Monday, November 14, 2011

Knowing Him—John 14

There is a particularly troubling passage in Matthew 7:21-23 "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'" (ESV)

I've wondered about that passage, wondering how far I can deceive myself and others into believing I'm something that I'm not. These folks He describes seem to be near the top of the spiritual foodchain—they're prophesying in His name (apparently successfully!) and even casting out demons. Pretty heady stuff. And yet, Jesus says, "I never knew you...depart from me..." But I never knew what to do with this. Then I found John 14.

The setting is important to note—this is the last supper. Jesus knows He's going away. His words matter even more than usual here. Consider this: if you knew that tomorrow you were leaving on a long journey, and called a family dinner, would you hope that everyone there would pay close attention to what you had to say? Wouldn't you pour out your heart and the most important things on it for your kids and wife/husband? Yes, obviously. Consider that this is Jesus' situation here. What He says in the next three chapters are probably the most important things that He has to say. So we need to take very careful notes!

He starts by explaining that yes, He's going away, and it's to prepare a place for us...and that He'll be back to come get us. And then throws out, v. 4 "And you know the way where I'm going." Really? Thomas catches an awful lot of flack for 'doubting', and all he does is say what we all think anyway. So now more 'doubting' in front of his name unless you add it to your own, please. Thomas says, "Huh? Where?" Notice that Jesus does not castigate him for such a stupid question, or for doubting. He simply remarks that "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me."  We should pause here long enough to note that when people complain that we say the only way to Heaven is through Jesus, they're missing a couple of important points. First, we didn't say it, He did! So their issue is with Jesus, period. Second, and this is the big one: people are mad that there aren't 1000 ways to God. They should rejoice that there IS A way! We don't deserve any way at all, right? Yet, Jesus opens a doorway, and allows any of us who would trust and believe Him to enter into Paradise! Amazing!! There IS a way! Never lose sight of that, and don't let people grump because their way is no good.

Now, Jesus gets to the heart of our topic. v. 7 "If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Three times He uses this term know/known. (He uses it four more times thru v. 20.) So these guys had walked around with Jesus for three years, yet He says that they don't know Him. So we need to ask, "What does it mean to know Him?" Perhaps we can start with, "What does it mean to know anyone?" 

It seems to me that there are two sides of a coin in this. First, caring enough about someone to hear their heart, their story, their concerns and hopes and dreams. To understand their wounds and pains and disappointments. And then, trusting enough to share our own heart, story, hopes, and wounds. 

If we don't care, then we cannot possibly know what's going on inside another person. And when they know we don't care, they can't trust us either, and so won't even tell us. If we can't enter in to another person's life by asking questions and helping them to unveil their journey, we'll never know them.

And if we can't trust the other person, we won't share our own journey or heart. Who would risk that with someone who doesn't care about you? It'd be a waste of time.

Back to Jesus. Do you care enough about Him to want to know His heart and desires? That may sound crazy, but if you've allowed others to tell you what He wants, you've likely gotten it wrong. Even well meaning leaders will leave you thinking that what He wants is your obedience and belief, adherence to the right rules and forsaking the wrong ones. But that's not His desire at all. At least not most of it. Go back to one of the earliest entries here to understand His heart for you. 

Finally, do you trust Him enough to share your own heart? He already knows, right? So you're the only one surprised by holding out. But if you mistrust His heart, you're unwilling to share yours, to unveil all the sins, fears, doubts, and faithlessness that bind us. Once we know His heart towards us by caring enough to know it, then we can share ours in all its ugliness so that He can heal us. 

Then, we know Him. And He knows us. And that's what He's after.

Remembering our son, Ben Jan 22, 1992 to Aug 26, 2011.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

When Evil Strikes. . .

The title presumes that we know the source of troubles, and that presumes a lot. As I've now experienced sorrow and considered what we can point to as the cause of trouble, there are four distinct sources, and they are often intertwined.

God. Scripture is clear that God hates sin, punishes sin, condemns it, and often will strike those engaged in it and who are unrepentant. Even with repentance come consequences that He'll usually not remove. David sinned against Uriah and Bathsheeba, and God sent the prophet Nathan to expose him. David suddenly came clean, and yet both her husband Uriah and the baby from the adultery died. The baby's death was clearly from God's hand, condemning the sins of David and Bathsheeba. And Uriah? What did he do?

Ourselves. We often cause our own troubles, clear consequences of our disobedient and rebellious hearts and spirit. We know the right thing to do, or the wrong thing not to do, and yet we make the wrong choice. We reap what we sow. David clearly caused his own trouble. Bathsheeba caused hers. Yet the consequences had God's hand intertwined. Sometimes, we get bad endings, not because God condemned. He doesn't always have to! When a man cheats on his wife and she discovers it, and her heart dies, and the marriage dies, God doesn't have to intervene. The man caused his own trouble? But the wife? What did she do?

The world. We live in a sin-stained, oppressed land, and it is enemy territory, given over to the enemy's control. Bad things happen to us because of other people's choices. Uriah fell victim to David's lust. The wife who was cheated on was the victim of her husband's lust. Other people really can make our lives miserable. And what of just living on an oppressed planet, where storms and earthquakes and famine and war are all too prevalent? Even the Earth itself cries out for redemption and rebirth. We live on a condemned planet.

The enemy. And then, there is pure evil. There is an enemy. He is our enemy, and he is God's enemy. And he has a much longer leash than any of us imagine. Yes, God is sovereign and no one will conquer Him. Yet evil is free to do great damage. Even Job, who is often used to point out that the enemy is on a leash, exactly proves the point that while he's on a leash, it's a long leash. God did NOT bring evil on Job. And make no mistake, what was done to Job was evil. Devastating evil. And yes, in the end, God was still able to make good come from it. But He never approved it or excused it, thought He allowed it. I have seen what evil can do, and frankly, it is frightening. Today, we have softened evil. We even accuse God, unintentionally, by saying that He allowed it for some greater purpose. Isaiah 5:20 says, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil..." (ESV) We need to be extremely cautious that we don't take the things that are evil, and of the enemy, and attribute them to God! Yes, God will cause all things to work together for good for those who love Him and for those who are called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28 which we love to quote to each other at times of trouble.) But it is quite a reach, and I believe, heretical, to presume that because He'll make good out of evil, He caused the evil or even used it. It is evil. God is holy. God does not have evil in His toolbelt to use for His purposes. We have become confused. We need to return to Biblical thinking in calling evil, evil, and not try to explain it away as the providence of God. It is not God's fault, oversight, or direction that evil is done, even though He can and often does overcome it to bring about His purposes afterwards. And ultimately, He overcomes it completely by gracing us with Paradise as His final answer.

Remembering our son, Ben Jan 22, 1992 to Aug 26, 2011.