Were you raised in church? I was. Did you learn "all about God?" I did. Most may believe this is great, and that I had an amazing jump start on someone who has no knowledge of God or Christ's sacrifice for us. I would beg to differ. This may offend some, but I'm going to say it anyway - there are bad churches. There, someone said it. There are churches that do not teach the Gospel as it is laid out in Scripture. There are churches that do not teach against sin in order to create a place where everyone is welcome. There are churches that, simply put, do not know who God is at all. I was raised in such a church. Did the church have good people, who loved one another? Yes. Did I benefit from what I learned in this church? Yes. Before this comes off the wrong way, I'm not saying that my being raised in church was not helpful, or "good." My point is that my understanding and knowledge of who I am in Christ and who God is to me was skewed and misled, and is in some ways hindering me from growing in my relationship with God.
The reason I mention this is because I had an interesting experience recently. I have been speaking with a friend for some time now. I have been sharing the Gospel, as well as many thoughts on situations, the Bible, and life in general. This person was not raised in church, as I was. As of late, I have been reading Victory Over the Darkness by Neil Anderson. In the first chapter, the author confronts you with an exercise. He asks, "Who are you?" Most would answer, initially, with their name. But that is your name. Who are you? Then they may say their occupation, but that is what they do. Who are you? They may even respond with "I'm Baptist" (or fill in whatever you like). But that is their denomination. Who are you? At this point, I'm frustrated. Who am I? Finally, the author explains the simple answer that never crossed my mind - You are a child of God. That's it. Done. He goes on further to expose this as an exercise to show us how much we rely on things of this world to define us. Really, truthfully, we are defined by God. Now here is where my point comes in: my friend answered the third "Who are you?" with "Oh you mean the basics of who I am. I am a child of God." Whoa... First, this person ruined the exercise :) But what's more is that they completely threw me for a loop. How did they grasp it so quickly, when I was so focused on other things? You could say different personalities, different spiritual understandings, etc..., but I think it is deeper. I am coming from a point of extremity. I am coming from a place where God is structured, understood, and defined by my preset beliefs and notions from my childhood teachings. My friend isn't. My friend is starting from scratch, starting completely new. This person has no preconceived notions of God, nor any prior claimed understanding. It is so hard to me to throw my teachings of the past away, and let God be God.
So I have started a journey. I have to journey past all of the extremities in order to get back to the middle and really know who I am in Christ and to have a real and intimate relationship with Him. I have to scrap everything I have learned and start over. I personally believe this is an introspective moment we all should have. Do you believe you have God "figured out?" Do you think you know how He works, and what He can and can't do? It definitely takes faith to reopen your mind to allow God to be free. To put God in a box and define Him, limits the unlimited. How can God be all powerful in our lives if we are constantly trying to define Him, understand Him and His ways, and put Him in a manageable box? This is a definite journey. I have to one by one destroy my notions of who God is in reference to this world, and grow in an intimate relationship, through faith, so that I may not define and limit Him, but define who I am in Him. I do this so that I may be a vessel in which He can do great works through me, works beyond that which I could ever imagine. Let us stop trying to define God, and let Him define us.