I again watched The Matrix the other night at the prompting, I believe, of the Holy Spirit. One might suggest, “You really believe it was the Holy Spirit who encouraged you to watch a violence-ridden, rated-R movie? He’s known as the Holy Spirit, remember?” I suppose that’s a somewhat valid point. Were I watching it for the amusement of my flesh and it’s desire to relish in people being beaten up and killed, I would agree that God didn’t invite me to partake.
But, that certainly wasn’t why I loaded the DVD at 2 a.m. Sunday night and watched the final 1/2 hour after returning from Heather’s. Or why I watched the movie in full Wednesday night.
When I was driving back from Valparaiso, I was doing some worshiping and praying as I usually do and inviting God to talk to me about some stuff. And, as usual, He awakened my spirit to all sorts of exciting things. And as my faith was stirred up and stirred up some more, a famous line from The Matrix plopped into my head: “He’s beginning to believe.”
The line is spoken by Morpheous about 3/4 of the way through the movie. Neo had just stepped into his destiny as the savior of humanity when he defied conventional wisdom and staged a grand rescue of Morpheous from the hands of three agents. With new-found courage and abilities, and with Morpheous safe in the real world, Neo again sets aside conventional wisdom and turns to fight Agent Smith in the subway station rather than run away from him.
Trinity and Morpheous, watching it all unfold, are both in wonder: Trinity is concerned Neo’s going to die and Morpheous is convinced more than ever Neo’s The One. “What’s he doing?” Trinity asks. Morpheous’ reply is simple: “He’s beginning to believe.”
Neo goes on to be the first human to ever stand his ground against an agent and survive. And by the end of the movie he’s stopping bullets in mid-air and diving right through Agent Smith rather than punching him.
The point isn’t that I’m pursuing the lost art of bullet-stopping… it’s that I’m venturing a few more steps down the path of “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23) and “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
Most of the stuff God was talking to me about on the drive back from Valparaiso had to do with His calling on my life and His calling upon Heather and I collectively. I certainly don’t have either of them all figured out yet, but what I do feel in my spirit and what numerous people have prophesied over me is that God’s calling me to a life of great faith. Now, granted, we’re all called to lives of faith. We’re saved by grace, through faith (Eph. 2:8); “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:8); and “Whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). Living a life of faith is not optional for us believers. But I think how that is lived out on a practical, day-to-day basis varies for everyone. And it seems like mine might be a more extreme version—something completely unlike the life I’m living right now.
Medical insurance, for example
As I’ve pushed into this stirring, more and more righteous annoyance with the systems of the world has risen up within me—annoyance with all these “conventions” the American life is built upon under the premises of safety, security, risk management, etc. Insurance. Social Security. Retirement accounts. Annual check-ups. Credit cards and loans. College eduction. Salary. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all of them. But I guess I’m growing to realize that it’s maybe the old man that appreciates them so much; my new man is beginning to feel suffocated by them.
Why would I feel suffocated by something as great as, say, medical insurance? Well, how much faith in Jehova Rapha, the Lord Who Heals You, can I establish when I can always go to Dr. Brown, MD, the one who heals me? Sure, God uses doctors as instruments of healing. I believe that. But would I rather know the Lord indirectly as my healer, or directly? It obviously isn’t impossible to experience revelation and manifestation of God as miraculous healer in my life while being a purchaser of medical insurance and consumer of health care. I’m just saying I find it an obstacle that I must consciously make an effort to clear if I’m to see breakthrough in this area. And if something is in the way between ourselves and God, we’re to move it, aren’t we?
Now, of course, “wisdom” says: “Of course you should have medical insurance. That’s just the wise thing to do.” Ok. Tell me why. “Well… because… you just never know what’s going to happen. God might not…” ‘Might not’ what? Be true to His Word? Come through when it counts the most? Care for me as His son? That’s obviously not the voice of faith.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve not yet dropped my medical insurance. (Though, I’m not scared of the day I might be asked or forced to do so.) And I’m certainly not saying it’s wrong to have it. I’m just making a point. I’m starting to look at things like insurance as systems of the world that, while in-and-of themselves not evil, are leveraged by the architect of those systems (The Prince of the Power of the Air) as a means of hindering us from knowing God as fully as we could.
