"God cannot be found in a book of religion," said the spiritual teacher and mind/body doctor, Deepak Chopra.
That's probably not saying it strong enough. God cannot be found at all.
If, however, you think of God as "up there, somewhere," and you as "down here on earth," that is to say, if you see God as separate from you -- then that is precisely why God cannot be found.
"Separation" is a fabrication of a worn out theology made popular in the twentieth century by the likes of such programs as Evangelism Explosion, the Four Spiritual Laws, etc. In this theological construct, God and you are separate. God is holy and just. You're a sinner, rotten to the core. And, unless you repent of sin, accept Jesus as your sinless substitute -- since he was not a sinner -- you, my friend, are doomed to spend eternity in hell.
Period. It is this belief that encourages Christian preachers to proclaim a theology that excludes virtually all of humanity from God and consigns them to hell (see the recent tweet by the Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll).
This theological misunderstanding of Jesus' life and death -- known as "the substitutionary theory of atonement" -- has been, for decades, the exclusive way of explaining Jesus' life and death. To question it, sends many Christians into a doctrinal cardiac arrest.
But questioning it is what many have been doing quietly for just about as many decades and, now, with the help of the internet, Christians and theologians and churchgoers and "Nones," and scores of people world wide, have discovered they're not alone in questioning this and other outworn theologies and doctrines.
I grew up being taught this doctrine of atonement and no alternative was ever given. We we expected to swallow it like the Jonestown folks were expected to drink the fatally-laced Kool Aid. What many now realize is that this theology has had a similar effect on the spiritual lives of people for centuries.
It's time to let it go.
There is another way of understanding the Christian story, and it is not only more consistent with what Jesus actually taught, but it shares a common understanding with many other faith traditions.
That way is simply to read the story of Jesus not from the place of "a sinner separated from God." Start, instead, from the perspective that you are "a spiritual person in union with God already."
Why? Because you are.
For some of you, this won't be easy. Raised, as I was, on a theological diet high in a caloric content of "separation," it will likely feel frightening to you to let go of this one-sided way of thinking, even though it has not felt right to you for a long time.
When you do begin to let it go, however, you discover how beautiful life is lived in union with God. Questions like: "How do I find God?" will start to feel foreign to you. Instead of always looking for God, you will feel God and enjoy walking in the joy of this ineffable Presence. This produces real transformation in how you think, live, treat others and the world.
Here are the five ways to help along this spiritual transformation inside yourself:
1. Change your thinking about yourself and about God.
You are not separate from God. You did not inherit some faulty gene that, while dormant in your infancy years, has come to life at some mythical "age of accountability." Which, by the way, my friend, is nowhere in scripture. This notion of "inherited" sin or "original sin," or "age of accountability," -- these are all just theological constructs created by religious thinkers down through the centuries and, for all the good you may wish to believe they have done, the damage is manifestly worse, and will likely take centuries to heal. They have no basis whatsoever in any of Jesus' teachings. I challenge anyone to prove differently.
Will you let go of your old ways of thinking? Can you? Would you change the way you think about yourself, about God? Will you start with the assumption that God is in you already?
Just as you cannot find God in a book of religion, you cannot find God in church, either. Both of these venues may be portals into God's presence. But that's all they are and, don't ever forget, God needs neither, for God has many portals. If what you want is an inner sense of God's nearness -- and, what spiritual person does not? -- why would you look outside yourself for who is in you -- who IS you already?
2. Regard every thought of God as God.
Some of you are reading this only to find something with which to disagree. You have found it, too. Yet, you're still reading.
Why? Are you looking for more with which to disagree? You'll find that, too. So, what is it with you? Do you need just a little more fire power for your eventual response? Or, do you just enjoy feeling miserable toward Christians like me that you readily dismiss as "reprobates," "apostates," or severely misguided nitwits who are "proof" the "end is near?"
You're still reading. Still.
Is it possible that somewhere deep within you, my words strike a chord of authenticity? Might it be that you keep coming back because that something in you is quietly calling out to you and it feels right?
