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Avoiding the Dog and Hog Disease - Part 1

Walking With God

Over the past several years Iíve noticed there have been some who have come across this website, gotten interested in what I have to say, hung around for a while reading and studying the articles and then all of a sudden, poof, they disappear.  And that is something that has really troubled me.  Iíve sought the Lord; trying to understand why people would write and tell me they agree with what Iím saying about God and religion and why one is not the same as the other.  They seem sincere.  They sound like theyíre genuinely interested in knowing God in an intimate relationship.  It appears they understand why God wonít be found in traditional religion.  They say they want to experience Him and see His purpose fulfilled.  But they rarely ever write me to tell me how theyíre doing, how theyíre progressing or what theyíre experiencing with God.

Then as I was teaching from a passage in Colossians 2, I came to realize what the problem might be for at least some.  They get to a point when they conclude that to progress any farther into this idea of having intimacy with God, theyíre going to have to pretty much go it alone.  They begin to understand that intimacy isnít a religious group exercise and "personal" means just that, something between just them and God.  They were comfortable as long as all they had to do was read something.  Their itching ears were excited to learn some new thing.  It was enjoyable to sit and contemplate new ideas.  But the reality of being alone with God was uncomfortable, uncharted territory.  They began to lose their enthusiasm for God when they realized they couldnít have religion as a crutch to lean on. Religion, the Prozac of the ages, was no longer going to be there to tell them what they wanted to hear and justify their lip service to God.

And so they drifted away, back to where they came from like the dog returning to its vomit, the hog going back to wallow in the mud.  What Peter says about the plight of the dog and the hog is specifically true.  This is what he says in II Peter 2:19-22.  But before I quote this passage, I should set the context for you.  Peter has been talking about the false prophets and teachers who had infiltrated the fellowships.  And when we get to these particular verses he illustrates what happens when people are unable to break free from the influence of false, religious teaching.

"These false teachers promise freedom, but are themselves the slaves of their own deceit Ė for by whatever a man is overcome, to that he has become enslaved.  For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through a personal knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then again become entangled in them, their last condition is worse for them than it was before they knew anything at all.  It would have been better for them to have never known the way of righteousness, than, to have known it and then turn from the holy commandment that had been given to them. Instead, what happens to them is what is spoken in the true proverb, The dog goes back to eat his own vomit; The hog, after it has been washed, goes back to wallow in the mud."

The first, and maybe the most important, thing I want you to notice in this passage is Peterís use of the word "liberty" or in some translations, "freedom" in verse 19.  The word is eleutheria, and is used here to illustrate freedom or independence from religious rituals and rules.  Paul uses the same word to illustrate the same point in I Corinthians 10:29 and Galatians 2:4, 5:1, 13.  Let me quote one of these verses to give you a point of comparison.  This is Galatians 2:4.

"My concern was that because false teachers had been secretly smuggled into the brotherhood for the purpose of overthrowing the liberty we have in Christ Jesus, they might try to again bring us into bondage to their religious rules."

The point is, Paul and Peter both understood, as we should also understand, that everyone who pursues God and His purpose with sincerity and determination must be able to do so free from the interference of those religious men and institutions who would try to impose their false doctrines, practices and rules upon us.  As I have said before, and am sure will have to say again, religion will not lead people to God; it is specifically crafted to draw people away from God.  And people today who are totally immersed in denominational, institutional religion are so blinded by it that they cannot see this truth.  True intimacy with God can only be found within the confines of this freedom.

Now if you look at II Peter 2:19-22 above, youíll see that Peter is saying it would be better if they had never known the truth at all, than to have known it and turned away.  They found out how to escape the filth of the world, but like the dog and the hog, they couldnít overcome their true nature.  They couldnít prevail in the battle against their flesh.  They didnít go far enough or long enough with God to learn that they could escape its grasp.

The whole experience didnít strengthen their spirit; it strengthened their flesh instead, because they were never able to fully escape the influence of their flesh that kept pulling them back into the world.  And that disastrous defeat is now permanently imprinted on their soul, discouraging them from ever coming to God in the future.  Think of the implications!  What do you do after youíve tried the Truth and it didnít work?  Where do you go from there?  So they return to the ways of the world, its religions and the certain destruction that awaits all those who trust in the ways of man rather than God.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews (I believe it was Paul) uses Esau as an example of one who could never overcome his fleshly nature and do what he needed to know God.  We find it in Hebrews 12:16, 17.  Let me set the context for you.  Paul tells us to rid ourselves of anything that would slow us down (12:1), look away from anything that would distract us (12:2), avoid the temptation to feel sorry for ourselves when things get hard (12:3, 4), understand and embrace Godís correction and discipline (12:5-11), be courageous and strong (12:12, 13), pursue holiness (12:14) and be careful to watch out for others so they donít get discouraged as well and fall away (12:15).  This brings us to verses 16 and 17, which Iíll quote for you.

