Last night, at the Forerunner Christian Fellowship meeting (FCF is the pastoral expression of IHOP), Mike Bickle taught about what it meant to pursue God wholeheartedly. Christendom is full of people at varying rates of pursuit and growth. Some are pursuing the heart of God to the best of their knowledge. I believe those people are rewarded for their efforts. Others are pursuing God at a lesser level - it's not about skill, it's about desire - and those people will forever be less than they could be.
Mike taught about the fact that the basics of pursuing God are not brain surgery...in fact, they are very simple. Most of us, on some level, would prefer a complex list of rituals and rules, because in complexity is room for ambiguity, and in ambiguity there is wiggle room. God's heart, though, is for simplicity, so that anyone who sets their mind to it can do it...but don't confuse simplicity with ease. To follow wholeheartedly is hard - not because it's confusing, but because it's crystal clear.
What does it mean to follow wholeheartedly? Here are the things we heard about last night (and as a staff, have been talking about all day). These four assume that a believer has had a grace-encounter with Jesus and is desiring to move beyond Believing 101.
Serving others is unnatural to us. The self-preservation gene is a strong one, and everything within us says 'take care of yourself'. A believer who wants to follow God wholeheartedly will follow the example of Christ, the ultimate Servant, and give away the strength of themselves for the good of others. It can look a million different ways, but it is always focused on others.
This is not rote prayer or penance, but communion with our Father. The thought that we can achieve intimacy with God without extended periods of conversation is a direct byproduct of our instant-results oriented culture. We are expecting maximum return for minimum emotional and time investment...and we wonder why prayer seems boring. Following wholeheartedly means praying past the small talk with God to a real encounter with Him.
Forgiveness has gotten a lot of good press...even doctors will tell you that unforgiveness leads to illness...but most often we think of unforgiveness towards those who have done something horrible to us. We muster up grace for them and yet hold a million things in our heart against those who have offended us in the littlest ways. We've been centering on the difficulty of forgiving those who are adversaries to what we believe our calling is...who is the person who is slowing you down? Can you bless them? If you learn to, you will learn much about forgiveness.
Fasting is a cousin to servanthood, in that it involves self-denial. In servanthood, though, we also often see an earthly pay-off....an 'I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine' element. Fasting, however, puts us in a weak position for what appears like no earthly reason. The purpose behind it is that when we display our weakness, God displays His strength. It may mean a strict water-only 40 day fast, or simply denying yourself a pleasure that is obviously allowable by God, allowing you the time to pursue the greater pleasure of knowing Him.
None of these four are complex - they're are simple...but they're in our faces. Many will turn away, rich-young-ruler style, because it's just too expensive for us, but some will press in and find a reward they never imagined. It offends our democratic nature to think that the depths of Christ might open for some but not all...but Jesus himself said the way was narrow and few actually find it. Come, friend...let's pursue the narrow way together.