Ten years ago, I arrived home late Sunday night, from a retreat. I was physically and emotionally drained. But the next morning I woke up to an adrenalin-induced frenzy. In four and a half days I was speaking at another retreat, to 150 people, and I hadn’t prepared one talk.
The upcoming conference was my very first Hearing God retreat. I had been waiting (impatiently) for years to offer a retreat on how to recognize God’s voice, but commitments (and bad surprises) had frustrated my attempts to plan it. My preparation was woefully behind, and I was anxious about how little time was left to outline my talks.
When I woke up that feverish morning, I sensed God say to me:
If your teachings are the greatest you’ve ever given, but no one hears Me speak to them, the retreat will be a dismal failure.
If your talks are the worst you’ve ever given, but people hear My voice personally, the retreat will be a roaring success.
I sensed God invite me to take two days off from any retreat work—half of my limited, remaining prep time—and simply to give “my” retreat to Him. (Actually, not mine at all.)
That word from God seemed irresponsible, unwise, and a little crazy.
Because Everything About Christianity Seems Crazy
Our single biggest spiritual problem is distorted thinking. Christianity requires a profoundly different grasp of reality than the world preaches. It means that circumstances, events, disappointments—and even our deepest woundings—all reflect a deeper undercurrent of spiritual forces; a revolutionary reality that requires spiritual-eye-transplants to recognize.
Spiritual rebirth is a radical retooling of our minds, not another pair of Walmart reading glasses.
Worldly wisdom dictates that ministries adopt the latest growth strategy; it orders bloggers to leverage social media for greater impact, and it compels spouses to learn their love languages.
All that worldly advice contains seeds of wisdom, but it simultaneously and insidiously waters the weeds of our inner destruction.
Our default human inclination is to operate as though success in life (from ministries to marriages) depends on what we do. But the lesson of Gideon’s three hundred soldiers is that success depends solely on God, and it is precisely in our weakness that He is strong.
For the Hearing God retreat, I needed a transformation of mind, not more hours of preparation.
Jesus Always Attacks Our Natural Thinking
And I mean He attacks it. Head on. He shocks us, astounds us, pleads with us, and convicts us. Why do you think He was crucified? Didn’t He just preach a message of love? No! He preached a message of complete rejection of the way the world thinks. He said:
- If we long for greatness, we must kneel before stinking feet.
- If we want richness in life, must deliberately abandon our own.
- If we wish to feel worthwhile, we must admit to God our complete unworthiness.
Everything Jesus said was revolutionary. He was an anarchist about every “normal” operating principle of life. What is obvious to the world makes no sense inside the gospel; and the message of the gospel is sheer craziness to the world.
In Christianity, the way up is down. It’s always down.
It’s Not an Incremental Evolution
Jesus refuses to offer a nuanced perspective. He does not sell vitamin supplements. He doesn’t spice up tasteless dishes. Instead of adding a dash of reality to our lives, He crucifies and buries our old perceptions to let His spiritual reality be born into something fully new, completely different, no hint of the old man left. Romans 12:2 says,
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.
“Transformed” means metamorphosis, like when a caterpillar dies to become a butterfly. We need to hold a funeral service to our this-worldly-caterpillar of “natural” wisdom so that a metamorphosed spiritual mind can be born, sprout wings, and fly. Something must die so that He can live. In us.
My limited retreat preparation lacked everything I’d ever studied on public speaking. Instead of hearing eloquence in my teaching, people heard God in their times of personal prayer.
I think I did too.