Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mysteriously accessible God

I once heard, and I forget who was being quoted, that "the most important thing about you is what you think about God." It seems to me, as I reflect on some of the personalities I've encountered, that there are generally two kinds of people.

There is one kind of person who believes that God is a whole lot like them. They are usually very logical thinkers. They think through their situations and evaluate their situation by putting together all of the information and however it fits together neatly will orchestrate how they act upon it. It seems obvious to them that God thinks the same way. To them god makes sense, He wouldn't want them to do something that doesn't benefit them in the long run. God wouldn't want them to take risks. It is rare that someone like this would become a missionary or sell all of their possessions and give it to the poor. This sort of action is illogical and therefore can't be God's will.

There is another extreme personality. This is the person who believes they are nothing like God. They think one of two ways: either they believe that God is so Holy and they are so evil that they can't relate to God or they believe that God is just too far away for it to matter. They believe either that it's impossible for them to be anything like God or they are just uninterested in finding that out. This person doesn't usually consult God in any serious way before taking action. Yes of course they pray sometimes and ask God what He wants them to do but in the end they continue believing that God is indifferent. They might go and be a missionary but it usually won't be because they truly feel called to do so. They will do it because it seems to be the obvious best thing to do to please God. God wants them to be miserable in serving Him because to be happy wouldn't be what God wants for them, He's too holy to care about our happiness. They will serve God in the big obvious things but when it comes to daily life their connection to God is distant.

Really, both sides of the spectrum have a distant connection to God in all practicality. The first never listens to God because they think they already know what God is thinking. The second doesn't listen because they believe they'll never really know what God is thinking.

I suggest that there may be a third group; one we should aspire to. They listen to God no matter how confusing He may be to them and they understand that no matter how small the situation God is close by. God really cares about what choices you make so He desires to guide you but He's just as mysterious as He always has been. This group is open minded. They are willing to take the risk for God but they also understand that God is concerned about them. They understand that they can be like God and they are like God. By the cross we have been made like Him. He has redeemed us, brought us back to who we really are; the image of God. This third group understands that they are not striving to be like God, they are striving to be themselves, because the real them is already like God. But at the same time we are not God. Only God is truly God and the goal is for Him to dwell with us and be our God, not for us to be God. Since we are not God and never will be, His will is not always clear. He is mysterious enough to keep you guessing. The third group understands this and therefore approaches God humbly realizing that they can't assume God's will just because it sounds logical but at the same time they understand the closeness of God and His accessability. They have humility, unlike the first group, and they understand that they are in relationship with God. God's presence soaks our lives but His will remains mysterious.

Consider Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemene. He is praying in agony and desparation, even sweating blood, seeking God's will. He of all people should assume God's will, He's the incarnation of God. Yet He still seeks, He's still humble. He understands His will and God's will are different somehow praying "everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine" (Mark 14.36). He understands that God doesn't necessarily think like Him. Yet He also recognizes His closeness with God praying "just as you are in me and I am in you" (John 17.21). He knows who He really is; The image of God, yet seeks God's will with unique humility. We should identify with Jesus prayers before His death.

God is not easy to hear or understand. He is difficult and He is confusing. But He is mysteriously accessible, He believes we can be like Him and He is as close to us as your very next breath of air. He is leading us toward His mysterious goal which is ultimately the healing of the world.

5 comments:

Mike Exum said...

Wes,

You know I love you, man. (Agape/brotherly etc) (Sorry, but as a redneck I must stipulate) Nevertheless, great affection!

And I am with you all the way on you closing remark. But that has been established for a long time. However, I really don't follow much else in your post. And perhaps I am just misunderstanding, and if so I'll let you straighten me out on it, but allow me to elaborate my thoughts and experience as reading it...

You start by saying there are 2 kinds of people. You describe them, and while in some sense I identify with each, that is only in the most generic way and not very deeply for either. My sense of identification with either is not as strong as my affinity for seeing my life in a horoscope. Too generic, and not the core of who I am in either.