"So that no one may become like Esau, a slave to his flesh with no reverence or sense of responsibility towards God, who traded his birthright for some bread and red lentil stew.  And you understand that later, when he wanted to regain this place of blessing, he was disqualified because he could find no opportunity to repair by repentance what he had done, though he sought for it with bitter tears."

Some translations use the word "rejected" to describe what happened to Esau where you see "disqualified" above.  The word "refused" could be used as well.  The Greek text uses apodokimazo, to reject as the result of an examination, to disapprove or disqualify.  Why would God disqualify Esau? The answer is simple enough; he could never meet the qualifications.  This may be a shock to some of you who want to cling to Godís so-called unconditional mercy and grace.  But, as Iíve mentioned several times before, with God nothing is unconditional.  Everything God has to offer is based on a willingness to exercise our will and meet His conditions.  And poor Esau had a bad case of the dog and hog disease.  He never found the determination, courage and strength necessary to overcome his nature (flesh) and do what he had to do.

Now I know some will say Iím overstating my case here and that this passage isnít talking about Esau being refused by God, but by his father Isaac who could not rescind the blessing he had been tricked into giving to Jacob.  If you happen to be one of those, let me caution you to consider the context here; why Paul would use Esau as an example to make his point; and make sure that you understand the underlying facts in this situation.  Letís look at these three things one at a time.

First, when you look at the context of this passage, which I outlined for you above, before I quoted the passage, Paul is clearly talking about what we must do to gain and maintain a relationship with God.  And when you read the verses that follow this passage all the way to the end of the chapter, heís still talking about it.  So, the context is clearly established.  Itís talking about Esauís relationship with God, not with Isaac.

Then in verse 16, Paul describes Esau as "a slave to his flesh with no reverence or sense of responsibility towards God".  Again, a clear reference to a relationship with God and the fact that Esau had his own priorities, wrong priorities that gave him a certain distain for God, making him a great example of failure.

And last, but certainly not least, Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of red lentil stew and some bread.  The incident is recorded in Genesis 25:29-34.  In verse 34 it says Esau "despised" his birthright, trading it for something as trivial as lentils and bread.  And it is here that we must understand just what was involved in this act.  What, in fact, was Esauís birthright?  Was it the customary double-portion inheritance reserved for the eldest son?  Yes, it was that.  But it was really much more.

With the double-portion inheritance came the responsibility of the eldest son to become the family priest.  The patriarch was not simply regarded as the leader of the clan; he was recognized as the spiritual guide, the one who gave instruction and assisted others in their participation in the sacrificial system that taught them how to have a relationship with God.  Abraham, clearly the priest of his family, passed this responsibility on to his oldest son, Isaac.  Everything we see in the record tells us Isaac was a spiritual man in the true sense of the word.  And, it was certainly Isaacís intention to pass this priestly responsibility on to Esau, but Esau never took it seriously.  On the other hand, Jacob wanted it so bad he was willing to conspire with his mother and resort to dishonest trickery to get it (Genesis 27).  And, Jacob did function as the family priest with Godís blessing (Genesis 35:1-15), something the moralistic, religious crowd would be hard-pressed to explain. How could God approve of such immoral behavior?

Something else worth mentioning is what is said of Esau at the end of verse 17, that he sought to correct his mistake with bitter tears.  Esau knew what he needed to do.  There must have been brief times in Esauís life when he wanted to do what was right and understood that he wasnít doing it.  And it bothered him to the point that he got emotional about it, but to no avail.  And what does this tell us?  It tells me that sincerity doesnít count.  In liberal religion sincerity is the coin of the realm.  Live a good life, do your best, they say.  What they will find out is that sincerity and a buck, fifty may get you a cup of cheap coffee at the corner 7-11, but itís not going to get you to heaven (and a buck, fifty with all the sincerity in the world wonít get you a really good cup of coffee).

