Jesus said in the story of the sower and the seed:
16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended. (Mark 4:16-17 KJV)
In a recent discussion on theology as the problem of the Church, I came to a realization of what is the real problem in the American Church. The discussion I was in blamed theology as the barrier to a personal relationship with God in the heart. I disagreed and made the case that we need both a mental theological understanding of God as well as a heart sensitive relationship with God. The people in the discussion are the “gratefully disillusioned” who have left organized religion, and blame the professional clergy for telling them that they were to live by biblical principles. They are now “liberated” and living in a “Spirit-led” relationship with Father. Even though I have placed quotes around “Spirit-led” I do believe that many of them are truly experiencing a fresh relationship with God. The reason for the quotes, however, is that I know from personal experience that what we think is God can sometimes be our own imagination, or even demonic, if we do not test the spirits against the Scriptures.
The fresh experience of living by the leading of the Spirit in their hearts is something I have trouble identifying with. I did not grow up in organized religion as those arguing against theology had. When Christ came into my heart on August 18th, 1985, He was all I cared to follow. I had no interest in religion, but because He came into my life, I began my study of religion, too.
While meditating upon their great hostility towards theology I had my realization. They had no root in themselves. And now they are beginning to develop it. That means they have depended too much on other people’s opinions and never learned to trust their own hearts.
After leaving high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. So in those first few years of my early twenties, I searched my heart to see what I wanted to do with myself. It was a liberating time because I knew I could do anything I wanted with my life since I was an adult living on my own. So following my heart led me to the circus where I had become a circus acrobat. Following my heart led me to the best Moscow circus acrobat in America at that time for training. Because I was following my heart God saved me by that acrobat who had become an incredible evangelist for Christ. Years later I came to realize that the dreams of my heart that I followed as a pagan were put there by God in the first place.
American Christianity is salt losing its savor, and is being trampled upon by the secular world. This is the reason that we are not influencing others. Too many believers do not know how to have root in themselves. There is a huge amount of head knowledge in the Church, but not enough know how to make that part of their heart. The heart is transformed by doing the Word, but doing the Word by head action only has a legalistic result, thus making the believer judgmental and critical. Being a doer of the Word transforms the heart when it is done by the prompting of the heart, not duty.
Because Christians do not listen to their hearts, the power of doing the Word is lost. With the new birth, Christ dwells in the heart. Listening to Christ means listening to your heart. I am not saying that your heart and Christ are one and the same. This is why head knowledge of Scriptures are necessary. One must test the spirits. But if you do not know what your heart says, either by Christ or yourself, you certainly will not be able to be led by the Spirit.
Having root in one’s self, means having confidence in knowing yourself and what you believe. Faith borrowed from others is no faith at all. Faith that belongs to you is faith that has become a part of you through experience. People who have root in themselves are not swayed by popular opinions. When one knows from experience the Lord’s mind and will first hand, that is the anchor to our souls that the book of Hebrews addresses.
Do those who leave the institutional church have the right to blame the church for not teaching them how to have root in themselves? No. They do not. We are all without excuse. We are all given a conscience and the knowledge of God is written in all our hearts, according to Paul in the first few chapters of Romans. On Judgment Day we will all be judged according to that standard, not our head knowledge alone.
Should the leaders of congregations make every effort to help believers to know their hearts and the voice of God in their hearts? Absolutely! If one is going to take on the responsibility of helping others, then your help better be genuine help! We are told that teachers have a double accountability towards God. So why don’t they? Because too many leaders do not have root in themselves, but are following others that they believe know the Truth. It is easier to give a biblical “fish” principle than to teach people how “to fish” for the Spirit for themselves.
So, dear readers, listen to your heart because that is where Christ is speaking to you from, but also test the spirits with your head, for God never contradicts His Word. Why? Because the written Word is the living Word in another form.