Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Knowing God

For the past few weeks, I have purposefully been studying various Bible passages that have always perplexed me with the hope of gleaning new understanding regarding their meanings.  At some point during my reading, I pray for God's wisdom and clarity about the particular passage, acknowledging to Him my intellectual frailties to fully "get" what He wants me to hear from it on my own.  It is also a concern to me that in my human understanding I could also make incorrect interpretations from the passage.  But God knows our weaknesses, and we just have to trust that He desires to show His truths to us when we are honestly seeking them with no other motive than a quest for His truths and purposes.   

It is also very crucial to remember that though God desires for us to get to know Him better each day and to know Him as well as we can, we can never fully know the mind of God (or we'd become God).  The idea, attitude, or desire to become God is obviously sinful.  This is the original sin--Eve wanted to know everything God knew and have her "eyes opened," and the serpent lured her to believe she would (Genesis 3:4-5, "'You will not certainly die,' the serpent said to the woman. 'For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'").  So we have to balance our desire to know God and to fully understand His Word and truths with the humility that we can obviously never fully ascertain all of God's wisdom.  If we think we "arrive" at knowing the entire Bible and, "getting it," we fool ourselves and we mock God.

Years ago I had an uncomfortable yet interesting discussion with a nonbeliever about the existence of God.  This person was determined to convince me that since I couldn't understand or know everything about the beginning of the earth and the creation of man, or how the timing of the dinosaurs fits with God's supposed timing of creation, that I couldn't be certain of the existence of God.  She said, "There are just too many things in the Bible that don't add-up with the timeline of what man says happened."  It occurred to me that I would never convince her of God's existence because she had to "know" it all (which, newsflash, will never happen for her, me, or anyone--again, if I knew the mind of God, I'd be God)!  It also occurred to me that she was basing her questions of God's existence on God's Word versus man's word--that is a slippery slope for sure.  She is choosing to place more faith in flawed humans than in the God Who gave her life.   I would liken this to me stating my birth date to her and then someone else giving a different date for it than the one I declared.  Would she trust that I'm telling the truth or believe the other person who is giving second-hand information?  It follows here:  Who are you going to believe and place your trust?  What God says or what man says?  My experience with God is that He has never lied to me and He is perfect.  Yes, bad things happen here on this sinful planet where God is temporarily giving the enemy some power and control (and giving US some power and control).  Therefore, imperfection is what we now have.  But this isn't God's choice and it wasn't His doing.  God is perfect.  People lie, are sinful, and flawed.  So I choose to believe in God.  I've heard and quoted it before:  I'd need more faith to be an atheist

I have thought about our conversation many times, and it has occurred to me that I do not understand why we think we need and have to know everything about God and life in order to believe in Him, know Him, or trust Him.  I have lived with my husband, Matt, for over 25 years now, and I still don't always "get" or understand him.  I do not even pretend to think I know every detail of Matt's life:  his thoughts at each moment, his feelings, every detail of his past, or his experiences.  To this day I can still learn things from Matt and hear stories of his life that I've never heard prior.  If I can say that is true for another flawed human being with whom I've been friends since I was nine years old, then it stands to reason that it should be infinitely truer of the perfect God of the Universe with Whom I've never physically shared a house!  We can't even begin to fully know each other in the short time on earth that we have as humans, so why do we lay claim that we must know and understand every detail of God in order to believe in His existence?  It is nonsense.  1 Corinthians 2:11 comes to mind, "For who knows a person's thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."  It boils down to a personal choice:   Either you believe in God or you don't.  You cannot base that belief on whether you "get" everything about God and life or not, because you honestly don't know every detail about the people you see every day in whom you clearly believe.  Faith is believing in things you cannot see.  You either have it or you don't.

Though we cannot know and understand God, He desires our effort at it.  Just as in our close relationships with other humans, God wants us to get to know Him and spend time with Him.  He doesn't just want our tradition, rituals, or religion.  I would liken religious practices to being a "dutiful" spouse--your heart really isn't in it, but you're going through the motions all the same.  God doesn't want "duty."  He wants your heart, your soul, your mind, and your love.  He wants you to give Him some time and thought.  He loved you enough to come in the form of a baby and allow Himself to be beaten, mocked, spit-on, ridiculed, whipped, thrashed, and nailed to a cross just to show you He is real and He loves you.  If God's Word wasn't real, it would have long been forgotten.  But instead, we are keeping the calendar by it.  And our Timekeeper desires to forgive you for the original sin that we all inherited (and if you think you didn't, look at your past honestly--have you done each and every thing in your life perfectly?).  But you have to want Him and you have to trust Him for that forgiveness.  You have to muster up the faith and choose to believe that this man, Jesus, by Whose life we are counting time, was real.  No one ever found His body.  No one.  And boy, have they tried.  This is what Easter is all about.  It isn't about duty.  It isn't about religious tradition.  It sure isn't about some ridiculous bunny, candy, colored eggs and plastic grass (is there another more loathsome product on the market? I despise that shredded, vacuum-clogging nightmare)!  Easter is about Jesus.  It is about hope.  It is about Christ's victory over our sin and consequential death.  It is about Jesus coming for you, in full sacrifice and payment for your sin, because He loves you.  It is about His resurrection and in it, His defeat of sin and satan.  It is a day of supreme rejoicing!

When sin occurred in the garden, a sacrifice was required.  That's God's character.  If it wasn't His character, there would be no consequence for any sin.  You may think you would prefer that, but let someone murder your spouse, child, or loved one, and you'll think otherwise.  God is fair and just.  But He is also merciful and loving.  God could have been so mad at Adam and Eve that He could have just said, "Okay.  You two blew it.  Henceforth, you are dead to me--eternally. There will be no heaven.  You trusted in satan (purposed lack of capitalization), and now you can just die and go live with him."  But He instead gave them the option to believe in Him, admit their wrong, and spend eternity with Him in heaven.  He gives us all this option.  It is your option.  I once heard someone say that they don't understand why God would put the tree of life in the garden if it was going to bear fruit He never wanted Adam and Eve to eat.  They asked, "Was He trying to trick them into sinning?"  God forbid.  I believe God put that tree there to give them something pretty important in this entire love story--free will.  Otherwise, they would have just been pawns in His game.  Their love for Him would never have been tested or have been their choice.  God knew this.  He wanted them to choose Him for Him.  And we all still have that choice:  we can eat the enemy's fruit and lies, or seek after God.  It is your choice.  And you will have to face it one day whether you want to or not.  We all will.  Death, taxes, and trusting in God...

I heard a new song the other day by an indie-rock gal of whom I am growing quite fond--Regina Spektor.  The song is entitled, "Laughing With," and can be viewed here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pxRXP3w-sQ.  Some of her words are sung quickly, so if you're really curious, check out the lyrics here:  http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/reginaspektor/laughingwith.html.  It is a truly great song--honest through and through.  It goes quite well with this blog post, and I pray you'll give it a listen.

I would encourage you this weekend to attend a Good Friday and Easter service.  Not out of duty.  Not with an attitude of, "religious tradition."  But because you want to know God and you want to worship Him with all your heart--and you aren't willing to wait to address Him until you're on your deathbed.  That's really all He wants.  He doesn't expect you to "get" it all, or to fully understand Him or His ways.  He just wants you to try.  He just wants your genuine love and gratitude for what He came to do for you.  Happy Easter, friends, and may God bless you all in the knowledge of Him!