What if God was bigger than the box in which we try to place Him? Wouldn’t that be incredible? You and I both know that He is bigger than anything we can imagine. But nevertheless, we have a tendency to always try to place Him in a box that allows us to understand Him on our terms.
Think of the boxes in which we try to place Him. We have our experience box that rejects God moving in any way other than what we have experienced in the past. This box makes our experience with Him as the defining element of His character and the full expression of His will. God can never be bigger than He has been in our past. He becomes one-dimensional, myopic, and is not allowed to do anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or stretches and expands our faith.
We have our denominational box that limits God to the tenets of our theology, our sacred creeds, or our agreed upon statements of faith. But this box assumes we know all there is to know about the Unknowable One, the One who defies human description. This box cannot be true. For how can the created know all there is to know about the Creator, no matter how infested the created is with pride and arrogance and self-exaltation?
Then we have our spiritual maturity box. This box states that the way God is dealing with us right now, at this present moment, at our current level of maturity, is how He deals with everyone. Why? Because we can’t accept the fact there may be others who are more mature than we are in the things of the Lord. That would make us feel uncomfortable. Or, worse yet, convicted. And there are other boxes we conjure with different labels. We have our faith box, our feelings box, and the like. But God cannot be contained by the constraints of our fear or insecurity.
God is beyond all that. He’s incredible. He’s beyond comprehension. He cannot be understood or described by mere human words. It is foolishness to assume we can know the Almighty and all His ways. Why? Because He says about Himself in Isaiah,
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Often we find ourselves hamstrung and impotent in our spiritual lives, when compared with Scripture, because of the limitations we place on our God by the box we try to force Him into.
The Early Church
We see God do incredible things in the book of Acts— unparalleled things compared to what we see Him doing in the church today. Because that fact alone makes us feel so uncomfortable, we go to great lengths to try to convince ourselves that His moving like He did was for them alone, at that time in history, but not for us today. Why? Why would we assume that? Then we go through great theological gymnastics to somehow try to prove that the “abundant ” life Jesus promised (John 10:10), as revealed to us in the book of Acts, was only for them, and not for us. They got to experience true intimacy with the Lord, and we are left standing alone, jilted at the altar.
But what if all that changed?
What if we got the opportunity to be able to see God for who He really is? What if we began to understand the Holy Spirit as being more than just an attribute of God, or a characteristic of God, or just some innate power coming from God that we ask for when we need it? What if our eyes were opened and we began to see and experience the Holy Spirit as Jesus revealed Him? What if we truly believed, and rested on that belief, that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth that will “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:27)? What if we took Jesus at His word when we said, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (the Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7)?
How would that change your life? And how would it change your experience with His church?
These are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself of late. In all my years of ministry, I’ve had the nagging feeling that I’m missing something, that I am somehow coming up short. I’ve felt there’s more to this life in Christ than what I was taught in Seminary or that I have experienced in all my years in church.
Have you ever felt the same?
Do you see how the church is portrayed in the book of Acts and then wonder what happened between then and now? I do. And it drives me to hunger for more of Him.
What if we had the confidence, as the Scripture states, to go “boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16)? Not just mental assent to the truth of this verse, but to know this truth deep down where our hurts and fears reside. What if this promise became a living reality in our lives?
What if we really believed that God loves us, no matter what, and listens to our prayers? Would that change your prayer life? It would mine. Would you seek Him first in your frustrations and disappointments, or would you continue to try to manipulate people and circumstances to your own advantage?
What if we truly believed what it says in Romans about each of us? God tells us “the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs— heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17). Do you feel like a child of God? Do you think of yourself as a child of God? And more than that, do you live like an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ? But that’s who God says we are, no matter how strange and foreign it may seem.
Back to Acts
Together, we’re going to take the book of Acts and try to understand it through new eyes. Not our 21st century eyes of doubt, cynicism and failure, but through the eyes of the Spirit and in childlike, trusting faith. We want to see the Lord for what He says, and what He does, and believe His words are true for us today. We want to understand the book of Acts as not some ancient story about how the church was, and can never be again, but for how things should be. How things could be. And hopefully, how they are.
We want permission to be able to dream again.
So join with me as we strive to uncover the truth about who Christ is and how the Holy Spirit works in our life by looking at an in-depth study of the church in the book of Acts.
It should be quite a ride. I hope you’ll join with me.