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SEEK ME AND FIND ME
Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
Proverbs 27:19 As in water face reflects face, So a man's heart reveals the man.
The Great Separators
Most believers I have spoken with or ministered to want a closer relationship with the Lord. Most are reading and studying in some way, anticipating that closer connection will therefore "happen" somehow. For many that anticipation has gone on for years and is still not met.
People believe that if they read their Bibles and pray, they will at some point break through to a deeper awareness of God, experience His love for them and His presence with them. That may happen, but reading our Bibles and praying does not guarantee it, as many children of God have discovered.
Then there is the sense that if it does not happen, "I must not be doing it right," or the alternative conclusion: "God for some reason does not want to connect with me." Both conclusions are vastly inaccurate and quite derailing in their influence, but that is difficult to discover because of the nature of the separators. We do not seem to realize how extensive they are, how subtle, and how "normal" they are in terms of being the usual way to look at things through our own individual faculties and experiences in life.
This part of the book takes the time to describe the separating factors and to illustrate how they impact the distance we experience from God. The ironic thing is that He IS present, already present, indeed always present. Many things cloud our awareness of His presence, and we will need to see and understand them in order to know how to break through them.
Most people want a quick answer and easy formula for breaking through and preparing their hearts. So far as I know there is none. There is much to overcome in order to enter into the liberty the Lord comes to restore, and it is not even the kind of liberty we think of: It’s not so much "free from" liberty; it is "free to" liberty. So, if you want to understand the things that are in the way, you will have to bear with me while I describe them—the barriers to intimacy with the Lord that I have discovered in nearly 30 years of ministry that has focused on connecting hearts to God. People say: "That takes too long." Well, spinning our wheels takes the same amount of time, but does not produce the abiding place with the Lord for which our hearts long. I say to people: "You are going to live those years in any case; it’s better for them to go for victory than be spent in impatience and discouragement."
So we will look carefully at two huge areas that comprise the great separators: sin (missing God) and the wounding in life that is an inescapable result of it. These two areas are entangled together in very complex ways in all of us, and they obscure our awareness of God. They will have to be broken up and cleared in order for us to "see" Him.
Blessed are the pure (cleared and cleansed) in heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8).
Our hearts are greatly impacted by both of these areas of separation, and choosing to "move on" (essentially an attempt to ignore them) does not quite handle either of them. We will have to dig deep if we want to clear things away and build on solid ground (Luke 6:46-49). When we try to proceed by means other than those the Lord directs, we find our progress delayed, or worse—the house (life) we were trying to build gets crushed by the storm. There’s a way for that not to happen, but it goes hand-in-hand with digging deep—not our favorite approach.
Elements of Sin: A Summary
Scripture is a very rich source for descriptions of our heart condition and how it came to be that way. For example, I marvel at how clearly the record of the fall of man parallels the factors that are present in the lives of the people I minister to, and in my own exchanges with the Lord. The faces and details are as different as there are people in life, but the underlying elements that work to impair life and especially life with the Lord are common. I’d like to summarize those elements before we look more closely at each one.
The record of the fall of man starts with the serpent questioning God—what He said and His motive for saying it. This is now part of everyone’s healing and restoration of life with God—to find out if it is really God saying it, and to know Him well enough to discern His motive. Is He invested in our good, or is He beating us out of something of benefit, which was the serpent’s subtle suggestion? We’ll call this element:
Then there is the suggestion that we can be like God, knowing good and evil ourselves. The unspoken implication being that we do not need to depend on God; we can be sufficient in our own faculties. That begins to tear the fabric of how we are created—to live in a dependent partnership with God. To this very day one of the more sizeable hurdles for people in hearing and taking God seriously is the huge contrast between what they have come to know by their sight and experience, and the Lord’s perspective based on His sight and faculties for knowing. People tend to believe what they have seen and experienced and God Himself has a difficult time changing or even adjusting those conclusions, both about one’s self and about Him. We’ll call this element:
Evaluating things primarily by sight, Eve plunges ahead, since it "looks" okay to her. What she determines to be true she imparts to the one near and dear to her. Adam in turn heeds her voice more than the Lord’s. They began by listening to the serpent, and ended up listening to each other. We’ll call this element:
Having gone their own way, they discovered not that they were "like God," which was the promise, the lie of the serpent, but rather that they were ashamed. They needed to cover up in order to manage their shame. There is no indication that they realized the degree of robbery the serpent effected, or just how duped they had been. Then, hearing the Lord in the garden, they attempted to hide from the presence of the Lord, but discovered they could not do that. God called to Adam, knowing he was there. We’ll call this element:
When the Lord questioned them about eating of the tree He told them not to eat of, they answered from the kind of "knowing" the serpent taught them—they were chiefly in their minds, their hearts, their personal responsibility for choosing, their awareness of wrong, their disobedience were all hidden away. They believed there was a reason why each of them departed from what the Lord said, and someone else was responsible for the reason. We’ll call this element:
These five areas related to our sin nature are central to the work of God in healing and restoring us. He has Himself covered our sin, but there is still the work lifting us out of our patterns and uniting our hearts with His. I have never ministered to anyone suffering from whatever difficulty that brought them to see me, who was not trapped in these elements to some degree or other, and who was not separated to some degree from the Source of healing because of them.
There is another area that aggravates and complicates these five, and that is what has happened to people in life as they have grown up in the midst of these elements of sin. It is basically impossible to get to adulthood in an unwounded condition. There are degrees of wounding in life, but everyone has some form of it that needs to be worked out and healed. Wounding is different from sin in that it typically is not our choice, but rather someone else sinning against us, causing a wounding that we will have to address, though we had no control over it. People need to be able to make a clear distinction between sin and wounding, owning their own sin, but bringing life’s wounds to the Lord for His comfort and healing and the restoration they bring. So we will add this sixth area:
The reality is that wholeness calls for a work of restoration in all of these areas. They are all inextricably tangled up together. Whichever piece presents itself first inevitably connects to all the others. Therefore, if we are to get and stay connected with the Lord it will call for working out these elements with Him. Otherwise they will continue to produce the distance and misconception in which we are mired when we cannot be aware of the Lord, though His presence is actually constant.
The detailed descriptions in the chapters that follow are for three groups of people. They are for those who are working privately on their relationship with the Lord and don’t understand what is in the way of the deeper awareness they seek. They are for those who are well aware of their need for personal healing in life, and want the Lord to be the active agent in accomplishing that in their hearts. And they are for those who have found their way through to a deeper awareness of God, want to minister it to others, but find that they need some sharper tools with which to cut through. The church will need many such ministers of connection, actively intervening, confidently equipped, and regularly influencing lives in a way that causes "The Church of His Spirit" to thrive!