We shared a post last week that contained a video of a pastor’s concerns with both books,”One Thousand Gifts” and “Jesus Calling”, and the mysticism contained throughout them. The pastor also shared deeply of his concerns with the romantic, sensual language used by Ann Voskamp in “One Thousand Gifts” to describe her relationship and encounter with God.
If you have not watched the video, you may do so by clicking here. It might help you understand what we are talking about in this post.
In response to this video, there were some questions raised regarding our love for God. Are we not to have a close, intimate relationship with God? What about the Song of Solomon and its erotic portrayal of love? Isn’t the church called the Bride of Christ? Is it wrong to view Christ as our lover?
We both feel that since we brought the video and these questions to those reading here, then we should also walk through the struggle of answering these questions from the Bible itself. We truly love the Lord with all our hearts and we desire to hold up the absolute truth of His Word . . . yet we also realize that we are human and subject to error. So we have consulted with our pastor, William Byler, in this blog post. Our aim is to present what the Bible says on this, and not just our own opinions.
Biblical Love Defined
God is love!!
I love God with all my heart and want to follow His commandments. However……..God’s love being erotic/sensual towards his creation (humans) in this life is unbiblical.
Some of the following is a bit explicit but necessary to explain clearly. Kendra and I believe the Bible is infallible and are only pointing out that some (not all) of Ann Voskamp’s words and beliefs (in 1,000 Gifts) are in disagreement with the Bible! I am going to list a few of her quotes from “One Thousand Gifts” (page numbers listed). These are just a few, there are many more using similar or even more explicit language.
“I fly to Paris and discover how to make love to God.” p. 201
“To merge with Beauty Himself. But here ….. Now? Really? ….. I am not at all certain that I want consummation…..And who wouldn’t cower at the invitation to communion with limitless Holiness Himself?” p. 211
“Then God lays down all of His fullness into all the emptiness. I am in Him. He is in me. I embrace God in the moment. I give Him thanks, and I bless God and we meet and couldn’t I make love to God, making every moment love for Him? To know Him the way Adam knew Eve. Spirit skin to spirit skin.” p. 216-217
If you have a Strong’s concordance, a simple look at the Greek words for “love” in the New Testament will make it plain they are either “phileo” – friendship/brotherly love or “agape” – unconditional/sacrificial love. There are some passages in the Old Testament wherein the Hebrew root (affection for) in context could be sensual or erotic. However these, when directed toward the church or the Hebrew nation, are set in the future tense as far as we’ve found.
The main passage people like to point to as an example of Christ/God having sensual or erotic love toward man, is the Song of Solomon. This passage is simply the beautiful, sensual love of a husband and wife. Nowhere is the connotation of this being Christ and the church while on this earth.
The argument can be made there will be an extremely intimate component to Christ’s love for the church after the bride (corporate church) and Christ are consummated at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in heaven. This is based on how the betrothal period and marriage are depicted between humans all throughout the Bible. Christ and the men who wrote the New Testament all agree that sex before marriage is sin (fornication). The coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Christians at Pentecost (Acts 2) is in no way described in a sensual or erotic way. Why would He (the Holy Spirit) be any different with Christians today?
The plain and simple reading of Ann’s words in Chapter 11 of One Thousand Gifts depict spirit sex – there is no other way to read them. Nowhere do we find her advocating the biblical spirit test (1 John 4:1-4). If she wanted to make the argument for this kind of relationship with God, it should have been made in agreement with God’s plain instructions of saving oneself for marriage. One can logically deduct from the examples in the Bible that the consummation (complete intimacy) of the Bride of Christ (corporate church) will not be until the church is fully joined to Christ at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” – – Revelation 19:6-9
We do not advocate studying the occult deeply. However if one does, you will find relationships that happen with demonic spirits often end up in some kind of parasitic, sexual relationship. We have an acquaintance that spent 15 years deep in the occult that has 100% corroborated what we are sharing! Satan (the father of lies) and his legions are more than happy to fornicate spiritually or otherwise with any person looking for this kind of thing.
It is dangerous to blindly trust a voice in our head, assuming it is the Holy Spirit of God, as Sarah Young seems to have done in “Jesus Calling”. We cannot trust our heart (Jeremiah 17:9), our emotions or what a random spirit may be saying………….as trustworthy. We are given this spirit test as a safety net (1 John 4:1-4). Simply challenge the spirit with this……..word for word! This passage as well as the rest of the Bible are given us by Almighty God as a safe pathway to Him and eternal life, so why not use it?