And while Iím here, let me chase a rabbit or two and give you a glimpse of what my next paper (Avoiding the Dog and Hog Disease) will be about.  The double-portion inheritance in the Old Testament is the basis for the double-honor instruction of Paul in the New Testament.  If people look at the Scriptures with a heart to please God and be obedient, instead of with their hands on their wallets and a determination to protect their lifestyles, then theyíll see that God has always intended for those who are willing to accept the spiritual responsibility of others to be taken care of.  The one who was to become the family priest received a double inheritance, the priests who administered the Mosaic Law shared in the tithes and in the things offered in the temple (Deuteronomy 18:1-8) and the one who preaches the Gospel is to live by the Gospel (I Corinthians 9:14) and is worthy of receiving a double portion (I Timothy 5:17).

And I canít help but notice in some who claim to know and understand truth a certain spiritual shortsightedness when it comes to money and the support of those who make it possible for them to understand that truth.  I canít help but worry about them.  And donít misunderstand what Iím saying here, either.  I know that anytime I mention money, it sounds self-serving.  But, Iím not worried about the fact that Iím not receiving their money.  My trust is in God, not people.  Iím worried about them, because their actions show the reality of what Jesus says in Matthew 6:21, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  The question has to be asked, if youíre not willing to invest some of your treasure to make sure the truth is spoken, is your heart really in it, or is it just another case of religious lip service?  And in Mark 8:35 Jesus makes it clear that those who make decisions designed to protect their lives here will lose out in the end and those who are willing to lose out in this life for the sake of Christ and of His Gospel will gain life in the end.  As Iíve mentioned before, walking with God requires many different realities that cannot be feigned.  And giving with a grateful heart is one of those realities.  In my short experience in Truth, the failure or refusal to give in support of the one who is teaching truth can be a symptom of the dreaded dog and hog disease, a first step towards straying off the narrow road back to the well-beaten path the world is traveling.  Well, I can always tell when I start preaching, the paragraphs get longer.

I suppose I should get back on the subject at hand.  The title of this paper is "Walking With God".  Earlier, I mentioned Colossians 2.  Letís go there and get started.  I wish I could teach through the whole chapter in detail, but Iím not writing a book, Iím just trying to give you some pointers on walking with God.

Actually, I need to remind you of a principle that Iíve mentioned before and that is going to be illustrated again in this paper.  The principle is this: the Scriptures were not given to be a guide to tell us what to do and how to do it (this reminds me of my Baptist friends who cling to the mantra Ė the Bible is our only source of faith and practice).  Instead, they are meant to be a source of confirmation to us so that as we experience God we are able to look in the Scriptures and see that they confirm what we have learned from God and that others have had similar experiences in the past.  Those who rely solely on the Scriptures to guide them only prove they have no intimacy with God.

I know there are those who read these papers and are so religious and spiritually lazy that they donít read the scripture verses I have listed in bold print as I advise them to do from time to time.  And so I resort to sarcasm and name-calling as Iím doing here to try to shame them into it.  So, on that note, Iím suggesting that you stop here and read Colossians 2, the entire chapter.

Now, if you did stop to read it, you saw Paul encouraging the believers in Colosse to persevere in their pursuit of intimacy with Christ, warning them not to be influenced by human reason and the ways of the world, explaining the reality of their identification with Christ and redemption and then again warning them about the demonic, worldly, religious forces arrayed against them and the utter futility of allowing themselves to get caught up in these things.

Now, letís direct our attention back to verses 6 and 7, which Iíll quote for you.

"And since you have now entered into this intimate relationship with Christ Jesus the Lord, begin to regulate all the activities of your life as if He was right there with you.  Be firmly established, taking every advantage of His instruction, gaining confidence in this relationship through your experiences with Him as you have been taught to do, and always be thankful to Him for His kindnesses."

Obviously, the first order of business has to be an explanation of why I translated these verses the way I did.  I doubt they agree with whatever version you might have in front of you.  The word "receive" in verse 6 is paralambano, and means, "to receive near or beside" and is used here to illustrate the action of associating oneself with another in an intimate relationship (in this case a believer with Christ).  The context is unmistakable.  Next is "walk".  The word is peripateo and is always used to signify the entire range of activities involved in living.  Literally everything we do defines our "walk".

