I am going through something right now that is breaking up all these ideas of “knowing God” and “being really real with Him.” I have been trying for 35 years to get God down by definition. If I could find out what He wants and do it, I’ll be okay. If I knew what He really thought of me (hopefully something good) then I could have faith in that thought or feeling and be okay. It seems common among all humans to want to be settled, certain, stable, established, secure. God does offer these to the believer but lately I am starting to wonder what exactly is security in God? What does it look like? What has God obligated himself to provide for the believer?
His ways are not ours. His thoughts are not our thoughts. And maybe, His idea about security is different than ours. When I look at Hebrews 11, I mean, slow down and read the examples of faith, humanly speaking, these people did not lead stable, secure lives. “They were destitute, afflicted, wandering about in tents,…of whom the world was not worthy.” “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has no where to lay his head.” I want material security but Jesus never promised this. Paul the apostle was on the run for most of his ministry. “We are outcast, buffeted, alone, in peril.“
The title for this piece is “If you don’t know, then you are on the right track.” I write this as an open journal. I’m not sure if I am right which is partly the reason I am writing this. If I was sure or certain then I most likely am wrong about my conclusions. What I mean is, perhaps a sure sign that a Christian is truly following Jesus is that he or she is no longer trying to be certain about the direction to go. There is no longer this need or drive to know what to do or to know God enough to be able to say, “I know.” Now, does my concept here bear scrutiny? What does the Bible say about knowing God, wanting to know Him, whether or not we can know Him, and what are the people who claim to know Him like? Is there a real knowing Him? What does the legalist do with this concept? How does the flesh handle this “knowing God?”
1 Corinthians 8 1-3 1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." "Knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if one loves God, one is known by him.
These verses seem to end the argument before it starts. Here and in 1 Corinthians 13 we see Knowledge vs. Love. First, it’s if anyone imagines that he knows something…well right there …the beginning of self-deception. The nut of my problem right now is that I have been imagining for years that I know something, specifically, that I know something about God or that I know Him enough to know how to please Him and I can take confidence in the works that I do, that I am pleasing Him.
I think the big mistake is right at the beginning: making God manageable. And why do I do this? Because I want to be secure, stable, and any other characteristic that belongs to a settled life. God is not controllable. God is not subject to the human mind’s limitation. God is beyond our flesh and cannot be understood fully, controlled, or managed. Any form of tradition, practice, or action toward, for, or to God is religion. Religion is the flesh’s way of managing God and perpetuating its own existence.
When the rich young man came to Jesus and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus first gave him the answer he wanted. He wanted Jesus to validate his religion. Jesus did but it was clear then to the young man that what he was doing was not enough or rather was not the real way to inherit eternal life. The rich man was not completely wrong. He did want to go to heaven, he wanted some spiritual something with God and he did keep the commandments. Jesus, in a sense, told him, you have been doing religion all your life. Now I want to have a relationship with you and in order for you to really have this relationship, you need to give your life to me.
Jesus blew away the rich young man’s security and invited him to an insecure human life but a secure spiritual life. Am I wrong? One of the many lessons of Job was that the Lord gives and takes away. Paul the apostle learned the secret of being content in any and in all circumstances, facing plenty and want and by the looks of it, he faced more want than plenty in his life on earth. The American dream is not in the bible. It was created by humans who want to get for themselves and their families and be guilt-free while doing so.
Recently I read something from A.W. Tozer about how the gospel of salvation has become a doctrine of “you can have everything the unsaved have and salvation is thrown in as a bonus.” If you told the truth about what God really offers the sinner by the cross, I believe you would absolutely need the Holy Spirit to convict the sinner in his heart to follow because the Christian life is not “user friendly” or seeker friendly. How many of us were preached a gospel that, in some way, promised a continuation of the flesh life? I was. And since my rebirth I have been seeking a painless life, worry-free and prosperous, believing that God promised to provide one. An obvious and gross example of this idea is the prosperity gospel, the “name it and claim it” crowd. The opposite example I believe is the monks who take a vow of poverty. In both cases the human is in charge and not God. The issue is, who is in control, you or God?
