Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Things Prepared

To have had truth made known to you is not the same as understanding truth.

Parents will grasp this instantly. You’re correcting your five-year old, and he asks why, so you explain. He can process the words. He can retain the words. They have been “made known” to him, and they have become part of his experience. They reside in his memory, where he can access them and make use of them when he grows into them.

But your words are not of much practical use to him in the moment, because he doesn’t yet fully comprehend them.

No Longer Called Servants

This, I think, is the same process described for us in John 15:
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
Now this is a wonderful, wonderful thing, and should not be minimized. To be called a friend rather than a servant is truly glorious, and to be told that the Master you love has shared with you all that matters to him is a gift to be prized and a privilege to be pondered interminably.

But if we think that the disciples at this point had even begun to enter into what the Lord had made known to them, the Gospel record that follows would pull us up sharply.

Not Quite Apprehended

What didn’t they know? Well, they weren’t at all clear that the Lord was to be crucified, and that this was both his will and his Father’s, though Jesus had stated this truth both obliquely and plainly to them over and over. Matthew tells us he began doing this the moment Peter confessed him as the Christ in Caesarea Philippi. He did it again as the disciples were gathering in Galilee, and yet again as they were going up together to Jerusalem. All three synoptic Gospels record each incident, and John adds three more.

And yet despite this fundamental and absolutely vital truth being “made known” to the disciples, that knowledge was of no more real-world use to them than the five-year old processing the moral calculus behind his recent correction. The evidence is that when the authorities came for the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, despite all that had been made known to them, the disciples could not figure out whether to fight or flee, and in the aftermath of their Master’s crucifixion they were devastated, so much so that he had to reprove them for failing to believe God had raised him from the dead even as he stood directly in front of them showing them his pierced hands and feet.

Divine Knowledge Unprocessed

All that the Lord Jesus had heard from his Father he had made known to them on the subject of his death and many other subjects beside, but they had not yet grown into that knowledge. They weren’t clear on the timing of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel in even the most general terms. They had not processed the consequences of the Holy Spirit being given or how that might impact their fellowship in days to come. In fact, the remainder of the New Testament is nothing more than the product of these same disciples working out via the agency of the Spirit of God the inevitable, prophesied consequences of all that had been already “made known” to them by the Lord Jesus.

Like the five-year old, that knowledge was already resident with them. They just needed to work it through.

What God Has Prepared

Something similar happens with us, doesn’t it. If the Lord could say to his disciples, “All that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you,” how much more is this the case with you and me, with the entirety of scripture open before us, with the Holy Spirit of God making his home in our hearts and with two thousand years worth of written meditation on these very passages from our fellow believers — with whom we have been placed in the Body of Christ in order to build up and edify one another — available to us at the push of a button.
“ ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’ — these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”
Astounding truth. Past tense: “has revealed”! Just as the disciples had the Father’s thoughts laid bare before them, so the Christian has had the truth of what God has prepared for him opened up to him by the Spirit of God. What this says about the nature of our relationship with God constitutes a meditation of its own, but what should be clear is that we are faced with the same problem as the disciples: making already-revealed truth a reality in our lives.

Growing Up

The servant does not know what the master is doing, but you and I can know what the Father is doing if we are prepared to hear and believe and grow up into the knowledge we have already been given. I cannot for the life of me see how we can do that without constant exposure to — indeed, without a rapacious, insatiable hunger for — the word of God. There is no other way.

I don’t mean Hebrew and Greek study, and I don’t mean Bible school, though these have their benefits. I don’t even mean reading William MacDonald’s New Testament commentary cover to cover, though that won’t hurt.

Just read scripture. Read it, read it, read it some more. Never stop thinking about it and working it out it your life. If you can’t read it, get someone to read it to you, or go hear it read. The things God has prepared for those who love him are already revealed. You don’t need a mystical experience, the pseudo-prophetic word or some wave of post-Pentecostal ginned-up emotion to apprehend them.

For Those Who Love Him

Further, God has prepared these things for “those who love him”. Not just for a particular elite caste of saints, or just for those in a particular denomination. The criterion is dead simple and nobody who loves Jesus Christ, regardless of intellectual capacity or adherence to a particular church tradition is excluded. Yet millions of genuine believers are starved for the appreciation of the relationship God intended for them because they have never made it a habit to expose themselves regularly and repeatedly to God’s word so that his Spirit can take what has already been revealed and make it real to them.

I’ve come to believe that the extent to which I attend to the words of God in my Bible is a fairly accurate index of my love for and friendship with Christ.

What a shame to miss out on the enjoyment of that.

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