A body of water needs fresh inflow and regular outflow if it’s to avoid turning into a fetid, stagnant pond. Over-emphasized truth crimps the flow of our lives in one way or the other: on the input or output side. Without an outward focus and expression, the message of intimacy with the Lord will turn us into stinking spiritual ponds.
In the natural, the objective of intimacy is for reproduction. In the natural, frequent intimacy will usually result in another life unless unnaturally stopped–contraception. Teaching intimacy with the Lord, over, and over, and over, and over again without an “output” equivalency, is like spiritual contraception.
Even in the natural, a marriage is not 100% bedroom activity, as enjoyable as that is! There is a real life to live, and if all we ever focused on in a marriage was the bedroom, well, that would be a dysfunctional marriage/husband-wife relationship–one could even say an unhealthy or very immature relationship. It’s the same in our relationship to our Bridegroom.
If all we ever focus on in our walk with the Lord is intimacy, intimacy, intimacy, intimacy, intimacy, intimacy . . . that too is a dysfunctional Husband-Bride relationship, and will eventually degrade into something very unhealthy.
Building a “ministry” with “intimacy with the Lord” as the centrality, is idolatrous and doomed to produce introspective, cult-like results. Intimacy with the Lord can become a false center, a pseudo-God to the point where we do not even worship Jesus any more, but we worship “intimacy” the “thing” the “experience of Jesus,” in an addictive and codependent way, rather than the Person of Jesus. That is idolatry. We do not worship a thing or an experience, we worship Him . . . experience or not. We can get addicted to the “feelings” we get from our idea of what “intimacy” is, and the next thing you know, we are into something very self-absorbed, very deluding. Intimacy must have “output.” The Bible calls it fruit.
The problem is compounded by teaching a false tension between “being and doing.” Clever phrases like “we’re human beings” not “human doers,” “over-seers” not “over- doers,” “we’re call to be, not to do,” and so forth, preach well, but are just not entirely accurate. A coin with an image stamped on only one side is either defective or counterfeit. Emphasizing “being” over “doing” is the same.
I understand that busying one’s self with self-initiated religious activities born out of unresolved inner issues, performance-reward grids, and without relationship with Father is a problem on the output side of life. But the other side of the coin is equally disastrous–a form of religion where the stated objective is nothing more than my personal “touch from the Lord,” “an encounter with God,” “feeling His presence,”–a weekly psychic fix facilitated by stimulating my emotions with the “worship service” and stimulating my mind by the “anointed preaching of the Word.”
Part of our basic salvation “package” is supposed to be identity reintegration (He restores/heals the broken soul–KJV broken-hearted.) where one’s “doing” is simply the effortless and logical overflow of one’s being. Birds fly, fish swim, and horses run. There’s no conflict in that. That’s not “over-doing.” That is function consistent with created identity that is glorifying to God. Birds have no business looking at fish and telling them whether they are “over doing” it or not! Birds don’t know anything about swimming! So it is with us. We need to back-off some of our “deeper-life” perceptions and proclamations of who is or isn’t “over-doing” in their lives.
God is not conflicted in His essence. His being and doing are not in competition with each other. They are seamlessly integrated and simultaneously expressed. We are supposed to be like Him. Yes, sin messes things up for us subjectively, but for the believer, that matter is supposed to have been dealt with in the beginning! (If you preach a meager “go to heaven when you die” sort of salvation message, you will get meager results subjectively).
The “over-doing” problem is not fixed by making it sound like any intentional, personal effort directed toward others is “lower level,” “outer court,” “spiritually shallow,” “doing rather than being” sort of Christian life. NO, over-doing is fixed by healing identity, not by teaching against over-doing! That is as silly as telling a body of water that shutting off outflow will fix an inflow problem. It won’t and it doesn’t.
In fact, I would argue that over-doers should do more of what they are created to do–just from a different life-source center! A transformed, whole, healed, integrated, empowered, new creation identity, rather than an insecure, damaged, lack of sonship, striving, orphan-spirit.
Without an outward, others-aware, actuality-based expression, teaching intimacy with the Lord becomes deluding religious cover for a form of do-nothing, passive, pietistic, religious, narcissism. We can feel very good about ourselves emphasizing intimacy with the Lord, the pursuit of God, etc., sometime even developing a sense of spiritual superiority and elitism. If our pursuit of God does not translate into engagement and love for others, it is illegitimate. If our engagement with others is not the overflow of our vital union with Him, it is just dead human affections trying to be nice to someone else.
Let’s not go there. Let’s be sure that our passion for Jesus in His person and our subjective experience with Him, has an objective “output”: the reflection of His passion–others. Intimacy produces new births. Look around yourself. If all you ever talk about is intimacy, and there are no conversions around you after years or decades of emphasis on “intimacy,” I would suggest an examination and adjustment to the outflow of the pond of your life is in order and that your understanding of “intimacy” needs to be recontextualized.
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My husband and I just listed “identity/calling in sync” as a topic we want to cover at a missions school. You addressed this very unhealthy tendency we have seen of separating being and doing….and you stated it well. Thanks! As we look at “callings” thru the Word, there was always a call to action. If they got caught up too much in it, (e.g.” ..even the demons are subject to us…”), he simply corrected them (“…rejoice your names are written in heaven…”) and moved on! Love it.
Excellent, as usual! I recently wrote this as part of my introduction to my next book, “Beware of the Vortices of Virtual Church:”
Home churches are at a stage of relational development that will eventually “go south” unless they become strategically involved with God’s purpose. We are in danger of grasping the “who, what, when, and where,” and missing the “why” and the “how.” Jesus can change the water into wine—or vinegar.
