More Than Vanilla

Jeff Legalism, Spiritual Growth, Worship

The more I think on it (and I think on it constantly), the more I am convinced that we Christians have a tendency to find a singular flavor of Christianity that suits our spiritual taste buds, and we then choose to make that our perpetual one-course feast.  Once upon a time it was my belief that the angle I had on the Kingdom of God was not merely the blessed angle and the best angle…but the only angle. If you had an appetite for a different flavor of the faith than I did, you were on a potentially poisonous diet.  Recently I had a painful conversation with someone I care about who expressed his concern that I had changed some of my stances over the last two decades.  I understood what he was saying and I certainly did not protest that I had not changed in twenty years of following Jesus (is it possible to follow the Transformer for that long and not be transformed?).  What he was really communicating was that I had shifted to some lesser flavor and had departed in some way from what was good or right.  There was a time when I too would have perceived any expansion of someone’s grasp of truth and liberty in Christ (which differed from my own) as a migration in a dangerous direction.  Freedom is frightening for many people, and when our relationship with the unsearchable God moves out of the confines of a two-page outlined summary, then it may cause some discomfort in those around us.  I suppose it would be wise for me to confess that I enjoy the deepening and inexhaustible dimensions of my relationship with God and that, when it comes to the expectation for me to choose a single, particular flavor, I have to refuse. You see, I truly want the whole spectrum of what God provides. All of it.  Not some of it and not most of it.  I want everything that God offers to us because the act of His offer validates that it is good for us.  I have never wanted to play it safe, and I cannot find anywhere in Scripture wherein we are called to settle with what presumably works for us during one season, and stay there for all remaining seasons in our journey.  Truth is eternal and settled forever…but our appropriation and walking in Truth is a transformational process in relationship with Jesus Christ.

Here is one thing that has not changed as my anchor in Christian living: from the beginning I have been committed to cultivating and communicating my personal beliefs by asking the question, “What does the Word of God reveal?”  The more we study the Word, the more we will experience wisdom and understanding.  The more often we lay what we understand before the Lord in prayer, the more He will animate Truth in our lives.  When this occurs over the years…we change.  I remain in this unwavering commitment to God’s Word today while recognizing that solid believers do not always agree on what God says in His Word.  While I understand that we do not always reach the same conclusions about what our bibles teach, I also have reached the place where I believe that I can enjoy fellowship and fraternity with those that disagree with me.  Certain doctrines (and they are few in number) would drive a necessary and separating wedge between me and others, but most of the areas in which we disagree as believers are more peripheral, rather than core, issues.  One of the realities I can no longer deny is that I am unwilling in my life to be brought under the non-biblical or unbiblical traditions of others, no matter who those others are or what those traditions are.  A singular blog post would not allow me the space for asserting a biblical defense of this position I take but, suffice it to say, the words of Jesus and Paul alone should put enough steel in our spines to unapologetically refuse to bow to any standard of man which we are convinced has no merit for us in God’s Word.  Friends, we really need to come to an uncompromising discernment that allows us to see the difference between what the Bible says and what someone says that the Bible says.  When you begin to live this out, two things will occur:  joyful liberty in your own relationship with Jesus and the consequent disapproval from some who do not wish for you to be free to disagree with them.

My commitment is to never force-feed someone a particular flavor of the faith. I can live easily with those who disagree with me.  It happens all the time in the worlds of Christian leaders because we communicate so often and the nature of our communication is public, and therefore subjected to the differing views of scores of other people. I am convinced that we never stop growing as the followers of Jesus – not merely growing in what we have previously learned but actually growing in what we are continuing to learn.  That is an important distinction: some believe that spiritual growth is limited to a process of mastering what you have learned in the past.  Not enough people are reminding us that spiritual growth also is to be ongoing in what you are learning anew.  Unless of course, you already know all that there is to be known of God.  I guess that, if that is the case, you are in no need of new learning and growth, just a better outworking of the fullness of your current knowledge. I write that with tongue in cheek, knowing that nobody reading this blog believes that he or she has already arrived at full knowledge of God.  So let’s not pretend that we have.

Let’s be genuine here: we surely do not claim to know all that can be known of King Jesus.  We do not claim to have gone everywhere we He wishes to lead us.  We do not claim to have experienced all that He offers us to experience with Him.  We are not chasing trinkets from Him, we are entering into the reality of the ultimate commandment to love God with all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our soul and all of our strength.  We love His Book but we do not desire it apart from interacting with its Author.  Is it wrong to long for deeper and more frequent experiences with the Lover of our souls?  Is He not the Groom and we His Bride?  Was the wedding night of our salvation the consummation and the conclusion of our intimacy together?  Perish that thought! Hallelujah, the intimacy gets more meaningful the longer we do life with Him! If you or I could even consider that we have all of the King and His Kingdom figured out then I will suggest that we have tasted some awesome vanilla and have enjoyed it so much that we have become convinced that it is the only flavor. But I believe this with every fiber of my being: There. Is. So. Much. More.

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” – Psalm 34:8