When throwing a punch in karate, there are several things which must come together properly in order for the punch to be effective. If your punching technique is not right you might end up breaking your own hand rather than hurting your opponent. If you are off balance, you might end p falling down yourself rather than knocking your opponent down. An effective punch depends on proper technique. There are many improper techniques you can use, and all of them will end up causing your punch to be ineffective. But if your technique is right, your punch will accomplish the purpose for which it was thrown.
You may be wondering, at this point, what a karate punch, worldview and your devotional life have in common. In fact, there is a very important principle in common that will absolutely determine the effectiveness of your personal devotional expression. Your worldview is the basis for your devotional life with God in the same way that your technique is the basis for the way you strike someone in karate.
Implications of the Worldviews
Worldview is the set of assumptions you have about the way reality is organized. What you think about God and the way you interact with him is based on that set of assumptions. If your assumptions are wrong, you will, at best, have an incomplete relationship with God. At worst, you will be separated from him completely. But if your understanding is correct, you can have an intimate and satisfying relationship with him. Let’s look at the implications of each of the worldviews at it relates to interacting with God.
How Would You Interact with God If You Were a Naturalist?
To begin with, a Naturalist does not believe that the supernatural exists, and thus does not believe that God exists. The implication here is abundantly obvious. There is no devotional life because a Naturalist does not acknowledge that there is anyone to interact with.
How Would You Interact with God If You Were an Animist?
An Animist does believe in the supernatural. In fact they believe that there are many gods. Not only that, they are convinced that the god’s are responsible for their well-being. As a result, Animists are very active in praying and in performing various rituals and sacrifices to ma ke sure the gods remain appeased. But the interaction with the gods is not personal. Rather it is mechanical; do the right actions and the gods are pleased, but do the wrong ones and they become angry. Individuals are mostly concerned with making sure the gods are appeased.
How Would You Interact with God If You Were an Adherent of Far Eastern Thought?
Those who follow a belief system based on Far Eastern Thought understand reality to be completely impersonal. There is no personal God to interact with. There is only the great impersonal cosmos. Various systems may acknowledge physical manifestations of God, but the overall view is that ultimate reality is the aggregate of energy which is already totally connected and moving toward the unity of the whole. Since all of the energy is connected, that which is related to any individual is already a part of the “godhead.” Since there is no personal God to pray to, they do not pray. Rather, since they are already a part of the ultimate cosmos they see themselves as a part of the divine – and people don’t pray to themselves. Rather the appropriate spiritual expression is meditation in order to contemplate how to more effectively progress in life.
How Would You Interact with God If You Were a Theist?
Theists believe that there is a transcendent God who is an objective person and who created the material order (including humanity) for a reason. The typical understanding of God recognizes that he has done something to reveal his will and his ways to mankind, usually in the form of some kind of scripture or through some prophet. The typical response to all of this, by mankind, is to try and get a grasp of God’s will and follow it. A part of that is to pray to God in order to acknowledge his presence and ask his favor. In most, though not all, forms of Theism, God is acknowledged as an objective person, though he is not seen to be personal in the sense that he forms an intimate and personal relationship with individual human beings.
The Christian Faith and God
Relational Revelation is a form of Theism, so there are some things that it will have in common with what has already been said above. As with all of the worldviews, though, Theism is a very broad category and cannot fully express the specific features of individual belief systems. As a result, if we are interested in how a particular faith system treats the topic of one’s devotional life, we have to address that system specifically. In our case now, since we accept Relational Revelation (Biblical Christianity) as being “the Truth,” we are particularly interested in knowing how that will be expressed in our own devotional life.
First let’s mention the things that are common with Theism in general. As with the Theistic explanation above, those who consider themselves to follow Relational Revelation believe that there is a transcendent God who is an objective person and who created the material order (including humanity) for a reason. We recognize that he has done something to reveal his will and his ways to mankind, and that revelation comes by means of his created order, the teachings that he gave through the writers of the Bible and his Holy Spirit. As with Theism in general, we also attempt to respond to this revelation by working to get a grasp of God’s will and making our best effort to follow it. A part of that is to pray to God in order to acknowledge his presence and ask his favor.
Now all of that is great as far as it goes, but there is one more thing that is essential to understand. In the case of Relational Revelation, God is understood to be personal in the sense that he created us for fellowship with himself. He has specifically revealed the way for that to happen and provided the means to accomplish it through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Now, an intellectual understanding of that revelation is essential, but is not enough. We must also have an experiential understanding of it. In other words, we must actually establish the relationship and interact with God within it. This relationship is an actual objective reality in the same way as the relationships we have with other human beings.
For some, this may seem a little strange since other human beings have a physical body and God doesn’t. But a physical body is not the necessary ingredient for a relationship. If that were the case, we could have a relationship with a dead corpse.
What we need to understand is that a relationship is a spiritual activity and occurs between the essential spirits of two individuals. As for ourselves, we are not physical beings who have a spirit. Rather, we are spiritual beings who have a body. Our essential spirit is the fundamental core of our personhood and when we relate with someone else, the essence of the relationship happens spirit to spirit, not body to body.
Perhaps you now see where this is going. The fact is, God is spirit. In fact, the reason we are spiritual beings is because God created us in his image. He put the elements of personhood in us – things such as free will, self-consciousness, creativity, analytical ability, and so on. We are persons because God is a person and created us in his image. As a result, it is possible for us to interact with God on that essential spiritual level. Certainly there are necessary differences because our human relationships operate within a material environment. But it is possible for us to actually communicate with God in an objective sense because he made us spiritual like himself.
This means that when we pray, there is an actual communication taking place where information is being exchanged between ourselves and God. Since it is not being filtered through our physical senses, we must learn how to listen to God’s communication through strictly spiritual channels. But make no mistake, an actual conversation between ourselves and God is possible, and is his desire.
One more thing we must be aware of. Since it is possible for us to receive actual spiritual communication from the spiritual realm, we can also hear from Satan and his minions. Typically we refer to this as a “temptation,” but it is nothing less than a spiritual communication designed to lead us away from God. As a result, it is essential that as we learn how to communicate with God, we must also learn how to discern which communication is from him and which is from Satan. This is what scripture is for. God’s written revelation includes instructions related to how we make this distinction.
The only thing left is to take the understanding, that we are able to intentionally and objectively communicate with God, then actually begin communicating. God created us for the purpose of relationship with himself. He provided the means which allows it to happen. And he has initiated the process. What remains is for us to make the decision to interact with him and to do it. When you figure this out, your devotional life will take on a level of meaning that before you could only dream about.
© 2007 Freddy Davis