Amen, well said. Love the wine or vinegar image. That is it, precisely.
The Bride of Christ, having been impregnated, should be giving birth after kind. God is bringing many sons to glory.
“teaching intimacy with the Lord becomes deluding religious cover for a form of do-nothing, codependent, passive, pietistic, religious, narcissism.” I envisioned bulging neck veins, a reddened visage and spit flying out of your mouth during the delivery of this expletive laced tirade. 🙂
It is a little difficult to imagine a Savior saying, “Well DONE…” to anyone who has never DONE anything isn’t it? Perhaps He should consider altering His affirmation to, “Well BEEN.”
Good stuff, Steve. Love isn’t love unless it’s engaged. Love can’t be engaged without producing. If you’re at a costume party dressed like a farmer it’s O.K. to call yourself one even if you’ve never seen a chicken. It’s only make believe, so no one’s expecting an egg. But miss-directed self love masquerading as intimacy with God ensures that those deceived by it remain sterile and encourage infertility in others.
Thanks Dave, awesome post, great metaphor. I think I hit a nerve with this one because I am getting some mild push-back. I know there are so many whose identity and whole sense of “ministry” is wrapped up in this, that it is provoking them a bit. Good provocation, I think!
Fantastic teaching. This also indirectly deals with weak form of Gnosticism which has insidiously reinfected the Church by getting people to separate the soul from the human body which is never taught in the Scriptures. In my humble opinion a lot of this spiritual navel gazing stems from this borderline heretical teaching.
You are right about that . . . latent Gnosticism infects many churches especially the “charismatic/prophetic” types. I see it everywhere — and I am not being judgmental of others. That is my own background and heritage. There are some SERIOUS issues that generally, are never addressed, because there is too much money, ego and fame involved in keeping the “show” going to ever stop, reflect, repent, change and quit the nonsense.
Great word! Love it! Way to be…and do. 🙂
Insightful and well written article! Truly being in Christ through salvation and Christ truly being in us through spiritual growth develops His heart in us. His heart is to offer the gospel to whosoever so that they might be saved and to offer full knowledge of the whole counsel of God that we might know our role as saved people. My experience is that believers “do” thinking that God will bless them in return which is not true. He can’t/won’t be bought off by anything we give. He wants us to give, to do, to perform Christian works because we love Him not to earn His love. My one caution is that we carefully discuss what doing and working actually are. When one says we must do, the first image is performing some action. The fruits of the Spirit are all character traits that manifest in many ways as we live our daily lives, but not what is traditionally considered Christian works. The first Christian “doings” mentioned in the book of James who dealt with this issues are joy and then endurance in adversity. Works that are hardly obvious to the casual observer. Thanks again for a good article.
Hi Al, performing to please God, earn blessings, etc is indeed, toxic. Functioning how he created me, is not. The former are the works that are dead that scripture talks about, the latter is the glory of God.
Interesting. I have found that we are generally always doing something unless we are locked away in a basement with no contact with anyone else. So to me doing something is often christianese for specific acts that we can justify to others as being works of the kingdom. As you say the fish swims and the bird flys. I have seen a tension of sorts amongst christians where they wrestle with how much of what they do should be ‘intentional’ vs natural so to speak. Anyways very balanced article. I just think christians can be very judgemental of one another in terms of what they discern as works of the flesh or spirit and who is too inward focused or lacks fruit. Some people who are focused on ‘being’ have perhaps spent years in the past in busyness so it takes time to detox from past behavior.
Thanks, Steve, for an excellent blog. I featured it on my own blog.
I hear you’ve now helped start an actual, functioning fellowship. Good for you!
I look forward to seeing how that now influences your own thoughts and writings. I suspect this blog comes out of the context of real fellowship – where our ideas, gifts, motivations and concept of reality itself are forged in the fire of real relationships. We have to lay it all down as we learn to function with people equally flawed like us, but in different areas. Yet they are also called, and gifted, like us, but in different areas. Viva la difference!
Getting it all to work is fun, and challenging. Like any great truth, for example, grace is wonderful – but real fellowship requires so much more – including balance. It’s like your analogy of being and doing – over emphasis on one or the other is like choosing between constipation (input but no outflow) and diarrhea (great outflow, but no retention).
Sorry for the vivid imagery, but I work with raw people and they seemed to like it. 😉
As I said on my own blog, some of your stuff in the past concerned me because I felt it was more reaction and less reality. Now that you’ve taken the blue pill, enjoy the ride! If you want to plug in with and develop some peer relationships with others who are also helping and part of actual fellowships, let me know.
Ain’t real church life grand! :-).
Hi Jim. Love the “intestinal” analogy. Lol. Precisely it.
Yup, Lot’s of both going around these days!
Thanks for this challenging and (personally) convicting article. As always, Christ provides the greatest example in dealing with the “being/doing” dichotomy. Indeed, for Him, there was no tension between the two – intentionalized intimacy with the Father always preceded His activity in the world, and action always followed intimacy. The church (individually and corporately) is all too often imbalanced in this regard; as you stated, stagnated by the inflow of intimacy without a channel for outreach on the one hand, or flesh-empowered busy-ness bereft of ultimate impact resulting from the lack of intimacy with Christ on the other. May we all seek and realize the balance displayed by Jesus, truly exhibiting the riches of our lives being in Him and impacting the world through Spirit-empowered action in the advance of His Kingdom.