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How do you know if all is well between you and your Makers? The Church offers you several simple tests. If you rely on her tests, one of two things will happen. You’ll either end up feeling hopelessly discouraged and questioning the validity of your salvation, or you’ll end up going astray with misplaced confidence and useless striving. The Church’s tests for identifying if a Christian is on track are utterly useless. Let’s learn why.
TEST #1: ARE YOU IN THE WORD ON A REGULAR BASIS?
Do you enjoy reading the Bible? Are you faithfully doing those daily devotions? No? Then according to the Church, you’ve got some spiritual issues. But according to God, there are several good reasons for you to avoid the Book. Let’s now dig a little deeper and see what it is about the Bible that you find so off putting.
When I read it I always feel condemned.
What the Church doesn’t want to admit is that God isn’t the only One who speaks through “His Word”. Demons love to talk to you through the Bible, and they’re quite capable of making a certain verse leap off the page at you. It’s easy to tell when demons are talking because they always make you feel hopeless and beat down in your walk with God. They either harp on your imperfections, or they weigh you down with a bunch of demands for perfect behavior that they know you can’t possibly meet.
Does God want you to feel condemned in life? No, He wants you to feel inspired, hopeful, and informed. When God has a problem with something you’re doing, He clearly identifies what that problem is and He also tells you what to do about it. God’s solutions are always clear, specific, and doable. “Just be more like Christ” is vague. “Just stop lusting” is humanly impossible. When God convicts you, you will know that you have the resources to do what He wants. God doesn’t accuse you of disobedience until He has made obedience a possibility for you. He doesn’t accuse you of willfully defying Him until He knows you have a clear understanding of what He wants as well as the resources to follow through on His orders.
God is not glaring down at you from Heaven just looking for some excuse to nail you. God is for you, and He has you on this earth for the purpose of establishing a positive relationship with you. There is a ton of information that He wants to teach you, but He’s going to break it down into little bite sized pieces and work with you at a pace that you can handle.
Demons successfully condemn you by leveraging two things against you: your insecurities and your ignorance. There’s no quick way to shore up these two things. It’s going to take a whole lot of education from the Holy Spirit for you to start unlearning the many lies which are currently driving your insecurities and fears about who God is and how He views you. It’s going to take a lot of time for the Holy Spirit to teach you how to read Scripture within its proper context so that you stop misinterpreting what you read. As long as you can’t open the book without getting beat down with condemnation, that’s your clue that the Holy Spirit has not yet equipped you with the tools you need to have the Bible play an edifying role in your life. Is this some kind of crisis? Not hardly. The Bible is just a material thing. It didn’t create you, it didn’t die for you, and it doesn’t love you. Your relationship is with your three glorious Creators, not some physical object. You don’t need to read the Bible to know God. You need to listen to God Himself and be willing to let Him lead you in life. When God wants you to read the Bible, He’ll get you excited about the idea, and that brings us to the next common complaint that Christians have about reading the Bible.
It’s so boring.
If you’re interested in botany and your friend is interested in mechanics, which one of you is going to get excited about schematics for the engine of a popular sports car? While your friend is poring over the detailed drawings, you’re feeling restless and irritable. But if we take the schematics away and replace it with an encyclopedia of flowers, suddenly you’re the one who’s excited while your friend is sitting there with a glazed over expression. What’s controlling the reaction in these scenarios? Prior interest in the subject matter being discussed. You wanted to know more about flowers before you saw the book on flowers, so when the book came along, you were all over it.
Now the Church wants you to think that the Bible is some kind of extension of God Himself, therefore if you aren’t interested in the Bible, you obviously aren’t interested in God. If you buy into this absurd theory, you’ll quickly spiral down into all kinds of guilt. In the first place, God is not a book. In the second place, the Bible is a history book. It is describing events that happened long ago to people who you’ve never met. Can you learn a lot about God from studying history? Sure. But you can also learn a lot about God from studying an encyclopedia of flowers and the schematics for a car engine. This is God’s world and everything that exists in it is from Him. So when we act like the Bible is our only source of insight about God we’re being ridiculous. As far as the Holy Spirit is concerned, He has endless teaching tools at His disposal in your personal life. If He wants to teach you about patience, He can point you to some passage in the Bible, or He can drive you up the wall with your really annoying coworker. Both experiences are fraught with growth potential.
