She appears on the screen. The hormones take over, and you can't avert your gaze. You stare. Something you see feeds a hunger inside, and you devour this vision, even as you know you are making a fool of yourself. For hours, even days after, you can't shake the feeling. Then, some photographer catches her in real life, without the perfect lighting, without the make up and carefully set tresses, etc. Okay, she's still cute, but hardly the vision of loveliness you thought you first saw. You feel cheated, made a fool of, and you wonder how she managed to capture your attention in the first place.
In your service to the Kingdom, sometimes an idea strikes you. It's quite glorious at the time, because the flaws are hidden from you. There are any number of causes, but something inside you wants this thing too much. That should be a warning. Just as a romance worth pursuing should take time, should be able to live on its own without being fed day and night, so are good ideas from the Spirit. The thing should have its own existence, should be a thing which you cannot walk away from, a thing which waits patiently for your return.
We are often warned in the Word of God there are no shortcuts in Christ. Because we have the Holy Spirit inside, we are now responsible for accepting guidance from the Lord in ways far more subtle, far less clear and precise than seems to have come through the Old Testament prophets. While the Lord is hardly prevented from working any way He chooses, the default has changed. His eternal presence is not a driving force from outside, but from inside.
While it is obvious we can develop a body of teaching and principles for following Christ, they remain outside the concrete and objective limits so comfortable to our Western minds. At the root of things, we are not learning ideas, but a Person. This Person comes to us in the presence of a Spirit inside, something always just out of reach from the intellect. Press too hard for precision and He seems to evaporate. He is not to be found there. Rather, He speaks via changes in the convictions.
Withing the reborn spirit, there is something which results from the intertwining of the human and divine, a bedrock of identity we call "conviction." It often starts out something ill-defined, buried under the rubble of our old sinful life. In time, we clarify that bedrock by clearing away things which do not belong to it. The thing itself cannot be removed; it won't be denied. You may strive to ignore it, but in the attempt you will eventually trip over it again and again. All things in this life must be measured against it. All the ideas breezing through the mind must be compared to it. What does not fit must be discarded. What matches we keep, we obey as a word from God.
An idea from God is a calling, a command, a bit of Living Word. It will be rooted in your very being. Whether it is first pleasant and alluring is immaterial. In the light of day when things are at their worst, it will be even more winsome. Like a woman who is truly beautiful, a lack of makeup and camera angle, a sad face, standing in the ruins of a really bad day, she will still take your heart away.
Ed Hurst is Associate Editor of Open for Business.