There are some fundamental problems in coming to know God. There was one encounter between the faculty of Trinity School for Ministry and the staff of Witness Magazine, which issued in the acknowledgment that they did not worship the same God. That was a rare and unusual confession on the part of church leadership.
The truth is that the God I worship is the One Whom I perceive to be God. We see now through a glass darkly. We do not yet see face to face, but we know that we shall, and so we project from our own accumulation of knowledge just who God is and what He is like. (There are some who would add She, but that simply illustrates that we are not in agreement.) What we project is what God would be like if we were God.
I recall the morning that I was sitting listening to the Lord, and I was told, "When you make a decision, do not ask what you think God would do. That will be an idol. At best it is what you believe God would do if He saw things your way. Ask rather, 'Lord what do you want?'" When you put it on an I/Thou basis, you allow me to enter the scene and speak to you. It is the only way you can avoid idolatry of your own perceptions as God.
I have found that there are two ways in which I have received knowledge. I have studied and learned some things about God. I have read the theologians that were required reading in seminary. I have read the Scriptures repeatedly. That is what I would call education. It is a matter of being presented with what someone else thinks about God. I have come to appreciate the importance of such learning.
There is another way of learning that is quite different. It is the way Peter seems to have acquired the knowledge that Jesus was the Christ, when he made his confession at Ceasarea Philippi. Jesus responded, "...flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but your Father in heaven."
That does not mean that Peter had it all right. He had some of it right. He was playing in the same ball park. He had the right Name and Title, but He did not yet see the ultimate truth, and as a result, rashly tried to stop further revelation in seeking to prevent Jesus from going to Jerusalem. In believing he had the Truth, he crossed over from the side of God to the side of Satan.
What most of our arguments seem to be are my arguing my god against your god. What my god wants us to do against what your god wants us to do. While we are thus engaged, there is little opportunity for God to get His Word in edgewise. Perhaps that is why Jesus came into the fullness of time. It was the only place in time that was big enough for God to get His Word into the conversation, and make it His story.
How can we ever come into some sort of resolution? We might begin by admitting that I am trying to get you to worship My god, and fulfill all that he demands of you, as I have told you, of course. I suspect that you are in error, and you are trying to draw me into your error by getting me to worship Your god. That is why we demand that those who oppose us agree with us. If they don't they are mean-spirited antichrists, who are not interested in what My god is interested in doing. They need to repent, and turn again to my God.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
The trip from the Creedal faith of the historic church to the up-for-grabs faith of the modern church was handled through education. We became scholars and used the wisdom of the world to stand in judgment on the revelation of God. We became philosophers rather than children, and we decided that God must first of all be reasonable. Then we defined reason in our terms.
We did not as little children, try the things that we were sent to do according to the Gospels. It was very obvious that they were superstition added to enhance the image of Jesus. Without trying the commissions of Jesus, we substituted our own, and ignored the education. Failing to pray with any measure of expectation, we also missed out on the revelation.
It was in those strange strongholds where the saints lived that we can find the vestiges of the Biblical message. They were not aware that the commission of Jesus to the church was simply superstition, and so they prayed for the sick to be healed and they cast out the demons that oppressed them. They showed the love that we are to show, and learned to live in solitude with God as He came to live with them and in them and through them. In their lives, the Gospel became a living Word, incarnate in their flesh.
The lives of the saints are dealt with in the same manner as the Gospels. They are superstitious legends of well meaning, but ignorant people. When the people of this age seek to try the commissions of Jesus, they will find the same thing to be true. The Word of God, the risen Lord, is still the same yesterday, today and forever.
The problem is that He will not do His work according to our idea of what He should be doing, and when He should be doing it. Instead of seeking Him, adn the way He would have us deal with a particular problem, we seek to back away and explain why He didn't do it our way. Unfortunately we seldom venture back on that ground of faith. He let us down, now we cannot trust Him.
We will construct us a god that we can depend on, one who will do what we tell him. We will design him to change his mind when it is convenient for us to be other than what we thought he wanted. We can find ample ground for that in the Old Testament. We will erect a barrier between us and god that will prohibit our having to be responsive to him or responsible for ourselves.
We call that freedom. We need not forgive god for not being what we thought he was. After all god needs no forgiveness. We will instead separate our faith from the living God and make the modifications in the one we serve so that he might serve us in accord with our ideas of righteousness and justice.
While we may shout, in the words of Martin Luther King, "FREE! I AM FREE AT LAST!" We hardly mean the same thing that he meant. He was set free by God. We declare that we are set free from god. Indeed we even take his words and try to use them to promote our own agenda without consulting the God of whom He spoke.
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