Sunday, September 9, 2007

How to Offer Away Your Heart

I’ve been on a camp this weekend with a bunch of people from the Elim church I go to down here. I have very much enjoyed it, especially having the chance to get to know people better. I also feel I learnt a lot about the vision for the student ministry here which has me excited about the future.

For all the many good things that happened, however, it did get me questioning a number of things. Basically I find Pentecostal worship funny, and awkward, and awkward because I find it funny, and generally just not that spiritually uplifting. Anyway, I have a couple of specific things to say.

A phrase I heard a lot over the weekend was “offer your heart to God” or something to that effect. We sang the song “This is my desire” a few times, the chorus including: “Lord I give you my heart/ I give you my soul, I live for you alone.” A constant emphasis on this kind of ‘me-offering-everything-to-God’ thinking makes me feel awkward. I don’t want to outright slam it, because there is some kind of theological backing to it in verses like Romans 12:1, however there is another level that makes me uneasy.

The context in which it is so often said seems to imply that in offering our hearts and souls to God, we are offering something of value. It is as if we expect God to turn around and say “thank you so much for offering me that, I really needed it,” as if we are doing him a favour. Instead I think we come to God with hearts tainted by sin, and so in saying ‘here’s my heart’ we are offering something offensive to God. The amazing thing is that he still accepts it, forgives us, gives us a pure heart and enjoys our praises. But observe the difference because it is crucial, in ‘offering your heart’ because you are thinking you are doing God a favour, you rob God of his glory and claim some for yourself. In offering yourself because you recognise how in need of a saviour you are, you declare God as the only benefactor, and hence bring him all the glory. I don’t think I need to say which is a more God-honouring form of praise.

I also get sick of people speaking about 'hearing from God' (in the still small voice variety) in a way that makes it seem like it is the norm, or worse, the only way to hear from God. What annoys me is that it implicitly belittles the Bible as a way God speaks to his people. I know most of those people would never say the Bible isn't God's word, but it seems that they would far rather God speak individually to them in their head than take the time to study the Word to find the gold within it. This is obviously an overly simplified and harsh analysis, but I think there's something valid in it.

I've written way more than I intended to, but before I close I must say the last thing I want to do is make it seem like a bad camp. I appreciated the effort the various speakers put into their talks, and learnt a lot from them. A lot of good stuff happened and I do love it how God chooses to dwell and work among us. But I think we've still got a lot of things to improve.


Anonymous said...

Hey Marcus,

Do you think if you asked Elim people they would say "we are offering something of value"? I wonder if instead of some meritorious exchange going on, they see things more "mystically".

Marcus said...

I really should talk to them about it. You may well be right. Did you mean anything in particular with the term 'mystically'?

Anonymous said...

Not really anything in particular and this is probably not the best explanation: in expressing the (ideal) intention of one's heart, God is moved by it somehow and gives one an experience of some sort.