“Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.”
― Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
When it comes to true religion, the right concept is always in the back our brains, yet the principle can quickly be snuffed out by our surroundings. The Bible defines true religion as being free from the world and loving others as we love ourselves.
James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained [a]by the world (NASB)
To keep ourselves unstained by the thought processes and philosophies of the world involves a whole lot that the Spirit of God may speak to us about personally. In principle though, the pull of the World will always include desires that will lead us in the wrong direction: the lust of the flesh, the passion of the eyes and boastful pride. (James 2:16)
We all know, those of us that read and study scripture, that God is a Spirit and we must worship him with our soul and spirit, our inner man. None of which we can see. Also, it’s the Holy Spirit governs his church. We are built together as God’s dwelling place through his Spirit. Again, an entity we cannot see but must trust that he does his job.
The unseen is often our problem–faith. As a result, we tend to interject human instrumentality because we need to see, touch and hold something to believe its real. But if we can see it ( Hebrews 11:1) that is not faith.
There is a part of us that knows we can call on God. People do it when they’re in danger. They call on God when loved ones are sick or when they want to win a game. We know that God is present and yet we often act as if He’s far away. We trust in things we cannot see. This is what faith is about. The flickering candle of understanding that there’s an unseen world that influences our life, that we’re not only flesh and bones. Most know this to be true, even when they try to deny it. Faith can be snuff out of consciousness if God doesn’t remind us once and while that he’s everywhere and can guide us if we call on him to do so.
So what hinders us from keeping that flickering candle burning?
For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. Psalms 18:28
Drowning Out His Voice
It doesn’t matter whether humans are young and know only two words or they are great orators which massive command of their language. All souls belong to God. God who created our beings and our languages knows how to talk to us, whatever our age and station in life. He understands how to gain our attention and introduce himself to us. The noise of activities and the business of life can drown out his voice. The action is not always secular.
Because of technology, we have a proliferation of religious activities today, yet, according to Christianity Today less satisfaction in spirituality. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in America we have sliding attendance in Christian churches replaced by massive amounts of Christian conferences, books events, retreats, and concerts. People come to church wanting to connect with God but often leave unfulfilled. I believe that one of the reasons for such statistics is that we focus on the wrong things. We often look to institutions and other humans to fill our needs when God invites us personally connect with him wherever we are. The excitement of going to a conference and being refreshed is a worthy endeavor, but God is right here. While we struggle in our churches to have perfect business processes, meetings, the next big revival, and listen to the next prominent preacher, we don’t realize that true revival and spirituality is that flickering candle of faith that’s very near.
Here are three reasons I believe the flickering candle of understanding burns low:
1. Unbelief. The idea that reality only involves seeing and touching overtakes our awareness. Our inner man is genuine. It’s the part that makes up our particular personalities; the part that hurts when our feelings are wounded; the part that gets angry at injustice or jealous at others’ success. We have a moral center. These things are all part of the inner man that comes from God and has been damaged by sin. We cannot physically touch these things, nor can we see God, but the choices we make about both will affect our reality. When the light of faith comes to us, we have to stay reminded the God is present so that we don’t miss this spark.
2. Hubris. The call from Jesus to be humble in status and treat one another as equals is a call that is not prominent on in today’s churches. We elevate our Pastors to levels of worship, our churches and traditions to symbols of adoration. In I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, God makes it clear the structure of the church is equality of brethren. The entire body of Christ is involved in the functioning of his body. Two times we see the disciples try to elevate either themselves or ideas into a level of worship (Matthew 20:26 and Matthew 17:4-5). The disciples’ natural inclination and ours too, is to elevate people and worship something. God had to remind them to keep human elevation out of the picture and worship Christ alone. The kingdom of God involves humility, being at one another’s feet. Equality in religion is an area in which we all struggle either because of our traditions and our natural, internal need to elevate things we admire.
I believe that we find so much divisiveness in religion because we worship our particular ways of understanding the Bible. The Bible talks about the universal church of God. It is evident in scripture that the early church agreed on Christ and his work on the cross, but did not agree on details. I don’t believe God is against disagreement done in humility to the word of God.
3. Misplaced Faith. It is possible to place too much faith in institutions and men rather than God himself. God never fails. He has come to my rescue time and again and answered prayer. Pastors and ministers are there to feed us with God’s word and help along our personal experience with God. We have God’s word; there’s no need to live and die by theirs. More often than not, I believe we become stagnant because by placing our spiritual life in the hands of men in a way God never intended. Shepherding is loving care and not total control. We become dazzled by personalities and the show business of religion rather than connecting people with God, which is our primary mission. As a whole, we tend to lean on the music, the aura, the size of our churches and less on the message of the Word of God.
From Genesis with Adam and Eve to Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Issac, Jacob, the prophets and various stories in the Bible are not solely historical but point to a personal relationship with God. Walking with God is pure joy. To know that God has forgiven you of all sin in a way that you do not doubt that you heard from God himself is the right of every human being.
I refreshingly spoke to a Pastor recently that said he was interested in the proper biblical structure of the church and if he could find that he would be satisfied. He pointed out the conference invitations and emails instructing Pastors how to grow their churches and other tweaks to make their churches better. It’s easy to get lost in that out of good motives and not focus on Jesus. I told him I appreciated how he stayed focused on Jesus in his messages. I would say that’s what more followers of Christ need to do.