Every year about this time, social media is saturated with naïve and manipulative Christian “blessings” and “predictions” like this: “In 2019 God is going to take you to new levels!”
That kind of language is not just associated with New Year promises, but it is also stock and trade language in many churches. Well it is 2019, and here is my prediction: God is not going to take you to new levels. Why? Because there is no such thing.
One would think that phraseology foreign to the entire body of scripture would be viewed with a least some skepticism! Not so for many of my charismatic friends and TV preachers of all stripes. For many, a self-proclaimed “direct download from heaven,” “new revelation,” or “prophetic word” is an alleged superior mode of understanding. The same folks also view disciplined study in the scripture as a work of the flesh. It is allegedly “leaning to your own understanding” rather than being taught directly “by the Spirit”–sic. The disdain for disciplined exegesis and the contextual application of scripture is palpable and epidemic in these universes. These things are all nonsense, but they are as common as fleas on a street dog.
Gnosticism – Nothing New Under the Sun
So, if the fact that the scripture never uses the phraseology is not enough to push the brakes on this nonsense, consider this:
It was the Gnostic heretics who taught advancing through spiritual levels–from lower levels of “spiritual illumination” to higher and higher levels of spiritual illumination. The Gnostics taught that someone more enlightened than yourself had to mentor you or advance you through the different levels by sharing secret words and insights that you could not get by any other means other than than submitting to a more superior Gnostic. The wrapping might be different–language couched in submission to leadership, or “father-son ministry,” “revival will come if we only do ______ (fill in the blank with the bait of your choice) ministry, or other such paradigms–but the poison is the same. Of course, this was heresy two thousand years ago, and it is heresy now, despite what my charismatically inclined friends might think.
The propagation of this Gnostic heresy in multitudes of “Christian” environments is nothing more than a manipulative ploy used to make you feel perennially inadequate and perennially pursuing some promised spiritual high place–if you only do this or that, or believe this or that. If you just meet the requirements (and they are almost always associated with some form of control) God will reward you by taking you to the “next level.”
This is spiritual bondage–human abuse–gerbil wheel garbage. Should it not be warning in itself that these type of naive declarations are always about you being greater, and more blessed, and more prosperous, and more famous, and greater ministry and so on? When is the last time you saw one of these ridiculous new level proclamations associated with your decrease, maybe your insignificance, perhaps suffering and persecution, perhaps the loss or decrease of your ministry? You will never see that because the cruciform way does not sell in Western (American) Christianity.
Our Rich Inheritance
God has given (perfect middle participle– a present reality affecting us at the moment) us, everything necessary for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). We just need to get on with well-executed consistency in basic things, rather than lusting for some ill-defined new level of spiritual catharsis or illumination.
I have given (perfect indicative active-something occurring at the moment, a present reality) them the glory I had with the Father – John 17:22. Live out of that reality rather than the never-ending pursuit of some new level.
Thanks be to God who is giving us (present active participle) the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ. – 1 Cor 15:57. Your victory is not laying out ahead of you in some mystic ether. It is not hidden, to be released in the future at some day when you achieve a new level. It is a close as your breath.
It is that simple. We just don’t believe these basic and simple things. Our lust for spiritual ecstasies rather than the cruciform lifestyle sets us up for the new level bait of the ill-informed or the deceitful. There is nothing higher than being in Christ, and He in us all. There is no place higher to go than being seated with Him in heavenly places. These truths (and others like them) are sometimes called “positional” truths. This is just sophisticated Bible-speak unbelief for “not real.” Well, I disagree. They are baseline realties in the present life for any Christ-follower
Growing in the Cruciform Way
Now, the scripture does talk about growing in grace and the virtues that are in Christ, and being transformed into His image, from glory to glory. The scripture does talk about maturing in Christ and so on. But here’s the thing: there are no advancing in levels here. These things are realized by going lower and deeper into the realities of His Cross and the cruciform life. The increase of Christ and the maturity (that so many talk about) is not realized by spiritual gymnastics and the acquisition of spiritual virtues like choosing items on a Chinese menu. No, advancing to the top is a human measurement of success. The cross kills all of that way of thinking, or should, except in “higher level” churches. We will take root downward and bear fruit upward. Everybody is excited about the bearing fruit upward side of things: Oh, hallelujah for his blessings! Indeed, they are real, should be celebrated, enjoyed, and shared with others. If His blessing just results in our aggrandizement, individual or corporate, we have abused His blessings. The taking root downward side of things, the let’s-cut-the-bush-back-dung-it-for-a-season-so-it-will-bear-more-fruit side of things, is well, less celebrated and definitely non-commercial.
My friends, if you are in a church where this kind of language fills the air, you need to have a candid conversation with whatever leadership is in place. If you are ignored, rebuffed, dismissed, labelled as “Jezebel” or “someone who has a problem with authority,” you need to find a different assembly. Maybe that could be your goal for 2019: free yourself into the glorious liberty of the sons and daughters of God. Start living out of the riches of our inheritance in Christ rather than being baited–week after week, year after year– to go to “the next level.”
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