2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, ‘But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.’
The last verse shook me to the core. We can actually have an external form of walking with God but lack the substance and power. The possibility that our discipleship and spirituality are not touching deep wounds and sin patterns is sobering.
The more I examined my own life, the more I realised I was increasing in knowledge but was in many areas still at an immature level of growth. Knowledge puffs up but love builds up. My way of living the Christian life was not transforming the deep places in me.
Likewise I see sincere fellow believers struggling with their marriages, relationships, sexuality, addictions, insecurities, appetite for approval, loneliness, feelings of failure and depression.
We wrongly believe that happiness is found in possessions, the ideal human relationship, the perfect career or utopic life circumstances. Security is found in money, power, status and success as defined by man’s standards. God seems irrelevant to our everyday life and reduced to occupying two hours of our attention every week. We live as if this life on earth is all there is. Internally, we give up trying to fit the image of a life of supernatural faith into our daily experience.
We’re in danger of becoming mere converts, embracing a new set of habits and way of life but absent of a deep walk with Jesus. We’re lulled into believing we’re fine because we spend time in spiritual activities, even if our relational life and interior world is in a mess. So as not to feel guilty, we come up with a long list of dos and don’ts.
It’s so easy to compartmentalise God to our once-a-day devotional time or our weekly church activities, but we hardly think of Him in our marriage, career, parenting, finances, leisure time, or even when studying for exams.
The consequences of this on our witness for Jesus Christ are immense. We miss out on the abundant life that Jesus promises while the world watches and wonders why we do not live out what we preach.
Being productive and efficient are high priorities in our Singaporean culture. Worshipping and enjoying God’s presence for no reason than to delight in Him is sometimes viewed as a luxury that we can only indulge in once we get to heaven. For now, there’s too little time.
Doing ministry work is never wrong, but work for God that’s not fed by a deep interior life with Him is eventually contaminated. Ego, power, others’ approval, buying into the wrong ideas of success and the fallacy that we can’t fail, can enter our hearts ever so subtly.
Our activity for God can only flow from an intimate walk with Him. We can’t give what we do not possess and can’t bring others to where we’ve never been. Either the pain of a crisis exposes our form of godliness and the lack of power within or we slow enough to realise there are deep layers beneath our day-to-day awareness left untouched by God.
God may be trying to get our attention through things that go wrong or the negative emotions that we grapple with daily. They are the cry of our soul, a window into what’s really going on inside.
Here are some questions I ask myself as I examine the authenticity of my walk with God:
• Do I acknowledge, take ownership of, and manage my own desires and feelings, expressing them to God and others clearly?
• Am I identifying with, having compassion for, honouring and loving others out of a love for God?
• Do I have close, meaningful, and healthy non-romantic relationships?
• Am I breaking free from self-destructive patterns and habits?
• Do I know how my present is impacted by my past?
• Am I accurately finding out my strengths and weaknesses, my abilities and limitations?
• Do I have the capacity to consider others’ perspectives and resolve conflict maturely?
• Am I managing and expressing my sexuality and gender identity well?
• Do I grieve well in times of pain?
• Am I aware of and surrendering to God’s love in any and every situation?
• Do I incline my ears to hear God and be aware of His presence in all I do?
• Am I communing with God, allowing Him to touch and fully indwell me?
• Do I have moments of silence, solitude, and a life of prayer?
• Am I living my earthly life as a journey towards Christlikeness and union with Him?
• Do I know the true essence of who I am in God?
• Am I adopting a balanced outlook on life that makes me aware of the holy even in the mundane?
• Do I let Biblical culture shape my life rather than the contemporary one?
• Am I living in covenant with a community that passionately loves Jesus above all else?
• Do I have an inner rest, an absence of strife, not driven by need or appetite but by love and intimacy with God?
• Am I choosing to place my faith in the truth of God’s Word or do I follow my natural inclinations in decision-making?
This list seems like a tall order but, if we’re actively growing in these areas year after year, we’ll have a true godliness that’s not devoid of power.