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Early in my Christian walk, the Lord gave me two separate words or principles of guidance.
One was Form vs Essence, the distinction between what something looks, sounds, or feels like, and the spirit or essence that originally created or expressed in that particular way or form. Essence or spirit creates or expresses in form, but duplicating the form does not of itself recreate the essence or spirit. Forms can be hollow or empty. A simple but good Old Testament example of that is circumcision, where circumcision that included of the heart was not the same as mere physical circumcision. Yet the latter looked exactly the same.
Satan has used the appearance of things spiritual in origin to confuse and deceive man. He suggests that all we need to do to regain the essence or spiritual reality of something is to duplicate the action, repeat some words, or recapture a feeling, and we have re-created the spirit or essence. The form then becomes the definition of the essence or spirit, and the focus of one’s effort or activity.
The Church and Christians have fallen for Satan’s lying deceptions in some very important and critical ways. The spirit and inner heart belong to the unseen realm, and the natural carnal mind cannot see the things of the spirit. It can easily confuse the two. A Christian may have a beautiful encounter and experience with the Lord. He may want to experience it over again, or share and pass it along to others, and believe that all he or the other person needs to do is repeat whatever he did, say the same words,, or stir up the same feelings. Becoming “born again” is one important area where the church has fallen into what can be understood or recognized asformalizing the “born again” experience. There is an explanation, an invitation, and repeat after me prayer format. The person or soul invited may or may not be spiritually ready, fully understand, agree, feel pressured, want group or social acceptance. . He is told that as soon as he prays this prayer, says these prepared words, he will be “born again,” and when he does, he is pronounced “born again.”
A heart that turns to and opens to the Lord, will always be accepted by Him, regardless of what words or even any, may be uttered. God looks upon the heart. Only He knows when and if that spirit or soul has been reborn. But the man that went through a formal process may believe he is, simply because pronounced so, regardless of any witness of the Holy Spirit within him. And of course a corollary is that anyone who does not go the formal route is not believed to be “saved,” etc.
The solution to this problem within an evangelizing church is not simple, but it starts with a clear recognition of the problem.
A God Listener