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Jason’s father is the pastor of a mega church and a very dominant personality who has most of the Bible memorized. When Pastor Jack declares that God disapproves of something or someone, Jason feels like God Himself has spoken. The problem is that Jack is a hard man to please—impossible, in fact. Jason has spent his whole life trying to earn his father’s approval, only to have Jack constantly find fault with him. Today Jason is convinced that he’ll never succeed at pleasing God unless he manages to please his demanding father, because he’s convinced that the two beings think alike.
Then there is Stacy—the woman who slept with her best friend’s husband. Stacy has always envied Rebecca’s spiritual maturity and her seemingly perfect life. So it was out of jealous spite that Stacy tried to ruin Rebecca’s marriage. But now she’s seen the error of her ways and sincerely repented. She’s apologized, groveled, and done everything she could think of to try and earn Rebecca’s forgiveness, but Rebecca won’t forgive her. Rebecca says that Stacy’s actions prove that Stacy isn’t a true believer, and she says that Stacy’s true father is Satan. Stacy is now in a panic, convinced that God will never accept her unless she can get back in Rebecca’s good graces.
And then there is Father Marcus, a devout Catholic priest who felt so deeply disturbed by recent behaviors of the pope that he publicly spoke out and warned his parish to be guarded against false leaders appearing even in the highest ranks of the Church. When news of Marcus’ opposition reached the Vatican, Marcus was officially excommunicated, and the only way he will be accepted back is if he publicly renounces what he said. Now Marcus is feeling caught in an impossible moral bind, and he’s questioning the legitimacy of his own convictions. Could it be that he was wrong to question the pope’s authority? Now that he’s being banned from participating in sacraments which he believes are essential to staying in a good place with God, Marcus is sick with distress. He’s having nightmares about burning in Hell, and he feels like God is refusing to hear any of his prayers.
Then there is Beth, a woman who cursed the Holy Spirit every way she could think of the day that she found out her young child had a malignant brain tumor. Beth is now being told that she’s committed an unpardonable sin, and she’s being shunned by the Christians at the church she’s trying to attend. Beth has tried to repent many times, but like Father Marcus, she feels like God has cut her off.
And then there is Cody, the man with a miserable marriage that’s only getting worse. Cody’s wife Victoria claims to be a devout Christian, and she’s always accusing Cody of not being as considerate and respectful of her as he should. Victoria loves to quote 1 Peter 3:7, and remind Cody that God isn’t going to listen to his prayers until he becomes a better husband. Cody came to God late in life, whereas Victoria was saved at a very young age. So Cody assumes Victoria understands God better than he ever will and he’s sinking into a deep depression over the idea that His Creator is as hard to please as his wife.
Lastly, there is Dmitri, a man who is bogged down with many ugly addictions. Dmitri has a foul mouth, he drinks too much, and he’s totally addicted to sex. Dmitri is also a bisexual, so instead of being tempted by just one gender, he finds himself constantly getting into bed with both men and women. Dmitri is a mess, and yet one day he found himself feeling oddly hopeful that perhaps it was possible for him to get into a good place with God even in the face of all of his flaws. For the first time in his life, Dmitri decided to get serious about pleasing his Creator and he prayed a very sincere prayer of submission to God. After that, he became even more hopeful and eager to learn about spiritual things. So he hopped online and found a Christian website that sounded very authoritative on the subject of God. After reading several stern articles about God’s view of sin, Dmitri’s hope was totally shattered. According to the website, a true believer couldn’t possibly enjoy sinning as much as Dmitri does. A true believer has become a new creation in Christ—he’s experienced a radical change in his desires and his flesh no longer rules over him. Well, that’s just not the case with Dmitri. He still loves the taste of alcohol, and he still feels great relief when he drinks himself into oblivion. He still feels an intense longing to romp in the sheets with men and women. He can’t even imagine life without swear words. And yet the articles Dmitri read were filled with convincing Scripture quotations, and the whole site was being run by men with a bunch of holy titles and impressive credentials, so obviously they couldn’t be wrong in what they were saying about God. So Dmitri crashes down into despair and feels worse than he did before he ever tried to get into a good place with God.
Can you identify with any of these grim scenarios? Are you currently feeling despaired about ever getting into a good place with God because of some human’s assessment of you? If so, then this post is for you.
