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by Mike Cope
Until we understand that and respond to his love, we are like the prodigal son, searching again for the security of our home. And our search will end in disappointment until we search for God. No human relationship, no job, no possession, and no amount of money or success can ultimately satisfy us.
Our hunger is for God. Not God as a doctrine... or as an idea... or as the necessary conclusion of our proofs. But God as a living Being. As a Someone who pursues a relationship with us!
For those of us with a Christian heritage this seems so obvious. But there are a couple of problems we face as Christians: barriers that can easily sidetrack us in our response to God, barriers that keep us from realizing we are all God-hungry and that only he can fill us.
Barrier One: Our Confusion
One problem is our tendency to confuse knowledge about God with knowing God. We easily fall into the trap of believing that information is the key to eternal life. So we turn to data-based Christianity to fill us with knowledge about God. We then open the pages of Scripture to memorize events that can later be regurgitated as if Christian living were similar to a sophomore history class. What happened on the fifth day of Creation? Who were Moses parents? Who was the second judge? What objects were in the Ark of the Covenant? How many chapters are in the Book of Psalms?
We can buzz through the Old Testament without ever pausing to ask, What is this text trying to accomplish? As a result, we can become proficient in biblical information without becoming closer to God or more sensitive to the people he created.
Dont misunderstand me: Im all in favor of learning the information of Scripture. Biblical illiteracy isnt a virtue! But biblical knowledge shouldnt be the goal of our reading. Scripture was written to reveal to us a God who longs for relationships. It pleads with us to long for him as well. The goal of Scripture isnt minds filled with facts about God but hearts using those facts to be full of his presence.
A similar but much greater tragedy with many Christians is that they spend years listening to sermons, reading Scripture, and teaching Sunday school classes, but fail to enjoy an intimate relationship with God. They could pass any theological exam or answer any Bible trivia question. But they dont hunger and thirst to know God personally, to be filled with his presence, to be changed into his likeness. No wonder religion often becomes empty!
Barrier Two: Our Satisfaction
A second problem we face is that were too easily satisfied. Were like the toddler who could wait and have a wonderful meal at 6:00 but who finds an old hot dog from lunch on the floor at 5:40 and gobbles it down. We are offered a fabulous vacation by the ocean and settle instead for wading in a ditch.
Instead of craving a vibrant relationship with the God who made us, we settle for a house, a family, a few friends, a job, a TV and DVD, and a yearly vacation. We think we can survive with this and just a bit of religion. Yet our souls starve!
Frederick Buechner, author and theologian, tells of a twelve-year-old who, in a fit of rage, killed his father. Later a guard was walking down the hall where the boy was being held and heard him whimpering. When he neared the door to the youngsters room, he heard him crying, I want my father. I want my father. That is the sobbing that can be heard all around us even though people may not know what or whom they are crying for. But the things we accumulate in life cant satisfy us and cant give us purpose.
Only God can fill our deepest hunger. Well focus on our Father satiating that hunger next time.
Next week, Part 4...
Author: Mike Cope
Publication Date: April 14, 2001
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