I have made the statement in a previous article that the truth of God is not hidden from those who truly seek Him and desire to know Him. The truth is only hidden to those who don’t really desire to know God for who He is.
The following statement was made in the sermon I heard today: “Holiness and wholeness are hidden where only the humble can find them”.
I recognize that it’s easy for someone who believes in God to say these things. A person might even say these things in an arrogant and elitist sort of way, but that attitude would be 180 degrees wrong.
God is not an elitist. Elitism is antithetical to God and the fruit of the Spirit that should characterize those who believe and know Him.
Jesus, who claims to have been God in the flesh, came not to be served, but to serve and give his life. God “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness….” (Philippians 2:7) These are not the actions of an elitist God.
The Gospel story of God descending from His place of privilege and power as creator of the world to enter His creation is not the story of an elitist God. He didn’t come as the greatest of all men with power and might. He came as a child, and He embraced the life of a servant, washing his disciples feet, healing lepers by touch, embracing prostitutes, and loving vulnerable people on the edges of society.
We also read that God created all humans in His image. Therefore, all human beings have intrinsic value. Since our value is given by God, it has nothing to do with our station in life. That value is not connected to how gifted or smart we are. It is not dependent on who our human ancestors were, or anything other than the image of God that we bear in ourselves by virtue of being born.
The flip side of that is the statement that God is “no respecter of persons” (He doesn’t show favoritism according to our standards). (Romans 2:11-16) If God is hidden to some people, His hiddenness is more a reflection of what people are looking for than who God is.
As a case in point, His own people, the nation to whom He spent hundreds of years revealing Himself, didn’t even recognize Him when He entered their world in real time and encountered them stripped down to human form:
“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God….”
Jesus confronted the elite, religious leaders. He called them blind guides. They, of all people, should have been able to recognize Him, but they didn’t.
We see in those interactions that they were looking for a savior that would overthrow the Roman Empire and ascent to the throne of Israel. They wanted an earthly savior. They were jealous of his popularity. They didn’t expect God to come to them humbly as He did. They didn’t remember their own Scriptures that say,
“though the Lord is exalted, yet he regards the lowly”.
They didn’t remember or perhaps understand that the long-awaited Messiah would not fit a worldly model of power and strength. They should have known that he would have “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him” and “nothing in his appearance that we should desire him”. (Isaiah 53:2) They should have known that he would be “despised and rejected by mankind”, “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” who would be “held in low esteem”. (Is. 53:3)
At the same time, we can understand why they missed these details or didn’t understand them. God is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! Why would He stoop so low? The kings, lords and rulers of the world did not stoop.
God called the nation of Israel to separate from the nations around them and to be different, but they continually failed to do that. God’s revelation from the beginning was an exercise in demonstrating that He is different, and not like the other gods, but they like the familiarity of those gods.
God’s people demanded a king to be like all the other nations. In doing that, they were rejecting God as their King who was distinctly different. They embraced the other nations’ gods; and Israel became indistinguishable from the character of the other nations.
They were meant to be a city on hill, a light to show the uniquely different character of God to the nations around them. They were continually urged to welcome strangers, to care for widows and orphans, and to do justice. (See 25 passages, including 19 Old Testament passages, with these instructions.) God desired them to be different from the world around them, as He is different from the gods of the other nations, but they failed to be different.
It’s no wonder that the Jewish leaders in the days of Jesus failed to recognize him. The Pharisees were so focused on the minutia of of their religious observances they neglected the “weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness”. (Matthew 23:23) They failed in their religiosity to appreciate and embrace God’s character that is embedded in the concepts of righteousness and justice. (Psalm 89:14)
They didn’t recognize God in the flesh because they lost sight of His real character. They were religious, but they lacked a real understanding of God.
The prophets, like Jeremiah, warned the nation of Israel many years earlier that they were going astray. The human heart is deceitful. (Jeremiah 17:9) We fool ourselves too easily.
Our fears, insecurities, pride, desires to be like the Joneses (other nations) and many things that get in the way of knowing God for who He is take priority in our thoughts and attitudes. We buy into narratives of ourselves, others and God that are warped.
Religious people are not immune to self-deception, and Christians are no less susceptible to self-deception than others. This is the lesson of the Pharisees, the leaders of God’s people in the days that Jesus walked the earth. In fact, religious people may be even more susceptible to self-deception because we use religion to legitimatize and justify our deception!