Then the preposition en is the instrumental use and should be translated "with", not "in" as you see in the KJV.  Here Paul is talking about the reality of an intimate relationship.  Relationship with Christ is not a mindless, independent, selfish lifestyle that allows periodic interruption into man-made religious activity that is tolerated only because it appeals to the flesh.  Instead, it is a life in which there is a conscious attempt to make sure that all activities are shared with Him, where the awareness of His presence is continual.  Iíll concede that living in Christ may be our doctrinal understanding.  But living with Christ must be the practical reality of it, or there will be no reality at all.

The next key word is "rooted".  The word is rhizoo and is used as a metaphor to illustrate the idea of being firmly planted or established.  "Built up" is epoikodomeo, another metaphor that illustrates the concept of being helped by anotherís instruction (edified).  The word "established" is bebaloo, a great word in this context.  It literally means "to make firm or reliable so as to inspire confidence as a result."  Then we see the word "faith".  As is usually the case, this is pistis and is used to describe real experiences with God as opposed to the religious concept of doctrines we accept in our mind.  Again, the faith of Abraham that we are urged to emulate was based on his real experiences with God, not what he learned about God from books or religious activities in the big building down the street with Godís name on it.

"Have been taught" is didasko, to teach Ė inherent in it is the increase of understanding that leads to the practical experience of what is taught. Didasko does not prepare you to regurgitate the facts; it enables you to apply what you learn so you experience something.  Didasko is the difference between religion and reality.  And if you read the corrected translation above, thatís exactly what Paul is talking about.  Christianity is a religion that wants to teach you about God and wants you to participate in rituals that have nothing to do with reality.  Many who read this will never make the distinction, but Paul is not talking about Christianity here (Christianity was never a part of his vocabulary); heís talking about the realities of a personal, intimate relationship with Christ.  Paulís ministry was never a religious exercise focused on teaching people about God.  He continually taught people how to experience God and his teaching was based on his own experience.

The point that has to be emphasized here is this: Paul is not talking about the evangelical Christian, religious concept of having a "personal" relationship with Christ because you have "received" Him.  I know what that means.  I was involved in evangelical religion for 35 years.  It means nothing. Evangelical religion consists of ideas, concepts, doctrines, rituals and rules. Say this.  Think about this.  Believe this.  Do this.  Donít do that.  Itís head knowledge, head games, lip service, perpetuating the institution and moralizing.  And, for the most part, itís void of any reality in God.

I mentioned earlier that this paper would illustrate the principle of going to the Scriptures to confirm our experiences with God.  This is where it starts. Several years ago I walked away from religion frustrated and disillusioned.  I wanted to know God, but religion just wasnít making it happen.  Slowly, but surely, over those 35 years, I was learning that it just didnít work.  Why it took that long for me to figure it out, God only knows; Iím at least a biscuit short of a full breakfast, if you get my drift.  But I did finally begin to understand that I didnít know God, and that what religion called a personal relationship with God was not really personal nor could it be called a relationship.

So, I isolated myself and began to cry out to God.  And as God began to reveal Himself to me, the more He taught me about Himself, the more I understood why God and religion is not the same thing.  What you read on this website is nothing more than my feeble, disjointed attempts to communicate what Heís teaching me about Himself, about me and the deception of religion.  And this is what He taught me about learning to walk with Him: If you want to learn how to walk with God, you must learn to talk to God.

What do I mean when I say you must learn to talk to God?  This is my experience.  I had to learn to be honest with God and express myself openly to Him.  And you can be sure; this was a new experience for me.  I knew how to close my eyes and thank Him for my food before meals (if someone else was present and expected me to).  I knew how to recite general, religious-sounding public prayers in church services (because it was part of the program).  I knew how to tell God what to do and how to do it in so-called "ministry" times (so people could hear what they wanted to hear and feel better).  And from time to time, as is required of religious leaders, I got out my laundry list of prayer requests and told God how I wanted Him to manipulate other people or circumstances so they would line up with what I thought was best (though I could never quite figure out why I bothered, because nothing ever happened the way I wanted it to).

But God had to destroy all that foolishness.  And as He began to tear down the religion, reality began to set in.  I began to learn how to talk to Him about things that actually mattered.  I began to learn that God wasnít interested in what I thought or what I had to say about others.  I learned that when I was in the presence of the Holy and Righteous God, all I could do was submit to Him and agree with Him.  I began to realize that when I got alone with God, He wanted to know what I thought about myself.  Ouch!  And as uncomfortable as that was, His gentle love and acceptance of my repentant heart made those times irresistible.  I was drawn to Him like a moth to the flame.  But I learned that the flame didnít destroy, it only refined and changed.  I experienced one of those ironies that can only be true in God, the pain felt good.