RELATING TO GOD
There are only three real Gods: Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. These three Gods co-created everything that exists. In other words, you were created by the same Beings who created us. So when you decide that you want to pursue a relationship with the Gods who created you, you’re trying to develop a relationship with the same Beings who we are developing a relationship with. But here’s where things get interesting, because even though we’re all interacting with the same Beings, those Beings are treating us all differently. Perhaps Jesus says something to us that He doesn’t say to you. Perhaps the Holy Spirit talks to us in a different way than He talks to you. Human beings are obsessed with comparison, and soon you’re going to find yourself comparing your own experience of God with other humans’ experiences of Him. As you start noticing differences—which you will—you’ll start inventing your own grading system in your mind, and here’s where things go south. Maybe you decide that we must know more about God than you do because we have a whole website about Him and you don’t. Or maybe you decide that we must know God better than you do because we got started with Him earlier. The point is that once you decide that certain humans spiritually outrank you, then it suddenly seems logical for you to start relying on those humans to assess your personal relationship with God for you. Instead of asking Jesus how He feels about you, you start asking other humans what Jesus thinks of you. But wait—those other humans are not Jesus, and it’s not like they can read His mind with their tiny little brains. So if you want to know what Jesus thinks about something, shouldn’t you ask Him yourself? Yes, you should. It is vital that you not give up on the idea of God talking to you personally, because as soon as you take God out of the equation, you no longer have any way of knowing if humans are interpreting Him correctly.
Let’s now take a closer look at the plights of our six miserable friends and see if we can identify the real cause of their distress. In Jason’s case, he’s become spiritually dependent on his father. Jason has decided that because his father has certain characteristics—a holy sounding title, familiarity with Scriptures, a thriving ministry, and a boatload of confidence—his father can’t be wrong about spiritual matters. Well, what kind of sense does this make? Jason’s father is a created being—a tiny speck of a creature who will never be anything close to God’s equal. So when Jason relies on his father to interpret God for him, that’s like you trying to ask a bird how your mother feels about you. The bird is an entirely different kind of creature than your human mother is. The bird doesn’t know what your mom is thinking, nor does it understand how your mom experiences reality or how she perceives you. So when it comes to the subject of how your mother personally feels about you, the bird is a totally useless source of information. Even if the bird were to claim something about your mom, you’d be a fool to believe it until you asked your mom for her take on what the bird said.
Now humans and Gods, are infinitely more different than humans and birds, so when you start relying on humans to tell you what God thinks, you’re being even more foolish than you were when you were trying to talk to a bird about your mother. No human on this planet can tell you with absolute authority how God personally feels about you. The most humans can ever do is guess about how God might feel about you, but no matter how brilliant some human thinks his guess is, you shouldn’t treat his theory as a fact until you ask God for yourself.
Our friend Jason is miserable because he’s shut down on God and he’s now relying entirely on a human being to assess his personal standing with God. Because Pastor Jack is an imperfect human with his own carnal agendas and issues, he is never going to vocally approve of his son. Pastor Jack needs to keep tearing Jason down in order to compensate for Jack’s personal insecurities. Is this mature behavior? No, but it’s extremely common among humans. All humans have hang-ups, and those hang-ups will get all over you whenever you start trying to use humans as a substitute for God in your life.
Now let’s talk about Stacy, the woman who stole her best friend’s husband. Finding out your spouse has been cheating on you is already an enormously painful situation to deal with. But when your best friend is also involved in the treachery, then you suddenly find yourself reeling with trauma and without a shoulder to cry on. Rebecca is devastated by what Stacy has done, and as is often the case with humans, Rebecca wants revenge. She wants to return pain for pain, so at this point, Rebecca is determined to never forgive Stacy. She’s also cutting Stacy off and distancing herself as a means of self-defense. And as for Rebecca calling Stacy a child of the devil—well, that’s just too satisfying an opportunity to pass up. Rebecca enjoys seeing the distress in Stacy’s eyes when Rebecca suggests that God would never forgive what Stacy has done. Rebecca doesn’t want God to forgive Stacy, because Rebecca wants God to be exclusively on her side in the midst of this heartbreaking mess. Rebecca is acting very normally for a hurting human being. The reason Rebecca’s personal hang-ups are stalling Stacy is entirely due to the fact that Stacy is acting spiritually dependent on Rebecca. Rebecca really doesn’t have the power to make God reject Stacy—that power only exists in Stacy’s mind. If Stacy wants to stop being controlled by Rebecca’s behavior, Stacy needs to stop treating Rebecca like God’s controller.
