The Deficient Theology of the Hungry

     If there’s anywhere I think we Charismatics have consistently gone wrong in our theology it is in the area of “hunger preaching.” People are constantly talking about “being hungry for more of God” as if that is a requirement for healthy spirituality. We must always be desperate, always be thirsting, always be “pressing in deeper.” Why? Because supposedly what we already have is just a teaser of God’s Presence in our lives.

     The Bible verse referenced most often for this kind of teaching is Matthew 5:6, which reads, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” The way this verse is interpreted, it is assumed that none of us are sufficiently righteous already. We are still lacking in fullness, lacking in sanctification, lacking in union with God. We need more of the fire to cleanse us, more of the anointing to make us feel connected to God, more of the glory to at last fill us up with what we’ve been missing out on. This is supposedly evident by the fact that we don’t see all the hospitals around us getting cleared out by healing evangelists, all the stadiums being filled with spontaneous revival meetings, and all the riverbanks and shorelines filled with new converts constantly being baptized. If we really had it together with God, He would open the heavens for us and we’d actually start to walk in His power (finally).

     The problem with this line of thought is it starts from a place of lack rather than a place of fullness. It tells us we are super deficient, rather than complete in Christ like the apostle Paul taught us. It sets us up to live a very driven, need-focused lifestyle — often overextending ourselves in fasting, prayer, and event-attending-hype in order to pursue the next level of impartation and breakthrough. It undermines any sound teaching on the virtues of contentment, restfulness, or self-care. Meanwhile it underscores the lie of the enemy that says “you will never have enough and never be enough.”

     I am someone who is legitimately all for the wildness of the Holy Spirit. I love the crazy, intense manifestations. I love to challenge people to receive good gifts more freely from God, to expose themselves to different ways He is moving on the earth, and to ever grow more familiar with His Presence. I understand that all of this often takes risk, patience, endurance, and intentionality. The life of a revivalist is an adventure and a constant learning experience.

     One thing we do not need though while we are on this adventure is to live hungry and thirsty. Orphans live hungry. Orphans do not get fed enough to have a full belly. But we are children of the King. We have bellies so full they are overflowing with springs of living water! We are the temple of the Living God! And we are already as righteous as it gets, because we have received Christ’s righteousness as our own.

     Nothing could be more satisfying.

     It is perfectly possible to live a thriving spiritual life — growing in the knowledge of God, becoming increasingly activated in His gifts, expecting Him to move in new and surprising ways — and still be 100% satisfied. In fact, I would like to suggest that dissatisfaction can be more of an indicator of spiritual immaturity than of readiness for what God wants to do next. Dissatisfaction often gets our eyes off the finished work of the Cross and onto ourselves. It calls us to look at where we might be failing and to constantly wish we were more resolved to really be radical for God now. That only leads to a broken cycle that always ends in disappointment.

     Worse yet, our constant hunger keeps us from fully appreciating the beauty of how present and active God is in the here and now. The spiritual and emotional highs He gives us can’t be properly enjoyed for what they are, merely because they don’t often lead to instant and immediate transformation in all the areas we have been contending for. If an encounter did meet a significant need, we know there is still an endless sea of more needs yet to be contended for… It’s an exhausting schema.

     My advice; give up entirely on trying to get more hungry for God. Don’t stop making healthy changes in your life where you need to. Don’t stop engaging in spiritual warfare. Don’t stop indulging yourself in enjoying God’s Presence and revelations. Don’t stop getting out of your comfort zone to be used of Him in a manner that stretches your faith. Do great exploits to demonstrate His love and spread His fame. Just do all that stuff completely, entirely satisfied in the love of God.

You are enough.

Christ in You is enough.

Holy Spirit indwelling you is MORE than enough.

     Let your confidence in those truths redefine all of what you are reaching for. Then, join with the Psalmist and declare, “I shall not be in want.”

Follow @dmichaelSTL

Book Review: Live Like Jesus

     Recently I finished reading Vineyard pastor Putty Putman’s new book, “Live Like Jesus.” It was

so

dang

good.

     It will be hard to put into words how much I loved it. I will most likely be re-reading it in the not so distant future, just to enjoy it further.

     God has been teaching me so many of the concepts in this book for the last ten years of my life through many different books, teachings, and resources. I often say I have personally gone through a drastic reformation. Throughout this time though I have never found one single book that encapsulates all the main themes of what God has been showing me. Live Like Jesus surprised me by succinctly piecing together these key ideas — each of which I believe have potential to bring widespread change to the way Christianity is expressed in this stage of history.

     I almost wish the book was titled something like Reformational Truths That Will Blow Your Mind. I think that would do much more justice to the contents of its pages!

     This book explains, among other things,

  • why sinning does not make someone a “sinner”
  • why born-again saints with a new nature are able to sin and contradict their true nature
  • why being forgiven and regenerated are not the same thing
  • how being conscious of our union with God enables us to experience the same supernatural power that Jesus walked in
  • how the Gospel impacts not just individuals, but all of society and creation
  • how we effectively handle suffering in our lives with a Christ-like mindset

     Over and over again Putty dissects and assesses the most fundamental pieces of our understanding of the Gospel and gracefully brings new light on what we are looking at. The readers is left at the end feeling incredibly empowered and enlightened. I personally wish I had a book like this ten years ago to save me some of the trouble of sorting my doctrine out over all the time it has taken me!

     Before reading this book I already knew that Putty was one of my favorite living communicators and thought-leaders. This book only re-enforced that for me. It is a resource I will definitely be recommending and giving away far and wide, as I am confident the truths inside of it can apply to anyone who is seeking to walk out their faith in a healthier way.

Follow @dmichaelSTL

A New Starting Place

I find the following passage of Scripture profound in revelation…

Acts 27:22-31 reads,

     So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

     “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

     “Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

He is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed His offspring.’

     This passage is incredible. It sounds starkly different from the way the Gospel is communicated today.

     Notice that Paul does not call his hearers to apologize for their sins in order to attain a relationship with God. Notice he does not start from a place of saying God is distant, needing to be appeased before He will draw near. Paul does not speak to this prebelievers as outsiders waiting to be given the gift of acceptance. He speaks to them as if they already belong in the family of God. It seems they already have His sustaining presence fueling their lives.

     They simply need to repent (i.e. change their idea about the nature of God) and trust in the One who was raised from the dead on their behalf.

     This reminds me of Psalm 82:6, which says, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.” This was a verse Jesus quoted to defend His own divinity (John 10:34-36). It suggests that we are all numbered among God’s children.

     Modern preaching often presents Jesus as being the “bridge” to God — the One who can help us cross a big divide and get back into a place of nearness with the Lord. The truth is Jesus is God Himself, and He proved through His incarnation, death and resurrection that He is willing to dwell among us and fight for our well-being whether welcome Him to or not.

     Christ demonstrated that God is never withdrawn from us. He loves to befriend even the most sinful of humans.

     If we want to really help others wake up to see God for who Jesus revealed Him to be, we must stop offering a narrative that begins with separation from the Divine. Further, we must reveal to our brothers and sisters their truest identity, which has been unchanging from the creation of the world.

     We are God’s offspring. Our life is and always has been found in Him.

     As we preach the Good News to the lost, let this revelation be our new starting place.

Follow @dmichaelSTL