Another thing I began to notice was that at different times of the day, in different circumstances I felt the urge to express myself to God in different ways.  Instead of saying "God", I began to say, "Father".  Sometimes I said "Lord" or "Jesus".  And some time later I was surprised to find myself talking to the Holy Spirit.  Iím not going to tell you what I was talking to them about, or what the difference was.  Iím not supposed to give you a blueprint to follow, thatís what religion does.  What Iím trying to express is that as I learned to talk to God, in reality, I began to develop an intimate relationship with the Father, my Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  And I began to recognize that this was my "walk".  Then, in most everything I did, there was a consciousness that God was both welcome and present with me.

And let me stop here and say something that I think needs to be said.  Iím not being judgmental here.  But this is something that everyone should think about if they consider themselves serious about having an intimate relationship with God.  All the silly, religious controversies notwithstanding, God is three separate, distinct personalities.  If you have a problem with that, read John 16:7-16 and youíll see Jesus making continual references to Himself, the Father and the Holy Spirit.  That being the case, can you really have an intimate relationship with three different personalities if you continually address all three with a general term that makes no distinction?  I have to wonder.  I know Iíve never had an intimate relationship with anyone who never called me by name.

So, I repeat, if you want to learn how to walk with God, you have to learn how to talk to God.  Now, how do I know thatís true?  Two reasons.  The first is that it has been my experience, my reality, literally, my faith.  The second is that I can go to the Scriptures and confirm it, because it was the experience of men in both the Old and New Testaments.  But, Iím not going to belabor the point.  I want to get into the New Testament and talk about Jesus.  Heís the example.  Let me clue you in on something.  When you experience God, you can usually confirm it by looking at Jesus.  And, again, the reason I know this is true is because of my own experiences and the fact that the Scriptures confirm it over and over again.

The principle is illustrated several times in Scripture as well.  Hebrews 12:2a is one of the more obvious.  This is what it says, "Giving careful consideration to Jesus, the main source and example of our experiences with GodÖ"  Again, the KJV is a little weak here.  "Looking" is aphorao, to consider carefully or attentively.  And "author" is archegos, chief leader, used here to signify main source or example.  And "faith" isÖwell, you should know that one by now, so Iím not going to repeat it.  The point is that when you need to find confirmation for your experiences with God, when you need something to add to their validity, look to Jesus.  Heís the One Who has already experienced it.

As was usually the case, the KJV translators could not convey the proper meaning because they did not possess the necessary frame of reference.  As in religion today, scholars with no personal experiences with God can only give a scholarly, religious view of what was originally written as a result of real experiences with God by Moses, Paul and others.  Therefore the fuller, deeper meaning is obscured in the translation.  This is why I always say that commercial translations all contain religious bias.  Religious scholars tend to be like the Pharisees in Jesusí day.  To them the Scriptures were mere words on a page to be manipulated and used for their own religious agendas.  And that bias has always been used to support religious deception.

Though it may be a little more difficult to recognize, in terms of being the example, Jesus essentially says the same thing about Himself in Mark 8:34. This is what He says.

"And when He had called the people to come to Him, and to His disciples as well, He said, If you intend to go the way Iím going, the way to the Father, then youíll have to forget about your plans and give up your schemes, embrace the suffering that the Father will use to perfect you and follow my example, because Iím the One Who can show you the way."

Now, before I lose track of what Iím doing here, letís make the application. When you read the Gospels and carefully and attentively consider what Jesus did, you see Him spending a lot of time talking to the Father.  And, again, if youíre being careful and paying attention you should come to the conclusion that talking to God must have been important to Jesus.  And if you have the thought that Jesus is the example for others to follow if they want to know God, you have to consider the possibility that talking to God would be an important thing for you to do, too.

When you read the Book of Luke itís not difficult to see a pattern developing.  In Luke 5:16, "He withdrew Himself into the desert to pray." And in Luke 6:12, "Now in those days it happened that He went up into the mountains to pray, and spent the whole night in prayer to God."  Then in Luke 9:28, "Now about eight days later, Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him up on the mountain to pray."  This particular incident no doubt made an impression on the disciples because as you read on through verse 35, Jesusí appearance changed, His clothes flashed like lightning, He stood on the top of the mountain talking to Moses and Elijah and the Fatherís voice came out of a cloud.

