Ever found yourself in a conversation that you could not understand? I was talking computer jargon with someone the other day. Another person who was standing there looked at us blankly, then she laughed and said, “Well I hear the words but I have no idea what you are talking about.” I tried to include her, simplifying what I was saying but she was still lost, lacking the experience that would have made sense of the words.
True Christianity can be like that. When I speak of ‘dying to Self,’ or ‘forgiving without reservation,’ I see some who hear the words without really being able to understand them. I am not defending the common practice of ‘insiders’ who use coded language or who thoughtlessly speak in the exclusive language of the Church. We are ambassadors of Christ and His kingdom and as such we must make every effort to make His message accessible to those who hear us. But there are limits to the understanding of spiritual matters.
Paul tells us this. “No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.
But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. For, “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:11-16, NLT)
The Gospel is first revealed by the Spirit to us! When He speaks to us, moving us to desire Him, and we respond with faith, a new way of ‘knowing’ opens to us. We become people who think beyond the natural world into eternity. Let me quickly add — this insight is no reason for pride. If we become proud of our ‘knowledge’ we sin against God, growing cataracts in the spiritual eyes He’s opened by His grace.
What happens when those who are not filled with the Spirit attempt to explain spiritual matters? We get all kinds of false teaching.
One is a system of religiosity based on human effort.
Knowing God and accepting His grace in Christ through faith gets replaced with a message of ‘do’s and don’ts,’ regulations and rituals. It cannot work because we can never be ‘good enough’ to merit God’s love no matter how disciplined or moral we might be.
Another error is one all too common in our world that makes the Gospel into a scheme for producing the life we desire!
The philosophers that teach this say things like “Jesus wants you to be …” and then encourage their hearers to fill in the blank with their heart’s desire. It is a cross-less ‘gospel’ that over promises and under delivers. It takes certain words of Jesus and turns them into a guarantee of happiness and prosperity. It encourages a ‘worship’ that is more about stirring up human emotion than encountering the living God. It is more about self-help than following Him.
Millions love this ‘gospel’ because they can understand it with the natural mind. It makes sense, so they say, that God would want to bless me, feed me, comfort me, and give me all that I want because He loves me.
Hearing the Gospel that tells of Jesus’ love, His willingness to enter our desperate situation to save us with sacrifice, and invites you and me to do the same with our world makes no sense to a person who is not alive to the eternal god. Jesus’ invitation to love Him more than family, more than Self, to ‘take up the Cross and follow Me’ are noble words that the mind without the Spirit cannot make a reality. The fact that God can love and save a terribly wicked person is beyond the reach of the natural mind that insists that God is for the good alone. (In the natural mind ‘Good’ is always relative to where we stand not fixed on the revealed truth of God!)
The mystery of faith is that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again. On that foundation we build our lives around His invitation to be disciples, even as we ‘work out’ the implications of knowing Him as both Savior and Lord in our day to day lives. And, ‘ because we live by the Spirit, we keep step with the Spirit.’
Here is a word from the Word. I pray it will not cause us to be lazy in thought or study. That is not the intent of this passage. Rather, may this passage bring us to humble prayer, to a place where we allow the Holy Spirit to make God’s truth our guide. “So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom.
So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:20-24, NLT)
Abba, open my eyes, enlighten my heart,
and keep me where You can lead me.
I ask that I will have Your Mind,
That I will see as You see,
and, by Your grace, that I will live and speak,
in a way that You desire for Your glory.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen
Listen To Our Hearts
(worship along at this link)
How do you explain
How do you describe\
A love that goes from east to west
And runs as deep as it is wide
You know all our hopes
Lord You know all our fears
And words cannot express
The love we feel
But we long for You to hear
So listen to our hearts
Hear our spirits sing
A song of praise that flows
From those You have redeemed
We will use the words we know
To tell You what an awesome God You are
But words are not enough
To tell You of our love
So listen to our hearts
If words could fall like rain
From these lips of mine
And if I had a thousand years
Lord I would still run out of time
If You listen to my heart
Ev’ry beat will say
Thank You for the life
Thank You for the truth
Thank You for the way
Geoff Moore | Steven Curtis Chapman © 1992 Primary Wave Brian (Chapman Sp Acct) (Admin. by BMG Chrysalis US) Songs On The Forefront (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Sparrow Song (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
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