How, then, do I currently deal with that hindrance? I follow the Bible’s prescription for sickness as found in James 5 and have people of faith pray for me and anoint me with oil. I confess God’s truths over my life, that such prayers of faith with save the sick and that Lord will raise me up. I declare that by His stripes, I am healed (Is. 53:5). I forget not His benefits, among which are that He heals all my diseases (Ps. 103:3). And then, if after a week or two I’m still under the weather for some reason, I might go to the doctor.
I don’t feel bad or guilty or faithless for doing so, either. I realize that I don’t fully understand how divine healing and miracles work. I’m a rookie. My faith foundation in healing still has much growth ahead of it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t expect God to be true to his word. Because, while my experience may vary for a variety of reasons, God’s Word is always, always, always true and His nature never, ever, ever changes. I don’t interpret God’s Word through the lens of my experiences, or those of others; I interpret experiences through God’s Word. And when something doesn’t equate, I realize there’s something I’m missing or don’t understand. God’s wisdom and knowledge are infinite; mine is limited.
That was a really long example and kind of a side-track. But, I guess it seemed a rabbit trail worth traveling down.
The Problem With Conventions
Getting back on track, I was talking about conventions and the struggles I’m finding with them. In the way I’m using the term, Webster’s defines a convention as “a general agreement about basic principles or procedures; usage or custom especially in social matters; a rule of conduct or behavior; an established technique, practice, or device.” The word conventional is defined, in this context, as “according with, sanctioned by, or based on convention; lacking originality or individuality.” So, basically, most conventions that I’m talking about here are the ways in which we humans have decided life works best. These are fine and all, as long as they don’t interfere with growth in our relationships with God.
For example, I would say that for the most part, the practice of most people of being awake during the daytime and sleeping during the nighttime is a pretty safe convention. So is eating 3-square a day (though, I’d recommend smaller main meals and more snacks in-between). But, we have to be willing to break such conventions when God calls us to pray through the night or fast a few days. If we determine that conventions are the only way we can live, God will take issue with them.
The Bible story that comes to mind related to this is when God called Abraham out of Ur in Genesis 12:
“Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
One of the conventions God pulled Abraham from was polytheism. Another was finding some land and settling down for the rest of one’s life. But God had a better offer for Abraham than the status quo, conventional life. He wanted Abraham to father nations and channel His blessing to them. Quite the honor! And while God Himself certainly has systems and rules He abides by that could be considered “conventions” (He never lies, He’s always good, He’s the same yesterday, today and forever, etc.), His interactions with humanity are anything but. We see time and time again throughout scripture how God chooses to lead people out of a mundane system and into the abundant life. Gideon. David. Joseph. Paul. Moses. Mary. Jesus. The disciples.
And so it’s with a desire to see God’s reality manifest in my life more fully that I take issue with life’s conventions. It’s from desire to see His kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I believe life’s conventions rob us from experiencing God’s fullness more than we’d like to admit.
Agent Smith has a great quote in The Matrix related to this. After capturing Morpheous, he’s somewhat relishing in what he believes is a sure victory for the machines and their system of control (the matrix) over humanity. And so he taunts Morpheous by questioning, “Have you ever stood and stared at it? Marveled at its beauty? Its genius? Billions of people just living out their lives… oblivious.” That’s one of the enemy’s chief objectives: to have billions of us living out our lives, completely oblivious to his work in and around us. Or if not oblivious, subdued enough to not have the will or motivation to do anything about it. Why believe God for healing when I can just go to the doctor? Why risk stepping out in faith when I have this good job? Why give this money away when I could save it for retirement?
The enemy isn’t up to anything new. Most of these conventions I’ve mentioned, these systems of the world, seek to establish our lives upon the same lie he deceived Eve with in the garden: “Did God really say…?” Did God really say He heals all of your diseases? You better make sure you have medical insurance. Did God really say He’d provide for all of your needs? You better keep that good job. Did God really say that if you sought first the kingdom of Heaven, all these things will be added to you? You better put that money in an IRA rather than giving it to missions.
