04 June, 2007

Tripping in that Handbasket

You tell me that if there were a God, He would not hide himself. You looked for Him for years, and He never came out from behind that whatever bush He calls home. Now, you're just too old to believe He's out there. You've seen too many good people sick, abandoned and struck down. You've seen too many children suffering in their innocence. You say there's no God, but even if there were one He wouldn't be the kind of God you would worship.

I understand where you're coming from, but He doesn't.

You need to know that.

God created a good world, and laid down a set of rules to teach us how to keep it good. Those rules were also the measuring stick by which He will judge me, you and everyone. Those rules still work, and they were never revoked.

You need to know that, too.

But you were talking about how God hides Himself.

We both have to wrestle with that. It would not be hard for God to impress everyone into submitting to Him. I don't know anyone who wouldn't soil his pants if a 6-foot tall man with nail-printed hands, brass feet, flaming eyes, and a voice like a massive waterfall suddenly appeared and said, "Quit ignoring Me." Most of us would be convinced by a simple bright light and a disembodied voice.

Or by measurable success. If the moment someone started following God, things started falling into place in his life anyone might believe there was a God. If Christians always had the best jobs, were healed of their toothaches, and stayed married to the first person they'd ever seriously dated that would be a pretty good proof of God's existence. Then the only people that wouldn't jump in would be complete curmudgeons.

You're not alone in your argument that God is not there. Many people reason that God would never hide Himself so completely, so He must not exist.

I agree God has been very sparing with demonstrations of His existence. He's really only done one thing, but that one thing was a doozy. He still gets on the covers of all the fashionable magazines for it. In Jesus the Christ, God exhibited His existence to all the world.

He chose a uniquely expensive way to present Himself too. Physical manifestations, gifts of wealth, or revelations would have cost God nothing. Amazingly, even though they're free for Him, He is tight-fisted with them. Being misunderstood by inferior beings for 33 years, though? That had to hurt. Getting slivers making a desk, sweating through a long Galilean night without a bed or pillow, being chided on theology by stiffs with no more than sixty years of muddled bible study; those were new experiences for the God of the universe, and to endure them Jesus had to learn a new, holy submission.

In the crucible of all these new experiences and humiliations, Jesus showed the character of God to be unswervingly gracious. Jesus had powers that no mortal had ever imagined, and so He had every chance to be corrupted. With that power He healed and fed and raised the dead. He extended His hand to the weak, to the poor, and to those whom more religious men had long rejected. Sinners caught in the act, betrayers of their own people (tax collectors for the Roman empire), and the afflicted of all stripes found in Jesus an understanding Friend, and a Restorer. He forgave them, accepted them, and healed them in a way few students of God would ever have dreamt.

And then He had to die.

They talk about how Jesus could have called 10,000 angels to save Him from the cross if he'd been of a mind. But all He really had to do was heal a couple people and declare that He wanted to overthrow Rome. That's what being "Christ" (the promised King of Israel) was all about. All of Israel would have risen up to enthrone anyone who could do a miracle and promised to throw Rome out of Judea. Put yourself there for a second, and imagine that all you had to do was declare yourself "for" being made king, and thousands of people would rise up to save you from death by being nailed to a tree. Could you resist the urge? Could you even think of a reason to resist that urge?

Jesus resisted. He declared several times that it was his moment to die. He declared that He had to do it, and then He orchestrated all the circumstances that made it happen. He went into his enemies' home turf and publicly embarassed them; then He went to a private garden to await the predictable arrival of his murderers. And since He called his shot, it's obvious Jesus subjected Himself to all this with grace aforethought.


That takes us back to those rules God gave, and by which He will judge us all.

God will find any man guilty who violates any one of those rules, and the penalty for the least violation is death. Why so strict? Because God looks on the heart, while we all look on the performance. We see a man who did not seduce his neighbor's wife, even though he was sorely tempted. God sees a man who selfishly put his need for affirmation above love for his brother. God sees a man who coveted both his neighbor's wife, and the ego boost of flirting. Such a man is defiled before God, and we are all such men. God cannot accept any of us while we are guilty of having ignored any of His perfect standards.

Jesus came to take care of all that for me. He had to die so that my guilt would never keep me from God.

Is it fair for God to condemn me for "being human?" Yes, of course it is. But for sake of argument, let's leave that question in the air. Even then, Jesus died and took that whole discussion off the table. He erased the guilt of every person who will come to Him with open hands. The question is whether you are willing to come to Him.

You were asking, way back at the beginning of this discussion, whether God were working hard enough to make Himself known to men.

God left His blood on the earth to make Himself known to you. Have you lost any blood trying to find Him? You have heard the tale of how God suffered to save His children. You have heard how after He died, He rose again to life and lives even today. Jesus is alive today, and He speaks in the hearts of His own. I will testify to you that if you open your heart to Him, you will find He changes your heart and fills your life like nothing you have ever imagined.

And if you don't?

If you don't, can you imagine that your disdain of His suffering on earth will go unnoticed, go unjudged? Have you taken the Lord's Name in vain? Have you murdered? Have you stolen? All these things will be nothing compared to treating the sacrifice of this Judge as trivial. For murder, would you receive the death penalty from a fair judge? Life in prison? What will you receive for your crimes after you treat the Judge with contempt?