If you don’t know then you’re on the right track. If you can’t figure God out then you know Him better now then when you thought you had Him figured out. To know that you don’t know is progress and growth. Our human faculties can only produce limited sinful controlling configurations which God, in His love, won’t submit to, for our sake.
The only way to really know God is to be known by Him. God decides who gets to know Him and how much that person gets to know. Is there any scripture that supports the idea that a man or woman can do something or take some kind of action that results in them “knowing” God independent of God revealing Himself to them? My point is you cannot know God unless He allows you to.
Now Jesus does say that if you seek Him with all your heart, you will find Him. Does this contradict what I just said? I don’t think so. Finding God and knowing Him seem like two different things. If you put all your effort into finding a house where someone you want to get to know lives, and you find it, by finding the house you have only come to the beginning of knowing that person. When we are born again, we are at the beginning of knowing Him.
What is the right reason or reasons for reading the bible, studying the bible, living the bible? You can list all the reasons why someone would misuse the bible. Some read it for comfort. They go to the parts that will make them feel better about their standing with God or their view of God. Others study the doctrines of the bible to be sure and certain of their walk with God because they are so insecure in the first place. Some twist scripture to justify their leadership and their spiritless actions. There are those devoted to the study of the end times and the second coming. I would say that I have seen many examples of those who are so consumed with “figuring things out” that they neglect the brethren around them who need their fellowship now.
Do not all of these wrong reasons have one common origin? Is it not insecurity that drives all humans to seek power, authority, control over their own lives and by extension over the lives of those who would threaten their security? Fear is the heart of insecurity. Fear of the unknown. Well, the cure is to get knowledge and then you won’t be afraid, right? Perfect love casts out all fear. Knowledge puffs up but love builds up. God is love. What is more secure, knowledge or love? We in our flesh are more secure in what we can understand, know, see, observe. When God reveals Himself to us, He remains invisible, unseen, and what He shows us is spiritual. He cannot be captured, controlled, or managed by our flesh. We can only know Him by the Spirit He has made to dwell in us. Our knowing Him is completely dependent upon Him. Look at these scriptures:
4 And you know the way where I am going." 5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him." 8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.
This is one of the many differences between the flesh and the Spirit. Thomas and Philip were looking to pin down “what to do” “how to do it” “what to know” God’s address, location…all the flesh, trying to capture God’s coordinates and blueprints. Jesus reveals the spiritual life which, like the wind, cannot be pinned down or controlled. In the flesh we can never be satisfied with Jesus’ answers to our life questions to our spiritual life questions. My frustrations with God are born out of my constant desire to get control of things and make sense of things and fit God into my plans.
The thinking that concludes that God blesses the faithful and punishes the faithless is also related to the verse “which one sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The insecure human rationale of the flesh looks for cause and effect, to make sense of a system or create a system that makes sense, a system that can then be mastered. We use tradition, religion, systems, philosophies in hope of security and self-rule. God reigns outside our conventions and inventions.
One of the forms our insecurity takes is our spiritualizing or justifying the path we choose or have chosen. Take, for example, some ex-members who will not come to terms about their time in the Forever Family. So far only those in current cobu still believe cobu to be of God. There are at least 2 groups outside of cobu, comprised of ex-FFer’s who hold that Stewart was right with God in the first 5 years of the Forever Family. They are two separate groups but they have this idea in common. It is easy to see why they still revere Stewart in the early days and the fellowship he created. It is where they got their start. It is where they became leaders at a very young age. They were taught as were we all that the fellowship, the group, this thing created with Stewart at the head was vitally important to our Christian existence. We all remember the countless times we heard that 99% of those who leave, backslide, impressing upon us how crucial it was to live in the group and stay committed. I would guess that over the 40 years of FF/COBU that the actual live-in membership total was less than 2500. And presently there are reports of 30 to 100 left inside COBU.