I do not believe "God is like me" nor do I believe that my daily life and choices "not matter to God." (paraphrasing rather than quoting really) Neither option captures the essence of me or my relationship with God as I see it. And then about 2/3 the way through, you offered a third option, which alievated my angst over having been pigeon holed into one of the former, but it did not catch me either. You might see me in one of those categories, but I do not, and I only share some of the characteristics in any of them in a generic way.

So, I am really unsure of what the excersize is about in the end.

However, I think we can be like God, and I think that is the point of our existance. We were created in His image and imediately given rule and dominion over creation. In generic terms, we lost sight of that and thus became something less than fully human: sub-human, ex-human, animal -even beastly. These words in various ways capture what we have become when we stopped bearing God's image and ruling the creation in godly order. In other words, when we stopped being like him.

In Dan ch 7, Dan sees a vision of beasts coming up out of the sea and is told these are the rulers of the earth. Something has gone terribly wrong, the beasts are now in charge of earch, they rule! Rather than the image bearing humans. What will God do? (I have made so many notes in my Bible with that Q, I am thinking of starting a new line of bracelets called "What Will YHWH Do?")

Dan keeps looking in his vision and the answer looks like this: one like a son of man comes up to the Ancient of Days and to Him is given Dominion and rule and authority etc... Jesus quotes from that passage at his trial at the High Priests house the night before his coronation. Jesus will be the one like a son of man who comes up to YHWH on a cross to bear the image of God in true humanity and thus rule the world in the godly order rather than the beastly order. It is an order of image bearing self-sacrificial love rather than self-preserving power-grabbing rule with iron fist.

It is his image bearing that reveals his true humanity. He is the first true human to walk the earth since Adam and Eve before the Fall. The rest of us have missed that fuller purpose.

However, back up to the days of Dan. Rewind with me here like a VHS tape................ Okay, stop at Dan. (Dont worry about the actual dates and textual criticism issues here - just go to Old Testament times with me.) As OT Jews read Dan, who do they see as the "one like a son of man"? I, having learned too much from Wright, say they see themselves in that role -communally. The nation of Israel is one like a son of man, for them at that time. For Jews of Jesus' day, a few hundred years later, Dan offered a very (shall we say) patriotic view of Israel.

Remember that Jews were terribly racist by our standards today. They called gentiles goiim and dogs etc. (Think beasts) Even Jesus referred to the Syrophonecian woman as a dog! Think of it. The thing is, His use of Dan 7 at His trial managed to leave only himself as "one like a son of man" and lumped the rest of Israel in with the beasts (a very unpatriotic and subversive way to make reference to Dan.)

In this view, God had created the humans originally to bear His image and thus the world had shalom and godly order all through it. When man bore the image of sin instead, the order collapsed.

(This is a good place to ask if it was Rob Bell who gave me this tidbit: in ancient times when a King conquered a country and then returned home, he left statues of himself in the newly conquered territory to bear his image and thus keep his order there -reminding all the new subjects who is now in charge around here. In like manner, God made humans to bear His image and keep His order in creation, but in His case He chose not to use mindless statues, but living breathing creatures (I know you and many readers are thinking "freewill" just there, but go with "breathing" Hab says that is the diff between an idol and God.))

So, with the order collapsed, God destroys the earth in Gen 6. (This is a big deal for dualists to wrestle with since though the earch was destroyed once, we still live here in it.) God starts again with Noah and fam. -A new Adam of sorts. (As you read the Bible, and especially Paul, you see that the "New Adam" thing is a YHWH way of dealing with sinful fallen creation) That plan runs into prob and God calls Abe and descendants (another New Adam in a sense) And in each case, the hope of those called is to be image bearers -truly Human. But sin plagues the called creatures until Jesus comes.

With this in mind, you can see why I am so with you on your closing remarks. Those of us "in Christ" as Paul terms it, bear His image. The church is His body, bearing His image, and taking rule and dominion -in that godly order -that self-sacrificial loving way -the way that bears the image of a God who would wash the feet of His disciples and then demand that if He is that way, they are not better than Him. A New World Order. And remember that Creation groans waiting for the sons of God to be revealed.

So, I think we can and will be like God, yes, but I think we are already. We are His body -those of us who have joined Him... The Spirit -The Breath is now within us! We are not beastly idols running creation amok. We are His image bearers -truly human and complete. Completely Godlike in Him.

