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More Than Familiar

There's a murky pit I'm prone to falling into. Every time I pray more consistently and read the Word daily, a subtle lie creeps in that I'm familiar with God. The lie that because I've read the Bible again and again, I know Him fully. Seen all there is to see. It sounds absurd to think that of an omnipotent God, but I'm convinced a lot of us develop those feelings.

We become so familiar with our rhythms- the times we pray, the times we read, the times we partake in communion at Jesus' table, that we believe it's God we're familiar with.

And though that could be pleasant on the surface, feeling comfortable with God will one day lead to a rude awakening. Next thing we know it our heart is like a cold stone within our chests that we've been lugging to prayer day after day. Because we're not awed. We have no wonder. We've "matured" so much that we can't know Him as we did when we were children. We wake up and realize that when we were so convinced we knew Him, having grown so accustomed and acclimated, that now we don't know Him at all. We don't even remember the last time we were delighted at the thought of spending time at the feet of Jesus.

I remember sitting at my creaky desk in AP World History two years ago, learning about the religions of the world, and having the thought- Christianity is the only faith that allows its people to grow comfortable.

In Islam, the five pillars of righteous living dictate entire lives, the pointed finger of Allah waiting to send you to flames if you don't live up. Mercy is certainly not free, and it has not been paid for you.

In Hinduism, your entire life is a battle to purify yourself, to rid yourself of every ounce of festering evil so that you might have a chance at a blissful eternity after death.

If in Taoism you cannot find that balance, the harmony is lost, and you're left striving to find it again, if only for one fleeting moment.

I could go on and on and on because I want you to see that there is no god like Jesus. There is no hope like the hope Jesus gives. Out of the millions upon millions of religions and faiths, we never see any other god take on flesh and experience the fullest extent of human suffering out of sheer love of you. Its all so wildly unbelievable, so out of line with everyone else's ideology.

But for all who doubt if it is true I pose this question- that if Jesus were an outrageous lie, if He were a man seeking attention from some obscure town in the Middle East, why wouldn't He have made Christianity a faith where no one could grow comfortable? It would have been so, so easy for the God of the universe to rule by keeping all of us in pure, unbridled, untamed fear of Him. But instead, He stands in pure, wild, unsearchable love.

Guilt and shame and fear of punishment are the fuel for every single religion out there and that is what Jesus lived and died to take away. There is nothing that now separates us from the love of the Father, and I think this intimidates our law-abiding selves so much so that we worship the time we give Jesus rather than Jesus. The unknowable terrifies us, so we give just enough time to Jesus to feel like we know Him enough.

I read once that dolphins are never fully asleep and never fully awake. There's always one half of their brain that is alert, and the other half rests. We often approach Jesus that way- with an allotted area of our head and heart, never fully aware. Never fully awake. Living in the tension of the half-dead, half-alive, half-surrendered, half-not, half-self-serving, half-God-serving.

But Jesus does not call us to sleep-walk through life in Him:

"...Stay awake, for you do not know what day your Lord is coming." - Matthew 24:42

The reasoning behind the command to stay awake is there are things set in motion that we don't know yet. Often uncertainty is the biggest opportunity for our faith in Jesus. Uncertainty- what we do not yet know or understand, what is far beyond our comprehension today- is healthy and necessary for us to harbor awe of God. And that awe is what drove Paul to write this to the Ephesian church to encourage them to keep pursuing Jesus, reminding them of the gift of grace:

"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God," - Ephesians 2:1–8

Immeasurable riches of His grace. We don't know the depth of it. And in the context of what the rest of the world claims about reality and the path to eternal life, a world of striving to get there, to get saved, this entire passage makes no sense. Immeasurable grace? Why should God do that when I was dead, and looked like very one else in the world?

I can almost see Paul, millennia ago, writing these words, sitting at a creaky table maybe not too far removed from my wooden desk in history class, with the very same bafflement over the incredible grace of Jesus, the freedom we're swimming in. The gift that's so huge that if it wasn't given already, we wouldn't even be able to think to ask.

The truth of Jesus is that every bit we see of Him in this life, the more that goes unseen. There is more, there is more, there is more, and that is why Paul prayed for the church:

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us," - Ephesians 3:14–20

Imagine if every day, every moment, we approached Jesus Christ properly, if we constantly gave ourselves over to His presence knowing that He surpasses my knowledge, His love is unsearchable, yet intimately available.

How could we dare fall for the trick of familiarity with the God who before the world was ever shaped said over us:

You're mine. You're mine. You're mine.

How could we dare show up for our daily time in prayer and be anything short of awed that Jesus emptied Himself so we could have all fullness of God. Yet here we are, so easily satisfied with a small bite of bread at a banquet table.

His love is so rich, His kindness so unsearchable, we don't even have words to think about what He can do.

Let us never grow comfortable with the very real, very present Love of all our lives, when there are so many people around the world that Jesus is after who are crumbling beneath the unbearable weight of religious doctrine. Not everybody has the freedom you have right now. And here we are, daring to grow comfortable in it. Every single day there is more to know of Jesus, of this God who made you so He could get to know you, and so you could know Him.

The only way we can stay awake is if we do not allow ourselves to grow too familiar with the unsearchable riches of Christ- to take Him at His word and believe that there is so much more to Him than we can fathom. So much more of Him to seek after, so much more that He will be faithful to give to those who hunger.

I pray that the Church would begin to pray for what we do not fully have the words for, to hear and believe that we have been "blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:3) and be curious enough to ask, what does that look like? Show me. In every situation, every room, every conversation, what does the love of Jesus look like here, now. If the Bride lived seeking after the intimidating but intimate love of Jesus and took hold of all the otherworldly blessings He wants us to bring to earth, if we lived with every spiritual blessing, there would be no doubt to anyone Whose we are.

The world, weak and weary from chasing Allah or Krishna or nirvana or universal-oneness would stop and look and wonder why we look different. They wouldn't know why yet, but something would shift in them- a calling. Towards Who, they wouldn't yet know. But for those that are not afraid of what they don't understand, they will. For those who are willing, they'll hear a voice like a whisper, a whisper speaking of the love abiding within us not like a heavy stone in our chests but like a live, beating, free heart :

"Fear not, O Zion, let not your hands grow weak. The LORD your God is in your midst; a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you by His love, He will exult over you with loud singing." - Zephaniah 3:16-17

Quieted. Something in us quiets at His love, the part of us that should quake at the idea of wanting to know, to understand. But He quiets us so He can sing, so we can decrease and He can increase.

So church, let us live. Let us live displaying Him for those few that are not afraid to seek after what they too, do not know. Stay awake, do not let your hands weaken, but instead be strengthened with power in your inner being to know the unknowable, and to be quieted- not familiarized, not intimated- by His love.


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