Do not run from this, my friend. Do not let your fear, your ego, your position or your anxiety over what others might think of you if you finally admit that you, too, have had questions and doubts about all this theological nonsense you've been told you must believe, or you will go to hell.
If it rings true, my friend, in the deepest part of your soul, that's because it is true.
Others of you are reading this, but you're at a different place. Your openness, your willingness to change your way of thinking is like fertile soil, rich and ready for new seeds to take root, spout and grow. It is for you, I write these words, and offer them as portals into Presence within you now.
Could it be that you are reading this article because it is God who is knocking on the door of your consciousness?
I love the way Rumi, the Sufi poet put it: "I have lived on the lip of insanity...wanting to know reasons, knocking on doors. The door opens! I've been knocking from the inside."
You will decide how to regard any of this. You will also decide whether to regard your next thought of God, whether is is God or just some genetic impulse that science has not thoroughly explained.
I would kindly suggest, however, remain open to the possibility that the fact you're reading this, as well as every thought of God you have that follows, might just be God awakening in you.
Ralph W. Emerson said, "Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, know that we carry it within us or we find it not."
3. Practice believing that God dwells in you already.
If you make it your practice to give a little attention to every thought of God you have, you will soon start believing each thought of God is God. This is how believing works.
Believing, at least in the way Jesus expressed it, has little to do with content and everything to do with conduct. So make these suggestions your spiritual practice. This is how faith grows and believing, or trusting works. "To trust" is actually a better translation of the Biblical meaning of the word "believe. "Believe" is too easily confused with beliefs.
So, as you make your new way of thinking -- ie., "God cannot be found because God is in me already," -- as you make this your daily practice, soon it will become you way of daily living.
You way of daily feeling, too.
If you want to explore this reality in greater depth, I encourage you to read my award-winning book, The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God. In it, I explore this in great detail.
4. Remember that God dwells in all others, too.
Even all things. If you make this your new way of thinking, you will begin believing, and so behaving, that the God who is in you is the same God in others as well.
All things, too.
"That's pantheism," you say.
And, your point?
Let go of labels, my friend. Mystery is inexplicable.
Can you imagine the difference it would make in your life, in your relationships, in this world, if you could see God, not just in yourself, but in everyone and everything else?
Rather than labeling me some "liberal Christian," or "progressive Christian," and then dismissing, or worse, despising me...
Rather than me labeling you some "narrow-minded fundamentalist," or "dispensational, pre-millienial Christian," who is only interested in escaping the world with the Rapture, can you wonder with me what difference it would most certainly make if people made it their spiritual practice to see God in each other...in all things?
5. Be still and know that I am God.
Some of you will recognize these words are from Psalm 42:10, one of my favorite psalms. Maybe one of yours, too.
Why? The one word in Hebrew is translated with the two words in English: "Be still." Which really means, "Let go," "Relax," "Release control."
In other words, stop trying to find God.
Why? It isn't necessary. Besides, you cannot find what is not lost. Knowing God takes nothing more than real repentance -- which, Biblically means "to change how you think." Repentance is not the phony, emotional stuff perpetrated in the "revivalist" traditions of my youth, and much of Christian history since the eighteenth century. This kind of "repentance" is needed at every revival meeting. And, it's long-term spiritual effects never lasted long enough before another revival was needed to reconnect those who never seemed capable of living with a continual sense of the Presence of God.
In the end, my friend, the question, "How do I find God?" is the wrong question and actually born of an inadequate theology.
God is in you already. If Jesus' life and death and teachings make anything clear it is this: The veil is torn (Matt. 27:51) the wall of separation is all an illusion, has been an illusion and will always be an illusion.
Practice this truth and, in time, you will discover that your old ways of thinking will undergo a miraculous metamorphosis -- it's called "salvation" in the Bible -- you will make the inexplicable discovery that the Presence you seek is the person you are.
Think about this for a while. You might just decide this is a "salvation" you can believe in.