Lent 2008: Day 17 – God Centered Days

Today is Monday; not a Mama and Poppa’s Monday, but a fresh start to our week of labors. Because of my post on Saturday about Weekend Warriors, I am making a concerted effort this week to make God the primary purpose of my days, work not withstanding. I will let you know how I am succeeding.

But since I said that, let’s think a little about what my statement means, to have God-centered days. I am not on my own here, trying to fathom my meaning out of uncut cloth. I have almost 2000 years of Christian history, development, and thought as well as the Scriptures, along with every tool anyone could ever need to gain whatever insight the text has to offer. And, I have one thing more, the promise of God through his Apostle John.

I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. 1 John 2:26-28

That Scripture comes with a caveat of avoiding private interpretation and the need to show myself approved before God. I think all error (I am not talking about the outright deception fostered by unbelief) follows from the original sin of Adam, of wanting to know more than we are allowed or God deigns us to know. The reason why is not important, since he has said that there are limits and if we respect them with an honest and teachable heart, he who abides with us will teach us whatever we need to know. Notice I did not say what we want to know.

I once stumbled upon the image of the light of Christ in our present life being like a lamp set up in a clearing on a dark and misty night (think of through a mirror darkly). The light only casts so much illumination around us and as we explore further and further from the source, we are able to distinguish less and less detail, until at last all we can see are shapes and shadows.

For me, the error comes when we take the light of our own intellect, our reason, our intelligence, our finely honed tools of philosophical inquiry, our commentaries, word studies, and other useful instruments and expect them to give us clarity and truth where God himself has not illuminated the the area around us. Do we really think that he made a mistake and forgot to give us this important (at least to us) information, leaving us to our own devices. In doing that we are like Adam standing at the tree, Job’s counselors extrapolating on how God must act, and I say this carefully, many systematic theologians who build considerable edifices in the dark based on what they believe is consistent with what they have seen in the light.

Instead of using that far off light to guide them back to into the brightness of God’s revelation, the real problem comes when these artful edifices become our residence, the center of our thinking and understanding. The original lamp, now far outside our elaborate structures, begins to lose its allure for us. Like the bishop in C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, we become enamored with our own constructions, leaving God and his simple wisdom far behind. I believe this is what happened to liberal Christianity over the last two centuries.

I try my best to avoid these extended approaches, which of course means I cannot answer some questions with certainty and others not at all. I can surmise, but doing so prevents me from making demands, stating absolutes beyond Scriptural explicits, and a whole boatload of other things I see happening all the time across the Christian landscape. So much of the “Christianity” I see today is firmly encamped in the outer darkness, brightly lit by the light of their own manufactured brilliance.

Instead, when we are willing to be like Job (and unlike his counselors) and accept the limits God has placed on our understanding, we will have learned a hard lesson. There is a reason for what God has done and if we are patient, one day we may learn the why of it. Then again, like Job, maybe we won’t. In the end that is not important. What is significant is that we exhaust our understanding of what God has revealed, rather than trying to make our mark by uncovering some novel new premise in the gray mist out on or past the edges of the light.

I know this can be hard. It is for me. But remember the first Adam, then the second. The first went over the line and lost everything with a single bite. The second asked the question, “Is there a way…?” but respected the limits, submitted, suffered, and redeemed us all. I pray we can be like Christ, be like the second Adam, step back, submit and even if it means a little suffering, remember that redemption lies at the end of our decision.

Grace and peace.

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