Random Blog Clay Feet: December 24, 2008
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Searching for Real Truth

I switched on the radio today to try to find some good music to listen to at the request of my family. What we heard initially was a speaker from a typical Christian ministry giving a simplistic version of what is often called “the gospel” trying to appeal to people and to convict them of why they should turn to God. But instead of making me feel excited about knowing God better, the words of the speaker only stirred up some very intense feelings of jealousy for God's reputation that was being unwittingly maligned by the many false assumptions about Him they were presenting.

More and more I find myself out of step with the mainstream of Christianity and the philosophies they promote about religion and God. Because of the confused and mixed messages that are almost always present in religious teachings I find myself wanting to scream out in protest at times, wishing that the real truth about God could become more obvious to people claiming to be representing Him. Instead, the messages most commonly given are along the lines of beliefs in an angry God being appeased by a loving Jesus who died a terrible on the cross to prevent us from being fried in hell if we will just somehow feel sorry enough for doing bad things that offend Him.

All of my life I have had some version or other of this kind of teaching presented by everyone around me and this was usually labeled as being the gospel. But something deep inside of me also felt confused by the duplistic nature of the things being taught and for the life of me I could not figure out how this could really be called “good news”. There was always so many requirements that had to be met, so many attitudes that I was somehow supposed to conjure up to satisfy the demands of this “gospel” that I just couldn't see how this could really be viewed as good news, at least for me. It seemed more like a competition to see if I could jump through all the hoops laid down by God before I could be accepted into heaven and on the other hand a God trying to find some reason to keep me out.

But what I have come to even more resent in the past few years is the underlying assumptions that are almost never challenged of a God who will inevitably turn on His created children and lash out in anger against anyone who did not meet His minimum requirements to get into paradise. Something about this whole theology just rankles deep inside my soul no matter how much rationalization the teachers and preachers do to convince me that it is somehow fair. And to top it off, when they can't produce enough reasonable evidence to integrate beliefs about a loving God and teachings about a vengeful hell together, they quickly resort to their trump card to shut down all discussion about the subject – the “strange act” syndrome or the “mysteries that we just can't know”.

This final move to shut off all thinking or questions about the inconsistencies between a God of love and a god of hateful vengeance smacks all too much of the mind and soul intimidation exercised most forcefully in the Dark Ages when religion imposed its harsh beliefs about God on every human being under their dictatorial control. Anyone daring to question the strong pronouncements of the church were quickly branded as heretics and were threatened with similar torture and pain that was commonly believed were the methods used by the God they believed in. The same kind of thinking still underlies much of religion today even though people think that the reformation has changed everything. The problem is, I don't think the reformation has ever really been finished. There are still very important truths about God that remain buried under the misconceptions of sinful men because of false interpretations of teachings in the Bible.

As we listened to the discourse on the radio for a few minutes before I got some music CD's playing, we heard the speaker talk about our need to be saved from the punishment for sin in hell. I then heard my daughter comment that what we really needed was to be saved from him. She was referring to the speaker on the radio, but it occurred to me that in fact what this religious teacher was really saying was that we needed to be saved from Him – God.

And that betrays the core issue that has bothered me all of my life about these confused notions of what really constitutes the gospel. For in nearly all of the teachings that are going around called “gospel”, it is ultimately God the Father that is either implied or explicitly taught to be the one that we need to be saved from. It is the “wrath of God” that is usually presented as the dire threat from which Jesus was sent to “save” us and only in doing whatever formula the teacher subscribes to are we supposed to be able to avoid that terrible fate. The formula presented is generally unique to whatever denomination or even cult that happens to be offering their path to salvation. But all of this is becoming very strange and disturbing to me as I see more clearly what constitutes the real gospel as taught by the Bible.

The more I learn (which is partly because I continue to ask lots of questions about assumptions and the real meaning of words) and the more I study the Bible on this subject, the more attractive the real truth becomes about the true nature of salvation and the real truth about how God relates to and feels about us. It is not that there is no real danger to be concerned with or that there will never be any such thing as hell. It is just that nearly everything we have assumed about these things have been based more on traditions in religion than on solid biblical study with open minds and hearts and led by the true Spirit.

The exciting thing is that there are more and more people in the world beginning to wake up to the real truths about God. I believe that His Spirit is in the process of waking up anyone who is willing to be taught, who is willing to reexamine their own beliefs and assumptions whether they are religious, atheist or anything else. Those who are truly honest in heart and hungry to know the real truth about reality are going to be blessed with fresh revelations of truth that are going to go far beyond anything that any present denomination teaches today.