The Holy Spirit never said that He needs the help of some book to teach you in life. The Church says that, because the Church is steeped in rebellion, therefore God has taken her wisdom away and turned her into an irreverent fool. To say that the quality of your relationship with your Creators can be measured by your interaction with some inanimate object is utterly absurd. The Holy Spirit is your main Teacher in life, and He will not be told how to do His job. Like Yahweh and Jesus, the Holy Spirit loves variety and He intentionally treats us all differently. He instills in some of us an insatiable curiosity about the Bible, and when we eagerly open up the Book wanting to know more, He downloads all kinds of fascinating insights into our minds. At the same time, He entices others of us to seek Him through a study of the stars, or the study of people, or the study of medicine, or by simply basking in the wonder of Creation. There are countless ways to draw closer to God. There are infinite contexts in which you can develop deeper trust, reverence, submission, and dependency—four soul attitudes which are critical for developing an intimate bond with your Creators. What teaching tools does the Holy Spirit prefer to use in your life? Think about the insights you’ve gained so far—what methods did the Holy Spirit use to help you understand those things?
To say we can’t mature in our walks without reading the Bible is to make God out to be far more limited than He is. Certainly the Bible can be a great source of insight in our lives, but only if the Holy Spirit is in the mood to use it. If He’s not in the mood, He’s going to drive you away from it by making the thing seem as dull as dirt. It is utterly painful to try and read the Bible when God isn’t in the mood to speak through it. Forcing your eyes to drag across page after page of meaningless words isn’t going to do your soul any good at all.
To thrive with God, we must stay in alignment with Him, and that means letting Him lead our spiritual education. Because she’s listening to Satan, the Church is constantly teaching you habits and mindsets that drive you away from God instead of towards Him. Instead of teaching you to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead in your spiritual education, the Church teaches you to try and lead the Holy Spirit by insisting that He teach you through the Bible. God wants you to submit to Him and let Him decide how He wants to teach you, so the Church teaches you to try and dominate God by constantly telling Him what to do.
Today you’ll find many Christians saying that when God is silent, they know they can get Him to speak by doggedly persisting in their daily devotions. After all, to open the Book is to open God’s mouth and force Him to speak. Is this an honoring way to talk about our King? When we talk like He’s some mechanical wind-up toy that we can force into action anytime we want, are we practicing submission? Are we expressing reverence? Are we embracing our dependency on God for all things? Not hardly.
How often you read the Bible doesn’t have bumpkus to do with the quality of your relationship with God. When we focus on frequency, we’re focusing on the wrong thing. Why are you reading or not reading—that is the far more useful question. If you’re reading to try and make God speak to you, then you’re trying to control and lead Him. This won’t take you anywhere good. If you’re reading to get other Christians off your back, then you’re reading to please people, and that certainly won’t do anything positive for your relationship with God. If you’ve given up on reading because God just isn’t in it, then good. You’re actually following His lead instead of trying to override Him. This will take you far.
To progress in life, we need to focus on following God’s lead. When He’s speaking to you through the Bible, by all means, read on. But when He stops speaking to you, set it aside. God will not be led by us, nor will He be bound to predictable patterns.
TEST #2: ARE YOU ATTENDING CHURCH REGULARLY?
If the answer is no, then clearly all is not well between you and God. This is what the Church will tell you because the Church is steeped in carnality and she has no trust in God’s ability to shepherd His own people.
The Holy Spirit is God Almighty, not some halfwit who relies on the help of depraved mortals to instruct you in life. Yet many of our leaders in the Church today adamantly insist that unless you listen to their sermons and soak in their theories about who God is and how He operates, you’re guaranteed to stagnate. And why should we expect to hear solid teaching from people who are so steeped in arrogance that they honestly believe that God needs them to accomplish His will on earth?
The moment we start encouraging souls to rely on anything or anyone other than God Himself, we are leading them astray. And the moment we say, “You must blindly believe what I say about God, because my wisdom is flawless,” we’re only showcasing our own rebellion. God is the only Authority on God. We humans are pompous little creatures who are always trying to get in God’s way and obstruct His work with our constant complaints and modifications to His program. The fact that He ever succeeds in speaking truth through us just showcases how awesome He is. We cannot take the glory for anything God does, because anything He does through us He could just as easily do without us.
