There is no one and nothing I love more than Jesus Christ! Or, do I? I had to come to quick terms with that question recently as I listened to author Nancy Kane speak at the Renew Women’s Conference in Canton, Ohio. In addition to authoring the book, Stages of The Soul – God’s Invitation to Greater Love, Ms. Kane is a licensed clinical professional counselor and an associate professor at Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. And her interactions with today’s young adults have yielded a couple of startling revelations – thoughts you might even affirm.
“Millennials are telling us, ‘What you are saying, Church, does not measure up to how you are living,” Kane reports, adding that it is because, “Christianity today is largely filled with ‘Christ AND…’ faith.”
For example, we might find ourselves saying, “I love Christ, AND I want a large bank account,” or “I love Christ, AND I want everyone to like me.” Now, I want to be clear. The Bible does not tell us that wealth is wrong. And certainly, the Bible encourages us to live at peace with everyone, as far as it depends on us. The problems occur when we seek wealth, other people’s approval, or other things above our relationship with God. In effect, we are saying that God – the Creator of the universe – is not worthy or able to satisfy our needs. And Kane tells us that view is based on an intimacy problem.
“The cause of the problem…may lie in the fact that we know much about God and His Word,” Kane writes in her book, “yet never really encounter God Himself. Throughout Scripture, we se that whenever a man or woman truly encountered God, they were changed. (Italics mine)” She illuminates that theory with words from theologian A.W. Tozer:
“God wills that we should push on into His Presence and live our whole life there… At the heart of the Christian message is God Himself, waiting for His redeemed children to push in to conscious awareness of His Presence. That type of Christianity which happens now to be the vogue knows this Presence only in theory. It fails to stress the Christian’s privilege of present realization. According to its teachings we are in the Presence of God positionally, and nothing is said about the need to experience that Presence actually… We are satisfied to rest in our judicial possessions and for the most part we bother ourselves very little about the absence of personal experience.”
The good news is that our Creator is patient, gracious and merciful, and in her book, Kane shares the process by which He leads us to wean ourselves off of the customs and patterns of this world and to lean completely on Him as our All in All. As we do, we will experience greater love than anyone or anything else can provide. Kane describes that process as Stages of The Soul.
• Stage One occurs when God invites us into a saving faith through belief in His Son Jesus Christ – his death, burial and resurrection.
• Stage Two is obedient love. We learn the ways of godliness and want to live as God has taught us. If we linger too long here, though, we can become modern-day Pharisees, focused too much on rule-following than on the love of God.
• Stage Three is persevering love. God invites us into deeper intimacy with Him by asking, “Do you love Me more than these?” “These” are any people or things we are worshipping ahead of God Himself. As we examine ourselves and come to the place where we are willing to lay them down to focus more on our relationship with Him, we enter the next stage.
• Stage Four is sacrificial love, that place on life’s journey where we recognize the needs of others and want to be the hands and feet of Jesus here and now. Kane explains that this stage is fueled by solitude with the Lord.• Stage Five is intimate love, where our relationship with the Lord is so deep that we reflect His light and love to the whole world. Kane illustrates this stage through the apostle Paul’s words to the Philippians.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3:7-11 ESV
So, where do you find your soul today, friend? Does the whole cycle sound daunting? I must admit, I was humbled. But Kane provided a suggestion that I believe could help us all. She encouraged a 90-day check-up. Every 90 days, look at the stages of the soul and ask God and yourself these four questions:
1. Where am I now (what stage)?
2. Where am I going? (Forward or backward?)
3. What is in the way (from getting to the next stage)?
4. What do I need to get there?
Then, ask the Holy Spirit for His strength to move you toward Him. Ask expectantly and gratefully, remembering that our God is good and is always causing all things to work together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) Our Father loves us unconditionally right where we are, friend; but He also intends to move us to a deeper understanding of His love and His ways. A little check-in with ourselves every three months will allow us not only to see where we are, but also to celebrate how far He has brought us! Be encouraged! The Lord is with you wherever you go, and His banner over you is love!
— Linda R. Maynard © September 2021