Faith Comes By Hearing

A few years ago, I found myself questioning a lot of things.  Those questions- things I had been able to largely ignore for the bulk of my Christian life by choosing to focus on other things- had me clawing at the foundation of my faith looking for a foothold. After about a decade of turning a blind eye to things that I knew needed my attention and clarity, I had arrived at a time in my faith that required me to know everything and no longer assume a single detail of how to flesh out my walk with Christ Jesus.

Questions that had been planted as seeds while my husband and I were on the pastoral staff of a local congregation ten years prior had begun to grow into pesky, strong plants that I could no longer see over while checking the boxes of my Christianity.  Those stubborn questions about "church," tithing, prayers, leadership, spiritual gifts and more all nagged at my spirit for years and years, but when I came to the realization that God had given me the ability to know and understand and I was CHOOSING to waste that ability to protect the status quo, I knew that I had to take responsibility for what I knew, how I knew it and what I did with that knowledge.

So, almost three years ago, I set out to not only answer the questions that plagued my easy faith, but to KNOW Jesus in a way that made Him more real to me than my teachers, preachers and traditions.  Disciplining myself to put God's Word above any human tradition or any man's ideas was HARD.  I didn't even realize how many half-truths I had accepted until I was at least a year and a half into studying His Word verse by verse without anyone adding their experience, interpretations, traditions or human morality to it.  I had to adopt some pretty radical study habits to get to a place of solid ground when it came to accepting God's Word.  One of the habits I quickly realized I had to learn involved NOT learning at all.

 I had to stop listening to talented, charismatic speakers.  

Simply put, if the speaker had the ability to sway my emotions beyond Biblical texts, or if they were talented enough at speaking to get paid for it, I stopped listening to them. 

I have to confess that I can remember the script, backdrop and delivery of pieces of sermons I heard a decade or longer ago.  I have a vivid response to messages that make me feel something, whether good or bad, and years later, I can remember the feeling, the motivation, the point that I grabbed from the sermon, long after I can remember anything about the Biblical texts they derived from.  That left me acting and reacting based on feelings a speaker gave me when he or she was making their third or fourth point, instead of acting and reacting to the actual Word of God.

I also have to say that in my experience, pastors have gotten really good lately at making a crowd feel things, but not very motivated to make a crowd KNOW things.  It was a common experience to walk out of a sermon with a whole gaggle of people who were suddenly motivated to tip better at the restaurant they were visiting for lunch, but had zero knowledge of what the Bible actually says to do with our wealth, resources, or lack.

Sadly, I have heard sermons that gave me serious red flags in the past, but because I knew  the speaker, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  I also listened to messages that I wanted to stand up and question, but because the message was so well received, I figured that I had to be wrong and the speaker, in fact, had to be right.  What I didn't do was actually go home, study and renew my mind by choosing to elevate Scripture over that excellently delivered sermon.  It was easier to trust that the person I knew was right, because, honestly, I knew them better than I knew Jesus.  And it was so much easier to let my faith and convictions lie dead center with a crowd's, because I didn't want the way to be narrow or the truth to be something only few found.

So, for 12 months (barring one sermon I attended with my family,) I have not sat under charismatic teaching.  I have not allowed my emotions to be swayed farther than my Biblical knowledge could take me.  I have not scribbled furiously to take the notes of the best parts of what some guy said while remaining ignorant of what my Father and King actually said.

Now, does that mean that I went home, locked my doors and decided that I could figure this stuff out all by myself?  Not by a long shot.  As a matter of fact, I've never had more help studying the Scriptures than I have this year.  I have never had deeper conversations about the parts of the Bible you never hear sermons about.  I have never been so conflicted having to question what I've not only always believed, but taught for years and years.

Instead of sitting silently while I pay a man to read the Bible for me, this year, I have sat with fellow Believers and read the Bible word for word, chapter by chapter- not piecing it apart and teaching the good stuff, but literally reading it together, questioning every verse, looking at every word with fresh eyes and full faith. We are no where close to completing our journey.  One of my groups has been studying the Book of Romans for seven months now.  Some days when we get together, we will easily get through an entire page of Scripture.  Some days, we will dig for hours and only get through four verses.  Nobody is in charge.  Nobody is teaching.  We are all in, all functioning, all asking and commenting and sharing.  The Word teaches and we are simply learning to submit to it.

For me, silencing the talent was important.  If I was ever going to learn to hear Jesus speak, I had to choose not to hear the voices of others tell me what Jesus was saying.  I had to hear Him for myself.

And I'm so very eternally grateful that I did. 


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