Today I bumped into a friend who was destroyed by the Americana Christianity’s me-ology and the Charismatic movement.
He grew up in the church, bright, clever, fervent.
But what I didn’t know was that he had steadily taken in this message in our culture that belief, that truth is about feeling.
And my friend never felt the way that people told him that he was supposed to feel. I’m not talking about how he felt about God. I saw the excitement on his face and the passion in his arguments multiple times in my life.
I’m talking about the way that God was supposed to make him feel. He never felt that there was a personal, intimate connection come down from heaven that changed his emotions. No still small voice whispered in his ear like Elijah. No visions or dreams came to him.
American Christianity had taught him that these things, these feelings were the proof and standard of the Christian life. Sure, he might never speak in tongues. But he should at least feel special.
And he never did.
It isn’t a really difficult question, and it isn’t a terribly unique problem, honestly. But it went back to the concept of The Big Lie. Told often enough, loudly enough, it had been internalized as real.
That’s really the trap of Satan, here, folks. Put words in God’s mouth, get you to believe that God has promised you something that he hasn’t. It doesn’t have to be a special feeling, like in this case. It might be the Family Is God crowd when God never promised you a spouse or children. It could be the Wealth and Prosperity People when God has said it is better to be poor than a liar. Maybe it’s the Charismatic Coalition’s assurance of supernatural powers because it isn’t fair that the New Testament church got them before the establishment of the cannon, and they were never really seen again from the late 300’s until the late 1800’s. I have heard countless former-ex-gay people (think about that phrase) who hate religion because they were promised that they would be delivered and they still felt temptation (so… Jesus wasn’t delivered, then, cause Satan tempted the snot out of him).
When God doesn’t deliver on things he’s never promised, then we’re set up to fall. The trap is to reject God as untrue, as a liar, as someone who cannot be trusted because the things he never said he would do, he did not do for you.
Yes, God spoke to Elijah on the mountain in a still small voice. Nowhere was that promised to anyone else. Yes, the early church had tongues, prophets, miracle healing, and more. But the Bible said they would pass away while faith, hope, and love remained. That’s exactly what happened. Yes, people are delivered from their sins because the price was paid on the cross. Yes, God comes to each and every one of us, personally, individually, with his body and blood at the communion railing, in our hands, hearts, and minds when we open the scriptures, and in our bodies at our baptism.
Jesus DID promise that in this world we would have trouble, but to take heart because he has overcome the world. He said he would be something that divided families, and that anyone who loved his family more than Him was unworthy of him, who turned aside from his own mother and sisters and brother’s call because those who did the will of his Father in heaven were his real family. He has not said that our lives would be long on earth, healthy here, or even happy here. But he has said and it is true that he will never leave or forsake us. We are told the truth that our earthly sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.
And while Romans 8:28 does not actually promise that things will work out for the best for us as individuals (the promise is to the plural, the group, the body of Christ), it will be true in context that when we reach heaven, it will all have been for the good.
God is an absolute reality. His faithfulness is an absolute truth, when we are righteous and when we fall, when we are depressed (as David was), anxious enough to sweat blood (as Jesus was), ready to die (as Moses, Elijah, and Simeon have been), and when we are on top of the world, riding high, with everything going our way.
It is imperative, though, that we study scripture, find and adhere to solid teaching of God’s Word, attend the Sacraments by which we are strengthened and purified, and daily pray and repent of our sins. Why? Satan is out there prowling about for those of us whom he can destroy, and twisted me-ology promises have already cost me the eternal life of one person that I love, if not many more I just don’t know about.