Spiritual Amnesia

Has it ever seemed like things are going really well in your relationship with God one day, and then almost the next day you’re spiritually in the dumps? Maybe your quiet times are going great and the Bible is really challenging you and speaking to you, and then the next thing you know it’s hard to even focus on what you’re reading. If you’ve been a Christian for longer than a year, this has likely happened to you. Like any relationship, the Christian life is full of ups and downs.

I was actually thinking about this earlier today. I decided to dub it “spiritual amnesia.” Spiritual amnesia is where, for whatever reason, you just forget who you are and, more importantly, whose you are. Why is it so easy for us to forget that we are redeemed people? We are holy and righteous. First Peter 2:9 tells us that we are the people of God and we are to worship Him. But sometimes we forget…

This has happened for thousands of years to many heroes of the faith. For example, Abraham is considered the father of faith (Gal 3:7) but he suffered from spiritual amnesia. In Genesis 12:1-3 God promises to make Abram a great nation. Abram then starts his journey of faith with God, he’s protected from Pharaoh (Gen 12:17), he rescues his brother, Lot (Gen 14:16), but pretty soon Abram doubts God. In Gen 15:2-3, the father of faith wavers in his faith. Sounds like Abram had a case of spiritual amnesia.

Another example is found in 1 Kings 18. In 1 Kings 18:38-39, Elijah witnesses God defeat Baal by sending fire to consume wood. Then God ends a multi-year drought (1 Kings 18:45) and then empowers Elijah to outrun a chariot (1 Kings 18:46). Then in Ch 19, THE VERY NEXT CHAPTER, Elijah hears that Jezebel wants to kill him, so he goes into despair and asks God to kill him (1 Kings 19:3-4). After going toe-to-toe with all the Baal prophets and seeing God win, Elijah is then afraid of one person. He was certainly suffering from spiritual amnesia.

Another example comes from John. In the John 6:10-11, Jesus feeds five thousand people. Later that night he walks across the sea to Capernaum (Jn 6:19). The crowd follows him and then in Jn 6:30-31 they ask him for a sign saying, “Our fathers ate manna from Heaven.” They seem to have forgotten that just yesterday Jesus had fed five thousand people bread… from Heaven! This is also a clear case of spiritual amnesia!

There are plenty of other examples of this behavior. In the book of judges, it happens repeatedly (Judges 2:19)! It seems like a common pattern for people in the Bible to forget about God. Sadly, I see this pattern in my own life too… So how do we “fix” it? Is there a cure?

I don’t know.

I think the only thing we can do is continually seek the face of God. The more time we spend with God, the more we will remember. Often I feel like the person described in James 1:24 who just can’t seem to remember who he is. As soon as I stop reading my Bible I forget that I’m a son of God. I forget that I have the Holy Spirit inside of me. I forget that I’ve been given everything I need to live a life that will please and glorify God. I forget.

But James 1:25 tells us we must look intently. There must be a purposeful, consistent, persistent gazing. We must have a pursuit of God. Too often, Christianity is portrayed as a once time event. Like turning 18. Once you turn 18, you’ll always be 18 without ever having to try or do anything else. Becoming a Christian is a lot more different. Becoming a Christian is about beginning a lifelong relationship. Being a Christian is a lot like being in love. We must pursue God, just like he pursued us. Being a Christian means responding to what God has already done.

Perhaps if we focus on what God has done we won’t be so quick to develop spiritual amnesia.

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Faith and “Planning?

As a Christian, I know that God has big plans for me. I know that my life has a calling. Second Peter 1:4 invites us to “participate in [God’s] divine nature.” When we become Christians, we choose to accept that invitation.

Jesus’ last words are an invitation for us not only to join his ministry, but to take it everywhere. Let’s read Matthew 28:18-20:

“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

This verse makes me think of Jesus shooing the Apostles. “Get! Go do something; I’ve got your back. Make a difference!”

The only question that remains is, “What does God want me to do?”

And there we have our problem. One day I realized that the verse that defined my (pseudo) walk with Christ (it was really just standing in one place) had become Psalm 27:14:

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Those who know me well will tell you that I always have a plan. I’m the type that likes to know where I’m going to be 10 years from now.

When I started living for Christ, I realized that my plans needed to change. I didn’t know where I was supposed to go or what I was supposed to do, but I knew with absolute certainty that God had other plans for me. But I had become so obsessed with what God wanted me to do that I hadn’t done anything or made any decisions.

It felt like I had been in my car at a four-way stop, wondering which way to go. I had been so afraid of going in the wrong direction that I had decided to simply put my car into park and wait.

I didn’t know what I was waiting for, perhaps a burning bush?

I knew for a long time that I was on the verge of figuring it out; I just needed to give it more time. Then one day my answer was finally reveled to me. It definitely wasn’t the answer that I was expecting.

“There is no plan, only a person.”

I had been asking the wrong questions! Instead of focusing on what God wants me to do, I needed to be asking myself who God wanted me to be!

As far as my future is concerned, what I want to do, where I want to go, that choice is mine. God gives us freedom to pursue whatever we’re passionate about. I think the key is to become the Godly person that God has called us to be. Then, when big life decisions arrive, we’ll be equipped as a person to make the right choices.

Jesus, our perfect example of faith, never taught people how to plan out a successful Christian life. Jesus taught us who to be! Suddenly, my focus became less outward, and more inward.

I began to ask myself, “What’s the point of being a Christian?” What did Jesus have in mind when he was teaching his disciples? Jesus was talking about us in John 10:10 when he says, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Jesus came not to hinder us but to set us free.

Looking back, all of my hesitation and second-guessing seemed very foolish. I have the Holy Spirit as my guide. It’s very liberating when you realize that nothing is the wrong choice when you have furthering God’s Kingdom in mind.

In Hebrews 11 we find the author discussing faith. What is faith? Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “…faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith isn’t knowing something, it’s trusting God and taking a risk and putting that faith doing something. Faith without action is no faith at all. If there isn’t a fight or struggle for something it probably isn’t worth having. Later in the chapter the author lists dozens of Old Testament heroes who were all successful because of their faith in God. These ‘ancients’ never knew what the outcome of their actions would be, but they knew that God was with them. So, with faith that still sets an example, they took their chances.

Looking back, I couldn’t even remember what had caused me to be so afraid. Galatians 2:20 says,

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

My problem was I hadn’t been living by faith in the Son of God. Why be afraid? We’ve already died to self. Now, Christ lives in us.

I’ll admit, the world can be a scary place but Jesus told us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) This verse has a warning and a promise in it. First, we’re guaranteed to have hardships, but Jesus also promises that he has overcome this world. If He is within us, then we also, through Him, have conquered this world. Romans 6:13 tells us:

“Do not offer the parts of your bad to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.”

The encouraging thing about this verse is the fact that, once we’ve offered ourselves to God and put the old nature to death, we can become ‘instruments of righteousness.’ Suddenly we have purpose. Suddenly we are free to make a difference.

I was finally ready to start making a difference, but I was still wondering how I was going to do it. I wanted some type of assurance that as I grew closer to God, He would bless my plans. Well in John 15:7 Jesus states, “If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” By remaining true to God, I can rest assured that my actions will be blessed. Ultimately, that’s what faith is…taking a chance and knowing that God has got your back.