Every once in a while, God seems to stop me to show me the “whys” of how he has led me. This isn’t to muddle around in the past, but more to encourage me to put more faith in him by showing me how he’s already working. A lot of my current journey started about two years ago, though it had been slowly building up over a lifetime prior to that point.
Over the past two years, there were some things God led me to do. I didn’t understand fully at the time, but I was to a point in my spiritual journey where I was learning to trust him, especially since everything else I’d put my trust in wasn’t sufficing. For some time, I’ve had inklings as to why, but never had quite a full grasp. It seems he has led me like he has so I could focus more on what he was saying instead of what I’d traditionally known.
First, he led me to study the Bible more. Like most, I dreaded it. The Bible had always been confusing and I was afraid that if I did come to different conclusions than those around me, I would be labeled a heretic. That fear has been removed now.
I read through Matthew and kinda understood it. Then I started reading Romans and the other epistles of Paul. I started seeing Paul talk a lot about the concept of not being under the law anymore (i.e Rom 6:14, Gal 2:21, 5:4). As the congregation I was in pressed a law based lifestyle all my life and continued to, I started feeling more and more isolated. As any good parishioner might do, I approached an elder with my concerns. At the time, I really didn’t realize this outright, but for every verse I brought up, there was a verse to contradict it. When I stated that it seems like Paul talked several times about not being under law, but grace, the response was “Jesus said he didn’t come to destroy the law” (to which my response was, “Yes, he said he came to fulfill it”). As the conversation went on, it seemed to quickly become evident that anything I tried to present was going to be countered with another scripture. This depressed me greatly because, even then, I knew the Bible wasn’t to be manipulated to contradict itself. When the elder realized I had some knowledge of the Bible because I’d been reading it, like he himself kept insisting that we all should, he changed tactics. He filibustered with a lot of religious stories that had little to do with the Bible or were heavily manipulated. For about an hour and a half, I tried to listen and take into account his words, but they were so loaded with agenda that it only depressed me. I would interject a sentence in every once in a while that would completely blow the previous rant, but after a few second of stuttering or silence, he would go back into another dictation that had little to nothing to do with my statement or was otherwise just a denial with no Biblical backing of any kind. I tried for some time to make sense of his stances, but there was nothing there.
I spoke with another elder after that. While he tried more to understand, we didn’t quite see eye to eye on how to grow towards Jesus. I spoke with many others from the congregation and while they had some surface level agreements, it seems most were comfortable to continue in their traditions, doctrines, and rituals until either they died or the congregation could no longer sustain itself. Reluctantly, and with a heavy heart, I left to find a real relationship with Jesus.
I’m not saying any of this to beat anyone up over it. I’m trying to give a fair evaluation of the happenings as pertinent to my spiritual growth over the past couple of years.
Looking back over those times, I see why God led me away from that. I could have stayed and faked it, but I didn’t feel like that was the honest thing to do. I tried understanding that viewpoint and adapting myself to it, but that just drained away the little spiritual joy I was discovering. There was such a limited space to present God’s love to others and even that was heavily regulated.
A lot of the reasoning of God’s leading I’m now seeing. The Bible is an overall story of humanity’s awakening into the fullness of God’s Kingdom. It was never meant to be a static picture of “how to be a Christian.” That view just creates confusion and allows verses to be pitted against each other depending on the agenda we’re supporting. We can take a stance for grace and deny justice. We can take a stance for law and deny grace. We can take a stance for judgment and deny mercy.
But I digress.
As I talked with more believers, I saw varied stances. Often, if I didn’t agree with a stance, I was told, in a not so loving manner, that I needed to go back and read the Bible again. Ironically, I often complied with this (but more so because of God’s prompting) and found even more amazing things.
Several months ago, I was beginning to get the urge to read the New Testament again, stopping at every difficult verse to find a reasonable explanation. I got to Matthew chapter 5 (again) and contemplated that for a while. After several more months, I started to see how it fit into Jesus’ overall message. This didn’t seem to be how many Christian were operating though. Love your enemy, pray for them, do good for them, bless them. Like the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, many Christians seemed to pray, do good, and bless themselves, their friends, and those who will support their views. Enemies were generally condemned to a hell fire of eternal torment.
For a while, seeing how I should treat those I considered enemy, my heart became more softened to those I’d been told I should avoid. Many Christians didn’t seem to like this and again I was told I needed to read the Bible because I wasn’t seeing things the way they insisted I should.
So again I started at Matthew. I started researching what all this Gehenna and Hades talk was about. What I discovered blew away all my preconceptions about the afterlife and eternal punishment as I had traditionally viewed it. Again, I was told I need to read the Bible because I wasn’t getting it.
So again I started with Matthew. I re-researched much of what I had learned, even into the original Greek and Old Testament cross passages, to ensure that I knew what I knew. I got all the way to Chapter 24 this time and wasn’t seeing anything yet in Jesus’ teachings that contradicted my views. Matt 24:1-3 hit me like a ton of bricks though. I carefully read the rest of the chapter taking into account the first three verses and looking for any type of transition that might indicate Jesus was speaking of two different times. However, I found nothing. In fact, I found that Jesus was being very specific that his coming would be in that generation (Matt 23:36-38 and 24:34). This cross references with what he also says in Matt 16:27-28. As I continued reading the New Testament, I saw that Jesus and his followers all had a firm belief that he would return very soon. As I compared the symbolic language of things like “heavens and earth,” “coming in the clouds,” and “age,” I found an amazing correlative story that runs through the entirety of the Bible.
