Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Seeing fully vs clearly

We should hold what we understand to be true lightly; even our understanding of scripture.

Not because scripture isn't sure or absolute. It is. And not because we can't understand or see clearly what scripture says. But to see things clearly is not necessarily to see them fully. What we know can be absolutely correct, as far as what we know, it's just not everything there is to know about it. 

We have heard the analogy of the three blind men who were told there was an elephant in the room. They were all directed to it and asked to describe what they "saw". The one directed at the trunk, said an elephant is like a hose, the one directed at the tail, said it's like a rope and one was directed at the leg, said it's like a tree. All were correct as far as what information they had but also incorrect because they were basing it solely on their very limited (finite) perspective. 

How many times have you read a passage when, like a bolt of lightening, God gives you new clarity from a passage you have read dozens (maybe 100's) of times that you have never seen before. And not only so, what you now see gives you new and fuller understanding of the rest of scripture. So every part of scripture is now open to you in a new way. Has this ever happened to you?

Do you understand this also means prior to this fuller understanding, every part of scripture was a little more obscure to you in some way. Again, not necessarily in correctness of what you know but in the fullness of it i.e. of knowing it fully. What we knew before was true, just not as complete. We didn't get a different meaning but a fuller one (though sometimes that fuller meaning is so much greater it can seem like it's different).

Why is this?

First we are limited/finite. Therefore, all truth can only been seen if God reveals it to us. Without the Spirit revealing truth to us we can not see well if at all.

Mat 16:16-17  Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Joh 16:12-15  "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

And the extent of our seeing is tied directly to our willingness to listen i.e. our humility in knowing we need to hear. That we are limited in our understanding and dependent on another for it to be properly understood. It is for good reason Christ often said, "for those who have ears to hear..." and similar comments.  

What is truly interesting about John's "coverage" of the upper room discourse is how often he suggests, if not directly states, what the disciples did not understand 
regarding things that were being spoken or demonstrated directly to them.

Joh 13:7  Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand."

Joh 13:12  When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you understand what I have done to you?

Joh 13:17  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Joh 14:4  And you know the way to where I am going."
Joh 14:5  Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?"

Joh 14:7  If you had known me, you would have known my Father alsoFrom now on you do know him and have seen him." 8  Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." 9  Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?

Joh 14:21  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest 
myself to him." 22  Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?"

Joh 14:26  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Joh 15:26  "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Joh 16:16  "A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me." 17  So some of his disciples said to one another, "What is this that he says to us'A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'; and, 'because I am going to the Father'?"18  So they were saying, "What does he mean by 'a little while'We do not know what he is talking about."

Joh 16:25  "I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf;  for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28  I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father."

29  His disciples said, "Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30  Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question  you; this is why we believe that you came from God."

Joh 17:8  For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

Joh 17:25  O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26  I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."

The above verses clearly indicate that truth is the truth objectively, but our understanding and seeing it clearly, is not the same thing as seeing it fully. In other words, the truth can be right in front of us but that doesn't mean we see all there is to see regarding that truth. Christ himself (who says he is the truth) was clearly seen by the religious leaders of his day, yet was not fully understood. 

Why? Because seeing the truth depends not only on God by His Spirit revealing it to us (because of our limitations), but on having hearts that are able to see it (I would suggest one does not occur without the other i.e. having a humble heart is the condition needed before God reveals himself to us). 

Much of our heart is hidden from us due to our natural, deeply embedded (and subtle) inclination to be independent of God, which in turn, effects our thoughts and ability to see clearly, even as God's children. The key to understanding scripture is not intellectual ability but a humble disposition. And increasing humility is an ongoing process because the depth and strength of our commitment to independence from God (i.e. pride) is far greater than any of us know or recognize. We never "arrive" when it comes to humility. 

I am not saying we should be uncertain about what we know, I am saying we should be aware that there is much more yet to be seen because our hearts still have a far greater need for humility (admitting our limitations). In fact I am suggesting we will actually never plum the depths of what is actually in scripture. Why? Because the word of God is living and active. It's not simply and only ink/words on paper i.e. objective truths (though it is certainly that at a minimum). In fact we are told that Christ is the living Word of God. And if Christ, the living word is infinite in depth of knowledge and wisdom, I would suggest that his written word is as well.

But again, this is not saying it's not absolute or objectively true. Truth is truth, it can never be true and not true at the same time. 

"...my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power... 

... as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"-- these things God  has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths  of God.  For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not  taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." - Paul an Apostle of Jesus. 1Co 2:4, 10 -14

"...At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children (those members of society that are most humble);  yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." - Jesus  Mat 11:25-27



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Grace to you
Jim Deal