The lagging spiritual fruit of our religious efforts are glaringly evident. We seek God religiously more than we seek Him by His Spirit. We say "yes" with our mouths but down deep in our soul and convictions (all the things that God really cares about), we are disobediently reserved.
We suppose that God doesn't notice the little compartments in our lives, which we presume to salvage for our own uses as we dedicate ourselves to the Lord only so far as it is convenient. But this is neither dedication nor obedience.
Many of us presume to obey two masters. But friends, this is impossible. God is too smart to fall for this and He is too consistent within Himself to put up with it for long.
God has proven over and over that His grace is superior to every worldly thing. Our best game-plan has always been to surrender everything, even our most treasured compartments, over to Him. But don't we already know this?
His Spirit will work in us, from an inside-out direction, to bring about a whole new quality of faith that we could never have expected or manufactured on our own. And, when we spend more open and honest time with Christ, He will work out this impossible thing called "surrender."
We churchgoers would like to reserve for ourselves some right to call the shots at least sometimes. We would like to keep our religious inventions and claim at least some credit for the way God gets things done. Our religious and non-religious clutter is comfortable and we like it.
The fact that we churchgoers value our own comforts more than we desire God's Presence in our lives is obvious even to the casual, outside observer, no matter how our pretty prayers might sound otherwise. We pray with our words for God to show up, while, in our heart of hearts, we desire anything but life-altering Godliness.
Let's be at least honest enough to admit that we don't like to listen to or obey God. We know that, if we stop to listen to Him, then He'll probably tell us a lot of things we don't care to hear. We know that He will command us to keep moving forward, right into a mess of unfamiliar, spiritual territory. And He requires what seems like endless, painful growth. Indeed, true fellowship with God must be hopelessly inconvenient for the hypocrite because it is directly linked to basic, everyday life.
Apparently, many people manage to pray with their mouths and, at the same time, rebel with their hearts. Prayer time comes around so that people can say the word they've been practicing for whoever is scheduled to listen at that time.
For this reason, religious prayer (from God's point of view) is a sour wind springing from rotten, worldly hearts. The purpose of flesh-inspired prayer (which is not prayer at all) never rises above comforting the flesh.
Granted, if we want to seek out Christ, then wherever we are is a good place to start. But we know deep down whether we're seeking Christ as innocent children or acting like proud, religious specialists.
Total Christ-consumption is God's only reply to churchgoers who pray occasionally for miraculous things, when they happen to feel the need, though with no intention of ever relinquishing their worldly enchantments. And total Christ-consumption is God's reply to our lopsided, westernized idea of devotional life, where we treat every slight discomfort as an opportunity to throw a pity-party for ourselves. (I want to encourage people in general, but I also must speak the truth about these things).
We should keep in mind, as we present our issues to God, that neither His answers nor our faithful obedience will ever guarantee greater convenience for our flesh. In fact, our nearness to the Lord can only spell doom for our worldly infatuations. But don't fret in any case. Christ will let you in on your true relationship to Him and lead you on from there if you only ask.
If we are infants still (which is the case for most western church-folk) then it is well for us to fall to our knees when houses, cars, or whatever little things related to our standards of living are threatened. But afterward, as we keep moving forward, Christ will teach us to accept this likelihood, that He will not replace our superficial, material losses with more superficial material. If God blesses us from a heavenly standpoint then, at the same time, He will probably downsize and minimize our excessive clutter, religious or non-religious.
God pays no respect to the flesh as He destroys our sinful emptiness and replaces it with a superior, heavenly contentment. But, if we cling to our junk for comfort's sake and not because God specifically gave us these things, then we are deliberately rebelling against Him. And, if we continue praying and yet also clinging for years and years, then this is a good indication that we have not been praying at all.
God is answering the prayers of institutional churchgoers, only He is not giving us the answers we want. God's answer for us church experts continues to be, "Obey Me in the little things first. Get rid of useless distraction so you can hear Me at all."
If knowing the Lord's mind depends on how well we are listening, and we don't care to listen, then how can we know what is on the Lord's mind? If effective faith in Christ depends on our openness and honesty with Him, and we are neither open nor honest with Him, then our westernized version of living by faith must be fundamentally misguided.
God might move us toward bigger things, such as effectively establishing His kingdom on earth... but we'll never know so long as we do not take care of this minor thing, which is to surrender our entire, everyday, physical and non-physical way of life over to Him.
Our relationship to God right now is not too much different from a pouting teenager who is upset because his parents won't let him take the car out. God is like the parent who doubts that His teenager can handle the responsibility of driving a car when he can't even pass his classes or clean his room.
Has a physical makeover ever changed a person's inward motivations? No. So also for us religious folk, our everyday lives will manifest the spiritual truth as to whether or not we have a clue about Christ's mind or His kingdom on earth.
We have freedom from acting some religious part because our exclusive Audience is the Lord, who sees right through us, straight to our heart of hearts. Our simple calling is to present to Christ whatever is really on our minds. All who desire Christ can start exactly where they are and Christ will build them up from there.
Our encouragement is still only in Christ. Because He is God, He is fulfilling His promises in His people throughout the world no matter what the world has to say about it. He is carrying out what He explicitly set in motion for God's glory.
As of now, we can approach the fullness of God in Christ because it is part of His unchangeable, gracious character to give undeserving people good things. On the whole, it is for reasons outside of ourselves that God chooses to hear us and answer us. Whether or not we perfectly comprehend Him right now, the Spirit of God is listening, moving and transforming us as we actively seek, ask and knock.