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Familiar With Paradise

It seems that when one has been introduced to Christ after a rocky and destructive past, his initial joy knows no bounds. This new-found “paradise,” if you will, overwhelms the young believer with unspeakable passion. He’s so happy, he’s like a child rescued from a dingy orphanage and adopted by the wealthiest family in town. Indeed, this illustration is not unlike what has actually happened.

But what about those of us who have grown up in Christian homes, attended church faithfully, walked the walk for years, and generally feel like we’ve always been a Christian? Sometimes we get so used to the Christian walk that it becomes routine, even boring. Even those who have been delivered from a sordid past can, once saved, very easily get caught up in the daily grind and lose the flame of passion that once burned so brightly. Either way, we sedentary Christians get used to it all. Paradise seems a little less glorious than it really is. Though we won’t admit it, deep down we may be thinking, “I’ve already seen it all. Been there, done that. It’s not that great.”

Familiarity is the curse that robs us of vision and keeps us from exploring the depths of God’s love. The thing is, we think we’ve seen it all, when really we have just scraped the surface. We drive back and forth on the road of Christian service until we’ve worn down a very familiar rut. We “perfect” what we know

while ignoring that which we don’t.

Although we have come out of the traditional church mindset, we’ve replaced with a Christianity that becomes, ironically, familiar. And this is okay with us. As long as we have moved on from the way our fathers believed and worshiped a century ago, we think our faith is fresh. Not necessarily. We settle and become comfortable with it. Not only are we comfortable with it, we embrace it. Our worship becomes stale and church becomes familiar.

So what is to be done to fill the void of true spiritual worship? After all, if we can’t force it, how can we have it? I believe the solution begins with ceasing to try to do the job we were not designed to do and instead paying more attention to the real Creator.

Imagine that you want to have a beautiful piece of artwork for yourself, the skill and expertise of which can only be produced by your favorite artist. So you plead with the artist to come to your house and paint for you. You fix up a room for him. You buy his favorite paints and brushes, and give him a good easel and plenty of good lighting. Everything is now ready for him to paint, and he is as eager to get started as you are to have him do it. But now imagine that as soon as he is ready to paint, you pull out the paints and brushes and start slapping the paint on the canvas yourself. After a few minutes, you are discouraged with the results. This isn’t what you imagined. “I don’t understand it,” you tell the artist, “I have all the right paints and brushes, but this doesn’t look a thing like one of your paintings.”

The artist would probably look at you in disbelief and exclaim incredulously, “That’s because I’m not painting it! It’s not mine!” It’s not that you don’t have the right tools. You even have the artist. But unless

the artist paints the canvas himself, you won’t have the picture you want. You will only become discouraged.

Worship is the same way. You may have all the right resources. As a Christian, you have God Himself. But if you’re trying to get something from God, a deep sense of emotional worship, you can’t do it yourself. Perhaps we fear that if we worship naturally, no impressive feelings will come. We want to be excited about God, but if we’re not, we try to act excited.

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But maybe worship is about more than feelings. Maybe it’s something much deeper than can be explained by songs. Maybe it’s more than music. Music is, I believe, a trigger to the soul. It triggers an awareness of something we wouldn’t otherwise realize we have or need. But music is only a means to one form of worship, not an end in itself. So where do we go from here?

We know about God. But when we’re brutally honest, how well do we know God? The answer may surprise us. We have a lot more to learn. A lot more territory to discover. And maybe we’ll discover that the reason we feel familiar with God is because we’ve been holding on to only a single drop of Him when there’s an infinite sea of Him to explore.

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