Now I donít know about you, but I think under the circumstances even I might have been smart enough to figure out the fact that spending time alone with God talking to Him could be important.  Suffice it to say that the disciples were watching Jesus and what they saw convinced them that learning to talk to God was important.  Eventually, they figured it out.  Look at Luke 11:1, "Later He was praying in a certain place, and when He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, Lord, teach us to pray like John taught his disciples."

I canít end this paper without taking a gentle jab at the religious elite.  I know there are some who would say I need a religion expert to tell me whether or not my experiences are valid.  Maybe Iím delusional.  Maybe I have an over-active imagination.  Maybe (and this is a little far-fetched) Iím just clever.  And letís not forget the religious control freaks out there that always want to know who your "covering" is, whose authority youíre submitted to.  In other words, who are you allowing to manipulate you, or whose approval among men are you seeking by allowing them to rule over you?  Religion says youíre supposed to have someone who is wise in the ways of religion to protect you from error.  Good night, Gertrude, Satan might be behind this whole thing and you wouldnít even know it!

Iíve talked about this in a different context, but need to mention it here.  This is Matthew 7:9-11.

"Or what man is there, who, if his son asks for a loaf of bread, would give him a stone instead?  Or if he asks for a fish, would give him a snake?  If then, evil as you tend to be, you still know how to give good things to your children, how much more does your Father in heaven know how to give good things to those who keep on asking Him?"

Either God is God, or He isnít.  Either God is in control, or He isnít.  Either the Scriptures are His words and true, or theyíre not.  Either there is a reality in God, or there isnít.  Either we can know Him and experience Him and have confidence in what we experience, or we canít.  Either we can begin to talk to God and learn to walk with God, or we canít.  And when we pursue God with an open heart, we can either trust in what we experience, or we canít.  I say, nuts, to the nay Sayers and the religious dead-enders.  Like Abraham, Moses, Paul and countless others in the past, I believe itís possible to know the invisible God in an intimate relationship and believe with my whole heart that He is, and that He responds with kindness and generosity to those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6).

And in closing, to validate my belief, letís look at John 7:14-18.  This is what it says (trust me).

"Now, half-way through the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus went into the outer court of the temple and began to teach those who were there.  And the religious leaders who heard Him were astonished and said, How can this man have so much understanding of the Scriptures and matters that relate to God when He has never studied with us?  Then Jesus answered them, saying, My teaching is not my own, but belongs to the One Who sent Me.  If any man has the desire to do His will, he will have the understanding to know for himself whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on My own authority.  He who speaks on his own authority seeks only to gain recognition for himself.  But He who seeks the approval only of the One Who sent Him is true, and there is nothing false about Him."

Now, Iíve just opened a can of worms, but Iíll try to make it a small can.  The religious leaders who heard Jesus teaching couldnít understand how He could be so well versed in the Scriptures.  Why?  They had never seen Him in class.  After all, how could anyone possess so much understanding, unless he had a formal religious education?  What school had Jesus attended?  What famous religion scholars had He sat under?  Who could have taught Him these things?

As is always the case, manís ways are diametrically opposed to Godís ways. It was never Godís intention that our understanding or knowledge of Him be limited to what we could learn from other men.  Yet, there are those, like the religious leaders of Jesusí day, who think the only way anyone can understand anything is to learn it from other men.  The pseudo-spiritual, religious elitists always talk out of both sides of their mouth.  Out of one side, they acknowledge the Scriptures tell us spiritual understanding does not come through the natural senses or by our own reasoning (I Corinthians 2:9-14) and that following men and acquiring their worldly wisdom is stupidity to God (I Corinthians 3:18-21).  Then out the other side they want to know where you went to seminary, whose books youíre reading and which denomination youíre affiliated with.

Iíve made this point in other papers concerning Abraham, Moses, David and others.  Here, Jesus is the example.  He didnít know God as a result of what school He attended, what books He read or which "church" institution He supported.  He didnít go to school, read books or participate in institutional religion.  But, He did know God (John 8:55).

But how could this be?  Jesus explains in verse 17 above when He says, "If any man has the desire to do His will, he will have the understanding to know for himself whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on My own authority."  The words "shall know" in the KJV ("the understanding to know for himself" in the translation above) come from the word gignosko.  This word is formed from the obsolete verb gnoo by adding the reduplication gi- as a prefix and means "to know intuitively".  It could be expressed "to know, because you know."  Its use here is in the future tense, middle voice, and without getting overly technical illustrates the fact that the action of the verb (the "knowing") has no external, physical source.  In other words, the understanding is not a result of information received by the natural, physical senses, but is, instead, understood internally through spiritual discernment.

