Zen Christianity vs. Common Sense Christianity
6-9-16- Tonight I realized my phone was about to die so I got up to get the charger, and when I arose from my seat I was suddenly surprised by my perspective of the room. For some reason, I felt taller than usual, and looked around the room realizing how tall I was, and what it’s like to see things as an adult. I looked down at my feet to make sure nothing was out of place. Then, somehow while I was standing there, I felt compelled to close my eyes and have a heartfelt prayer, standing under my blowing ceiling fan with the light coming down on me. It was a moving prayer time and I felt love for God which compelled me to sit down in quiet, humble submission before the King. As I sat there, I genuinely felt a strong feeling of worship and love for Jesus, and then I felt Him there in the room before me, more so than I have all year. With His presence so clear before me, I talked to Him as if He were really there in the room with me — talking to God in bodily (though resurrected) form, aka the Word, who was with the Father in the beginning, and was the creative agent of planet Earth.
Recently, I’ve been going through a spiritual paradigm shift, forsaking the Zen Mystic Christianity tendencies I’ve had for the last several years (that is, clearing my mind and listening for the Spirit, which trumps all logic and whatever I previously believed) for a more practical, commonsense, logical, self-focused approach to Christianity — the kind of Christianity that uses our bodies and intellect and logic that God gave us, combined with the truth that mankind has learned in its history, to analyze ourselves and determine what is the best logical way that we can advance the cause of Christ (within the boundaries of the truth of the Bible).
However, because my Zen Christian approach was so engrained into my psyche (and reinforced by many of my Christian peers who are convinced it is the highest, purest approach), I couldn’t feel totally at peace that I was doing the right thing by focusing more on what I think makes sense instead of opening my mind for whatever leading I feel. So naturally, part of me was feeling guilty that I was putting God on the back burner, and instead trusting in man. So when this surprise feeling of intimacy with Jesus Himself came up randomly out of nowhere, I rolled with it, desiring to see where it would lead and if I could confirm it was the best approach, once and for all.
It lead to this: I thanked Jesus (in front of me) for dying for me and loving me. I told Him I loved Him and would do anything for Him, trusting that He loves me and would give me whatever I need to be obedient to Him. I said, “I love you, Jesus,” and I felt a strong impression that He was saying back to me, “Do you love Me?”
I said genuinely from the heart, “Jesus, You KNOW I love You,” and He said, “Then feed my sheep.”
Then while thinking about how I might do that, something instantly flashed in my mind. It was the concert that I had marked in my calendar tonight to go see — a local band whose music is really good, but has a dark, weird, possibly satanic influence. I was invited and had planned to go, but canceled my plans when a previously-scheduled Skype meeting with two close friends fell into place tonight. I had dismissed the concert plans, knowing my night would be filled. But now, so strong was this impression that this was Jesus’ sign of how to feed his sheep (based on me, my giftings, and my sphere of influence as a musician) that it ended the conversation and experience, and I was left with a clear resolve that this was what I was supposed to do.
I thought, “Wow, I haven’t felt such a strong, clear impression from the Spirit like this in a long time,” and I thought maybe it was too late to still catch the concert — but that was just me trying to get out of doing it. The band I knew was the last one playing, and I discovered it was only 9:30. Since that was even more time than I thought I had, that settled it for me. I felt guilty for how my spiritual approach had shifted recently — putting God on the back burner, distancing myself from Him as I tried using my own intellect to determine how best to serve Him. But now I was back to where I was supposed to be, back to being open and led by the Spirit, and it felt amazing to be back and so connected with God again. With a strong resolve and as clear an indication from the Spirit as ever, I determined to follow through with it. I said, “You know what? I’m just going to try this out and test if this is really Jesus leading. This will settle the score once and for all between Zen Christianity and Common Sense Christianity. If there was ever a leading from the Spirit, it would be this — with this strong presence, and my feeling of the Spirit’s leading. This will show me once and for all how I can distinguish between mere emotional impulses and the Spirit, if God uses me tonight.” I truly believed that it was the Spirit and that I was about to experience something supernatural.
I was feeling tired and didn’t want to go out, as late as it was. But I knew God would show up, so I drank a 5-hour ENERGY to wake me up for whatever was in store for the long night to come. Then, filled with faith, I stepped out onto the waves — following Jesus’ calling, feeling great about this like I was finally giving up my doubts and hesitancies to live the Spirit-led life of a Christian.