No one tells God how to think or how to feel or how to interact with His own creations. When it comes to forming an opinion about you, God couldn’t care less what other humans think about you. Instead, God bases His opinion of you on how you are responding to Him. How are our friends Jason and Stacy treating God? They’re not treating Him well at all. Both of them are telling God that He has to agree with whatever certain humans say about Him. Jason is unwilling to hear God have a different opinion of him than Pastor Jack does. Stacy is telling God that He can’t forgive her until Rebecca does. This is how it always works when you become spiritually dependent on humans instead of God: you end up viewing certain humans as a higher authority than God in your life, and then you start telling God that He has to align with whatever those humans say.
Father Marcus is a good example of how out of control things get when we become spiritually dependent on humans instead of God. Why is Father Marcus having nightmares about burning in Hell? Why is he unable to eat or sleep? Why isn’t he telling the Church and the pope to stuff it and being proud of the fact that he obeyed the convictions God gave him about speaking out? Why is Marcus so upset by a bunch of humans declaring that he is banned from their carnal little club? Why does Marcus give such credibility to the idea that his relationship with God is being adversely affected because certain humans won’t let him participate in meaningless religious rituals? Since when is eating scraps of bread and wine good enough to make God accept you? Since when do you have to get some human to dunk your physical body in some water before God will take notice of the fact that your soul sincerely longs to please Him?
Religious rituals are only useful when they inspire us to keep pursuing God in our personal lives. But when we start depending on the rituals, then we’re acting as silly as Fred, who has decided that he can’t have a good marriage unless he always wears blue socks and brushes with peppermint toothpaste. What do these things have to do with Fred’s personal relationship with his wife? Since when does the quality of a marriage depend on the flavor of toothpaste that a man uses? If Fred wants to have a good relationship with his wife, he needs to spend time with her, emotionally engage with her, and show respect for her feelings. If Fred doesn’t do any of these things, then blue socks and peppermint toothpaste won’t do anything to prevent his marriage from going down. In the same way, you can scarf down the Eucharist elements, swim in baptismal waters, and memorize a million Bible verses, but none of that is going to keep you in a good relationship with God when you’re icing Him on a soul level.
Our friend Father Marcus needs to take some time to think about who it is he really cares about pleasing in life. When he decides that he wants to please God, Marcus needs to go to God directly and ask Him for guidance. Marcus needs to stop relying on other humans and his own frazzled emotions to tell him where he’s at with God. The reason Marcus is having such a hard time praying is that he’s going into it already believing that God is mad at him. He only believes God is mad at him because that’s what other humans are telling him.
What we believe has a big effect on how we feel, and when we then try to use how we feel to assess what is real, we end up in a vicious loop. If you find out that someone who you really care about is terribly upset with you, how would you feel when you’re on your way to meet with them? You’d feel emotionally upset, tense, and anxious. You might have rocks in your stomach or sweaty palms. Suppose you were to then look at all of the stress signals your body was expressing, and view them as confirmation that the person you’re going to see really is furious with you. You’d feel even worse, wouldn’t you? And yet suppose that in reality the person you’re going to meet isn’t angry with you at all? Suppose the information you were told was totally wrong? Now you’ve just spent a bunch of time stressing over nothing, haven’t you? And yet as long as you believe the false information, you’re going to behave very defensively towards the person who you think is upset with you, and you’ll be scrutinizing them for any little clues that will confirm what you already believe about them.
This nasty trap is one that humans fall into with God all the time. First, they hear false information about Him that leads them to conclude He’s mad at them for some reason. Instead of giving God a chance to verify this information, humans just accept it, then they emotionally react to it, then they view their emotional reactions as proof that what they believe is true. When Marcus tries to pray to a God who he has already decided isn’t listening to him, Marcus feels really upset and rejected. He then takes those feelings to be evidence that God really is rejecting him, when in reality God hasn’t rejected him at all. God is actually telling Marcus something far more positive, but Marcus isn’t listening to God because Marcus has already decided what God thinks of him.
Let’s go back to that analogy of a bird and a human. Just as birds and humans are totally different kinds of beings, you and God are very different kinds of beings. As a dot of a creature, you barely know God at all. You might think you know Him well, and maybe you have learned a lot in the short time that you’ve existed. But no matter how much you’ve learned, it’s just one teensy little drop in an infinite ocean of how much there is to learn. The three Gods who created you are extremely complex, and very foreign kinds of Beings. They aren’t like any creature who you’ve ever met before, so when you start relating to Them, you’re venturing into totally new territory. Only They can guide you through this experience. Only They can help you understand who They are. The point is that you need to slow down and stop being so quick to assume that you know what your Creators think about you or anything else.