And yes, that is a mystery.

As for us as individuals, I have little to say. I think it is a communal thing. Not that we cease to be individuals, but that is not where the power of the thing is either. However, my mother is dying of cancer just now. And she is reading a little book called REFLECTING THE GLORY by Wright. It is a daily devo/meditation book. She is learning that despite her image ravaging cancer, there is a way to be more fully human by reflecting His Glory in self-sacrificing love. It is a fuller way to be human. One that cancer unwittingly only highlights despite its best efforts to tarnish His image in her.

That requires a lot of thought on the daily basis and individual basis, but she is becoming who she is in a mysterious way.

Well, that is a post on you blog rather than a comment. I hope you'll forgive my over board comment. And if you see where we are gelling rather than differing, then please show me. If I am missing your point show me that. But if my thoughts challenge yours, lets work through that too.

Again, you have my affection. -And admiration.

Many blessings...

WES ELLIS said...

It seems you and I are reflecting on different things. I agree with you in your comment, though it seemingly contradicts my post, that we are already like God.

It is the parodox that I am dealing with and I am aproaching it on an individual level. I believe there is a very important individual component. We are "Holy and Blameless" and we are "Like God" but we are at the same time... not. Yes, the real me is like God, I am a new creation, but I don't believe I've succeeded in being that quite yet. The world is redeemed, yes, but there i still war. This is a parodox.

I don't know about you but I am constantly searching God's will and that is truly what this post is about. It's about how we make decisions on an individual basis. I think if you re-read my post with that in mind it will make more sense.

I do need to clarify and possibly revise my last sentence in the second-to-last-paragraph. I said, "This is understanding that while you can be like God you never really are like God." I believe that We really are like God (only in the context of community) in that we've been redeemed but in practicality I rarely see it. We are not like God because we continually think of ourelves first, refuse to forgive, allow anger to build inside us, make decisions that defy God's will, etc. We are like God but we are still becoming like God. To speak traditionally; we are Justified already and are now being Sanctified and will one day be Glorified.

Saint Augustine said "No matter how large we grow God will always be larger"(something along those lines). We are like God But we are not God. He is the only Holy God, the Sovereign One. We will never, ever be that. Only God will be God and that's how it begins and ends. In making decisions for His will we mustn't think we're too keen on what He wants (like group 1) and we mustn't believe He's too far away to care at all (like group 3). We must embrace His mystery, and His Lordship. We must realize that His thoughts are hidden from us much of the time But we must also realize He is immanent; soaking our live with His preesnce. He believes we can be like Him, He's made us like Him, and with humility we take the time to seek out what it means to be like Him. Group 3 is humble in making decisions(unlike group 1) and yet trusts that God has made us like Him and believes we can be like Him and therefore seeks to be like Him (unlike group 2).

Group 3 is like Christ in the garden praying "take this cup... yet not my will but yours," sweating blood in agony, deparate for clarification yet understanding who He really is and who God really is. He doesn't assume He's got it figured out, simply by logic or that God is just too mysterious to handle. He is mysteriously accessable.

I hope that clears things up a little. I think our thoughts might mesh more than you think. It's just that we're looking at two different things. If I still don't make sense it's probably because my brain hasn't really awakened yet this morning.

I need to add/revise this post anyway. I think I might if I get a chance. Thanks for you're great thoughts. You always stretch me.

-Wes
Great affection, right back at ya!

Mike Exum said...

Wes,

Thanks for the response. And I figure you are right to say that our views are probably closer than not. I have been reading you for a long time now. I know what you think a lot of the time. And we think a lot alike on a lot of important things. However, this post is still not too clear for me. I'll read it again and see if that helps.

And one more thing. I really was hoping you would tell me if Rob Bell was the source for the image bearing statue thing. I cant remember now where I read that, and Bell makes the most sense in my mind.

Many blessings...

WES ELLIS said...

Mike,
Sorry, I don't recognize that as Bell. I'm pretty familiar with his book and I don't remember reading that. If you listen to his sermons it might have been in a sermon. I haven't heard all of those.
Shalom,
Wes

Verity said...

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