Turning It Up to 11, or Why The Means of Grace Rock the House
The only thing worse than falling into a spiritual valley is the conviction that one must always be on a spiritual mountaintop. Though the Bible is the very history of the ups and downs of God’s people, God’s people go on thinking themselves immune, and that something is terribly wrong if their passion and joy today is not at the same fever pitch it was on the day they came to faith.
There is, of course, a ditch on the other side of the road. We can grow complacent, our ardor having all the vitality of lukewarm water. But cooler than it once was can be a long way from lukewarm. We ought to be taking our spiritual temperature. We ought to pray for passion, joy and gratitude. What we have to watch out for is when the devil comes calling like some diabolical pusher offering us his spiritual uppers.
When we are dissatisfied, when we are looking for more, the devil is more than happy to offer us what we think we need, and keep us from what we truly need. The history of the church is littered with sundry strategies to cure the spiritual blah’s. After Constantine turned down the heat and Christianity became acceptable, it got flabby. So monasteries were invented. You leave the world behind, enter into your vows, and become a super-saint. Not long after universities popped up, with much the same goal. Eventually contemplative prayer forms and then revivals, camp meetings stoked sundry fires, leading us to the annual tacky-fad-of-the-day in the broad evangelical world.
Pietism, Methodism, quietism, charismaticism, all of these seemed to offer to the “plateau-ed” Christian a means to get to the next level, to relight the fires, to receive a second blessing, to stand out from the crowd, to draw nearer to the living God. The motive has much to commend it, the means not so much. What all these have in common is that the Bible says not a word about them. They are, every one of them, man made, human inventions to lift us up to God. Which is why they simply do not work. The Bible offers a gospel-infused answer to our problem. We do not labor to draw closer to Him, to stoke the fires of our passion. Instead He draws near to us. He lifts us up. And He does these things through His appointed means.
If we would be closer to God, we must give heed to His word. We must attend to the preaching of the Word. If we would be closer to God, we must sit at His table, and feast in His presence. If we would be closer to God, we must grow closer to those whom He indwells. If we would be closer to God we must cease trying to be a special kind of Christian, and start crying out “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.”
There are no special Christians, only a special Christ. We have no need to ask Him to give us more. We need only ask Him to help us see all that He has already given.