Have you ever been ill and required antibiotics? What is the one thing the doctors always caution you about “In order for these to work, you have to take all of the pills, the whole cycle.”
What would happen if you took just one day’s worth of pills, or two? You might feel some relief but after stopping, the infection would come back stronger than ever. Thus, the caution to take the entire cycle.
If only we had the wisdom to treat God’s word the same way. Instead, we’ve treat it like we do our favorite tweet stream. We look for one liners that we can pull out and apply to our wounds as a temporary dressing, a momentary relief.
Last week, I was contacted by a friend who was suffering from anxiety. An acquaintance “prescribed” a particular psalm to her, to read daily in order to relieve this anxiety. Turns out this was actually a pastor who gave this advice and she was specifically told to read a certain psalm for 7 times a day for 7 days and all of her despair would disappear. She respected this person and esteemed them as a Christian and so committed to follow this advice.
After doing this for several days and not seeing the promised results, she reached out to me in frustration, wondering if she was reading it wrong or not fully understanding the verse. Here is the problem: A believer had counseled her to open her Bible and read just a few verses out of the 30,000 contained therein, and then expect the full effect of the entire book in this one small action. Like taking a single dose of antibiotic and thinking it will work as well as a seven day course. And you know, that kind of advice and council is tragically commonplace in the world today.
Mankind has a tendency to look for shortcuts, cliff notes, the “quick” version. And so we pull out a few verses and attribute some magical properties to them, declaring that simply reading those will fix all. Or we make up a prayer and tell folks that if they just recite that prayer they will have eternal salvation with no other action required and all other actions forgiven for perpetuity. And a small part of us inside thinks “this seems too easy.” But we shut that out as a child squeezes their eyes shut when playing hide and seek. If they don’t see you, you don’t see them, right? We act as if that works for God as well. So we treat him like a genie in a lamp that we can call on when needed and ignore when things are going well.
In doing these things, we will not find God.
The Father says “You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with you whole heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 Instead of seeking Him wholeheartedly, we try these:
- Opening the Bible when times are tough and looking for a single verse that makes us feel better.
- Saying a magical prayer and then going about your life with no change, treating eternal salvation like a get out of jail free card someone handed you one night that you’ve tucked away in your wallet until needed.
These are halfhearted attempts, if even that much. The problem, according to us, is that we don’t have time to read our bible. We say that our lives are simply too busy. And so we declare that He knows our hearts. And that is a true statement. He sees our hearts that shut him out and only call upon him when things get tough. Hearts that don’t seek to praise him or know him. Hearts that don’t make time for him because He is not a priority to us. Boy, does He know our hearts.
He knows that we make time for what is important to us. He sees the time we make for Facebook. He sees the hours we set aside each week for our favorite tv shows. He sees the glory we give to our favorite football team and how hard we will work to have a little extra time for our hobbies. He sees the energy we put into glorifying everything under the sun except Him. He sees us actively ignoring Him, barely even giving Him a thought once per week. And yet, as ungrateful children, we expect him to think on us each day, to look after the details in our lives, to watch over us and give us every good gift.
But we can’t be bothered to read the letters he wrote us.
Or even to take thirty minutes a day to spend with him. We barely manage to be lukewarm from time to time and we think that is fine because he knows our hearts. But if we read the word we’d see that Messiah said those who are lukewarm make him throw up. Revelation 3:16
Yes, he knows our hearts. And that should bring no comfort. Unless we are wholeheartedly after Him.
Unless we take ourselves off the throne in our lives and put Him up there. So what should happen when we seek him? What is the Biblical path to salvation? Stop looking in the Bible for magic words we can pull out and wield at will. He is not a cheap magician here to entertain. He is God. Stop denigrating Him. In doing so we are only wounding ourselves.
The Biblical path to salvation is teshuva – turning from your sins, your own ways, and reliance on your own wisdom, and turning to His ways, and His wisdom.
Salvation is coming under His wing, His umbrella, sitting at His feet. It is a wholehearted seeking after Him. Not 50%, not 10%, not two hours one day a week of dressing nice and feeling emotional at worship songs. God is not a temporary thing. He is not fleeting. He does not change with our emotions, situations, or desires. He is constant. He is eternal. He is steadfast. But we treat him like a drive through restaurant, ordering up what we need, checking out the bag to make sure all is there, and then driving off until we are hungry again. And then we wonder why it feels empty. We wonder why we don’t understand Him. We wonder why we don’t feel closer. We wonder why we have this emptiness. And so we turn to people who encourage us to do some easy thing that promise fast results. Just read this psalm. Just say this prayer. Just talk to an angel or a saint or some other idol. We don’t recognize the counterfeits because we don’t know the original. But He is here and He knows we will come searching eventually and so he said:
You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
And so it is time for us to turn away from man’s ways. To stop using manmade God mimicking patches and to go for the real thing. The best parts of the Bible are Genesis 1-Revelation 22. And that is what we must read.
But it’s so long. But I don’t understand it. But it doesn’t make sense. I’ve heard these excuses a lot, but you know what? I’ve never once heard them from anyone who has read the Bible. You’ll find a way or you’ll find an excuse. If He is truly God to you, reading a book in which He speaks is a great blessing. If this is too much of an inconvenience accept that He is not your god. Admit that, accept it. Decide If you’re comfortable with it, and if so, go about your day but don’t expect the Word of YHWH to work the same way for you as it does for a Believer. The fact of the matter is, there are many gods in our lives these days and many professed believers don’t even realize they are worshipping idols. Because we won’t recognize a counterfeit if we don’t know the original. Halfhearted seeking will never yield wholehearted results.
If we want YHWH to be our first line of defense, we’ve got to stop treating him as a last resort.
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