets love. It is impossible to truly love without experiencing God’s love. You can’t give what you don’t have! So if love is missing in your life, then go find it! You will not find it anywhere except from the source. Then and only then can we fulfill our destiny of being children of light and love. But we have been fooled, been deceived, been “dumbed down”, been run over by the lies. Satan is no fool, my friend! The enemy is alive and well and is getting stronger. Are you still sucking milk or have you matured to eat solid food? Can you resist the devil as a weak infant? Why is it so hard to resist Satan, and yet so easy to resist God? As long as we preach love without knowing love, as long as we try to “muster up” love from within ourselves…we are doomed to failure. Just ask any disciple!
So you must understand the challenge here: you must seek God in His word, by the appropriation of His Word (Christ), and through the power of the Holy Spirit. If you don’t know the Holy Spirit, then you don’t know God. If you don’t know God, then you don’t know love. And if you don’t know love, then you will perish in your sin. You need to get past the “knowing of” and enter into His rest of just “knowing”. So ask yourself this question: Do you really know God? Do you really know Jesus? Or do you simply know of them. If you know God, then you know He is spirit. If you know He is spirit, then you know the Holy Spirit. If you know the Holy Spirit, then you know the spiritual man. And if you know the spiritual man, then you know love. Stop trying to live a “good Christian life” and simply focus on getting to know God! It is your right, your honor, your birthright as a child of God. The result of this quest to know God is a victorious life! This is the process, my friends: believe in Jesus and the seed is planted, grow the seed by watering it with the Truth (Scripture and the teaching by the Spirit), and the result is being born again; and the result of being born again is love…and love fulfills all the commandments. Why do we put the cart before the horse? We make it too complicated…stop believing the lies. Jesus said His burden is light and that His yoke is easy…so what are you waiting for? Get yoked with Him. Let God through His Holy Spirit teach you love, teach you truth, teach you of this Savior we call Jesus. Without this appropriation, being a Christian is impossibly hard…NOT at all what Jesus promises…So if you are trying to do this alone and feeling quite the failure, then Satan has done a masterful job in selling you the lie. If you find the commandment to love impossible to achieve, then the devil wins…hands down…you cannot be what God intended you to be. End of story.
You say you love Christ, but do you love His Holy Spirit; you say you love the Father, but do you love His Holy Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit somehow less than the Father or less than the Son? You pray to the Father, you sometimes call out to Jesus, but when was the last time you cried out to the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see the GREAT LIE that has been fed to you by the devil? You fear what you don’t know or understand. You can’t know the Father and you can’t know the Son without knowing the Holy Spirit. This is not my concoction! Scripture screams it out loud; Jesus testifies to what I am saying to you. The enemy has been working overtime to convince you that somehow the Holy Spirit is “less than”…convincing you that faith in Christ alone is all you need, that faith in the Father is all you need, that you don’t need the Holy Spirit as a reality in your life. Why? Because Satan knows you are weak and helpless without the Power! Hello…wake up…I’m begging you! Have faith in the Holy Spirit and complete the work that has been started. There is no other way. Don’t you understand that the Holy Spirit takes your belief and turns it into faith? Faith is a gift! Faith is reality in the spiritual realm. Faith is the all-powerful force in the kingdom of God.
By the way, please don’t take my word for it…explore through Scripture, explore through prayer, explore through meditation, spend some time with the One you say you love…and let the heavens open up for you and descend on you like a heavy rain. Nothing on this earth is more precious and valuable than actually knowing God…and all else pales in comparison. Stop going through the motions and start truly living.
So if your Christian life isn’t working the way the Bible says it should, read the directions. There are no short-cuts, or other ways; the Triune God-ordained process necessarily includes the part we have tried to ignore or were fooled into thinking doesn’t exist any longer. Can you hear Truth? For Wisdom is known by her children!
So all that to say: love is a disease and its symptoms are called “the fruits of the spirit”. Come to the well and drink, come to the table and eat, come to God and taste that He is good!
May our Lord and King, Christ Jesus, bless your journey,