Ever since that ride back from Valparaiso, the question of “What is true wisdom?” has been stuck in my mind. Traditionally, I’ve looked upon most of life’s conventions as a wise and/or safe approach to life. Go to college, get a good job, get good insurance and benefits, buy a house, save for retirement. The stuff of the American dream. Minimize risk, maximize security. But are those things truly wise? Are they truly safe? What is true wisdom?
Scripture says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). So, we see that true wisdom is rooted in acknowledging Who God is. That’s far different that “playing it safe” or “making wise decisions” based on good information and solid reasoning. The fear of God drove Noah to build the ark (Heb. 11:7), which turned out to be a very “wise” decision. Reasonable? No, for it hadn’t ever rained before. But wise? Absolutely. Abraham was willing to offer Isaac as a sacrifice because of his fear of God (Gen. 22:12). Again, it wasn’t very reasonable give the fact that Isaac was his only son, but wisdom was “shown to be right by its results” (Matt. 11:19).
In fact, it seems that God deems wise the very things we find foolish. 1 Cor. 1:18-31:
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”
So, again I ask: What is wisdom? This passage offers more insight and indicates that Jesus, actually, is wisdom incarnate: “Christ the power of God and wisdom of God” and “Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God.” This make sense, because in Proverbs 8:22-31, we see wisdom’s pivotal role in creation. And we know from John 1:3 that all things were made through Christ, the Word become flesh. So essentially, the Word, Jesus Christ and wisdom are quite interrelated.
There is, in fact, nothing conventional about true, Godly wisdom—which is completely unpredictable and entirely foolish from a worldly perspective. Jesus was brutally murdered by His own people because God’s solution to the problem of sin flew so violently in the face of the Jewish elite’s wisdom. Example after Biblical example shows that God wishes to prove man’s ways wrong and His ways right by raising up seemingly foolish solutions to the most serious of problems.
Nothing is Impossible
As I sought God for insight into true wisdom and the unconventional (or maybe anti-conventional) life I feel Him beckoning me to live, I felt Him birth within me a challenging notion: “We simply CAN’T over-expect from God.” It’s absolutely impossible. We could never ask for too much; we could never pull on heaven too often; we could never out-dream God or over-believe for Him to provide. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9). While it is certainly possible to have misplaced or wrong expectations when we stray from the Word, God’s response will always be better and more good than our expectations.
Expect the impossible, because nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37). Believe for God’s power to flow through you, for “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt. 17:20). This is scripture I’m quoting here: God’s written promise book and love letter to us, His sons and daughters. It isn’t meant to tease us about what could’a been had we lived in the first century. They are His words to His people for all eternity.
The supernatural reality that we’re able to step into when we begin to believe is of an infinitely higher magnitude that Neo stepped into when he began to believe. Elijah called down fire from heaven and held rain at bay for 3 1/2 years. Adino the Eznite killed 800 men at once. As a youth, David took out a bear, a lion and a giant and as a man performed all sorts of other feats. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were unscathed by an inferno. Peter walked on water and saw his shadow heal people. Philip teleported. Paul endured many beatings, a shipwreck and a deadly snake latching onto his hand. Jesus… well… a world full of books couldn’t contain all the mighty works he performed. And there are thousands of people across the globe living miraculous lives each and every day— right here in the 21st century. Check out the documentary Finger of God for some examples.
Access Life Through Faith
This all requires faith. We have to have faith to believe. We have to have faith to understand the Word and encounter Christ and discover true wisdom. We have to have faith to buck the systems of the world and take up God’s higher ways. We have to have faith to see ourselves as God sees us: men and women indwelled with the same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead.
We have to have faith to accept that we are complete in Christ, and that, as Francis Frangipane says: “We’re not attaining God’s fullness in us; we’re becoming aware of it. We’re not just souls struggling up into God, we’re new creations coming down from God. That person we are seeking God to become—he is already in us and is already complete. When we press into the Lord, we’re discovering what God has already done.”
We, like Neo, must not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Then we’ll be able to live those radical, anti-conventional lives of faith which unquestionably prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God—all for His renown.