This is literally the principle of I Corinthians 2:13, "And we are presenting these things in words not learned through human instruction, but taught by the Holy Spirit, combining spiritual truths with spiritual words."  What Jesus and Paul are both saying is that we do not have to rely on men or our own wisdom to know truth.  And, in fact, truth is learned from God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

And the key to all this is found in John 7:17a when Jesus says, "If any man has the desire to do His will".  As Iíve said so many times before, having a real, personal, intimate relationship with God is a heart matter.  Man looks on the outward, but God looks on the heart (I Samuel 16:7).  If you really want it, youíll do what you have to do to get it.  Which brings us full circle.  If you really want to know God, you must learn to talk to Him.  And when you learn to talk to Him, eventually youíll find yourself walking with Him.

Now, before I end this paper, thereís one more thing I need to discuss to bring some balance to all this.  I continually emphasize the need to spend time alone with God; to receive understanding from Him through the ministry of the Holy Spirit; to reject the religious idea that to know God you have to be involved in institutional religion and learn about God from its rituals and rules; and the fact that to have a personal relationship with God you must necessarily initiate on your own some personal interaction with Him.  And I realize that this emphasis tends to give people the idea that they can do this on their own without anyone elseís help.  But for most people thatís doubtful.

At the beginning of this paper I made this statement.  "They get to a point when they conclude that to progress any farther into this idea of having intimacy with God, theyíre going to have to pretty much go it alone.  They begin to understand that intimacy isnít a group exercise and "personal" means just that, something between just them and God."  I want to make it clear that the context of this statement is the fact that intimacy with God cannot be gained through your participation in traditional, institutional religion.  But neither does it mean that you can achieve it entirely on your own.  The balance is that you receive Godly instruction, and then put it into practice on your own.

But, Godly instruction has always been a part of the equation.  God Himself taught Adam and Eve both before and after they sinned.  Abraham no doubt received instruction as evidenced by his participation in the sacrificial system that taught him how to walk with God.  Itís clear that Moses knew God as a result of the instruction he received during his 40 years in Midian from Jethro the priest, combined with his own experiences with God.  Paul obviously received a great deal of revelation from God, but it was his understanding of the Old Testament gained through formal education that allowed him to put that revealed truth into perspective.

On the other hand the Pharisees of Jesusí day had the same religious education Paul had, but it didnít help them, for the most part they rejected the Christ.  There were exceptions; there are always exceptions.  Nicodemus and some other religious leaders did believe and follow Jesus.  The difference lies in the heart of every individual.  Those who want to know God will know Him if they do what they need to do.  Those who donít want to know Him or who are unwilling to pay the price wonít know Him.

And for those of us today who have determined to walk with God and know Him the function of present-day apostles, prophets, church planters, shepherds and teachers (Ephesians 4:11) is still both valid and valuable.  The problem, of course, is that most of those who claim to be a part of that ministry are as phony as a three-dollar bill.  The bottom line is this: if you know someone that you have good reason to believe is genuine in their ability to speak truth and live it in their lives so as to be an example to others of how to truly know God and walk with Him, why wouldnít you want to spend as much time with them as you possibly could and support them in what theyíre doing for the Body of Christ?  Thereís something disingenuous about people who claim they want to know God, yet donít make it a priority to spend time with others who are striving to know Him too.

No amount of traditional, institutional church attendance, listening to the pastor preach week after week, trips to the Christian book store and endless hours wasted reading the latest regurgitated religious garbage, time spent singing feel good "worship" songs, reciting long lists of prayer requests telling God what to do, how to do it and when to do it, hours of mumbling mindless ecstatic languages, watching the religious hucksters on TV telling you to send them your money so you can be rich, chasing after the signs and wonders circus when it comes through town, going to your study group so you can have the opportunity to express your valuable opinions, going to class to learn the latest, greatest doctrine or keeping the rules that others impose upon you will ever give you intimacy with God.  On the other hand, if youíre lucky enough to know others who are committed to knowing Him, fellowship with them as often as you possibly can.

Get alone with Him.  Learn to talk to Him.  Begin to share every part of your life with Him.  Then support others by sharing your experiences with them. You have everything that the world has to offer to lose, and everything that God has to offer to gain.

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