“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.” Philippians 3:10
Someone asked about the word “know” in Philippians 3:10. Is this an invitation to know Christ intimately? The word “know” is defined in the Greek as “to come to know, perceive, get a knowledge of, to understand”. It can also mean sexual intercourse between a man and woman. Since this has a broad meaning, we must go to the context to understand what it means in a given passage. This same word is used when Joseph knew not Mary until after Jesus’ birth in Matthew 1:25. Judging from the context, we realize it was speaking of a sexual intimacy in Matthew, whereas it is an understanding or gaining a knowledge of Christ in Philippians.
Our heart’s cry is to share and live out the truth of God. John the Baptist lost his head for sharing God’s truth. We can surely be bold to do the same!
P.S. – Please avail yourself of the links below to learn more about this unbiblical, romantic panentheism!
How Then Shall We Love Him?
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked Him a question, tempting Him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” – – Matthew 22:35-38
There is a prayer that I pray for my children often. It is this: that God will put such an incredibly deep love for Him and His Word within their hearts . . . that nothing will shake it. My children will face deception, ridicule, and possibly persecution within their lifetimes. And I know the deeper a person loves God, the more likely they will be to live for Him in the hard things – and even die for Him.
Not long ago I was faced with a decision: did I want to be just a Christian? Or did I want to be the kind of Christian who loves this God with all her heart, who loves the Word that shows me who He is? Could I be the Christian who puts their hand, heart, and soul to the Gospel plow and never looks back? Did I truly want to do this with all I had in me? I did. And I’ve never regretted it.
There are five things that have helped me to love God with all my heart. I will share them with you.
- I sincerely ask God to to help me learn to love Him with all my heart. It wasn’t a trite asking, but a desperate cry from the bottom of my heart. I wanted it more than anything. And He answered. James 1:5
- I ask God to speak to me through His Word. And then open my heart to listen.
- I set down my devotional or Christian self-help book and completely and totally immerse myself in the Word of God. This is vital. I have found it imperative not to drink from any water – except from the Source of living water during my devotional time. I am not saying there is not a time to read Christian books, but until my heart is bursting in praise for God’s faithfulness, love, mercy, and grace, I put those other books down. It is necessary to know God’s Word inside and out to help with discerning the truth and error of man-authored books.
- I pray this prayer: “God, change my heart.” I am going to warn you, this will hurt. When God began convicting me of hidden sin in my heart, I wept. But I had put my hand to the plow and was not willing to do this half-heartedly. Because I knew He loved me and was doing this to purify my soul, I confessed those sins and repented of them. I allowed Him to change me.
- Lastly, I prayed one more prayer: “Who would You have me serve today?” He is my King and He has somebody special for me to serve every single day. This overwhelming love for God will come out in the way you serve others. It just keeps on giving.
“He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that love Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.” John 14:21
Many people don’t like to think that loving God requires doing.
I have found that to love my King with all my heart is not always a pleasant experience. Sometimes it is incredibly painful. Sometimes it requires that I lay down the deepest desires and wishes I hold in my heart. Sometimes it means that I must confess sins that were blind to me previously. It is a humbling of my heart and surrendering of everything within my life.
Sometimes it means we do the hard things . . . like staying faithful to a adulterating spouse or forgiving seventy times seven. It is taking up our cross to follow Him. Not everyone who says “Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven – but those who do the will of the Father. (Matthew 7:21)
This subject of “loving God means keeping His commandments” is one that I see my generation struggling with. Especially in the Anabaptist circles. Some of them have come out of church situations where the “doing” was emphasized more strongly than the “loving”. And it was done with unwilling spirits – no joy from pleasing the Lord of heaven.
Because of this, I see a huge tendency to jump straight from one ditch into the other. People are convinced there is no joy in the doing. We all truly long for peace and joy. It is an inborn, God-given desire to find joy in Him.
I can only speak from my own experience, but my deepest joy comes from this overwhelming love I hold for this God of Heaven – when I am completely and totally surrendered to Him, and walking in His ways.
When I have allowed His Spirit to mold my heart, when I do not fight Him . . . then there is so much joy it spreads outward in everything I do.
The steps I laid out above are ones I have personally taken . . . and I know them to be true in my own heart. If you want to know God is guiding you, if you want to feel Him close to you, if you want to have love and joy so deep nothing can shake it, then try this. It will mean crying out to Him in a desperation you may have never felt before. But what can it hurt to try? Step #3 is especially important. Shut out the other voices clamoring to be heard in books, social media – even this blog – and completely immerse yourself in God’s Word. How else will you truly know just what this God of the Bible is all about?
How do I know that I love Him? Let me tell you one more prayer I have prayed as I beheld the heartbreak and sin in the lives around me.
“Lord, if You can bring more souls into Your kingdom through my death than through my life . . . then I give it to You.”
This is one of the last things I will give Him before I behold His face.