Where is My Faith?
Where is my faith? What am I using as soil into which I push roots to hold my faith secure?
In my ability to interpret prophecy more 'accurately' than others?
In things I want God to do for me when I ask Him?
In plans I want to believe God has for me to work for Him?
In the Torah?
In my growing 'security blanket' of righteous living?
In my superior insights into what I think God requires of those who are to be saved?
In my advanced knowledge of the Scriptures?
In my inside information of current last-day developments in the world?
In the affirmations of spiritual people's reactions to my expostulations on the Word?
In my ability to impress people to draw out of them expressions that make me feel more valuable?
If my faith/trust/belief (all the same term in the original) is prioritized in any way that does not have the Heart of the Father as revealed in the Heart of the Son as my highest, most intimate source of security, then I have a misplaced faith. If I allow dependence on any other source, whether it be information, people, an explanation, a belief system or some authority other than the One designated by God Himself – Jesus Christ, the explicit revelation of the heart of the Father acted out in human form – then my faith will be lacking in the saving power it must have.
God's highest priority is to win hearts, not to convince sinners of doctrines or demand conformity to a list of requirements. It is in my heart's attitudes toward God, that are unavoidably exposed in my attitudes and treatments of others, especially those who are disagreeable or who may even abuse me, that I discover where my real priorities lie. (Matthew 25:31-46)
I am constantly being convicted and confronted by the Spirit to discern the true foundation of my faith. And just because I reset it when it is found to be in the wrong place doesn't mean it stays put with Him. This is something He has to keep bringing me back to repeatedly in my maturing process. It is not a one-time choice but rather an ongoing disciplining of my heart to develop a habit of trusting God as the supreme object of my highest affections, the ultimate Source of all my provisions and blessings, the only truly reliable confidant and counselor, my only hope for salvage, restoration and healing (salvation).
That does not discredit the fact that He is ready to use many other sources, people, opportunities, etc., as means through which He provides many things from His heart to my life. Yet all of these appointed channels present opportunities and temptations that can confuse me into thinking they might be viable sources in which to trust or on which I might depend for my identity and value instead of remembering that it is God behind and through all that is using each of them. While it is good and right to affirm and appreciate each of them directly, it is vital that I always keep uppermost in my mind that it is God alone who only is safe for my heart to unconditionally trust. It is God who is behind and provides every other source of blessing and provision for me, and it is God alone who is the source of all love and life and guidance that can cause me to thrive and live and be restored to His original design.
These convictions emerged from a passage I read today in a devotional book that God has used to greatly influence and shape my spiritual life, My Utmost for His Highest. Let me share some with you.
Behold, the hour cometh, . . . that ye shall be scattered. John 16:32.
Jesus is not rebuking the disciples, their faith was real, but it was disturbed; it was not at work in actual things. The disciples were scattered to their own interests, alive to interests that never were in Jesus Christ. After we have been perfectly related to God in sanctification, our faith has to be worked out in actualities. We shall be scattered, not into work, but into inner desolations and made to know what internal death to God’s blessings means. Are we prepared for this? It is not that we choose it, but that God engineers our circumstances so that we are brought there. Until we have been through that experience, our faith is bolstered up by feelings and by blessings. When once we get there, no matter where God places us or what the inner desolations are, we can praise God that all is well. That is faith being worked out in actualities.
“. . . and shall leave Me alone.” Have we left Jesus alone by the scattering of His providence? Because we do not see God in our circumstances? Darkness comes by the sovereignty of God. Are we prepared to let God do as He likes with us—prepared to be separated from conscious blessings? Until Jesus Christ is Lord, we all have ends of our own to serve; our faith is real, but it is not permanent yet. God is never in a hurry; if we wait, we shall see that God is pointing out that we have not been interested in Himself, but only in His blessings. The sense of God’s blessing is elemental. (Excerpt from My Utmost for His Highest, April 4, emphasis is mine)
One thing I have to guard against constantly when I am learning new things is the penchant to allow my mind to think of others who need to hear what I am learning. But God convicts me that until I allow the conviction I am feeling to have full force on my own heart and I embrace it unreservedly for my own application, it is hypocritical and even deleterious to allow these diversions to prevent conviction from having its full focus on me. I see this as a cousin of blame, that most pernicious habit of shifting the spotlight toward anyone else in order to avoid taking responsibility for myself.
