I skimmed another post on my blog reader—a really good one about slowing down. “Hmm, that’s good,” I thought. Then I clicked on the next one, just trying to catch up after a weekend where I had better things to do than sit in front of my computer. That post might have changed my life…if I had taken time to really absorb it.
I sat in small group last Sunday where we had a great discussion about removing idols from our lives. The Lord caused a few things/issues to pass before my mind’s eye, and I mentally agreed with Him that these were at least low-grade idols, with the potential to grow. Then I closed my Bible and shuffled downstairs to collect my youngest child before the big-group service began. I haven’t thought about it since (until right now).
The week before, our pastor preached a message that grabbed my heart and caused me to do some serious praying during the invitation time. I even stuck the sermon notes in my Bible when I got home. They are still there.
Then there’s this.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. -James 1:22-24
I’m not the only one experiencing this “information overload.” We all have too many input sources, even when it comes to healthy spiritual matters (not to mention medical advice, dieting and exercise tips, and every other aspect of our lives!). The term, addiction to conviction, isn’t original with me either. I first heard it from a youth pastor saddened by the lack of real change he saw in his listeners.
I really want to grow in my spiritual walk. I really want to be sanctified (that is, removing sinful practices and thoughts from my life in order to become more like Jesus). But this deluge of information—most of it convicting me of one thing or another—overwhelms me so that I don’t actually change. It’s easier to lump it all together and throw it in a pile to be excavated on some future day.
my spiritual life.
Here’s the thing, I like those blog posts and sermons that cut into my life. It makes me feel that God is real and I’m efforting. I like the emotional high that comes with knowing I need to change. What I don’t like is actually changing. Inertia governs my spiritual life. And when I feel conviction in three or more areas on the same day, it’s easy to let them all just scratch the surface.
Time for a mental image. Let’s say you need to have your appendix removed. The doctor takes scalpel in hand and scores your skin, cutting through two or three layers of your epidermis. Then he moves over a bit and cuts through the same two or three layers in a different spot. You might bleed just a little, but he will never reach the appendix buried deep in your abdomen. In fact, you wouldn’t even need anesthesia for this procedure. In order to remove your appendix, he has to cut all the way through all your skin and even the muscle tissue beneath. It hurts so badly that they put you to sleep. Without that pain…without his focus on that one cut until he penetrates your abdominal wall…you will die.
Regardless of how holy we are,
we all need a sin-ectomy.
Regardless of how holy we are today, we all need a sin-ectomy (or two…but one at a time). Instead of doing the hard, painful work of excising that specific sin, we satisfy ourselves with shallow cuts that look serious but never penetrate to the spiritual cavity in which the problem lies. Yes, I know there’s no spiritual anesthesia and that we have to assist in this surgery on ourselves. Nobody said sanctification was easy.
So what do I do? Do I quit reading so many good, Bible-based blogs? Do I stop going to church until I’ve worked through the conviction under which I already exist? Neither of those can be right.
* * *
I’ve been praying about this for over a week now. I’ve confessed my addiction to the Lord even as I continued to read, listen, and study. Here’s what I think I/we need to do.
First of all, ground any conviction in the Word. The Bible must be our primary source of spiritual guidance. That’s a given. But after that…
Pick and choose. Most people don’t need a tonsillectomy and an appendectomy at the same time, even though both are performed in the same hospital and even though both may be beneficial.
Before I sit down to read the thoughts of godly people or enter my small group classroom or open my worship folder to the sermon outline, I need to pray forward. That means I ask God to show me if what I’m about to read/hear is something on which I need to dwell, something meant for me personally. (Let’s just be honest here: Not every sermon is going to be life-changing for you, me, or anyone else.) This type of approach involves intentionality. Then I listen to the Holy Spirit as I absorb the material.
When that one blog post or lesson rises to the top, I’m not going to press it back down with the rest. I’m going to keep it at the front of my mind. Maybe I’ll write the main point on my bathroom mirror or spend that week’s quiet time in related Scripture. I’m going to make the deep cuts I need to make, and I’m going to take as long as I need on that one issue.
God’s authentic conviction often
approaches on multiple fronts.
At the same time, I will continue to read through other blog posts and listen to other lessons. It will take some serious spiritual discipline not to get distracted by other convictions. In fact, I think Satan uses this addiction to conviction to prevent real spiritual growth in our lives. I’ve already found, however, that God’s authentic conviction (not just me feeling guilty) often approaches on multiple fronts. For example, the small group lesson on idols and the pastor’s message that moved me were actually two aspects of this one issue in my life. In the same way, I expect to find other contributors to whatever conviction He places before me. Those contributors will help me recognize and remove the sin before me.
Let’s don’t stop reading each other’s blogs. Let’s don’t stop paying to attention to our pastors’ sermons. Let’s don’t stop clicking through tweets to find really good content on the internet. Instead, let us acknowledge that not every element is meant for every reader/listener and accept God’s work in our own lives and the lives of others!
So that’s my take. How do you handle “information overload” in your spiritual life? I’d love to hear some good advice (which I may or may not heed depending on the Holy Spirit’s leading).
(Images from Microsoft Office free clipart)