Leaning Into God’s God-ness

I am not sure sure who coined that phrase, but I heard Louie Giglio say it first, so, I think he should get the credit. This “leaning into God’s god-ness” is a concept I have been wrestling with now for about four years. How big is God? How can we adequately know God? Do we experience Him or just glimpses of Him in our world? Think about this, even within the scope of Christianity the things of God can’t be agreed upon. Who is right? Who is wrong? Could we all be both right and wrong? Oh, believe me, I know the typical cliche answer, “Scripture will let us know.” But we can’t even agree when we cite the same stinkin’ Scriptures!! So what could we do about the seemingly endless arguments of religious professionals?

I fully believe that Truth is both absolute and discoverable. I believe the source for filtering our understanding of God is Scripture, but I am not just talking about knowing facts about God. I am talking about really knowing the God of the universe. How can we lean into God’s god-ness? How can we, being finite and sinful, even begin to work our way through the vastness of God, who is eternal and perfect? We can look into the various tribes within Christianity and find neat little packaged lists, creeds, and statements. Yet, these only serve as finite boxes into which we attempt to fit a God that is much bigger than our formulas so that we can wrap our minds around Him. Honestly, I think these “tools” are a tragedy. While being informative of some things, they tend to limit our understanding of God, because most of our energy is spent defending our list or analyzing other lists to determine whose list is better, more accurate, and definitive. The truth is, none of these lists are adequate. In fact, all of these lists combined aren’t sufficient for understanding God. So why is so much time spent teaching and memorizing these lists? Why do they seem to be so strategic and important in our structures?

I don’t know the psychological depths of this phenomenon. I just can’t see how we can actually think reducing Scripture to a list of statements is what God wants from us. Maybe it is rooted in arrogance. Maybe we think because our particular list is more accurate it makes us better and closer to God. Maybe if we think everyone else is wrong, we have a leg up on the competition. I just don’t know, but I think we need to get over ourselves. I think we need to come to the point of embracing the mystery of God. Maybe instead of pursuing facts about God, we should pursue our love-relationship with Him. Maybe it is in that real relationship that truth is fully discovered and embodied in our thinking, actions, and attitude.

I’ll share an interesting thought at this point:

Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion; he came to reveal God. Why? Because God knew if humankind could physically experience who he is, we would want to know him, and knowing him would change us. It worked! The love of God on display in Jesus attracted people like a magnet. Hanging out with Jesus began transforming people’s hearts, way of life, and relationships with others. Jesus was so compelling that people left everything to follow him.

That is, everyone except the religious establishment. The idea that God could be known simply through interacting with Jesus was threatening. Heck, if you could experience God directly, why would you need them and their elaborate system of religious rules and rituals? Maybe God wasn’t so down to…well…Jesus.

From Wide Open Spaces”  by Jim Palmer

So if Jesus is the fullest revelation of God, why can’t our focus be on loving Him? Why can’t we trust the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth? Why do we “need” to force people to agree with our particular list? Why do people have to join our tribe to be “right”? Maybe if churches would begin to actually trust God and take Him at His word, Christ followers could be released into the freedom of really knowing Jesus. Maybe in this freedom we could all discover the depths and riches of truth. Maybe we would be more free to worship and stand in awe of a God we can’t figure out. Maybe we could grow and mature, and not be limited by the mere words of those who have reduced the grandeur of God into a pile of words. Maybe instead of arrogantly standing on the “facts”, we would bow in admiration of a God that inhabits eternity while repenting of our pride.

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

1 John 4:7-8, NLT

But, then again, if Christianity moved in this direction, what would be used to bolster the religious systems that have been created? How would funds be elicited and volunteers signed up if people were freed to passionately pursue God on His terms rather than the terms created within the establishment of religion? If people caught a glimpse of this reality, they may chose to walk away from the trappings and guilt trips which have been created over the years. Lovers and pursuers of God don’t need religious systems. We don’t need a professionally trained understanding of the facts. We only need Jesus. This outlook won’t pay the inflated bills of a system that is out of control, but I believe this is what God had in mind for the expansion of His Kingdom on earth.

It is time to let God be God. It is time we begin to lean further into Him. Is He enough for you?

Thanx!

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14 Responses

  1. You sure don’t pull punches. This post reminds me of what I’ve gleaned from A.W. Tozer about knowing God (note: gleaned doesn’t mean actually put into practice completely). But this view is very refreshing. If God is locked in logic and in bullet points on a piece of paper, and He can’t be experienced, then… I dunno. It just isn’t right. I’ve about decided that we (or at least speaking for me personally) really don’t need any of these unnecessary burdens that come with “church” (buildings, staff, programs, ministries, etc). I say the only thing Christians need to do is open up their tables and their homes and/or (if that’s too much at the moment) go to where the people are and build trust and true relationships with them, sharing Christ as we go. We’re suppose to be missionaries, serving in a mission field (our community). But for most Christians, their mission field seems to be a building filled with pews spending time fixing potlucks for other missionaries. Where’s the actual work? Or, are they fooling themselves?

