Know God, Know Yourself
by Brett Barry

There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty! … Because he has set his love upon me, I will deliver him. I will set him on high because he has known My name.” Psalm 91

I had a dream the other night. 

I was given a printed, color advertisement in the form of a booklet about the size of a CD cover. There were perhaps 10-15 pages, most of which were readily visible, though a couple were folded inward at the center. The overall piece appeared to be a promo for a clothing line, containing numerous male and female models. All were dressed fairly modestly, as far as I could tell, but, again, the center was folded in a way that I could not see what was inside. I leafed through it and as I came to the center piece I got a sense that it may be something I didn’t need to see, along with a subtle check in my spirit that I shouldn’t open it. What did I do? I opened it anyway. It turned out to be the featured garment of the clothing line. I then awoke. 

Though, like the rest of the photos, the center ad was honorably presented, I felt a deep sense of unrest and concern. There was nothing about it that was inappropriate, and the Lord didn’t directly say to not open it, so why the unrest?

As I pondered why I felt this way, I heard the question in my spirit, “Which is more important: sensing and heeding the Spirit’s prompting during the process, or the end result? The cause, or the effect?”

Everything turned out fine. So does it really matter?

Deception is a strange, evasive reality in our lives that dwells deep in the divide between our soul-based perception and Spirit-empowered discernment. While it’s usually less difficult discerning the nuances between truth and lies in the lives of others, it can be especially challenging to assess our own weakness. There is a way that seems right… I know what I think, but how can I be certain that what I think subconsciously is in agreement with what God thinks, even while I consciously profess His name and confess agreement with Him? My actions reveal aspects of my heart for sure; but what about my unspoken thoughts, dreams, goals - the source of expectations that produce frustration and/or offense in my reactions? In any given matter, how do I know when my heart is fully His and my will fully crucified?

Hmm…more questions.

Most would agree that Scripture clearly reveals God’s desire for our obedience. In fact, Jesus equated our obedience with remaining in His love, just as He obeyed and remained in His Father’s love. But, if we look closer, we’ll see that obedience is actually the result of what He really wants. What He really wants is for us to love Him the way He loves us; without reservation, to the point of oneness, sacrificially. He is after not just the response, but the desire of our heart. So He implores us to hunger and thirst for Him, His presence and ways, to seek His kingdom and righteousness first, and to earnestly desire the gifts of His Spirit. He bids us to find out what pleases Him, to be people who are after His heart, the way He is after ours. When He has our heart’s deepest desire, knowing Him becomes our cause, our focus, even our delight; and obedience becomes the natural result. 

Like others who desire relationship with God, I want to live obediently. But more and more, I’m learning to simply want oneness with Him, to know and trust Him to the point of deep peace and rest, to delight in Him the way He does us. Thus, the value of nuance. When we truly want what God wants, the result is obedience shaped by the nuancing of little nudges along the way. How we interact with those nuances reveals our deepest reality. 

When we drive, not every turn of the wheel is a hard right or left. Rather, those moments usually occur when we’re not paying attention and there’s a collision to avoid…or when we’re trying to get to church! Seriously though, when we drive, we hopefully apply a gentle left-right pressure to guide the vehicle along its intended course. God works the same way in us by His Spirit through the nuances of promptings. The difference of course is that vehicles do not have a will. Whereas, we do - and it’s one that works against us and Him.

Imagine, though, if vehicles had a desire for our instruction, that they were eager to please us; that they waited for and welcomed us when we approached them, and then proceeded with sacred anticipation of our every word? Imagine a car like that! On the other hand, if you’ve ever driven a vehicle with damaged alignment, a flat tire, or broken power steering, there’s no nudging, nuancing or guiding. It requires more of a sweat-inducing workout to even steer, and full-blown exertion to keep it on course. 

Deception renders us like the latter, nearly impossible to steer, even though we perceive ourselves like the former, responsive to nuance. Truth is, for us, because we have an independent will, there is no neutral or middle ground of simple response. If we are not seeking, we are resisting. If we’re not paying attention to the nuancing, while God may intervene, we’re generally going to get off course, or even crash.

Our independence causes us to often operate more from a reactive perspective than a proactive one, leaving us to deal with problematic results as they come up (or not). It leads us to half-hearted obedience, or doing without desire. And, though we may recognize or even cringe at the negative results of our condition, we generally do not address them until they accrue enough to significantly impact our lives. And, sometimes, things have to get pretty bad before we can see ourselves as part of the problem, which is the beginning of a solution.

So. Cause or effect, which counts more? 

While results are important, God is cause oriented, always. Consider: The cause of humanity’s sin was independent thought that resulted in independent action. The enemy challenged Eve to question God’s instructions. She began to reason independently, which led her to mistrust God and ultimately act independently of Him. The results are still being felt. We must address the cause: our tendency to think independently and then protect it. God’s counter measure is for us to proactively seek to know Him through oneness in Christ, and then, by His Spirit, listen carefully and obey explicitly. This process is refined through honoring the little nudges.

Even if there was a billionaire-funded gold card tucked inside the center piece of that booklet, with which we could do a lot of good, the prompt I received was to not open it. In God’s way, good results never justify an act of independence. Here’s the deceptive part: though the prompt wasn’t given as a flat out No, it was significant enough to impart a very clear check in my spirit; one that, knowing what God is trying to teach me, was equal to, No. And I didn’t heed it. 

Asking what is wrong with it can only be done in defense of my will. The God question is, What is right with it? What pleases God and aligns me? Seeking Him is what brings us closer to Him, and makes us more and more like Him.

When I awoke, I was grateful it was a dream. The Lord was warning me. Whether it was about something coming, or an aspect of my heart that I need to pay closer attention to, I sensed an increased alertness in my spirit. There is danger afoot. We’re in process, and the enemy is on the prowl. You and I are targets. But God’s promise is oneness with those who truly seek Him. He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty! … Because he has set his love upon me, I will deliver him…PS 91

So, I write today to encourage you to rise up dear warrior, you ambassador of Christ, you messenger of reconciliation to a dying world. By the power of His Spirit in you, rise up in the mind and power of Jesus Christ! Listen carefully. Obey explicitly. Every nuance of your turning. Know God and then yourself in the light of His Holiness by which we will will be judged and commended. Persevere. Endure. Overcome. We have the mind of Christ - may we be one with Him in it!