It was a normal Sunday afternoon, and Mark and I were invited to gather together with some fellow Christians for a different kind of "church". The place where we gathered had no walls, no stage, no podium or microphone, no pews. We were small in number -- six adults and two children, in fact. We gathered around a picnic table in the shade; in our lawn chairs and sitting on Yetti coolers. We shared a meal together; an agape dinner; a love feast -- a true communion.
Because like the Last Supper and the early Church gatherings, worshiping God and our Lord was always centered around a meal -- and more than bread and wine. We put some meditative worship music on in the background and shared our experiences in Christ, our questions and interpretations of Scripture, and what the Holy Spirit was showing us -- all as we partook of the bounty of food before us. Yes, we opened our Bibles, and found the glory of the Lord revealed in its pages, but our primary objective was to enjoy the company of fellow Believers in the Presence of God.
But as I sat and listened and observed our small group, I saw a dynamic forming that made me pause and examine myself. Among us adults were those who could expound intelligently (and with godly passion) on what Scripture had shown them. It was obvious that quality "heart" time had been spent with the Father in the pursuit of a deeper understanding of Him and His Nature. It was a joy to partake in a conversation that was free of religious doctrine and strict creeds. Concepts of God and His "spiritual mechanics" [which would be ridiculed inside the four walls of physical churches] were received with the respect [for God] that they were presented. The boundaries for "acceptable" ideas of God's sovereignty and majesty were extended to allow for a greater picture of just how big our God really is.
But he sat quietly during the energized and passionate discussions; actually choosing to wander off and enjoy the park where we had gathered. When he wandered back into the group, I made it a point to draw him into the conversation. After all, he had experienced healing a demoniac woman in a terminal ward of a hospital, and reunited her with a family that had been frightened of her and estranged from her. I wanted to know about that! And he has a heart to reach people in prisons, and to change the lives of those in bondage to alcohol, drugs, and trauma in their lives. I could see his eyes light up and his countenance change as he talked about his desire to see those people freed from their afflictions, just as he had been. I wanted to hear about that!
Then he made the telling statement; and I'm not sure if anyone else heard him ... "Most of what you're discussing is over my head, but I know we are supposed to be doing what Jesus did ... and even greater things". I think I literally stopped breathing for a moment as it struck me. While everyone continued in agreement that Scripture commanded that we continue Jesus's work in healing and deliverance ministries, and spreading the Gospel of Heaven's Kingdom come to earth, I once again was reminded how easy it is to become enamored with gaining knowledge of God and His Word, but never being Spirit-led to actually do it!
I want to be very clear -- all the others in attendance were blessed with a personal and intimate knowledge of God's Word AND walked it out. But here was a man who was honest [and authentic] enough to admit he didn't have the level of "Good Book" knowledge that the rest of us possessed. Yet I think we would all say that we recognize the heart of Jesus in this man and he inspires us to follow him in pursuit of the Kingdom.
And here's what I took away from this situation in which God shined His light... I absolutely know the truth of this Scripture in my heart: It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search it out. It glorifies God when we seek to know Him more. When we're not satisfied with "the picture" of Jesus or the Father or the Holy Spirit that our dogmas and traditions have taught us, but instead spend intimate and deep time with His Word, our relationship grows and matures; we begin a closer walk with Them, and I believe, our service is elevated and more fruitful. After all, Scripture says, My people perish for lack of knowledge. Knowledge is a good thing, when it results in action and service.
BUT, God's Word also says, For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. I believe intimacy with the Father comes not only from intimate knowledge of Him through His Word, but there is an intimacy that comes from a regenerated heart that knows what is is to defeat the power of the Enemy in a shattered life, and has experienced being resurrected to a new life powered by Jesus and the Holy Spirit. If you will, it is a life that exhibits personal holiness apart from spiritual knowledge.
I don't know if I've been able to accurately describe the discernment I received that day. All I know is that it suddenly became clear to me how multi-faceted it is to "know the Lord". And it became quite clear that we must not elevate one above the other. Just because someone can't partake in a spirited debate over the Word, does not mean that they are not walking with Christ. It's our flesh that demands that kind of performance. To know the Lord [through every avenue possible] should result in taking action for Him and His Kingdom. The Pharisees and the Sadducees studied and possessed great knowledge concerning the Torah and the writings of the prophets, but they didn't walk out their knowledge. The Disciples were considered uneducated men, yet they walked according to the knowledge revealed to them by the Holy Spirit.
I guess I would summarize my thoughts like this ... God wants us to know Him fully and completely. There may be some whose journey is now taking them towards gaining intimacy and knowledge of Him through study and contemplating His Word. The journey of others has been more experiential, as they have received their knowledge through personal intervention and contact with the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, God wants us to seek both during the process of our rebirth. As the C.S. Lewis Institute says it, "The larger concern is to show us how to live joyful, obedient lives that produce the beauty of holiness and glorify God". And I saw that joyful image in both examples of Believers in the park that day.
So, I just want to leave you with this final thought ... we should not elevate or glorify one kind of knowledge over another. Rather, we should embrace and seek both for the benefit of being fruitful for the Kingdom. Let us receive ALL that God has promised us in this holy relationship!
Jeremiah 33:3 Call to Me and I will answer you, and tell you [and even show you] great and mighty things...