Sometimes I fall into the trap of reading Bible study after Bible study, while actually neglecting my relationship with God. I go through intriguing studies of the Old and New Testament. Responding to insightful questions, I strengthen my knowledge of myself through the lens of the Gospel. I build upon the solid foundation of who God is and who He will always be for me. When it’s all said and done, I feel filled up and energized. While the words linger in my mind, their effect fades. The ebb and flow of the day washes over me. Those little nuggets of truth collected and stacked along the shoreline of my heart are carried away by the tide. Many times, I chase them down out of sheer stubbornness. I move them closer inland, but sure enough, the tide comes farther in and grabs them again.
I have also gone through periods of working through the Word of God on my own, convinced that any failure in application was the result of the method of study. It’s delightful and thought-provoking. It’s encouraging and challenging. However, in this I can find myself reading the Bible like a Facebook status update, scrolling through verses until something stings my heart. I’ll stop to give a thumbs up or even share it with a friend. Commenting with a heart, I fail to truly hide it in mine.
These are broken cycles of trying to come close to God while shielding my heart from Him. Despite my efforts, my ability to bear His character and shine His light fade away. Great intentions were met with shallow engagement. A relationship can’t be built that way. The longer I stay in the misguided pattern, the more trepidation there is to connect in deeper ways. I can lose my desire for the accountability of falling on my knees before God. The peace of sitting in silence while He speaks to my heart can become foreign. Intimate and heartfelt connection is surrendered for superficiality.
It’s not derived from a fraudulent proclamation of faith. I am not falling short in my application of God’s Word because I don’t really believe it. My salvation and firm belief that the Bible is true are not in question. The scripture-based studies and commentaries I read are cemented in biblical truths. The Word of God is alive and active, states Hebrews 4:13, it is “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The error is not in my beliefs nor the quality of knowledge I am accumulating. In misguided attempts, I have tried to grab hold of God and His promises without embracing the fullness of surrender. It is grasping at the change I want without yielding to the accountability of God-led transformation. In this posture, my Christian walk is marked by periods of disconnection and discontentment.
A close and anchored relationship can’t be built in this manner. True intimacy can only come from time spent in fellowship and vulnerable communication. I am called to enter into God’s presence and into His rest. To focus my attention on learning who God is through other methods while neglecting- or even avoiding- direct contact with Him is setting myself up for failure. Hebrews 4 talks extensively about the importance of this. The “do” of the Christian life can only be sustained by rooting myself deeply into His presence. “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience,” Paul says. In the times I have abandoned my way of pursuing God in favor of His way, I get refueled. Lasting results are produced as His purity pushes out the gunk that has collected from being a sinner in a sinful world. Authentic communication with God is time spent hearing God’s heart and pouring out mine. This should be my lifeblood. It is the key to accomplishing all else desired under the umbrella of living a life of godliness as we are called to in 2 Peter 3-11.
My Bible study, through whichever method, needs to always be a compliment to my open dialogue with God. In times of difficulty, it is that relationship that will bolster me through the storm. He speaks to the deep places of my heart and the source of my anxiety or fears. His love pours out and His peace invades those spaces when I come into His presence. When I struggle with sin or sin patterns in my life, it is in close and sometimes uncomfortable dialog with God that His light brings accountability. The strength to bring those sins before others only comes from first surrendering them to God. As I see His love and grace eradicate my shame and guilt, the grip of sin loosens, and I am able to pursue freedom in Christ. Hebrews 4:16 implores me to, “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
“His love pours out and His peace invades those spaces when I come into His presence.”
The call to be with Him is the heartbeat of the Gospel. Christ died to eradicate the sin debt that kept me separated from God. It is an unfathomable sacrifice. It is a monumental and unrivaled gift. The only fitting response is acceptance through surrender. Surrendering all that hinders me from entering God’s presence and embracing the “good portion” described in Luke 10:38-42. There is nothing else that truly and permanently meets my needs. It is in that revelation and comfort that I am letting go of my reliance on things created by God to instead be with God. With my heart open and without distraction, I will be with Him.
How often is intimate and heartfelt connection with God surrendered for superficiality?