Ignorance and Enlightenment
The enemy has used both ignorance and “enlightenment” (or the perception of it) to mislead many.
Even the church has been used many times to lead people into darkness – or to keep them there.
In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church capitalized on the ignorance of the laity regarding the truth of the Bible – deceiving and exploiting them for sordid gain. The heart and truth of God was greatly misunderstood, if it was known at all.
And then came an “Age of Enlightenment”, in which God was “reasoned” by some out of existence.
The enemy is clever, and uses the trend of the day to deceive people.
Unfortunately, we sometimes seem to be less clever, either following the trend of the day for the sake of following it, or clinging so tightly to tradition that we miss the truth.
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
It is easy to look at the atrocities of the past and think, “Well, our denomination or congregation is nothing like that, so we’re safe”.
We compare ourselves to the worst possible model, and conclude that just because we’re not (at least overtly) analogous to this model in practice, beliefs, or symptoms, we’re out of the danger zone.
“We don’t uphold theologically incorrect beliefs or practices like the Roman Catholic Church did, so God is pleased with us.”
“We don’t go on crusades, so we’re decent people.”
Conversely, we sometimes obtain false assurance of our own good standing with God because we follow the cultural traditions, prayers, and historical theological statements of our forefathers. John Calvin. George Whitefield. Martin Luther.
Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
1 Corinthians 1:12-13
Our adherence to church tradition – or the works, statements, and opinions of Christian leaders of the past – is not sufficient to please God.
Only the blood of Christ is.
How often do we un-prayerfully and thoughtlessly replicate the way some ancient men from the sixteenth century told us how to “do” church? How to live? What extraneous theological statements to memorize? Or even how to be saved?
We should look much more quickly to the words of Jesus himself.
We need the Spirit of Christ – not Augustine or Martin Luther or John Wesley or Charles Spurgeon or Alistair Begg – living inside us to understand the Bible – or anything, for that matter. We need the discernment of the Spirit within us – not only in our Christian heroes or idols.
Knowing God must come before knowing Man’s interpretations of God.
When we adhere to church tradition for its own sake – copying and following works and writings of the past at the expense of seeking God’s face and His will – we are seeking to hear his voice through others rather than to know his voice ourselves.
As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.
1 John 2:27-28
To gain wisdom, we must abide in Him and have Him abiding in us – teaching us – and interpreting and sifting all things – including the words of our theological champions.
We think we’re being intellectual by studying the opinions of the Greats. By knowing what famous and influential men thought about God.
There’s nothing wrong with having this knowledge. But like many things, knowledge is a weapon which can be used for good or evil.
In seeking other people before God for understanding, we are operating in the flesh (our knowledge, reasoning, ability, efforts) rather than in the Spirit (whose ways and thoughts are above ours – whose reasoning surpasses our intellectualism).
We know church history well and we have a church leader (pastor, priest) who graduated from a theological seminary, so we have all we need to make good decisions about church practice, structure, and direction, right?
We look more for direction from diplomas than we do for connection with Christ.
Apart from Christ, any “wisdom” or intellectual insight gained from such studies is worthless.
Religion concentrates on the wisdom of Man more than seeking to personally know the wise heart of God.
It’s more important that we know the heart of God – because then we will know what truly matters to him (and the list will be simpler than we generally like to make it).
It’s important that each member of the flock personally knows God and doesn’t just know about him.
It’s important that the church leader (pastor, priest) actually knows God and doesn’t just know about God.
I have more respect for the “uneducated” preacher who is humble enough to listen for God’s voice – who has neglected to read even one book by a theologian, but is on his knees every night and a frequent reader of the scriptures – than the highly “educated” and religious graduate who doesn’t have an open line with God, and considers himself sufficient to teach based on academic “expertise”.
Books don’t make you an expert on God. The Holy Spirit, humility, the fear of the Lord, and the trials of life begin to give you a small glimpse of him.
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
This means that our wisdom is as foolishness to God, because it is still below even his “foolishness”.
The wisdom and power of God surpass the wisdom of our flesh (intellectualism) and the power of our flesh (sin and striving).
It’s not that God is unreasoning or unintellectual. It’s that his reasoning – his intellect – is so high above our pay grade that, to our finite brains, it seems foolish, because we can’t comprehend it within the limitations of our human minds.
We can’t comprehend how God could save us – without any works or efforts on our part. We don’t understand the extent of his power, and can only see things in terms of our “power”.
We can’t comprehend how God – in the form of his Son – dying on the cross for us could save us from our sin. We don’t understand his wisdom, and can only see things in terms of our “wisdom”.
Religion requires us to live and operate in the flesh, making sure we are careful to continually confess, obey, and keep rules/laws (plus observe tradition). If we don’t, perhaps we’re not really Christians, or we’ll lose our salvation.
Religion requires us to live in the “power” and “wisdom” of our own flesh – adhering to the doctrines of men – because we just can’t grasp how Christ’s sacrifice on the cross could really be sufficient – how we are saved simply by believing and not by “doing” anything.
And so we complicate things, in our lofty intellectualism (“wisdom”) and “glorious” human strength (“power”) – which to God is as a filthy garment.
For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
And all of us wither like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
We believe that if we just keep more rules, laws, and traditions – and remember to confess every single sin we’ve committed – we’ll be more pleasing to God.
We seek to be worthy based on our own power (flesh) and our own wisdom (intellect), which, compared to God’s wisdom (a wisdom that comes from His Spirit rather than fleshly human intellect), is as foolishness.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been covered.