Jumping to wrong conclusions about the real Gods because we’re too impatient to wait for Them to teach us results in a ton of unnecessary distress. If Jason, Stacy and Marcus want to stop being miserable, then they need to stop deciding that they know all about how God views them and make room for the very likely possibility that they are clinging to some wrong assumptions. Then they need to start working on uprooting some of that blind trust they’ve invested in humans and transfer it over to God. God is far more trustworthy than Jason’s manipulative father is, and Jason needs to own up to the fact that he’s rooting his trust in the wrong being. Stacy needs to stop treating Rebecca like the top authority on God and instead let God be His own Interpreter. Father Marcus has had an important breakthrough by realizing the pope is not infallible in any area because the pope is just a man. Now Marcus needs to invite God to give his entire theological system a total overhaul so that he can continue unlearning any wrong teaching that he has absorbed. Our three friends need to see that they’re trusting and depending on created beings for things that only God can give them.
So what about Beth? She’s been told that she’s committed an unpardonable sin by blaspheming the Holy Spirit. But who told her that? Humans, not the Holy Spirit. Ah, but people are shoving verses in Beth’s face in which Jesus is the One saying that what she did was unforgivable. Well, the youngest Scriptures in the Christian Bible are 2,000 years old, so it’s not like Beth is who Jesus was talking to in the Gospel books. So before Beth leaps to the conclusion that what Jesus said to other people thousands of years ago is something He would also say to her today, Beth needs to talk to Jesus for herself.
You see, contrary to what many Christian leaders like to say, God really isn’t talking to you anywhere in the Bible. Choose any passage from Scriptures in which Yahweh or Jesus is saying something, and you’ll find that They are addressing a specific group of folks who were alive at the time They first spoke the words you’re reading today. Choose any passage of Scripture in which God is not being quoted, and what you’ll find is a human writer who is also addressing a specific audience of which you are not a member. When Paul wrote Colossians, he was speaking to certain folks who lived in the ancient city of Colossae. The epistle of Titus was written to a specific individual named Titus. Are you Titus? No, so before you say that Paul is speaking to you, you need to ask God if anything Paul says is even worth pondering. The Gospel of Luke is addressed to a fellow named Theophilus. The book of Revelation is speaking to folks who hung out in seven specific churches that were part of the Roman Empire. In Psalm 23, David is talking to Yahweh, not you. When Jesus said that the greatest command was to love God with all your heart, soul, and strength, He was answering a specific question that had been posed by an individual Jewish Pharisee. Proverbs 31 is not God’s command to all women, it is a copy of something King Lemuel’s mother once said to him. Have you ever met King Lemuel? No, you’ve probably never even heard of him. So before you go ripping off words that Lemuel’s momma said and acting like she was talking to you when in real life she’d never even heard of you, you need to ask God what He thinks of the kind of advice Lemuel’s momma was doling out (see Stop Comparing Yourself to the Proverbs 31 Woman).
When you read the Bible today, it’s like you’re leafing through a stack of emails that have been taken from a hundred different hard drives. Each email was written by a specific person, and is addressed to someone who is not you. Now maybe as you’re rifling through that pile of personal exchanges in which no one is talking to you, God will point something out to you and say, “Check out that paragraph: that’s a solid piece of advice that applies to you as well.” Or He might say, “Let Me explain to you why that person’s handing out bad advice to his friend.” But until God speaks up like this and gives you His personal take on something, you shouldn’t be treating anything you’re reading like brilliant wisdom.
Truth comes from God, not humans. If our friend Beth were to apply this principle, she’d realize that she has never asked God directly if there’s any possibility that He’d forgive her for her cursing meltdown (see Understanding Unpardonable Sins: Lies vs. Truth). Holy titles, authoritative language, attitudinal Christians, and a Bible verse typed in red ink are not sufficient substitutes for you talking to God yourself. You always need to talk to God yourself, because your relationship with Him is not a group party, it’s a private, personal affair.
Moving on to our friend Cody, we find that he’s in the same mess as Beth. Cody’s wife has dug one statement by the apostle Peter out of the Bible and she’s constantly holding it over Cody’s head as if it’s some kind of bar that he has to rise up to. Well, why should Cody be impressed with something Peter said when Peter was just another human? For all Cody knows, Peter could have had a lot of wrong ideas about how prayer works (see Can your prayers become hindered by the way you treat your wife?). In fact, Peter could have been wrong about a lot of things. Cody will never know if anything Peter wrote is of any value whatsoever until Cody talks to God. Truth comes from God, not a dead apostle, and not some pile of manmade documents which a bunch of humans have decided to call “sacred.”
