(Been a while since the last; this is a long one…)
So up til’ now, I had thought the Christianity I experienced at this stage in life was pretty good and broad and pleasing.
I grew up Baptist. I had charismatic and Church of Christ and Methodist friends in high school. At college, I fellowshipped with the likes of Reformed and Assemblies of God and Emergent Christians. So far, I haven’t yet touched Catholic/Orthodox traditions, but I think it’s safe to say that if there’s a worship practice floating around a mainline Christian denomination of any significance, chances are I’ve experienced it and/or am comfortable with it.
So when someone approaches me and says they have, maybe, a word from the Lord for me? Like a prophetic/no-one-but-God-could-know-this kind of thing? I’m cool with that. I listen.
Twice now, this has happened to me. (I won’t tell you what those messages contained, though they were good and hopeful and encouraging, and I trust them. I think without one of them, I wouldn’t have elected to come to the Forge.)
But I will tell you that yesterday, I came in contact with a guy whom I had a great deal of spiritual respect for… and he gave me bad news.
I was bound to go to a funeral for a friend’s dad that afternoon, and we had some detail stuff to go through for the Forge later that night. The later half of the day would have some busy-ness. I thought my morning was going to go pretty smooth, however, when I found myself in this group with a couple of friends, and this man told us that he had been praying for us, and that he had some things to speak, if we’d let him. After making sure he wasn’t gonna spiritually bull-crap us (we tested him according to 1 John 4), we said yes.
He had some encouraging/exhorting/cool things to say to the first two or three of us. But when he got to me, he told me:
“I saw you, and you were dead. There is something in you that God wants to kill. You think you’re alive, but you’re really dead. You’re maybe putting on a front. What you let people see is not who you are.”
He then proceeded to tell me that, as he had prayed through the various members of this group I was with, he came back to me and wrote down “Big Deal!” As in, I wasn’t supposed to brush this off.
I didn’t question it, but dang it if I didn’t know what the heck he was talking about. My body was alive (duh), but even knowing he was speaking from a spiritual standpoint, how was I dead? I had just been thinking the night before that I’d never felt better about how my walk was going. I mean… seriously?
I only could mull it over for an hour or two before we set out for that funeral (which, if this was really God speaking, was a case of really interesting timing). And as you can imagine, after we got out, I felt like I really needed to talk to somebody.
So I processed it with my Forge director, a guy named Matt who’s pretty wise. And he gave me some good advice. And I ran it past a couple of the Forge guys during the day; like, “how AM I spiritually dead?” There, I got some encouragement.
But I wasn’t going to have much peace without talking to the guy who’d delivered the message in the first place. So I went back to him and asked for some more explanation.
He assured me that this sensation he’d got didn’t mean I was going to punt the bucket anytime soon. (Right. I wasn’t worried about that). But he said it was a spiritual deal, and that if I wasn’t careful, I was about to “get taken out of the game,” so to speak. My death wasn’t neccesarily right at the moment. But I was well on my way to being dead.
That friend’s dad’s funeral was dancing around my subconcious. The man we honored there had fought cancer for three years before passing on. The connection probably just couldn’t help but be made.
“So it’s like I’ve got this spiritual cancer that’s going to kill me, and God wants to kill THAT?” I asked.
Yes. That was it.
Later that night, I read the letter to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3, thinking I might find some insight. And to the angel of the church in Sardis, it says:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
I think I’m guilty, friends, of letting Jesus Christ become A Very Important Thing among 3 or 4 other Very Important Things. Jesus matters a lot to me. So do the attendant lifestyle-behaviors of reading Scripture, loving my neighbor, praying, and seeking Him in my daily life.
But He isn’t The Only Thing to me, which He demands to be in His people’s lives from the outset.
The Israelites pray the Sh’ma prayer, which we’ve been learning here. It is also the Greatest Commandment, according to Jesus– “Hear, Oh Israel! Adonai your God… Adonai is (God) alone. Love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and all your might.”
And I’ve been blind to that fact. The Lord alone.
I’d rather God have told me something cool, like I was dead to sin. But if my spiritual cancer is quickening, if I think I can balance Jesus’ Lordship and power with other things and that be cool…
… then I need to come back to life.
And the good news is, my God is in the business of ressurection.