So, this is basically where I stand now. I know this is quiet long and if you’ve made it this far, thank you for hearing me out. I feel it is only fair to lay all my cards on the table as often as possible and not be elusive or confusing on anything. No, I don’t have all the answers, and I never will. However, the vast majority of the Bible now makes sense when placing it in the context of the original recipients and what the message was about for them.
This has been both an amazing and liberating journey as well as a harsh and depressing one. Having everything I’ve known stripped away was brutal, but I can say, I wouldn’t change the relationship with Jesus that has been developing for anything. There is nothing else that will suffice.
Lately, I’ve been writing only when I have the desire to. Previously, I had to think more on what to write about. In recent weeks, however, it seems there is something I’m inspired to write about almost daily. I try to make my blog as free-flowing as possible, not forcing it into a scheduled pattern of topics that I must post on certain days, etc…Today, these were a few thoughts on my mind.
Prophecy and the Bible As probably already noticed, one of the topics I’ve developed a desire to know more about is prophecy. A year ago, I wouldn’t touch the subject and it was even scary to read or hear about it. As I’ve grown closer to God, I’ve had a desire to study the Bible more and more. I can say now that I love it! I don’t like a lot of the stuff that went on in ancient times, but I love the ever evolving story of God redeeming humanity and guiding us step by step into a brighter future. My view of the Bible hasn’t always been like this though.
It would seem much of our current religious views revolve around control. Fear is weaved into much of the Biblical message we’re given to keep us obligated in some way. Much of this isn’t intentional and much of this is just following tradition out of fear. Yes, there were (and still are) consequences for actions. God didn’t punish those who were living out love though. Those who were punished within Israel were the ones insistence that their religious rule-following made them more righteous than others. These were the ones who considered themselves better than the rest of society, readily judging every action while hiding behind a defense of “don’t judge” as it pertained to them. Jesus laid out quite plainly what was going on in Matt 23. Are we still following this same pattern today? Are we attempting to control people by our religious views instead of walking out the journey with them, in love, to show them Jesus? Are we attempting to conform others externally while their pain, confusion, etc…are either pushed deeper inside or somehow twisted to be something satanic? Are we regurgitating garbled, often contradictory, cliches to lay guilt on others or are we pursing them through the love of Jesus?
Approval I’ve stopped playing the approval game. For some time, even after I left the institutions, I hoped to still be approved of by other “Christians.” I’ve come to realize now, little by little as it was weened out of me, I don’t need religious approval to develop a real and joyful relationship with God. Many, both inside and outside of the traditional congregations, have tried to convince me otherwise. It seems religious approval has been so ingrained in our society, that many who haven’t set foot in a church building in years still defer to that validation in some form, often without consciously realizing it. However, the beauty of the removed burdens of performance, confusion, and conformance have proven to me personally that a direct relationship with God transcends human attempts to replicate or control it. It can only be accepted and lived by the Holy Spirit within and Jesus alongside. Sometimes I just have to laugh (to keep from being saddened by such attempts) when someone tries to manipulate me by withholding their self-righteous, religious approval. Being in a love relationship with Jesus doesn’t require external validation!
It seems many look back to better times. When I look into these “better” times though, I see things like racism and misogyny. Are those the “better” times? Often, there’s a false nostalgic memory that people long for in the past. Some even look to Biblical times as the example that we should revert back to which seems to be an insult to New Covenant grace. When this method was applied before, it plunged the world into the Dark Ages. Much of that same methodology is still vehemently held on to today. Fortunately, humanity has advanced enough not to be as controlled by it to drag us back into such an era. While we have our problems in this day, I for one feel lucky to live in the new age (Heb 11:37-40).
There were a handful of “good” times under the Old Testament, but it isn’t an age I would want to live in. God is beckoning us forward, step by step, by the Holy Spirit in us and Jesus beside us. With every prejudicial hatred that is whittled away, with every bigotry that dies a slow and agonizing death, humankind inches forward into a brighter future. Sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back. Many tend to anchor their hopes in a lackluster past instead on walking day by day with Jesus into new and better days.
Revelation I intended to study more of the prophecy in the gospels and epistles first, but God seems to be prompting me on to Revelation. This is admittedly a daunting endeavor, but as I began studying some yesterday, I noticed it wasn’t hardly the beast of the apocalypse that I’ve previously viewed it as (at least so far :D). As I’ve began reviewing this book, I notice something almost immediately that is repeated throughout. It’s the same concept that was stated in the gospels and epistles—soon. My next post may list these out as relevant, but for now I’m still studying with a great joy in discovering things that have often been contorted to rob us of the New Covenant promises of God.
I’m feeling the urge to go into another heavy reading cycle. The pic is about 1/2 of the books that I’ve collected up over the past few months for when I next got this hunger.
For me, I’m thoroughly enjoying learning more about God. Can I ever know it all? Of coarse not! However, knowing God more intimately causes me to fall even more in love with him. I don’t ever want to get to the place of complacency where I stop desiring to know him more.
Recently, a few questions have piqued my interest and I’m excited to dig in to find the answers and grow more in this amazing relationship.
My name is John and I’m an INTP. Over the past year I’ve grown exponentially closer to God as I’ve learned more of how to embrace who he created me to be.
I decided to start this blog to share with other introverted types as well as those who have a hard time connecting with us. It would seem it is easier to organize and present my thoughts through writing instead of conversation, especially in the more conventional social settings.
That’s all for now. I’ll add more as God directs. Feel free to ask questions and I’ll answer as best I can.