The real reason we teach souls to believe they’ll go astray the moment they leave our realm of influence is that we want to control them. We want to play the role of God in their lives—either because we want to manipulate them for our own gain, or because we have a deep distrust of God’s abilities as a Shepherd. Plenty of well-meaning pastors get sucked into this snare without realizing it. It starts when they take on too much responsibility for the souls in their flocks—forgetting that all souls are the property of God and that He loves them far better than we do. Well-meaning pastors are like the father who goes to drop off his child at a babysitter’s house, yet is then overcome with anxiety at the thought of leaving the child alone. There are good reasons to not trust people with the care of our children, but there are no good reasons not to trust God with the care of the souls which He has made. God is infinitely wiser than we are. He has infinite resources and power. He alone knows what is best for every soul, and often His best will look pretty lousy to us. Are we going to trust Him or not? Pastors need to learn to let go and parishioners need to learn to not let their pastor’s insecurities hold them back in their own walks with God.
Always the focus should be not on what you are doing, but on why you are doing it. Why are you going to church? Because you’re feeling pressured by human beings? This is a lousy reason to do anything. If we’re going to let other people direct us in life, we’re guaranteed to end up in a mess. There’s only one right reason to attend church, and that is because you feel confident that it’s what God wants you to do right now. But while you’re feeling confident, you also need to be open to Him changing the order and telling you to take a break.
Now if you’re not going to church, why aren’t you? Because when you go you always feel beat down and discouraged? When this happens, it’s because you’re hearing from demons instead of God. The majority of teaching being put out from the pulpit these days is coming from demons instead of the Holy Spirit. This is because pastors who are truly committed to saying what God wants them to say are very rare and the Church is working hard to block such men and women from gaining access to her public pulpits. You can’t fix the Church, but you can certainly limit her power over you by staying in alignment with the Holy Spirit. When He wants you to go to church, He will get you excited about the idea, He’ll lead you to the place that He wants you to attend, and He’ll use the sermons to draw you closer to Him.
Now we can learn a lot about God through both good and bad sermons, but we can’t learn anything until the Holy Spirit is willing to teach us. The important point for you is to follow His leading in your own life and stop letting other people sell you on pat formulas for how God must behave. God is wild, and He is going to lead you in a variety of ways. There will be times He wants you go to church, and times He wants you to stay home. Instead of keeping a tally of your attendance, you need to focus on the fact that God is with you at all times and practice trusting that He is teaching you in life. You are not some lost lamb who has been left by the side of the road. Your Shepherd is shepherding you in a very personal way at all times. He is never going to tell you that unless you’re standing in a group of other sheep, you can just forget about Him guiding you. Your relationship with God is personal and direct. When it comes to assessing how things are going between you and Him, how often you attend church is an irrelevant detail.
TEST #3: HOW OFTEN DO YOU SIN?
The answer to this question is the same for every Christian: constantly. And since the answer is the same for everyone, how can this question serve as a useful test for anything? Well, it actually is very useful, but not for assessing your current standing with God. Instead, it’s a great measuring rod for your own ignorance and/or arrogance on the subject of sin. If you honestly think you don’t sin all the time, you have either never been taught the truth about how God defines sin, or you are rejecting His definition of sin and using your own instead. That second option has always been popular among humans. All throughout the Bible, we find people who claim to be followers of Yahweh modifying His definition of sin to exclude all of the activities they want to do. Murder, gossiping, cheating, lying, fornicating, lusting, stealing, hating—let’s not call these things sin. Let’s call them acts of righteousness. After all, if you stole from me first, it’s only right that I get to steal from you. If you cheat me, then it’s justifiable for me to cheat you. If you ruin my marriage, then you deserve for me to ruin yours. We humans are great at whitewashing ourselves and justifying our sins until we honestly think we’ve totally overcome our depraved nature. Then we start talking as foolishly as the apostle John, who said:
No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (1 Jn. 3:9-10)
To practice sin means that you’re doing it constantly. Do you breathe? Then you practice sin. You can try to practice righteousness as well, but you’ll always be practicing sin. Sin is wired in. Your flesh is fallen, and it was designed by God to love everything that He says is wrong. Gossip? Bring it on. Holding grudges? That feels good. Cheat your way to the top? Sounds convenient. Flirt with that sexy babe who treats you a whole lot better than your wife does? Why not? Read pornographic romance novels and fantasize that you’re making out with some handsome hunk instead of the imperfect man that you married? Sure. Our flesh loves to sin and our souls really want to accommodate our flesh. This is how it works, and denying reality isn’t going to get us anywhere. So to even ask a Christian if they sin is an idiotic question. Of course they sin, and so do you. We’re all a bunch of depraved wretches. So what? How does this help us assess how we’re doing with God? This is an utterly useless test.