Six times Jesus spoke of the end of those who did not believe Him. Jesus (identifying Himself as the Son of man) says, "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Matt 13:41&42.

Jesus of Nazareth was killed by the Roman empire at the request of the leaders of His own people. The bible records this, and history confirms every word. The tomb was empty two mornings later. The bible records this, and history confirms every word. For three centuries, the poor of this world were killed for following Jesus to their own deaths, killed in Roman persecutions. They went to their deaths praising God for their chance to rise again just as Jesus had, because they knew that if Jesus rose, they would rise. History records the miraculous growth of Jesus' church, and the remarkable sufferings of the people who obeyed Him even to death.

A day comes when you will stand before that Man Who has eyes of flames and a voice like a waterfall, and He will pass sentence either that He knew you, or He did not. To those who know Him, He will grant a body just like His own, and a life that never ends. Those whom He does not know will be cast into a furnace of fire.

Come and meet the Son.

He bled to know you, and proved His love beyond doubt. Could One Who gave so much for you, be a terror to you now? Every fiber of your being was made for knowing Him, and every joy of life is wrapped up in Him. Don't let any fear or hesitation keep you from reaching out to meet this Jesus Who has sought your love so carefully.

Come meet Jesus.


Kansas Bob said...

I wonder CP if:

"The question is whether you are willing to come to Him."

should be:

The question is will you respond to His pursuit of you.

Maybe a bit nitpicky but I think that the heart of the gospel is that we do not initiate ... we can only respond to the Spirit's conviction and revelation.

An argument from this perspective is different though. It says that God really doesn't hide but manifests Himself in the ordinary things of life like chldbirth, romance, joy, friendship and glorious natural events like sunsets.

I believe that He pursues us in subtlety but not in silence. Life screams at us about God but we have hardened our hearts, our minds, our emotions and our souls to His voice.

The good news is that everything can change in an instant ... with one prayer it can be well with our souls.

Kansas Bob said...

PS: Nice new blog background color.

Kansas Bob said...

Thinking about you CP as I am home ill watching the French qtrfinals - looks like another win for Federer ... in 4 sets ... but it ain't over ... who am I kiddin - Nadal and Roger in the finals?

codepoke said...

Sorry to hear you're not well, KB! If you have to be ill, being so with the Quarters on is a good thing. :-), but I'm sorry even as I'm jealous.

> Maybe a bit nitpicky but I think that the heart of the gospel is that we do not initiate

I'm just grinning over here in Ohio. I have been called out for not being Calvinist enough. :-D

Your challenge has given life to a new post. And it's too late. You cannot stop it now. ;-)

Here I will say that man's will is involved in the process of his salvation. I agree with you that man's will is not the first step in the process, but it is meaningfully involved. A man must be willing to come to Christ, so that is the question.

Being a calvinist makes it easier for me to say that.

As for God in the ordinary things of life, I agree that He's there and beautiful. I'm not sure, though, that these things draw anyone toward belief. I think they tend to draw people toward humanism. The resurrection of Christ, though, that's a thing that cannot be misinterpretted. It can only be denied or submitted to.

Kansas Bob said...

Ditto what you said on the resurrection!

Milly said...

I sometimes wonder if I am working hard enough to know Him.

Glad you wrote this one.

Oloryn said...

Lemme add something else to the picture. I've long distinguished two different types of authority, or perhaps two different ways authority works. One I'll label 'positional' authority - this is authority you have because you're been given a particular position, and authority goes with the position. Positional authority is granted from above - it's handed down from someone with greater authority, and is essentially instant.

The other I'll label 'recognized' or 'earned' authority - this is typically authority that arises from having consistently showed some excellence or expertise. E.g. someone who has consistently showed knowledge and practical experience in dealing with computers and their problems would be considered an 'authority on computers'. Earned authority is granted from 'below' and takes time.

(I'll parenthetically note that one problem we run into is that people who have been granted positional authority sometimes erroneously expect that they should automatically get the kind of respect that goes with earned authority)

Once I'd made this distinction, I pondered a bit and realized that while Jesus had (and has) all positional authority, and in the Gospels exercised it when dealing with demons, illness, and nature; when dealing with people, Jesus seems to have operated according to the rules of earned authority. He tells the demons not to expose His position so as not to short-cut the process. He often tries to keep healings and miracles quiet. After months of leading his disciples, he finally turns to them and asks "and who do you say that I am?". When confronted by the Pharisees and the council, His response is typically "My words and deeds have been public, what do they tell you?".

Given that "he who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9), there's a possibility that this reflects God's dealings with us in general now. While we'll eventually have to deal with the full Authority of God, in the present He seems to operate in some ways according to the rules of earned authority.

I'm not sure where this goes from here, but it seemed thought-provoking to me.

codepoke said...

Well Oloryn, I think you win the deepest thought prize hands down. :-)

That God might take the time to earn our respect is a new way of looking at the problem. It's an idea with merit. It's certainly true that He did a couple things that should earn our respect.

Thanks for something to think about.

Kansas Bob said...

Nadal and Henin - two 3peats ... pretty amazing!