Cobu is a failure and a disaster and all those outside the group, ex-members and non-members would say so. But what of the FF? Was it a success? How would one come to the truth about it? For the purpose of sticking to my original point, some FFer’s, who did get saved, who did receive the Holy Spirit, who really did do their best to serve God with all that they had, these same were also taught Traillism and were also for a brief time “successful” followers and had a measure of authority in this small realm called the Forever Family. For these old FFer’s, to really look at what they joined and tell the truth about it, would be for them, to give up the only significant part of their Christian life. They would have to admit that they were controlled by a cult leader during the beginning of their Christian lives. They would have to go back to the basics and learn things new Christians already practice. They would have to humble themselves. They would have to abandon the security they had in the FF, the security they live off of now in their Christian lives. How do I know this? Because I had to face the facts. Who wants to admit that they joined a cult and followed a cult leader for years. Just on a human level, it’s humiliating. The phrase, “Who would be stupid enough to do that?” comes to mind. Truth is, if you joined the FF you were too young to know. If you join cobu, you were too young to know. If you stayed in the FF or Cobu or both, then you have a different truth to face.
Because it is obvious that some FFer’s find security in the FF and by extension Stewart, to them you can’t have one without the other which is also another indication of the problem, they are willing to argue and fight for their fellowship, their group, their mother and are willing to tolerate heresy in order to accept one another’s support of their common security. I recognize this because, as an ex-member, when I am not abiding in Jesus and looking to Him and Him only for my help, I fall back into works and group think and the old training I got from ST.
These little groups also still cling to Stewart’s interpretation methods for the Bible, so trying to even speak to them of something new or current that God is doing in one’s own life is futile. Christians with true testimony of what Jesus is doing now are disgraced, disbelieved and even ignored. Like Stewart, they only approve of what will support their way and they do not acknowledge other Christians and malign those who dare to examine their FF security blanket. They are an extreme example of what we all do if our security is not in God alone. What do I run to when it seems as though God isn’t helping me “in a visible way, a tangible way? My way ? What I’m secure in? Ask yourself the same thing. Walking by faith is the insecure human, but secure spiritual answer to anyone who is a Christian on planet earth. We ex-cult members have a bigger more noticeable problem with insecurity. It shows. But we are not alone. We weren’t stupid for joining cobu or the FF. We were insecure. Every human being wants to be sure and stable, generally speaking. We lacked something that Stewart provided. The difference with us is, Jesus did save us and He did pour His Holy Spirit into us and eventually, for most of us, Jesus won and Stewart lost.
I will conclude with this:
22 Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately he spoke to them, saying, "Take heart, it is I; have no fear." 28 And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water." 29 He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; 30 but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "O man of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
This passage speaks for itself
If you find yourself trying to be sure, ask yourself, why? If you are doing many mighty works in His name, ask yourself, why? If you are trying to “do what you did before” ask yourself why. Are you doing what you are comfortable with? Are you doing what is familiar? Are you doing it the only way you know how, the only way you were taught? Then you have limited God to what you can handle, manage, control, comprehend, apprehend. This is not the spiritual life that has with it peace which passes all understanding and love that never ends. This is the flesh embracing religious activity desperate to be secure and remain alive.
I might write about the works of the flesh next. I usually skip over the lists Paul made because some of them don’t apply to me. The truth is, I have flesh and so all of them are in me. I am also thinking of a book, which I do not know if I could even write it, “The Pharisaic Christian.” I already have plenty of personal experience but I do not know if what I would write is anything different than what others have already written. Once again, my pride has been, If God shows me something, I assume that no one else has been shown the same truth or that I could make it more clear, which time and time again turns out not to be true.
I tell you as one who is beginning to learn to walk by faith and suffer the insecurities of the flesh, but enjoy the Rock of our Salvation, there is a choice. We are called to an unnatural human life, but a supernatural Christian life.