It’s been a few weeks now since a post included the passage from 2 Corinthians 10:5: “Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (KJV). I have been meditating on the last part of that passage-the bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ-and focusing on doing so.
I don’t know if any of you have ever made this your focus but it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I didn’t realize how often my mind wandered until I turned my attention to what I was actually thinking about and attempting to bring an awareness of Jesus Christ to every moment. Even in prayer time with my church or with my family, I would catch myself mouthing the words while I was thinking about what to make for breakfast or what my plans were for the next day or a hundred other things. It was not focused on God. To paraphrase Yoda, my mind was never on where I was-what I was doing.
One thing I was not aware I was doing was separating in my mind time with God and time to think about whatever I wanted. I would do my bible reading, some prayer time, some study time and then I’d make no attempt to control my thoughts throughout the rest of the day. It was like I’d scored my brownie points with God. It had become habit to give Him His allotted time and then I was free to think about whatever I wanted. Since I was thinking about a story I was writing or blog posts or poems-all things that had to do with God-I didn’t think what I was doing needed to change. I recently heard one of my teachers say “religion is easy: relationship is hard” and that struck me.
I had already realized how much of my thought life was consumed of planning all I was going to do for God. Upcoming studies that would be turned into blog posts, which books I would read after I finished my current ones, what all I needed to do to share to good news of Jesus with those around me. And then, when my brain was overwhelmed with all of these plans, I’d escape into a story or a television show: anything to give my brain a break. Realizing I was thinking this way and having this experience, I realized how true that statement it: religion is easy: relationship is hard.
It is so easy for me to keep God intellectual. I have stacks of books at my fingertips. I could spend the rest of my life in study of Him and learn things that would fill blog post after blog post. I might even write something that helps someone else. What does any of it matter if I spend so much time working for Him that I don’t have anything left over for spending time with Him? For so long I acted like, somehow, I was in control. I’d get up in the mornings and ready my studies and devotionals, and then pray He’d help me get through my day. Hadn’t I earned His blessing? I’d put Him first, checked my “aren’t I a good Christian” boxes, and now He had to hold up His end of things. My relationship with Him, if I can even call it a relationship, was contractual rather than covenant. I was living out of a “because I then He” rather than living life from Him.
Do you know that if I never picked up a Bible again, God would still love me? It is amazing to me, I sit in utter wonder of it, to know that there is nothing I can ever do or not do that affect God’s love for me. He loves me because He is love. That is terrifying. I can’t do anything to control when or how He loves me. I do not earn His love by prayers or readings or studies or memorization. I don’t present my Good Christian Resume and tell Him I’ve kept the rules so He has to keep His promises. No, I am in relationship with the living God. I almost can’t bear to type it. THE LIVING GOD! The covenant God. The God who gives Himself to me in love. This God lives inside of me now. I do not bide my time performing for Him so I get to go to heaven when I die. He and I are one right this moment. We are in covenant relationship and because He is all that He is to me right now-all His promises are “Yes” in Christ Jesus-therefore I live my life from Him.
Knowing this-really knowing it-sitting with it until it became a reality in my heart not just an idea, changed how I look at Paul’s words in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge: and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, KJV). And then comes that beautiful passage describing agape which is the Greek word translated “charity” here.
1 John 4:8 ends with the words, “for God is love” and that word in the Greek is agape. Malcolm Smith will often stress that God is love: He doesn’t have it, He is it. I sit in realization if this and see that the love (or charity) Paul is talking about isn’t a feeling or even an act of my will: it’s the very person of Jesus. He is what I need. Without Him, I am nothing.
And so, of course I read my Bible but to know Him not to appease Him. I read where Moses says, “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence” (Exodus 33:15, KJV). My heart says a hearty “amen” and then I rejoice knowing that because I am joined to the Lord, I am one spirit with Him and I have the relationship Moses only anticipated. I make David’s words in Psalm 27 my own prayer: “When thou saidist, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek” (verse 8, KJV). And, I bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Not in an attitude of “Sir, yes sir!” but in the true meaning of the word obedience: attentive hearkening. I don’t want to wander off into my own thoughts: I want to seek His face and hear His voice. Only then, because He speaks and has inclined my ear to hear Him; then will I do.
G5218 hupakoe, from 5219; attentive hearkening, i.e. (by impl.) compliance or submission;–obedience, (make) obedient, obey (-ing)
G5219 hupakouo, from 5259 and 191; to hear under (as a subordinate), i.e. to listen attentively…
Strong, James, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990