For the past several weeks, I've been reading.
Reading, reading, reading.
Reading the greats from Swindoll on Grace to Yancey on Prayer. Throw in a little A.W. Tozer and round it off with Billy Graham and my head is full.
But a few weeks ago, I started to notice a disturbing truth within myself.
The continual sense of God's nearness had waned. The passionate intensity that drives me toward worship had lessened. My usual need to bring everything before God's throne before I make a move had weakened.
Instead, I was left with a puzzling separation between the God I love and the God my brain was examining. Since this change did not seem related to the reading, I tried other explanations, but I've finally come to an unexpected conclusion.
The more I ingest the ideas of other human beings, the more I devour human reasoning, human understanding, and human explanation---no matter how learned or sincere--the more my mind is involved, rather than my spirit. It was that lessening of the control of the Spirit that I began to notice.
Rather than focus on the beautiful mystery of God Himself and come to Him in childlike faith, I was trying to comprehend the incomprehensible, reason out the supernatural, and take every thought captive to the understanding of Lea Ann (to irreverently paraphrase 2 Cor. 10:5).
Not intentionally, of course. Reading the thoughts of other godly people can be healthy and productive, but I found that a hint of skepticism had wormed its way into my thoughts. My worship was ever-so-slightly clouded by the disturbing ideas in the books that I had not necessarily agreed with. Rather than focus on God alone during prayer, my mind wanted to flit to supposition and tended to "lean on its own understanding."
Please don't misunderstand. Reading commentaries and books by solid Christian authors is certainly not harmful in itself, but as I have devoured the Word of God over the past year like never before, the words of mere humans has begun to ring hollow. Their authoritative interpretations of various passages don't fit with the understanding God gave me as I read them, and it was disturbing.
I also noticed that the slant in books published over the last couple of decades has shifted away from portraying a "holy adoration of God" to presenting an "everyday God for everybody."
The themes have changed from a exploration of God to
an explanation of God.
There is a noticeable surge toward making God easily accessible to the man on the street, which in itself is not wrong. Jesus did that very thing and so should we. But we have to be very careful that we are not altering the very nature and character of God and His Word in our passion to widen the gate that He did not widen.
When I go back to books published before the '50's (Tozer, Spurgeon) the tone is completely different. My spirit found comfort there.
I did not expect this and still do not quite grasp it, but I am reminded of Jesus' words: "Unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven."
God desires childlike trust, not educated supposition. God desires that we seek Him with all our hearts, not seek to understand him with all our minds. His desire is that we chase after his thoughts to make them our thoughts, not try to dissect them until we comprehend and agree.
As a lifelong reader, I still find this discovery puzzling, but I am encouraged by it as well. It means I have learned to recognize the voice of God and reject any voice but His.
I don't want man's best guess. I'd rather stick with the "unfathomable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8) and stay slightly off guard, vulnerable, and totally trusting in Someone I do not understand but love with all my heart.
What about you? Have you read any Christian literature lately that felt "off"? Did it make you doubt yourself or the author?
Man can gather wisdom and print it for others to read, but we have to keep in mind: There is no perfect book except God's Word and every thought written by man is subject to error. As the old saying goes, "Don't believe everything you read in the funny papers."