“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”
Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.” How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised;
Human Intellectualism vs. the Mysteries of Christ
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Christianity transforms into a religion when we decide that we’re smart and intellectual enough to know how to do Christianity/church the right way, or capable enough to somehow save ourselves – or others – through actions in the flesh.
Much like the builders of the tower of Babel, we think we’re wise enough or powerful enough to reach – or become – God. [Genesis 11:1-9].
We think that through our understanding of theology, or our daily and weekly practices, we can be pleasing to God.
There is One only who makes us pleasing to God – and that is Christ himself, and his work on the cross.
If we think that our continual fleshly efforts to not sin (what many people consider to be “repentance”) can maintain or earn salvation – or that if we fail and sin we can lose our salvation – then we believe in works-based salvation, which is a form of religion.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
I understand that there is some disagreement on whether it’s possible for a person ever to lose salvation (there are verses which many interpret [understandably] as implying that salvation can be lost).
Salvation isn’t really a gift if you have to perfectly turn from your sins in order to be – or remain – saved.
Salvation isn’t really a gift if you can lose it by stumbling in sin. It’s something you have to earn and deserve.
“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
John baptized with water for repentance.
The fiery baptism of the Holy Spirit gives us a continual spirit of repentance.
We are indwelt with a spirit of repentance because the Holy Spirit’s fire is continually baptizing and cleansing us with his presence – working in our consciences, causing us to hate our sin and to seek God.
We don’t have to manufacture our repentance. The Holy Spirit gives it to us. It’s less about a change in actions (we are still physically trapped in this dying flesh) and more about a change of mind (a regenerating Spirit within).
In fact, The Greek word for “repent” – metanoeo – means “change of mind”. The repentance involved in salvation is a change of our minds, not outward perfection in the flesh.
This repentance – this change of mind – comes from the Holy Spirit and is “not of ourselves”.
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
We see here that Paul speaks of a change of mind – his mind hates the deeds of his flesh, and is at war with his flesh.
Paul is repenting (his mind has changed), even though his members continue to struggle with sin.
Paul has died to the flesh, so in a sense, he’s not really the one sinning, but his body.
I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
I’m NOT saying by this that we should take advantage of grace and use the redemption of our souls as an excuse to be liberal with sin.
But if we agree that the sin we commit is ugly – and we desire to change – to be delivered from our bodies of death – this means that we repent, even if we still struggle. Our minds have changed.
The Holy Spirit will change us in his time if we are truly born of him. He will put the flesh to death.
And in the life to come, we will be delivered from these bodies of death.
If we are truly reborn in Christ, we will be changed over time, but this has nothing to do with us and everything to do with him. We surrender to him and let him work in us.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
If we think we’re smart enough to know how a person “really” gets saved – when Christ has laid it out so clearly for us (simply believing in him) – then we are relying on our own reason (“wisdom”) and strength (“power”) to reach God, rather than his wisdom and power.
I’m not saying that you have to be unreasoning or irrational to follow Christ. God is far more rational than we are – to heights we can’t possibly reach. However, you cannot rely on your own finite rationality, because you will get stuck.
Compared to the God of infinite knowledge and wisdom, we are as children.
As children, we must trust the information God has given us, rather than seeking to complicate or embellish it to fit our intellectual comforts and “needs”.
This is coming from someone who strongly values rational thinking and intellectualism in herself and others.
Even if you’re the most rational person in the world, you won’t be able to grasp all the mysteries of God.
God’s reasoning surpasses ours. His reasoning and ways exist in a different, higher, more advanced dimension, plane, or frequency – if you will – than we can see with our frail fleshly vision.
At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.
We must humble ourselves before him and acknowledge that our intellectualism just doesn’t cut it. To him, we are as children in our understanding.
Children generally trust the information they’re given, realizing that there are some matters they won’t understand at this point, but their parents care for them and can carry that knowledge for them.
That’s how it is between God and us.
We have to rely on the many things he has revealed about himself – the words He’s given us and the Spirit and creation that testify to his presence and power.
If we rely only on our finite rationality (intellectualism), we’ll run into snags, because there exist so many metaphysical mysteries for which the explanations extend beyond our knowledge or ability to comprehend. We will never run out of questions. We won’t always be permitted to know the answers…at least in this life.
The explanations – the answers to our questions – are reasonable – but they extend beyond our scope of vision or understanding. Again, his pay grade is much higher than ours.
God wants us to trust him as children. He reveals himself to infants, and hides knowledge from the “wise” and “intelligent”.
Religious people who rely on their own wisdom or power – intellect, flesh, striving – rather than the blood of Christ to be saved will not be saved.
Salvation belongs to all who will simply believe.
Belief is not blind, but trusts the superiority of God’s wisdom and power.
For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Believing does not require us to be irrational. It requires us to trust that God is more rational and knowledgeable than we are, and that if He says Christ’s work on the cross saves us, it really does.
The binary system reflects, in a finite way, the nature and power of God.
To create everything from nothing, One is sufficient.
(I read somewhere that this is a quote – perhaps paraphrased – from the great German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.)
We can’t possibly think of or imagine every binary number that exists, because binary numbers extend to infinity.
Metaphorically speaking, the larger numbers are like metaphysical mysteries – too vast to imagine or comprehend. Yet they exist, and they do not diverge from reason – the rules of binary. They are still binary numbers. They are still compatible with intellect. We just can’t reach them all.
The source of all these infinite numbers and mysteries is one (1), which with nothing (0) creates everything.
There are some mysteries that are just too great for us to fathom, although they are often mirrored in mathematics and the rest of creation for us.