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Monday, August 31, 2015

What Else Would You Expect?

You’re thinking about Christianity.

Perhaps you’re intellectually dissatisfied with the pat answers the world offers to questions of meaning and truth. Perhaps you’ve been impressed by a neighbor, friend or co-worker who says she loves Jesus Christ and is anything but a cliché about her faith. Perhaps … well, it doesn’t really matter what the reason is, does it?

But if you’re thinking it may be worth examining the Bible more carefully, what might you expect to find there?

1.  That God is Bigger Than We Are

This is a statement so obvious one might think it should not need to be mentioned at all. And yet everywhere we find people who presume that if there really is a Creator God, he is somehow answerable to humanity or must fall in line with our current assumptions about what constitutes appropriate conduct for deity.

So the first thing to get clear is the mind-boggling distance between Creator and creation. If the Christian God is eternal, all-powerful and all-knowing as has historically been supposed by those who worshipped him, all notions of calling him to account are permanently off the table.

The difference between parent and child or between owner and pet come to mind, though the inadequacies of such comparisons are obvious. As a parent, do you expect to be called to account for your financial priorities by a child not yet remotely capable of grasping your respective places in the world? Do I ask my cat whether or not I should go to work tomorrow? I’m sure if she could understand the question, she’d have an opinion, but it would be a remarkably uninformed one, and if I were somehow able to convey to her that her ongoing supply of kibble depends on my going to work tomorrow, she would most surely revise it.

So if we as adult human beings do not try to give answers to those currently unable to comprehend them, why should we expect God to respond to those who not only lack the ability to understand him but lack the desire to listen to his voice?

God is bigger than we are. Scripture tells us he is not far from us, and that he is willing to be found, but he is not at our beck and call.

What else would you expect?

2.  That the “Faith Principle” Will Turn Up Everywhere

Here is the fundamental principle by which finite man may approach the Infinite. Expect to encounter it over and over again as you read the Bible:
“Without faith it is impossible to please [God].”
Do not imagine that God exists to do parlour tricks for men, or that he is in any way diminished when we reject him and seek other sources of satisfaction. He is not about to show up in your backyard and explain to you the Meaning of Everything.

Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness,” says the apostle Paul. Faith got the job done over 4,000 years ago. It works today.

Again, picture a child with a parent. What does the parent hope for and dream of? Surely he does not dream of the day in which his child is sufficiently mature and intelligent to demand answers of him, and to comprehend them when they are given? No, it seems to me that he dreams of the day when his child so is so completely convinced of the love and goodness of the parent that he is willing to wait for the appropriate time to receive his answer.

The parent wants to be trusted. This is not unreasonable.

As a husband, how would you feel if you found your wife had installed an app on your iPhone to track your every move? Even if you are not given to doing inappropriate things when you are alone, you would probably find her lack of faith in you incredibly unsettling. You’d feel there was something lacking in your relationship because, relationship-wise, trust is the basis of everything that really matters.

God feels no differently about the importance of trust. Having granted us the gift of life and having carried each of us through it thus far, he has already more than done his bit. He has amply demonstrated both his fidelity and his interest in us. If you are determined to learn more about him, now is the time to demonstrate it by acting in faith.

Do you want to know for sure whether Jesus Christ was genuinely God in the flesh, or just a man talking off the top of his head? The key is to take a step of obedience by faith, just like Abraham: 
“If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”
Obedience produces understanding. Faith pleases God.

What else would you expect?

3.  There Is No Magic Button

By this I mean that the lights will not come on all at once. You are a finite being with a finite mind, and in every other area of knowledge, you learn by building on what you already know. In order to know God, you have to start somewhere, and learning about him will take time. He will reveal himself, but not without a regular indication from your behavior that such revelation is actually important to you.

In other words, if you do not care enough about knowing God to consistently read his word and to seek him in prayer, you will never know him
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
That’s something God told his people through the prophet Jeremiah, but it remains true today.

That also means accepting a reasonable standard of proof when you approach the word of God and not expecting to be 100% convinced on every question the moment you ask it. You sit on chairs without consulting engineers about their construction. You get into your new Toyota and drive to work without being assured that each of its 30,000-or-so parts has been quality controlled to your personal specifications. You married a woman (or man) without having video evidence of their characteristic behavior. You accepted the theory of evolution in high school on the basis that it was attested to by human scientists.

So how is it that, of all things in this universe, only God is required to endlessly prove himself by dancing to the ever-changing tune of those who doubt his existence? The writer to the Hebrews — the one who speaks about faith — continues by saying:
“For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
There is no magic button. Seek God. If it really matters to you, he will surely reward your search.

What else would you expect?

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