Others that come to my mind may or may not need to hear what I am receiving. But if I allow thoughts of others to take up space in my conscious thinking, their very presence precludes the ability of the Spirit to convict me as needed for myself. As long as my mind is unwilling to accept the full brunt of a conviction without offering excuses or other outlets to diffuse its full force, I am robbing God of the permission He needs to continue the healing regimen He longs to implement for my own recovery.
I say this because I am grappling with it even while I write all of this. This is an expression of self-disclosure, a confession that I am quite susceptible to this all-too-familiar trap of shifting attention away from my own issues by thinking of other's problems that need addressing. When Peter, a man all too much like myself, fell into this line of thinking by asking about Jesus' plans for his friend John, Jesus simply said, “What is that to you? You follow Me.” (John 21:22)
Peter, like me, found it all too easy to slip into having his faith at least partially based on knowing what God's plans were instead of just resting in trust in His heart. Jesus instructs all of us to abide in Him and let Him abide in us. That is pure heart language, not a head formula. The problem is that very many of us are so out of touch with our hearts for various reasons that we have little if any ability to even hear heart language or to interpret it accurately. As long as the 'receiving equipment' inside of us is so damaged or malfunctioning that it is largely dysfunctional, we usually tend to interpret such information with our head. But doing so always results in mistaken conclusions as to the intended purpose and meaning of such communications.
These are classic symptoms of our infection received from the Tree of Knowledge.... As long as our faith is in any way relying more on knowledge of the head while lacking in the more important knowledge of a heart directly connected with the heart of Abba, we are at risk. I have found that one of the best sources that is helping me to repair and learn to use the internal 'heart receiving paraphernalia' created by God to receive and transmit love and life and truth is an immersion in the little book of First John. I am convinced that the disciple John was one of those who most succinctly embraced the heart messages of Jesus and became possibly the most eloquent relater of the essence of what Jesus longed to pass along to us about the truth of His Father in heaven.
It is not enough to simply read this little book and think we have got it. The heart is very different than the head and its abilities to function and communicate and listen are both very misunderstood but also very often severely damaged by sin's effect in each of us. But what I am discovering is that as I immerse myself day after day after day in these messages from God's heart designed to be listened to at the heart level rather than to be analytically expounded with exegetical techniques by the head, it not only begins to produce healing effects in my heart but they are gradually transforming my heart to synchronize with the beautiful truths that the other side of my brain has been learning.
I believe that saving faith – that means faith that brings transformation through healing of my soul – can only be experienced as I allow my heart to catch up with my head and allow it to take its proper place and function in all my relationships. Far too long I have had my head in full charge of my life, trying to learn how to be right with God through knowledge, practice, performance or any other number of activities the head can produce. But God is much more interested in accessing my heart and this has been my greatest struggle to even comprehend, for my own awareness and ability to function at the heart level has long been so damaged, repressed, wounded, or discredited, that it is very difficult for my head to relinquish control to such a seemingly unreliable and unpredictable part of my makeup.
The heart, from my head's perspective, can seem so irresponsible and unreliable. After all, who wants to live from the heart when that is the the most pain can be experienced? Yet even modern brain researchers have recently discovered that it is the right brain (and all the evidence seems to indicate to me that this is where the 'heart' operates) that is designed to be the primary governor of our lives, not the cognitive, logical left brain. It is true that they both have important roles and functions and it is vitally necessary to have both of them cooperating and contributing their part. But sin and religion has so long deceived many of us into assuming that since the heart is messed up, the only safe way to live for God is to maintain total domination of the left brain over all our decisions and beliefs.
But a left-brain religion is what was firmly in place and practiced by the Jews when Jesus came to this earth and it is painfully clear how that worked out in their encounters their own Messiah. Nothing is different today however. The same temptation is just as strong to make logical, information-based religion the dominant way to live religiously while keeping the heart either firmly repressed or possibly given token roles to play in our relationship with God and each other.
Yet what we fail to understand is that true faith has to originate at the heart level. The thing most often called faith by religious people has very little to do with the heart-kind of faith necessary to connect with the only Source of Life vitally necessary for us to experience eternal life. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. (1 John 5:12) It is impossible to 'have' the Son in an intellectual way, a left-brain dominated life. To have the Son in a salvational way is to be connected to His heart with our own heart – there is no viable alternative. Any other option, no matter how compelling or convincing or promising or religiously correct is a decoy that will end in tragic loss. Only a spiritual, heart-based relationship with the Source of Life can produce the kind of results that will bring true life into our starving souls. And as we embrace this kind of relationship with God, we will find our heart empowered to risk having more meaningful relationships with His children.
