Can God use me? If the answer is yes, what are the barriers to God's work in and through me? Great Lenten questions!
A friend was trying to work on a home project that required cutting boards. He was going to buy a jigsaw to make a precise/clean cut. I told him that to do that he needed something more like a circular saw ... it isn't the appropriate use for a jigsaw. To do the right job the right tool is needed. Sometimes God gives us aptitude and programs our DNA with abilities. To do those pre-programmed things we do pretty well. But what if God has the ability to grow us ... change us ... add a passion for His plan to the mix? What if all these things will amplify our giftedness with the fuel and power of passion? What if there is a good God who desires to lead us and teach us? What if we allow God to knock down the barriers that keep us from becoming the very best followers we can be!
1 Corinthians 12 is a description of both spiritual gifts and aptitudes that God gives people like you and me. It doesn't describe those impediments that we place in God's way. One of those impediments (knowledge) is our subject this week.
Theoretical physicist, Marcelo Gleiser, winner of the $1.5 million Templeton prize for expressing (through science) the value and existence of the spiritual dimension, says it like this ... "we act as though we have the ability to know everything through science, though we live life on a island of knowledge in an ocean of truth." Gleiser, in this quote, expresses the 2 sides of knowledge that block our progress and, during this Lenten time of listening, learning, seeking and struggling, keep us from seeing the spiritual dimension. These 2 things are simple but pervasive:
1. The first problem with knowledge is that to gain knowledge you must exist in humility to truth. Some of my friends call this 'intellectual honesty' which basically says ... "I am empty and need to be filled." When we are haughty and arrogant we believe we know all that is necessary. We have what educators call a 'fixed' mindset which hoards our meager knowledge in our little shell saying 'I am complete with what I have.' All the while God is saying ... "open your eyes and see me ... open your ears and hear me ... I am still talking, why have you ceased to listen?" The rich young ruler walks off sad because he is unwilling to empty himself and be filled with God's better eternal stuff. Judas dies believing that Jesus isn't the Rome-conqueror he expects (and he isn't there to see the miracle of the resurrection). Jeremiah's Israel can't see past the law and go off into exile to hopefully be emptied in the wilderness of captivity and then refilled with the presence of God's only son. To know we must humble ourselves to the truth God so wants to give us. We must be ready to be filled.
2. The second problem with knowledge is that we fail to seek learning openly. Our colleges and universities are filled with people who, at least some of them, earnestly seek to know. Our news media vettes their version of the 'news' because they have confined the truth to their desired world-view. Academics in many of those colleges and universities present their knowledge without acknowledging the limitations of their context. Gleiser says that we are in an era that has started a new religion ... scienceism. We jump in whole-heartedly to 'truths' that science has found without looking at the historical and methodological problems of science itself. We think because science has, through an often limited and flawed scientific process filled with assumptions, found something out, that becomes truth. Gleiser says that 'truth' holds (and is defended, funded and forwarded passionately) until new truth supplants it. He wonders what it would be like if we stepped back from the 'island of knowledge' which we live in and realized that there is an ocean full of things we don't know. He also wonders about the arrogance of terms like 'the theory of everything' which implies the laughable idea we CAN know everything! We must desire truth ... not science, information or a list of facts.
What do these two things mean to us ... Christians ... seekers ... people who say we are 'followers?' I think we realize that we truly have been gifted by a God who is not shy about 're-gifting.' We say, "God doesn't call the equipped ... God equips the called." Then we ignore this totally saying, "God will place me doing things I am good at!" That is not acting in humility to the truth and the power of God. That is not being open to the fact that God just might want us to learn some new stuff and grow into a 'new creation.' If we are followers let's listen to Jesus as He says ... "learn from me because I am lowly and humble in heart ... and you will find rest for your souls! (Matthew 11:29)" Grow!
Finally, stop worshiping things that lead us away from the truth of God. The verse above (Matthew 11:29) says ... "Learn from ME!" Enjoy science. Rejoice in new discoveries. Hope we will solve mysteries through this gift from God that can make lives better and heal us. But listen to Jesus and to the Father as they tell us to be careful about this self-centered arrogance of thinking our knowledge, our ideology, our science and our feel-good approach to knowing is 'all that.' Romans 11:33 (MSG) says ... "Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God ... this deep, deep wisdom? It's way over our heads. We'll never figure it out!" Do you believe this and many other statements about the truth and wisdom of a God bigger and smarter than me/you? I live on an island of knowledge ... but there is a vast ocean out there, full of stuff God knows. Let's learn together! Randy