Into the Promised Land Without God

I have a confession to make.  If I am honest with myself, I believe I can save the kids and families of our church apart from God. I know it sounds ridiculous as I write it down. But, its true. It’s something I have to repent of often.  

(c) Sweet Publishing (sweetpublishing.com) and distributed by Distant Shores Media

(c) Sweet Publishing (sweetpublishing.com) and distributed by Distant Shores Media

I love creating clear pathways for parents and church volunteers to disciple kids more effectively and efficiently, but I have a problem. I often start sentences with one of the following phrases, “If we just did this… If people would just… If we just had…” Fill in the blank to any of the previous phrases and all would be right with my parenting or my ministry. I put my hope in the right system, the right amount of volunteers, or the right discipline technique. I think that will bring salvation and make everything right with the world.

Consider God’s Word:

“Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” And [Moses] said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” Exodus 33:3, 15-16 (ESV)

Many of us believe we can get into the Promised Land without God. On the way to the land of milk and honey, the Israelites gave up on God and Moses, his mediator. They create a golden calf to worship in God’s place. In this passage, Moses intercedes for the Israelites so God doesn’t consume them or desert them. Moses understands that if God doesn’t go with them, it would be better if he’d just destroy them now and get it over with. Moses understands that a life apart from God is not worth living.

The reality is many of us would be content arriving at the Promise Land without God’s presence. Think about it. How often do you spend praying for God’s blessings on your family or ministry? It’s easy to rely on the newest attractional techniques, the easiest curriculum, or the best discipline methods rather than God.

Many of us as parents or church leaders create our own golden calves--the right way to discipline, to market our ministry, to lead strategically, or the right systems to make ministry run efficiently. We think these things will make everything right in our world. These are all great tools we should acquire and utilize, but we need to understand they are not the goal. Systems don’t save kids.

I have heard from multiple ministry leaders that as they have built their ministries, they came to a point where the ministry was so effective and efficient, it didn’t leave room for the Holy Spirit. They realized they rarely prayed for God’s wisdom or blessing as they made plans or events. They had arrived at the Promised Land but they didn’t bring God along with them. It is a scary place to be.

As we disciple kids, let’s be sure to give them Jesus and not just something cool, relevant, or attractional. Let’s pray for God’s wisdom and his calling for our volunteers and ministries. Let’s repent of trying to save families without Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Let’s confess, “Unless you go with us, don’t bring us into the Promised Land.”

What practices or rhythms help you remember your need for God’s presence?

The Spirit-Filled Life on Mondays

Editor's Note: Jeremy Linneman is one of the best story tellers that I know. While serving as Pastor of Community Life at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY back in 2014, Jeremy preached a sermon entitled "Spirit-Filled Parenting." We've posted portions of that sermon here. Don't miss out on each section of this important message. In this second installment Jeremy tells the story of his spiritual upbringing and teaches us about how the Holy Spirit fills us for the mundane moments of life.

The Spirit-Filled Life on Mondays

At Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, we’ve spent the past few months teaching through the great book of Ephesians. In chapter five, Paul writes, “Do not be foolish… Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (5:17-18). So what does it look like to be filled with the Spirit?

Growing up, my family was part of a large, well-known church in Kansas City, MO—one of the leading charismatic mega churches of the 80’s and 90’s. An offshoot of the so-called “Kansas City Prophets,” these folks were the Midwest Campus of the 1960’s Jesus Movement.

It really was a great place to grow up: there was an incredible emphasis on worship and prayer for which I’m still deeply thankful. But there were also some… oddities. Often, worship songs would stretch out for 40+ minutes because the Spirit was a-blowin’. But because the next service had to start soon, they’d do a 3-minute sermon. (I’m not sure if the worship guy and preacher got along). Every message was about the end times and the return of Christ to get people really energetic and committed.

In fact, I remember one Easter—the church would do a lot of dramas, especially on big Sundays—a man in a long white robe and Birkenstocks came and sat next to me. He had long brown hair, a well-groomed beard, and dazzling blue eyes, and he just nodded at me as he took the empty chair. Jesus Christ!, I thought to myself. I leaned over to my little sister, “Do you see him too?”

You see, everything was directed at the emotional life. There was this subtle message: “The Spiritual life is about the Sunday experience.” I’m all for the Sunday experience and true, expressive worship of God with our emotions. But here’s the point I want to make: If we’re completely filled with the Holy Spirit, he will transform every aspect of our life, especially the most routine and mundane moments.

Have you ever noticed what Paul teaches on after exhorting the Ephesians to “be filled with the Spirit”? The apostle goes on for two chapters—not on expressive worship and prayer—on church membership, marriage, parenting and work (5:19-6:9). It’s a not-so-subtle way of reminding Christians for all ages that the test of your Christian life doesn’t come on Sunday, it comes on Monday—in the routine and mundane moments of life.

For Paul, a religion has no power on Sunday if it has no power on Monday. And Christian doctrine does us no good if it leaves parenting unaffected. 

If you're enjoying Jeremy's essay, leave him a comment below, and check out his personal website, The Fidelity Essayswhere he writes on leadership, spiritual formation, and sports.