Over the past few days I have poured out my heart and stretched my brain like never before to grapple with how to present the truth as it is in Jesus to a small group of people gathered in Texas hungry to know God. It has been both a stimulating experience, an inspiring but intense week as well as a challenge for me personally to attempt to live from my own heart beyond what I have ever done before. My fellow laborer in this event and I have experienced the presence and interventions of the Spirit during this time in heart-warming ways. We saw people challenged, triggered and inspired as they were confronted with new ideas that sometimes clashed with deeply embedded beliefs about God. But for myself I have come away with a deeper appreciation of God's longing to make me a more efficient channel of His passionate love as I allow Him more and more access to the damage in my own heart.
Many times during this last week there were involuntary tears. But I wanted to learn to allow them to come, for to resist them was to perpetuate the blocks 'protecting' myself from the very waters that Jesus wants to use to repair the damage deep inside me. I have been ministered to by others who have their own perspective of the heart of God. We were prayed for, affirmed, encouraged and held up as messengers of the gospel in ways I have never imagined or experienced in the past. This was a radically new experience for me as I have never been called on to go and present the truths I have been studying about God in the past in this way. But because all present were longing to hear the Spirit's voice, we found very receptive hearts and were thrilled as we saw 'aha' moments on the faces of various ones suddenly seeing more light flashing from the glory of God as it was being presented.
Now I am back home to the 'normal' life; all the usual sights and sounds and people. I sense that my faith is tempted to revert back to other sources that have propped it up in the past, or to allow the affirmations of those who have been blessed to become a source of my identity. Don't get me wrong, I believe God wants us to affirm and appreciate one another. Many of God's blessings, provisions and affirmations are channeled through others and properly so. Jesus said that we are all gods and He was not joking. The function of a god is to provide in various ways for the benefit of others and we have been afraid too long of believing this. The problem comes when we allow any other god to become a higher priority in our heart to the original God who sent all His blessings through these channels.
So I come back to my original questions. How easy it is to allow faith springing from my own heart, longing to connect with sources that can provide me life or love or identity, to cause me to shift to put more value on anything or anyone MORE than my trust in God's heart. (Exodus 20:3) I must not discount these other sources, for God is the one who sent them to provide for my needs, whether financially, emotionally or in some other way. I experienced that this week and deeply appreciate it. But while not discounting or diminishing the importance of appreciating all these sources directly, my heart faith must be constantly challenged to keep reseting its 'priority button' deep inside to remember that all good things originate and flow from Him who loves me and gave Himself for me.
So once again I use my mind and my heart together to bow before the Lover and Saver of my soul to choose to experience Him in the present, which I long ago learned is the only time and place where I can really experience His presence. I can draw encouragement from my encounters with Him in the past to strengthen my courage and hope and trust that He will ever be present with me in the future. But the only place where real faith thrives and operates is in the present moment, as I choose to 'enter into that rest that is left for the people of God.' (Hebrews 4) He has been training me to never be anxious about anything, for much of my anxiety springs from a wrong-headed notion that I must have more 'knowledge' to have peace or security. But the truth is that He is in charge of knowledge, and head knowledge is all too much part of the external orientation of the counterfeit system designed by Lucifer while a heart knowledge of God is the saving kind of knowledge that produces real salvation.
Father, I choose again to rest in and believe Your love for me. I choose to seek the secure identity that my heart must know and that empowers me to be confident in the face of lies that will confront or confuse me today. You know the deep damage that still remains to be healed all through my being. Yet You are the One who's name is faith-full, and as I focus on Your faith I find faith in Your heart awakening more in my own. As I focus on embracing Your selfless love I slowly find love beginning to stir in my own attitudes towards others. As I believe in Your unconditional forgiveness towards me I find it much easier to let go of offenses I receive at the hands of others.
Father, I am so glad You are in charge of completing to the finish the work of transformation You have begun in me. You are so gracious, compassionate, caring, thorough and fair that it is often hard to grasp. But I choose to open myself to You again today and rest in Your plans for Me as You unfold them minute by minute. Infuse my disposition with Your Spirit and remind me of Your presence today so that someone might catch the scent of fresh 'water' and enticing 'food' that You want to share with their thirsty, starving hearts. As I might engage in feeding hungry souls around me in the power of Your Spirit, let me ever avoid the temptation to attach their affections directly to me more than what they attach to You. Your face and reputation and honor must increase while my reputation and their dependence on me decreases so they can connect more and more directly with Your heart, just as I too am connecting more and more securely to Your heart. All of this is for the benefit of Your reputation alone, ..."That You may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged." (Romans 3:4 NKJV)