I’d like to do something different today. Rather than focus on the “big issues” of the day, I’ll begin with some news that appealed to me personally:
Here’s what these stories have in common: they all promise something that will potentially benefit me personally. I am in no sense unique in this regard: research shows that appealing to an audience’s emotions or otherwise offering more of what they already want is the key to getting “clicks.”
How is this fact related to knowing Jesus and then making him known?
Why “the Christian truth is attractive and persuasive”
Psychologist Abraham Maslow made famous the “hierarchy of needs” model:
Public domain image via Wikipedia
As you can see, our highest needs are for “self-actualization” and then “transcendence.” Maslow understood the former as our desire to realize our full potential. As he said, “What a man can be, he must be.” He defined the latter as our desire to give ourselves to something beyond ourselves, as in altruism or spirituality. He equated this “need” with the quest to reach the infinite.
In the entire universe, Jesus is the best source of both.
Because he made us (Colossians 1:16), he knows us better than we know ourselves. Because he loves us unconditionally and passionately (Galatians 2:20), he only and always wants our best for us.
Because he dwells in us by his Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16), he can empower us to fulfill our potential in a way no one else can (Romans 12:2). Because he is God, he can lead us to oneness with the infinite (John 10:28–30).
Pope Francis is right: “The Christian truth is attractive and persuasive because it responds to humanity’s deepest needs.” Human nature does not change. The word of God is perennially relevant because the needs it addressed millennia ago are the same needs we feel today. The promises it made are promises God still keeps.
Why, then, do many Christians not experience in Christ the meeting of our deepest needs?
Breathing out, breathing in
The fault is not his but ours, of course.
When we compartmentalize our spiritual and “secular” lives, we insulate and partition him from the latter and miss the fullness of the former. When we “cherish iniquity in our heart,” we block the Holy Spirit’s ability to work powerfully in our lives (cf. Psalm 66:18). When we refuse to love our neighbor, we show that we have not fully experienced the love of our Father (cf. Matthew 22:37–39; 1 John 4:19).
But when we spend time in the presence of Jesus, listening to his voice in his word and world, worshiping him with gratitude for his grace, confessing all he brings to our thoughts and cherishing his love for us, we must be different as a result. We cannot meet deeply and intentionally with the King of kings and leave the encounter as the same person. We cannot hear “God preaching” in the Bible (to use J. I. Packer’s description) and remain unchanged.
And when we share Christ with others, we experience more of Christ. When we breathe out, we can breathe in more deeply. When we empty our hands to others, we can be filled with the gifts of God.
Jesus told his first followers, “Freely you received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8 NASB). The converse is true as well: the more we give, the more we receive.
“For God alone my soul waits in silence”
To this end, I will close by recommending a neglected spiritual practice for the new year that I believe positions us to experience God in self-actualizing and transcendent ways.
A Presbyterian minister in Waco, Texas, named Chris Palmer wrote an article recently for Christian Century that I found deeply impactful. Titled “A worship practice Zoom can’t replicate,” it is a call for intentional and contemplative silence as a regular part of the Christian life.
Palmer believes that we need regular, extended times of personal silence to listen to God’s voice through his Spirit, word, and creation. But he also believes that we need times of corporate silence in our worship services so we can hear his voice together.
He cites David’s testimony: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation” (Psalm 62:1). Because David made this time for silence with his Lord, he could then write the next verse: “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken” (v. 2).
If we listen to God, he will speak. If we hear the voice of the omnipotent God of the universe, we cannot be the same. We will be empowered to give what we receive. And “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5 NLT).
When last did meeting with God change your life?
NOTE: On January 25, I’m hosting a virtual book launch Q&A to celebrate the launch of my most pivotal work to date, my book The Coming Tsunami — and I’d love for you to attend. During the Q&A, I’ll go in depth about Critical Race Theory, one of the four major “earthquakes” I talk about in The Coming Tsunami that are seismically shifting our world. To gain access to the live Q&A, please pre-order a copy of The Coming Tsunami today. Thank you.