    I also see that you pulled a quote from Jim Palmer. Nice book isn’t it? Very freeing, and relaxing. Helped me a lot.

    Also, I wanted to put you on notice of this amazing new book I got that I think you’ll eat up. I’ve only read 3 chapters so far, but dude, it’s like absolutely necessary – get it as fast as you can. It’s called I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus.

    http://www.amazon.com/Once-Was-Lost-Postmodern-Skeptics/dp/083083608X/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1210230032&sr=8-1

    The title might throw you off, but these are old boys out there sharing Jesus like Niel Cole and the rest do. These guys are campus ministers reaching postmoderns (it’s an evangelism book). They share 5 thresholds or barriers that are between these people and Christ, and the two authors chronicle the journey (I think what they say is true of all people). They say a lot of the stuff we’ve been saying (building trust, relationships, no marketing schemes). I say get it as fast as possible. It’s been knocking some cold scales off my heart and giving me back hope again.

    BTW, I’m out of school. Imma try and SKYPE you sometime soon and do some hardcore catching up.

  2. Remember, it is much easier to be critical of the institutional folks, than to actually live in the midst of the mission of God. In the same way, it is difficult to be critical of them if you are in the midst of the mission of God. This thought smacks me in the face continually. My point in this post is not to tick anyone off, but to point our sight to Jesus alone. When we keep our eyes and heart focused on Him, we cannot go wrong!

    The book looks interesting. I’ll have to get it. I’ve still got several new books that I need to read first.

    I look forward to your call.

    Thanx!

  3. Yeah, I”m not trying to be as critical nearly as much as saying what works for me. I still see what I described as being vastly better in comparison 🙂

    I see what your saying though. Nice point.

  4. “If you love Me, obey my list of facts.” – John 14:15

    How is everything going Jeff?

  5. Everything is going great Pumphrey! Austin and I are gonna take a trip on a Monday next year to visit our peeps at CABBI. I miss hanging out with you guys!

    BTW, I was not sure how to take that last comment. Sarcasm or an attempt to set me straight or both. So check this out!

    “All who love me will do what I say.” – John 14:23, NLT

    “Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me.” – John 14:24, NLT

    So what comes first, love or obedience? Does the love come as a result of obeying, or does obeying come from a sincere love for Jesus? Does it even matter?

    I think it matters greatly.

    Thanx!

  6. Hey Jeff,

    Long time no see bud hope all is well! i just thought i would throw in my couple of peso’s here. 😉 I do believe that loving God with all your heart and obeying his commandments are both intertwined with each other. I believe that when you love God it is a result of obeying what he has handed down to us as commandments, a list of facts, or teachings however you want to put it. For instance look later in the book of 1 John to chapter 5:1-3,

    ” Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandment are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:1-3 NLT

    I agree as it is stated at the end of 1 John. We are to keep away from whatever might take God’s place in our hearts. Do doctrinal statements do this…for some yes…they become more important to them than God and to others they are just a list that they blow the dust off of every now and then to just look over.

    Man’s list and God’s list are so often two completely different things. But the main reason that happens is that we don’t Practice love in the making of that list. i don’t mean love to each other but Love for God. Jesus is the center of what we do and what we are all about. I’ll agree that there are things in our churches that need change but you cant fix anything unless you role up your sleeves and get dirty with the grunt work yourself. Christ is the center of our purpose, faith, hope, and the Scriptures. Loving God and Loving his Children is the result of following His Commandment…List of Facts…His Teachings. Because when you study out the teachings of Christ in what he commanded, What God laid out, The Apostles, it all goes back to Christ and if you truly love Him…you will obey.

    Like I said, I believe they are intertwined my friend. Wish you the Best. 🙂

    Bean OUT!!!

  7. Yo Beaner! Good to hear from ya bro!

    You said:

    “Loving God and Loving his Children is the result of following His Commandment…List of Facts…His Teachings. Because when you study out the teachings of Christ in what he commanded, What God laid out, The Apostles, it all goes back to Christ and if you truly love Him…you will obey.”

    Question:

    Does our love for God come from obeying His commands, or does our obedience come out of loving Him first?

    You said it both ways above, and I can’t comprehend how it can be both ways. I agree that the two aren’t separated, but it seems as if Scripture communicates that one produces the other.

    Thanx!

  8. Exodus 20:1-6

    Ten Commandments for the Covenant Community

    1 Then God gave the people all these instructions[a]:
    2 “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.
    3 “You must not have any other god but me.
    4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those] who love me and obey my commands.

    Matthew 22:34-40

    34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

    37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

    1 John 4:20-21
    20If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother..

    1 John 5:3
    “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.”

    Jesus Himself said the greatest COMMANDMENT is as follows:‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”

    I agree with you Jeff in this…one does produce the other, but they both produce each other.

    If you “truly” follow God’s commandments you will love Him and if you Love Him you will Follow his Commandments. The reason they are put together is that you cant separate one from the other. Because no matter what you do if you truly do one you will do the other.

    I don’t think that scripture communicate that just one of them produces the other but that they both produce each other. Because you can’t truly do one and not the other. If you do you are nothing more than what everyone already thinks of Christians…a hypocrite. God puts just as much emphasis on one as he does the other. I don’t think that was by chance.

