Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"An Invitation To Know God"

I'm back again with more from Donald Miller in Searching For God Knows What. I have to say that this may be my favorite book of all time, and it is definitely in my top three. We are doing a series in LiveWire Service this month on Identity, borrowing stories and examples from this book. It has been my favorite series we have done in the last three years.

Here we see Donald explaining how his thoughts on God and what it meant to follow Him changed. He wraps this up quite beautifully.

Jesus was always, and I mean always, talking about love, about people, about relationships, and He never once broke anything down into steps or formulas. What if, because we were constantly tyring to dissect His message, we were missing a blatant invitation? I began to wonder if becoming a Christian did not work more like falling in love than agreeing with a list of true principles. I had met a lot of people who agreed with all those true principles, and they were jerks, and a lot of other people who believed in those principles, but who also claimed to love Jesus, who were not jerks. It seems like something else has to take place in the heart for somebody to become a believer, for somebody to understand the gospel of Jesus. It began to seem like more than just a cerebral exercise. What if the gospel of Jesus was an invitation to know God?

There are a couple comments I would like to make about this.

1. It seems clear that Donald is referring to the experience of being born again; falling in love with the Savior and entering into an intimate relationship with God. I think we would agree with this in principle, but I would argue that it is not played out practically as much as we would like to think. For instance, what percentage of your church would you say is born again? By this, I mean really born again. They have had an undeniable encounter with the risen Christ. They have the appetites that born again people have, the appetite to worship, to read and study the scriptures, to pray etc. They have a faith that is stronger than just believing in a set of principles, but that is drawn from an experience that no skeptic can undermine. What percentage would you say? Half? Less? My pastor and I have a theory that the Church has taken people who are not born again and told them that they were, and then told them to crave the scriptures, and worship, and service to the body etc., but they do not have the appetites because they are not born again, so they do not grow.

2. Secondly, what percentage of the Christians you know merely subscribe intellectually to a set of true principles, and how many have actually fallen in love with Christ? I think this is one problem churches run into who make scripture "the point." I dint think we believe in God and have a relationship with Him because of the scriptures, and if we do, I would argue that it is an intellectual thing. No, I think it is the other way around. We believe the scriptures because we have met the risen Christ. Scripture then becomes our guide and our primary and authoritative source of hearing the will of the Lord. But, it is not "the point." God is "the point."

Anyway, those are my rants. I love how Donald can deliver a paragraph that is both beautiful yet incredibly deep and thought provoking. May we continually stress the importance of being born again.


Tim said...

Hi Nick,

I share your excitement for Searching For God Knows What. It is also one of my favorite books as well. I also agree that Miller writes ideas beautifully and motivates us to wrap our minds around it.

I don't know that I disagree with your two comments, because they are your comments and rants, but I'm unsure if the "born again" phrase and idea is really what Donald Miller intended. I will admit that "born again" means different things to different people, so I will leave room that I am misinterpreting your comments. You describe born again as an experience, and later are more specific in saying "They have had an undeniable encounter with the risen Christ." Are you intending this description to sound like a single event, like a typical time at an altar call when a person comes forward to be saved? Or do you think this is a process?

When I read the phrase falling in love as Miller describes becoming a Christian, I think of a process, something that takes time, energy, commitment. It the vast majority of cases, it does not happen in an hour or by just listening to someone talk.

I immediately think about falling in love with my wife. I remember vividly striking a friendship with her for which I had no romantic feelings. I remember over time getting to know her more and more deeply because I enjoyed our relationship, but most of all because I felt it was good for me. I think of the time when I realized that I had romantic feelings for her. The new stage of our relationship was exhilarating. I couldn't get enough.

But there were also disagreements and arguments because we were now opening up some of other deeper and private parts of our lives and had to choose whether to show acts of love or selfishness.

This continued for some time, and as with any relationship levels of commitment have to be decided on where you get to a point whether to continue or not. I believe those are points where the process of falling in love are really defined, and impact the relationship. In my case, we came to one of these points, and I made a statement "I don't believe I could ever marry you." (Yes, I really said this.)

Obviously, the relationship was broken, and it took another period of time, about as long as the period we had been dating, to discover that I was indeed in love and didn't realize what the relationship meant to me until I didn't have it anymore. That period of reconciliation, rebuilding, and re-commitment was just as, if not more, important than the first part of the process. Because that period fixed the foundation cracks, and built the first bricks of what would become our marriage.

There's the honeymoon period and then there's the settling in of life, where things get stale if you aren't careful, and it takes creativity and spontaneity to breathe new life. Doing things "out of commitment" doesn't really exude evidence of love, but out of obligation. So the commitment has to adapt to new appetites, new interests, new ways of doing things that still show the same foundational love that built the relationship.

I agree with Donald Miller that becoming a Christian (I personally would rather be called a follower of Jesus) is very much like falling in love. And looking back at my life of trying to follow Jesus, it mimics my relationship with my wife in many interesting ways. I've fallen head over heals for God; I've gotten into major arguments. I've separated myself from Him; I later discovered that I really needed Him and missed Him. My relationship with God has gone stale; I'm looking for creative ways to go deeper in the relationship. The disciplines out of obligation are sometimes discouraging; the search for spirituality is beginning to invigorate.

I think there definitely people in group number 2, but I think that Miller is trying to redefine the struggle within the first group, recognizing that they have been led astray by the formulaic representation of the gospel. But now it's becoming difficult, and in some churches taboo, to preach and live out the gospel any differently.

Nick said...

you may be right, Tim. i was in a sense interpreting Don's words in my own way.

I definately agree that salvation is a process, though. I don't think that makes it any less of an experience, though, or any less life changing, or any less real.

Thanks for your thoughts.