Now what about Dmitri—our foul mouthed friend who is totally addicted to alcohol and sex? And what about the apostle Paul’s theory that we’re all supposed to be new creations in Christ? Paul isn’t the only one who teaches that Christians have been given the supernatural ability to instantly cease all sinning the moment they are saved. The apostle John teaches this as well. In fact, John says that anyone who even wants to sin is a child of Satan (see False Formulas for Salvation – 1 John 1:9). But then again, why should Dmitri care about what John and Paul say? Humans aren’t the ones he has to answer to in life. Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the Judges of humanity, and since Their assessment of Dmitri will determine where he will spend eternity, he can’t afford to be putting his faith in human theories about how God might view him. He needs a way to know for sure where he personally stands with his Makers, and the only way he can get there is to cut out the middlemen and go direct.
Dmitri is stressing because he’s put his faith in authoritative tones, human titles, and human degrees. But the fact that a man has fifty degrees from world famous seminaries doesn’t guarantee that he’s not a total doofus on spiritual matters. The only degrees you can collect in this world are ones which represent a certain amount of human education. Well, what good is it to be highly educated by other humans when truth only comes from God? The fact that a man calls himself a pastor or drizzles oil on himself doesn’t mean he’s spiritually wise. Until you’re talking to God for yourself, you’ve got nothing.
When humans are depending on other humans for spiritual guidance in life, do you know what happens? Everyone starts fighting and demanding to be agreed with by everyone else. But when we stop depending on humans and start depending on God, then we stop fighting and we stop needing everyone else to agree with us. You see, once you know that you’re getting your information straight from God, you know that you’re right, and you can kick back into a relaxed state of confidence. It doesn’t bother you that you don’t see the whole picture, and it doesn’t bother you that you only know a miniscule fraction of all that there is to know. You aren’t all uptight because you know that you’ve hooked up with the right Teacher, and you trust that He’ll explain truth to you in the order that He knows is best for your tiny little brain. Meanwhile, you stop being threatened by what other humans think, because you no longer need them to approve of you. When people say you’re brilliant, you don’t get all puffed up with pride, and when they say you’re a blaspheming idiot, you don’t get all upset. Good or bad, you understand that other people’s assessments of you are simply irrelevant. It’s only God’s opinion that matters, and if you know you’re in a good place with Him, you’re all set.
But when you’re not talking to God, and when you have no confidence that God is willing or able to personally lead you in life, then no amount of human babbling is going to put your soul at ease. You’ll be constantly pushed around and stressed out by every strong opinion you come across. When your leaders change their minds about something, you’ll be thrown into a theological crisis. When your leaders abuse you, you’ll be devastated. And yet as much as you might want to blame other people for your problems, the real problem lies with you, because you’re the one depending on humans for things that you can only get from God. You’re the one refusing to listen to God whenever He says something that opposes what one of your human authorities says. You’re the one constantly telling God what He is supposed to think instead of letting Him tell you what He actually thinks.
Misplaced trust and dependency are very common issues for humans, but these aren’t unsolvable problems. Ask God to show you if you’re relying too much on created beings to guide you in your personal relationship with Him, and if you are, then ask Him to help you root all of your dependency and trust in Him alone. Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit aren’t just the Creators of everyone else—They are your Creators as well. They aren’t just talking to the “special” people. They’re also talking to you every day in countless different ways.
No human is without Divine guidance. We’re all being guided by our Creators every day, but we’re so used to calling Their guidance by other names that we miss what’s really going on. Your life is not a series of random coincidences or lucky breaks. It isn’t your own gut instinct or smart choices that’s getting you through the days. Your three glorious, non-human Creators are intentionally involving Themselves in every aspect of your complex little life. So if you currently think that God just wouldn’t bother with someone like you, you’ve been misinformed, and it’s time for you to ask your Creators what They think of all of the assumptions you’ve collected about Them. Lies can be unlearned. New insights can be gained. Trust can be uprooted and transplanted to a firmer foundation. Ask the real Gods to teach you how to depend on Them alone for wisdom in life and They will.
Learning to Recognize God’s Voice: Seven Principles
Shady Shepherd Tactics: Gaining Rank
It’s Biblical: God Talks to People Without Using the Bible
Assessing God’s Pleasure with You: Three Useless Tests
Identifying False Conviction: Three Easy Tests
Rating the Voices of God: A Foolish & Harmful Game
Christian Prophets Explain the Mechanics of Prophecy: Don’t Just Believe What We Say
Interpreting God: Recognizing Errors in Your Method
Understanding Your Complete Loss of Faith: Great News for Devastated Christians