    Bean OUT!

  9. Can someone obey God’s commands (i.e. the Ten Commandments, etc.) and not love God? Yes

    Can someone love God and not obey His commands? No

    Does obedience to God produce love for God? No

    Does love for God produce obedience to God? Yes

    Does our obedience to God prove our love for God? Yes

    Obedience to God does NOT precede our love for God. All of the commands of God are hinged on the fact that we MUST love God first, or we are not really obeying God. If we “obey” commands without loving God first, we are just following religion.

    That is the point I was trying to make. I think I may not have been clear enough. This is why our growing love for God is of utmost importance. Our love for God is what produces true good works in our life. Our love for God is what produces true love for follow mankind. Our love for God is what gives ous a true burden for the world. Our love for God produces a heart of compassion, mercy, and grace. Our love for God continuosly leads us to place of repentance and confession of sin in our own life. Our love for God is what motivates our actions and gives us purpose beyond our own selfish desires. Our love for God is what makes us who we are.

    Utimately, our love for God is made possible by the fact that He first loved us. So, God’s love for us, enables us to know and love Him, which ultimately results in our willing obedience to His Way. If love is not the beginning point, legalism will be the end point. This is why adherence to a list of “rules” and “regulations” is not the point of what Jesus came to do. He came to set us free from this type of religious obedience. He took the Law and nailed it to the cross.

    Now our relationship is based out of His love for us and our love for Him. It is at this intersection that freedom in the Truth of God is found, experienced, and lived. This is spiritual. It cannot be defined by any list of facts, no matter how exstensive it may be. It is not carnal, and cannot be defined by such finite means. This type of spiritual reality is only found within the context of a love-relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Thanx!

  10. “Obedience to God does NOT precede our love for God. All of the commands of God are hinged on the fact that we MUST love God first, or we are not really obeying God. If we “obey” commands without loving God first, we are just following religion.”

    Completely agree with that. we both may have not been clear in what we meant. I’ll will agree to this…if i were to have to pin down which comes first i would say it would be Love. But what I’m trying to express is that if you love God you will Follow his commandments/teachings and visa versa. Love does come first but the two do compliment each other. you could never make a list to describe how much God loves us or to even come close to expressing the true nature of God completely but lists are necessary.

    when you make a belief statement you make a list.

    when you make a mission statement you make a list

    when you try to disprove something you make a list.

    My point wasn’t to say that Love for God wasn’t important or that was unnecessary but was to say this…Loving God means following His commands. You need facts about Christ and God to stand on when you have someone refute Christ. I don’t think you need to stand behind a list and preach that and nothing else that would be preposterous. But i do think that lists are important and can be very helpful. I think we may have been both trying to say something along the same lines maybe just not making it clear. God wants your love for Him that is crystal clear but he also wants you to obey.

    1 John 5:3
    “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.”

  11. I think we may be on the same page now.

    You said”

    “when you make a belief statment you make a list.

    when you make a mission statement you make a list.

    when you try to disprove something you make a list.”

    I completely understand what you are saying here, and I agree with what you are saying. If you are trying to win an arguement in favor of believing in God, you would need the use of facts, figures, graphs, statements, proof-texts, etc.

    My thought is, Jesus never told us to go out in the world and argue with folks about truth. Rather, I see Him teaching His followers to live the truth. The best way we live the truth is not by engaging in arguments and defending our lists and creeds, but in loving a lost world. The essence of the Christian life is love not arguments.

    Certainly we make definitive and absolute statements about God and His Word. Certainly people will disagree and reject the message. Our lists and creeds will not convince them, however. Our lives and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, will work to convince our generation of God’s truths. This, I think, is a significant and fundamental difference between Modernity and Post-Modernity

    Our message is given credence by the life we live, not just the words we speak. This is why I have an aversion to lists, which are ususally used to defend a certain brand of religion rather than honoring Jesus. If you look at my welcome page, you will find a list a statements that I believe to be true, so I would agree that these lists do have a place. (Though this IS NOT an exhaustive list of what I beleive, nor would I attempt to compile such a list.) Furthermore, I do not think lists, statements, creeds, etc. are “important” or necessary, they are just a simple and very limited tool.

    I think we agree on this completely. Lists do have their place. Unfortunately, I have used lists, and seen them used, to create an elitist mentality of exclusivity, that creates and bolsters egos and arrogance far more than pointing a lost world to King Jesus. The creation of lists is not wrong, but this practice, if taken too far, can lead to disastrous consequences. We should be careful how far we take our lists, and how much precedence we give them in our lives and teaching. They are NOT the point. Jesus is the point, and He CANNOT be confinded or defined by our finite lists.

    Wow. I think we beat the hell out of this horse. Is it dead yet?

  12. I believe…

    Dead horses make great dog food! (and good steak in france!)

    🙂

  13. LOL!!!!!

  14. I believe…

    Dead horses may make great dog food, but SACRED COWS make the best hamburgers!

    Good to hear from you Jeff. Glad to hear everything is going good.

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