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
What is the cure for this human malady?
There is one thing that is specifically designed by God to reveal (expose) the hearts of people. It may not work exactly as we might want it to work. It isn’t a magic device, and it doesn’t work unless we submit to it. Rather, it’s the tool God uses to do His surgery in our hearts if we allow it in to our hearts to do its work. That tool is the inspired word of God.
“[T]he word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
I saw the power of this verse in my own heart when I read the Bible for the first time in a world religion class in college. Unlike the other sacred texts I read, the Bible was hard-edged. It confronted me with me! It penetrated my heart, and I wanted to look away!
I approached the Bible academically when I first read it, but I was also a seeker. That is why I took the religion class in the first place. I was seeking truth in the various religious texts of the world.
Other texts were distant. They beckoned me to follow them, to seek enlightenment, to lose myself into universal consciousness, to conform my actions to a standard. The Bible was different. It penetrated into my heart and made me uncomfortable.
I could not go very far without a feeling of uneasiness, yet I saw the beauty of truth in it. The sharp edge of God’s word bared open my heart, but it promised healing at the same time.
The power of God’s Word is not generally what we think of power. It does not force our attention. We can walk away from it, and it will not hold us back.
We can manipulate God’s Word. We can misuse use it. We can cherry pick it. We can critique it, judge it, and even spit on it. Yet, that word distilled to into the Gospel is the power of salvation for all who believe.
It is a tool of God’s judgment. How we respond to it reveals our hearts. Though it is the power of salvation for all who believe, it does not yield up its fruit to anyone who approaches it with pride, self-righteousness, or arrogance.
The Word of God yields its fruit to the humble, the seekers, the people who sincerely desire God in their hearts, the people who are willing to know God and seek Him for who He is.
A friend wrote on his Facebook page yesterday the following:
“God fine tuned his word to achieve precisely what he intended: To save the elect.“
While I am not a Calvinist, the statement resonates with me. I believe that God created us with the freedom to choose Him or reject Him. That choice is real, even if we are something less than the captains of our own souls. His Word and the salvation that He offers us can only be received in humility and with a pure desire to know God for who He actually is.
Jesus, who is the Word of God in the flesh, is the same way. He is the cornerstone of God’s “building” (Isaiah 28:16), the Head of the body of Christ, the kingdom of God, the city whose architect and builder is God. Jesus is also the stone that human builders rejected (Psalm 118:22; Matt. 21:42; Acts 4:11) and a stumbling block to the Jews who failed to recognize Him for who He was. (Romans 9:33)
Jesus was a stumbling block to the Jews because they overvalued their heritage, and he was foolishness to the Greeks who overvalued their wisdom. (1 Corinthians 1:23) Jesus is death to people who want to cling to their own lives, but he is life to people who are willing to give up their lives to receive him. (2 Corinthians 2:16)
God’s word goes out, and it does not come back void; it accomplishes the purpose for which God created it. (Isaiah 55:11) It reveals God to those who are willing to receive Him, and He remains hidden to those who are not willing to receive Him as He is.
His Word is living and active. It is sharper than a double-edged sword. If we fall on that sword, we are healed, we are saved, and we are made whole. If we refuse to fall on it, it will fall on us, and we will be judged by it.
God’s Word judges the thoughts and intents of the heart. God’s Word is the antidote to the deception of our hearts.
It will reveal to us what God sees – good and bad. Remember that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. He knew exactly who we were when He gave Himself up for us.
We love only because God loves us. Christ came not to condemn the world, but to save it, and by his stripes we are healed. God knew who He was sacrificing Himself for, but He also know who we could be!
We must let God’s Word do it’s work in us, reveal our sin to us. We need to let it expose our need for His forgiveness before we can receive that forgiveness, healing and salvation. We are healed and forgiven from the sickness of our own sin only if we let God’s Word do it’s work in us.
His Word is doubled-edged. It is designed to be the scalpel that can cut out the cancer of our sin, but we must submit ourselves to it for it to do the job. On the other hand, if we fail to submit to it willingly, it becomes the sword of judgment. Fall on it and be saved, or it will fall on you.
We may not like it, but we are not the architects of God’s purposes. We may not completely understand it, but we don’t have to understand it for God’s Word to do its work in us.