We are currently taking on the mammoth task of packing up our house to move out: crockery, garden tools, stationary, Christmas decorations, clothes, furniture, photo frames and every other household item a family collects along the way…
This weekend I was packing up our bookshelves and the colossal number of books we appear to have accumulated over our married lives. We have fiction and non fiction, travel guides, business literature, leadership guides, cookery books, gardening manuals and a whole other range of genres. But we also have an awful lot of faith based writings. When I was flicking through all the Christian titles and organising them into their boxes, a thought occurred to me: I hope I’ve spent more time reading the bible than I’ve spent reading through these other Christian resources.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew people would go to the high priest in order to know the will of God and ask him to atone for their sins– the priest would act as a middleman. But when Christ died on the cross, He tore the veil that separated us from God so we can talk directly to Him. We don’t need a go-between anymore: “For through him we have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:18). We can draw near with confidence to God’s throne (Hebrews 4:16).
And yet I’ve noticed that we have this tendency to rely on someone else talking to God for us… listening to podcasts or preaches about what God said to the preacher, reading books and blogs about the author’s personal revelations, having someone else pray for us instead of praying for ourselves directly. We seem to default to go-betweens – a pastor, a priest, a king, a mediator, a speaker, an author, a prayer team – content to let someone else do the work and we get the message second hand. We’re not just looking for people to read scripture with us. We’re looking for people to read scripture instead of us. We’re not just looking for people to pray for us. We’re looking for people to pray instead of us. And what happens is, they get mightier and we get lazier – we end up outsourcing our intimacy with God so it exists purely through mediators. It removes our need to be in the Spirit-filled, transforming presence of Jesus.
In the bible, we see the Israelites demand to have a king who can talk to God and do his will, and a note of sadness when God says “They have rejected me from being king over them” (1 Sam 8:7).
I don’t want to reject God as king and outsource my faith through a go-between. Now I’m not about to throw out my boxes of beloved books – these resources serve me well and are good and helpful and useful. But they’re meant to supplement my conversations with God; the times I read the bible or journal or pray. There is a time for asking for prayer and reading the commentary and streaming the preach, but let’s make them an extension of our faith and not the foundation.