Personal Relationship, Personal Devotions...rubbish?
When you want to believe something really bad, you’ll find a way to get the Scripture to say what you want.
For instance, the verse: “God is love.” This verse can be twisted to fit our vacillating passions quite easily. In fact, I just heard a new song on the Christian radio station where the chorus said, “Love is God and God is love, no one's below no one's above.” Sounds so true the only problem is that it’s not. Love is not God. Love can be of God, but there’s a lot of so-called love that shouldn’t be turned into “God”. You can’t just take Scripture and turn it upside down and expect anything more than upside down theology.
Take the popular verse “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” It seems formulaic doesn’t it? If I put in some time delighting in God, I get what I want. God’s delight is directly connected to my desire. It becomes an easy way to do what you want to do under the guise of God’s favor. I can’t tell you how many people use this verse when they are looking for God’s will in a decision only to end up following their own will thinking it God’s.
And the worst of it is that it isn’t hard to read into the Word your particular angle. Phrases like, “I really feel that God wants this.” Really? Last I checked, feeling something isn’t the place to start in looking for God’s wisdom. “I don’t know why, but I sense this is what’s right.” Really? You not knowing “why” is a great reason to stop dead in your tracks and seek out rationale before taking off. “God moves in mysterious ways.” No ones arguing that, but he doesn’t move in un-counseled, un-biblical ways. He can often lead you toward the unreasonable, but I’ve never seen him lead someone toward the unreasoned.
“I know it doesn’t make sense, but trust me, I’ve been praying about this.” I don’t know where this line of logic is coming from. People making abrupt decisions in their “prayer closet” (I tend to think it’s a pretty one-sided, lop-sided prayer if they are praying at all) outside of godly counsel is not biblical. It’s just not.
This is the danger of having a “personal relationship” with God. “It’s just between me and God.” No, it isn’t. When you come to Christ you enter into the fellowship of a faith family. You don’t get to be a latchkey kid wandering about orphaned and homeless. You are grafted into a community of counsel. The reason for this is not just provision; it’s protection. We come under authority and submit ourselves to the whole. There’s no going rogue.
I think this “personal relationship” thing is bred partly in the personal ownership of our own copies of the cannon, the Scripture. Now let me be clear, I am all for owning a personal copy of the Bible and am grateful for the development of the printing press and the men and women that have translated the bible into the tongues of each tribe that is blessed to read the Word for themselves. We all know the carnage that came with a powerful and precious few lording over the peasant masses with a twisted translation of truth.
But throughout the Bible, people didn’t have the luxury of translating the Bible “for themselves, by themselves”. They came together in community and heard the “reading” of the law/letters in community and then talked about its meaning together. You didn’t get to have “personal devotions”. They were devoted to the “apostles teaching” if you remember in Acts 2. They were asked to not “neglect the public reading of the Scriptures” in Timothy.
I don’t want to discourage the personal reading of the Bible, but I do want to discourage the personal interpretation of it. I don’t think the Bible was to be consumed in private completely divorced from the counsel and accountability of the community. If we read the Word, we should be in discussion with others concerning the details of our findings. Collective commentary, in my opinion, leads to the best shot at truth. Not just in biblical interpretation, but in finding out things like who should build your house and how it should be built. The more research and references you gather, the better your chances of health and success, whatever the endeavor.
The reason I feel strongly about this is because I’m continually seeing people making choices apart from community in the name of God. It goes something like this: “I’ve really sought the Lord on this and I don’t expect people to understand, but this is what I have to do.” This is rubbish. Absolute rubbish.
To make matters worse, they find “pieces of verses” to validate their belief system and justify their decision. You have to believe this is what Jesus was dealing with when he told Judas, “What you must do, do quickly.” In other words, you’ve already made up your mind and figured out a way to rationalize your behavior, and I’m not going to talk you out of it so get it over with.”
Do you ever talk to people that are coming to you with their decisions wanting your approval without ever seeking your counsel? They’ve already “made up their mind” but are trying to fake like they are asking for your perspective or permission. You can tell they already have signed the papers, or purchased the tickets, or moved out of the house, but they are trying to make you feel like you have a say. I think this is what Jesus would say, “What you have already decided to do, do it quickly.” Don’t waste my time like you really are asking my advice. Don’t pretend like the dye hasn’t been cast and the choice isn’t already set is stone. Do what you’re gonna’ do.
The Word of God is personalized to fit their belief system and the Wisdom of Counsel is avoided where it pushes back on their preconceptions and presuppositions. They go to people that tell them what their “itching ears want to hear, turning aside from truth and embracing myths of their own making”
I’m guilty as charged as well. So this isn’t a rant against others, it’s a rant against us. We have a problem, and I’m sick of it.