A little over a week ago I let you know that my congregation and I were starting down a journey of discovery. We had all come to realize that if America was going to have another great awakening then it was going to have to start with us. Sunday we continued this journey of discovery by looking at areas that we might not be listening all that clearly to the voice of the Lord. Many of us, listen to the voice of the Lord through filters that we have grown up with. There are two parts to the listening process. The act of speaking and the act of hearing. God could very well be speaking but if we are not listening with open ears to things outside our norm, then we might not hear correctly what He is saying. That is why we have to examine whether or not we have God inside some type of box and if so, then figure out how to allow Him to exist outside that box when it comes to us.
Now all of us know that God can’t be contained in a box. He is what theologians call, omnipresent. He is everywhere. However we perceive that presence through boxes that we make in our minds and hearts. So when I am talking about letting God out of your box, I am talking about expanding the way you hear and perceive the presence of God.
I have found that there are 2 major ways that we put filters on our ability to hear the voice of the Lord They are cultural filters that we grow up with and assume are normal and the way things are supposed to be, and there are religious filters that come from our upbringing and heritage we have gained over the years as believers. Neither of these things are necessarily bad things, but at times they limit what we are really hearing from the Lord. It is like the difference in listening to music from the speaker of an AM radio vs a live concert. The AM radio has limitations.
Let me show you what I mean from a couple of passages in the Bible.
Letting God out of your cultural box
New Living Translation (NLT)
5 Lot, who was traveling with Abram, had also become very wealthy with flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and many tents. 6 But the land could not support both Abram and Lot with all their flocks and herds living so close together. 7 So disputes broke out between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. (At that time Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land.)
8 Finally Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. After all, we are close relatives! 9 The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.”
10 Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord or the beautiful land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley to the east of them. He went there with his flocks and servants and parted company with his uncle Abram. 12 So Abram settled in the land of Canaan, and Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom and settled among the cities of the plain. 13 But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord.
Now here we have an example that flies in the very face of our western culture and in the face of what is taught in a lot of churches. We see here that there is a dispute between Lot and Abram and between their families and workers. Now in our culture of personal rights and freedoms, we would think that Abraham had the right to demand that Lot leave since the promise was given to Abram. This was supposed to be his land. Lot was just a tag-along. He wasn’t given the promise by God.
In our culture we would be settling this dispute by demanding that our rights be honored. We would be sizing up what would be the best place to have our livestock and where would be the best place to build our house. We would be looking for what was best for us. This type of mentality in all honesty, is the worlds wisdom. Notice that Abraham didn’t follow this wisdom. Instead of worrying about how He was going to get blessed, he decided to be the blessing. This meant that he gave up his rights in order to bless someone else.
Notice what Lot did. He sized up what was best for him and took what would bless Him the most. We all know the final outcome of that decision and how long that so-called blessing that he took for himself lasted.
If we are once again going to see the favor of God in our land and we are going to see revival sweep across our nation we are going to have to give up the wisdom of the world and our cultural ears that we have listened through all our lives and start listening with ears that have become tuned in to the wisdom and culture of the kingdom of God. Abram had done this. The culture of the kingdom is one of laying down our rights, our lives, and our desires to receive blessing, and instead is making generosity and giving, becoming other centered rather than self centered, and living in the world but not like the world of primary importance.
Taking God out of your religious box.
We all have religious boxes that we place God in. If you are like me, then as a Charismatic, we sometimes fall into the trap that God has to move in prescribed ways that fall into our religious heritage and upbringing. Usually this mentality comes with a thought process that says there must be signs and wonders before we will believe that it is of God.
The same is true for those that do not come from a Pentecostal or Charismatic background. They are not looking for signs and wonders, but instead they are sifting through the scriptures to see if what is happening can be proven by the Bible. We both have religious boxes that we place God in. Let me give you an example from the Bible on how the early church was faced with this very same dilemma.
New Living Translation (NLT)
The Council at Jerusalem
15 While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers[a]: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently. Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent the delegates to Jerusalem, and they stopped along the way in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers. They told them—much to everyone’s joy—that the Gentiles, too, were being converted.
4 When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them. 5 But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.”
6 So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. 7 At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. 8 God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. 10 So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers[b] with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? 11 We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”
12 Everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
13 When they had finished, James stood and said, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Peter[c] has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. 15 And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written:
16 ‘Afterward I will return
and restore the fallen house[d] of David.
I will rebuild its ruins
and restore it,
17 so that the rest of humanity might seek the Lord,
including the Gentiles—
all those I have called to be mine.
The Lord has spoken—
18 he who made these things known so long ago.’[e]
19 “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. 21 For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.”
Now what we have going on here is that some guys from headquarters came and started trying to make the Gentile believers into Jewish believers. They couldn’t accept that God would do something different than what they had been raised in. The church started out as a predominantly Jewish church. They still had many of their traditions and Jewish believers.
Because of this, it was causing a lot of confusion in the newly formed Gentile church and so Paul hopped on a plane and flew to Jerusalem to have a meeting with the big wigs in Jerusalem. They had a big conference and they heard the side of those that wanted to make the Gentiles just like the Jews. Then Peter stood up and spoke about what God has showed him concerning the Gentiles and then they listened to Paul and Barnabas confirming what God was doing among the Gentiles.
In the end, they listened and did not try to make the Gentiles like the Jews but instead let God be God and do what He chose concerning these new believers.
Many times in today’s church we fall into the same trap of trying to make disciples into our image. We try to make them look and feel like Charismatics, Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans, ect. We have to allow God to make people into the people He is calling them to. Especially in today’s age where most of the people have very little or no Christian background.
2 questions God is asking the church today.
I believe that there are two questions that God is asking today. I am sure there are more but I hear two.
- Are we willing to give up our cultural background and replace it with a culture that reflects His kingdom and His ways even if that means not getting ahead in this world and even suffering persecution for it?
- Are we willing to give up our religious traditions and methods in order to see the kingdom expand and people saved? If you are Charismatic, will you become open to other ways that God may want to move that is not part of your experience? If you are not a Charismatic, will you be open to God doing things that are outside your tradition? What is more important? Your distinctive or people lost without a savior?
I don’t know where our journey will end. I know this. He has set me and my congregation on the path of discovery. Our hearts have purposed to humble ourselves and seek His face. He has already started to convict us of sins that we allowed to creep in. Sins of pride and self reliance. I truly believe that we will see revival here in Pine Haven and hopefully across our state and nation.
What about you? Will you join us on this journey?
This article was first published on my website called Taber's Truths