A TEST THAT WORKS
These three tests that the Church is so in love with don’t get us anywhere. She has more that are just as useless—such as “Are you involved in ministry?” and “Are you tithing regularly?” We could talk forever on the foolishness of the Church, but now let’s move on to a test that we can actually benefit from. After all, confidence in our standing with God is a critical part of gaining rest for our souls, and God wants us to experience that rest. So He has not left us without a way to assess our standing with Him, nor has He left us with no solution if our assessment produces negative results. With God, success and hope are always well within reach.
Okay, so what question can we ask to properly assess how we are doing with God? It’s very simple: how important is God’s approval to you? How much do you care about Him having His way in your life and being pleased with you? Which of the following answers applies to you:
A. Pleasing God is extremely important to me. I want Him to have His way in my life above all things.
B. Pleasing God matters to me, but I have to admit there are other things that matter more.
C. I know pleasing God is supposed to matter to me, but it just doesn’t.
D. I couldn’t care less about God being pleased with me.
Which answer applies to you? Don’t lie about it, because God already knows the truth. This isn’t about feeling guilty, it’s about honestly assessing where we are at so that we can then know how to move forward.
If A is your answer, then you are in an excellent place with God. You’re right on track, and you can be confident that He is extremely pleased with you. At this point some of you in the A camp are going to start thinking, “Oh, but it can’t be that simple, because if you really knew the kinds of things I struggle with.” Right. You sin. That’s a given. It’s also irrelevant to your current standing with God, because the only thing God is going to judge you by in eternity is how your soul responded to Him. How earnest were you in your desire to please Him? It’s not about how you are actually treating God, it’s about how you want to treat Him. No Christian in this world comes anywhere close to treating God with the reverence, respect, love, and honor He deserves. If God judged us by our performance down here, we’d all end up in Hell. But instead, He judges us by our soul’s desire to please Him. Those of you in the A camp sincerely want to treat God with the highest honor possible. You can’t begin to turn that desire into a reality, but it’s still your desire, and that is why God is so pleased with you. It’s all about heart with God: If you really want Him to be pleased with you, He is pleased with you.
Now God wants us all to be in the A camp, but He also knows that He is the only One who can get us there. For those of you who answered B, C, and D, pleasing God is well within your reach. What He wants from you is to recognize that the A camp is the ideal place to be, and then ask Him to get you there.
It is totally unnatural for human beings to consider God’s approval of them to be more important than anything else. If you’re not there, you’re not a failure, nor are you doomed to get some bad grade from God. In fact, you can please Him just as much as those in the A camp by sincerely asking Him to make you all that He wants you to be.
It is vital to realize that God has made succeeding with Him a very attainable goal for every Christian on the planet. This is because God judges us by our hearts, and no matter where we are at today, we can always ask God to take us farther. When we do, we’re submitting to Him and putting His will above our own. These are the things that please God.
In eternity, we are going to be rewarded based on our degree of submission to God. When you realize that you honestly don’t care that much about God, yet you ask Him to help you start caring, you’re doing the best you can with the resources you’ve got. We all start off in different places, yet we can all end up victorious and hearing “Well done” from God. It is far easier to succeed with God than we realize, because He does not judge us by our behavior or our ability to perfect ourselves. It’s all about soul response.
God wants us to really care about pleasing Him. When we already do care and we ask Him to help us care even more, He is thrilled. When we don’t care at all and we ask Him to help us start caring, He is thrilled. What does reading the Bible, attending church, and counting your sins have to do with inviting God to make you all that He wants you to be? Nothing. The Church teaches you to strain and strive and focus on outward behaviors instead of going directly to your only Source of help: God Himself. It’s easy to assess where we’re currently at with God, and it’s easy to know when we’re pleasing in His sight. It all comes down to inviting Him to make us all that He wants us to be.
What it Means to be Aligned with God
Pleasing God When You Can’t Control Your Flesh
Does God love us all the same?
The Evidence of Growth: Where is it hiding? (Help for Frustrated Christians)