This is why I believe that it is extremely important for people to not get stuck thinking that others can supply them with all the truth that they need to be saved. When we depend on any church, any teacher, preacher or theologian to be our source of salvation truth, then we are shorting ourselves of the access to fuller truth that God wants to reveal to those who are hungry to move us past what others claim is complete truth. We must not allow ourselves to make anyone our standard or source of truth without a willingness to go to the Source ourselves and learn to listen to the Spirit of God instruct us personally.

Many fear that if each person chooses to listen directly to the Spirit of God individually that the result will be chaos and disunity. But this attitude betrays a lack of real trust in the ability of God to communicate with His children. It also betrays a secret desire for control through human means to achieve the unity that can only really be produced by divine methods. The Bible teaches that all children of God will be led by the Spirit of God – not by any human agents. As that Spirit communicates with each person it will be seen that the real unity that Christians long for will occur naturally because the Spirit never contradicts itself and all truth will be seen to be in harmony with the Bible. But the ongoing revelation of truth may not always agree with the traditional interpretations and spin put on things in the Bible by humans trying to achieve doctrinal control over other people's faith.

What I have been learning is that all concepts and doctrines must be checked and reexamined, even repeatedly, in the growing light of the glory of God's character as revealed in the life of Jesus. If anything is the slightest bit inconsistent with the testimony and example of Jesus about what God is really like, then it is urgent that we become suspect of that teaching and be willing to reconsider what might be another way of perceiving it. I have found this to be an excellent way to flush out subtle errors in doctrines and teachings that all my life I assumed to be fact simply because my teachers and church insisted they were true. It is not enough to have Bible texts all lined up to prove some belief. Just because someone can quote the Bible does not mean that their conclusions are in line with heaven's perspective. More and more I am seeking to ground myself firmly on consistency of faith that must align with the Bible and most of all with the witness of Jesus' life and the promptings of His Spirit instead of simply believing what anyone else teaches or preaches.

I am still very blessed, instructed and even corrected by listening to various speakers or reading some of their material. But at the same time I always keep uppermost in my consciousness that everything I hear must be referred to the Spirit of God that dwells in me. Anythings that seems to be out of line with what I have already been learning personally from God needs to be examined by the above standards and I consciously ask God's Spirit what He thinks about it. Sometimes He confirms that I need to take it seriously and adjust my own attitudes, assumptions or beliefs. Other times He reveals that this person is not the complete repository of truth no matter how advanced and in tune with God they may be. They are not to be my final source of truth, they are only agents that God can use to add to what He has already been teaching me in my own journey toward knowing the real truth about Him.

This has brought me a great deal of peace as I no longer feel I have to feel guilty for not agreeing completely with every godly speaker or teacher. I realize that God may be teaching me things that they have not yet learned and at the same time is teaching them things that I have not yet learned. He definitely can use them to increase my own perspective of truth, but I do not have to give up what He has already shown me if it happens to differ from what they are saying. I do remain willing to once again challenge my own beliefs, but it is so refreshing to find out that God is never offended by anyone challenging or examining anything that claims to be truth. In fact, He is pleased when we are willing to begin thinking and questioning our assumptions. If our heart is pursuing a knowledge of His heart and an experience of knowing Him personally, He will be faithful to guide us in the right direction and takes responsibility to continue to draw us into a fuller understanding of truth.

What I am searching for are others who are willing to ask tough questions that motivate us toward a deeper appreciation of the real truths about God. I am hungry to dialog with people who are loyal to the Bible but not dogmatic in their prejudices. I want to connect with other hearts and minds that are willing to remain humble and open to new truths as God brings them to us and yet courageous in sharing these truths with others even when it is not popular with a church. And most of all I want to have a spirit free of bigotry and intensity. I am coming to realize that when I start to feel that “intense” feeling inside when others disagree with me that it is not reflective of the real Spirit of Jesus. This intensity is actually a counterfeit of the passion that God has to unite our hearts and lives with Him.

I want to have much more of the pure and holy passion that I am beginning to perceive in the heart of God and much less of the intensity of bigotry and defensiveness that characterizes much of the religious zeal seen in this world. I want to learn the ways of God, to share the feelings and emotions and reactions of God, to come into sympathy with Him and to see reality through heaven's perspective. This is my desire and my prayer and I believe is also His desire for me.