With excitement and expectation, I went to where the address on Facebook said to go. I found a parking spot and then walked around trying to find the location, expecting supernatural signs and encounters to guide me there. It turned out to be an apartment building, and I thought skeptically, “There’s going to be a heavy grunge show in an apartment?” But, in faith, I walked into the building. No one in sight, so I searched around. I went up the second floor and walked past the apartment doors, quietly, so as to listen for the distant sounds of grunge. Nothing. I went up the third, then fourth, then fifth floors. Nothing. I came back down, quietly listening, and after 30 minutes of searching, with nowhere else to look, I got back in my car and drove home. On my way home I thought, “Okay, so maybe Jesus’ plan for me wasn’t at the show but maybe the whole point of that was to get me out of the house for a certain reason.” So I pulled over to a gas station, looked around to see anything in particular. Nothing abnormal. No leadings. So I drove home cautiously, and pulled up to the house looking around. There was no one on the street to talk to. Nothing. So I went inside, took a shower, and went to bed, confused and dismayed.
- Somehow my complicated mind had produced a hallucination, and conjured up a tangible feeling inside of Jesus’ presence and voice.
- I really did have an encounter initiated by God, but it was His way of showing me that I should stop looking for some spontaneous, mystical experience to determine my decision-making, and instead use my God-given intellect in response to God’s definite, clear voice in the Bible.
Even now while writing this I find it hard to believe that my experience was a mere hallucination, as real as it seemed. It seemed very clear and tangible, as tangible as I would expect it to feel to St. Paul. And, it was just as tangible as times in the past when I felt something similar when it seemed that God DID do something supernatural following an experience that confirmed it actually was from God. But for now, in conclusion to my inner-wrestling of the best approach to Christianity (Zen Christianity vs. Common Sense Christianity), and true to what I said was at stake when I gave Zen Christianity one final, earnest shot tonight, I have finally come to a firm resolution:
I haven’t yet figured out a way to determine what is the Spirit’s voice and what is simply an emotional impulse concocted mysteriously by my unfathomably complicated brain. I know that the Bible talks about the Spirit speaking to the early Christians, forbidding them to go certain places in their journey, etc., but I haven’t figured out what that actually feels like, so all I have to go by is my intellect (what makes the most sense for how best to serve God), so I’m going to go by that and use it to the best of my ability until God, in His supernatural providence, changes my mind. And this had already been my conclusion before this spontaneous change of plans. I realized I just wasted an hour that, up until the point of this spiritual detour, I had planned to be spending on seriously and strategically thinking of steps I can take to overcome my greatest weakness of being a people-pleaser and the fear of rejection.
Let me make myself perfectly clear, I think that every finite human should pray and meditate every single day, asking the infinite, omniscient God to show him His will or any error in his short-sighted thinking. I’m just saying whatever pops into your head should be tested by your own intellect, and a funny feeling shouldn’t trump everything else you’re doing and everything you think to be true. In my case, a funny feeling distracted me from sitting down and getting serious about overcoming my great sin of people-pleasing, and instead of going to bed at a healthy hour and getting rest for my body, I drank a 5-hour ENERGY in misguided faith.
God is greatly using me in my life right now, supernaturally using me to help people come closer to Him, blessing my attempts to serve Him and do His will. However, none of it is the result of me clearing out my mind and waiting for some image or impulse to pop into my mind, or what people associate with “listening to the Spirit.” I’m just doing what makes sense to me based on what the Bible says I should do. And, for maybe the first time ever, I’m trying to bring my personal potential to its pinnacle, so as to serve God to the best of my personal ability. I have been focusing on physical means: strengthening my body; training my brain to be motivated; keeping optimistic, focused, and disciplined; and devising a strategy to best implement my talents in order to serve God maximally. This is the common sense approach to Christianity, as advocated by people like Tony Robbins (www.tonyrobbins.com or Day 1 of his Program), and I’m already seeing results, so I’ll see where this takes me.
Thank you, God, for using this experience to put to rest my inner-wrestling and conflicted convictions of what the best approach to the Christian life for me is. And, help me now to go to sleep after taking that unnecessary 5-hour ENERGY, because it’s 3AM and I don’t want to get sick…