Are We Called To Be Simple?
Be a woman of simplicity. Be a Mary in a Martha World. Pray more, be a better spouse, be a better parent, be a better girlfriend, evangelize more, be more, do more. These topics have inundated our Christian bookstores. Here is the problem with topical book studies or as I have begun to think of them, Christian self-help books: who says we need to be more or do more? We are labeling ourselves as deficient, we are judging ourselves and others, we are feeling convicted or guilty, but who is our source?
These topical, self-help books are thought to propel us in to being a better (you fill in the blank). What is the message they are passing on? Is it that we are not good enough so change to be what the author has deemed important, correct, or right? Society sends out these messages, are we letting this bleed over into our Christian message? Everywhere we look on T.V., magazines, books, billboards, radio, FB the ads say: you are not pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, fast enough, tall enough, you do not do enough. We think if only our hair was longer, eyes prettier, greener, or our skin tanner. We are not enough. Now we look to our favorite Christian authors who say be still, be graceful, be gentle, pray more, be a better parent, better spouse, better friend. You are not enough. Who is telling us this message? Man.
The question should be what does GOD say? God created us, not the hottest new author on the bookshelf. God purifies us on His timetable not others. God convicts us of items to get rid of in our lives, not others. God creates us for His purposes not what some author deems important. Are we listening to what God has deemed enough, worthy, and good or the latest author we have deemed worthy of our praise here on earth?
Genesis 1:27, “ So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” So if we are made in His image and He is sovereign would he put the idea of being unworthy and not enough in our heads?
We are to look to leaders. We are to mentor the young and spiritually young. We are to correct, rebuke, and teach. However we are also on our own paths with God and cannot follow man and their path when God has created each one of us uniquely. We have been given our own gifts, talents, trials, purpose.
1 Corinthians 12:5, “There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.”
Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
We must be mindful of whom we are reading and what we do with the material. Is the author reputable? Have you researched the writer? What is the theology he or she follows? Victoria Olsteen is a great example of this point. Many people follow this family but clearly they are not following the Word of God, “When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen (Clark, 2014)?”
Uh, no. Matthew 4:10 says, “Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord you God, and serve Him only.” We were not created to worship our happiness or ourselves.
If we spend all of our time reading someone else’s interpretation of God’s Word how will we know when we hear an inaccurate statement? How will we discern a goat from a sheep among us?
Matthew 25:32, “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separated the sheep from the goats.”
Your favorite new author uses scripture so you are in the Bible looking up scripture to answer study questions, right? Great. When you look up that scripture whose opinion are you looking to? Whose interpretation are you looking to? Are you reading the scripture and allowing God to work in you, revealing Himself in His time and His ways or are you looking to your new favorite author to confirm if that is what you saw in the text too. At this point it really is text and not God-breathed living Word then. Who are you really spending time with God or your favorite new author? How can we discern if we are imbalanced between God and book authors? When we speak to friends, mentees, family, neighbors who do we quote God or the book author? Does conviction come from God or the book author?
Are Christian books unusable then? No, our perspective needs tweaking though. These are great sources when we want to focus on an area in our lives as long as we are letting God work on us; as long as we are seeking His Word and allowing Him to mold us in the process and not the author.
I fear many of us have lost this perspective.
If you have studied an area of topic and come up dissatisfied, still hungry, still defeated is that of God then? God would never leave you this way. Topical book studies are great to focus a concentration on an area only if we allow Him to stir in us a great work. Do not allow these books to be the newer, cooler, twisted Chicken Soup for the Soul. Instead of an encouraging devotion or study, we walk away defeated. Defeated that we are still stuck where we began. Not enough.
The Apostle Paul says it nicely in Colossians 2:2-4, 8 “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
Stay encouraged and seek after God’s wisdom and approval, not man’s.